Friday, January 31, 2014

Just a simple question

For the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, still;
January 27 marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of St. Petersburg toward the end of the Second World War. For nearly 900 days, the city - known as Leningrad in Soviet times - was besieged and bombed by German troops. To avoid having to provide the population with food, Hitler gave the order for the city not to be captured, but instead, blockaded. Around 649,000 people died - 632,253 of them from hunger and cold, according to figures presented during the Nuremberg Trials. Since then, the number of victims has been revised upwards to as many as 1.5 million. Today the Siege of Leningrad is recognized as one of the worst war crimes carried out by the Nazis.
On the siege's anniversary, the Moscow TV channel "Dozhd," also known as TV Rain, conducted an online poll, asking whether the Soviets should have surrendered Leningrad to the Germans in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives. Fifty four percent of respondents said "yes." The survey sparked an outcry, with several providers opting to drop the channel. The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office is reviewing whether the channel went too far.
They also report on things like the street demonstrations in Ukraine and the wealth accumulated by members of the Duma.
...the Russian Parliament had already jumped on the case. "What we saw on Dozhd's website is a direct insult to the sacred memory of war, and those who died during the siege," wrote Irina Yarovaya, a member of parliament from the ruling United Russia party. "Such acts should be seen as crimes attempting to rehabilitate Nazism."
The Communists and members of the Liberal Democratic Party in the State Duma also strongly criticized the poll. But among ordinary Russians, any attempt to shake the myth of the Second World War is also seen as blasphemy. 
Old habits die hard.

Conducir los idiotas...

Chile chooses to appoint someone with (self admitted) experience;
 “I went to Colegio del Verbo Divino. And I can tell you that many of the students in my class were complete idiots....."
Now Nicolás Eyzaguirre is their Education Minister, and still among them;
Diego Vela, last year’s president of the Student Federation of Universidad Católica (FEUC), was among those who said the position should have been awarded to someone with...experience in the education sector.
“I believe that the biggest mistake in Chilean politics has been the overwhelming emphasis on economy over social impact,” Vela told The Santiago Times.
Right, 'economy' doesn't have 'social impact'. This is a tough room.
President of the Student Federation of Universidad Católica (FEUC) Naschla Aburman was more explicit in her criticism.
“If we had doubts with Eyzaguirre, with the naming of the new undersecretary [Claudia Peirano] we have certainty and antecedents that confirm our profound mistrust,” she told Radio Cooperativa. “This is a clear signal that [the Bachelet administration] is going to go in the complete opposite direction to what we all hoped.” 
The audacity of hope?

You're Finnished!

But that's good news for many former Nokia workers;
During the years of Nokia's decline, culminating in the sale of its mobile phone division to Microsoft in September, thousands of workers were made redundant. But the ex-Nokians have now created hundreds of new companies - thanks partly to a very Finnish level of support from the employer to its departing staff.
Competition (from Apple and Samsung) destroyed Nokia's former position as the world's mobile phone leader, so;
In February 2011 Nokia announced that it was replacing its operating system with Microsoft Windows. The company restructured, shedding staff.
But about the same time, the company launched the Bridge programme, a scheme offering financial help and training to the workers who were about to leave.
"The company decided - all the way from the board to the senior management - that we wanted to do career responsibility as well as we can, beyond what the legal minimum is," says Matti Vanska, the head of the Bridge programme. 
And that meant letting the former employees take Nokia technology off the shelf on their way out. Including these five;
  • Tellyo - allows users to instantly record and share TV clips
  • PulseOn - claims to make the most accurate sports heart-rate monitor
  • BetterDoctor - allows users to find suitable local doctors based on their insurance plan and type of care needed
  • Runteq - measures, analyses and interprets running technique with two small wearable sensors
  • TreLab - manufactures wireless measurement systems and localisation devices
 Must have been an interesting contract Nokia signed with Microsoft.

How does this help us?

Economic reality hits a small business's employees, and they seem to know who to blame.

Kudos to the local ABC affiliate for having the guts to go with this.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Out of the mouths of babes

In Utah public schools they have a direct way of handling the obesity epidemic;
According to Salt Lake City school officials, on Monday a nutrition manager arrived at Uintah Elementary to investigate what it described as a high number of negative balances on the accounts students use to pay for lunches prepared and served by the school.
The nutrition manager and another school employee began calling parents with negative balances in an effort to recoup payment, the school system said.
Then, on Tuesday, students who had queued up and were served lunch only to arrive at the tills and show negative balances were told to give back the lunches.
....The lunches were thrown in the rubbish, because once food is served it cannot be given to another student, the school officials said.
In unrelated news;
Actress Scarlett Johansson has quit as an ambassador for Oxfam amid a row over her support for an Israeli company that operates in the occupied West Bank.
A spokesman for the actress said she had a "fundamental difference of opinion" with the humanitarian group.
She will remain a brand ambassador for SodaStream, which has a factory in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. 
You go, ScarJo.

Mercado negro

Wonder if taxes and regulations might be a little too high in Spain;
Gestha’s [Finance Ministry] report calculates that the value of under-the-table business in 2012 amounted to 253 billion euros, equivalent to 24.6 percent of GDP – that’s 6.8 percentage points, or 60 billion euros, more than at the start of the crisis in 2008.
The report, entitled “The Underground Economy Takes Its Toll. The Increase in Fraud during the Crisis,” calculates that black market deals increased annually by 15 billion euros in the period 2008-2012.
....The report highlights that almost 70 percent of cash transactions in black market activity use 500-euro notes.

Snidely Mankiw laughs last/best

Scott Sumner notes that we now know for sure that former George W. Bush CEA Chairman Greg Mankiw won his (attempted) bet with Paul Krugman from five years ago;
Krugman wisely decided to avoid this bet, which suggests he’s smarter than he appears when he is at his most political. In any case, the actual 5 year RGDP growth just came in at slightly under 6.3%. That’s not even close. Mankiw won by a landslide.
Krugman's position was that the Obama Administration, in 2009, was correct to predict that RGDP growth would be about 15.6% over the next five years. Mankiw was having some fun needling Krugman to put up some of his Nobel Prize money to where his NY Times column was.

Don't ask for whom the Nobel tolls, Paul. It's for thee.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nixon's Revenge

Senator Ted Cruz had to read the Constitution as a Harvard Law School student (one of the smartest, said Prof. Alan Dershowitz). So why didn't Barack Obama?
In the past, when Republican presidents abused their power, many Republicans—and the press—rightly called them to account. Today many in Congress—and the press—have chosen to give President Obama a pass on his pattern of lawlessness, perhaps letting partisan loyalty to the man supersede their fidelity to the law.
But this should not be a partisan issue. In time, the country will have another president from another party. For all those who are silent now: What would they think of a Republican president who announced that he was going to ignore the law, or unilaterally change the law? Imagine a future president setting aside environmental laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or tort laws with which he or she disagreed.
That would be wrong—and it is the Obama precedent that is opening the door for future lawlessness. As Montesquieu knew, an imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every citizen. Because when a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president.
As the old saying went during Watergate, We're a nation of laws, not of men.

You go, Sister

She's not buying;
Tonight, President Obama talked about the deepening inequality.
But that is a testament of his own presidency. ....
The president’s focus on income inequality was an admission of the failure of his policies.
Funny the guys and gals at MSNBC didn't notice that.

Fed up with freedom

Some of Chile's periodistas don't want to even give it a chance.  Freedom of the Press, that is;
Eight journalists were detained as they protested in the newspapers’ headquarters. Among them was president of the La Nación workers’ union Nancy Arancibia who condemned the government’s decision to sell and the accompanying eviction of demonstrators by police.
“They had no right to have us violently evicted from the place we have worked our whole lives, we had sufficient reason to protest,” Arancibia told The Santiago Times. “This is not their newspaper to sell — it is not some trifle they are selling, even if they treat it as such.”
Of course, it was only because the government owned the paper that they did have such a right. If the ink-stained wretches wanted the right to protest they could have purchased the newspaper themselves;
After bids opened in early January, 99.4 percent of shares in La Nación were officially purchased by accounting firm Novoa y Compañía Limitada for more than US$585,000 Monday — far outstripping online newspaper El Mostrador’s US$193,980 offer.
 Could have had it for una canción. If they really wanted to be free.

Princess and the Ps

With England's Queen down on her luck, maybe she should turn to the plucky Heide Hohenzollern, who;
 After her husband [Prince Godehard] inherited Burg Namedy, the couple left Munich for a life beside the Rhine.
"When we got here the whole thing was falling apart," she says as she sweeps into the building's gleaming mirrored hall. "There was water coming in, it was full with junk, and all the windows in here were smashed."
Now the dark wood is polished, the mirrors are shining bright, and a team of staff members are setting out chairs for a concert.
"I thought that we would sell this place off immediately," she says. "But we had an idea to make money with events, and we saved it."
....Now rowdy school classes, overseas visitor groups, concerts and weddings are the weekly business. For some guests, her down-to-earth nature comes as a surprise.
"Lots of schoolkids that visit expect me to be wearing a tiara and a big flowing dress," she jokes. "But that's not really my style." 

The doorway out of Norway

Don't let it hit you on your way out, Paul, says the Prime Minister;
The Nobel Economy Prize winner Paul Krugman points out that there has been a steep and lasting price increase over a long period of time, and that Norwegian households' debt is over 200 percent more than their disposable income. 
Yeah, watch out for those debt ratios!
The Prime Minister responded to and dismissed Krugman's concerns of a housing bubble at the NHO-conference this week. 
"Very often I experience that foreign economists, for example with an American point of view, have a different frame of reference when they analyze the Norwegian economy," Solberg tells DN. 
She explains that Norwegians borrow money and save for one thing only - a house. 
"Our basis is that as long as employment, job creation and competition can be maintained, the housing market and the individual debt that families have are not in danger."
Call her irresponsible: 
Krugman, however, thinks that Solberg statement is in itself a sign of a bubble-situation. 
"I had not expected political reactions to this. Can you imagine a president or state leader going out in the public to declare that there aren't any bubbles in the market? That can quickly end in humiliation," Krugman states and adds "When politicians say that everything is ok, that is a sign of a bubble-situation."
Take housing in the USA past?

Where we came in

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Marianna Kudlyak and John Mondragon go to a lot of trouble to come to a conclusion that has been obvious for years;
... the growth in household borrowing during the mid-2000s was driven in large part by credit supply expansions targeted at lower-income households.
They think that's water under the bridge...spilled milk...bygones...
However, to the extent that this expansion in the supply of credit to lower-income households is unlikely to continue (for example if it reflected a one-time securitisation of household debt), our results suggest that a continuation of recent trends toward rising inequality is likely to reduce access to credit for lower-income households. 
You mean...that $10.10 per hour isn't going to help?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Queen it up, ma'am

She's living beyond her means, says Parliament;
Britain's royal household needs to get a little more entrepreneurial, eye possible staff cuts and replace an ancient palace boiler, lawmakers say in a new report.
The report published Tuesday on the finances of Queen Elizabeth II has exposed crumbling palaces and depleted coffers, and discovered that a royal reserve fund for emergencies is down to its last million pounds ($1.6 million).
Legislators on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee urged royal officials to adopt a more commercial approach and suggested opening up Buckingham Palace to visitors more often.
Sign autographs, have a garage sale of those less viewed paintings in the Royal art collections, sell naming rights to Buckingham Palace--the Jaguar Changing of the Guard?

Ham I am

Iberian? ...posible;
"The first products to carry the new labels will be pork, which requires the least time to cure. But in other cases it could take as long as three years, taking into account the fact that some Iberian hams take that long to cure," says José Luis Urquijo, vice president of the Spanish Association of Iberian Pig Breeders (Aeceriber). "But many farmers, above all those of us who breed pure Iberians, are going to try to apply the new color code as soon as possible because it makes things much clearer for consumers, even though we'll have to pay to throw out all the old labels and replace them with the new ones. As such I hope to save myself all the explanations I have to give every time I want to sell a ham."
 Tastes great, isn't enough?
Part of these explanations is the result of an image of fraudulence that has overshadowed the sector in recent years. 
There oughta be a law! Well, there is, but;
According to Aeceriber, 30 percent of all products marketed as pure Iberian are not certified as such, a situation attributed by associations and the government not so much to a lack of regulation but to an absence of strict inspections. There has been a lot of criticism of the companies responsible for certification for labeling products as 100-percent Iberian when they are not. 
Maybe the pig raisers should establish their own brands.

Shy Guy

 Seattle Seahawks starMarshawn Lynch made an early exit at Super Bowl media day, then returned to Tuesday's session just in time to possibly avoid a hefty fine from the NFL.
....Earlier this month, Lynch was fined $50,000 for not cooperating with the Seattle media. The NFL put the fine on hold, saying it would be rescinded if his behavior improved.
"Players are required to participate and he participated. We will continue to monitor the situation," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.
Maybe someone could tackle him before he exits?
At media day, Lynch was standing on the floor of the covered-over hockey rink among a cluster of about 100 reporters. ....
Lynch answered a half-dozen questions before walking away. He spoke to someone for a moment, then left the arena. He came back a little bit later.
....Lynch watched as the clocked counted down to zero and, when it was announced the Seattle portion was over, left for good.

Nonagenarian nuisance no more

Et tu, Tory paper?
Pete Seeger, who has died aged 94, was the protest singer and political activist variously described as “the Godfather of Folk” and “America’s tuning fork”.
Seeger was the first to concede that he was not the finest of singers, or even a great banjo player. Neither did he consider himself a particularly gifted songwriter; rather, he thought of himself as a facilitator of the tradition of radical songmaking. His great gift was as a communicator, and it was one that he used to maximum effect.
A major influence on Bob Dylan, Seeger was ubiquitous at folk festivals and political gatherings. Playing the five-string banjo, and singing from a vast repertoire of songs, he expounded ideas of justice and freedom in a strong, clear voice. Eventually Seeger’s appearances amounted to a roll-call of the human rights conflicts of the 20th century.
But eventually we get to the ritual;
His political activism did not go unnoticed. In 1955 he was required, alongside Arthur Miller, to appear before the House Committee on un-American Activities to explain his “communist sympathies”. When he dramatically cited the First Amendment, he was jailed for contempt of Congress. 
His 'sympathies' extending to joining the Communist Party USA, swallowing the Hitler-Stalin Pact and writing songs protesting FDR's attempts to assist Great Britain in its fight against Nazism.

Until Hitler turned on his erstwhile partner in June 1941. That's when he became an anti-fascist patriot.  Just ask him. About those tens of millions of people massacred by the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot....Nada.

By their works ye shall know them.

Déjà Galbraith

For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" has learned.
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB -- the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.
They do play with blocs.

Now, for something completely irrelevant

At least Barack Obama has a sense of humor (please, tell us he is having a little joke at Kshama's expense);
President Barack Obama plans to act unilaterally to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, a move that asserts his executive powers before his State of the Union address in which he will press Congress to approve a broader increase this year.
The executive order would raise the minimum wage for workers on new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour, according to a fact sheet from a White House official. It said Mr. Obama would announce the new policy in his speech Tuesday....
Of course, there is already a minimum wage for federal contractors under the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931. It mandates that contractors pay the prevailing wage in the local area--effectively the union negotiated wage..  I.e. well above (for most skills and in most areas) not only the federal minimum of $7.25, but also above the new $10.10 Obama is going to impose by fiat.

This is merely Presidential preening for the semi-economically-literate boys in the press corps. Of which, there appear to be many.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fly me to the loon

Not Jupiter, not Mars, somewhere stranger;
Venezuelan authorities will begin on Monday a series of inspections on airlines operating in the country. The action will take place after authorities and representatives of some airlines gathered last week.
In other words, inspect thee;
Inspections on airlines are intended to review operating costs and the price of tickets.
After changes in the Venezuelan foreign exchange policy were implemented last Friday, several airlines operating in Venezuela halted the sale of plane tickets.
 That should work about as well as this;
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced on Sunday the establishment of peace territories to address the issue of crime in the country.
In a peace rally held in Caracas, Maduro stated such areas would rely on institutions and citizens to ensure security. Such territories include: public places, highways, roadways, hospitals, schools, and universities. 
And this;
Pressured by foreign currency demand, the Venezuelan government has partially devalued the local currency, thus adjusting the exchange rate for some sectors of the economy from VEB 6.30 per dollar to the rate of the Ancillary Foreign Currency Administration system (Sicad), VEB 11.30. 
Deutsche Bank remarked in its latest report that the move translates into an average forex rate of VEB 7.6 per dollar.
There seems to be a pattern here.

Wehrmacht nice

Because the girls don't like it;
The German army has lost some of its appeal as an employer of women over the past years. According to recent surveys, only 57.3 percent of women serving in the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, say they would choose their job again. By comparison, the figure was nine percentage points higher in 2005. Additionally, only 34.6 percent said they would recommend this path to a female friend.
So natürlich;
Shortly before Christmas, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced a push for more family-friendly conditions at the Bundeswehr as a result of mounting complaints. She stated that her aim was to make army service more appealing to people with families and to make the Budeswehr the best-liked employer in the country. Her ideas for doing so include creating more childcare facilities and part-time work opportunities. The frequency of relocations, which put stress on family life, is also to be reduced for soldiers. 
No more invading Poland!

Proud Papa

But not his proudest moment as a professional economist;
And now let me turn the microphone over to the 23-Year-Old:
"My name is Michael DeLong, and I’m an field organizer for Ceasefire Oregon, a group dedicated to reducing gun violence and advocating for common sense gun laws. ...."
Michael being the son of Berkeley's J. Bradford DeLong, who is in the business of tutoring young minds to think like economists. That is to say, to concern oneself with alternative uses of scarce (and costly) resources. Earlier in the blog post DeLong pere had allowed former congressman Gabby Giffords to have her say;
[T]hree years ago, dispatched to an almost certain death by an assassin’s bullet, I was allowed the opportunity for a new life.....
I asked myself, if simply completing a normal day requires so much work, how would I ever be able to fulfill a larger purpose? The killing of children at the school in Sandy Hook a little over a year ago gave me my answer. It shocked me, it motivated me, and frankly, it showed me a path. After that day, my husband and I pledged to make it our mission to change laws and reduce gun violence in a way that was consistent with our moderate beliefs and our identities as proud gun owners.... We will seize on consensus where it exists, on solutions big or small... fight for every inch.... I’ve seen grit overcome paralysis. My resolution today is that Congress achieve the same. How? Step by step: Enhance enforcement by passing a law making gun trafficking a serious crime with stiff penalties. Make it illegal for all stalkers and all domestic abusers to buy guns. Extend mental health resources into schools and communities, so the dangerously mentally ill find it easier to receive treatment than to buy firearms. And even as we lay the groundwork for expanding background checks, pass strong incentives for states to ensure the background-check system contains the records of the most dangerous and violent among us…
Well, it is already illegal for stalkers and domestic abusers to buy guns in most states. There are background checks in place, there are waiting periods, there are all kinds of laws designed to prevent dangerous people from getting guns. Ms. Giffords (and Professor DeLong) should give some serious thought to what HSIB has bolded in the above.

As it happens there is a recent book that should help to clarify the issue, American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System, especially as Ms Giffords tragedy is mentioned in it. Because she was victimized--as were the kids at Sandy Hook--by someone (Jared Loughner) who was clearly, and obviously, seriously mentally ill.  Someone who should have been institutionalized rather than walking the streets and attending college.

Someone who would not have been out in society had it not been for the bright ideas of mental health advocates who convinced John F. Kennedy--susceptible because he had a sister who was both mentally retarded and mentally ill--Lyndon Johnson and several other politicians in the 1960s that such as Loughner should be treated for their schizophrenia at Community Mental Health Centers as outpatients.

The book, by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., details how this happened, as well as compiles an extensive list of violent crimes committed as a result. On page 133 alone, along with Ms. Giffords, there are the eleven rampage killings in the five years that preceded hers.  And those that followed, such as the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater by James Holmes (dressed as The Joker).

If economist DeLong wished to prevent mass murder he'd be better advised to have his son read Dr. Torrey's book and evangelize for a movement devoted to re-institutionalizing the dangerously mentally ill.  That might have a chance of making this country a safer place.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


The Governor and his wife took a day off, and needed a ride;
In July of 2011, the indictment reads, the McDonnells and their family “enjoyed a private vacation at [Star Scientific executive Jonnie R. Williams] JW’s multimillion-dollar vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. Maureen McDonnell had previously called JW to ask whether JW’s Ferrari would be at the house for Robert McDonnell’s use. JW arranged to have a Star Scientific employee  transport the Ferrari from Richmond (Va.) to his Smith Mountain Lake house so the defendants could use the Ferrari during their vacation.” (Williams also rented a boat for the McDonnells while they were up at the lake.) Maureen later sent an e-mail to Williams with a photo showing her husband driving the Ferrari. Other than saying it was a Ferrari, the indictment had no further description of the car.
None is needed.

Mao got it about right

Thorvaldur Gylfason and  Per Magnus Wijkman say the European Union needs to man up;
When push came to shove, Armenia found the soft power of the EU to be no match for the hard power of Russia and the ruling oligarchs in Ukraine preferred quick money in their pockets to slow modernisation of the Ukraine economy and the rule of law. While Georgia and Moldova chose to initiate their agreements [with the EU], they have frozen conflicts with Russia (South Ossetia, Abkhasia, Transnistria) for which the EU’s soft power alone is insufficient protection. As Raik (2013, p. 22) notes: “The Eastern Partnership reflects the general tendency of the EU to play down issues of hard security and geopolitics and pursue economic integration as an instrument for enhancing stability and peace.”
Thus, hard power trumped soft power at the Vilnius Summit. As a result, the Eastern Partnership, a key programme of the EU, lost out in the contest of “geopolitics versus economic modernisation” (Raik 2013, p. 19). This loss of credibility will affect the EU’s Euro-Mediterranean partnership as well. Hence, the EU must alter its mix of soft and hard power.
[Bold by HSIB in the above.]

The EU's hard power, such as it is, comes from the United States military. And that is currently being watered down by a combination of budget politics and indifference to military power by Barack Obama (and his former Sec'y of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as the current one, John Kerry).

And the beat goes on

As the late Congressman Sonny Bono told Chris Matthews (shortly before being killed in a skiing accident), it would be better if there were more people with a hardscrabble background, like his, in Congress because, 'We know that there are people out there who will game any system.'

This is all the news that's fit to print in the NY Times;
To reach admission goals, administrators were directed to monitor on a daily basis the percentage of patients being admitted, using a customized software program called Pro-Med. The progress of the physicians in meeting their goals was updated daily on the scorecards.
When Mr. Cowling confronted Mr. Newsome with physician concerns that the new protocols were clinically inappropriate and would result in unnecessary tests and admissions, and said that his doctors “won’t do it,” Mr. Newsome responded: “Do it anyway,” according to the lawsuit.
As a result, according to a former physician who cited multiple examples, patients who did not need inpatient treatment often were admitted, which allowed the hospital to bill Medicare and Medicaid more for the care. [our bold]
For example;
In Georgia, a baby whose temperature was 98.7 degrees was admitted to the hospital with “fever,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court by Dr. Craig Brummer, a former medical director of emergency departments at two H.M.A. hospitals.
The Times is making this out to be a story about corporate greed;
The practice of medicine is moving more rapidly than ever from decision-making by individual doctors toward control by corporate interests. The transformation is being fueled by the emergence of large hospital systems that include groups of physicians employed by hospitals and others, and new technologies that closely monitor care. While the new medicine offers significant benefits, like better coordination of a patient’s treatment and measurements of quality, critics say the same technology, size and power can be used against physicians who do not meet the measures established by companies trying to maximize profits. 
But corporations have always been greedy. What's new is that politicians have rearranged the incentives of practicing medicine--one party consumers a service, a second provides it, and a third actor pays for it. Obamacare is only the latest twist in the decades long saga.

Why would any sentient being expect anything else to happen. Sonny Bono wouldn't have.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pitchers and catchers report

Whether they'll be able to fly out of Venezuela for Spring Training béisbol next month;
American Airlines, United Airlines, and Copa Airlines suspended temporarily on Friday the sale of tickets in Venezuela.
The decision came after other airlines adopted the same measures in light of uncertainty over the million debt Venezuelan authorities owe to international airlines. The actions are also attributed to the latest adjustments in Venezuelan forex regulations.  
Add those three to Air Canada, Air Europa, Portugal's TAP and Ecuador's Tame;
The Ecuadorean airline Tame suspended on Thursday its once-daily flights to and from Venezuela until that country's cash-strapped government pays it $43 million owed for ticket sales.
The carrier was the first to halt flights to Venezuela, whose socialist government owes carriers a total of $3.3 billion, according to Venezuela's airlines association.
The airlines are victims of Venezuela's rigid currency controls, which prevent them from repatriating proceeds from tickets sold in the oil-rich South American country. Adding to difficulties, Venezuela's bolivar has plunged to a tenth of its official value on the black market, making tickets purchased in Venezuela some of the cheapest in the world in dollar terms.
Big Papi, meet Big Brother.

Man of my heart, I'll string along

J. D. Salinger's one time teen heart throb has her latest novel made into a movie, and she's still walking the walk;
Many of the details in Ms. Maynard's book were drawn from her own life. For example, she was a single mother living in a small New Hampshire town for many years, experiencing "the romantic yearnings of a woman, no longer young—caring for a child, but uncared for, herself," she says. And, during a particularly difficult time—following her divorce and the death of her mother in the late 1980s—she struck up an epistolary relationship with a convicted felon living at a maximum security prison in California. At the time, "I was ready to believe, in a funny way, that since the men who looked like good men proved to be not good men, that maybe the true good man was the man who looked like a bad man," she says. The relationship ended when Ms. Maynard found out that the man was in jail for decapitating his parents.

You could even make jelly taste good

Today's the day for;
National Compliment Day is an “unofficial” holiday that is celebrated by offering sincere compliments to people you know and those you may just be meeting.  Let us all together make someone’s day better!
As well as;
National Peanut Butter Day is celebrated each year on January 24 by peanut butter lovers across the country. 

Sock it to me, Girl

We suppose that someone who got her start on Laugh In, is an expert on brain breaks.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Get your Irish up (and running)

Portrait of an entrepreneur as a young man,  or the business of Ireland is business?
The report of the Entrepreneurship Forum put forward 69 recommendations including mandatory training in commercialisation of business ideas for all third level students of science, technology, maths and engineering.
It also proposed changes to the law to support employee stock option programmes, a national education strategy for entrepreneurship and tax incentives for investment in enterprise.
In the long term, it recommends a flat tax of 15 to 20 per cent on all types of income
Many of the recommendations require government action but some are aimed at businesses, entrepreneurs and industry representative bodies.
The report, which was launched by Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton....
[Bold by HSIB]

Keep cool

Rather than burn up, says the maker of Mercedes Benz;
The European Commission opened infringement proceedings against Germany today (23 January) for its failure to stop Daimler from using an air conditioning coolant that has been banned in new cars since 1 January 2013.   
The ‘letter of formal notice' the first step in a process fining member states for infringing European Union law, follows a long investigation by the Commission. Germany has defended Daimler's position that a new coolant, which is currently the only option to replace the banned coolant, is dangerous. Daimler says it caught fire in crash tests.   
The Commission has found no evidence to support Germany's position that the new coolant is dangerous enough to justify a violation of the EU rule. 
Of course, it isn't The Commission that will be sued when someone's car catches fire.

What this country needs...

Is to lower taxes that are discouraging productive behavior, say the leftists in Chile;
A study conducted by the Fuente Fundación in 2010 found that four of five Chileans agreed books were exceptionally expensive, making them difficult to access, and 54 percent said they would buy more books if they were cheaper.
....“During 2013 our main focus was the presidential campaign, and to be able to insert the books without IVA [VAT] in all the programs of the candidates,” [José Ignacio Silva] told The Santiago Times.
Silva said the campaign was successful in getting seven of the nine candidates to “consider” eliminating the VAT on books, but were ignored by the two which contested the run-off election: Evelyn Matthei and President-elect Michelle Bachelet.
He said the group is now awaiting the appointment of a new culture minister to continue its campaign, at the heart of which is removing a debilitating “legacy” of the dictatorship [1973-1990].
“In my opinion the tax was implemented as a measure for thought control and to restrain liberty of speech,” he said. “But — not considering its economic impacts — there is no doubt that this measure damaged the cultural life of a nation.”

Soy un idiota...

Ergo I should be Education Minister in a Socialist Cabinet?
Former Finance Minister Nicolás Eyzaguirre (2000-2006) provoked a firestorm of criticism late last week in a speech to leaders from the Party for Democracy (PPD) which skewered the apparent class-based nature of Chile’s educational system and fueled speculation he may be jostling to become the next education minister.
“I attended a snobby high school,” said Eyzaguirre, speaking at a conference commemorating the PPD’s 26 years of existence. “I went to Colegio del Verbo Divino. And I can tell you that many of the students in my class were complete idiots. Today, however, they are important business leaders. Which is logical: they had the right kind of social network. In our society there is no meritocracy whatsoever.”
If we all got what we deserve, no one would escape whipping.

Wasted on the young

Barack Obama's B/S on his health insurance scheme, that's what, says the Mighty (Melissa) Quinn;
A monetary penalty is not going to be enough to persuade young people to register for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, as a new study from the American Forum found that 86 percent of young-adult households would benefit financially from opting out of Obamacare.
After examining the potential for subsidies and cost-sharing, the American Action Forum found that 6 out of 7 young-adult households would be better off foregoing health insurance coverage, opting instead of pay the fee associated with not having health insurance. Additionally, the organization learned that it is most financially advantageous for Millennials to pay for their health care costs out of pocket.
“…but the overall finding is constant; the majority of uninsured young adults will benefit financially from opting out of coverage in 2014,” the study states.
Hmmm...aren't these the same people who voted for Obama?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sis, boom, bah humbug

Lacy T. accused the Raiders in a lawsuit Wednesday of failing to pay the Raiderettes minimum wages for all the work they do, both on the sidelines and in the community for charity.
She filed her lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court as a proposed class action on behalf of 40 current Raiderettes and other members of the squad over the past four years. And she said she hopes other NFL cheerleaders will sign on.
"I love being a Raiderette, but someone has to stand up for all of the women of he NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams," Lacy T. said in a statement released by her lawyer. "I hope cheerleaders across the NFL will step forward to join me in demanding respect and fair compensation."
Two, four, six, eight
Who do we appreciate? 

Opera cómica

Valencia's proud of it's opera house;

even though it's had to be closed to the public while they de-tile it;
The performing arts center and opera house was designed by the prominent architect Santiago Calatrava, who also created New York's World Trade Center Transportation Hub, scheduled to open in 2015, as well as many other international projects. His work is known for its airy, curved designs that suggest a symbiosis between architecture and sculpture. It has also proven controversial in recent years because of ballooning budgets and technical glitches.
The Palau, which cost 478 million euros to build, opened eight years ago. A recent analysis by the Construction Technology Institute (Aidico) concluded that there is a "generalized failure of the ceramic covering's adherence" on 60 percent of the surface. The Valencian government commissioned this report after a section of the mosaic fell off on December 26, forcing the opera house to shut down and cancel performances.
Because the tiles and the metal on which they were supposed to be stuck have different degrees of thermal expansion. Since the sun has been shining in Spain for thousands of years it's a bit of a mystery why no one thought to worry about that. Now they'll remedy it  with a fix reminiscent of that tower in Pisa;
When all the tiles are pulled off the Palau, which is part of the landmark City of Arts and Sciences complex, the exposed steel dome will be painted white, making it look like a ship that ran aground, to borrow the nautical simile from Máximo Buch, the Valencian economy commissioner who described the building's problems. 
We guess its new look will take some getting used to. Which they're good at in Spain;
This is the third major crisis at the Palau de les Arts. First the performing stage caved in, then the entire premises were flooded below the level of the former riverbed of the Turia river, where it is located. 
Perfect background for a disaster flick;
...the Palau has become an icon of the Valencia cityscape and a setting — along with the rest of the City of Arts and Sciences — for futuristic commercials and movies. The latest example is Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, who is set to begin shooting here later this month. 

If your boss doesn't like your health insurance...

You won't get to keep it, says Target Corporation;
[Target Corp.] will end health insurance for part-time employees in April, joining Trader Joe’s Co., Home Depot Inc. and other U.S. retailers that have scaled back benefits in response to changes from Obamacare.
....The law known as Obamacare doesn’t require most companies to cover part-time workers, and offering them health plans may disqualify those people from subsidies in new government-run insurance exchanges that opened in October.
“You see a lot of retailers making adjustments in contemplation of the full effect of the employer mandate penalties in 2015,” Neil Trautwein, a lobbyist with the National Retail Federation, a trade group inWashington, said in a phone interview. “Even though it is not effective yet, it is already having an effect on the job market and putting companies where they would probably not otherwise want to be.”
The move should also reduce the cost of Target’s health benefits, Trautwein said.
[Bold by HSIB]

La nueva normalidad

In Chile it's beginning to look a lot like the good ol' days of Allende;
Port strikes which have swept the nation and devastated fruit exporters now enter a third week, leaving export goods on stand-by. Copper and wine industries continue to experience delays and perishable goods face major losses.
“The whole Bío Bío Region is paralyzed,” José Agurto, spokesman for the Bío Bío Port Union (UPBB) told The Santiago Times. “No port is open here.”
Which has so far cost over $100 million dollars in rotting fruit, with more to come. All over some hurt feelings of leftists;
The Chilean Port Union (UPC) is negotiating with its counterparts around the world in order to block Ultramar cargo in ports across Latin America, Europe and the United States, according to Mundo Maritimo.
Many union representatives see Ultramar — Latin America’s largest regional shipping group — and in particular part-owner Sven von Appen as the cause of the impasse in negotiations. The ageing von Appen sparked controversy during recent presidential elections by suggesting business leaders should launch a coup if President-elect Michelle Bachelet mismanaged the economy.
“We are negotiating an international blockade against all cargo ships of Sven von Appen,”  UPC spokesperson Enrique Sola said. “This man is so powerful that no one can [resolve the situation], the government, politicians can’t do anything.” 
If they're worried about an anti-Marxist coup, they ought to read their own history. It was because the entire country was on strike in 1973 that Chile got its last one.

Anti-social entrepreneurs?

Some ideas at international conferences are so silly you'd have to be there strictly for the socializing (or reporting on it), to take them seriously;
The journey to the winter wonderland of Davos has been long for many participants in the WEF 2014. Among them are a group of social entrepreneurs who've come here from all over the world to make their voices heard.
Hearing their voices being Job 1, it seems. Though fund raising tips are appreciated too;
For social entrepreneur Mats Kjaer from Denmark, it's a very special day as he has breakfast together with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed Yunus, who was able to escape from the hustle and bustle in the meeting center for a few moments and is also residing on the Schatzalp. Kjaer manages to get a few tips from the prominent guest as to how to run his business.
The Dane's firm is called My C4, through which he collects money for entrepreneurs on the ground in Africa. The online platform presents projects and coordinates co-financing.
"A credit of $1,000 [738 euros] is enough to create five jobs," said the Dane, who lives in Kenya. He's collected and allocated 22 million euros in the past seven years.
Wonder how much he allocated to himself for the trip to Davos.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What's the matter with Caracas

We'd say a belief in discredited (over and over and over) ideas, but a sociologist thinks it's stuporido;
Any and all citizens ought to ask Venezuelan regulatory authorities for assurances in the field of security, to the mind of sociologist Ramón Piñango. The expert terms this stage as "stupor," a situation that prevents citizens from requiring proper actions.
Ask and ye shall receive...the attention of the authorities? Great idea for people ruled by an admirer of Fidel Castro.

New Jersey is a moveable feast

The Superbowl will come...and then it will go, but we'll always have Ernest;
The man had just lost a football game. He did not know what to say, how to make it clear. Now he would never use the plays that he had saved to use until he knew enough to use them well. At least his khakis fit. They always fit, and they always made sense. Eight dollars is what they cost.
He had no feeling about the woman who was asking him the questions. He thought about the boat on the river, and the quick tug of the trout on the hook and the way you could hear a man grind down to gristle and bone when you were out near the lines and all the scrollwork and ornament that you had to cut away to get to the true thing. There was no way to say it honestly so that you got all of it and that was what he would have to work on, but for now there was the woman and she was waiting. "More than a football game," is what he settled on.
That, and silently cursing the Sherman on whom he tanked.

[Craig Newmark also enjoyed it.]

Landing of the Setting Sun

Charles Yuji Horioka, Takaaki Nomoto and Akiko Terada-Hagiwara say the Japanese are in for it when the foreigners catch on;
The potential sovereign debt crisis in Japan looks even grimmer than those in the Eurozone economies if one looks only at the gross general government debt-to-GDP ratio. According to the OECD, this ratio ranged from 90 to 166% in some developed economies in 2012 ...but was a full 219% in Japan in the same year. Thus, Japan’s gross general government debt-to-GDP ratio is more than twice the OECD-wide average (109 percent) and by far the highest in the developed world.
Up to now a high Japanese domestic saving rate and temporary inflow of foreign investment--thanks to weak competition (low interest rates) in the West, since the 2008 financial crisis--has financed the government deficits. But that's going to change;
The surge in foreign holdings of Japanese government securities will not continue indefinitely because risk in the rest of the world will eventually decline (in fact, risk levels on government securities in the US and the Eurozone had already declined sharply by early 2010). This is because investors’ appetite for risk will eventually return as the Eurozone crisis subsides, and because bond markets are developing in emerging Asia and creating increasing competition for Japanese bonds (especially since they offer higher yields and the possibility of currency appreciation as their economies grow further).
And, demographics within Japan;
... the household and private saving rates in Japan can be expected to decline even further due to the aging population, meaning that domestic banks and insurance companies will not continue to have sufficient bank and postal deposits, insurance policies, and pension funds from the household sector to invest in Japanese government securities. 
Hara-kiri, here we come;
Japan’s massive government debt has not wreaked havoc in the past because of robust domestic saving, especially household saving (and, in more recent years, corporate saving) and a temporary inflow of foreign capital caused by the Global Financial Crisis, but it may wreak havoc in the future as both of these factors become less applicable unless the government debt-to-GDP ratio can be brought under control quickly. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Liquid assets

Socialist Venezuela is reduced to barter;
The president of the Venezuelan Civil Aviation Institute (INAC), Pedro González Díaz and representatives from Air Italy airline have agreed on new terms to settle the debt the Venezuelan forex commission, Cadivi, owes to international airlines.
During the meeting, the parties agreed on a 50% payment of the debt in jet fuel. Another 25% will be paid with bonds and the remaining 25% with US dollars in cash.

Zeroing in

You think Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree are the only footballers who don't get along?
The number "1" on the Santiago-based Palestino FC shirts is shaped to look like Israel and the Palestinian Territories - as a single entity - and the design has caused consternation among Chile's Jewish community.
They say the shape of the numeral implies that Israel belongs to Palestinians, The Santiago Times reports.
....But Palestino FC remains defiant. "For us, free Palestine will always be historical Palestine, nothing less," the club says in a statement on its Facebook page. Chile's Palestinian Federation has spoken out in support of the decision, too, saying the map has existed as a symbol in Chile since 1920.
Seems, historically, to resemble another number.

Bankrupt is the New Manly

Says the BBC, In Detroit they know from Shinola (watches);
...several companies have been trying to turn the brand of Detroit to their advantage, in a trend that marketing experts expect to gather pace.
The most striking example is Shinola, a resurrected shoe polish brand now being used to sell watches, bicycles, leather goods and journals, which plays heavily on its Detroit base.
The company, backed by the financial muscle of venture capital firm Bedrock, says it is the first in decades to produce watches on a large scale in the US. It uses local labour and, where possible, materials - though it sources many watch components from Switzerland and China.
Selling them in upscale boutiques.
The timepieces have been on sale for about six months in sleek stores with exposed brick interiors in Detroit and New York, but also in shops throughout the US, and in Paris and Singapore. London will be next.
"Across the board it's gone extremely well," says CEO Steve Bock. The company has made some 50,000 watches, which are priced at $475-$850 (£290-£520), and says it is struggling to keep up with demand. 
The attraction;
Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at the Kellogg school of management says Detroit is seen as an underdog and its financial misfortune has become an opening for companies.
"If you associate yourself with Detroit, you're associating yourself with a struggle, with managing through difficult times," he says.
Your brand "becomes a brand you want to root for, and a brand you hope will be successful". 
And if it isn't, you can always beat up the non-buyers;
Detroit's ties to the auto industry have also lent it an appeal as the "real man's city", says Scott Galloway, who teaches marketing at New York University's Stern Business School.
Detroit "reeks grit and toughness", he says, an association that is strongly male but can appeal to both sexes.
"Associating with a product that makes you feel manly or masculine is an incredible asset, and right now there is no more macho city than Detroit."