Friday, February 28, 2014

It's party time down South

Everything through fiesta, nothing without fiesta, nothing against fiesta, in Venezuela...the earlier the better;
This week, while continuing to characterize opponents as fascists at the service of imperialists, government ministers have also given long addresses, covered in full by the country's six-state television stations, in which they have spoken of the need to honor the tradition of Carnival.
"The choice here is happiness versus bitterness, hate versus love, violence versus peace, Carnival versus fascism," Mr. Maduro told a rally of red-clad supporters from his party.
And the party is officially started (yesterday), as the government couldn't wait for the traditional Saturday through (Fat) Tuesday run up to Lent. To disguise the real choices facing Venezuelans; between Maduroismo and toilet paper, bread, and cooking oil.

Just spending time with the family

How'd you get the idea I've been overthrown?, asks Victor Yanukovich--speaking in Russian, not Ukrainian, in Russisa;
Viktor Yanukovych has vowed to fight for Ukraine in his first public appearance since being ousted as president last week.
Speaking in Russia, he said he was "not overthrown" but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life.
Depends on your definition of 'fled', we guess. Meanwhile, in Crimea;
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov earlier accused Russia of carrying out an "armed invasion" in Crimea, after unidentified armed men took over Sevastopol and Simferopol airports. Moscow denies the allegations. 
Looks like Mr. Avakov has a point;

Unsexy, uncool in Seattle

And we like it like that, says one city council member;
The councilmembers’ discussion highlighted the divisive issues stirred by the new TNCs which allow riders to use their smartphones to summon and pay for rides by freelance drivers in their own cars.
“The fact is, no matter how great, sexy and cool these app services are, they are unlawful in the city of Seattle,” said councilmember Bruce Harrell.
TNCs being Seattle-speak for Transportation Networking Companies, which are currently, UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar that organizer private car owners who offer rides to people without cars. They are opposed by the usual suspects; the taxi industry. For perfectly understandable, rent-seeking reasons; to prevent competition.

But this is the home of the most competitive of them all, SuperBowl Champs;
TNC companies lobbied heavily against any limitations. Lyft held rallies outside City Hall. Uber drove around trucks with giant billboards, robocalled Seattle residents and plastered utility boxes with posters. Celebrities like rapper Macklemore and Seahawks players Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice tweeted messages of support, which Uber said were not paid endorsements. 
The TNCs say that the final passage of this ordinance will be the legion of doom; they'll pull out of Seattle altogether.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cupboard is bare

Succinctly put;
Ukraine's new interim Prime Minister, economist Arseniy Yatsenyuk, told parliament on Thursday that former president Viktor Yanukovych and his clan stole $70 billion from Ukraine over the past few years. "The treasury is empty," he noted, amid EU and US work on bailout and on repatriation of the stolen assets.
The whereabouts of Yanukovich are unknown, but the suspicion is he's in Russia.

Other country's dinero

Supply and Demand...with Venezuelan characteristics;
A third currency exchange system has been introduced in Venezuela in efforts to stabilise the value of the bolivar, called Sicad II, which will facilitate daily currency auctions at prices determined by “supply and demand”, according to Vice President for the Economic Area Rafael Ramirez.
State-owned companies will be permitted to trade currency and bonds below the official exchange rate of Bs. 6.30 to US$ 1. However, the government will continue to preside over all transactions.
....According to the government, the system is based on a long shelved bond swap mechanism known as “permuta”.
Permuta translates into 'barter'.

Tragedy of Al-andalus continues

Jihad by other means, in formerly Muslim Spain;
The more than 22,000 square meters of the Mosque of Córdoba, one of the world's foremost historic buildings and a symbol of peaceful coexistence between civilizations, have been the scene of centuries of tension between those who wished to preserve this monument of Andalusí (Spanish Muslim) art, and those who wanted it to have a purely Catholic appearance.
The controversy has deepened in recent years as the bishopric of Córdoba gradually squeezed out the Muslim presence in the equation (going so far as to remove the term "mosque" from leaflets and posters). In 2013 this led to an initiative by a group of citizens, including teachers, journalists and lawyers, to create a civic platform against the Church's iron grip on the site. In a manifesto that has attracted more than 80,000 signatures on the website, the Platform Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba: Everyone's Heritage demands that the ownership and management of the building be public, so it will cease to be an instrument at the service of the Catholic Church.
We've bolded the most risible claim in the above. The part of modern Spain where the mosque sits was first conquered by the Romans, who were driven out by the Visigoths in the 6th century, who were conquered by the Umayyids--themselves having been driven out of Damascus by other Muslims- in the 8th century. Now the building of the Mosque and environs begins.

But the fighting never ceases, as the New York Times admitted in 2003;
Even the Umayyad dynasty, begun by Abd al-Rahman in 756, was far from enlightened. Issues of succession were often settled by force. One ruler murdered two sons and two brothers. Uprisings in 805 and 818 in Córdoba were answered with mass executions and the destruction of one of the city's suburbs. Wars were accompanied by plunder, kidnappings and ransom. Córdoba itself was finally sacked by Muslim Berbers in 1013, its epochal library destroyed.
Andalusian governance was also based on a religious tribal model. Christians and Jews, who shared Islam's Abrahamic past, had the status of dhimmis -- alien minorities. They rose high but remained second-class citizens; one 11th-century legal text called them members of ''the devil's party.'' They were subject to special taxes and, often, dress codes. Violence also erupted, including a massacre of thousands of Jews in Grenada in 1066 and the forced exile of many Christians in 1126.
In fact, throughout Andalusian history -- under both Islam and Christianity -- religious identity was obsessively scrutinized. There were terms for a Christian living under Arab rule (mozarab), a Muslim living under Christian rule (mudejar), a Christian who converted to Islam (muladi), a Jew who converted to Christianity (converso), a Jew who converted but remained a secret Jew (marrano) and a Muslim who converted to Christianity (morisco).
All before the Christian Spaniards re-conquered;
In the 1391 pogroms in Christian Spain, for example, an estimated 100,000 Jews were killed, 100,000 converted and 100,000 forced to flee -- a prelude to the 1492 expulsion of all Jews and the 17th-century expulsion of all Muslims. 
That is what El País is calling 'peaceful coexistence between all civilizations'. And what Osama bin Laden called the tragedy of Al-andalus, in one of his post 9-11 speeches.

Wisdom from Berkeley

Often in short supply (but rarely in doubt), today is an exception, as two young economists--Gérard Roland and Yuriy Gorodnichenko (BA and MA from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy)--evaluate where things stand for Ukraine;
First, the Ukrainian currency Hryvnya should be switched to a float and it should depreciate significantly.
When you begin with advice straight from Milton Friedman, you're off to a good start. More in that vein follows;
The Central bank should provide liquidity. Some form of temporary capital controls and temporary limits on withdraws of deposits appear unavoidable given the current ongoing bank run (deposits fell by a third in the last few weeks and are falling further on a daily basis). Banks should “reopen” after the infusions of capital and liquidity.
....Given the deeply depressed state of the economy, now is not the time to implement deep budget cuts. But fiscal authorities can still lay out a budget plan for a gradual decline in deficits to restore confidence in the long-run solvency of the Ukrainian government. Stricter monitoring of spending to minimize corruption and waste of public functions must be implemented immediately to make the eventual fiscal consolidation less painful and restore confidence.
....Ukraine badly needs immediate breathing space to introduce reforms and relieve the burden imposed by the Yanukovych government. The main risk here is that the absence of primary fiscal surplus makes an immediate fiscal consolidation or monetization of spending unavoidable in case of outright default. But Ukraine had a nearly zero inflation rate for two year. Some inflation could be a stimulating force if it can be kept under control later on. The new provisional government of Ukraine must weigh the costs and benefits of these scenarios. But right now, it should not exclude the option of default if external support is not coming. An external default would then not alienate Ukraine from the international community, despite the short run disorder it might create. 
All well and good, but Vladimir Putin--as this is written--seems to be determined to turn Ukraine, once more, into The Valley of Death (and restore his buddy Yanukovich to power). Which would preclude the advice offered for Ukraine, long term;
These emergency measures will not address the need for fundamental long-term change. Once there is a legitimate government, elected on the basis of a Constitution approved by referendum, fundamental long term reforms can be implemented. These include a fundamental overhaul of government administration to root out corruption, fiscal decentralization to give more power to the regions, regulatory reform to break up monopolies, opening up entry to foreign firms and small private business, and securing a stable supply of energy by exploiting Ukraine’s large reserve of shale gas.
The need to act fast now does not mean one should not also begin in the necessary process of constitutional change. The people of Ukraine demand it. Ukraine had two revolutions in the last ten years. Both expressed people’s discontent with the status quo and aspirations for democracy. It needs to build a consolidated and participatory democracy. There will likely not be a third chance.
Former community organizer Barack Obama has yet to weigh in.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

'nother kettle of fish

When I have to pay for it! Then we have to pay attention to what it costs;
Bill Hobson says the $15-an-hour wage movement is the most electrifying change in thinking he’s witnessed on an issue in more than 30 years of advocacy for the poor.
“I’m something of a 1960s radical,” Hobson says, “and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a rapid societal shift as the $15 wage.”
There’s only one hitch, and it’s a doozy: He can’t pay it.
Hobson, as director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, is Seattle’s largest employer of social workers and counselors to the homeless. He’s got 520 full-time workers running a network of apartments, shelters and crisis clinics for the city’s sickest and most vulnerable — thousands of mentally ill or drug-addicted folks who, on any given day, would be out lying on sidewalks or under bridges without the help of Hobson’s crew.
Of that crew, though, 171 make less than $15 an hour. His 30 janitors start at $11.75. The hundred-plus counselors who staff the agency’s buildings start at $12.75 — a “travesty,” Hobson says, considering many have college degrees in social work.
But paying $15 will cost him $1.25 million he doesn’t have.
And he's not alone;
 A recent survey found a $15-an-hour wage would cost more than $10 million for a sampling of social-service agencies, while child-care centers could take up to a $20 million hit. Nursing homes were not surveyed, but would doubtless add many millions more. 
A little too close to home?

When Tom Harkin has lost the Seattle PI...

Retired Venezuelan Army Gen. Angel Vivas, top right, stands armed inside his residence as military intelligence officers stand outside his home in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. President Nicolas Maduro ordered on Saturday the arrest and investigation of the retired general for his statements on YouTube and Twitter. Maduro said Vivas is instigating violence at a time when two weeks of anti-government protests have left 10 dead and over 100 wounded. Vivas has been an opponent of the Venezuelan government since his 2007 resignation as director of the Ministry of Defense Engineering, due to the military's adoption of the slogan "Fatherland, socialism or death, we shall overcome," created in Cuba. 
Created in Cuba,  the visit to your home by officials, and not because you've become pregnant.

Mandate baseball

The wizard Oz has an idea that's better than Obamacare;
Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, in partnership with Budweiser, is petitioning Washington to formally honor Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a national holiday. The petition was launched on Tuesday at and must receive 100,000 signatures within 30 days of its posting in order to garner review and response from the White House administration.
Probably cheaper too.

Corn fed Castrodolatry

Iowans, do you know where one of your senators spends his free time?  Marco Rubio does;

Rubio is the child of Cubans who fled Cuba and the joys of socialism--where a visit from officials is usually not cause for rejoicing, contrary to Tom Harkin. In fact, Harkin's sycophancy is so unbelievable he hasn't even made Granma yet.

Not by bread alone

There' also bacteria and beer to fight over with UNESCO;
Germany has only been part of the agreement to protect intangible cultural heritage since 2013. Communities, clubs and individuals were invited to submit their proposals by the end of November. In the end, there were 128 proposals.
Aside from bread, some in Germany are advocating for the cultural merits of the microbiological therapy of "healing with bacteria," or the oral storytelling tradition of "Graweredersch" from the state of Thuringia. A strong competitor may prove to be the German Brewers Association, which is fighting for the Beer Purity Law's place on the list.
Each state can select one or two suggestions from the list of 128 until April. The education and cultural affairs minister conference and a panel of experts from the German UNESCO commission will assemble the final list, which will include 30 to 50 candidates. Germany's first entry will be recognized in 2016 at the earliest.
At least they aren't trying to add, marching into bordering countries, to the list of intangible cultural heritage.

Deutschland über alles

Margaret Thatcher should be enjoying this action of the German Supreme Court;
Can the European Central Bank legally act as lender of last resort to ensure the survival of the euro?
This question is of fundamental importance for the sustainability of the monetary union. Recently, the German Constitutional Court ruled that it cannot. In the court’s view the ECB has the power to conduct monetary policy, but not to support member states in financial distress even if necessary to ensure the survival of the common currency.
It follows that the ECB’s announcement of September 2012, to buy the sovereign debt of member states on secondary markets in unlimited amounts to fend off speculative attacks against individual member states (outright monetary transactions, or OMT), may be beyond its powers, or ultra vires.
The Germans are simply saying that they didn't cede their sovereignty by joining the EU. And they invited the Brussels Boys to challenge them;
Mario Draghi’s announcement that the ECB would do “everything it can within its mandate” to support the euro effectively asserts the ECB as the ultimate power wielder. Not surprisingly, this is viewed with great scepticism, especially in Germany. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann supported the current constitutional claim. By taking recourse to the German judiciary he conceded that short of exiting the Eurosystem, Germany, or its central bank, no longer has the unilateral power to determine where its obligations end. The Constitutional Court’s expansive interpretation of its own jurisdiction can be seen as an attempt to regain it.
Viewed in this light, the preliminary referral to the E[uropean] C[ourt of] J[ustice] is window dressing. It’s a friendly gloss on the quest to be the ultimate power in the euro’s survival. 
It's always August 1938.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And now, here's Jimmy!

"The Tonight Show" made its return to New York City with a splashy opening sequence showcasing Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, Lincoln Center and Jimmy Fallon's glamorous new studio at Rockefeller Center — a fitting tribute to the place that helped foot the bill.
An unconventional 30 percent tax credit aimed at luring "Tonight" away from California after four decades is reportedly saving NBC more than $20 million a year.
The network said that while the show relocated to New York for creative reasons the move wouldn't have been possible without the tax credit.
Don't expect any help if you're a struggling nobody;
The tax incentives were inserted into the state budget by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration in early 2013 as NBC was debating dropping the show's then-host, Jay Leno, for Fallon and potentially leaving Los Angeles to return to New York, where the show started in 1954.
The language of the 30 percent annual tax credit was remarkably specific: It would only benefit a show that had filmed at least five years in another state before moving to New York (check), spends at least $30 million in production costs (check) and films in front of a studio audience of at least 200 people (check). In other words: "The Tonight Show."
Cuomo's team has downplayed the idea that the credit was specifically for "Tonight," though Kenneth Adams, commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development, said this week that changed were made to "attract these long-running, high-budget productions to New York State."

Sleeping on the enemies

Film critic Richard Grenier's paraphrase of George Orwell, is the latest bit of wisdom to be ignored by the Barack Obama administration. Is it just us, or does this make some Europeans nervous;
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to its smallest size since before the US entered World War Two.
When they were on their own. We can see how that might be a problem for a country that doesn't even have a navy anymore.

Playing chicken in Kiev

Bank on it, says ratings agency Fitch, there's a difficult transition ahead;
Russian state-owned banks are facing risks over tens of billions of dollars of exposure to crisis-hit Ukraine, which may affect the solvency of some institutions, ratings agency Fitch warned on Tuesday.
Fitch said that Russian state-owned banks are holding the bulk of Russian banks' total exposure to Ukraine of an estimated $28 billion, with the risks involving loans to local companies and businessmen who borrowed funds to acquire Ukrainian assets, it said.
It said the biggest exposures belong to Russia's state development bank Vnesheconombank whose exposure relative to its total equity is a colossal 74 percent, with risks relating to its Ukrainian subsidiary and loans booked on the parent bank's books.
Next comes Gazprombank -- the bank of the state owned gas giant -- with an exposure of 40 percent relative to equity. Gazprombank has no Ukrainian subsidiary but has extended a loan to Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz.
...."Russian banks' significant exposures to Ukraine may materially impact the solvency of some institutions if borrowers suffer as a result of the heightened political and economic stress," Fitch said.
In other words, Putin bet on the wrong boy (Yanukovich, who is on the lam now).

Oh, for the good ol' Middle Ages

All that's missing is the oxen pulled carts, at the Berlin Food Xchange;
On a recent Wednesday night at Charlottenburg's Cooks Connection, I'm surrounded by jars of pickles, spicy kimchi, and silky lemon curd. Pretty packages of cookies and candies sit on the tables. Everything looks delicious. As my stomach rumbles in anticipation, I'm eager to pick out a purchase. But I won't be taking any of these items home, because this is a food exchange, and I don't have anything to trade.
Food trading hits Berlin
Welcome to foodXchange Berlin, a monthly meeting of local food preservation enthusiasts and resourceful cooks interested in swapping their wares rather than exchanging money for them.
Because money is the evil of all roots?

Damn Yanquis

Keane Bhatt is a Washington, D.C.-based activist and writer, and a contributing editor to the North American Congress on Latin America. He has worked in the United States and Latin America on a variety of campaigns related to community development and social justice. His analyses and opinions have appeared in a range of outlets, including, The Nation, The St. Petersburg Times, CNN En Español and Al Jazeera. He is the author of the NACLA blog “Manufacturing Contempt,” which critically analyzes the U.S. press and its portrayal of the hemisphere.
Nor is he any slouch at Maduroismo Denial;
If you look at unemployment, it's at a very low point. It's about, you know, 6 percent. If you look at poverty from 2011 to 2012, Venezuela presided over the sharpest decline in poverty throughout the entire region. So it fell by 19 percent in 2013. Despite the problems of inflation and so on, you have further reductions in the rate of household poverty. So that fell by an entire percentage point over 2013, despite the inflation.
So what you're seeing is a portrayal of Venezuela as some kind of a chaotic economic basket case. But when you look at a lot of the macroindicators, you've had real respectable per capita income growth. Over the past decade it's been at about 2.7 percent annually. Again, you know, if you look at this historically, poverty has been slashed by half, absolute poverty by 70 percent. The inequality has been reduced so drastically that it's now the lowest in Latin America. 
Which makes toilet paper disappear from store shelves?  Causes airlines to stop selling tickets in Caracas?  Oh no, that's some other guy's fault; know, while there's no indication that the United States is active in this particular effort, in which the opposition is clearly attempting to force a democratically elected government to withdraw and to actually--to resign, you have many, many indicators of a constant, ongoing, you know, U.S. support through financing, through providing training, and by incentivizing these kinds of behaviors with their immediate acceptance of the coup government of Pedro Carmona in 2002. You know, WikiLeaks actually produced a document, a 2006 cable, which talked about--you know, which was signed by the U.S. ambassador and described a number of positions, which included "Penetrating Chavez' Political Base," "Dividing Chavismo", protecting U.S. vital interests, and "Isolating Chavez Internationally." And I'm basically saying this almost verbatim. So the fact that this government may believe that there's a conspiracy against it on the part of the United States government is not very outlandish at all. 

You reap what you sow

Phil Gramm and Mike Solon think even a Democrat like Ron Wyden might have understood the math;
In 2009, when the president and his Democratic Congress put in place their economic recovery program, they projected strong growth to result, with the OMB and CBO estimating 4.2% real average GDP growth for 2011-13. These projections were not hard to believe given the pattern of past recoveries, such as the 5.4% average GDP growth in the three years after the previous deepest postwar recession in 1982. The problem was the Obama program did not promote growth, it impeded it. [bold by HSIB]
Real GDP growth averaged just 2.2% during the 2011-13 period, less than half the norm for postwar recoveries. Even worse, the CBO now says our long-term growth prospects have been permanently lowered after the weakest recovery in 75 years. CBO's 2009 projection of a potential GDP growth rate of 2.4% (for the next decade) has now been reduced to just 2.2% due to lower national productivity, lower capital investment, and fewer work hours resulting from the recession, the weak recovery and the effects of ObamaCare.
The only practical way to recapture these revenues is through a faster-growing economy. Mr. [Oregon Senator] Wyden's recognition that tax reform can raise revenue by boosting economic growth provides the best chance this country currently has of returning to more normal rates of economic growth.
Though raising minimum wages to above market clearing levels and continuing to pig-headedly insist on keeping Obamacare won't help matters.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Find a need, and feed it

Give her a Phd in Marketing, and let the B schools fight over her; 13-year-old Girl Scout in San Francisco and her mother made a rather business-savvy decision to sell cookies outside of a medical marijuana dispensary.  On Monday, Danielle Lei and her mother set up shop outside the Green Cross store with the cookies. With the store's blessing, Lei sold 117 boxes in two hours. 
Holli Bert, a spokeswoman for the Green Cross, said that after just 45 minutes, Lei had to call for backup cookies to replenish her stock. 
"You put it in terms that they may understand," Lei's mother, Carol, told Mashable. "I'm not condoning it, I'm not saying go out in the streets and take marijuana. It also adds a little bit of cool factor. I can be a cool parent for a little bit." 

The game in Spain; fails mainly to train

But a savvy entrepreneur found an easy way to gain;
Investigators have found that around 15 million euros in state and regional funds were used to sponsor phony training programs for non-existent students. The systematic fraud went on for years, and was spearheaded by an entrepreneur named José Luis Aneri, who acted as the mediator between government agencies and the companies signing up their workers for the courses.
Por supuesto, muy buenas intenciones, pero;
The constant drip of scandals in the last 20 years evidences that, despite successive government reforms, public subsidies for employee training continue to be used as a source of informal financing by business groups and other organizations. 
As easy as taking candy from a bebé
...Aneri, a businessman from Córdoba, arrived in Madrid in 2007 and soon took over management of public subsidies for several business associations. Aneri was the contact who filed for the aid in their name, and he was also in charge of implementing the training programs through a network of companies headed by Sinergia Empresarial.
He specialized in distance courses which he allegedly provided through a digital platform. But there were no courses, and the students were not real, either. It was Sinergia workers who designed the phony coursework by copying appropriate-sounding content off the internet or from books. As for the students and their ID numbers, Aneri got lists from a variety of sources — including an association of street vendors — and used the same names again and again in as many training programs as he could. The more students he could come up with, the more money would pour in. 
Sonny Bono's Law; There are people out there who will game any system.

Hard to believe no one watched him

Even when he had a guest who wasn't a blithering idiot and racist homophobe, he couldn't attract enough viewers to keep a job in the USA;
CNN is pulling the plug on "Piers Morgan Live" after just three years in a key primetime slot. The program, hosted by former newspaper editor Piers Morgan, had struggled to gain traction at the 9 p.m. hour, and was routinely beaten in the ratings by cable competitors.
Maybe CNN should re-think their idea of of what makes an appealing television program. Even the bombshell that Ms. Jeantel dropped on Morgan's program (that Trayvon Martin launched an attack on George Zimmerman in the mistaken belief that he was a homosexual) was hardly noticed, even by the usual gay political activists.

...can never hurt me

If you're a spelling bee contestant where they're at a loss for them;
After 19 rounds in a Missouri county's annual spelling bee over the weekend, only two of the 25 contestants who started the competition remained.
Several hours and 47 rounds later, an 11-year-old and her 13-year-old adversary had used up all of the available words, forcing organizers of the Jackson County Spelling Bee to temporarily halt the showdown.
"It was legendary," said Mary Olive Thompson, a library outreach manager and co-coordinator of the Saturday spelling bee.
We suspect she's on to something there. Though it might help to tighten up the standards for the judges;
...bee officials decided not to pull more words from the dictionary because they worried one speller might get a tough word and the other a relatively easy one, which wouldn't be fair.
...."Scherzo," ''fantoccini" and "intaglio" were among the words Kush [Sharma] correctly spelled in the late rounds, while Sophia [Hoffman] nailed words such as "schadenfreude, "mahout" and "barukhzy."
Both of them missed what Kush said was the hardest word: a "French word; I have no idea how to pronounce it. It was a long word."
We wager one of the kids could have.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Running out of other people's dinero

The first clue is;
In 2001 ‘La Paloma Pilareños’, was a dream of the Socialist mayor Ignacio Ramos. He called it the star project of his term, and as he laid the first stone he declared that the building would quickly become a landmark in the area...
Sorta did;
The spectacular project, which for many years has dominated the pilareño skyline, was launched in 2001 having already achieved number of architectural awards, but it became evident all too quickly that the construction company, a consortium consisting of Intersa and Urdemasa, were going to exceed the 4 million euro budget [by at least 5 million Euros]. The Ayuntamiento were unable to meet the additional cost as a result of which the socialist council decided to stop the work in 2006.
In the intervening years the construction has developed serious structural faults and according to technical reports, there is a possibility that it could fall down at any time so, at the time of writing, cranes and machinery were being moved onto the site in order to begin the demolition process. It is now expected that within a few days the whole project will be just an expensive and painful memory for the town.
From which, the socialists will learn?

Take a flying leap, Vlad

There's something rotten in the state of Ukraine, and to show their disapproval of their President's close ties to Vladmir Putin, statues of another Vladimir are being toppled all over the country. Also, it looks to be ex-President Yanukovych now;
Ukrainian MPs have voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych and hold early presidential elections on 25 May.
The vote came after police stopped guarding presidential buildings allowing protesters in and parliament appointed high-level officials.
Mr Yanukovych described events as a "coup" and vowed not to stand down.
Then he fled toward the border with Russia.

One down, one to go.

Marry in haste...

Repent if your mate prefers leissure, because you're responsible for the increase in income inequality, say four (three Europeans!) economists;
Suppose that there are only two types of people, equal in numbers, those that went to college and those who did not. Those who went to school earn $30 and those who did not earn $10. If educated men marry uneducated women and uneducated men marry educated women, then every household will earn $40 in total. So, household income is perfectly equalised. Now, imagine a world in which educated people only marry other educated people. Then, a household made up of an educated man and an educated woman will earn $60 versus the $20 earned by a household that consists of only uneducated spouses. The households at the top of the distribution would have three times the income of those at the bottom.
Obviously, the example above is a dramatic simplification of reality, but it does capture an important trend that is actually taking place in the US economy. To study its impact, we track samples of hundreds of thousands of households from the US Census Bureau for the period 1960 to 2005 (see Greenwood, Guner, Kocharkov and Santos 2014). The upshot of the analysis is that rising assortative mating together with increasing labour-force participation by married women are important in order to account for the determinants of growth in household income inequality in the US.
Ball in Kshama's court;
Sawant grew up in Mumbai where she later studied computer science and graduated with a B.Sc from the University of Mumbai in 1994. Sawant married her husband Vivek, an engineer at Microsoft, and moved to the United States.[11] After moving to the United States Sawant decided to abandon the computer engineering field. She began to pursue study in economics due to what she described as her own "questions of economic inequality."
Tighten the immigration laws, decrease inequality!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Knowin' how to look for it

We paraphrase Paulie's (The Pope of Greenwich Village) definition of success to describe Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West's approach to statistical proof in Effects of the Minimum Wage on Employment Dynamics. Not because they're New York hustlers, but because the two Aggies have some street smarts;
The voluminous literature on minimum wages offers little consensus on the extent to which a wage floor impacts employment. For both theoretical and econometric reasons, we argue that the effect of the minimum wage should be more apparent in new employment growth than in employment levels. In addition, we conduct a simulation showing that the common practice of including state-specific time trends will attenuate the measured effects of the minimum wage on employment if the true effect is in fact on the rate of job growth. Using three separate state panels of administrative employment data, we find that the minimum wage reduces net job growth, primarily through its effect on job creation by expanding establishments. These effects are most pronounced for younger workers and in industries with a higher proportion of low-wage workers. [HSIB's bold, of course]
In other words, the infamous Card-Krueger approach--followed by a long line of Supply-Demand denialists--is the wrong place to be looking. Even if the light if better there. As the wise guys from Texas put it;
...difference-in-differences identification strategies [the denialists preferred approach] can...find an effect on the level of employment if there is a sufficiently rapid drop in the number of jobs relative to the counterfactual. Given the small margin of net job expansion relative to total employment, this effectively necessitates a (temporary) reduction in the absolute size of the labor force. However, if the minimum wage instead affects the rate of net job growth, then it will take some time for the effect to be reflected in the level of total employment to a degree which would be statistically detectable.
Which is why some economists can claim that there is no disemployment effect from raising minimum wages, while fooling themselves into believing their own sleight-of-stats. Again, they're looking in the wrong place.

La prueba de la imbécil

We laugh;
...Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro referred to US TV news channel CNN on Thursday with reference to its reports on the events taking place in Venezuelan since the breakout of demonstrations on February 12.
"CNN is leaving Venezuela. We have already set in motion an administrative case to get them out. If they fail to rectify, they will leave Venezuela. I do not accept any war propagandas," the president said.
Since we just noted this from one of Maduro's apologists;
...freedom of information in Venezuela is, without a doubt, greater and better than in Chile....
El hombre may work from sun to sun, but a socialist apologist's work is never done.

Take it from a Mulligan

Casey, of the U of Chicago publishes the above on his blog, Supply and Demand. The Laws of which tell us to expect a lower quantity demanded at higher prices for low skilled workers. Political tampering with the incentives facing that sector being abundant (99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, Obamacare, raises to the minimum wage in some states), the trend of the blue line is hardly unexpected.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gap in the logic

Writing in the WSJ, Shelly Banjo writes;
Gap Inc. GPS +0.47% told employees Wednesday it planned to raise its minimum hourly wage to $10 by next year, breaking with U.S. retailers and business groups that have urged lawmakers to maintain the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. [our bold]
Then, a few paragraphs later also;
Gap said it began contemplating a wage increase last fall and made a strategic decision to gain an advantage over its competitors, rather than as a reaction to the debate in Washington. The company declined to take a stand on whether the federal minimum wage should be increased.
"We understand there are industry and political views on the notion of wages," Chief Executive Glenn Murphy said in an interview Wednesday. "We respect the fact that other people have their own views and everyone has to run their own business based on what they think is best." 
Which would seem to contradict the idea that The Gap is 'breaking with' other businesses. They're merely competing, as they always have, by differentiating themselves in the retail marketplace.

Attorneys and accountants report

Getting paid to play a kids' game is...exploitation, in this litigious paradise;
The major leagues and their teams "have exploited minor leaguers by paying salaries below minimum wage, by not paying overtime wages, and by often paying no wages, at all," said the suit, which was filed this month in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of three former minor-league players. It seeks class-action status on behalf of thousands of current and former minor-leaguers, dating back at least three years, and damages and civil penalties against MLB and its franchises.
The 6,000 current minor-leaguers have no union or bargaining power and are paid on a fixed scale, set by Major League Baseball, that starts at $1,100 a month at rookie Class A leagues and rises to $2,150 for the top-level Triple-A leagues, the suit said. It said salaries average $3,000 to $7,500 for playing seasons of three to five months.
High inside cheese?

Find a need and Google it

If it's an education you need, there's a capitalist near you to help;
Google Inc.'s new investment arm has $300 million in fresh capital to put to work this year and is starting the deal making with its first foray into Web education.
It's a renaissance;
 Google Capital is putting $40 million into Renaissance Learning Inc., an education software company....
Renaissance, owned by British private-equity firm Permira Advisers, provides cloud-based education software, including reading and assessment tools that the company says are used by nearly 20 million students and teachers in more than 60 countries.
Founded in the 1980s, Renaissance Learning was publicly traded until 2011, when it was acquired by Permira $455 million after a bidding war. The company, based in Wisconsin, also lets students and teachers exchange ideas via the Web or on mobile devices. Students from kindergarten through high school use the software to improve their reading and math skills. 
Resistance is futile! But we're sure some teachers unions won't think so.

'Jonathan, you go deep.'

Bill Cosby could design pass patterns for the 49ers' accountants' approval;
Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin will stay with the 49ers.
For a price.
The former first-round pick who has 44 catches in three NFL seasons has agreed to reduce his 2014 salary from $1.4 million to $645,000, ESPN Boston reported. Baldwin can make up the difference in unlikely-to-be-earned incentives: He can pocket $755,000 if he plays 80 percent of the offensive snaps, has 65 catches and exceeds 800 yards.
Keep running til you get past the Plymouth on the right.

Family business

 His grandfather sits on California's death row, and his father avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty to killing two Oregon girls.
Now Francis Weaver, 31, is one of three men charged with murder in what Canby, Ore., police describe as a drug deal gone bad.
Gramps did in his victims in the 1980s;
Francis Weaver's grandfather, Ward Weaver Jr., was convicted of killing a man whose car had broken down and of kidnapping, raping and murdering the man's girlfriend, 23-year-old Barbara Levoy. Her body was found buried beneath a deck at his home in Oroville, Calif.
Chip-off-the-old-block Dad, killed two adolescent girls in 2002;
Weaver's father, Ward Weaver III, was convicted of aggravated murder in 2004, two years after the bodies of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis were found in his backyard. 
We suppose someone will seize on this as a reason the minimum wage needs to be raised.

Because Chileans are smarter than Venezuelans asks, What's the matter with Caracas (anyhow);
...according to the criteria of the United Nations, freedom of information in Venezuela is, without a doubt, greater and better than in Chile, as in the Caribbean country the diversity of property, the diversity of types of media (public, commercial, community) and of discourse – which are the three main criteria that UNESCO measures – is superior to Chile. Anyone who objectively compares, that is, with data (indicators, measurements, scales, etc), the Chilean media reality with the Venezuelan one, will see that our country [Chile] is in a much more precarious situation and not very democratic.
Of course Chileans can buy cooking oil and toilet paper any time they want. Nor does the Chilean government control foreign exchange and travel in and out of the country. What could explain that, we wonder.
It’s about a similar situation that the Christian Democratic Party faced during the government of Salvador Allende. On the inside, the positions in favour of dialogue with president Allende (lead by Tomic and Leigthon) clashed with those who openly supported a coup style exit (lead by Aylwin and Frei).
What's not mentioned in the above is that, in 1973 the Chilean legislature voted 81-47 to remove the socialist Allende from office, because the Chilean people were demonstrating in the streets against him.
In that sense, what we are seeing today is largely the manifestation of an internal problem of the Venezuelan opposition whose most extreme wing, with the clear support of the United States and the media chains, is trying to make any attempt to build a new relationship between the opposition and the government fail. Because in a year like this, which, unusually, is a year without elections, the scenario for this new relationship was very favourable.
Very favourable to whom?
Anti-government demonstrations turned deadly again today, following yesterday's arrest of far right leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Lopez heads the right-wing Voluntad Popular (VP) party, and was arrested yesterday on charges including inciting crime and homicide. Earlier today the attorney general Luisa Ortega stated that whether or not Lopez will remain in custody is yet to be determined. However Ortega stated that the government “guarantees and respects the human rights” of Lopez.
Around one hundred supporters rallied today outside a court in Caracas, where his hearing was expected to take place. However, the hearing was moved to a military jail at the last moment due to government concerns for Lopez's safety. Lopez's lawyer has claimed the move is illegal.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The proletariat?

Screw 'em, we're Communists;
The delegation of the South African Communist Party in Limpopo province strongly condemned today the coup attempt in Venezuela and reaffirmed its solidarity with that people.
The SACP in Limpopo condemns the cowardly right wing opposition acts, as denounced by President Nicolas Madro [sic], who has skilfully succeeded late Commander Hugo Chavez in the struggle for Venezuela[n] autonomy, said the South African group in a communiqué.
...."We ratify our full support to the Bolivarian, Chavista Revolution and urge all progressive forces for a broad international solidarity to back Venezuela," said the text.
Meanwhile, Michael Albert of ZNet professes to be bewildered about why the left is so quiet; answer is that all or at least some of these [news] sites have decided that what has occurred and is occurring in Venezuela is of no real consequence and therefore doesn’t warrant attention. It is not important to provide information and analysis to help counter propaganda and to protect the Venezuelan project from lies. It is not important to try to learn lessons from Venezuelan efforts. In this view, as a shorthand, Venezuela would be like, I guess, North Korea. There is nothing there for progressive journalists and outlets to respectfully address or defend.
 The way the left respectfully adressed and defended, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia? Good question, why not?

Like the pacifist at the Army-Navy game

We're agnostic about this incident in the Emerald City;
A misunderstanding about the sidewalk right-of-way resulted in a pedestrian knocking over a cyclist on the west side of Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon.
The cyclist called police about 1 p.m. to report the attack, according to police reports.
He reported riding slowly east up the Denny Way hill near Summit Avenue when he passed a man walking on the sidewalk.
The pedestrian allegedly “took a swing” at the cyclist, hitting him in the neck and knocking him off his bicycle, reports say.
“This is what you get for riding on the sidewalk,” the pedestrian reportedly told the cyclist.
The cyclist was not seriously injured. He continued to walk up the hill while the pedestrian shouted obscenities at him.
See how The Green love one another!

From Kate's lips to Casey's ear

It sounds like Bill Clinton parsing the meaning of 'is', says THE ECONOMIST Casey Mulligan. That's the key to understanding Kathleen Sebelius's bizarre claim, that every economist will tell you Obamacare has had no effect on jobs; it hasn't been law for very long.

Mulligan also weighs in on the combination punches that Obamacare and an increased minimum wage will have on employment. No surprise, as he's an economist conversant with the Laws of Supply and Demand, he thinks there are strong disincentives to employment there. And, he hasn't even had time to read the new CBO report yet (as of the time of the interview linked to above). That reads, in part;
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects (see the table below). As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers
Or, Kate could just read Paul Krugman's blog, where he admits that Obamacare will reduce employment (he thinks that's a good thing!). The point being that there is no shortage of ECONOMISTS who will tell Sec'y Sebelius the exact opposite of what she claimed in her press conference.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A billion hier, a billion dort...

And still not close to paying the costs of shutting down Germany's nuclear power plants;
The decision to move away from nuclear energy is a done deal in Germany, where all nuclear power plants are intended to be offline by 2022. It's a political decision that will cost billions of euros, while the expansion of renewable energy is already pushing up electricity rates.
It also remains unclear exactly how much it will cost to dismantle the power plants after they've been mothballed. Experts are certain that the 34 billion euros set aside by plant operators for this purpose will not be enough to do the job.
What's also unclear is what are the benefits of doing this.

A fool and his money

Being heir to a feather pillow fortune isn't enough for Nick Hanauer, he wants to put his philosophy degree to work--and destroy other peoples more limited fortunes;
For example, while Hanauer says he’s “incredibly proud” of what Amazon has accomplished, “it’s not an unalloyed good.”
“Amazon didn’t create any jobs. Amazon probably destroyed a million jobs in our economy,” he said, pointing to reduced employment at brick-and-mortar stores displaced by the Internet giant.
“We have to find a way as a capitalist democracy to account for that,” Hanauer said.
Which is the Broken Window Fallacy with Reverse English. Hanauer gets to talk that way because long ago he took $45,000 of his inherited money and invested it in a start-up called He had nothing to do with creating the company, or managing it, but he does demonstrate what Robert Shiller says in Finance and the Good Society; you need investment capital to grow an economy and maximize everyone's satisfaction.

Even money from blithering idiots can help. Even when the idiots don't want to allow others to enjoy even a fraction of what he has;
“Do we want to live in a society where people work full time and still have to get government assistance and go on food stamps? Do we want to live in a society that is economically optimized for places like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart?” Hanauer said.
Forcing higher wages might harm such companies, he said. “But I would respectfully suggest that if you have a business model that can’t survive without paying people poverty wages, maybe you should go out of business.”
Then those employees won't have any wages at all, which doesn't seem to have dawned on Hanauer;
Besides, Hanauer noted that taxpayers wind up subsidizing low-wage workers who qualify for food stamps and other government aid.
Which is pretty much the consensus among economists in all corners of the globe, to be a more efficient way of boosting the incomes of the poor.

The hazards of being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth.