Saturday, November 29, 2014

We who are about to shop, size you up

The Brits don't bother with the preliminary Thanksgiving dinner, they just get down to business on Black Friday;
GREEDY retail bosses' chase for profits reached new heights yesterday as police across Britain had to protect staff and customers caught up in a chaotic US-style "Black Friday" frenzy.
Shop workers did their best to marshal the pre-Christmas sales but faced insults and threats from some of the shoppers incited by big-name chains to stage mini-riots.
Observers likened the TV coverage to the plot of Hollywood trilogy the Hunger Games, in which working-class people are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy.
Of course, that's what the Commies at The Morning Star would say; greedy retail bosses, not a greedy proletariat with a taste for low prices.
Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths said the firms responsible hoped to prolong the seasonal "shopping frenzy" to line their own pockets regardless of the impact on an already debt-laden public.
"It's just an attempt to try to squeeze yet more money out of people regardless of the consequences for people and their families," he said.
"Instead of it being a consumer frenzy that lasts from December from January, now it starts in November."
Right, the 28th of November. Have they no decency, immiserating the proles three days early?

Blackout Friday

It's not only cheese Wisconsinites want with a head;
About 800 people were in line by 8 a.m. Friday — waiting in 15-degree, snowy weather — outside of Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee to buy a limited edition Black Friday brew. In less than four hours, the brewery was sold out of its 5,000 22-ounce bottles, each of which sold for $15.
Better than shopping;
Dave Armstrong camped out overnight after arriving at 9:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving with a propane heater and blankets. The 53-year-old seemed to have no interest in joining shoppers trying to take advantage of Black Friday deals at large retail stores.
"They are either waiting in line for a television or computer or whatever it is, and they've got to mess with the crowds, the pushing and shoving," said Armstrong, a vice president at a financial company in Milwaukee. "Here, it's a real orderly group but it's a fun group."
As it should be. And Henry J. Kaiser would smile;
 Lakefront Brewery owner Russ Klisch said the business would take in more money on Friday than on any other day during the year. He said he and his employees got the idea after they tried doing early tours for beer lovers on Black Friday a few years ago.
"They just came here to drink beer at 8 in the morning. So I figured at that point, it's time to make a beer for these people," he said.
Find a need...and fill it up.

Grinches who closed Christmas tree ceremony

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray--and the merchants who pay the taxes from which his salary comes--finds out what Neville Chamberlain did back in the 1930s, appeasement only makes the appetite grow stronger;
More than 200 protesters, some chanting "Black Lives Matter!" disrupted Black Friday shopping and downtown Seattle's traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Police turned out in force, arresting five people, and Westlake Center closed early.
The tree was lighted on a rainy Friday evening. Shortly before 6 p.m., Seattle police turned shoppers away from Westlake Center, saying it was closed for the night. Mall security confirmed the shopping center had closed. The mall had been scheduled to stay open until 9 p.m.
Westlake Center is smack in the middle of Seattle's downtown shopping area, surrounded by Nordstrom, Macy's and other stores.
In a statement, Mayor Ed Murray said that while he supports the protesters' First Amendment rights, "violence against property or police officers will not be tolerated in our city." Police said arrests included people accused of assaulting officers and damaging an officer's bicycle.
After the tree lighting, the mayor and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole visited with young carolers who were interrupted by protesters, the mayor's office said.
Mayor Murray thought his statement;
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, reacting Monday night to events in Ferguson, Missouri, referred to “the murder of Mr. Brown” and said that many outside the African American community share the “tremendous hurt” at a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who killed the teen.
was going to immunize Seattle? Maybe he shouldn't have revised and extended his remarks;
Murray modified his remark shortly after his news conference.
“If he said ‘murder’, he intended to say ‘death’,” press secretary Jason Kelly said after checking with Murray.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Seattle. While remembering you voted this guy into office.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Getting in their Facebook

No such thing as a free like?
...small-business owners like Ms. [Chrisy] Bossie will soon get less benefit from the unpaid marketing pitches they post on Facebook. That’s because, as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.
The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs like Ms. Bossie, the founder of four-year-old Earthegy, to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.
Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change.
Which might have the effect of making Facebook a little less desirable for the social networkers.

¿Qué, me preocupo?

Oil has dropped to $68 per barrel. Is Venezuela worried?
In a military parade staged in la Victoria, northern Aragua state, to commemorate the 94th anniversary of the Bolivarian Air Force and the 22nd anniversary of the civilian-military rebellion of November 27, 1992, the President [Nicolás Maduro] stressed that dwindling oil income will no harm social and military investments. "If some items of the budget ever need to be cut, we would cut conspicuous consumption, and then our own wages, but not a single bolivar allocated to education, housing, and welfare missions," he pointed out.
We'll have one-ply toilet paper?

Enough already?

The Belfast Telegraph reports on the investigation of the disappearance, in Portugal, in 2007, of a little British girl;

The cost of the continuing British police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann could soon hit £10 million.

Which is about $16 million USD, at current exchange rates. For one investigation, that has yielded no clues whatsoever to what happened to little Madeleine. Nor has whatever was spent by Portuguese police turned up anything.
The three-year-old and her two younger siblings had been left asleep in a bedroom of the apartment while her parents dined with seven other friends at a Tapas restaurant 50 metres away.
She was discovered missing by her mother, Kate McCann, later that night but initial searches turned up no clues and a Portugese police chief, Olegario Sousa, later admitted that vital forensic clues may have been destroyed.
Obviously this is a tragedy for the family, but there are other crimes that have been committed in the meantime. The still continuing--with continual costs--investigation into what happened to young Madeleine is an opportunity cost. Resources not available to investigate those other crimes.

Give it to us straight, Doc

In this case, Professor Sebastian Edwards of UCLA has such a diagnosis of foreign aid;
I argue that international aid affects recipient [poor] economies in extremely complex ways and through multiple and changing channels. Moreover, this is a two-way relationship – aid agencies influence policies, and the reality in the recipient country affects the actions of aid agencies. This relationship is so intricate and time-dependent that it is not amenable to being captured by cross-country or panel regressions; in fact, even sophisticated specifications with multiple breakpoints and nonlinearities are unlikely to explain the inner workings of the aid–performance connection.
Which could be said about most economic relationships.
Bourguignon and Sundberg (2007) have pointed out that there is a need to go beyond econometrics, and to break open the ‘black box’ of development aid. I would go even further, and argue that we need to realise that there is a multiplicity of black boxes. Or, to put it differently, that the black box is highly elastic and keeps changing through time. 
What Hayek said; ...the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge....
Breaking these boxes open and understanding why aid works some times and not others, and why some projects are successful while other are disasters, requires analysing in great detail specific country episodes. If we want to truly understand the convoluted ways in which official aid affects different economic outcomes, we need to plunge into archives, analyse data in detail, carefully look for counterfactuals, understand the temperament of the major players, and take into account historical circumstances. This is a difficult subject that requires detective-like work.
And there is no guarantee that anyone will succeed, he might have added.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Boo Day for Bollywood

Give thanks, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears et al, that you don't peddle your wares in Pakistan;
Veena Malik, the Pakistani Bollywood film actress, has been sentenced to 26 years in jail for “malicious acts of blasphemy” for appearing in a mock television wedding scene based on the marriage of the Prophet Mohamed’s daughter.
Malik, 30, who lives in Dubai, expressed her disbelief at the sentence. “26 years! Come on. 26 years is a lifetime,” she told Gulf News. “But I have faith in higher courts in Pakistan.
“When the final verdict comes, it will do justice to me. Nothing bad is going to happen.”
She has it on what authority?

Thankful to be rid of the fascist Pinochet?

Did the junta ever take traffic jams this seriously?
Michelle Bachelet’s government invoked the state security law following a strike by “colectivo” drivers — who charge a fixed rate as opposed to a running meter — Thursday morning. The protestors were demanding to be exempt from the combustible fuel tax, among other things.
'Other things' like using the HOV lanes. The criminals!
Tensions boiled over though, and the Carabineros — Chile’s uniformed police — detained 10 drivers and recorded 160 offenses relating to the protest. Santiago’s Regional Secretary of Transport, Matías Salazar, said the government implemented the state security law because the demonstration opposed the freedom and security of Chileans.
Except for the Chileans who'd like to ride with the colectivos, he means.

The state security law is a controversial judicial tool used in cases not normally considered criminal but in which the normal functioning of the state is jeopardized. It carries the threat of stiffer maximum jail sentences.
As befits a Communist government.

Muchas gracias, Colombia

For an example of how important the establishment of secure property rights are. And how even well meaning groups like Amnesty International--with all their horses and all their men and women--can't put a country back together again, after a Marxist inspired civil war;
 Hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their land during five decades of civil war in Colombia could lose out unless the government returns the property fairly and jails those responsible for driving families from their homes, an Amnesty International official says.
Almost six millions Colombians were scattered. Driven off their land by Castroite thugs (and those who had to deal with them), going back to 1964. Now, after half a century, that the FARC guerillas are mostly defeated, a law--Victims and Land Restitution Law--is supposed to put things right.
"A law that was very important and positive when it passed is now running the risk of failing," Madrid-based [Esteban] Beltran [of Amnesty International] said during a visit to Colombia to promote the group's two-year investigation into land returns.
Which is about all they can hope to accomplish; promoting their investigation. So far;

Fewer than 3,000 people have returned to their properties and only 800 perpetrators have been prosecuted under the 2011 law, he said, adding that violence against claimants is common.
Some 35 murders are under investigation.
Because Colombian is still pitted against Colombian for the political spoils. Which is what usually happens when politicized groups like AI get involved.

Merci au Canada

For another lesson in economic incidence (the legal/contractual obligation to fund something tells nothing about the actual outcome; i.e. who actually pays it). A lesson Jon Ortiz of the SacBee is missing in his short piece;
A California-style plan to reduce public-pension debt has sparked protests in Canada’s Quebec province, including firefighters who have blocked the Port of Montreal.
Of course, it's all about us.
Canada’s CBC News reports that about 5,500 employees are on a one-day strike over Bill 3, which would require provincial workers pay half the cost of their retirement plans, much like the 2013 law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. 
Some Quebec labor contracts currently require employers shoulder up to 70 percent of the cost. 
To which we say, ne plus y penser. That's just a bookkeeping detail. Here's the economic reality;
Public employers face a combined $4 billion unfunded pension liability, according to Quebec government estimates.
And Quebec government employees are going to pay (probably) every dollar of it in reduced take home pay. Here's why;
The union actions today follow news on Tuesday that Quebec provincial officials plan to ax about 1,500 jobs. The province employs about 60,000 workers.
Whether 1,500 is the right number of lost jobs can be disputed, but if it isn't, it can be changed. The taxpayer, even in Quebec, isn't a bottomless well. If Quebec's public employees prefer to take some of their compensation in the form of a deferred pension benefit, fine. But, they are the ones who will, eventually, pay for it.

Read more here:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gone to the dogs

Too busy to pet your own pooch? There was a time---simpler, freer days in Arizona--when you could hire someone to do it for you.
Grace Granatelli, an animal masseuse in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, said she would play new-age music or "spa sounds," which help relax dogs.
In her sessions, Granatelli would have the dog lie down on the floor or its bed and start by massaging its neck. She would then move to other areas, including legs and hips. But it's not crucial that the dog lie down or sit still.
"There are times where the dog is either very distracted or anxious or isn't quite receptive," Granatelli said. "So I just do the best I can doing the strokes while they're standing — whatever I can do to get the strokes in and get some relaxation in their muscles."
 Everyone was happy, including the massaged mutts. Enter the rent seekers, stage left;
That was until Granatelli became one of three animal massage practitioners who received cease-and-desist letters from the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board earlier this year. The trio has sued the board, arguing that the statute is overly broad in defining veterinary medicine. They are not practicing while the lawsuit moves through the courts.
Three people are deprived of their livelihoods, because;
The board says "I was doing more than just pampering dogs and that was breaking laws," Granatelli said.
A great threat to civilization, no doubt.
The American Veterinary Medical Association classifies animal massage as a form of veterinary care that should require a license. It is up to each state's veterinary licensing board whether to categorize it that way.
"We do consider them veterinary procedures, and we feel the same standards should be used because a lot of harm can come from them," association assistant director Adrian Hochstadt said.
Oh, your feelings are hurt. Screw the pooches!
Carol Forrest, a former client of Granatelli's, said her Dachshunds, Maxie and Lucy, got regular massages for five years. The two, who have since passed away, were able to relax after a massage despite dealing with issues such as arthritis.
Forrest said she truly believes massage benefits dogs as much as people.
"It's like if you go to one regularly that you like, they get to know you and you get a better treatment out of it," she said. "The same goes for the dogs ... versus going to the vet — my dogs aren't relaxed at the vet."
In Arizona, so what. They can't let some dog, somewhere, somehow be happy. So enjoy your Thanksgiving, turkeys.

Alors? Ce était en anglais

What should we do with this dusty old tome, Jacques?
A rare and valuable Shakespeare First Folio, regarded as the most important book in English literature, has been discovered in a small French town.
The book had lain undisturbed in a library in Saint-Omer, near Calais in northern France, for 200 years.
Without anyone noticing what was in it.

Swiss off their nose, to placate their left?

Switzerland's voters will have a chance to show their business-like attitude this Sunday;
Switzerland's system of charging foreign residents with no gainful activity in the country a lump sum based on their living expenses, instead of taxing assets or income, has helped make it a popular home for the super rich.
Which just grates on some;
Five Swiss cantons including Zurich have abolished the lump-sum tax, but the left-wing Social Democratic Party gathered the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a vote on doing away with it at the national level.
Even though in 2012 it brought in almost 700 million Swiss francs (about $725m USD) from wealthy people who otherwise would choose to live elsewhere. Polling suggests the lefties will lose their gamble.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tweets and trees grow in Brooklyn

Thanks to StartupsMansion, young amigos can work and live together for mutual benefit;
Startups Mansion is the brainchild of Spaniards Pascual Aparicio, Ignacio Hojas and Carlos de Ory, who say they grew tired of the problems they faced trying to get their tech startups going in Spain, and so moved to San Francisco. To fund their projects they decided to set up a business incubator with other like-minded Spaniards. They put the idea out on the social networks, and soon found 750 people in Spain prepared to make the move. After selecting 31, they then decided on Brooklyn, where they found a large house with a garage owned by a Chinese family.
The three-month stay in StartupsMansion costs around €2,000, including flight, lodging, a work-station, and the contacts needed to make a start. The program has three phases: an initial contact where participants meet and get to know each other; the development stage, which sees an idea either take shape or be abandoned; and the close, when the results are evaluated. “Our philosophy is: make a lot of mistakes, make them early, and do so as cheaply as possible. The idea is to see if we can do something with the resources at our disposal. We’re satisfied. We want the program to last,” says Aparicio.
So far;
Eduardo Jorgensen, aged 22, is a medical student trying to apply technology through his startup MedicSen. He came to StartupsMansion to find backers for a sticking plaster that helps diabetics manage their blood sugar levels. He has since joined forces with Merche Sánchez to set up Mistery Tour, a travel platform that provides last-minute cheap airline tickets.
Xavier Barata is the 32-year-old founder of King of App, a cellphone applications platform. He’s looking for investors, and has so far managed to secure a stand at the upcoming MobileWorld Congress in Barcelona.
as well as;
Abdón Rodríguez, 22, says he has made major improvements to his videogame War of Sides after testing it out on his roommates. Manuel Zafra has used his time to launch a subscription app, as well as to develop a cellphone application that, once you provide it with your measurements, tells you which clothing brand best suits you. His floor-mates Miriam Alcaide and Elena Yepes, aged 31 and 32 respectively, are working on Tweettohelp, which links business, NGOs, and social network users to work on corporate social responsibility. “For each tweet, a company plants a tree. The idea has been well received by NGOs over here,” says Miriam.
The socialist Spanish Earth wasn't so fertile, after all.

Where's the militarized police force when you need it?

Not in Ferguson, Missouri last night. Or not enough of it;
On Tuesday morning, police were called to a residential area near Canfield Green Apartments, close to some of the most volatile unrest Monday night and just hours after building fires raged and gunshots were reported in the area. Officers found a dead man inside a parked vehicle and were investigating it as a “suspicious death,” according to St. Louis County Police.
Shot by a racist police officer?
The Ferguson Fire Department said it fought 25 structure fires overnight, in an interview with a local television station, and that efforts to extinguish those fires were hampered by firefighters having to cease work because of gunfire in the area. 
Anybody think of calling 911?

It's the elasticity of demand, stupid!

A blogger alert to errors in elementary economics may work from sun to sun, but journalists will see that the work is never done. Such as this from Thomson Reuters Foundation's Kieran Guilbert;
Thousands of foreign workers on United States government overseas contracts have paid large recruitment fees to secure their jobs, according to a watchdog, raising fears of human trafficking in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf states.
....Thomas Melito, director of International Affairs and Trade Issues at GAO, said there was a concern that not clearly defining what constitutes a recruitment fee allowed "too much room for interpretation".
The report found that fees paid by workers included the cost of plane tickets, lodging, passport and visa fees and medical screening, among other expenses.
"If a worker needs a passport to go overseas to work, all companies charge a fee for that. Is it considered a recruitment fee or not, that's unclear. The worker will also need a visa, and who pays for that?" Melito told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Washington.
"The danger of not being clear on fees and transactions is that it creates potential loopholes, which can be exploited," Melito added.
Let's take a little trip to the NBER, and learn about tax (in this case, fee) incidence from Larries Kotlikoff  and Summers;
Prices of goods and rewards to factors [like labor] are altered by taxes [and fees]. In assessing the is necessary to take account of these effects. Changes in prices can lead to the shifting of taxes [and fees]. Thus, for example, a tax on the hiring of labor by business may be shifted backwards to laborers in the form of lower wages or forward to consumers in the form of higher prices. is an analytical characterization of economic equilibria.... [bold by HSIB]
In short, just because there's a law stating that X must pay a fee, supply and demand will ultimately shift the burden to whomever is best positioned to actually pay it.

Trial Lawyers' Mayor of the Year Award to be announced

Or so we'd surmise, if there was such an award;
New York incurred a record $732 million in legal costs in the last fiscal year, mostly from claims of police abuse, negligence and hiring discrimination, expenses that accelerated under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The amount accrued in settlements and judgments in the 12 months ended June 30 increased by 40 percent, according to the comptroller’s annual report released last month. The total represents almost 1 percent of the city budget, more than New York spends on parks, recreation and libraries combined. In the previous three years, legal costs averaged $590 million.
According the the article in Insurance Journal by Harry Goldman, the majority of that increase came after new mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in in January of this year.
Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-backed watchdog, said the new administration may not be conservative enough when it comes to using taxpayer money for legal settlements.
“It’s a dramatic increase that’s worrisome because it indicates the new administration may be evaluating cases differently,” Kellermann said. “You walk a fine line between cleaning up backlog and giving New Yorkers the message that you can sue and get a windfall.”
 Bold, in the above, by HSIB.

Ice thickening under Mo

So, when Maurice Greenberg, CEO of Starr International, launched a lawsuit against the government for wrongful appropriation of Starr's property (its shares of insurance giant AIG), all the wise guys said it was a joke;
This week, we have witnessed one of the odder lawsuits in recent memory: that of Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former CEO and one of the largest shareholders of the American International Group, against the U.S. government.....
The case undoubtedly has entertainment value.  ....

Greenberg is likely to lose his case, and for good reason.
Look who's skating on the thin ice now (according to Insurance Journal);

Documents At End of AIG Bailout Testimony Could Aid Greenberg

 That's the headline that precedes the fact that those documents support Greenberg's contentions.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s legal advisers sought to devise ways to avoid accountability to shareholders in the 2008 bailout of American International Group Inc., according to evidence introduced at the end of trial testimony over terms of the rescue.
“We succeeded in finding a structure that allows the trust to gain control of the company without shareholder votes,” John Brandow, an outside lawyer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, wrote in one of the documents summarized in the trial of ex-AIG chairman Maurice Greenberg’s lawsuit against the U.S.
We won't know for some time yet how the judge will eventually rule--lawyers for both sides have 75 days to  summarize their conclusions of what the evidence shows, before closing arguments--but, the joke appears to be on the wise guys at Slate.

Tuesday Morning riot blogging

From Volume VI of the Grand Jury report of State of Missouri v. Darren Wilson, Witness #10 tells the jurors what he observed on a morning last August. The witness was doing some sort of repair or remodeling work on a house in Ferguson Missouri and has walked out to his vehicle to get a tool. He sees Michael Brown with his upper body inside a police car (SUV) and some kind of confrontation taking place between Brown--who the witness had noticed earlier walking in the street, and made an impression on him as being a exceptionally large man--and the police officer sitting behind the wheel.

Then the witness hears a gunshot, followed by Michael Brown running away from the police car. Since the policeman does not immediately exit the vehicle, the man thinks to himself, wow, did I just witness this young guy kill a police officer. Shortly thereafter though, the officer does in fact leave the vehicle and chases after Brown, who has a head start. But, Brown eventually stops and turns around and faces the policeman chasing him.

The witness tells the jurors that Brown's arms are down by his side, and that he makes a 'body gesture' that was not in a surrendering motion of I"m surrendering, putting my hands up or anything.

Then, immediately after that 'body gesture,' Brown came for [sic] force, full charge at the officer.

Which is when the officer opened fire at the NFL-lineman-sized figure charging at him. The 'gentle giant'. The witness, at another point in his testimony says,
Mike Brown continuously came forward in the charging motion and at some point, at one point he started to slow down and he came to a stop. And when he stopped, that's when the officer ceased fire and when he ceased fired [sic], Mike Brown started to charge once more at him. When he charged once more the officer returned fire with, I would say, give an estimate of three to four shots.
Later the witness professes amazement that Brown would stop, turn around and not give himself up.

So naturally, the political powers that be are now excusing last night's rioting as understandable, given the structural racism in, not only Ferguson, Missouri, but in Amerika. We wonder if all the small business owners who lost their livelihoods to vandalism and arson last night, agree.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Evil Emperor emeritus on education

Bill Gates, hereinafter The EEe, himself a college dropout, visits Arizona's Rio Salado College;
Tucked away in an industrial park in Tempe, Rio Salado doesn’t look much like a traditional institute of higher education. There were no students running to class. No ivy-covered walls. Just a couple of glass-faced office buildings.
....The college has just 22 full-time faculty serving 60,000 students, with more than half of them attending their classes online. (The full-time faculty depend on 1,400 part-time teachers who manage individual class sections, review/grade assignments, and consult with students.) Students can start any of the school’s 1,000 courses almost any Monday of the year. Classes cost $84 per credit hour, far less than what other colleges charge.
I also visited the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution with more than 300,000 students, where teachers and staff are working to make online learning even more flexible. ....
If your idea of college is a professor lecturing in front of a classroom full of students, some of these innovations may be surprising, even a little unsettling. But this kind of out-of-the-box thinking is needed to address the challenge facing higher education. College tuition is rising faster than any other cost in the U.S.—pricing many students out of a degree. More than 40 percent of college students drop out, depriving them of the chance to earn more money and leaving the U.S. without the highly-trained workers we need for economic growth. The fact is, we face a real dilemma. We need to educate people in a better way without increasing cost.
[Bold in the above by HSIB]

So, we have The EEe, one of the most spectacularly unequal people on the planet, thinking about ways to improve the educational outcomes for those without his advantages. Better to light one candle than to curse the Pikettyness.

Deliver the Bud in Dodges

Just a suggestion--have John and Horace Dodge (who are all the rage on TV ads just now)  load the beer in their own pick-ups--now that the Clydesdale horse power is benched for Christmas;
Budweiser is putting its Clydesdales out to pasture for the holidays. The country's No. 3 beer brand says the horses will not appear in its traditional holiday advertising this year....
Budweiser used to be the number one brand in the U.S., but its market share is half of what it was in 1988;  According to Beer Marketer's Insights' executive editor Eric Shepard;
"You look around, and we have this huge group of young drinkers, almost half of them have never tried the brand," Shepard said.
Ahead of Thanksgiving, Budweiser has been running ads for its "Holiday Crates" that includes 18-packs of Budweiser bottles. The company says the crates are replicas of those that were used to deliver the beer to retailers after Prohibition. The ads feature younger people dedicating beers to their loved ones.
The Clydesdales have been associated with Budweiser since 1933, when the company introduced them to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition for beer.
Have the kids heard of Prohibition?

Workers' Paradise regained?

Not exactly Miltonian poetry, but we recognize the theology from Dr. Steve Ludlam in The Morning Star;
Much of the recent media commentary on Cuba’s economic reforms highlights the growing private sector, implying a transition to capitalism.
This ignores Cuba’s dominant state sector, its planning system and the role of private enterprise in socialist transition. For socialists, the defining innovation of capitalism is not private property but systematic exploitation of “free” wage labour.
The reforms give management more autonomy and diversify the world of work. So what about the workers and their unions? What is in the 2014 Labour Code and other recent legislation, and what about salaries and job security?
The New Labour Code, replacing the 1985 original, emerged from a mass consultation.
Nearly 70,000 workplace meetings discussed the draft version and the union federation, Ministry of Labour and National Assembly together analysed submissions and agreed changes before the National Assembly debate.
On and on and on, he drones, like a schoolboy reciting his catechism. Eventually though, he ends up admitting;
Cuba’s “special period” of recovery and dual currency since the 1990s crisis undermined salaries and income distribution.
r > g in el paraíso, Prof?
A central objective of the reforms is to restore adequate salaries, and the “socialist principle of distribution” linking incomes to output.
Hey! Wait a minute...aren't salaries supposed to be according to need?

Maybe Herbert Stein was right, if something is unsustainable....But, Amen, amen, and amen;
The challenges would be immeasurably easier to confront without the US blockade.

Last of the Mujicans

At least he is not a limousine leftist;
Uruguay's President Jose Mujica says he's turning down a $1 million offer for his famous 27-year-old Volkswagen Beetle.
Mujica says an Arab sheikh had offered to buy the car, which has become a symbol of Mujica's ostentatiously unpretentious style.
But he told a radio program on Friday that he couldn't sell the sky-blue Volkswagen because it would offend some friends who had given it to him, and he also says he's fond of the car.
But he does know how to put his mouth in reverse;
Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, is backpedaling after calling Mexico a “failed state,” a comment that ruffled diplomatic feathers and caused Mexico to summon Uruguay’s ambassador on Sunday. Mujica issued a statement shortly after the dustup, affirming support for Mexico and confidence in its institutions.
The international spat followed a controversial interview with Mujica published in Foreign Affairs magazine’s Latin America edition Friday. Asked about the turmoil facing Mexico in the aftermath of the kidnapping and apparent murder of 43 students in September, Mujica replied, “It gives one a feeling, viewed from a distance, that this is a kind of failed state, that the public powers have totally lost control; they’ve decayed.”
Just because a Mexican police force turned over some students to a drug lord, to be murdered?
This isn’t the first international gaffe for Uruguay’s president. Last year, Argentina issued a formal complaint against Uruguay after Mujica unknowingly spoke into a live microphone at a press conference, saying, “That old hag’s worse than the cross-eyed one” in reference to Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.
The 79 year old Mujica will be stepping down when his term ends this year. Qué lástima.

Not down with the Kardashians

Nor Pink with pleasure at the thought of living with, is one Thai teen;
"When Kim Kardashian came, she bluntly asked, 'Pink, you want to come live with me?' " Bhudit says. Kim gushed on camera for her show Keeping Up with the Kardashians: "I literally cannot stop thinking about her."
So goes the story of Pink, the impoverished Southeast Asian girl who rejected a new life of wealth and fame under Kardashian's maternal wing. As the Daily Mail reported it, Pink prefers to stay in her orphanage in lieu of becoming the daughter of Kardashian and eccentric rapper Kanye West.
The full story is a bit more complicated.
That the girl isn't an orphan, for one thing, as her mother lives near the group home in which she resides. Still, seeing a rich Beverly Hills diva rejected does one's heart some good.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Secrets of Enver Hoxha's vault

Without Geraldo Rivera presiding over the tedium;
A gigantic, secret bunker that Albania’s communist regime built underground decades ago to survive a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union or the United States has been opened to the public for the first time.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Edi Rama led visitors, including Western ambassadors, on a tour of the never used 106-room, five-story bunker.
It was built by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha near Tirana, the capital, in the 1970s to prepare for a possible nuclear attack by “American imperialism or Soviet social-imperialism.”
To become a tourist attraction, an art gallery, a wine cellar?

The Stranger, then friction

The Seattle PI's Joel Connelly takes note of the end of the honeymoon between Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and the 'alternative' newspaper that once loved her, under a take-no-prisoners headline;

Sawant: Is City Hall the stage for a socialist diva?

Never refuse an interview to socialist-writers who buy ink by the barrel, seems to be the message;
Sawant’s nimbus appears to be wearing thin, even in her amen corner — the alternative press that has sung her praises from one protest to another.
The first sign was a tart, tough farewell column by Anna Minard, who has spent the past year as The Stranger’s City Hall reporter.
Sawant is “ridiculously, mind blowingly smart and fearless,” wrote Minard.  But she went on to depict Sawant as a bit of a socialist diva.
“Her staff is probably the least diverse on the floor and the last time I tried to talk to her, they told me there was a two-week wait time,” Minard wrote.  “That’s insane.  Y’all get your act together, people are noticing and your reputation is to be accessible to the people.”
'The people' = we writers who made you. Another, Weekly writer Ellis Conklin;
...writes that Sawant “plays by her own strange and bewildering rules” in dealing with the media, while alienating council colleagues “with her show-boating and her narcissistic delight in upstaging them at every turn.”
Sawant is up for re-election next year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

El sueño de Rupert Pupkin hace realidad

No kidnapping required either, just a talented funnybone;
“We’re largely self-taught,” says Kevin Prieto, known to his fans as LokOfLucky, who produces comedy sketches with Abigail Frías out of the apartment they share in Jerez, Cádiz province. “We write the scripts, record, and edit, all from home.” Frías’s two channels, Abi Power and Adelita Power, have attracted 300,000 subscribers, and bring in around €500 a month. “I’m not the best known by any stretch, but I am starting to make a living from this,” she adds, explaining that the first target for any would-be video star is 50,000 subscribers, or more than one million views a month.
Successful YouTubers in Spain can earn between €2,000 and €3,000 a month, especially if they know tricks of the trade such as when to post their videos. “Prime time is between 10pm and 11pm, because of the Americans,” says Rogel.
Toni Garrido, a veteran radio talk show host, says leading YouTubers in the United States make between $500,000 and $5 million a year. Hoping to take a slice of the cake, he’s just opened the Spanish affiliate of Maker Studios, an American company that is now the biggest producer and distributor of YouTube content in the world. Maker’s network attracts around 153 million visits a month in Spain, the company says. “This is a medium that is creating a lot of expectation,” says Garrido. Disney has just forked out $950 million to buy Maker.
They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian....

Is Boris Badenov?

To thumb his nose at the taxman in the USA while occupying the high profile job of Mayor of London;
Boris Johnson, London’s outspoken mayor who is tipped as a potential successor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has picked a fight with an unlikely adversary: Uncle Sam.
The American-born British politician has made headlines in the U.K. after saying he would refuse to pay a U.S. tax bill. He has been hit with a bill for an undisclosed sum relating to capital gains on the sale of his home [in the UK], he told National Public Radio in an interview Nov. 13.
“The United States comes after me, would you believe it, for capital gains tax on the sale of your first residence, which is not taxable in Britain,” Mr. Johnson said during an interview to promote his biography of wartime leader Winston Churchill. ....
Mr. Johnson added that he doesn’t intend to pay. “I think it’s absolutely outrageous. Why should I?”
The 50-year-old left America when he was five years old but continues to hold both a U.S. and a British passport. As a result, he is liable for tax in both jurisdictions.
Maybe he can apply to Barack Obama for amnesty.

Church of What's Happening in Utah

It's a strain[er] on The First Amendment, but Pastafarianism is okay with the DMV;
A Utah woman says she encountered only brief resistance when she recently had her driver’s license photo taken while wearing a colander on her head as a religious statement.
Asia Lemmon, whose legal name appears on her driver’s license as Jessica Steinhauser, said the pasta strainer represents her beliefs in the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
....Nannette Rolfe, the director of Utah’s Driver License Division, said about a dozen Pastafarians have had their state driver’s license photos taken with a similar colander or pasta strainer on their heads in recent years.
“As long as we can get a visual of the face, we’re fine if they choose to wear the headgear,” she said.
Hats and headgear are not allowed for driver’s license photos unless they’re religious garments, Rolfe said.
Ms. Steinhauser is a (presumably) retired porn star, so maybe she will be able to commercialize her religious beliefs in the grand tradition;

Great Air Bag Cover-up of '14

Remind us, whose idea was it to mandate having explosive devices inside every automobile being driven in the U.S.?

Honda has said it’s verified three deaths and 45 injuries related to Takata air bags and is studying two more. Senators today suggested a death in 2003 in Arizona may be tied to the flaw, raising total fatalities to six.
Automakers are required to notify NHTSA of a defect within five days of detection and move toward a recall to fix it, or face a $35 million fine and possible criminal charges. Vehicle owners aren’t required to get those cars and trucks fixed.
In a highly publicized case that Honda is still evaluating to determine if it’s linked to the defect, Hien Tran, 51, died Oct. 2 after debris from the deployment of the air bag in her 2001 Honda Accord caused gashes on her throat that police initially thought were signs of a murder. The recall notice for her vehicle arrived after she died, a lawyer for her family said. The Tran family sued Honda and Takata this week.
But Honda had no choice about putting a dangerous device inside its cars, the U.S. congress mandated it back in the 1990s. Many asked at the time--the air bag was first conceived as a safety device in 1952--why auto purchasers couldn't have the freedom to buy, or not buy, a car with an air bag? Why should something that GM and Ford found didn't sell--the marketplace test of the costs v. the benefits--be forced upon an unwilling public?

Now that the inevitable has happened; people being killed by the air bags, the blame is placed on the manufacturers for having less than perfect mechanical devices in their cars. Not upon the politicians and activists who mandated them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Commies for Profit

Unfair to Royal Mail! They have a right to unconscionable profit, don't they;
PROFITS at Royal Mail have plummeted following the government’s cheap sell-off of the service to privateers, the company revealed yesterday.

The firm blamed the “harsh realities” of competition for the pre-tax profit fall to £218 million in the six months to September 28 from £233m a year earlier.

Royal Mail’s shares slumped 8 per cent yesterday and are down 30 per cent from a peak in February.
We can't have the market immiserating those investors, can we?
CWU [Communications Workers Union] deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: “We need (regulatory body) Ofcom to perform its primary statutory duty by urgently reviewing the threat competition poses to the universal postal service.

“We’d like to see a cap put on competition to Royal Mail. The results today are proof that direct delivery competition is damaging the financial sustainability of the universal postal service.”

Papal infallability

It almost never fails, whenever i Papi engage in economic analysis, they look foolish (and should lose their moral authority);
Market speculation and pursuit of profits are hindering the global fight against hunger and poverty, Pope Francis said Thursday (Nov. 20).
In an address at a U.N. conference in Rome on nutrition, the pope urged the world’s wealthiest nations to do more to help those in need.
More than the massive increase in the amount of food available thanks to The Green Revolution?
“Perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry,” the pope told delegates from more than 170 countries attending the global gathering at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Other than by Norman Borlaug, you mean?
“It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by ‘market priorities,’” the pope said.
When the reality is that it was market priorities that led to the near-eradication of famine worldwide. Obesity is now a major health problem in most of the world.
“The hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognized as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.”
We ask for religious leaders who might have read a little of the economics literature, before mouthing their platitudes about 'the poor'.Or even, read Bill Gates' blog.

Barack can have the bragging rights

Somehow we don't think he'll be taking credit for saving this for GM;
GM said it would invest an additional 500 million euros ($626 million) in Opel facilities in Germany and Poland.
Visiting the Opel headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Germany, on Thursday, Chief Executive Mary Barra said the money would go into the production of new engines and gearboxes, with Opel locations in Kaiserslautern in Germany and Tychy in neighboring Poland also to profit from the parent company's investment drive.
"Opel is of great strategic importance for us," Barra said in a statement, adding that the additional resources now being made available should be understood as a signal of GM's full commitment to it European subsidiary.
Well, rescuing the auto industry was all about jobs, jobs, jobs. So, happy?

Google 'engineer' II

This, from Koningstein and Fork, would make Friedrich Hayek smile;
In the electricity sector, that bottom line comes down to the difference between the cost of generating electricity and its price. In the United States alone, we’re aiming to replace about 1 terawatt of generation infrastructure over the next 40 years. This won’t happen without a breakthrough energy technology that has a high profit margin. Subsidies may help at first, but only private sector involvement, with eager money-making investors, will lead to rapid adoption of a new technology. Each year’s profits must be sufficient to keep investors happy while also financing the next year’s capital investments. With exponential growth in deployment, businesses could be replacing 30 gigawatts of installed capacity annually by 2040.
Which is using society's knowledge for the betterment of same: ...the "data" from which the economic calculus starts are never for the whole society "given" to a single mind which could work out the implications and can never be so given. Back to the Google Guys;
We’re glad that Google tried something ambitious with the RE<C initiative, and we’re proud to have been part of the project. But with 20/20 hindsight, we see that it didn’t go far enough, and that truly disruptive technologies are what our planet needs. To reverse climate change, our society requires something beyond today’s renewable energy technologies. Fortunately, new discoveries are changing the way we think about physics, nanotechnology, and biology all the time. While humanity is currently on a trajectory to severe climate change, this disaster can be averted if researchers aim for goals that seem nearly impossible.
And has the courage to put its future in the hands of the entrepreneurs. Not the politicians.

And we'd be remiss not to mention this prescient 2010 Knowledge  Problem post by Lynne Kiesling;
Yesterday Google announced that their ever-growing sustainability strategy now includes investing in wind generation. Although they pursue these opportunities through their philanthropic arm, they claim that they are looking for meaningful returns on their investments in addition to their sustainability impact:
....I do wonder, though, if such clean tech investments stretch the economies of scope in Google’s strategy. I’d love to know the exact arguments they have made internally in deciding on these renewable generation investments. While I think they take advantage of the expected policy environment (renewable portfolio standards, etc.), these investments are pretty different from Google’s traditional areas.

Google 'engineer'

And find a couple of budding economists (Ross Koningstein and David Fork) who think about costs and benefits when they think about Global Warming/Climate Change;
[Google project] RE [renewable energy]<C [coal] invested in large-scale renewable energy projects and investigated a wide range of innovative technologies, such as self-assembling wind turbine towers, drilling systems for geothermal energy, and solar thermal power systems, which capture the sun’s energy as heat. For us, designing and building novel energy systems was hard but rewarding work. By 2011, however, it was clear that RE<C would not be able to deliver a technology that could compete economically with coal, and Google officially ended the initiative and shut down the related internal R&D projects. Ultimately, the two of us were given a new challenge. Alfred Spector, Google’s vice president of research, asked us to reflect on the project, examine its underlying assumptions, and learn from its failures.
Bold by HSIB (and a hat tip to an e-mail correspondent who knows who he is). Now, on to their reflections;
What’s needed, we concluded, are reliable zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over soon—say, within the next 40 years. Let’s face it, businesses won’t make sacrifices and pay more for clean energy based on altruism alone. Instead, we need solutions that appeal to their profit motives. RE<C’s stated goal was to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, but clearly that wouldn’t have been sufficient to spur a complete infrastructure changeover.  [again, our bold]
No, for that you need the help of someone like Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller, who wrote about Finance and the Good Society. Koningstein and Fork do their own back of the envelope calculations though;
Consider an average U.S. coal or natural gas plant that has been in service for decades; its cost of electricity generation is about 4 to 6 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. Now imagine what it would take for the utility company that owns that plant to decide to shutter it and build a replacement plant using a zero-carbon energy source. The owner would have to factor in the capital investment for construction and continued costs of operation and maintenance—and still make a profit while generating electricity for less than $0.04/kWh to $0.06/kWh.
Still not there yet;
That’s a tough target to meet. But that’s not the whole story. Although the electricity from a giant coal plant is physically indistinguishable from the electricity from a rooftop solar panel, the value of generated electricity varies. In the marketplace, utility companies pay different prices for electricity, depending on how easily it can be supplied to reliably meet local demand.
“Dispatchable” power, which can be ramped up and down quickly, fetches the highest market price. Distributed power, generated close to the electricity meter, can also be worth more, as it avoids the costs and losses associated with transmission and distribution. Residential customers in the contiguous United States pay from $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh, a significant portion of which pays for transmission and distribution costs. And here we see an opportunity for change. A distributed, dispatchable power source could prompt a switchover if it could undercut those end-user prices, selling electricity for less than $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh in local marketplaces. At such prices, the zero-carbon system would simply be the thrifty choice.
The 'solution' has to meet the test in the marketplace. I.e. has to be valuable enough for the customers to buy it.

More to follow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

If this was a prize fight...

Thomas Piketty's corner should throw in the towel. Following on the heels of Deirdre McCloskey's devastation of Inequalityland, come this from David Dollar, Tatjana Kleineberg and Aart Kraay;
For all of the social welfare functions we consider, social welfare, on average, increases equiproportionately with increases in average incomes. This reflects the fact that changes in the relevant inequality measures are not systematically correlated with changes in average incomes. For all but the most bottom-sensitive social welfare functions, the relationship between growth in social welfare and growth in average incomes is also very tight, in the sense that data points cluster closely to the 45-degree line [in an accompanying graph]. This reflects the fact that changes in inequality are small, meaning that variation across episodes in inequality accounts for only a small fraction of the variation across episodes in changes in social welfare. And this, in turn, implies that the additional growth in average incomes required to ‘compensate’ – in terms of social welfare growth – for a typical increase in inequality is, on average, quite small.
Their conclusion;
The main policy message of our work is to underscore the importance of overall economic growth for improvements in social welfare. Inequality may be a ‘hot’ current topic, but inequality changes in most countries over the past thirty years have been small, while differences in average growth performance have been large. 
Which means that Elizabeth Warren would be a disaster if she ever got any real power (not that Hillary Clinton would be much less destructive).
 With growing pressure to ‘do something’ about inequality, it is important that policymakers are careful to avoid undermining growth in the quest for greater equality, as policies that raise equality at the expense of lower growth may be self-defeating in the sense of not improving social welfare. 
Cutting off one's nose....

You'll have to answer to the NEA for this, Jack

ISIS may have finally outraged the wrong people;
BAGHDAD — ISIS has announced monthly taxes on students attending schools and colleges in Iraq's second-largest city, parents and a security official said Wednesday. Iraqi government schools have been state-funded since 1974. But parents in Mosul — which ISIS militants now control — have been told they must pay 25,000 Iraqi dinars (about $21) for every child attending kindergarten, 50,000 dinars ($42) for high-school students and 75,000 dinars ($62.50) for college undergraduates, a mother of three and another father-of-three told NBC News.
Senator Patty Murray (who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nat'l Education Assn.) could not be reached for comment.

YouGov, don't quit your day job

[Yes, Prime Minister's Jim] Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; And The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Survey says;
A typical Morning Star reader is a working-class cat-owner whose favourite band is Pussy Riot, data from polling company YouGov has claimed.
The agency launched YouGov Profiler yesterday, a new tool which generates a user profile for brands, groups and organisations.
Based on a sample of 52 members of YouGov's panel who read the people's paper, it has generated a picture of "Morning Star Man."
He - and he is apparently likely to be male - lives in London, Yorkshire or the south coast and has less than £125 of spare income each month.
He is most likely to work in manufacturing - though law and the Civil Service are close runners up.
His favourite dishes are mutter paneer, lentil casserole and classic cheese and onion pasty and he shops at the Co-op.
Clad in Levi's jeans and a much-hated Primark jumper, he plays chess and keenly follows rugby league.
Morning Star Man is likely to make statements such as: "Basically, Marx was right." [bold by HSIB]
Thomas Piketty didn't even get second banana billing?