Friday, July 31, 2015

Austrian Zimbabwean

Generally, wage rates can only be kept above full-employment rates through coercion by governments, unions, or both. Occasionally, however, the wage rates are maintained by voluntary choice (although the choice is usually ignorant of the consequences) or by coercion supplemented by voluntary choice. It may happen, for example, that either business firms or the workers themselves may become persuaded that maintaining wage rates artificially high is their bounden duty. Such persuasion has actually been at the root of much of the unemployment of our time, and this was particularly true in the 1929 depression.
That's from Austrian economist Murray Rothbard. Now, from Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister, Mike Bimha, who;
...said the ongoing wave of job losses is good for the industry, which he said has been saddled with ‘excess workforce’ before a recent Supreme Court ruling gave employers leeway to fire workers without the costs associated with retrenchment packages.

Bimha faults the government he represents;
“To me, it is a reflection that we had taken too long to amend labour laws,” Bimha told delegates at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress.

“You cannot continue to have a lot of employees when business is not doing well.”
Instead, pay for productivity;
He said government supports productivity related wages, singling out Ziscosteel, which has been idle since 2008 when it was shut down, but has accumulated a wage bill that stood at $200 million as of 2014.
Asking a good question;
“Why should we pay unproductive workers? My hope is that we will not have an amended labour law which will worsen things,” said Bimha.-
Based on past practice, he will get such.

Greeks in clover

Literally, since they don't have any cash. Thanks to their politicians;
Wild boar and power cuts were Greek cotton farmer Mimis Tsakanikas' biggest worries until a bank shutdown last month left him stranded without cash to pay suppliers, and his customers without money to pay him.

Squeezed on all sides, the 41-year-old farmer began informal bartering to get around the cash crunch. He now pays some of his workers in kind with his clover crop and exchanges equipment with other farmers instead of buying or renting machinery.

Tsakanikas rented a field this month by agreeing to pay with part of his clover production.
“It's a nightmare. I owe many people money now - gas stations and firms that service machinery. I have to go to the bank every single day, and the money I can take out is not enough,” said Tsakanikas, who also grows vegetables and corn on 148 acres (60 hectares) of farmland.
Gee, the banksters provide useful services to the common man? Maybe they should have thought about that before they went all SYRIZA on themselves.

Columbia; the germ of the motion

Taxi drivers in the South American nation's major cities take to the streets, but not to serve the customers;
On Wednesday, July 29, cab owners and drivers took to the streets of Bogotá, Cartagena, Cali, and Pereira to go on strike and protest the unregulated competition they face [from Uber].
.... Major traffic jams ensued in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, as taxi drivers inched through streets.
So, Uber took the opportunity to polish its image;
In response to the strikes, Uber launched a campaign, called #ColombiaNoPara (#ColombiaDoesn’tStop) giving all its users two free rides “to support the mobility” of all Colombians.
And give Columbians a taste of free enterprise. Of which there has usually been a shortage in South America.

Anyone seen Bill Murray?

Still Groundhog's Day after all these years;
One of two men suspected of making off with a bag containing $150,000 in cash that was mistakenly left behind by ATM workers bought an SUV with the money hours later, police said.

Alton Harvey, 42, of Hillside, was arrested Wednesday after police traced a white van that was captured on surveillance video pulling up to the bag of cash that the ATM employees forgot outside a business in Mahwah, in northern New Jersey, on Monday. The video showed a passenger in the van grabbing the bag.
He could at least have bought Andie McDowell a cocktail.

Run in Portlandia stalking

Shell's icebreaker breaks free from the grip of Greenpeace;
The U.S. Coast Guard began detaining anti-Shell kayakers in Portland’s Willamette River late Thursday, the Portland Fire Department’s high-rescue team removed protesters who had rappelled off the St. Johns Bridge, and a U.S. District Court judge in Anchorage slapped Greenpeace with a stiff fine if it continues to obstruct the Alaska-bound icebreaker Fennica.
The Fennica has, onboard, equipment to contain the damage from oil spills. So the protestors seem to be in favor of murdering seals and whales. Because it wasn't any concern for 'the environment' that stopped them interfering, it was filthy lucre;
The judge [Sharon Gleason] imposed an initial $2,500-an-hour fine against Greenpeace USA if the protests continued.  The fine was to increase  to $5,000 an hour at 10 a.m. Friday, $7,500 an hour if demonstrators still dangled from ropes at 10 a.m. Saturday, and $10,000 an hour if they were still present at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Gloatometer reading;
Shell was delighted.

“The staging of protesters in Portland was not safe nor was it lawful,” Shell said in a statement.  “Foremost, Greenpeace demonstrated a complete lack of regard for the authority of a federal court.  We are pleased with today’s court ruling that holds Greenpeace in contempt and prescribes fines for further non-compliance.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Well, he sure isn't an economist

A law school degree doesn't a professional make, decides a Federal Appeals Court;
A federal appeals court said on July 23 the New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom may owe overtime pay to a contract lawyer for performing non-legal work, a decision that could make it more costly for firms to hire temporary lawyers.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said contract lawyers can be eligible under federal labor law for overtime after working 40 hours per week, if their work is so basic that it does not constitute the practice of law.
The 3-0 decision on July 23 is a victory for David Lola, whom a staffing agency hired to review documents for Skadden at $25 per hour, and who is pursuing a class action on behalf of other contract lawyers.
The reasoning; "... he provided services that a machine could have provided,”. The winning appellant had argued;
...he wanted to be paid for work he did and not be punished for having earned a law license.

“Societally, this just can’t be beneficial,” he said.
On second thought, it might cut down on useless litigation.

Mentiras, malditas mentiras y las estadísticas del crimen

Michelle Bachelet, facilitador de los criminales;

Hundreds of Chileans took to the streets of affluent Santiago neighbourhoods on Wednesday night, clanging kitchenware and waving banners to protest what they say is an explosion in crime in one of South America's safest nations.

The "cacerolazo," as such protests are known in Latin America, was the latest in a series of demonstrations that reflect a dramatic rise in security fears among Chileans.
Ominous. Those pots and pans were what eventually brought down Salvador Allende in the 70s, and he had Fidel Castro's paramilitary forces by the thousands protecting him from the wrath of ordinary Chileans.

Of course the establishment marshals statistics to pooh-pooh the concerns;
According to police data, violent crime was down 2.6 percent in the first five months of 2015 compared with the year before. Property crime also dropped marginally, and United Nations statistics show Chile has the second lowest homicide rate in the Americas after Canada.

"The current situation is obviously far more nuanced than the rhetoric," said Mauricio Duce, a law professor at Diego Portales University in Santiago, while scanning a table of recent crime statistics.
Yeah, this experience definitely lacks nuance;
"I had a criminal break into my home and put a gun to my head. I'm lucky I'm still alive," said [Lorena] Diaz, [a] university administrator [who participated in the demonstrations]. 

Say it isn't so, Matt

When Hillary Clinton is seen through by a leftish journo like Matt Yglesias, it might be time to buy Bernie Sanders futures.

Yglesias (or his headline writer) describes that as; Hillary Clinton's favorite chart is pretty misleading. Because;
One problem with that chart, as deployed by the Clinton campaign, is that economic productivity simply has nothing to do with "working hard." 
It has more to do with working smart. Or, having more capital (equipment, machinery, computers, etc.) available to the workforce.
But the bigger problem is that both lines are indexed to inflation — using different inflation indexes.
When Yglesias eliminates that deception, he gets a much different story;

A story that doesn't make the Obama Administration look very good. The same Obama Administration in which Hillary Clinton served as Sec'y of State. However, Yglesias could have gone even further by pondering his conclusion;
Real wages really have risen much too slowly over the past 40 years. But while Clinton's version of the chart makes it look like rising productivity isn't part of the solution, looking at the divergent price indexes clarifies that it is crucial. For real wages to rise, we need the things middle-class families spend the bulk of their income on to get cheaper. That means more productivity in the big housing, health, and education sectors — not more pessimism about the potential of productivity.
The three sectors (our bold, above) are all heavily regulated/subsidized by governments at all levels. Maybe that is the problem.

Amazon Prime tribe to increase

It's a competitive world, eh BBC?
Former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have signed up to present a new show on Amazon's streaming video service.

The trio will front three series of a new motoring programme for Amazon Prime, with the first season to be made available worldwide in 2016.

The move follows their departure from the hit BBC Two show earlier this year.
That's BBC-speak for, We canned Clarkson, so he took his friends and went out on his own. Rats, foiled again! The marketplace has a habit of doing that. And the trois terribles aren't above rubbing the BBC's face in it;
In a statement from Amazon, Clarkson said: "I feel like I've climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship."

Hammond said: "Amazon? Oh yes. I have already been there. I got bitten by a bullet ant." And May added: "We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn't it?"
Nor will the competitors fail to press their advantage;
Amazon Prime Video EU vice-president Jay Marine said: "Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen.
"We can't wait to see what Jeremy, Richard, James and the team will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It takes a Marxist to know how to show one up

In chapter eighteen of his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (based on his own enthusiasms during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39) Ernest Hemingway admits that Communism is actually religious in nature; felt you were taking part in a crusade....something like the feeling you expected to have and did not have when you made your first communion. It was a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all of the oppressed of the world....
As authentic as the feeling one gets standing in Chartres Cathedral with the sunlight streaming in through the stained glass, he says.

Funny, but we can't help but think of that metaphor when we listen to Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant--Phd, North Carolina State--speak of her enthusiasms. Just last week, as it happens.

The inside baseball: there is a state law in Washington that prohibits its cities from imposing rent control. Council members Licata and Sawant want that law repealed. Real estate developer Roger Valdez thinks it amusing that he can quote Karl Marx while Kshama relies on 'God and voodoo'.

Valdez and his ally, state representative Manweller, continually remind the audience that economic reality isn't optional. That the two councilmen don't have any magic Rent Control Fairy Dust to sprinkle over Seattle to repeal the Laws of Supply and Demand. What has happened in cities with rent control--including New York and San Francisco--will happen in Seattle if Kshama and Nick were to get their way.

The poor will be hurt, apartments will become scarcer...and pricier. It's economics. Not faith.

The best defense...

For Tom Brady, is to go on offense and attack, with pinpoint accuracy, the NFL's case of deflategate;
Despite submitting to hours of testimony over the past 6 months, it is disappointing that the Commissioner upheld my suspension based upon a standard that it was “probable” that I was “generally aware” of misconduct. The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused. He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable.
I also disagree with yesterdays narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances.
Nor, says Brady was the NFL's investigation deprived of any information from his cell phone
 To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong.
... we turned over detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Mr. [NFL investigator Ted] Wells requested. We even contacted the phone company to see if there was any possible way we could retrieve any/all of the actual text messages from my old phone. .... the NFL knows that Mr. Wells already had ALL relevant communications with Patriots personnel that either Mr. Wells saw or that I was questioned about in my appeal hearing. There is no “smoking gun” and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing.
Since this controversy has the potential to deprive Brady of endorsement income, we wonder if the NFL Commissioner has a good lawyer himself.

¿Por qué no hay derecho de las mujeres a controlar su propio cuerpo en Venezuela?

Socialism, that's why. It's notoriously dangerous to babies, and other living things, everywhere it's tried;
Birth-control products have all but vanished from Venezuela. A mere 15 percent of the normal supply remain available, according to Freddy Ceballos, president of Venezuela’s Pharmaceutical Federation. With prices skyrocketing for the few available in stores, Venezuelan women are resorting to drugs for other purposes, risking their health with dangerous substances.
We await Gloria Steinem's press conference where she will denounce the patriarchy of Nicolas Maduro;
The shortages that started six months ago affect both birth control pills and condoms, bringing upon three major health public issues in Venezuela: unwanted pregnancies, teen pregnancies, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Dulce María Blanco de Figallo assures that in Campo Alegre, where she owns and operates a pharmacy, “pregnancy rates have increased 50 percent, and these numbers are similar across the country.” Campo Alegre is a low-income area in Aragua state’s capital, Maracay.
And when Venezuelan women have babies they face shortages of everything they need to care for them, including diapers and baby formula. That's the reality of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kait'll be at a tattoo, on them

West Virginia U grad student Kaitlin Wolf gets invited to meet Nobel prize winning economists because of this insight;
Tattoos can also influence employment trends.

“If two ex-cons interview for a job and one has a face tattoo and the other one doesn’t, then the one without the face tattoo is more likely to be hired,” Wolf said.
We need a Phd dissertation AND a free trip to Europe for that?
- See more at:

Obama made the Rams run aligned

Fiat is an Italian company, so they should be used to being an agency of the state, we suppose;
Fiat Chrysler must offer to buy back from customers more than 500,000 Ram pickup trucks and other vehicles in the biggest such action in U.S. history as part of a costly deal with safety regulators to settle legal problems in about two dozen recalls.
A deal whose financial burden will ultimately be borne by consumers in the form of higher prices for 'perfect' automobiles (as defined by some noble bureaucrats).
The Ram pickups, which are the company's top-selling vehicle, have defective steering parts that can cause drivers to lose control. Some previous repairs have been unsuccessful, so Fiat Chrysler agreed to the buyback, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Owners also have the option of getting them repaired, the agency said in documents released Sunday.
They also have the option of buying of those spiffy new Ford trucks too. Which is the way capitalists are punished in free societies. It's a brave new world.

Derivatives "R"nt Us

Or soon won't be, rules the marketplace;
Insurance companies are cutting back on their coverage of Toys “R” Us Inc. suppliers, bringing another headache to a retailer that has suffered more than two years of losses, people familiar with the matter said.
It could be a blue Christmas without T"R"U;
The credit insurers are pulling back at the same time sentiment sours among investors in the retailer’s $5 billion of debt.

The upfront cost to protect against a default by Toys “R” Us climbed to as high as 43.5 percent today, the highest level since October and up from 30 percent at the end of June, according to credit-derivatives data provider CMA. That means it would cost investors $4.35 million initially, in addition to $500,000 annually, to protect $10 million of the retailer’s obligations from default for five years.
Guess there isn't a Santa Claus after all.

California: 50% More Poverty Than Mississippi

As long as we're quoting Wendel Cox (New Geography), we should note this recent piece on California dreamin' become nightmare;
Urban containment [AKA, smart growth] has its roots in the British 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. This act created green belts around British cities and is a proximate cause of the present housing shortage and crisis. The general philosophy of the 1947 Act is evident throughout urban planning in the United States and has been implemented in Oregon, part of Washington and California.
1947 being shortly after UK voters cut off their noses to spite their faces. Which we've commented on before in this piece on 84 Charing Cross Road. The same dynamic rules today in California, according to Cox;
Today, California house prices are far higher than in the rest of the nation. This is taking a toll on the standard of living and increasing poverty. The Census Bureau's supplemental poverty measure, which adjusts for housing costs shows California's poverty rate to be the highest in the nation. It should be of concern that California's poverty rate is 50% above that of perennial poverty leader Mississippi....

Because so much poverty is concentrated among minority ethnic populations, California's urban containment policy is particularly disadvantaging Hispanics and African-Americans. The Thomas Rivera Institute at USC published a detailed examination of California's land-use regulations and found that "Far from helping, they are making it particularly difficult for Latino and African American households to own a home."
As goes California, so...
Between 1993 and 2010, there was net out-migration from California to 42 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Immigration to Los Angeles and Orange from abroad has also declined, as immigrants too look for more affordable alternatives. People seeking sun, glamour or a good time will continue to flourish in southern California, but it seems likely that more families, and middle class households, will continue to ebb out, seeking somewhere else the dream that was once so closely identified with Southern California.
 And, of course, the same can be said of Australia and New Zealand.

Crocodile Mel[anie?]

G'day to ya, Mate (Mr.Treasurer);
Are you aware of what the average Australian wage is?
Are you aware of what the average Australian mortgage in Sydney is?
Are you aware of the first-home buying process?
Just in case these facts and figures aren’t available to you, I thought you might be interested.
That's from Australian citizen Ms. Mel Wilson's open letter to Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey. She goes on to point out that the average take home pay in the island continent/nation is about $900 per week--that's Aussie dollars, USD would be less than $700.
The median house price in Sydney, according to the Domain Group Housing Price Report, as of March 2015, was $914,056. [a little less than $700,000 USD]
Not sure if you know how first home buying works at the moment, but you normally need a deposit of about 20%. This is to pay for the Stamp Duty (which is a State Tax you must pay every time you buy a property), and also to assist in the approval process so that you don’t need to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance.
So in this instance, the first home buyer would need about $182,811.00 saved to purchase a house that is the average price in Sydney.
Mel goes on to do the math, at $900 per week, an average Aussie would have to save every dime he/she made for 4 years (200 weeks) just to accumulate the down payment. Assuming that the price of the house doesn't escalate over that same time, which it surely will.

And what would the monthly mortgage payments be on the balance of the purchase price? About $1,100 per week Mel figures. So, she concludes her letter thus;
Just slightly confused as to what you were thinking when you said these words at the media conference in Sydney.
Looking forward to another one of your politically correct, direct and well thought out responses.

Another baffled Australian
Mel didn't bother to ask why Australia has restricted the supply of land on which new houses can be built. As New Geography's Wendel Cox commented on the letter;
In a later statement, the Treasurer, to his credit, indicated the need for strong lobbying of the states to make more land available to increase supply
Well, that's old geography!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mercer uber alles Mercedes

I'm a riding fool who is up to date
I know every trail in the Lone Star State
Cause I ride the range in a Ford V-8
Yippie yi yo kayah
-Johnny Mercer's I'm an Old Cowhand
A vehicle a Dallas, Texas Uber driver would love;
With features including “fiddleback eucalyptus” wood trim, massaging seats and panoramic roofs, the Dearborn, Mich., auto maker’s coming F-150 Limited model will start about $60,000, a larger starting price than a Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle.

Industry experts say buyers for this class of uber-trucks tend to be blue-collar entrepreneurs who have the money and desire to flaunt their rides. Some have traded in German luxury cars and want the same leather, electronics and luxury appointments in a pickup, dealers say.

Overall, the share of $50,000 and up pickup trucks sold in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last five years, climbing from 9% in 2010 to 22% this year, according to automotive research firm Kelley Blue Book.
Yippie yi yo kayah for Obamanomics!

Free to cruise

Image result for pink moustache
 California's state employees can use Uber, or other ride-sharing services, while on official business and be reimbursed, if a new bill becomes law. And the votes appear to be there;
The Senate Governmental Organization Committee approved the measure earlier this month, 11-1 with one member not voting. The lone dissent: Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, whose family owns a taxi company.

Read more here:

You pay for what you get

One way or another, as Canadians know from the sad experience of wasted time;
 Valuing only hours lost during the average work week, the estimated cost of waiting for care in Canada for patients who were in the queue in 2014 was $1.2 billion. This works out to an average of about $1,289 for each of the estimated 937,345 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2014.
And if you also value your leisure time (evenings and week-ends), that cost grows three-fold to $3.7 billion, or $3,929 per unhealthy Canadian, say Bacchus Barua and Feixue Ren of the Fraser Institute.

That's only the cost to the  patients, to which you can add the costs to their families and friends.

Canadian bacon

Oh, Canada? The people there fit the 'rationality hypothesis' when it comes to savings behavior, according to the Fraser Institute;

Compulsory Government Pensions vs Private Savings - Infographic

The poor ye shall always have to exploit

If you're a Venezuelan politician that is;
Heavily armed “mega-gangs” have taken over poor neighborhoods in Venezuela, according to the director of the Organized Crime Observatory, Luis Cedeño.

The sociologist says there are at least 10 mega-gangs currently operating in Venezuela, a product of prison culture transferred from jails to poor neighborhoods.
Thanks to Maduroismo, as sociologist Cedeño points out;
He says the government’s failure to curb criminal-gang activity reached its peak with the creation of “peace zones,” territories that are off-limits to police, where gang leaders are left to impose their will unabated.

“The Venezuelan government has been permissive in regards to crime. This stems from the justice system’s role in creating impunity, as well as from the concoction of the so-called ‘peace zones,'” Cedeño says. “The supposed intention was to diminish homicide rates by avoiding confrontations among gangs. But it backfired, causing other types of crime to increase in these areas that are now run by criminals.”
While Maduro enforces his price control and foreign exchange laws.

Brookings measures the jar

An e-mail correspondent alerts us to the latest research that gives a clue to that jarhead nickname;
The GCT [General Classification Test] dates back to World War II, when it was developed to help classify incoming servicemen. Designed to have a mean score of 100, with a standard deviation of 20, 120 was used as the bar for entry into Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS).
.... The Marine Corps... still administers the GCT to officers at The Basic School (TBS) because it strongly predicts their success there.
TBS is a six-month course that all Marine officers attend after completing two prior requirements: Obtaining a four-year college degree and attending Officer Candidate School.
Back in 1980, 85% of the Marine officer candidates scored 120 or better. Today only 59% do. 4.9% scored 150 or better then, now it's 0.7%.  What gives?

The requirement that you have earned a college degree, that's what. With degrees being given out almost for free today, more people qualify to take the Marine Corps test. The Brookings' scholars, Michael Klein and Matthew Cancian, stress;
The junior officers of today will become the generals of tomorrow; if the military does not receive the intelligent young leaders today that it used to receive in the past, it will not have high quality generals in the future.
Which will probably be just fine with some.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Most Liveable City...if you live through it

Forbes reports that AARP rates the most liveable large cities in America, to be San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle. For another opinion let's go to someone who actually lives in Seattle, Times columnist Danny Westneat;

We’re now a city where gunfire is mere background noise

That's the Seattle Times's headline writer's take on Westneat's latest piece, spurred on the death of a highly respected member of the community in the Chinatown International District;
On the street where Donnie Chin died, bullet holes pock the walls and windows near where his car came to a final rest. The small crowd that gathered the other night gaped at these holes, trying to read them like tea leaves. 
Chin, described as a man who didn't have an enemy in the world, was killed in a hail of gunfire intended for someone else. Or some other group.
... in this city, at the rate people are shooting off guns this summer, what happened in the Chinatown International District was not out of the blue. It was inevitable.
“Someone finally got hit,” was how one police officer put it.
227 shootings in Seattle already just this year. More than one a day. So commonplace has this become that the police don't even bother to record all the reports of gunshots they get from citizens. It's only news if someone gets killed.


Rain of bullets on his parade

America's first Kenyan-American President don't get no respect, and Deutsche Welle notices;
Confirmation emerged on Sunday that [Somalian] lawmaker Abdullahi Huseen Mohamud and two guards and a driver were shot dead in Mogadishu on Saturday, shortly after Obama had claimed during a visit to Kenya that Shabab's network in East Africa had been "weakened."
Shabab in a statement carried by the news agency AFP on Sunday said its fighters had "killed a member of the parliament and his guards."
These killers being from the same group that rampaged through a Kenyan shopping mall back in 2013. When Sec'y of State John Kerry visited Mogadishu last May, he was afraid to leave the airport for all the violence in Somalia.

Ten cents a dance

Barack Obama is a dancin' fool;
US President Barack Obama Saturday night showed off his dancing skills at State House when he joined Kenya's Afro- hip hop sensation Sauti Sol on the floor and got the routines to the pacey and award winning hit song Sura Yako.
Read more at:
US President Barack Obama Saturday night showed off his dancing skills at State House when he joined Kenya's Afro- hip hop sensation Sauti Sol on the floor and got the routines to the pacey and award winning hit song Sura Yako.
Read more at:
 US President Barack Obama Saturday night showed off his dancing skills at State House when he joined Kenya's Afro-hip hop sensation Sauti Sol on the floor and got the routines to the pacey and award winning hit song Sura Yako.
 President Obama known for his dance moves, out did other guests when he was beckoned by the group leader Bien-Aime Baraza to join in the dance.
Of course, earlier he'd sweetened the pot, so no wonder they were glad to suffer his dance fever;
President Barack Obama Saturday opened the bag of goodies his government and his 200-man delegation have brought for Kenya and the rest of Africa.
We like that his.
In a 13-minute speech described by some delegates as “not one of his most inspiring”, the world’s most powerful president said his government was committing significant resources to advance entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa.
....“We have handpicked 200 seasoned investors and brought them to this summit. So if you see them, do not be shy. Pin them down. Get their advice. Pitch them your idea,” he said.
....Obama, who was accompanied by 20 members of the US congress, announced that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US Government’s Development Finance Institution, will pump $200 million (Sh20 billion) into Equity Bank lending of $450 million (Sh45 billion) in foreign currency.
A good time was had by all. On the American taxpayers' dime.

US President Barack Obama Saturday night showed off his dancing skills at State House when he joined Kenya's Afro- hip hop sensation Sauti Sol on the floor and got the routines to the pacey and award winning hit song Sura Yako.
Read more at:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

GRippocratic oath

Today, it's get out while the getting is good for Greek health care providers;
An increasing number of Greek doctors, especially those in highly specialized fields, have been leaving for jobs abroad, according to the Athens Medical Association (ISA), which warns of major staffing shortages in the years to come.
Since 2010 more than 7,500 doctors have left Greece. In the first six months of 2015 ISA issued almost 800 'certificates of competence' that allow Greek physicians to practice in other countries.

First, find a job;
Qualified nurses – around 8,000 of whom are unemployed – are also having trouble finding work, with the Greek Nurses’ Union saying that it issued 74 certificates in 2010, 357 in 2012 and 349 last year.

Friday, July 24, 2015

La mujer de hierro de Venezuela

Foreign Policy describes one tough broad ;
Congresswoman Maria Corina used to taking punches as part of her job — literally. Two years ago, a pro-government legislator broke her nose in the floor of the legislature. The assault went unpunished.
After meeting then-President George W. Bush in the Oval Office — the only member of Venezuela’s opposition ever to have such an audience — Machado was charged with treason. (She was subsequently pardoned.) More recently, she has been charged with attempting to kill President Nicolás Maduro, and a judge has barred her from leaving the country.
Her emails have been hacked and, according to independent experts, altered. Her phones are tapped, and her private conversations are frequently aired on state-run TV. Her family is constantly hounded, and mobs of government activists attack her public appearances. After being elected with the most votes of any of her colleagues, she was unceremoniously kicked out of parliament. It is fair to say that the government is obsessed with Machado.
The fact that she is a powerful woman in macho Venezuela is only part of it (where's the Hollywood treatment?). The lady also sounds like Maggie Thatcher expounding on F. A. Hayek;
The Venezuelan state, according to Machado, has to downsize — both in terms of GDP and in terms of the number of people it employs. “The state,” she told me, “oppresses Venezuelans. It needs to be a provider of public goods, and it needs to stop interfering with Venezuelans’ desire to live freely.” In a country where the state monopoly in the oil industry is taken by many as a dogma, she defends private participation in the industry.
.... Machado is clear: [price] controls must be lifted as soon as possible while implementing measures to protect vulnerable families during the transition. She also believes the price of gasoline — the lowest in the world — has to be raised, although she would oppose the move if it were implemented by this government. Machado claims it would be immoral for the current government to raise the price of gas when it gives away tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day to Cuba for free, a policy everyone in the opposition rejects.
Doubt if Nicole Kidman could do her. But we do have a favorite;

Homage in Catalonia

A few years back Nicole Kidman pranced as Martha Gelhorn before Clive Owen's Ernest Hemingway in a made for HBO movie

but in real life she was wearing a black dress that day...and the next day too when she returned at the very same time, to chat up Papa. Her wardrobe is the least of the inaccuracies in the movie. To which, the antidote is Stephen Koch's the breaking point: HEMINGWAY, DOS PASSOS, AND THE MURDER OF JOSE ROBLES.

A large portion of the action in the movie takes place in Spain during the 1936-39 Civil War. Which still resonates there;
Spanish monarchists outraged at the removal of a bust of their ex-king from Barcelona city hall hit back Friday by putting a portrait of his successor Felipe VI in its place.
The new left-wing mayor Ada Colau had the bust of former King Juan Carlos taken down on Thursday in the debating chamber in a gesture of republicanism that fed into high political tensions between Barcelona and Madrid.
Did the earth just move?

'Nothing against the state'

Michelle Bachelet's Chile isn't tolerating any dissent;
A Chilean mining contract worker was shot dead by police on Friday as a labor strike against state-owned copper company Codelco stretched into its fourth day, the union representing the workers said.
Take note of that which we bolded in the above sentence.

Codelco said this week that increasing benefits for contract workers was "not compatible" with current market conditions. The copper price is at multi-year lows, dragged down by worries over demand in key buyer China.

The mining giant saw its profit decline by 22 percent in 2014 mainly due to a fall in copper prices. However, the Chilean government has been injecting billions of dollars into the company as part of an ambitious investment plan to revamp older mines and build new ones.
But the camaradas want their share of the socialist wealth.

'I'm all right.': Ted...'It's Mitch who's in denial.'

Senator Ted Cruz wants to be like George Washington, President. And he cannot tell a lie, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is imitating St. Peter;
Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor Friday and charged that Mitch McConnell told a “lie,” escalating his campaign against GOP leaders and challenging the traditions of the usually decorous chamber.

In a scathing floor speech, the Texas firebrand accused the Senate majority leader of breaking his word to him and the rest of the GOP conference over McConnell’s plans for the controversial Export-Import Bank, the country’s chief export credit agency.
Cruz claims that McConnell swore to him that he had not entered into a deal to revive the Ex-Im Bank with Washington state's dynamic duette Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham (all of whom have Boeing plants in their states).
“Like St. Peter,” Cruz said, “he repeated it three times.
President-to-be(?) Cruz is trying to establish his free market bona fides with Tea Party types, of course. And in this case Cruz is on solid economic grounds. If Boeing needs to provide financing for the sales of its airplanes to foreign buyers, it should do so using the abundant sources out there in the financial services market interest rates. Not expecting the taxpayer--the average one makes less money than the average Boeing worker--to subsidize those sales.

Which reminds us of one of the jokes in The Official Economics Movie of HSIB (I'm All Right, Jack); 'Export or die.' The situation depicted in the movie being the precursor (by two decades) to the ascent to power of Maggie Thatcher in 1979. Largely by her appeal to the kinds of characters ('five Cheltenham ladies living on fixed incomes') near the end of the film; Britain's housewives who were fed up with the inefficiencies and high prices of their economy, and the politicians who were complicit in creating that situation.

Whether there enough Cheltenham ladies to boost Senator Cruz to the Republican nomination, is a question to which we haven't the answer.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

M is for the many ways Maduroismo....

Mothers-to-be in Venezuela get what they voted for...good and hard;
Her belly bulging, Hilda Angarita hauls herself to five different drug stores in the sweltering Venezuelan city of Maracaibo until she finally finds post-cesarean patches.
"I'm giving birth tomorrow and here I am in the street. I want to go home," says the teacher, 37, fanning herself as she rests on a bench the day before her scheduled delivery.

....To get by, pregnant women wake up at the crack of dawn to join long store lines, try to stock up on diapers before their baby is born, visit a dozen shops for a single product, tap social media to barter goods, and spend small fortunes on the black market where smugglers jack up prices at the sight of their bellies.
Or they simply go without.
Sadder, but wiser;
"Everything is an obstacle," says Angarita, who now regrets voting for late socialist president Hugo Chavez. 
There weren't enough examples worldwide for her to be forewarned?
Venezuela's government did not respond to requests for comment and the National Institute for Women said it was not currently authorized to give interviews. A spokesperson for UNICEF in Venezuela said she could not comment because of lack of data.
And if the problems aren't captured by statistics, they aren't real?
President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor, blames the shortages on speculators who he says hoard medicines and other goods to stoke anger against his government.
What, he worry?
"Even if oil falls to $0, our children have everything guaranteed for them, their access to health care, education, everything," he said from behind a medical mask as he cooed over newborns during a recent visit to a paediatric hospital.
Guess he forgot to mention where the money would come from to pay for his guarantees.

Sounds like a perfect time to mandate higher minimum wages

The Belfast Telegraph reports on the problems at McDonald's;
A fall in customers at its US restaurants contributed to a 13% decline in profits at McDonald's over the second quarter of this year.
That's on a decline of a mere 2% of sales. Since the purpose of McDonald's, as it is for any business, is to make profits, what to do, what to do?
McDonald's is looking at ways to make its menu more flexible, such as serving popular breakfast items all day and letting people build their own burgers by tapping a touchscreen
Our bold, of course, in the above.

Small isn't beautiful in Greece

Small to Medium Entreprenuership (SME) takes a beating in the birthplace of democracy;
...from 2008 to 2014 the country’s business register shrank by some 229,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and 700,000 jobs were lost, according to a study by the Center for Planning and Economic Research (KEPE).
Approximately, declines of over 30% in employment, and 40% in 'value added'. Can Greece KEPE on ticking?

How to keep 'em down on the farm after they've left Paree

Photo-op with the nation's President/Dictator, that's how;
French actor Gerard Depardieu has been given a lesson in hand-scything by Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko during a surprise visit.

Mr Lukashenko, once described by US officials as "Europe's last dictator", hosted Mr Depardieu in his residence near the capital Minsk.

The visit comes ahead of Belarus's presidential elections, which Mr Lukashenko is widely expected to win.
Depardieu left France after the Hollande Administration raised his taxes to 75%. That's the Laffer Curve with a vengeance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Is Normandy burning with indignation?

Yes it is, and also with tires;
The government unveiled a series of measures in response to three days of protests in the northern region of Normandy. Angry farmers have parked farmyard machinery on highways and burned tires to snare traffic around towns including one of France’s top tourist destinations, Mont Saint-Michel.

“The demonstrations of the recent days express the anger, anxiety and distress we’ve been aware of for a while,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. “We must understand and respond to this anxiety.”
Probably not with textbook economics--prices fluctuate with supply and demand--we're betting.
Though the share of agriculture in the French economy has sunk to below 2% from around 21% after World War II, farming is considered a key part of France’s identity and the protesters have garnered wide public support.

“Farmers are France, its spirit and its roots,” Mr. Valls said.
All 2% of them.  Which brings us back to the amusing post at the Conversable Economist, Who Will Nudge the Nudgers;
The writing on behavioral economics often follows this pattern: first explain why people aren't rational, and then suggest a government policy--sometimes called a "nudge"--that could help people to overcome their irrationality by providing certain kinds of information structured in a certain way, or by specifying default options that would work better for most people. But what happens if the insights of behavioral economics are also applied to government? After all, if we are going to take into account that people often display a lack of self-control, have difficulties in understanding complex situations, and preferences that appear quirky in certain situations, then it makes sense to apply these same insights to elected officials and regulators.
Yep, the French politicians are definitely not immune to incentives.


Timothy Taylor (aka The Conversable Economist) has sport with the behavioral economists;
The writing on behavioral economics often follows this pattern: first explain why people aren't rational, and then suggest a government policy--sometimes called a "nudge"--that could help people to overcome their irrationality by providing certain kinds of information structured in a certain way, or by specifying default options that would work better for most people. But what happens if the insights of behavioral economics are also applied to government? After all, if we are going to take into account that people often display a lack of self-control, have difficulties in understanding complex situations, and preferences that appear quirky in certain situations, then it makes sense to apply these same insights to elected officials and regulators.
An argument developed in detail many years earlier by Thomas Sowell in Knowledge and Decisions. Back to Timothy Taylor;
Insights from behavioral economics applied to consumers, workers, savers, investors, and firms often suggest some basis for government actions to "nudge" behavior in other directions. But it seems plausible to me that behavioral economics as applied to government will suggest that a number of existing government actions are misdirected or misconceived. And when that happens, it's not clear who will "nudge" government in appropriate directions. Just as the "nudge" policies applied to consumers may sometimes specify what default options should usually be taken, or perhaps limig the number of options available, perhaps behavioral economics as applied to elected officials and regulators suggests the potential importance of specifying their default actions and limiting their choices.
Which is why (and Taylor clearly realizes this) we have a Constitution that instituted checks and balances upon the federal government. Because power corrupts. In the USA, as in Venezuela.

Upon further reviewSlam, Bang (from Richard Epstein)

Markets...who needs 'em?

Venezuelan bankers say, Not us!
 La Asociación Bancaria de Venezuela reitera a la colectividad, que las páginas web, redes sociales o cualquier otra de las fuentes que difunden información sobre el tipo de cambio, distintas al Banco Central de Venezuela u otros entes oficiales, no son una referencia válida y constituyen una fuente de distorsión. Por lo tanto, recomendamos no guiarse por estos indicadores para establecer el valor del bolívar respecto al dólar estadounidense o cualquier otra moneda.
no son una referencia válida

Our bold, of course. Roughly translated, this official statement from the Venezuelan Bankers Ass'n is telling everyone that the unofficial exchange rate--prevailing amongst people voluntarily entering into such exchanges--isn't to be trusted. Don't believe your lying eyes!

Which leaves what alternative?
La práctica de fijar un tipo de cambio de acuerdo a supuestas operaciones de mercados paralelos con montos exiguos para nada representativos de la economía venezolana, realizadas en un mercado no transparente, se traduce en una gran especulación que reporta ganancias a pocos y pérdidas a la mayoría.
'Don't rely on the market rate, you might lose your money.'
Diariamente a través de fuentes no oficiales se reportan tipos de cambio volátiles, sin que lleven implícita ninguna racionalidad.
Entre estos indicadores destaca la mala práctica de fijar un tipo de cambio de acuerdo a operaciones de frontera, que representan un mercado ínfimo del que se desconoce el número de operaciones diarias.
La Asociación Bancaria de Venezuela alerta que esta situación se traduce en una espiral inflacionaria generadora de escasez y pobreza.
It isn't the fault of Venezuela's central bank that we have inflation. We blame the impereialists. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


P.G. Wodehouse--the originator of the term 'lollapalooza'--once remarked on how easy it was to look upon the tasks necessary to earning one's paycheck as 'wasted time'. He would probably have appreciated the orgy of self-congratulation going on at the Vatican this week';
Birmingham Mayor William Bell had a very personal reason for being at the Vatican's conference on climate change and human slavery.
We're sure he does.
Bell said he was pleased to heed Pope Francis' call for an end to all forms of modern-day slavery.
Applause! But some in attendance needed to reach a little;
Oslo Mayor Stian Berger Rosland got a round of applause at the Vatican conference of mayors not because of Oslo's leading efforts in sustainable development or the way it integrates immigrants.

Rather, Rosland was cheered when he revealed how honored he was to be at the Vatican as "the first Catholic mayor of Oslo since the Reformation."
That's cutting edge.
The mayor [Monica Fein] of Rosario, Argentina, said she was convinced that history's first Latin American pope had the moral authority to contribute to a "new conscience" that changes the global economic system.
No doubt.
Madrid's new leftist mayor, Manuela Carmena, has told a Vatican-organized debate on climate change and human trafficking that society needs to ask itself why people use prostitutes.

Carmena said Tuesday that students in schools should debate "why one goes with prostitutes, why one accepts prostitution, etc. This needs to be done."

She said if the world wants to avoid the "terrible crime" of sexual slavery, society needs to reflect upon its causes. She said society has not been educated enough about sexuality.
Maybe the Mayor of Madrid should see to it that more people have cable TV in her city.
Pope Francis is expected to address the meeting later Tuesday. He's a new hero to the environmental movement, thanks to his recent encyclical denouncing the world's fossil fuel-based economy that he says exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.

The mayors are expected to sign a declaration at the end of the day demanding that their national leaders approve a "bold climate agreement" at Paris talks in December that keeps global warming at a safe limit for humanity.
Now, about the sin of pride, Padre....

Read more here:

Read more here:

Monday, July 20, 2015


At your bank in the country that invented democracy, you can now visit your money (but that's about all you can do with it);
Banks across Greece may have reopened their doors after a forced holiday of over three weeks on Monday but almost all banking transactions are still prohibited for households and enterprises, and will stay that way for some time yet.
At least they voted for that.
...depositors cannot send any money abroad unless they secure special permission, they cannot buy stocks or bonds, they cannot pay off their mortgage or consumer loans early, they cannot access their time deposits before they mature, or open a new account, etc. Even seeking medical treatment at a hospital abroad requires the approval of a bureaucrat.
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, call the office. have to apply to the Banking Transaction Approval Committee even for the smallest conceivable international transaction. Whether they wish to import goods (from food to fabric), raw materials, machinery or spare parts, they have to submit an application through their bank to a five-member special committee and hope for the best.
There's always hope, but;
 The backlog of such demands currently stands at 2,500 at least as the process is extremely slow and priority is being given to low-value transactions because of the lack of liquidity.

Brand it like Beckham

Exotic cars are like belly buttons, everyone has one;
“Lamborghini has sold more cars in the last 10 years than they sold in the past 40 combined,” [McKeel] Hagerty [of Hagerty Insurance] says. “They went from making a few hundred a year in the ’70s to making thousands last year.”
Which Insurance Journal puts down to social media;
According to analysis by Black Book, the prevalence of modern and classic luxury cars on social media platforms like Instagram directly influences their resale value. So when celebrities such as [David] Beckham, Kendall Jenner, or Dwyane Wade post photos that include their cool new whip, whether modern or classic, people notice. And they act accordingly.

“A new, younger generation of collectors has taken to this genre of exotic sports cars, and auction prices are going for a ride,” the report says. “Social networking has a lot to do with this activity.”

“Social media lets people brag without bragging,” says Eric Lawrence, the director of specialty reports at Black Book.
 Even utility infielders on the Boston Red Sox can afford a Bentley these days.

The Un-Sun King

 When King Salman is on the French Riviera: Don't give him any of that Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité guff;

The likely visit of Saudi Arabia's king to his family's French Riviera mansion has stirred the ire of beachgoers who will be banned from a stretch of sand [nearby].

.... "If he (the king) comes ... which is almost certain, the beach will be closed" for security reasons, regional security chief Francois-Xavier Lauch added. "We do the same kind of thing for all heads of state."

Lauch said by telephone Monday that boats would also be banned from plying the Mediterranean near the mansion, which has belonged to the Saudi royal family for decades but hasn't recently been visited by the king himself.

Lauch said the restrictions only apply for a visit by the king, not other members of the royal family.
Why do the French pay all those taxes anyway?

Economists in bars getting sloshed

Bill Virgin of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks Jerry Seinfeld is transforming the comedy business model;
...content providers are having to adjust to changing viewing habits, by offering up full shows on demand, or carving them up so fans can watch a few highlights (this has especially happened with late-night talk shows).

Now comes the made-for-Internet show such as “Comedians in Cars [Getting Coffee].” On “Live From Daryl’s House,” singer Daryl Hall chats and plays with fellow musicians, some well established, others of a much younger generation, in a highly informal setting and format. Jay Leno, himself a huge car guy, hosts “Jay Leno’s Garage,” although it’s hosted on NBC’s website.

Expect more of this, since there’s great appeal to both viewers and program creators. For people such as Seinfeld, this new approach provides much greater creative control with fewer headaches.
Well, why not econbloggers? Such as those wily Canadians;
Does beer quality inequality result from other forms of inequality, like disparities in income and wealth? Or do the forces that produce income inequality also produce beer quality inequality? Is it a spurious correlation, or is the armchair empiricist's observation that the US has more beer ine-quality simply wrong?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Last Chance Salonika

Now that Greece has officially run out of other people's money, its SYRIZA government has no alternative but...
Work was supposed to begin next year on a 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) waterfront urban renewal project almost twice the size of New York's Central Park that could have poured nearly a billion euros into Greeces depleted coffers. The plans stalled late last year after the far-left SYRIZA party took power and promised to halt attempts at putting the private sector in control of state assets, both on ideological grounds and because leaders believe rampant corruption must be addressed before any sell-off.

Now, in an attempt to get a third European bailout and prevent the Greek economy from collapsing, the ruling party has done an about-face. It has pledged to fast-track the waterfront project, plus sell government assets and allow for private development of state-owned property, all to generate cash that will help reduce Greeces 320-billion-euro national debt and pay back money lent by European nations to prop up ailing banks.
It took some housecleaning though;
New ministers in Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government were sworn in on Saturday after a reshuffle expelled dissidents from his cabinet and began a new phase of negotiations for a third bailout package.

Tsipras sacked hardline former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and two deputy ministers on Friday in a change that marked a split with the main leftist faction in the ruling Syriza party following a rebellion over the bailout terms.

Panos Skourletis, a close Tsipras ally who left the labor ministry to take over the vital energy portfolio, said the reshuffle marked "an adjustment by the government to a new reality".

Propensity to truck and water

In India the government fails, so it's a crime to provide your fellow man with that which is needed to sustain life. Foreign Policy is appalled by normal human action;
At the Mercy of the Water Mafia
 Actually the 'water mafia' is just a bunch of entrepreneurs who see a need. and are filling it on mutually satisfactory terms. All made possible because of non-market failure;
... in Delhi, where the official water supply falls short of the city’s needs by at least 207 million gallons each day, according to a 2013 audit by the office of the Indian comptroller and auditor general. A quarter of Delhi’s households live without a piped-water connection; most of the rest receive water for only a few hours each day. So residents have come to rely on private truck owners—the most visible strands of a dispersed web of city councilors, farmers, real estate agents, and fixers who source millions of gallons of water each day from illicit boreholes, as well as the city’s leaky pipe network, and sell the liquid for profit.
Why isn't FP applauding?
The mafia defends its work as a community service, but there is a much darker picture of Delhi’s subversive water industry: one of a thriving black market populated by small-time freelance agents who are exploiting a fast-depleting common resource and in turn threatening India’s long-term water security. 
The water security that falls short of the city's needs by at least 207 million gallons each day, that is.

Mercy, mercy, mercy.