Saturday, January 31, 2015

The way you wear your hat

Isn't the NFL Commissioner's cup of tea;

Speaking at his annual Super Bowl press conference, [Roger] Goodell said Friday that he didn’t know whether Lynch would face discipline from the league for not answering reporters’ questions and wearing a “Beast Mode” hat in the lead up to Super Bowl XLIX, saying a decision would be made after the game. But Goodell acknowledged that he believed Lynch had an obligation to speak to the fans through the media.
Because that's what the fans want from Lynch; to see him cower in the face of a politician's edict? Not to go full beast mode off the field, as well as on.

¿Por qué no puede un hombre ser más ...?

Las chicas didn't see this coming;
A reshuffle in the Uruguayan Senate, involving the exit of a female senator and her replacement by her male substitute, has brought the contentious issue of quotas for women in politics to the forefront of public debate in the South American nation.
Graciela Bianchi resigned her seat in the Senate with the opposition National Party (PN) on Monday, January 26, leaving Álvaro Delgado as a stand-in, as she concentrated on her post as a deputy for Montevideo, having won both positions in October’s elections. But Delgado’s assumption of her vacant seat has provoked controversy and calls for quota legislation to be revised.
Graciela was aptly named, as she responded; was “a great pleasure” to relinquish her post to Delgado.
“People don’t occupy a slot because of their gender, rather because they’re important for a project,” said Bianchi, further describing the PN as “a team, a group of collaborators with the same goals. Therefore nothing comes before that except the common good.”
Well, letting the best man or woman win isn't the common good, as las feministas see it.
Following the controversy, Sen. Martha Montaner of the Partido Colorado proposed modifying the quota legislation to “fix shortcomings,” suggesting that the substitute candidates for shortlisted women should also be female.
Lilian Celiberti from feminist group Colectivo Mujer (Woman Collective) agreed: “If the spirit of the law is to increase women participation, then her substitute should also be female.”
And in the former Pinochetland, there's trouble brewing too. A new law just passed there says that, “no gender can represent more than 60 percent of all candidates,” but right now men hold about 84% of all legislative positions. While Brazil has found that its quotas are problematic;
In Brazil, meanwhile, local press have reported former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as calling for serious reforms to the governing Workers’ Party (PT) in the face of debilitating corruption scandals, including the scrapping of a gender quota system to which Lula in part attributes the decline.
Moves promoted by his own party in 2011 required that half of key positions be occupied by women, 20 percent by those under 30 years old, and 20 percent by black candidates.
Miss machismo?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Please, Sir, can I have some more?

Shake Shack will provide, if the investors will cough up;
Shake Shack, a hamburger chain that prides itself on fresh ingredients and good service, soared Friday in its first day of trade on Wall Street.
Near 1740 GMT, shares of the restaurant chain were at $48.24 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 129.7 percent from its initial public offering (IPO) price of $21. ...
"There's a seismic shift in how people are eating today. People are trading up," Shake Shack chief executive Randy Garutti told CNBC.
"They're not eating fast food. They want more. They expect more."
Shake Shack began as a NYC hot dog cart in 2001. Today it has 60 locations and is valued at market at over one billion dollars.

Update: More pay for more (or better) output, as the textbooks have it;
When it filed for its public stock sale, Shack Shack wrote that it paid its workers in New York City a starting salary of $10 per hour - significantly higher than the New York State minimum wage of $8 per hour.
"We believe that this enables us to attract a higher calibre employee and this translates directly to better guest service," the firm said in the filing.
This is deliberate, says MIT's Zeynep Ton, who has studied other firms that pay above minimum wage - firms such as retailer Costco and petrol station-convenience store Quicktrip.
"When you pay more you can attract a more qualified set of employees, you can reduce your employee turnover cost, and you can encourage them to work harder to keep their jobs," she says.
Which doesn't take a Minimum Wage Law, but a business plan.

Greparations Day

Greece has turned the calendar back to 1942;
Greece owes Germany billions of euros. Or is it the other way around? Seventy years after the end of World War II, Athens and Berlin are still at odds over costs incurred during the Nazi occupation of Greece.
Not a Tom Cruise movie, but modern Greek politics;
Greece feels it was at a disadvantage in international reparations negotiations after the end of the war. New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has estimated that Germany owes Greece billions of euros - and has insisted on resolving the matter. For its part, the German government has repeatedly refused such demands and has insisted Greek claims have already been compensated in previous reparation payments.
Great Hjalmar Schacht's Ghost!
...a loan Greece was forced to make to Germany. In 1942, Nazi Germany forced the Greek national bank to pay out an interest-free loan to the tune of 476 million Reichsmarks. The Nazis used the money to finance the their occupation of Greece as well as military operations. The loan was never repaid. A Greek committee has come to the conclusion that Germany therefore owes Greece about 11 billion euros ($12.48 billion).
Now about the bill for inventing geometry....

Deflate footballs, not payrolls!

It's Super Bowl week-end, so naturally thoughts turn to money at the WSJ;
...regardless of who ends up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this weekend, both squads have already overcome their fiercest opponent of all: the NFL’s salary cap, a tool that makes it difficult for any one franchise to sustain excellence.
“That’s what the system is designed to do. That’s the very heart of it,” says former NFL executive Bill Polian, who most recently served as president of the Indianapolis Colts from 1997 through 2011. “That’s why the system works so well, because it does handicap good teams.”
The NFL is opposed to excellence! They reward the losers. Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be linebackers...instead, try baseball or basketball;
In Major League Baseball, which has no salary cap, three teams—the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals—have combined to win seven of the nine most recent World Series. (MLB does have a luxury tax that penalizes teams for spending more than a certain amount on payroll.)
In the National Basketball Association, which has a less restrictive salary cap than the NFL, the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat have won 13 of the last 16 titles.
Which hasn't stopped either the Atlanta Hawks or Golden State Warriors from ascending to the top of the NBA's two conferences.

'Old world charm'

In 21st century Europe, they're beginning to appreciate new fangled ways;
In England, a 3,747-square-foot house in Winchester has three bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a gym, a wine cellar and gardens on about a third of an acre. Initially, the house was built on a factory floor in Westerwald, Germany, by a company called Huf Haus. Its owner, Vaughan Price, had seen a TV show about prefabricated homes and in 2005 decided to spend about $2 million, including cost of the land, for one of his own.
“It’s like Lego,” says Mr. Price, a 52-year-old businessman. “The neighbors were fascinated.”
But they maintain some of the traditions. As the Matthews family found when they;
...were about to knock down a 1970s bungalow on 1.34 acres in West Sussex, England, with plans to assemble a 3,500-square-foot prefab home. But before demolition began, surveyors discovered bat droppings on the roof of the house.
Which meant they had to wait 7 months for the bats (a protected species) to finish their mating season, before erecting their manufactured home. And then;
...the council required the couple to put out six bat boxes—costing about $75 apiece. “The stupid things have never been used for bats,” says Mr. Matthews. “Instead they’ve turned into expensive nests for birds.”
Or even more expensive nests for bureaucrats.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chowin' down with Chou

On August 9, 1971, The New York Times carried a piece by James 'Scotty' Reston--who was part of preceded the Nixon-Kissinger entourage visiting that visited China [in early 1972], opening it to the West for the first time since the Communists had taken power there in 1949--entitled; An Evening With the Premier of China.

During dinner, which included the proletarian hors d'ouevre of prawns, green beans, cold duck and chicken, and delicious morsels of fish, the talk turned to China Hands Owen Lattimore, John Carter Vincent, John Paton Davies Stewart Service and John K. Fairbank. About whom, Chou En Lai said, Take good wishes to them...If they want to visit China we will welcome them. Which invitation, when John Carter Vincent was made aware of it, thrilled him, according to China Scapegoat: The Diplomatic Ordeal of John Carter Vincent.

The author of that book, Gary May, goes on to say that Vincent leapt at the opportunity and sent this to Chou;
Dear and Esteemed Friend,

Your message sent to us through Mr. Reston brought us great pleasure. Our first inclination was to accept your invitation at once ....
But Vincent and his wife had a previously planned trip to Europe, so he asked to make the trip to China in the early autumn of the next year if it is convenient then. ...I look forward very much to seeing you and China again.

Which is a rather amazing response by Vincent, who had been at great pains to deny that he had any connection to the Chinese Communists when pressed several times, two decades earlier, during his ordeal at the hands of the McCarthyites. We can forgive the objective observer for concluding that, maybe the McCarthyites might have been on to something when trying to get to the facts about Who lost China, during congressional hearings all those years ago.

The ones that are usually described in terms such as, having knowingly made up facts and destroyed the reputations of people who were not involved in communist conspiracies.

[Addendum] We should add that Mr. Vincent died before he could take that trip to visit a man he claimed to have barely known. However, his good friend and colleague John Stewart Service did take advantage of Chou En-Lai's invitation. Quickly too, he went to China at the end of September 1971 and stayed for six weeks. No doubt talking of the good ol' days with the comrades.

That's a real knee slapper, Fidel

Oh, ho, ho, irony! Oh, no, no, we don't get that here. See, uh, people ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony's not really a, a high priority. We haven't had any irony here since about, uh, '83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at.
Or whoever it is who's writing his material these days;
Dear compañeros,
.... I was not the son of a worker, or lacking in material or social resources for a relatively comfortable existence; I could say I miraculously escaped wealth. ....
And, thanks to my revolution, so have all of you!
Since the times of ancient Greece, during almost 3,000 years, the Greeks, without going very far, were brilliant in almost all activities: physics, mathematics, philosophy, architecture, art, science, politics, astronomy and other branches of human knowledge. Greece, however, was a land in which slaves did the most difficult work in fields and cities, while the oligarchy devoted itself to writing and philosophizing. The first utopia was written precisely for them.
Fidel?  Fidel?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brazil SAPs #1

The girls of Ipanema may be so tall, tan, and lovely due to something other than the Bossa Nova;
Brazil recently surpassed the United States in plastic surgeries, with 1.5 million procedures in 2013, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
A few of whom may be sorry, like this Miss Bum Bum contestant;
The 27-year-old [Andressa] Urach, arguably Brazil’s most outspoken advocate of advancement through cosmetic surgery, recently went into septic shock and was placed on life support after a botched operation to augment her thighs, sparking a debate about the risks Brazilian women will take for beauty at a moment when the nation has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s plastic surgery capital.
It led the runner-up in Brazil’s “Miss Bum Bum” contest to express regret “that I put that poison in my body, mostly because of having too much vanity.”
Not that it was her fault;
Urach told Rede TV that she blamed “society, which unfortunately holds a standard of beauty in which you have to be perfect.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Safer than thou taxi

Cato's Matthew Feeney asks, and answers, the important question, Compared to what?
Ridesharing safety worries relate to the well-being of drivers, passengers, and third parties. In each of these cases there is little evidence that the sharing economy services are more dangerous than traditional taxis. In fact, the ridesharing business model offers big safety advantages as far as drivers are concerned. In particular, ridesharing’s cash-free transactions and self-identified customers substantially mitigate one of the worst risks associated with traditional taxis: the risk of violent crime.
Of course, there should be no reason to hold taxi drivers to the more dangerous standard;
...heavily regulated taxi drivers have a valid point when they complain that they have to compete on an unlevel playing field with less regulated rideshare companies. But the appropriate response to this problem is to rationalize and modernize the outdated and heavy-handed restrictions on taxis—not to extend those restrictions to ridesharing.
De-regulate for safety! We're for it.

9-0 for silence

This should be interesting when King v. Burwell is argued;
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a company that amended a collective bargaining agreement to force retirees to pay toward healthcare costs, throwing out a lower-court ruling that favored the former employees who objected to the change.
On a unanimous vote, the nine-member court handed a win to M&G Polymers USA....
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing on behalf of the court, said the appeals court had not used the correct legal analysis.
Thomas wrote that “when a contract is silent as to the duration of retiree benefits, a court may not infer that the parties intended those benefits to vest for life.”
Golden. Now, what does silence about subsidies and companion taxes in the PPACA, regarding Federal health insurance exchanges mean, Justices? As Michael Cannon explains the issue;
Section 1401 authorizes subsidies (nominally, “tax credits”) for exchange enrollees whose household income falls between 100 and 400% of the federal poverty level, who are not eligible for qualified employer coverage or other government programs, and who enroll in coverage “through an Exchange established by the State.” Each of these eligibility restrictions is as clear as the next.
The statute makes no provision for subsidies in federally established exchanges.
The mere availability of exchange subsidies triggers penalties under the ACA’s employer and individual mandates. Under the statute, then, if a state does not establish an exchange: (1) those subsidies are not available; (2) a state’s employers are exempt from the employer mandate; and (3) the lion’s share of its residents are exempt from the individual mandate.
This appears to have been the IRS’s initial interpretation of the statute, at least until something went terribly wrong.
The PPACA, not being a contract, but a tax law (said the Chief Justice, John Roberts) where is the authority for the IRS to do what it has done?

Millions for think tanks!

Not one cent for invasion?  Maybe they've learned a valuable lesson from Stalingrad;
In a recognition that Germany needs to rethink its relations with Russia as a result of the crisis in Ukraine, the foreign ministry plans to invest millions of euros in a new institute devoted to the study of post-Soviet states.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the driving force behind the think tank, which is to receive 2.5 million euros a year in government money, and focus on themes -- Russian society, the economy, and its regions -- that are not covered in depth by existing institutes.
No more Sturm und Drang?

Gr-eathe easy

Paolo Manasse (U of Bologna) thinks Greece will now be able to bargain for a little relief from its Euro creditors. But not much;
Greece has needs financing of about €28 billion over the next two years and has no access to capital markets. A disorderly default on official debt would cut off Greek banks from collateralized lending from the ECB, and would likely result in a dangerous banking and currency crisis. On the other hand, a Grexit [Greek exit from the EU and euro] would send shock waves through the Eurozone. Markets may once again price exchange rate and default risks in peripheral countries' (e.g. Italy) sovereign debt, jeopardising the financial stability of the area as a whole.
He thinks the results of the bargaining will only give a little breathing space to Greece, because of the financial reality;
With a debt to GDP ratio above 175%, Greece pays about 4.5% of GDP in interest, less than Italy does, with 134%.
  • Second, a restructuring would prompt similar requests from other peripheral EU debtor countries, opening up a Pandora's Box.
  • Finally, the German electorate does not want to hear about debt forgiveness.
It is more likely that negotiations will concern giving more time for fiscal adjustment.
 Predicting that Greece will be allowed to reduce its budget surplus--and its repayments to its creditors--from a currently planned annual 5% of GDP to about 3.75%.

Much electoral ado, about not much.

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's a long way from St. Louis to all the tea in China

Born in 1905, Emily Hahn earned a degree in mining engineering from the U of Wisconsin. She went on to study mineralogy at Columbia and anthropology at Oxford. After which she wrote Seductio ad Absurdum: the principles and practices of seduction in 1930.

Naturally she then moved to the Belgian Congo where she lived with a tribe of Pygmies for two years. That produced two more books, before she moved to China in 1935, where she lived for nine years. There she earned her living in journalism in Shanghai and Hong Kong. After being captured by the Japanese in the wake of Pearl Harbor, she was swapped for Japanese POWs in 1943. That period of her life provided material for numerous books on China and its history, Chiang Kai-Shek, the Soong Sisters (Mesdames Sun Yat Sen, Chiang and Kung), and Chinese cuisine.

She also found time to learn a little economics, as this from page 16 of China Only Yesterday shows;
The West had taken kindly to tea-drinking, even when a high tax made it a costly pleasure. The more tea that was brought out of Canton, the more other people smuggled it into England, until in self-defense the legitimate importers persuaded the government to lower the tax and put the smugglers out of business. The smuggling did stop as a result of this action, and though for a while it went hard with the revenuers when they lost a large part of the tax income, consumption of tea promptly increased. In Canton thousands of chests were bought and loaded and sent back to England, and thousands of taels [Chinese ounces] of silver ... went to pay the exporters of China.... There was so much tea buying that the Western merchants found themselves in need of silver and coins with which to pay. The situation lent fresh vigor to their chronic complaints of restraint of trade. If only they could get into the country and stimulate public desire for the things they could supply from Britain! ...the inhabitants of Chihli and Shensi and Shantung would love woolen cloth, once they'd tried it out, and there were other products as well that the Western merchants were sure they could sell, if only they could get a chance. They could not believe that the Emperor really understood what they were after.
Which led the British merchants to finally discover something that they could smuggle into China that was in high demand; opium. Which produced a war. And when that war was ended with the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, the foreign traders got their entry into China. In five treaty ports at Canton, Amoy, Ningpo, Shanghai, Foochow as well as ownership of the island of Hong Kong.

Therein lies a tale....

More revenge on the Cheesehead

Prof. Menzie Chinn, not exactly a gentlemanly scholar, is now being defended as being more knowledgeable than Fox News!
rtd, you feel menzie should be careful regarding how he states things on his blog because he holds a greater position to sway public opinion. fine-that is the essence of your argument. now i will explicitly call out fox news. they consistently produce partisan economic hacks who try to sway public opinion on the performance of the economy.
point blank, are fox news and those partisan economists and commentators in the wrong and should they stop immediately?
Our bold above...and our sentiments exactly!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Revenge on the Cheesehead

U of Wisconsin's Menzie Chinn further embellishes his professional reputation by this;

Private Employment under Obama and Bush

Which he illustrates with (Obama = blue line, Bush = red line);
Apparently oblivious to the depth of the recession that began in December 2007. Which can be seen at this Bureau of Labor Statistics site;

With a companion table that lists the Employment to Population ratios from which the above graph is drawn. That table shows the EP at 62.9% for January 2008, but only at 59.2% this past December--i.e. after all that fabulous job creation during the Obama Administration.

Why Menzie failed to include the latter under the heading, Private Employment Under Obama and Bush, will go unexplained, we're confident.

Friday, January 23, 2015


The state of the state of Venezuela, in the hands of God, says the Commie in Chief. So, don't blame him;
“Oil will never cost $100 again but God will provide. Venezuela will never do without.”
Did God provide toilet paper, tortillas or milk?
The president turned his annual report into an electoral campaign pitch. During his almost three-hour speech, he attacked his adversaries and claimed to be the victim of a plot that seeks to topple his government and take advantage of dejected chavista voters during this election year. 
 Funny how Communist governments never manage to avoid plotters. So, roll out the usual suspects [our bold];
Starting February 1, the government will increase the minimum wage and pensions by 15 percent. It also plans to more than double the meager scholarships university students receive, from 200 to 500 bolivars each month, or about three dollars at black market exchange rates. Maduro has also promised to build 400,000 public housing units. The measures fall under the government’s social investment program, which it uses to show its great commitment to the vast majority of Venezuelans who are grappling with a 63-percent inflation rate, the highest in the world.
Which descended on Venezuela like a plague from you know who?

Sharpen the steering wheel spikes, Sam

Safety first...then the gentlemen will rev their engines;
The California Highway Patrol announced Thursday that it is stepping up enforcement of speed limits on the Waldo Grade in Marin as well as at the bridge and toll plaza. The reason is that in the days since the more secure movable median barrier was installed, the average speed of drivers on the approach from the north has jumped even though the speed limit was lowered from 55 to 45 miles per hour.
“We’re really seeing unreasonable speeds on the bridge, much faster than before,” said Priya David Clemens, a representative for the Golden Gate Bridge District. For whatever reason, including the possibility that drivers feel safer knowing a car won’t come barreling at them from the opposite direction, “we’ve noticed speeds going up,” Clemens said. “That’s why we asked the CHP to help us.”
Known to economists as the Peltzman Effect after economist Sam Peltzman, who published an article in the Journal of Political Economy in 1975; The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation. In which he, after noting that the increased interference by the Federal Government in auto safety standards--padded dashboards, mandatory seat belts--had shown no effect in greater safety, posited that the driving public had probably compensated for their safer cars, by increasing the speed at which they drove.

Which led the late Gordon Tulloch to remark that then, the best way to reduce auto accidents would be to install a sharpened steel spike on the steering wheels of all auto, pointed at the drivers' hearts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mister, We could use a man like Owen Lattimore again

It's not your grandfather's Communist Party in China;
CHINA’S leadership has issued guidelines advising universities to strengthen their ideological work in classrooms.
The State Council document told professors that they should champion Marxism, traditional culture and socialist core values.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that the guidelines issued on Monday by top officials within the Communist Party and the government’s powerful State Council required that ideological work should be treated as central and strategic in the country’s education system.
We guess they miss the U.S. State Department's China Hands--John Stewart Service, John Paton Davies, John Carter Vincent--as well as non-Johns like Sol Adler, Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White, Frank Coe, as well as free agent adviser Owen Lattimore. Who wrote an article for the Overseas News Agency (Sept. 1946, after George C. Marshall's mission for Mao had failed) which reads, in part;
The Kuomintang [our wartime ally Chiang Kai-shek] are the war party in China. They have had monopoly control over the Chinese Government, and they do not want to negotiate, because real negotiations would lead to a compromise, and a compromise would mean surrender of some of their monopoly privileges. They would rather fight, but they know they cannot fight successfully without continuing American aid. Therefore they must try to see-saw between pretended negotiations and experimental use of military power until, if possible, they have persuaded American public opinion that the Communists are a stiff-necked generation of vipers who have no intention of ever being reasonable. Then, they hope, the Americans will finally get mad and tell the Kuomintang to go the limit, with full American backing.
The Communists are the peace party in China. The Chinese who are actual Communist party members, together with the regular Communist military forces, are not strong enough to fight a civil war on their own. They survive only because they have the support of millions of people who are not Communists. These people do not want civil war; they long for peace. They will not fight to protect the Communists. They will fight only to defend their own rights and interests. They are backing the Communists only because they fear the Kuomintang more than they fear the Communists.
[Bold in the above by HSIB]

No, the Chinese Communists today are on their own, as the Comrades at Morning Star: The People's Daily ruefully note;
The recent focus on continuing intensified work reflects the thinking of a document leaked last year that outlined the Chinese Communist Party leadership’s top perceived threats.
Known as Document Nine, it warned of “Western anti-China forces” and unhealthy criticism that “appears in public lectures, seminars, university classrooms, class discussion forums, civilian study groups and individual publications.”
Not like in the good old days when they could count on their foreign friends.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bruder Romantik

Barack and Gero, sittin' in a tree;
That was not the voice of a loser. It was the voice of a winner. Forget the Republicans, take no notice of them, they have given you nothing. The calls of many of the Democrats fearing an electoral defeat sounded almost like pleas to their president. But President Barack Obama didn't have to be told twice. The fact that his party had just suffered a crushing defeat in the midterm elections and had to address a completely Republican-controlled Congress for the first time seemed to be anything but a challenge for the US president.
A reinvigorated Barack Obama was bursting with power, self-confident, and aggressive during his address to Congress.
His pants were even sharply creased!

Shop til we have the drop on you

Don't over do it when shopping in Venezuela, Nick Maduro may be watching you speculate (that the shelves will soon be empty).

This second video is the reality of shopping in Venezuela: people standing for hours just to get into the stores, for who knows what is available. As one woman says at the end, that's what's normal in their country.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ordeal by Lattimore V (D Day celebration)

By one of the coincidences that makes life ironic, the BBC chose to post the above picture on its Democracy Day web-lebration. Which reminded us of a guy--note the Che Guevara button on the righteous lad's chest--who used to have a similarly loose definition of democracy. None other than Owen Lattimore, who was indicted for perjury for denying, under oath in front of a Senate subcommittee, that he'd ever promoted the philosophy of the Soviet Union.

Some excerpts from that noble martyr's 1945 book, The Solution in Asia;
If we are politically intelligent ....We may count on seeing, over wide areas, the partial acceptance of Marxist ideas and the adoption of one or another part of the Soviet system. [p. 24]
Maybe even in;
The Japanese, like other people, can adopt any system of society; but only if the changes made go beyond catchwords and permeate the whole society. Democracy in Japan cannot  be attained by changing the status of the emperor, but will require democratic changes throughout Japanese society.

There is in fact a democratic potential in Japanese life.... [p. 44]
But not like elsewhere;
It is a mistake to think that Japan could achieve "democratic monarchy" by reform. We Americans are likely to be misled by thinking of England as the example of a democratic monarchy. [p. 48]
Fortunately, thinks Owen (The architect of our Far Eastern policy, moi?) Lattimore, others are wiser in re Japan;
...the post-revolutionary Russians [aka, Communists], coming on the scene with fresh minds, or at least with preconceptions quite different from ours, were often right in stressing a number of phenomena whose importance we underestimated .... [p. 51]
 Owen ends chapter II with; Have we any idea what course to set? Then on to chapter III, REVOLUTION AND NATIONALISM IN CHINA;
Sun Yat-sen knew China could only be saved by a multiple process. Penetration into China of European and American thought had to be encouraged but the penetration of European and American control had to be pushed back. ....
Into this complicated situation there intruded the influence of the Russian Revolution, the effects of which were felt all over Asia. We in America have never yet properly grasped the character of that influence. Wherever we see Russian influence, we still tend to look for Russian "agitators" upsetting the minds of people who would not make trouble if they were not "stirred up by troublemakers" We cannot understand either the Asia of yesterday or the Asia of today and tomorrow if we resort to such absurd simplifications. [p. 67-68]
Unlike the sophisticated Owen Lattimore, that is. The table setting goes on for several more pages, but eventually we get to dine. On page 121, we're finally hit with the situation on the ground in China as Lattimore sees it in early 1945; The political structure under the Communists is more nearly democratic than it is under the Kuomintang.

I.e., Mao is the democrat, not our ally Chiang Kai-shek. Mao is aligned with the Russians, and;
One way of rating the prestige of any country is to compare what it does with what it says. With Russia, more than with any other country, what is done counts relatively more and what is said relatively less. What Russia says, more than what any other country says, is subject to distortion. [p. 129]
But those wise Orientals can see through that distortion;
The propaganda of what the Russians were actually doing in their own territory had a far more powerful effect of attraction in adjacent territory than any propaganda of theories; people who could not have been attracted by the abstract and invisible Marx were attracted by the concrete and visible Marxists. [p.137]
Who had been murdering their own countrymen wholesale, but apparently that didn't count. No, Owen assures the reader that for Koreans, Mongolians, Uighurs, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajiks;
To all of these peoples the Russians and the Soviet Union have a great power of attraction. In their eyes...the Soviet Union stands for strategic security, economic prosperity, technological progress, miraculous medicine, free education, equality of opportunity, and democracy: a powerful combination.
The fact that the Soviet Union also stands for democracy is not to be overlooked. It stands for democracy because it stands for all the other things. Here in America we are in the habit of taking a narrow view of foreign claimants to the status of democracy. If China, or Russia, or some other alien people does not measure up to the standards of the particular American modification of Anglo-Saxon democracy, we say that it is not democratic. [p. 139]
 Btw, the reader had to take Owen's word for all this, since he didn't bother to produce any evidence that that is how Asians themselves saw Russia and Communism. And anyone who disagreed with him was just a fascist like that Joe McCarthy (who came along later to remind Owen Lattimore just what he'd been claiming back in 1945).
Happy Democracy Day!

D Day

Democracy Day, you betcha! Palestine's Arabs say fuhgedaboutit;
"We used to hear a lot about democracy from all around the world," says Ahmed, a stallholder [in the market town of Qalqiyah], as he bags stalks of dried thyme. "But we found the theory works better than the practice."
They voted for the terrorists, but the wicked Israelites won't play fair;
Hamas went on to win a decisive victory in the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 - winning 74 of the 132 seats.
Turnout was high at 78% and international monitors said the vote was largely free and fair.
But the result was met with dismay by Israel and Western donors - which prop up the Palestinian Authority (PA).
They refused to deal with Hamas politically unless the group renounced violence and its commitment to the destruction of Israel. Funds to pay for vital services were stopped or diverted.
.... "We're only allowed democracy if the West likes our choices," comments one Qalqilya shopper as he reflects on this troubled political history. "They supported us when we went to the ballot boxes but did a u-turn when Islamists won."
 Hitler won an election too, and look what happened to him. In fact, a lot of Arabs liked the cut of his jabber at that time. What's the use of voting a suicide pact for your enemies to honor, if they won't?

Das Karnickel Unwillen

Rabbits are people too!

The pope’s comment that Catholics don’t have to breed “like rabbits” has caused offense — among Germany’s rabbit breeders. ....
But Erwin Leowsky, president of the central council of German rabbit breeders, told news agency dpa on Tuesday that only rabbits which live in the wild are sexually overactive.
He said those in captivity have tamer reproductive habits.
Leowsky says he feels the pope should allow Catholics to use contraception rather than resorting to misleading cliches about rabbits.

It's not the size of the fight in the econosphere

Noah Opinion says, It's the size of the house in the fight;
Ragout4:43 PM
"Even as house size soared, real rents stayed flat over the latter part of the 20th century...that looks like a large increase in the standard of living of the average person."

The BLS, or any economist measuring rents, is trying to hold the quality of housing constant. So house size should have no effect on rents. Thus, if real rents have been flat, that means that housing has made no contribution to living standards.

One important reason for this is that productivity growth in homebuilding is typically very low, or even negative. So this has been a pretty big failure of the US economy.
  1. The increase in house size is a physical quantity; it means that people have more stuff, period!
As we have pointed out many times the size of the median newly constructed home is about 40% larger today than in the 1970s (and contains a lot more stuff, like bathrooms, appliances, garage space, closets, cable TV and internet connections). Which is a physical refutation of the claims of no increase in middle class incomes over the same period.

A point we've made to Brad DeLong a dozen years ago too. Keep up the good fight, Noah.

The state of the state...of California

By their own admission, it's a mess. Bureaucracy, decades out of date;
The state's classification plan contains too many classifications, is inflexible, and is too cumbersome for today's human resources needs. As a consequence, classification specifications are out of date, titles are not descriptive or understandable to applicants, and there is virtually no distinction among many similar classifications which results in redundant testing.
Which has been known for awhile;
The Little Hoover Commission noted in January 1999; "Classifications are used in structuring organizational work flows and in establishing budgets. They shape examination, selection, compensation and promotional decisions. As a result, many of the maladies plaguing state human resources are either caused by-or can be detected in-the classification system."
But, even earlier;
Since 1979, the Little Hoover Commission has recommended streamlining California's personnel management system to "untie the hands of managers and delegate to departments the authority to hire, promote, reward employees for excellence in performance based on principles of merit and a representative workforce." 
There are 4,462 classifications in the state's civil service. [4] Of this number:

  • Thirty-seven percent of these classifications have five or fewer incumbents;
  • Nearly one-fifth are one- or two-person classifications; and
  • As of April 23, 2004, there are 1,062 classifications with no incumbents.
 Since this has been known now for 36 years, Jon Ortiz of the SacBee can report;
For example, the state still has “teletypewriter operator” on the books. The reviewers said the classification needs to go: “No positions established or filled in state service ... Technology outdated.”
The state employs one “telephone operator” at Atascadero State Hospital but it’s not clear what that person does. The facility’s “switchboard is no longer in operation,” according to the report, which recommends the state look into the situation and, “assuming that the absence of a switchboard is confirmed, abolish the class.”
We'll bet that in another 36 years it will still be there.

Read more here:

Let the negotiation begin!

Over the price of rope?
Yesterday afternoon, January 19, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, received Senators Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), and Representatives Christopher van Hollen (Maryland) and Peter Welch (Vermont), all members of the Democratic Party.
Topics of mutual interest were discussed during the meeting, with the participation of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations’ director general for the United States, Josefina Vidal, and the country’s chief diplomat at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, José Ramón Cabañas.
[Bold by HSIB]

Monday, January 19, 2015

Eastwood at the Gates

So, Hollywood hates to see American snipers made into movie heroes. That your problem, Bunky?, Or yours, Mikey;
Actor Seth Rogen compared it to Nazi propaganda, tweeting “American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that's showing in the third act of Inglourious Basterds,” a reference to fake Nazi footage in the Quentin Tarantino flick.
Hours after “Sniper” blew away the competition, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore blasted its depiction of sharpshooters as heroes.
“We were taught snipers were cowards,” Moore tweeted, claiming his uncle had been killed by a sniper in World War II. Snipers, he added, “will shoot u in the back.”
Moore later said the tweet had nothing to do with the film, writing, “I didn't say a word about ‘American Sniper’ in my tweets.”
Maybe he remembered this film;

Which was different; that hero was a Russian sniper, Vasily Zaytsev. The movie about him did well enough.

Mission accomplie

It was a hero's welcome for the former bus driver, just ask the Comrades at Morning Star (The People's Daily);
Supporters of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution thronged the streets of Caracas at the weekend to welcome back President Nicolas Maduro after a successful two-week international tour.
Crowds danced to live salsa bands, waving brightly coloured balloons and cheering as Mr Maduro arrived at the presidential palace, driving himself at the head of the motorcade.
Central Caracas was lined with banners featuring pictures of the president shaking hands with world leaders above the tagline “Successful tour.”
The people having no lines to stand in, since there's nothing to buy in Venezuela's retail sector, why not party.
On arriving at the presidential palace, Mr Maduro delivered a short speech attacking US sanctions and applauding the steps his government had taken in his absence, including arresting some young protesters who set up street barricades.
He denounced the “parasitic” private sector and blamed enemies of the government for intentionally blocking essential supplies.
 Which Venezuela can't pay for since it has little oil revenue these days.

Sí, podemos

Where do Spanish socialists go to find a sympathetic ear? Surely you guessed;
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez on Thursday explained his “proposals for radical democracy” [in Washington, D.C.] to former and current US government officials.
Which included;
Sánchez and two economic aides met with leaders of the Center for American Progress (PAC), a think tank with ties to the Democrats.
 And bigger fish to finesse;
Sánchez met US President Barack Obama’s chief economic advisor, Jason Furman, and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde.
A good time was had by all;
“The only party that can guarantee a change in Spain is the Socialist Party,” he ended.
Sánchez said he was coming away from the trip with “a very good feeling.”
¡Olé! But, it's a two way street;
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed at the weekend that he will lead one of the first US trade missions to Cuba since Barack Obama relaxed travel and trade restrictions on the island.
The Democratic governor will be promoting an initiative that seeks to attract foreign investment to New York state, said spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa.
Great idea, Andrew, !la capitale de Cuba libreEveryone knows there's such an excess of it in Cuba. But Cuomo has been beaten to it;
Mr Cuomo’s announcement coincided with Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy setting off on the first congressional mission to Cuba since Mr Obama’s December 17 announcement that Washington would start normalising ties with the socialist island.
Mr Leahy is heading a group of four Democratic senators and two Democratic representatives, all of whom have visited Cuba in the past and who strongly support the new policy.
Which is the old policy that Dwight Eisenhower thought would work in 1959.

Obama to cut jobs. Portuguese to be hurt most

At least they'll miss us when we're gone;
The reduction of civilan [sic] personnel at the Lajes US airbase in the Açores could lead to the eventual emigration of 10,000 inhabitants of Terceira island [pop. 55,000].   
 Studies released by the University of the Açores estimate emigration of between 5,000 and 10,000 people if the US military reduce its operations and associated local personnel to the level it plans and if there is no effort to create jobs in other industries on the remote island.

According to professor Tomaz Dentinho there have been three studies by the University which point to a drop in the gross domestic product of the island of between 8.8% and 12% as a reult [sic] of job losses at the air base.
When adding the wider economic affect of associated job losses the affect on island GDP is doubled.

Oxfam your nose to spite your face

The money grubbers at Oxfam want to shake a little of the spare change of the masses loose (to themselves), by whining about the restoration of the wealth of the 1% destroyed in the Great Recession. Note the sleight-of-graph in the two pictures above. The top graph begins in 2010 and is meant to depict a steady decline in the share of wealth held by the 99% (the green line) of us, contrasted with the burgeoning fortunes of the evil rich (maroon line) who are taking more of the cake for themselves.

However the bottom picture shows that, from the year 2000 (the end of the boom) as capital investment lost big-time after recessions in 2001 and 2008-09, things have returned to about Y2K-normal.

What is not shown in the Oxfam paper is that several hundred millions (actually billions) of the world's poor have increased their income and wealth and have climbed out of poverty. Especially in China and India.

How they did it isn't a mystery. They abandoned socialism in its most virulent forms, and conceded that capitalism is the engine of prosperity. The poor ye shall always have with you...but they'll be better off in capitalist countries.

Which, if you're a charity, isn't good news.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Satire is what sells out on Saturday morning

Charlie Hebdo martyrs can at least be remembered by capitalists;
Copies of French newspaper Charile Hebdo are in short supply after seven million were sold following the deaths of 10 of its journalists.
The front cover shows a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed holding a Je Suis Charlie placard which has become a symbol for freedom of speech.
All copies sold out in France within minutes and some distributors in the UK have been unable to get copies due to such high demand.
Normal circulation in France was about 60,000 copies.

No Cuban blood for oil in Venezuela?

When President Maduro returns to Venezuela after his globe-trotting begathon, he may find himself confronted with more than empty store shelves;
In the two weeks Maduro has bounced around the globe seeking help, the government has deployed soldiers to prevent stampedes and looting at markets while business leaders have warned that food stocks will run out by early March. Political opponents are rallying supporters and foreign investors are bracing for a potential default.
Maduro has taken his tinhorn cup to Russia, China, Iran and other outposts of democracy hoping for handouts that will keep him in the good graces of the Cubans who keep him in power. But with Fidel on his death bed, can he count on them in a crisis?
This week, both hardliners and moderates gelled behind a common call to take to the streets to denounce the government's failings. The main anti-government coalition, however, has yet to organize a march and protests by students — a key sector in last year's demonstrations — have been small and sporadic.
The opposition hopes to gain momentum ahead of legislative elections later this year and take control of congress, which they hope to use as leverage to force a recall of Maduro.
Some analysts have raised the possibility of an even more dramatic scenario — a military coup. So far there's been no outward sign of disloyalty or nervousness on the part of the armed forces, which have seen their power expand dramatically under Maduro. But observers point out similarities to 1992.
Which was when Hugo Chavez deposed the government of Carlos Andres Perez. But he had the assistance of Fidel and Raul Castro. Today, the Cuban presence in Venezuela is even stronger, so the opposition will have to overcome Maduro's foreign support, to remove him.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Housing Cause Denialists baying at...

The full Wallison (Peter) who has a new book;  Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again.

Some samples of the scholarship; If you're in the mood for fiction, read this book. On second thought, read Harry Potter. At least J.K. Rowling has the decency to tell her readers it's made up before they begin.

And; I read this hoping that someone would finally do the right thing and expose the truth on how the big banks and our politicians unwittingly engineered a system that fostered unbridled greed, fraud, and disastrous leverage. Instead, this author promotes the narrative that our politicians and big banks fabricated in 08' to cover the truth.. namely that they we're in bed with each other and to deflect and disguise the truth, they enlisted wall street elites to promote the lie that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were the culprit.

And; Peter, which TBTF bank funded this book? Come on now, this is your chance to tell the truth.

And; It was Hank Paulson that seized Fannie and Freddie and put them in conservatorship to force these institutions to buy these illiquid, sub-prime loan-backed securities from the financial system to improve the flow of capital. These people including Wallison want to pass the blame and want to kill the GSE's to give the mortgage business to the same people that crashed the system,

It smells like collusion and corruption of the highest order. This book serves no value in the purpose of enlightening the public. Thumbs down!

And;  Just saw this shill for the banksters on CNBC where moron Joe Kernen fawned all over him as the font of all truth, knowledge, wisdom and the American Way. If you think Kernen knows his head from his rear, then this is the book for you - more detritus for the sheeple to graze on. For others, one is left to ponder why AEI doesn't do something about its cockroach infestation.

There are worse, but HSIB is merciful. Fortunately there is a review from someone who actually has first hand knowledge of the matter, Mark Calabria. He is a former Senate staffer of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, as well as a former Deputy Asst. Sec'y at HUD, and he thinks Wallison's book is well worth a read;

...anyone interested in the financial crisis should read this book. It is extensively documented and well-written. While the narrative is similar to other of Wallison’s writings, he musters far more evidence for his case here. The amount of contemporaneous material from advocates, HUD and the GSEs (Fannie and Freddie) is impressive. Its great history (even if sometimes painful to re-live).

I’ve generally been on the fence about the housing goals, as I have felt that GSE leverage was a far greater issue. The book leaves me more sympathetic to Wallison’s argument. For the best counter-argument regarding the goals, see former FHA Commissioner John Weicher’s paper on the issue written for the St. Louis Fed..

Whaaat? Read both sides and then make up your mind. Hey, who invited this guy in?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Je suis Commie

Not that anyone should be surprised given Thomas Piketty's tortured logic in Capital in the Twenty-first Century, but he's now out of the closet completely;
A lot of people argue that the First World War in particular was a sort of nationalist response to the very high social tensions and inequalities that characterized pre-WW1 European countries and I think there is a lot to that. I am very Leninist in that sense. [bold by HSIB]
In case you think he's kidding;
There is a basic contradiction between what the market and the economic laws can deliver and what we collectively aspire to given the kind of democratic ideals we have in mind, and at the international level, that is even more explosive. From the viewpoint of economic laws, some countries can theoretically own others forever. In the three or four decades before the First World War, France and Britain had a permanent trade deficit of 1 to 2 % of GDP, but because their net foreign capital income was 5 to 10 % of GDP, in effect the rest of the world was working for them but they were still accumulating claims on the rest of the world. So it is as if you are paying rent to your landlord and with the rent, he is buying the rest of the building. It is always tough to be paying rent, but when it is at the scale of the world… This is actually what was happening, and it only stopped because there were the wars, the decolonization process and the Bolshevik revolution, all these huge political changes in the 20th century.

Workers and renters of the world unite. What have you got to lose, but what everyone who listened to Marx and Lenin did?

Ordeal by Lattimore IV (Here's mote in your eye!)

As we wrote in the immediately preceding post--Lattimore III--the slander of McCarthyism (supposedly, making up facts and telling lies about innocent people) has its origins in the 1950 book Ordeal By Slander. Which miraculously (Owen Lattimore's description) was published in July of that year, after Lattimore's testimonies before The Senate Tydings Committee in March through May. The Tydings committee concluded its proceedings in that same July.

So, for the edification of Tom Meyer of Ricochet, as well as his designated homework doer Michael Moynihan, we offer this, selected almost at random, from Prof. Lattimore's  (when he thought he was home free) paean to his own martyrdom;
I wonder a bit how a man so young as Joseph McCarthy [HSIB note; he was 42 years old at the time, Lattimore all of 50], whose acquaintance with national and international affairs is so recent [HSIB note; he was a Marine Corps veteran of WWII], can have become such a great expert on the difficult and complex problem of China and the Far East. My wonder on this score increased when I read his speech on the Senate floor. Some of his material is from Chinese and Russian sources. Or perhaps I should say that some of his exotic material on Mongolia appears to trace back to some Russian source of distinctly low caliber.

I did not know that the Senator was a linguist. But really, the material that the Senator read is so badly translated and so inaccurate that I am sure that I should not like to place the blame for in the learned Senator. Indeed, I fear that the sound and fury come from the lips of McCarthy, but that there is an Edgar Bergen in the woodpile.
Get it? Charlie McCarthy was Edgar Bergen's dummy! Oh, Owen was quite a card. And this clever witticism is from Lattimore's testimony to the Tydings Committee. He's so enamored of it that he repeats it a few pages later;
Senator McCarthy, without, I am sure, knowing what he is about, has been and is the instrument or the dupe of a bitter and implacable and fanatical group of people who will not tolerate any discussion of China which is not based upon absolute, total and complete support of the Nationalist Government in Formosa. They do not hesitate-they even insist on--policies that potential allies of ours in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and other countries will call ruthless imperialism. ....

But I am sure that the methods of that faction of these people who are McCarthy's Edgar Bergen [our bold], are wrong--as wrong as they can be. Their methods are to intimidate persons like me and even officials of the United States Government from expressing views that are contrary to their own. Their weapon of intimidation is McCarthy's machine gun: namely, accusation of disloyalty and traitorous conduct. I get a certain amount of wry amusement out of the fact that some of these people are acknowledged ex-Communists. Perhaps that status gives them a special right to criticize those of us who do not happen to be Communists, ex or otherwise. Certainly, it provides them with ideal training and unique skill for the kind of campaign of vilification and distortion that the so-called China Lobby is conducting through the instrumentality of the Senator from Wisconsin.
Of course, Owen isn't just saying all this for himself. Nope, he's the champion of all those ink-stained wretches who will be filing stories on his testimony;
I say to you, gentlemen, that the sure way to destroy freedom of speech and the free expression of ideas and views is to attach to that freedom the penalty of abuse and vilification. If the people of this country can differ with the so-called China Lobby or with Senator McCarthy only at the risk of the abuse to which I have been subjected, freedom will not long survive.
If you think that that is a masterpiece of self-unawareness, how about what Lattimore did to discredit one of those ex-Communists who testified that he'd known Lattimore was a Communist when he, Louis Budenz, had been editor of The Daily Worker. Which was to produce (miraculously?) a transcript of a deportation hearing in which Budenz had testified;
Beginning at page 143 of this transcript Budenz admitted that even before he joined the Communist Party he engaged in certain personal activities which, to say the least, are offensive to accepted standards of decent and conventional behavior. .... These indications of Budenz's sordid personal life ....
Since that time [of leaving the Communist Party] he has been engaged in commercial exploitation of his own sordid past, resorting to methods which, in my opinion, are a menace to our society.
No estimate given by Lattimore how long freedom could survive such abuse as he was subjecting Louis Budenz. Nor of this abuse of Joe McCarthy heaped upon him by Lattimore, in later testimony;
The Senator...gave voice to ...a defense of the Nazi SS generals who massacred defenseless American soldiers and a large civilian population in the infamous brutality of Malmedy. .... I hope with all my heart that Joe McCarthy will come to understand that the principles of justice and fairness which he loudly proclaimed on behalf of the Nazi murderers are also the birthright of American citizens.
Which is a reference to the fact that McCarthy had listened to and acted upon complaints from an American military officer about the mistreatment of German soldiers who'd been tried for War Crimes in the Malmedy Massacre during the Battle of the Bulge. Complaints so serious that the Army formed the Simpson Commission to investigate, and one of whose members wrote; All but two of the Germans in the 139 cases we investigated had been kicked in the testicles beyond repair. This was standard operating procedure with our American investigators.

Did Lattimore mean he was in favor of such treatment of enemy soldiers?