Saturday, February 28, 2015

Was Augusto Pinochet a Villain or Hero for Chile?

For the PanAm Post, it is still unresolved, apparently. Some even denying that Pinochet and Chile had any real enemies;
I was born in Chile, and lived under Allende and Pinochet. So according to you, then I saw things all wrong and I never saw anyone get arrested or killed, and the truth commissions currently being held in Chile now are all lies and communist propaganda.
Next you will quote me from the NY Times that Victor Jara was never murdered by Pinochet-he staged his death so he could move into a house with Elvis in the Bahamas, and that Contreras is innocent and that DINA was not a murderous secret police, but really just a late night food delivery service. Next you will tell me no prisoners were ever held by Pinochet at the National Stadium in Santiago and show me the FIFA report to confirm this. Villa Grimaldi was just a country club and that elections were held every year when Pinochet was in power and that he never tried to stage another dictatorship the night he lost the plebiscite.  You are truly delusional.
 Javier (the author of the above comment) seems determined to miss the point that no one disputes that people get killed during wars. And did in the civil war in Chile after the overthrow of Salvador Allende's Wanna-be-like-Fidel regime. One wonders who Javier thinks the people fighting Pinochet were, peaceful demonstrators petitioning for redress of grievance?

No, in most cases they were armed and dangerous Marxist guerillas. Whether they called themselves MIR, ERP, Tupamaros or Montoneros, they were armed and trained in Cuba or by Cubans to destabilize not only Chile, but Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and several other countries. There were thousands of them in Chile before and after the military overthrew Allende in 1973.

Back in October of 1970, just after Salvador Allende was named as the winner of the Presidency in Chile, there was this exchange on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, among the host and his guests Selden Rodman and Georgie Anne Geyer--who knew Allende so well that she used to go swimming with him and his Cuban girlfriend at the Veradero Beach Club in Havanna almost every day when the both lived in Cuba in 1966 (transcript from the Hoover Institution);
Mr. Buckley: But does Allende, himself, allude to the Cuban situation -- does he say, I want to make things the way they have them in Cuba?
Miss Geyer: Very often.
Mr. Buckley: Yes.

Miss Geyer: When I was there in June, he gave a speech and said very clearly -- I was there -- he said, when I'm elected, we will have the revolutionary axis between Havana and Santiago. And, whenever I have talked to him, which is a half-dozen times over the years, he has always made it very, very clear -- that I don't think there is any --well, his admiration for Fidel is almost worshipful. And, at times....
Mr. Rodman: When the exiles from Che's adventure in Bolivia escaped into Chile, Allende took them personally by plane to Havana, because he thought that they were the heroes of his movement.
And those heroes returned to fight Pinochet again and again. Even into the 1980s, as they almost succeeded in killing Pinochet with a rocket attack on his motorcade in 1986.

Hey, Augusto, take it like a man!, says Javier.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Getty when the Getty is good

Then the comrades forget about it and whine, What have you done for us lately;
STRIKING National Gallery staff stormed to super-rich boss Mark Getty’s private gallery yesterday, vowing to keep him in the spotlight until hated privatisation plans are ditched.
Employees are fighting plans to outsource security and visitor services staff to privateer contractors.
A lunchtime rally saw workers brave torrential rain to march from their Trafalgar Square home to the Getty Images gallery, off Oxford Street, which is owned by board of trustees’ chairman Mr Getty.
Leading the charge, PCS culture sector president Clara Paillard slammed Mr Getty’s firm for making money from selling copyrights to cultural institutions.
But what has Mr. Getty done with his money? As this 2001 Guardian piece makes clear, donate it to the arts;
News that a new generation of the Getty dynasty has taken up the family hobby of giving large amounts of money to good causes will bring joy to the directors of cash-strapped museums and galleries.
It emerged yesterday that the Getty responsible for a £10m gift to the National Gallery is Mark, 41-year-old heir to part of one of the largest oil fortunes in the world, son of John Paul Getty II, and grandson of John Paul Getty I.
Which is in addition to the 50 million Pounds Mark's father donated in 1985. When the money could have gone to the Getty Foundation's own museum in California.

But, for the comrades at Morning Star that's all in the past. Now it's class war;
[PCS union head Clara Paillard] called for culture to be valued as a public good and a means of resistance. “Our aim is to use art as a weapon,” she told onlookers.
There's a precedent for that;

Down and down I go

That ol' magia negra of Venezuela isn't petroleum, but their monetary policy;
The bolívar has plummeted into a free fall in recent years, Ricardo Hausmann said on Wednesday, head of the Center for International Development at Harvard University.
“It took one year to fall from 50 to 100 [Bs. per dollar], and five months to go from 100 to 200,” he tweeted. Hausmann forecasts that if the current trend continues, by December the bolívar will be traded at 800 Bs. per dollar in the black market.
It now takes 214 bolivars to buy one dollar, making a one hundred bolivar note worth less than $ 0.50. That's the market's verdict on Maduro's latest monetary scheme;
This news comes after President Maduro announced on Tuesday, February 10, a new currency exchange system, named the Marginal System of Foreign Currency (Simadi) and effective since February 19.
“With the new system we are putting an end to the mafia of the black dollar,” Maduro said. “This is why I created the Simadi. This is why I created an exchange system to protect the people.”
At its initiation, the exchange rate was 172 bolivars for one US dollar. Since then it's dropped by about 19%. Stop the protection racket, Nick!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Greeks baring guff

Ekathimerini says that Syriza lost its gamble...big time;
Greece has diluted at least five of its key electoral promises in the face of implacable German-led opposition to its stance. There's been no extension of the country's debt repayment timetable; Greece is still a ward of the troika, even if its guardians now go by a different name (they're now referred to as the [institutions]); there's no rollback of the previous government's economic reforms; cash allocated to the domestic banking system won't be diverted to alleviating economic hardship; and the need to achieve a sensible budget surplus has been acknowledged.
Who won?
Those concessions might prove to be a tough sell for Syriza at home given its election strategy. But they're very helpful if, for example, you're Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and you face an election by the end of the year. Rajoy's People's Party has about 30 percent of voter support in the most recent opinion polls, with the anti-austerity Podemos part on 26 percent; other recent polls have shown Podemos in the lead.
So the Spanish government can say, Podemos is Syriza, and look what happened to them. Also;
If Greece had been able to wring concessions from its euro peers, opposition parties in other countries -- Portugal also has elections this year, Ireland goes to the ballot box next year, while Italy's coalitions are notoriously unstable -- might have used them as evidence that abandoning austerity is an acceptable economic strategy within the euro region. Instead, Germany has underscored to voters across the continent -- again, rightly or wrongly -- that the euro zone won't accommodate all economic points of view.
Germany; the Master Race after all.

I didn't bill that

No way. Maybe some other Gruber. I've always been on the straight and narrow
Vermont officials ignored "obvious signs" of problematic billing by health care economist Jonathan Gruber, the state auditor said in a memo released Monday.
Gruber's invoices lacked important details and claimed dubious numbers of work hours as he prepared economic models for a single-payer health care system — but state officials failed to scrutinize the invoices, Auditor Doug Hoffer wrote.
Hoffer said he was referring the matter to Attorney General William Sorrell, who said in an interview that the auditor raised "serious questions."
The Vermont auditor is sceptical about the ability of Gruber and his team to actually work the number of hours they claim they did;
Gruber submitted two consecutive invoices in September and October claiming the exact same figures — 100 hours for Gruber at $500 per hour, and 500 hours for his research assistants at $100 per hour. Only one research assistant worked on the project, according to the auditor's report.
That one research assistant would have had to work about 115 hours per week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's the matter with Kansas trial lawyers?

Crocodile tears, wethinks;
“From a trial lawyer standpoint, I can’t think of anything more tragic than having a case come out of this,” Ronald Pope, senior partner at Ralston, Pope & Diehl LLC said in an interview yesterday from his Topeka office. “It would be nice if we could stop that first tragic poster child from getting hurt.”
That's basketball;
Video showed coaches being pushed into tables and fans colliding with players when Kansas State fans rushed the court after a 70-63 home win two nights ago against No. 8 Kansas.
.... Though no one was seriously hurt two nights ago, Kansas coach Bill Self said in his post-game news conference that a number of fans ran into or hit his players.
“This has got to stop,” Self said. “Somebody is going to hit a player, the player is going to retaliate, you’re going to have lawsuits — it’s not right.”

Smile, though your dentist's heart is breaking

At least in North Carolina, where you'll not have to wonder where the yellow went;
The [US] Supreme Court on Wednesday effectively rejected North Carolina’s tight control over the lucrative teeth-whitening business.
In a divided decision that polishes up the court’s free market credentials, six justices agreed the Federal Trade Commission can charge the dentist-dominated North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners with “anticompetitive and unfair” actions.
“Active market participants cannot be allowed to regulate their own markets free from antitrust accountability,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
Talk about splitting eye-teeth, in 1943 a different Supreme Court ruled that the California raisin industry could restrict competition through just such an industry controlled board. Now, it's that teeth aren't raisins.

Read more here:

Great George Reeves' Ghost!

Back in the good old days, American schoolchildren learned their lessons in public morality in half hour bites;
Crooks have constructed a small mobile "town." They use it as a speed trap to snare money from unsuspecting motorists and, for bigger game, as a way to hijack trucks carrying valuable merchandise. After two hijackings, Lois Lane comes upon the "town" and is captured. Now, Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen and Inspector Bill Henderson are trying to track her down. After they, too, are incarcerated, Clark turns into Superman to shut down the criminal operation.
Look, up in Seattle! Not a Mayberry RFD, but a woonerf;
When Seattle converted four blocks of a car-crammed Belltown street into a parklike boulevard last year, the purpose was to bring a touch of slow-paced Mayberry to the big city.
Well, we got some Mayberry all right. In the form of Andy and Barney handing out $124 tickets to befuddled motorists.
Where's a superhero when a motorist needs one;
“It’s a money grab, pure and simple,” he said. “It’s deceptive. It never ceases to amaze me the little ways this city comes up with to punish its citizens.”
That observation comes from a local businessman who has clearly been around the (four) block(s).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Piketty: 'Nevermind'

Timothy Taylor summarizes the results of a symposium in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (which he edits):
In case you didn't catch all that, Piketty is noting that r>g is not useful for discussing income inequality, and does not necessarily lead to wealth inequality, and that the future of wealth inequality is highly uncertain.  
So, the best selling book Piketty published last year have said; 
"This fundamental inequality [r > g] will play a crucial role in this book. In a sense, it sums up the overall logic of my conclusions."
And it's no longer the case that r>g is a fundamental force of divergence nor the fundamental tendencies of capitalist economies.

Not that that is going to dissuade Piketty from his promoting socialism, as he tells friends on the left;
All the big revolutions engendered a big tax reform. Take the French Revolution, the American Revolution, or World War One: although it was not a fiscal revolution initially, through the Bolshevik Revolution, it had a huge impact on the acceptance of a progressive tax regime and more generally social welfare institutions after World War One – and even more so after World War Two. These were fiercely opposed by the elite and by the right just before these shocks, so this shows that we need a big fight and sometimes violent shocks to make progressive tax accepted. It would be a big mistake to think of progressive taxation as a technocratic process that comes quietly from a minister and experts. This is not at all the history of taxation.
Piketty likes his omelettes made with broken eggs.
I think we also need to have new forms of governance and capital ownership. For instance, in the book I mention the difference between the private and social value of capital in corporations .... Therefore developing new forms of ownership, new forms of sharing of power between those who own capital and those who own their labor, is extremely important to me. .... We need progressive taxation of private capital, and at the same time, a new thinking of what capital ownership means and how we organize its owners.
Does that mean he is going to give back his millions of dollars and euros in royalties?

Monday, February 23, 2015

There's critics and there's boxoffice

And then, notes the Daily Mail, there is the Academy;


  1. Guardians of the Galaxy ($332.8m)
  2. Hunger Games: Mockingjay ($306.7m)
  3. Captain America ($259.8m)
  4. The LEGO Movie ($257.8m)
  5. Transformers($245.4m)
  6. Maleficent ($241.4m)
  7. X-Men Days Of Future Past ($233.9m)
  8. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes ($208m)
None of which got nominated for Best Picture. The winner, Birdman, grossed ($36 million) about one-tenth of Guardians of the Galaxy. The top grossing film among the nominees for Best Picture was Clint Eastwood's American Sniper at $312 million (released in 2015)--which was more than the other seven nominees combined. It garnered one Oscar, for sound editing.

For the poor ye shall have with you always

Especially if they work for the Church of England;
The Church of England was accused of double standards by a newspaper and lawmakers on Monday for offering jobs in cathedrals at lower wages than those it has called on other British employers to pay their workers.
The Sun found several ads for work in the cathedrals that pay less than the living wage the bishops have been criticizing others for not meeting.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the Church recognised that no employer could ramp up wages overnight, and was working hard to get to a point where it was paying all of its workers the living wage.
"It's embarrassing. We'd prefer to be there. We're getting there as quickly as we can," Welby, the spiritual head of the 80-million strong Anglican communion, told the BBC.
Where the archbishop is planning on finding the money went unsaid.

More equality needed

When do the Oscars go to ugly women? When will the bit players be honored for their service to the industry? Or their incomes rise to anything near those of the stars?

Will Patricia pledge to never use her award to leverage a three picture deal for exorbitant points?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Nancy with the laughed at face

I can't believe you're this dumb?
February 19, First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers Miguel Díaz-Canel received Nancy Pelosi, Democratic minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, who led a delegation of Congress members which arrived in Cuba on Tuesday, the 17.
Discussed during the meeting were the updating of Cuba’s economic model, Cuba-US relations, and prospects for a Congressional debate on lifting the blockade.
Now all she needs to have explained to her; what an economic model is.

We need our sleep, Boris

London's mayor proposes that his city is grown-up enough to stay awake all night;
Speaking alongside Tory Chancellor George Osborne at the Tate Modern gallery, Mr [Boris] Johnson said the new plans “will ensure we keep the capital’s economy moving well into the 21st century.”
Naturally, them's fightin' words;
But RMT [Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers] general secretary Mick Cash said the announcement was a “blatant pre-election stunt” and described the lack of consultation as “ridiculous.”
“RMT is not opposed to extended running but there are massive issues on staffing, safety and maintenance which have not been addressed and which would need to be signed off by our reps,” he said.
Who's in charge here, anyway?

Painful truth

In Venezuela, hurry up and suffer (Urgente, ayuda) for the sin of having voted for the Bolivarian Revolution. In Maduroland, fifteen year old leukemia patients have to beg on social media for medications;
“Urgent: Williannys Avila, 15 years old, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia requires medication. Telephone: 04128995443.”
Fortunately, there are charities in the worker's paradise;
The crisis has been met with various attempts by desperate Venezuelans to secure medicines, including the intervention of charitable groups. In October 2013, local NGO the Heart Foundation created a Medicines Bank in the industrial hub of Valencia, some 150 kilometers southwest of Caracas. Residents are invited to donate unwanted medical supplies to distribution centers around the city.
The foundation updates lists of the medicines it has in stock weekly. “In the last 10 months, people have donated around 7,600 medicines, and we currently have 7,500 in the inventory. We supply people with around 1,500 items of medication per month,” Heart Foundation President Rifat Richani told the PanAm Post.
Gee, what happened to all those wonderful Cuban doctors Castro sent?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Monopsonists an endangered species?

Wages are rising across America;
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to boost pay for its U.S. employees to at least $10 an hour by next year, well above the minimum wage, signaling a tightening labor market and rising competition for lower-paid workers.
And not just Wal-Mart;
Companies say they are having to fight harder to attract and keep good employees. Starbucks Corp. raised its starting pay last month, and Aetna Inc. said it would begin paying its lowest-rung workers $16 an hour in April. Gap Inc. last year said it would raise starting pay to $10 an hour. Others such as Costco Wholesale, Hobby Lobby and IKEA Group tout that all their workers earn more than the minimum wage.
Mike Bufano, senior vice president for planning at Panera Bread Co. , told investors this month that the bakery-cafe chain is paying higher wages across the board, citing a war for talent. 
Well, we guess that George Stigler's high school must be worried;

  1. Menzie Chinn Post author
    Patrick R. Sullivan: I take it you are being sarcastic when you characterize monopsony in the low wage labor market as useful. I guess Stigler (who graduated from my high school! And incidently won a Nobel prize) thought it was useful.

My way

The Attorney General of the state of Washington isn't going to overlook even one 70 year-old flower seller exercising her freedom of religion;
In light of yesterday’s Benton County Superior Court ruling that a Richland florist violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act by refusing to serve a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers in 2013, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson today released the following statement:
“My primary goal has always been to bring about an end to the Defendants’ unlawful conduct and to make clear that I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Ferguson.
“Before this case began, my office wrote to Ms. Stutzman, asking her to comply with state law.  Had she agreed to no longer discriminate, my office would not have filed suit, and Ms. Stutzman would not have paid any costs, fees or penalties.
“After lengthy proceedings, the court has ruled, the law is clear, and the state prevailed on all counts.
“Today, I am prepared to settle this matter for a penalty of $2,000 under the Consumer Protection Act, a $1 payment for costs and fees, an agreement not to discriminate in the future, and an end to further litigation.
“I have asked my legal team to craft and present a formal settlement offer to the defendants including these elements.”
Ignoring that the AG's summary of the facts ('refusing to serve a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers') is wrong, we wonder if the oath of office he took contained a pledge to defend the U.S. Constitution? Which includes the words, 'Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise of religion.'

The anti-capitalist mentality

It's baaack! In courtrooms, says Insurance Journal;
Huge jury verdicts against companies over fatal flaws in their products made a comeback last year, which may foretell more bad news for carmakers with defective parts.
Absent for a decade, billion-dollar verdicts returned in product defect suits in 2014. The largest was for $23.6 billion in favor of the family of a smoker who died at 36. Coming in second was one for $9 billion to a New Yorker who linked his bladder cancer to a diabetes medication.
Probably one indicator of the success of Obamanomics. Class envy among jurors, stoked by venal litigators;
“People now come into the jury room really suspicious, instead of wondering is this ambulance-chasing lawyer trying to squeeze money out of a company,” said Erik Gordon, a law and business professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Jurors now come in expecting to hear a story of corporate wrong-doing and are being very receptive to these stories.”
And then return exorbitant amounts in punitive damages. Which are inevitably thrown out on appeal, as having no basis in reality. By which time the warm fuzzy glow of sticking it to the man has probably worn off too. Though the lingering effects on the economy--which we all pay for in higher prices--remain.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

You don't do the math

If you do, the California insurance commissioner will get you;
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones on Wednesday issued a notice to property/casualty insurers doing business in California advising them that so-called “price optimization” in rate making is unfairly discriminatory and violates the law.
For a little background;
CFA [Consumer Federation of America] is further alleging that to get around risk-based pricing restrictions in place in most states, the insurance industry has been surreptitiously using an economic concept “elasticity of demand” – an economic measure to show response to demand for goods or service in relationship to price changes – to optimize prices to maximize profit without clearly disclosing the process to state regulators.
Of course, throttling the market always results in lower prices. 

Sticking it to their knitting

Well, there'll always be a Scotland;
GUERILLA knitters have staged a “yarn bombing” attack on bollards and chicanes on paths in Dumfries to “protect” them from cyclists and walkers.
A series of reflective knitted bollard covers and arrows mysteriously appeared on cycle paths around the town overnight.
The Bollard (and Chicane) Protection Authority, which described itself as “a group of concerned street furniture lovers” has claimed responsibly.
The group said it had acted to highlight poorly-positioned obstructions.
Translated from the Scotese;

 But the authorities don't give a yarn;
Dumfries and Galloway Council dismissed the yarns as litter.
A spokesman said: “If the positioning of bollards and other street furniture is an issue for people, they should raise the matter with the council directly.
“However colourful the yarn may be, it is littering and will be removed as part of ongoing maintenance.”

Living the dream

Carlos Sabino has a take on Venezuela that won't surprise long-time readers of HSIB;
I’ve had the dubious fortune to experience life in two countries that claimed to be marching towards socialism. I was in Chile between 1971 and 1972 when President Salvador Allende led a government attempting to create a socialist state of freedom. I lived in Venezuela from 1974 until President Hugo Chávez set course towards the “sea of happiness” that was nothing other than the Cuban socialist model. [our bold]
In both cases I had to put up with lines outside stores provoked by shortages, government-backed violence, and a harsh daily existence in which every instant was dedicated to hunting down basic products and food.
Which the authorities blame on capitalists;
A few days ago, Jorge Giordani, who was hailed for years as the “czar” of the Venezuelan economy, said that the country had lost its wealth, and that the “bureaucracy, ignorance, and incompetence” of the regime had brought it to the brink of catastrophe.
However, Giordani took care to add that these evils belonged to “the capitalist system” itself. I wasn’t surprised: I knew Giordani when we both lectured at Venezuela’s Central University. He was a sorry sight: a firm defender of the regime in North Korea, he repeated insipid doctrines to deceive his students instead of educating them.
Socialism is el opio del pueblo.


The state of Washington is so opposed to bigotry that no 70 year old grandmother is safe. And don't think the First Amendment's freedom of religion is any haven;
In his 60-page decision, Ekstrom sided with the state and the couple. “For over 135 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief. In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief,” he wrote.
We can't have The State's religious beliefs questioned by mere citizens. Even if the inconvenience to the complaining couple is trivial, the State must stamp out dissent;
Waggoner, senior counsel with the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement that Ingersoll and Freed “had no problem getting the flowers they wanted. They received several offers for free flowers, and the marketplace gives them plenty of options. Laws that are supposed to prohibit discrimination might sound good, but the government has begun to use these laws to hurt people to force them to conform and to silence and punish them if they don’t violate their religious beliefs on marriage.”
 The defendant herself;
Stutzman said in the same statement that, “I just want the freedom to live and work faithfully and according to what God says about marriage without fear of punishment. Others have the freedom to say or not say what they want to about marriage, and that’s all I’m asking for as well.”
All the comrades are equal, but some comrades have the right to impose their beliefs on others.

All that jazz

Doesn't soothe the savage breast, it seems;
The Islamic State (Isis) propaganda machine has published photos of its militants in Libya burning musical instruments they said were confiscated in line with the radical group's interpretation of Sharia law.

Black-clad gunmen are seen setting fire to a pile of drums, brass and woodwind instruments at a countryside location and then watching the fire burning in images posted online by an Isis media branch.

....Under the jihadi group's rules, instrumental music is banned as well as what it claims are other un-Islamic activities such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

So, natch, they created a nationwide minimum wage

Germany has a problem with poverty and unemployment;
Speaking in the German capital Berlin on Thursday, the chief executive of Germany's Equal Welfare Organization (paritätischem Wohlfahrtsverband), Ulrich Schneider, also warned that the gap between rich and poor states is growing ever-wider.
"Poverty has never been as high and the regional disunity has never run as deep," Schneider said in reference to the 25 years which have past since German reunification.
Within a year, poverty in Germany rose from 15 percent to 15.5 percent in 2013. 
Stop the presses! We've the answer;
"Overall the state ranking shows a ragged republic," Schneider said, adding that a significant increase in state welfare rates and a massive expansion of public employment would be necessary to combat the growing problem.
Last month in Berlin, German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles announced plans to create thousands of jobs for disadvantaged people in Germany.
The plan, which will use 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) from the European Social Fund (ESF), plus 4.3 billion euros from within Germany, involves the creation of 26 programs in the country until 2020.
More government programs, what a novel idea.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

All China Hands on deck

It was really the vision of Harry Dexter White, a figure whose name I've heard of but who turns out to be a rather extraordinary figure in this story and in the ramifications for all kinds of things, including Soviet espionage. Which is really remarkable.
The above is from Russ Roberts during his conversation with Benn Steil, author of The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Which admission we find to be a really remarkable ourselves. Given all the publicity that White's Communist leanings have received in the past few years.

As we've detailed many times before, White's machinations while he was running the Morgenthau Treasury led to China's falling to the Communists. Two of White's Treasury colleagues Frank Coe and Sol Adler eventually defected to Mao's China. Adler lived long enough to enjoy a reunion with his old Chungking flatmate, John Stewart Service, in 1971. So we're going to recommend a little reading for Russ Roberts; our review of the preposterous Honorable Survivor by Lynne Joiner. From which;
A Masterpiece of the Genre
Unfortunately, the genre is Special-Pleading for Joe McCarthy's "Victims". And as well as Ms Joiner does it, she still can't avoid admitting things like;

1. As a U.S. diplomat, John Stewart Service shared a house with two Communist spies in Chungking. Treasury Dept official Sol Adler (who defected to Red China in the 1960s) and the American-trained economist (and Mao-mole) Chi Chao-ting who was working, supposedly, for Chiang Kai-shek's Finance Ministry (but who later turned up as one of Mao's central bankers).

2. Service was in direct, and frequent contact with FDR adviser Lauchlin Currie, who was named by both Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers as a Communist, and appeared in the Venona decrypted cables as 'Page'. Currie took Service's venomously anti-Chiang, pro-Mao dispatches to be read by FDR, as well as passing them on to other Communists and sympathizers (in and out of government). That Service 'eagerly accepted' the role as 'Lauchlin Currie's designated leaker'.

3. On leave from his China post, in Washington DC in 1944, Service briefed State, War, OSS, OWI and other groups. Telling them how well organized the Communists were, how good they were at rescuing downed U.S. pilots from Japanese controlled territory, of their 'enthusiastic willingness to cooperate with the United States in the war effort'. To which, Ms. Joiner had to comment; 'Some listeners thought Service sounded more like an advocate than an observer.'

Hey, so did Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover.
Lauchlin Currie was a Harvard colleague of White, who gave Currie his first job in the U.S. government (at Treasury). From there Currie--a monetary policy specialist--moved to the Federal Reserve, until he joined the White House in 1939 as a special adviser to FDR on China. Who then sent Currie on two personal missions to Chiang Kai-shek in 1941 and 1942.

Currie also convinced FDR to name Owen Lattimore as special adviser to Chiang in 1941.  The same Owen Lattimore who'd visited Mao at Yenan in 1937 in the company of Philip Jaffe. Jaffe was the publisher of the magazine Amerasia, whose offices, when raided by the FBI in 1945, was found to be in the possession of almost 1,000 top secret documents. Some of them obviously given to Jaffe by that honorable survivor, John Stewart Service.

In addition to getting Currie into the government, Harry White also found time to employ, or give employment recommendations for economists Victor Perlo, Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, Harold Glasser, Ludwig Ullman, William Remington. All of whom were Communists and spies.

And, lest we forget, Harry White was the man who provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor too. That's Operation Snow, as in Snow White.

Legal pollution halted

Or at least slowed down somewhat. Chevron wins another round;
On Monday Chevron announced it has reached a settlement with James Russell DeLeon, a leading funder of the fraudulent [Ecuadorian Lago Agria] lawsuit.
This is a deserved humiliation for Mr. DeLeon, a resident of Gibraltar who has said he invested some $23 million to finance left-wing activist Steven Donziger in his Captain Ahab pursuit of Chevron. In return for his cash, Mr. DeLeon was supposed to receive a 7% stake in what was a $9.5 billion judgment in the Ecuador courts against the oil giant.
But Chevron fought back in U.S. courts, and last March federal Judge Lewis Kaplan found the Ecuador ruling was the result of fraud and racketeering and judged it unenforceable in the U.S. Judge Kaplan also found Mr. Donziger liable for racketeering violations, and Chevron filed a claim against Mr. DeLeon in Gibraltar.
De Leon now says he was misled about the facts in the case and wouldn't have agreed to invest in the lawsuit had he know the truth.
The settlement and public mea culpa are also useful rebukes to one of the more unsavory developments in modern law—the investor-backed tort. Politically driven litigants like Mr. Donziger are increasingly turning to wealthy investors to finance their lawsuits against business, however dubious the claims.
Funders figure the advance outlay is worth the risk because most companies settle rather than endure the legal costs and reputational damage of going to court. The funders then get a big and easy payday, like lawyers in a securities derivative suit.
What it does to the citizens of a country like Ecuador, by making it a more dangerous place for foreigners to invest, remains unsettled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pitchers and catchers report...

That they like the strike zone the way it has been since 1996; as low as possible;
Major League Baseball is considering raising the strike zone in an effort to provide a boost for offenses.
The prospect of this rule change would undoubtedly be a huge advantage to the game’s best hitters. Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton lost a league-high 456 slugging points when he swung at low offerings (.263 on low strikes compared with .719 on all other strikes) last season. The league average hitter loses 131 points (.298 compared with .429), according to Stats LLC.
The rule now calls just below the knees a strike, while it used to be that a pitch had to be above the knees. Not that Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson seemed to be stifled by the higher strike zone.

Or would you rather be a fish?

Once thought more likely to swing on a star, or carry moonbeams home in a jar, the Fish and Wildlife folks reverse themselves;
A tiny minnow that lives only in backwaters in Oregon's Willamette Valley is the first fish to be formally removed from Endangered Species Act protection because it is no longer in danger of extinction.
The action comes 22 years after the 3-inch-long fish was first listed as an endangered species....
Hooray! It's safe to go back into the water for the bureaucrats;
Paul Henson, state director for Fish and Wildlife, said the Oregon chub demonstrates that a lot of species can be brought back from the brink of extinction, if key needs are met, such as a safe place to live, even in an urban landscape.
"This doesn't mean that all of a sudden it's hands off, and we never need to do anything for them," Henson said. "But we can at least put them back in the group of species that need attention, but don't need to go into the emergency room of the (Endangered Species Act)."
If that's the kind of life that you wish, you might grow up to be a fish.

Tant pis

Emily Litella would have appreciated this from France's legal system;
Lille prosecutor Frederic Fevre said neither the investigation nor the evidence heard in court had established that he was guilty.
Mr Strauss-Kahn has always denied knowing that women who took part in orgies with him were prostitutes.
The judge must decide whether he did know or if he organised the parties.
The prosecutor says the defendant isn't guilty, but the judge can decide otherwise.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Brother, can you spare a dyne?

West Coast longshoremen are protecting their six figure annual incomes, at the expense of other workingmen;
Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday it has reduced overtime at certain North American plants, but has yet to see a “significant impact” on operations. A Nissan Motor Co. spokesman said Monday that there has been some impact on parts shipments to the West coast, forcing the auto maker to use airfreight to deliver some parts to the U.S.
While large Japanese auto makers have based more car and light truck production in North America, key parts still come from Asia for many vehicles sold in the U.S. market. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, appear to be at an impasse in negotiations as cargo movement has come to a near standstill.
Add Honda, and little Subaru to the American factories being harmed by shortages of component parts. Needless to say, autoworkers in these plants earn far less than your average ILWU worker.

Roland Fryer, meet Tom Sowell

Thanks to Timothy Taylor for linking to this piece; 21st Century Inequality: the Declining Significance of Discrimination. Which finds that if you want to reduce income inequality among adults, start with schooling. Nothing fancy, just reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic;
During the experiment in Houston [public schools], an education commissioner from another state came to tour Robinson elementary school, one of the toughest in the city. He knew Houston and was familiar with Robinson. At the end of the tour, he pulled me aside. He had one question: “Where did you move the kids who used to go to school here?” I said that these are all the same kids, but they behave a lot differently when we do our jobs properly. They are listening. They are learning. They will live up to the expectations that we have for them.
I was a kid who went to broken schools. Thanks to my grandmother and some good luck, I beat the odds. But one success story is not what we want. What we want are rigorously evaluated, replicable, systematic educational practices that will change the odds.
What Fryer found we don't want is...the usual suspects; increased funding, smaller classes and more teacher training. In fact, he found that $20,000 per year retirees could tutor kids just as well as someone with a Masters in Education. That not wasting time in handing out tests and assignments made for more productive use of classroom hours. Even;
For no additional cost you can increase instructional time just by making kids pee more quickly. How cool is that?
 Not rocket science. Not educational gobbledy-gook;
There is nothing special about it. When the film Waiting for Superman came out, people complained that the nation is undersupplied with supermen. But an ordinary nerd like me was able to uncover a simple and readily repeated recipe for progress. Anyone can do this stuff.
Just so many $50 bills laying on the sidewalks, waiting to be picked up.

GrNew Deal

Holger Schmieding and Michael Burda think Greece needs to stick with supply side reforms, but admit a little window dressing for the proles would help;
We have a concrete proposal which allows both sides to save face and avoid the apparently inexorable train wreck. The ‘New Deal for Greece’ would consist of the following steps:
1) Greece refrains from actions that would breach its commitments under the existing programme agreements, and formally asks for an extension to the deadline of the old programme in which details of a new follow-up deal are hammered out.
2) In exchange for continued product and labour market reforms, Europe eases the targets of the Greek primary surplus, focusing less on austerity and intrusive supervision, and more on supply-driven growth.
More specifics followed, but they're sure the answer is in more flexibility in Greek labor markets and less government interference in the economy. Though keeping up appearances is necessary;
Greece raises the minimum wage in stages and links these increases to an improvement in private sector employment, but maintains lower minimum wages for young people and exempts very small enterprises.
Making the minimum wage law moot, for most.

Bush lied, but the CIA buyed

Now that George W. Bush is safely retired, the New York Times finds that the concern about Iraq's WMD program wasn't bogus;
The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The effort was run out of the C.I.A. station in Baghdad in collaboration with the Army’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion and teams of chemical-defense and explosive ordnance disposal troops, officials and veterans of the units said.
Now it can be told!

Grab yours before they're all gone

Now that it has dawned on the comrades that the Castros won't live forever, it's time to promote the up and comers;
NOTWITHSTANDING his immense historical importance, nearly all of the literature on Cuba focuses on the personality and role of Fidel Castro, an interpretation that has prevented both a deeper political understanding of the revolution’s structures of governance and the wide cast of other important players.
In this meticulously researched book Antoni Kapcia offers a magisterial vision and a welcome rebuttal to all those who personify the revolution in one man and refuse to recognise a sustainable and collective leadership grounded both in the people and history of Cuba.

Let's sue two

Will it be a last strike out for Mr. Cub?
Ernie Banks, the beloved Chicago Cubs great who once said he wanted to have his ashes scattered at Wrigley Field, is at the center of a battle over his remains as his estranged wife has gone to court to prevent a longtime friend of "Mr. Cub" from having his remains cremated.
....According to court records, Elizabeth Banks filed a petition to prevent a woman who describes herself in the documents as a longtime friend of Ernie Banks, his caretaker and the executor of Banks' estate from having him cremated. The woman, Regina Rice, asserted her rights to dispose of Banks' remains after his death last month at the age of 83, according to documents filed by Elizabeth Banks' attorneys on Feb. 2.
Curses! Foiled again.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Foreign Policy albatross

Former Secretary of State Condi Rice was playing in the same golf tourney on Monterey Bay as Cuban refugee Andy Garcia. Yet it was the movie star who, responding to a question from David Feherty, showed the diplomatic chops.

Saying that he thought the Obama initiative toward Cuba would not result in less repression and more freedom for his native country. That Cuba's problem is not external, but within Castroland.

Andy, make a tee time with Barack.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bend it like Becker (1957)

Any recognition of the magic of markets out of France is good news, we suppose.
Racial wage discrimination can proliferate in labour markets with large frictions because workers facing discrimination find it difficult to relocate. This column presents evidence of the interaction between frictions and discrimination in the English Premier League, the top tier of English football, using the 1995 Bosman ruling as an exogenous shifter. Before the ruling, wage discrimination resulted in teams with more black players outperforming competitors with equivalent payrolls. The decrease in frictions associated with the ruling allows players to escape discrimination by relocating.
Pretty much what Gary Becker said in his famous paper (and which these two guys, Pierre Deschamps and José de Sousa, cite). When something is costly less is demanded;
Our results could be important for public policy. If we consider restrictive contracts to be an important component of the typically nebulous ‘labour market frictions’, increasing labour mobility and reducing frictions could lower discrimination. A heartening interpretation of our results is that the proper labour market conditions can cause wage differentials between white and black employees to disappear even if racist attitudes remain.
Just add minimum wage, union wage, and occupational licensure laws, mix and pour.

Your looks are laughable

Not un-photographable, as it's ValenThaine's Day in Bangkok;
One by one, the couples climb inside a double coffin. Monks cover them with a white cloth while chanting funeral mantras.

 Couple with child (Picture: Raul Gallego Abellan)

The couple are covered with the sheet then uncovered. They have "died" and been "reborn", ready to start married life with a clean slate.

Some couples bring their children to take part in the rebirth ceremony.

Modo de la Bestia

The plane in Spain fails due to los reino animal;
Spain's airport authority says a wild boar that broke through a perimeter fence at Madrid's international airport caused runways to be shut briefly and two landings to be delayed.
....Newspaper El Pais reported the captain aboard Iberia flight 3179 inbound from London told passengers an animal had "surprisingly" forced him to abort a landing approach.
When pigs fly.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Last refuge of Housing Cause Denial scoundrels, refuted

By Mark A. Calabria--to whom we've previously referred in regard to his review of Peter Wallison's Hidden In Plain Sight. From the Cato At Liberty blog, he attacks the argument that the GSEs couldn't have been the problem for the financial crisis that followed the popping of the housing bubble, because it was the banks that took the biggest hits;
Yes, the GSEs’ losses on mortgages were less than that for depositories [banks], but the differences in capital were far greater. The GSEs had far less shareholder money to fall back on if mortgages started to sour. Again bear in mind that total losses were similar between the GSEs and the depositories. In the 4th quarter of 2007, Fannie and Freddie held about $70 billion in shareholder equity, behind $1.7 trillion in assets and around $5 trillion in debt and guaranteed mortgage-backed securities. By contrast, depositories held $1.3 trillion in shareholder equity, or about 19 times the equity of the GSEs. Mortgage losses were not enough to sink the entire banking system, even if some banks did sink, whereas the GSEs were toast because of their low levels of capital.
Why does that matter? Because it takes insolvencies to drive a financial crisis. The banking system, as a whole, was not driven to insolvency, but the GSEs where. Losses (and loss rates) only make sense relative to the capital ready to absorb those losses. And of course the failure of the GSEs was magnified through the system in a uniquely harmful manner.
That's our bold in the above, because it is the reason the GSEs were so dangerous; the very high leverage allowed thanks to congress. Even though the FMs had taken the better quality--thanks to their borrowing at lower interest rates due to their perceived government backing--loans in the subprime universe, leaving the banks to lend to lower quality borrowers, the higher leverage meant the FMs were the more dangerous institutions.

Without which government action interfering in the home lending industry, there never would have been a financial crisis.

'You didn't build that'

Barack Obama finally manages to admit that some things can be done without Cuba;
The Obama administration is announcing that it will allow Cuba’s small private business sector to sell goods to the United States in a potentially important loosening of the half-century trade embargo on the communist island.
Unfortunately, not anything in food and agricultural products, alcohol, minerals, chemicals, textiles, machinery, vehicles, arms and ammunition.

Which leaves, repairing 1950's Buicks?

When you open it to speak, are you smart?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's figure is definitely less than Greek, but it wasn't every day that was Valentine's Day...only about twelve were he said, in his trial for something-to-do-with-prostitutes in France;
Strauss-Kahn told the court he had no idea that he had upset “Jade” and said he was “sorry” that she had misinterpreted his actions, but grew angry with the persistent line of questioning.
He told a lawyer for the prostitutes that highlighting his preference for certain sexual acts, such as sodomy, as evidence that he sought out the services of prostitutes was “absurd”.
"I am starting to get fed up," he fumed.
And all this is cutting into his time saving the world;
Known in France as DSK, the former French minister and presidential hopeful claimed in earlier evidence that women “regularly threw themselves at me” and I always assumed they consented to (often brutal group sex) “because of who I am”.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Euro; go Co Co pop

Charles Calomiris has long wanted to see this in the U.S. Now the Greeks are bearing his contingent convertible bonds (to equity) gift idea to government debt;
Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s new finance minister.... is pushing for part of his country’s debt to be swapped for bonds linked to gross domestic product so Athens’ obligations vary according to how well the Greek economy performs. GDP-linked bonds have long been discussed by economists. But so have “sovereign coco” bonds — and their proponents argue they could prevent high-stakes Greece-like crises from erupting in the first place.

In March 2011, Axel Weber, then president of Germany’s Bundesbank, proposed clauses in eurozone government bonds which would automatically extend their maturity by three years if a country had to be bailed out by European institutions. Bank of England economists have made similar proposals, suggesting sovereign cocos that “pop” when the International Monetary Fund is called in.
Though the Financial Times story seems to think it's past due date for Greece. But the future may be now.

Golden state

Jon Ortiz's SacBee State Worker blog has these posts now up;

Jerry Brown’s state insurance plan could hurt retirees

From one of which;
Payroll costs for California Highway Patrol officers grew an average 11 percent per employee last year....
Officers’ total pay averaged $118,302 in 2014, an increase of $13,016 per employee. The figure includes all forms of wages, such as hourly pay and fitness pay, issued through the California State Controller’s Office. Overtime pay per officer also rose 11 percent to an average $15,241.
Which means that benefits aren't included. I.e. it costs the taxpayers even more than the above numbers to employ the traffic cops.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Trumbo, Trumbo, Trumbo

IMDB can't leave the mumbo jumbo in peace, describing a new film (not yet released) as;
The successful career of Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, comes to an end when he's blacklisted in the 1940s for being a Communist.
A search of its own website shows that Trumbo, after his temper tantrum before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947, managed to continue writing these scripts before he died in 1976;
1973 Papillon (screenplay)
 1973 Executive Action (screenplay)
 1973 The Way We Were (additional writer - uncredited)
 1972 FTA (Documentary) (book "Johnny Got His Gun")
 1971 The Horsemen
 1971 Johnny Got His Gun (novel) / (screenplay)
 1968 The Fixer (screenplay)
 1966 Hawaii (screenplay)
 1966 Silahlar patlayinca (screenplay "The Last Sunset" - uncredited)
 1965 The Sandpiper
 1962 Lonely Are the Brave (screenplay)
 1961 The Last Sunset (screenplay)
 1960 Exodus (screenplay)
 1960 Spartacus (screenplay)
 1959 Career (writer)
 1958 Terror in a Texas Town (written by - front Ben Perry)
 1958 Cowboy (screenplay - originally uncredited)
 1957 The Green-Eyed Blonde (written by - front Sally Stubblefield)
 1957 The Deerslayer (uncredited)
 1957 The Brothers Rico (uncredited)
 1956 The Brave One (screenplay - originally uncredited) / (story - front Robert Rich)
 1956 The Boss (written by - front Ben Perry)
 1954 They Were So Young (uncredited)
 1954 Carnival Story (uncredited)
 1953 Roman Holiday (screenplay - originally uncredited) / (story - originally uncredited)
 1951 He Ran All the Way (screenplay - front Guy Endore)
 1951 The Prowler (screenplay - originally uncredited)
 1950 Emergency Wedding (story)
 1950 Rocketship X-M (uncredited)
 1950 Gun Crazy (screenplay - front Millard Kaufman)
Oh, the martyrdom.