Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bring 'em, like Beckham

Saez, Emmanuel, that's who; Cut their taxes and they will come;
...we find that location elasticities are largest at the top of the ability distribution and negative at the bottom due to ability sorting effects, and that cross-tax location elasticities between foreign and domestic players are negative due to displacement effects. To our knowledge, the paper provides for the first time compelling evidence of a link between taxation and international migration.  As shown in the case of Denmark, football players are likely to be a particularly mobile segment of the labor market, and our study therefore provides an upper bound on the migration response for the labor market as a whole. The upper bound we find is large, suggesting that mobility could be an important constraint on tax progressivity.
The evidence from European tax and regulation changes;
 (a) the 1995 Bosman ruling which liberalized the European football market, (b) top tax rate reforms within countries, and (c) special tax schemes offering preferential tax rates to immigrant football players [like Spain's 2005 Beckham Law and Denmark's 1992 Researcher's Tax Scheme]. We start by presenting reduced-form graphical evidence showing large and compelling migration responses to country-specific tax reforms and labor market regulation
Must have tasted like vinegar for Saez. The Spanish law offered an optional 24% flat tax to David Beckham and colleagues, while Denmark's 25% rate was open to all categories of employment, not just footballers (soccer players).

However, he seems to think a country can make it up on volume (higher tax rates on those lower skilled homeboys with fewer options).  Or maybe Europe could create a cartel amongst themselves....

Friday, November 29, 2013

Too much of a good thing

Can be non-wonderful, says Columbia economist Charles Calomiris of Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig’s The Bankers’ New Clothes. Specifically, their prescription of an off-the-rack 25% equity requirement for bank lending;
Admati and Hellwig assert that accomplishing a credible increase in the proportion of bank equity capital is a simple matter of increasing minimum regulatory requirements for the ratio of the book value of equity relative to assets. Would that it were so simple, but it is not; increasing the book equity ratio in an accounting sense does not necessarily increase true bank capital ratios, as I argue in my recent work (Calomiris 2013). Bank balance sheets do not capture many of the economic losses that banks may incur. Also, accounting practices can disguise the magnitude of loan losses, and regulators eager to avoid credit crunches are often complicit in doing so. The result is that banks’ true equity ratios can be much lower than their book values indicate. 
And, it won't be as big a free lunch as they seem to think;
An important implication of the various models of optimal capital structure is that forcing banks to raise their equity-to-asset ratio requirement generally will reduce banks’ willingness to lend. A large number of studies have shown that, when banks need to raise their equity-to-asset ratios, they often choose to do so by cutting back on new loans, which avoids the need to raise new equity and the high costs associated with it.
Which won't be just a one time cost, it will be a permanent feature of the banking system, and the economy.
Some of the most stable banking systems – Canada’s, for example – have had relatively low equity ratios. The low equity ratios of Canadian nationwide branching banks reflected their greater portfolio diversification and other risk-lowering attributes in contrast to the much riskier single-office (unit) banks in the US. The equity ratios of US banks have varied dramatically over time, and in ways that have clearly reflected changes in their asset risk. Equity ratios relative to asset risk are the key attribute of interest in prudential regulation, not equity ratios per se. Using simple historical equity ratios from some past example as a benchmark, without taking risk into account, can significantly overstate or understate the extent to which current equity ratios of large, global banks should be increased.
We await the sequel;  Fragile by Design... Unfortunately, not available until February 2014, so don't expect one in your Christmas stocking.

Before it was QUOOL

We were for it (or, at least, pro-choice). Now it's hip to be typing on QWERTY;
Physical QWERTY keyboard is still the best option when it comes to intense phone typing task. Although most smartphone manufacturers make QWERTY typing in their high-end devices, but typing on these electronic QWERTY keyboard is not as fast compared to the physical QWERTY keyboards.
Don't be square;
The following is a list of various high-end smartphone that not only come with the option of on screen QWERTY keyboard, but also have an incorporated physical QWERTY keyboard. They are as follows: 
Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE: It has a slide sliding QWERTY keyboards coupled with various smart features such as the Android 4.1, water proof, 4.3 inched screen with 540×960 resolution, 8MP rear- & 1.3 front-camera, 1500MHz dual core processor and 1023MB RAM & support up to 32GB ROM. 
LG MACH: Also has a slide sliding physical QWERTY keyboard alongside the following features: Android 4.0 OS, 4 inched display with 480×800 pixel resolution, 5MP rear- & 0.3MP front camera, 1200MHz Dual Core processor, 1024MG RAM, 8GB ROM and microSD of up to 32GB. 
Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G: This smartphone has a 5 row QWERTY keyboard alongside the following features: Android 4.0, 4 inched display with 480×800 pixel resolution, 5MP rear- & 1.3MP front-camera, 1500MHz dual core processor, 1024 RAM, 8GB ROM and support microSD of up to 32GB. 
Motorola Droid 4: Also features a full QWERTY keyboard alongside the following features: Android 4.0.4,  4 inched display with 540×960 pixel resolution, 8MP rear- & 1.3MP front camera, 1200MHz dual core processor, 1024MB RAM, 8GB ROM and support microSD of up to 32GB. 
Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere II: With a physical QWERTY keyboard, this smartphone also packs the following features: Android 4.1 OS, 4 inched display with 480×800 pixel resolution, 5MP rear- & 1.3MP front-camera, 1200MHz dual core processor, 1024MB RAM, 8GB ROM and supports up to 32GB microSD.

Just prices

Why would anyone be upset, they're just prices;
The Venezuelan executive vice-president, Jorge Arraza, stated on Thursday that price inspections will be carried out across all sectors, and said fair prices were yet to be achieved.
The official noted that the Venezuelan Government is not asking retailers to sell products regardless of losses, and explained that such thing was unreasonable.
"We have made an appeal on all the ones involved in business chains so they can adjust their prices," said Arreaza.
Furthermore, the vice-president expressed that once laws are passed within the framework of the enabling law, fair prices would be defined as well as the frequency they should be reviewed.
What could go wrong?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The highly paid watchdogs of the NCAA have problems sleeping at night, because someone, somewhere, somehow might make money without their participation;
A college basketball player who won $20,000 for hitting a half-court shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder game may have to either forfeit the money or his eligibility to play college sports.
Cameron Rodriguez, a 23-year-old sophomore forward for Winfield, Kan.-based Southwestern College, sank the promotional shot on Nov. 8 during the Thunder's home game against the Denver Nuggets.
Southwestern athletic director Dave Denly says the college's governing body for athletics, theNational Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, informed Rodriguez that if he kept the money he would lose his amateur status. The school has appealed, asking if the money can be accepted in the form of a scholarship.
Dave Denly undoubtedly receives a paycheck from money produced by collegiate athletes. As do all the other adults who work in the field (gyms, pools...). Ditto the NCAA staff and its team of lawyers and PR flacks, many of them paid to ferret out the filthy lucre that might find its way into the wallets of the kids who labor to produce the value.

Where's a Marxist when you need one?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dream a little DreamWorks all about me

I'm not an ideological guy. Kindness covers all my political beliefs. I'm investing for the next generation (with your money). I have a stake in your success. I put politics aside once in a while, to make the people better off (unlike those saboteur Republicans).
We should all be thankful.

Thankful that this guy doesn't have all that much power to let his self-esteem really rip. As it has elsewhere.

Let's all give thanks that we are not subject to what the people in Stalin's Barber were. As Paul M. Levitt put it;
With his Kremlin salary, Razan insisted that his family buy the best and most durable clothing, which could be found in the basement government shop, the one accessible only to the party faithful. Here the goods were functional and stylish because most were imported from France and Italy and the United States. Here, and not on the Arbat, he bought Anna her fur coat. When Razan and his family walked down the street, no one could have failed to notice that they dressed like the favored Soviet class, the bureaucracy.
On the street, cabs appeared out of nowhere while other people huddled in the cold, waiting. Tables in restaurants materialized while other customers were asked to wait or turned away. Seats for plays or ballets always turned up, although the sign in front of the theatre said SRO. Even train tickets, so difficult to acquire, became available, allowing Anna to visit her sons in Leningrad and Brovensk. Had Razan requested a car, the Kremlin staff would have provided one to travel the short distance from his apartment to work. Invited to a few weekend parties at the dachas of Molotov and Yagoda and Malenkov, though not Stalin's, a car always took Razan and his party to the front door. Paradise, an abstraction for some was a perk of the privileged. Alas, even in a classless society, some drink champagne and some only cheap vodka.
People who put politics the classless society...whose jobs are to make the people better off. Who can be identified easily by the way

Education on $5 a Month

Need found. Filled. By self interested entrepreneurs (where most good things come from);
Most of the buildings in Machakos, the former capital of Kenya, are made of concrete, with neat fences, informal gardens, indoor plumbing, and electricity, however erratic. By contrast, the local schoolhouse of Bridge International Academies is beyond basic: walls of corrugated tin, a plywood frame. There’s no electrical wiring in sight. A pair of latrines adjoin an open courtyard that doubles as a lunch and recreation area. A few young children loll on the patchy grass, engaged in unhurried conversation.
Yet this school is by no means a failure — in fact, it recently passed a 700-point inspection and is running exactly as planned. This is just one of 212 Bridge Academies that have opened in Kenya during the past four years. Bridge’s “schools in a box” spring up seemingly overnight: In January of 2013, the company launched 51 schools at once, while in September it opened another 78. Bridge now educates roughly 50,000 students in Kenya every day, and its global aspirations may transform the entire project of education for poor youth around the world.
Using tried and true formulae;
Bridge’s CEO, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Jay Kimmelman, compares his company to Starbucks and McDonald’s — organizations that offer a consistent experience no matter where in the world you encounter them.
 ....Tuition is just $5 per pupil per month. There are no student iPads, no science labs. Preschoolers work with clay or blocks; older children learn math with bottle caps and recycled egg crates. Often students write on Dickensian slate boards instead of paper. One of the teachers I met, “Ms. Elizabeth,” completed only high school, and the greatest technological firepower at her disposal was a decidedly analog yardstick. 
Instead of fancy tools, Bridge offers a system built on easy replication: a template for setting up schools cheaply, enrolling children seamlessly, hiring instructors, creating a curriculum, and making sure children learn it. The schools themselves may be lo-fi, but Bridge’s back offices are very high tech. 
The organization is high tech, that is.
After graduating from Harvard in 1999 with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering, Kimmelman went to San Francisco and spent four years building Edusoft, a web-based student assessment platform that he sold to Houghton Mifflin for $20 million in 2003. Afterward, he and his girlfriend (now wife), Shannon May — another Harvard graduate, who was completing a PhD in anthropology from UC Berkeley — migrated to rural China, where they saw the punishing effects of poor primary education firsthand.
....She and Kimmelman found themselves strategizing about how to best help undereducated young people around the world. The winning idea — basic education as a business — sounds counterintuitive, but it was central to planning for the couple and their cofounder, Phil Frei. For parents hovering around $2 in income per day, a potentially transformative education for their kids was just one of many things they couldn’t afford. The demand, however, remains enormous — the global market for low-cost private education is $51 billion annually. To meet the demand, May says, “we drive the price point low enough so parents can become consumers.”
Keep the costs down, and the quality up.
Bridge’s corporate system allows them to nearly eliminate overhead. The work typically done by secretaries, bursars, principals, and other administrators can be handled remotely, leaving only three nonteaching staff at each school. Parents can transfer fees directly from their mobile phones, an innovation that builds on Kenya’s particularly robust mobile money platforms. (Bridge parents on average make $1.23 per day, but 94 percent of them own mobile phones.) If a teacher fails to open or sync a digital lesson within 15 minutes of its scheduled start, someone from headquarters will take note and call the school to see what’s up. If a teacher is absent, Bridge keeps a paid pool of substitutes standing by. “Our commitment to our parents is that their children will be taught,” May says. “So we invest in, essentially, lots of plan Bs.” 
Take that, Lubienski and Lubienski.

[Noticed first by Cherokee Gothic]

The Colloquy of Money

It's Shakespearean on the Women's Golf Tour, even for the South Koreans;
Na Yeon Choi, a U.S. Women's Open champion who describes herself as shy, can't stop talking — in English, of course — about how far she has come in six years on the LPGA. She recalls her rookie season when she could speak only enough English "to order McDonald's."
"When I traveled with my parents, we couldn't go to any restaurants by ourselves. We had to go with somebody," she said. "There are so many questions. One day we went to American restaurant and just pointed at the food. Even then they were like, 'You want appetizer first, or soup?' It was a very hard time."
Choi spent a year traveling with Greg Morrison, a Canadian tutor living in Seoul, practicing English an hour a day without fail. She is comfortable enough now that she made a studio appearance last year on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive." 
Unlike, say, Major League Baseball, there are no multi-million dollar contracts in women's golf, so it's cheaper to learn English than hire a full-time translator.
"Everybody is trying so hard to speak English better," Inbee Park said. "They know that's the problem we've had out there. Getting used to the tour, the language has been the most important thing. This younger generation of Korean girls is trying to learn English before coming here." 
'Because that's where the money is.' Incentives matter. For that, give thanks.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Orwell missed the title by two years, but got the gist of today's North Korea and the politics of Chinese security;
Groups that assist North Koreans flee - and who have in their ranks people operating within North Korea, at great personal risk - say that a 70-strong unit of the Political Security Division of China's People's Army has been transferred to the border, along with an unconfirmed number of troops from the North's national security.
These units are designed to supplement the existing army and border guard units that already monitor the frontier, as well as to identify and punish those officials who have been accepting bribes to look the other way when a party of defectors wants to escape.
"Our sources say those that help defectors are being interrogated and then shot dead without a trial," Kato told D[eutche] W[elle].
All this because of a treaty;
... even when they have made it over the border into China the defectors are far from safe. To Beijing, all North Korean defectors are classified as economic migrants and, under the terms of an agreement it signed with Pyongyang in 1986, Chinese authorities send back any defectors that are detained. Over the years, this has been the fate of tens of thousands of people. 
Who ought to be protected by United Nations agreements, if not by humanitarian concerns. But this is international politics. Someone ought to tell Sec'y of State John Kerry.

'I think we tend to have an aesthetic response to these issues that leads us astray.'

The HSIB Academy announces a Master of Understatement nominee, in the category Goose...Golden Eggs to Kevin Erdmann, for his summation (which has been borrowed for the title of this blog post) of;
I tend to have a queasy feeling about the implied moral notions that discussions about these things tend to carry.  There is usually a sense that declining labor share is a problem to be solved.  But, who is to say that labor share hasn't been too high?
I am going to eat some sugar plums tonight, then go to bed and dream of a world where the social convention is to wonder how we can increase capital's share of GDI.  Does that make me a bad person?  If you think so, then I encourage you to visit a place where 100% of compensation goes to labor.  They exist.  Floors tend to be made of dirt there.  You might find that you want to take the first available flight back home from there...except they won't have planes, because planes require capital.  Many places like that are now seeing vast improvements in the conditions of the typical household.  The places that are doing that are doing it by encouraging the profitable allocation of private capital.
My point is that it is very hard to determine the optimal proportion of income that should go to labor.  A mental model that induces concern for decreasing Labor Share but never induces concern for decreasing Capital Share is not a coherent model.  It's a very effective, and widely utilized, model for social posturing, but it would be practically useless as an informational tool.
Bold in the above by HSIB.

Is there a better example afoot than that of the newest member of the Seattle City Council (and North Carolina State Phd in economics!);
[Kshama] Sawant is calling for machinists to literally take-possession of the Everett airplane-building factory, if Boeing moves out. She calls that "democratic ownership."
“The only response we can have if Boeing executives do not agree to keep the plant here is for the machinists to say the machines are here, the workers are here, we will do the job, we don't need the executives. The executives don’t do the work, the machinists do,” she said.

Iceboxes to go to Eskimos?

Now that Venezuelan businessmen have seen that there's no money in importing them;
Importers of appliances are frightened, and some of them have ordered shipping companies to divert their cargos -that were originally to be shipped to Venezuela- to other destinations. 
Representatives of logistics companies confirmed such reports. "We are receiving several requests for change of destination from some importers," remarked a top executive of one of the shipping companies that usually operates in Venezuela.
"Change of destination (COD)" in maritime transport is a regular operation in international trade; however, in this case, shipping companies highlighted that Venezuelan importers are reacting to the government's recent move to cut prices in appliances stores. "It is a perfectly legal operation in maritime transport, as customer can decide where goods are to be shipped to," the source highlighted.
Just as job creators can decide where to locate their operations, if politicians decree wage rates above market levels be paid. Or pass other onerous labor laws.

Incentivos, hombres.

This was something mentioned by Chilean novelist Alberto Fuguet when his family moved from California back to Chile in the mid 1970s. His family brought their refrigerator with them because, during the Allende reign, there were none to be bought in Chile.

Alec's out...and Ann's got him

Or at least, she has his back, even before he got canned for impolitic behavior;
Alec Baldwin and MSNBC have agreed to part ways, canceling his short-lived talk show Up Late in light of the controversy surrounding Baldwin's latest alleged use of a homophobic slur.
....While the New York Post, which first reported Baldwin's exit, said the actor was fired partially due to "his diva-like behavior," which included demanding a humidifier, sources insist to Variety that Baldwin and MSNBC "mutually" agreed to end the show.
The 98 lb. blonde packs quite a punch when confronting bullies (of any stripe);
Conservatives attacking Baldwin for his latest fit of (justified) anger are being small-time and shortsighted. You think this sets liberals back? They don't care about Baldwin. You're just reinforcing their worldview, where careers are ended over a word. 
Liberals don't mind abortion, sexual promiscuity, adultery, lying or criminal behavior. They save all their moral indignation for people who use politically incorrect words. Instead of simply filing this one away under "Liberal Hypocrisy" for future use, conservatives are validating the left's next attack on a conservative. 
Had Baldwin called the photographer a Palinhead, he'd have been fine with MSNBC.  But, he wouldn't;
...when Sarah Palin entered enemy territory to appear on "Saturday Night Live" in 2008, Baldwin was an absolute gentleman to her -- unlike the drama queen Tina Fey, who refused to share the stage with Palin. 
Bullying is the essence of politics for the left. They bully those they disdain, like Palin, with adolescent insults. They bully everyone with the threat of losing a career because of a word. They bully Americans with more than 1 million federal regulations. They bully men through feminist-designed divorce and sexual harassment laws --magically suspended in the case of President Clinton because liberals approved of his pro-abortion views. 
That isn't the rule of law; it's the rule of bullies. 
Well, it's the rule of politics.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lake a fresh out of water?

According to the Star-Tribune, the Minneapolis Fed says, Avast, ye mateys, to two of its star economists;
A shake-up in the top ranks of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is prompting sharp questions about whether the bank is straying from the collegial tradition that built its reputation for world-class economic research.
Two high-profile economists who differed philosophically with President Narayana Kocherlakota have been shown the door in recent weeks, while the research director was moved to a different position.
The changes have raised eyebrows in the small, interconnected world of academic economics, with some suggesting they could hamper the local Fed’s ability to retain top-flight talent.
The betting seems to be that Kocherlakota's change of approach, regarding the efficacy of Quantitative Easing to fight the recession, explains the change. Nobel Prize winner Ed Prescott isn't happy;
 “Something very good is breaking down rapidly. Will something new rise out of the ashes? I think that’s what Narayana hopes, but I’m not optimistic.”

Didn't learn your lección?

Chile, the most successful society in South America, should think about amending their Constitution to read that anyone, ever, who goes by the moniker 'student leader' should be banned for life from holding political office;
On the back of emblematic faces from the student movement and a deal with Michelle Bachelet’s Neuva Mayoría pact, the Communist Party (PC) doubled its representation in Congress in recent elections and could prove a key player in the next government’s legislative agenda.
After November’s parliamentary election the CP’s presence in the Chamber of Deputies went from three to six, with deputy-elects Camila Vallejo, Karol Cariola and Daniel Núñez set to join PC President Guillermo Teillier, human rights lawyer Hugo Gutiérrez and Lautaro Carmona in the lower house. Together, they will comprise five points of the Nueva Mayoría’s 56.6 percent majority in the new-look Chamber of Deputies.
All three parliamentary newcomers are one-time student leaders and may prove crucial for the presidential front-runner to meet the quorums necessary to pass signature tax and education reforms and a new constitution.
Trust us, they say, we don't mean what we say;
Leonardo Letelier, economist and academic at the Public Affairs Institute of Universidad de Chile, told The Santiago Times that the difference between Chilean communists and their counterparts around the world lies not in ideology, but in a willingness to negotiate with other parties and head to the ballot.
“The difference [between Chile’s Communist Party and that of Cuba or the former Soviet Union] is that the PC is more institutional,” Letelier said.
Fernando García Nadaff, professor of political science professor at Universidad Diego Portales, agreed, saying that under the administration of the democratically-elected Marxist President Salvador Allende, the PC proved more moderate than Allende’s Socialist Party (PS).
“The PC is not as radical as it portrays itself, nor as it is portrayed,” García said. “It is being depicted as more extreme and radical than it really is.” 
Sure, just like last time.

Khyber (shall not) Pass

Does Sharia law compel cutting off one's nose to spite one's face;
Pakistani activists in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have blocked a key NATO supply route to Afghanistan to protest against US drone strikes. Traders say it is causing them huge financial losses.
'Activists' are the same the world over, they're best at imposing costs on bystanders.
Pakistani traders.... say the blockade is causing them huge financial losses. According to them, the PTI activists have not only taken into custody the trucks carrying NATO supplies, but also those which are used for trading other goods with Afghanistan. The traders claim the belligerent PTI workers stopped 40 trucks on November 25, out of which only one was delivering NATO goods.
"There are over 350 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and around 1600 in the southern port city of Karachi associated with the Pakistani-Afghan transit trade. These people employ a staff of up to thirty people each. The blockade has caused financial loss to all these people," Zia-ul-Haq, president of the Pakistani-Afghan transit trade, told D[eutsche] W[elle]. "You can't put pressure on the US by not allowing the trucks to go into Afghanistan. It will only damage our own economy," he added.
And, the government looks on;
Pakistani police authorities confirmed the vigilante action but said they could not act against the activists as they belonged to the province's ruling party. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brainless corpse found in topless car

Self-inflicted wounds, says court;
An appeals court has cleared a New York City driver in a fatal crash after agreeing she faced an "unforeseen emergency" when a back-seat passenger untied her bikini top.
...Brittany Lahm briefly took her hands off the wheel when her bikini top came off.
Lahm and a group of friends were returning to Rockland County after a day at the shore.Brandon Berman, who allegedly pulled the bikini strings, was killed.
The Brooklyn Appellate Division upheld the conclusion of a Rockland jury, which found Lahm's bikini top problem constituted "a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of her own making."

Vladimir Ilich Sawant and the New Seattle-ites at Work

North Carolina State exports the worst of its economics--Et tu, guys? And it's something old, nothing new, mostly borrowed, and will make you blue (if you live in the Pacific Northwest);
Seattle City Council member-elect Kshama Sawant told Boeing machinists her idea of a radical option, should their jobs be moved out of state. 
“The workers should take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine,” Sawant announced to a cheering crowd of union supporters in Seattle’s Westlake Park Monday night.
This week, Sawant became Seattle’s first elected Socialist council member. She ran on a platform of anti-capitalism, workers’ rights, and a $15 per-hour minimum wage for Seattle workers.
She's anti-capitalism, but says the workers need the capital.
“The only response we can have if Boeing executives do not agree to keep the plant here is for the machinists to say the machines are here, the workers are here, we will do the job, we don't need the executives. The executives don’t do the work, the machinists do,” she said.
But they did amass the capital that Sawant wants to take over. Wonder what would happen if she got her way; would anyone invest in a business in Seattle ever again?
Sawant says after workers “take-over” the Everett Boeing plant; they could build things everyone can use.
“We can re-tool the machines to produce mass transit like buses, instead of destructive, you know, war machines,” she told KIRO 7.
Or airliners that the world prizes enough to purchase, because they meet people's needs.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vladimir Ilich Obama and the New Healthcare at Work

Obama vowed to press ahead with implementing his law, and reiterated that the health insurance market needs reforming to guarantee stable health insurance coverage. "I make no apologies for us taking this on," he said. "Because somebody sooner or later had to do it."
"It took a hundred years for us to even get to the point where we could start talking about and implementing a law to make sure everybody's got health insurance, and my pledge to the American people is, is that we're going to solve the problems that are there, we're going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people," Obama said.
It's because the world has heard this fatal conceit before; Of course, many months and years must pass before the new social class, a class heretofore oppressed and crushed by want and ignorance, can get accustomed to the new situation, can take account of everything, regulate its work and produce its own organizers.

'Trust me, I know better than you do what you need.'--Hugo Nicolas Vladimir Obama.

Which brings us to a new book by Paul R. Gregory; Women of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives.
Capturing the fear, paranoia, and unbearable hardships that were the hallmarks of Stalin’s Great Terror, Gregory relates the stories of these five women–from different social strata and regions–in vivid prose, from their pre-Gulag lives, through their struggles to survive in the repressive atmosphere of the late 1930s and early 1940s, to the difficulties facing the four who survived as they adjusted to life after the Gulag.
We note the publication of this small bit of history, along with the release of another movie about Hitler's Germany; The Book Thief. Funny that Hollywood is still cranking out films about a tyranny that was crushed in 1945, but rarely finds time for stories like those in Paul Gregory's book. Stories that are much more relevant as long as the Castros, Maduros, Kims still rule.

Vladimir Ilich Maduro, and the New Venezuelans at Work

If this, from El Universal, sounds familiar;
Centralization and control. The measures announced by President Nicolás Maduro involve stepping up the socialist model the government has been trying to implement since 1999.
The National Foreign Trade Corporation (whose establishment has not yet been published in the Official Gazette) will be the agency in charge of administrating foreign exchange for the public and private sectors.
The Foreign Exchange Administration Board (Cadivi), the Ancillary Foreign Currency Administration System (Sicad), the Foreign Trade Bank (Bancoex), public banks, as well as a corporation that will tend to public and private imports, will all be under the command of the National Foreign Trade Corporation.
Furthermore, the government aims at updating the record of private businesses that apply for US dollars and at centralizing imports. Maduro wants to go further still by deciding what goods will be imported and whether they can be brought into the country at a lower cost.
....The socialist economic model defined by the government some years ago is intent on reducing the role of the private sector in order to give way to new forms of social property. Accordingly, the private enterprises themselves must be transformed.
It's because it's known to Marxists as 'The Transformation Problem' (apparently, for Maduro, la transformación no es ningún problema). It has been one of the most embarrassing errors in logic for the true believers in the Labor Theory of Value ever since. As Lenin put it, ad nauseum;

The appearance on the historical stage of a new class in the role of a leader of society never occurs on the one hand without a period of upheavals, struggles and storms, on the other hand, without a period of false steps, experiments, wavering and hesitation with regard to the choice—of new methods that will fit the new objective circumstances. The perishing feudal nobility took revenge on the bourgeoisie, which was conquering and displacing it, not only by conspiracies, attempts at insurrections and restoration, but also by torrents of ridicule at the inability, clumsiness and blunders of the “insolent upstarts” who dared to take hold of the “sacred helm” of the state without the ancient training of the princes, barons, nobility and aristocracy for this work—quite like the revenge of the Kornilovs and Kerenskys; Gotz and Martovs,[10] and other heroes of bourgeois morality or bourgeois skepticism, on the working class of Russia for its “insolent” attempt to seize power.

Of course, many months and years must pass before the new social class, a class heretofore oppressed and crushed by want and ignorance, can get accustomed to the new situation, can take account of everything, regulate its work and produce its own organizers. It is self-evident that the party, which leads the revolutionary proletariat, could not have gained experience in organizing large enterprises including millions and tens of millions of citizens; that to change the old habits of agitation must take a good deal of time. But it is not impossible, and—provided we have a clear understanding of the necessity of the change, a firm determination to accomplish it, and persistence in pursuing a great and difficult end—we will attain it. There is a great deal of organizing talent in the “people”; i. e., among the workers and among the peasants who are not exploiters; they have been oppressed, ruined and discarded in thousands by capitalism; we do not as yet know how to find them, how to encourage, assist them and give them prominence. But we will learn how, provided we start learning this with all the revolutionary zeal, without which no revolution can be victorious.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Many saboteurs are called...a few were chosen

On a sultry day in late August, a dozen staff members of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gathered at the agency’s Baltimore headquarters with managers from the major contractors building to review numerous problems with President’s Obama’s online health insurance initiative. The mood was grim.
The prime contractor, CGI Federal, had long before concluded that the administration was blindly enamored of an unrealistic goal: creating a cutting-edge website that would use the latest technologies to dazzle consumers with its many features. Knowing how long it would take to complete and test the software, the company’s officials and other vendors believed that it was impossible to open a fully functioning exchange on Oct. 1.
Government officials, on the other hand, insisted that Oct. 1 was not negotiable. And they were fed up with what they saw as CGI’s pattern of excuses for missed deadlines. Michelle Snyder, the agency’s chief operating officer, was telling colleagues outright, “If we could fire them, we would.”
We couldn't help but think back to an earlier version of the conceit that it was just a matter of bookkeeping and management;

....But the specialists are inevitably bourgeois, on account of the whole environment of social life which made them specialists. If our proletariat, having obtained power, had rapidly solved the problem of accounting, control and organization on a national scale (this was impossible on account of the war and the backwardness of Russia), then having crushed the sabotage of the capitalists, we would have obtained, through uniform accounting and control the complete submission of the bourgeois specialists. In view of the considerable delay in establishing accounting and control, although we have succeeded in defeating sabotage, we have not yet created an environment which would put at our disposal the bourgeois specialists. Many saboteurs are coming into our service, but the best organizers and the biggest specialists can be used by the state either in the old bourgeois way (that is, for a higher salary) or in the new proletarian way (that is, by creating such an environment of uniform accounting and control which would inevitably and naturally attract and gain the submission of specialists).

If you're so smart...

UCLA admits nearly three times more academically underqualified student athletes each year than UC Berkeley, yet its football and men's basketball players have done a far better job earning degrees than Cal's have.
Stanford and Michigan, don't allow underqualified students in, no matter their athletic prowess, so they graduate at higher rates too. That mystery is why their teams succeed so often.
Cal ranks last in graduation rates for those two sports among the nation's 72 major intercollegiate athletics programs, according to the NCAA.
.... UCLA's graduation rates are better: 82 percent in football, compared with Cal's 44 percent. Stanford graduates 93 percent of its football players. Michigan graduates 66 percent.
In men's basketball, the percentages were 60 percent at UCLA, 75 percent at Michigan, 83 percent at Stanford and 38 percent at Cal. 
What's Berkeley's excuse? They haven't got a clue;
On Thursday, athletic director Sandy Barbour announced that she is convening a task force to look at why so few football and men's basketball players are succeeding academically.
"While our broad academic scores reflect the outstanding work of many of our student athletes, some sports have performed at a level that is inconsistent with Berkeley's standards and values," Barbour said.
Maybe that they need a 'task force', is a place to start.

The gang that won't be able to shoot straight

The 'Bolivarian' armed forces of Venezuela, since Hugo Chavez bought a bunch of Russian weapons that are defective;
Opposition Deputies Stalin González (UNT) and Tomás Guanipa (PJ), who belong to the National Assembly (AN) Standing Committee of Defense and Security, are in possession of information regarding the status of such weapons imported [...from] Russia: "We count on reliable data which indicate that –as a whole- almost every weapon that has been bought from Russia presents or has presented problems and failures," González asserted. "Some of them have –of course- been fixed, but it is not generally the case. And such failures go beyond comprehension."
But they were cheap?
"The leaked information we have regarding the military Russian equipment is alarming," Deputy González indicates. "One wonders: how come they purchased such defective equipment? There is equipment with constant software failures, with structural problems, with no communication system installed, even some armored equipment that suffers failures when operating in a very hot environment; there are also combat vehicles which run out of battery in the midst of their operation, claims because of lack of replacement parts, among other things."
Beware the military-industrial-kickback complex;
The report issued by Citizen Control highlights the lack of concise information about the buy of weapons: " has been impossible to accurately determine the quantity, model and cost of military equipment acquired by Venezuela in 2005-2012, since the previous National Assembly agreed to decree confidentiality of the military agreements reached with Russia and Belarus." And they – as an organization- also indicate one of their concerns: the "shadiness" in procurement and the "operational problems that some systems have presented." 
Is it really a good idea, in South America, to make the military angry.

Friday, November 22, 2013

As goes Venezuela

[Former Finance Minister Rolf] Lüders attributes this decrease to the parallel plummet in investment compared to in previous quarters. Figures in this area have only increased 3.2 percent from last year, marking the worst results since the end of 2009 when statistics dropped to -5.7 percent, which may be directly related to Chile’s current presidential elections.
“Investors invest on the basis of expectations, and expectations are going to be increasing in the run up to elections,” Lüders said.
And the expectation is that a socialist-communist/Allendean is going to be the next President.
Michael Henderson, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, told Reuters the expected winner of December’s run-off election between Evelyn Matthei and Michelle Bachelet would take the helm of [a] country less equipped to deal with the effects of international financial headwinds.
“With investment weakening and the current account deficit uncomfortably wide, Michelle Bachelet [should she become president] is set to inherit an economy which has become increasingly vulnerable to external shocks,” Henderson said.
And it is self-inflicted, as Chile seems to be on the verge of abandoning the economic policies that have made it the envy of all other Latin American countries.

Fascinante ritmo

Medieval law comes to Venezuela, according to an opinion piece in El Universal;

Designation of the crime of usury in Venezuelan laws is unrestricted, that is, for free interpretation. This results in a great deal of discretion and legal uncertainty, just what the criminal law should avoid.
The just price is; to be determined;
Article 144 of the Law for the Defense of People's Access to Goods and Services (LDPABIS) states that "any person who, through an agreement, whatever the means used to certify, cover or diminish an operation, obtains on his/her own or on behalf of a third party, directly or indirectly, a disproportionately advantageous consideration shall commit the crime of usury." 
The last time this was tried;
Open definition of crime is as harmful as the definition of crimes by analogy under the Soviet Criminal Code. Under such code, any non-designated conduct similar to a current offense should be punished as such an offense. Millions of victims suffered the consequences.
The only question now, is how many Venezuelans are prepared to sacrifice themselves for Chavezmo-Maduroism.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

You oughtn't to be in pictures

When you don't even have an army;
Iceland’s filmmakers have been left shocked by the news that the country is set to cut its national film fund budget by about 40 per cent. The plans, announced by the Icelandic government last week, would mean the film budget is cut from $8.42m to $5.17m as of next year.
Iceland's population is a shade over 300,000, but it has;
The Directors Guild of Iceland, the Icelandic Film Makers Association and the Association of Icelandic Film Producers issued a joint statement about the reductions, claiming they would have a negative effect on the local economy.
Who know the lingo;
They pointed out that a report in 2011 based on how film subsidies impact the economy found that public investment in local films led to a turnover return of five times the amount invested. They also estimated that the budget cut will mean around $5m will be lost in tax revenue in 2014. 
They have many broken windows in Iceland?

Never apologize, Mister

A man who denied raping a woman was sentenced to prison on Thursday after a Swedish court found that he had apologized to his victim on Facebook.
The man had publicly denied all criminal actions for nine months, claiming he was innocent in judicial proceedings in the western province of Värmland. But his text and Facebook messages said otherwise.
"I want you to know that I am sincerely sorry and I beg for forgiveness in every way I can," the 25-year-old man wrote to the woman on Facebook.
The Karlstad District Court ruled that his messages were sufficient evidence that he had assaulted the woman and sentenced the man to six months in prison for rape.

Looking good, Alli

Alli Webb started a door-to-door hairstyling business in 2008 as a way to get out of her house and take a break from rearing her two kids.
The former hairstylist saw the need for a service that focused on providing affordable, high-quality blowouts—in which a client's hair is washed and blow-dried into a style, without being colored or cut.
The business spread through word-of-mouth, and Ms. Webb soon found herself unable to keep up with demand. Her side project turned into a company with a projected $40 million in revenue this year.
Drybar Holdings LLC, which opened its first shop in February 2010 in Brentwood, Calif., now has 32 locations across the country. The business is about to go through a management transition, bringing in John Heffner, former president of nail-products maker OPI Products Inc., as chief executive, starting Dec. 2.
Many a business is only hot air, but she found a real need for it, and....

Meanwhile, there is a little problem she shares with other small businesses;
We always were $40 in New York. We tried to keep prices $35 [elsewhere] as long as we could, but you know things go up: rent, health insurance, incentives. There's just a lot of different things that got more expensive. We had to raise the prices to keep the business model as it was.
Expect it to get worse;
WSJ: How, if at all, do you think your business will be affected by the new health-care law?
Ms. Webb: We recently started providing all of our employees with various options of health-care benefits and are following the new health- care laws very closely. It definitely is and will continue to have an impact on our business. 
Government interference with small business never goes out of fashion.

Esa programa de setenta

What's new is old, in the Chilean election;
[Former President Michelle] Bachelet started her run-off election campaign accompanied by former student leaders and deputy-elects Karol Cariola and Camila Vallejo of the Communist Party (PC) and PS deputy-elect Maya Fernández, the granddaughter of former President Salvador Allende.
Those were the good ol' dias. Meanwhile, her opponent appeals to la mayoría silenciosa;
The first topic addressed by [Evelyn] Matthei in her speech following the election results on Sunday was law and order, which she used to attack Bachelet.
“While they [the Nueva Mayoría] and their leftist judges protect the rights of delinquents with laws and verdicts, we defend the rights of the Chileans who want to live peacefully,” she said.
While Bachelet outlines in her government program that prevention is the best way to fight crime, Matthei advocates a “firm hand” against crime, promoting the creation of 6,000 new law-enforcement jobs combined with policies that would send second-time offenders directly to prison without provisional freedom.
She should make her theme song;  Try to Remember that kind of September/when we had to dismember/that socialist regime in '73.

Because that's where Bachelet's heart is.

When we find out what's in it

Two decades ago, the state of Washington passed a comprehensive health care reform, in the spirit of Hillary Clinton's proposals for the nation as a whole. Then the roof fell in on the Democrats responsible for it;
While provisions of the Washington Health Services Act would be phased in over a six-year period, negative effects appeared in the first year. By 1995, many of the state’s private health insurers had pulled out of the market. From 1994 to 1997, the state’s six largest private health insurers lost more than $116 million in the individual market. Those insurers that stayed had to raise premiums—by 40 percent in some instances. Rising costs prompted many consumers to drop their coverage, thus increasing the state’s uninsured rate. By 1999, the individual market had fallen apart—with individuals and families in 30 of Washington’s 39 counties not having any private health insurance options.
Washington state also became a magnet for patients from around the country who had serious and expensive medical conditions because they knew they could get immediate health insurance coverage. Many people took advantage of the new system in other ways. For example, some women would enroll in a health insurance plan after becoming pregnant and drop their coverage following the births of their babies. People would also change from a low-cost health insurance plan with a high deductible to a high-coverage health insurance plan with a low deductible, receive major medical procedures or treatments, and then change back or drop their coverage.
The Washington Health Services Act led to rising health care costs and fewer options for consumers. These outcomes were generated by the legislation’s centralized financing and delivery of health care, including the rationing of health care, limiting consumer choices for doctors, and consumers paying for coverage they did not need or necessarily want.
They got what they wished for, and;
The health care issue was on the minds of Washington state voters in the 1994 general election. The state House of Representatives went from 65 Democrats and 33 Republicans to 61 Republicans and 37 Democrats. The Democratic majority in the state senate was downsized to just one seat. Post-election analysis revealed that as voters learned more about the radical health care changes made by their citizens’ legislature, the greater their opposition grew.
While many provisions of the Washington Health Services Act were repealed in 1995, remaining issues caused private health insurers to leave the state. The state went from having 19 private health insurers in 1993, to only having three remaining today. The aftermath continues to hurt families, individuals and small businesses.
The story of Washington state should serve as a cautionary tale for those making decisions on health care reform in Washington, D.C., but the message has not yet been received.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Ruble is Badenov

Is it just filthy lucre?
One in every four Russians supports proposals to ban the U.S. dollar from circulation and savings deposits inside the country, poll results released Wednesday show.
....Among the 28 percent of respondents who favored banning the U.S. dollar from Russia, 39 percent were people with only an "elementary level of education," while more than half of the measure's opponents were "highly educated" respondents.
Explaining the bill, State Duma Deputy Mikhail Degtyaryov of the Liberal Democratic Party argued that the dollar was on the brink of collapse, and said the measure was needed to protect Russia from an economic disaster that would befall countries with a high dependency on the U.S. currency.
Like countries that sell oil for dollars.

The Dvorak of China

Communist-path dependent, one might say. As told by Stanford's Thomas Mullaney;
"From the '50s onward, China was in a state of more or less perpetual political campaigns," said Mullaney. "The burden for a lot of this fell on typists."
Typists were responsible for reproducing the waves after waves of speeches, pamphlets and other political materials that accompanied massive communist efforts to reshape the country.
In this unique social climate, the announcement that one Zhang Jiying had managed to set more than 50 characters a minute garnered major media attention.
We wonder if he had to join the Chinese Navy to do that.
The feat made headlines in the People's Daily, the official party newspaper, and was quickly raised up as a model of communist innovation and efficiency. The typesetter drew film crews, took part in parades, coauthored typesetting manuals and toured nationally.
The record-setting accomplishment, which Zhang later bettered to nearly 80 characters a minute, was due to his revolutionary character arrangement.Most typesetters customized their character racks in one way or another, but Zhang had reorganized his into "natural-language clusters" – grouping Chinese characters that tended to appear together in sentences.
This meant that Zhang would reorganize his characters every time a new political campaign started up. During the Korean War, for instance, Zhang would prepare phrases like "Resist America, Aid Korea." When the government was emphasizing worker efficiency, he might prepare the character combinations for "production" and "labor."
How did he handle 'obsessive compulsive'.