Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's in a name?

POTUS hoist by his own petard?
A term used by President Barack Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to characterize rioters has given new life to a debate over the word "thug."
"Of course it's not the right word, to call our children 'thugs,'" Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront." "These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us. No, we don't have to call them thugs."
"Just call them n-----s. Just call them n-----s," he said. "No, we don't have to call them by names such as that."
 Maybe they should be called Republicans?

When medicines are criminalized ...

   only the fingerprinted will have medicines, in (where else?) Venezuela;
Venezuela's imploding economy has hit a new low: medicine rationing.
This week, the health minister unveiled a new national system that requires all patients to register their fingerprints at pharmacies. They will then be allowed to buy just a limited amount of medicines.
 Se llama SIAMED (system for integrated access to meds), and is being billed as the answer to shortages which have left Venezuelans actually dying, as well as suffering needlessly, in the name of socialism. Which is sacred to some.  
The government blames the problem on hoarding and speculation. Health Minister Henry Ventura tweeted: "With #SIAMED, we want to eliminate "hoarding" so that everyone has the right to medicine. Sign up!!!"
La gente will just have to do their duty. Die for the Bolivarian revolution. But, hey your body will at least be identified by your fingerprints.

This is venal TAP

Portugal's government needs to catch up on its reading;
"I am asking the pilots: think of your country, think of tourism, think of the economy, think of your company," Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas said.
To which we say, think of Adam Smith (1776) upside down;
Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only.
Here's the nub of the problem for TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses);
The pilots say the government has reneged on a 1999 deal under which they would receive a stake in the airline in the event of privatisation.
They are thinking of it as their company. They want their share.

Baptists, Budweiser, breweries

An e-mail correspondent (who also has an interest in the relevance of Public Choice Economics) points us to this article in The Atlantic by Joe Pinsker;

Why Breweries Are So Rare in the American South

What do you get when you mix corporate interest with religiously motivated temperance? A whole lot of Budweiser.
Pinsker astutely notes;
Around the nation, big beer producers contribute to the campaigns of politicians who will support policies that discourage competition from local upstarts—for example, taxes on breweries and laws that prevent breweries from selling their kegs directly to consumers (instead of through a distributor). But what's unique about the South is that there's a voting bloc—the Baptists—whose moral stance against alcohol happens to align with large producers' desires to keep new competitors from getting started in the business. The support of Baptists provides Southern politicians with a reason to hinder brewers that politicians in other regions don't have. As a result, the states with the most Baptists tend to have the fewest breweries.
Even in states (like Louisiana) where there is a lot of beer drinking. Which brings out the relevance of the comment from Steve H to our post on the death of James Buchanan;
And in the words of Sir Dennis H. Robertson:

"There exists in every human breast an inevitable state of tension between the aggressive and acquisitive instincts and the instincts of benevolence and self-sacrifice. It is for the preacher, lay or clerical, to inculcate the ultimate duty of subordinating the former to the latter. It is the humbler, and often the invidious, role of the economist to help, so far as he can, in reducing the preacher’s task to manageable dimensions. It is his function to emit a warning bark if he sees courses of action being advocated or pursued which will increase unnecessarily the inevitable tension between self-interest and public duty; and to wag his tail in approval of courses of action which will tend to keep the tension low and tolerable."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Headline we wish we could have written

From New;
Bots rejects requests to hire cheap Zimbos
Africa for Africans...?
BOTSWANA home affairs minister Edwin Batshu has rejected requests by farmers there to be allowed to hire ‘cheap’ Zimbabweans as the Batswana were shunning jobs in that sector.
Some farmers pleaded with Batshu during a Kgotla meeting in Mmadinare recently that they be allowed to employ Zimbabwean nationals because they are very effective while Batswana do not want to work for locals.
The Tea Party is everywhere.
The Botswana government, however, has reserved farm jobs for locals and does not issue permits to foreigners in that sector.
Batshu said there was no question of relaxing the rules for Mmadinare villagers.
“What will happen if the Zimbabwe economy improves at the time when Batswana are relying on their cheap labour in their farms,” he said.
Man up, BroBots!
He added, “Batswana are very choosy and this has seriously delayed their progress in life. Farm owners must also pay farm workers well so that they can attract Batswana to work in their farms. The employer and employee need each other.”
Except that some Botswanans have better opportunities than farm labor.
Some residents told Batshu that Batswana want cheap Zimbabwean labour because they could not cheat locals.
Well, they're smart enough to flee Mugabe.

He probably has a green thumb from counting his dollars

Via Yusnaby Perez;
La vida ha comenzado a sonreírle al cubano Yasiel Puig (Cienfuegos, 1990), jardinero derecho de Los Ángeles Dodgers. En su patria, el Gobierno le impedía brillar como pelotero y carecía de las cosas más elementales. Ahora en Estados Unidos, de la noche a la mañana, se ha convertido en una gran figura del deporte de las bolas y los strikes y es admirado por los amantes del béisbol profesional.
We love that, jardinero derecho. As well as the turn of phrase; En su patria, el Gobierno le impedía brillar como pelotero.

I.e. the tyranny of the Castros denied Puig the opportunity to show his skills to legions of fans who appreciated them. But he escaped and has a contract that will pay him $42 million over seven years. Got any gardening tips for us, Yasiel?

Fools for proof

When last we left U of Missouri-St. Louis distinguished professor of political science Kenneth Thomas, he was saying; Markets improve efficiency for lots of things, but healthcare clearly isn't one of them.

Then he reasoned, Shut up!

So we guess this from The Tacoma News Tribune won't exactly be music to his ears;
An ache, a pain, something gone sore?
Tacoma-based MultiCare is offering a new service for patients with not-so-severe complaints. If you’d like to see a doctor but you don’t want to go to a doctor’s office — there’s a fresh app for that.
MultiCare announced Tuesday that it had inked a partnership agreement with Doctor On Demand, a service that offers real-time, face-to-face video access to a board certified physician.
Silly us, but that does sound like markets improve efficiency for healthcare. Specifically;
Callers will be pre-screened to identify the specific health complaint, and a physician will come online within 90 seconds, according to a MultiCare news release. The physician will diagnose the problem, and can send a prescription to a local pharmacy if appropriate. If the condition is serious, the physician might advise that the patient seek immediate care at a clinic or an emergency room.
Which will cost all of $40.
ead more here:

Read more here:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let's vote in the socialists. How bad could they be?

Some Venezuelans must have the patience of the stiff upper lip crowd;

84 Charing Cross Road has to be one of the most boring movies ever made (quite a feat since it stars Anthony Hopkins and Ann Bancroft). Think of it as the story of before there was an internet (1949-the 60s).

However, about 16 minutes into the film (for those who've stayed awake) we see Londoners, including the manager of the used bookshop Marks and Co. at the aforementioned Charing Cross Road location, standing on the sidewalk outside a butcher shop staring forlornly at this sign;
It's not our Fault when we have to say
This is about five years after the end of World War II. Why are the Brits unable to buy meat like civilized Europeans (say, the Germans they'd defeated in the war)? Because they voted in the socialist comrades and ousted Churchill's Tories, that's why.

As the Ann Bancroft character (TV scriptwriter Helene Hanff) learns from a Brit living in NYC (who is dating her neighbor), in England meat is rationed at 2 oz. per week per family. Eggs: 1 per month per person. To which she says, 'I am simply appalled.' But the expat Brit tells her how he keeps his own mother fed; a firm in Denmark that ships food parcels into England.

What little action that takes place in the film revolves around Helene Hanff's gifts of food that she sends regularly to her new penpals in London, to relieve them of their government imposed deprivation. Especially at Christmas and Easter. Which is much appreciated by the recipients. One of the first thank-you letters she gets is from the manager (Anthony Hopkins) of the store; 'Everything in the parcel was something we never see or can only be had through the black market.'

The store's bookkeeper tells her in another missive, 'I live with my Great Aunt, who is 75. If you had seen the look of delight on her face when I brought home the [tinned ham] ....'

When Labour is finally voted out of power in 1951, Hanff writes; 'Congratulations on Churchill...hope he loosens up your rations a little.' Which he does, but not until 1954 are the controls lifted completely. Which coincides with the movie losing whatever charm it had.

What does all this have to do with Venezuela? Well, they voted socialist too, and now it's fifteen years later;
Venezuela’s government announced the start of electricity rationing in western Zulia state as well as water rationing in Caracas to reduce demand on the power grid, a day after Ford Motor Co. halted production in Latin America’s largest oil exporter.
Shortages of everything from water to car parts and flour to pregnancy tests come after three months of protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro that have left at least 41 people dead. The government yesterday said it will start rationing electricity and water as drought drains hydroelectric reservoirs and water tanks.
Human perversity never ceases to amaze.

Country music

We suppose that anything that reminds us of Communist genocide--or introduces it for those too young to have experienced it--is valuable, but this WSJ story does seem to trivialize what happened in Cambodia in the 1970s after the Americans abandoned it;
Directed by John Pirozzi, “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten” focuses on the vital music scene in Phnom Penh, the country’s cosmopolitan capital in the years following Cambodian independence from France in late 1953 until the Khmer Rouge’s arrival in 1975. The music drew on Western influences without ever stooping to pure imitation. Sinn Sisamouth, considered the country’s greatest singer and songwriter, moved away from crooning with an orchestra at his back to embrace rock instrumentation. Meanwhile, Baksey Cham Krong was playing guitar-based surf rock, with Mol Kagnol reflecting the inspiration of Dick Dale, Hank Marvin of the Shadows, Bob Bogle of the Ventures and others. “I had a nickname,” he said with a modest smile during a conversation before the show: “The Hank Marvin of Cambodia.”
That's written by Jim Fusilli, described as, Mr. Fusilli is the Journal’s rock and pop music critic. It's all rock and roll to me.

By 1965, the U.S. military was in Vietnam, with troops stationed near the Cambodian border. Musicians in Phnom Penh, some of whom learned of Western music via records brought in from Paris, now heard American rock, blues, soul and pop via a branch of Armed Forces Radio. Superstars emerged: Ros Serey Sothea, who Cambodia’s ruler, Norodom Sihanouk, called “the golden voice of the royal capital”; the provocative Pen Ran; and Yol Aularong, a hard-rocking protest singer, among them.
What's really important? Oh;
All three, along with Sinn Sisamouth, were executed or left to die by the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian genocide that, among other atrocities, sought to eliminate artistic and cultural progressives in an effort to de-Westernize the nation. It is estimated that some 1.7 million people, or about 21% of the population, were killed by the followers of the Communist regime, which fell in 1979.

This sickly'd isle

So, we were recently told that, Markets improve efficiency for lots of things, but healthcare clearly isn't one of them. Specifically;
And you want to tell me there are all these imperfections in the U.S. medical market, but the U.K. is pretty close to pure socialized medicine, with the providers being government employees. So the U.S. system is far more market-oriented than the U.K. system -- yet the U.S. system is more than twice as expensive. You want to compare imaginary market outcomes rather than look at what really happens in medical markets. 
Along comes Deutsche Welle to supply the proof to the fools;
"My husband was told he would have to wait three weeks for a doctor's appointment last year," says local Kath Goodwin. "At the time, he was severely clinically depressed and was talking about taking his own life."

Another resident, Graham Hodgkiss, tells the meeting how he fell from a roof in 2013 and can now walk only with the aid of crutches. After two years on a waiting list with his health and mobility further deteriorating, he has just been told he must wait a further six months for an operation.
Reese Williams, a local musician, shares the story of how he found an abscess a year ago, and called his doctor in panic. "I was waiting over an hour and had to redial 22 times just to get through," he says. Later, he was left with open wounds that required daily dressing - but was left without treatment for several days.
The stories continue. Penny Rutherford speaks out: she was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and has undergone extensive chemotherapy, but says she can't now get a doctors' appointment within three weeks when related conditions flare up. "They say I'm not a priority, and they can only see emergency cases," she says.
 The National Health Service, where they get what they pay for.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Enron's last laugh at Peggy Noonan

Back in 2002 WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan explained her brief role working for Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling; she was supposed to write Enron's annual report to stockholders;
I ... worked hard and tried to put together a speech and make a contribution to the annual report, but none of it really worked. Mr. Lay used at least part of the speech I worked on, about deregulation and its challenges. Some of what I tried to write for the annual report made it in. But mostly my contributions weren’t helpful, and I think for two reasons. One was that the guys at the top, and in the middle, seemed unable to communicate to me exactly what it was the company was doing to make money. So I didn’t absorb the information and make it understandable to others. The other was that I think I sensed a sort of corporate monomania at the top—if you can’t understand what we’re doing then maybe you’re not too bright.
But the key part was that I couldn’t help them explain their mission because I didn’t fully understand what their mission was. I understand what the Kenneth Cole shoe company does. It makes shoes and sells them in stores. Firestone makes tires. I couldn’t figure out how Enron was making its money, what exactly it was selling, and every time I asked I got a kind of gobbledygook answer or a cryptic one, like “The future!” [our bold]
Turns out they were. And the future was fracking;
EOG came from the most unpromising of beginnings. Its original name was Enron Oil & Gas Company and, until 1999, it was majority owned by Enron, the fraudulent energy group that collapsed in 2001. Having secured EOG’s independence just in time, though, [Mark] Papa led it to a strong position in the fast-growing shale gas industry.

Innovations driven by an industry veteran called George Mitchell had made it possible for the first time to produce gas at commercially viable rates from formations such as the Barnett Shale of north Texas. EOG was an early adopter of the technology....
When EOG found itself with an overabundance of natural gas, as well as many competitors who did too, they innovated some more and discovered they could also push oil through shale;
Conventional wisdom held that while small gas molecules might be able to slip through the tiny pore spaces in shale rocks, much larger oil molecules could not. “If you had taken a poll in 2005 of 1,000 industry executives, 999 of them would have said you cannot flow oil commercially through shales, because the hydrocarbon size of oil is too large,” he says.
Rather than taking the conventional wisdom on trust, Papa was determined to find out for himself. EOG studied shales using CAT scanners, and concluded that although the pore spaces were small, they were still big enough for oil to flow through them. Even so, when Papa announced his planned pivot to oil, many of EOG’s managers were sceptical.
 Now he's a billionaire too (and can afford to buy his wife tailored leather slacks like Mrs. Ken Lay had). And American motorists are again paying less than $3 for a gallon of gasoline.

Taxicity is the mother of relocation

Ho hum, U Penn researchers Ufuk Akcigit, Salome Baslandze and Stefanie Stantcheva pile up more evidence that the reports of the death of the  Laws of Supply and Demand are greatly exaggerated;
Kleven et al. (2014) study a Danish tax reform that temporarily reduced top tax rates on high income foreigners and they find very strong effects on the inflow of migrants. In another recent paper Kleven, Landais, and Saez (2013) show that highly paid football players react to top tax rates when choosing in which country to work. Of course, we can’t extrapolate from their football players estimates for other professions, since football players are typically very young and mobile.
So, they looked elsewhere;
In recent research (Akcigit, Baslandze, and Stantcheva 2015) we study the international migration responses of superstar inventors to top income tax rates for the period 1977-2003 ....
And, no surprise;
The results highlight that superstar top 1% inventors are significantly affected by top tax rates when deciding where to live. For instance, our results suggest that, given a ten percentage point decrease in top tax rates, the average country would be able to retain 1% more domestic superstar inventors and attract 38% more foreign superstar inventors.
The poster child? France of course. If she dropped her top marginal rate from 72% to 62%, expect to retain 6.1% more French inventors, and see in-migration of 56.4% more foreigners. The Uk could expect to retain 10% of its most creative types if it lowered its rate to 45%, but only welcome 35% more foreigners.

The USA already has the lowest top rates, so lowering 10 points (47% down to 37%) wouldn't see much change in retention--where are they going to move to now?--but might see a significant increase in immigrants.

Grad school with bars on the windows

The Brits enable quantitative easing;
A CONVICTED counterfeiter in the UK was sent on a design and print course at the taxpayers’ expense while he was in jail, it has emerged.

The fraudster was serving a two year sentence at Lindholme prison near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, when he was allowed to take part in a course to improve his publishing skills.

Police believe the persistent offender, Charles Kanyimo, a 40-year-old Zimbabwean national, used tricks learned in the prison classroom to improve his cheque counterfeiting operation after being released in 2010.
And ended up back in prison for counterfeiting.

Democracia, a la Cubana

The Castros can't allow even a smidgen of opposition electoral success;
The PanAm Post spoke with [Yuniel Francisco] López, a Havana native and information and communication technology specialist turned opposition politician, who revealed the truth about the polls, government intimidation, and how one individual can confront a totalitarian state.
Lopez was attempting to win ONE of 12,500 seats in municipal assemblies last week. How'd it go?
Did you face any kind of intimidation before the elections?
No. But one of the things that happened is that my grandmother surprised two state-security agents taking photos inside my house. Filming and taking images. Now the dictatorship is beginning to carry out reprisals against my family.
Just this morning [Tuesday, April 21] two inspectors came to my house to tell me that it had been constructed illegally. It could turn out that they’re going to slap a fine on me.
What were your proposals as a candidate?
Proposals? No, I didn’t do any kind of campaigning because the law here prohibits any candidate from campaigning.
The government did my campaigning for me, putting in my biography that I was a “counter-revolutionary.” What’s more, they held meetings between state security and members of the communist party to prevent people voting for me under any circumstances, to spread the idea that I was a “counter-revolutionary,” and spreading fear among many voters. [our italics above]
Maybe Barack Obama is thinking he'd like to be able to keep his opponents in line. And the Governor of New York too;
[Andrew] Cuomo and Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel also talked about relations between Cuba and the U.S.
“Through a complete relationship we can have dialogue where we can discuss any issue and reach an agreement,” Cuomo said.
The visit by the governor and businesses represented the first state-based visit to Cuba after dialogue began between the two countries to normalize relations.

De otra manera

Barack Obama's newest best friends at Granma tell tall tales of Venezuela;
...the Maduro administration has faced violent acts and street demonstrations (guarimbas), economic warfare and media smear campaigns to sow chaos and destabilization in the country....

...the Maduro administration has faced violent acts and street demonstrations (guarimbas), economic warfare and media smear campaigns to sow chaos and destabilization in the country.... 

...the Venezuelan government denounced the executive order issued by President Barack Obama, which described the country as a threat to U.S. national security and could be a prelude to a military invasion.
And at the same time praise the success of socialism;
None of these or other attacks have halted the measures being implemented by President Nicolás Maduro’s administration for the welfare of the population and the poorest sectors of society.

...the social missions have been strengthened, increasing the amount of resources devoted to fighting poverty, which currently make up 64% of the national budget. ....

New Presidential Councils of People's Government were created (for Municipalities, Culture, Women, Indigenous Peoples, Youth, Workers, Pensioners, the Disabled)....

According to Deputy Jesús Farías, of the PSUV, in the two years of the Maduro government the emphasis on social initiatives has increased by creating the foundations for missions that have tackled poverty. According to figures presented by the Vice President of Social Development and Education Minister, Héctor Rodríguez, extreme poverty was reduced from 21% to 5.4%, in the last 15 years.
If it's such a paradise, what's the gripe? And supposedly Cuba has been suffering deprivation for half a century because of the American embargo against it. So, what's Cuba's excuse for their failures if Venezuela has been so successful?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

We'll see you get sent to the Vice-principal's office

The state of Washington isn't about to allow anyone to rain on the Governor and his campaign contributors' parade;
An airplane circling over the Capitol campus during the rally also drew boos. It trailed a banner calling for an end to teacher strikes. According to a Washington Education Association estimate, 2,000 teachers in six school districts staged a one-day walkout Friday in protest of proposed state budget's treatment of teacher pay and benefits.

Washington State Patrol officers at the rally said they were investigating whether the plane's tail numbers had been illegally concealed. A call to a State Patrol spokesman afterward was not returned.
Some pilot objects to taxpayer funded employees (public school teachers) illegally striking, so he peacefully flies over the state capitol petitioning for redress of his grievance.  Naturally, other taxpayer funded employees (state troopers) will see about that.

Read more here:

Purple with rage

Socialized medicine may be all right for you commoners, but ...
Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday defended the royal couple's [Bill and Kate] choice of private treatment over public care offered by the National Health Service.

Asked on TV if the royal couple's decision was disappointing, Cameron said he supports peoples' right to choose treatment options. He did praise the NHS, which is a source of national pride for many Britons.

"The NHS is superb and I've seen that in my own life in so many different ways," he said. "But I believe in choice. I believe in people being able to do what they want to do." He said he is praying for a safe delivery of the royal baby.
Since 1948 medical care has been free in the UK. Prince William and his bride must think that you get what you pay for.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Fidel Castro-trained Presidente Maduro is, at least, a good sport;
A woman who accurately lobbed a mango at Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro's head has been promised a house in a story which has quickly gone viral in the country.
The 52-year-old head of state and former bus driver was driving the vehicle through the central state of Aragua to meet with supporters at a rally on Wednesday (22 April) when 54-year-old Marleny Olivo quite literally saw a window of opportunity to send a message to Maduro and tossed a mango at his head.
Maduro was struck just above the left ear and calmly picked it up before displaying it to the crowd. A message was scrawled on the piece of fruit. It read: "If you can, call me", along with her name and phone number.
Clearly, it didn't knock any sense of economic reality into him, as he seems to think that houses grow on mango trees;
"We're going to invite her to my [TV and radio] show, 'In Touch with Maduro.' She had a housing problem, right? And, Marleny, I have approved it already, as part of the Great Housing Mission of Venezuela, you will get an apartment and it will be given to you in the next few hours. Tomorrow, no later than the day after tomorrow, we will give it to you."
Nick, did you bother to think about the incentive you've created?

Governor, can you spare a drachma?

The birthplace of democracy hasn't run out of ideas (just other people's money);
Greece's governors and other local officials agreed on Saturday to lend cash to the near-bankrupt central government after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras assured them the measure would last for only a short period of time.
Greek lawmakers approved a decree late on Friday to force state entities to lend cash to the central government in spite of protests by municipalities and labour unions.
That should be less painful for the Grecians' earnings. Don't take it out of this pocket...take it out of that one! Though some aren't fooled by the shell game;
"The state is committed to paying salaries and pensions," the government's parliamentary speaker, Nikos Filis, told lawmakers, defending the legislation. "The money will be earning better interest rates (than what banks pay)."
In a symbolic protest, municipal workers walked off the job for three hours on Friday. Some local government officials have threatened to defy the orders, while others have said they need more information before contributing to central government coffers.
While they investigate how their pensions and wages are going to be paid.

Friday, April 24, 2015

We've had our eye on him

For quite some time, most recently here;
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.
And now no one will be able to ignore Roland Fryer's brilliance, since he's just won the John Bates Clark Medal;
Roland Fryer of Harvard University won the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark young economist award for his work on the economics of race and education, the AEA said on its website.
Fryer’s “innovative and creative research contributions have deepened our understanding of the sources, magnitude and persistence of U.S. racial inequality,” the AEA said in its announcement on Friday. The 37-year-old Fryer, who is Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard, is the first African-American to receive the prize.
The medal is awarded annually to the American economist under 40 who is judged to have made “the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge,” according to the association. Recipients have about a one-in-three chance of eventually winning the Nobel Prize in economics, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The National Education Assn. must be in mourning.
In “Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement:  Evidence from New York City” (Journal of Labor Economics 2013), Fryer looks at financial incentives for teachers through randomized control trials (RCTs) in New York City  (NYC) middle schools and high schools.  Fryer finds no systematic effect of traditional teacher incentives on student outcomes.
Which is to say, the kinds of things that unionized teachers are striking over in the state of Washington right now. Not what we should be doing according the newest Clark laureate;
In “Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City” (American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2013), Fryer and [his colleague Will] Dobbie collect data on the inner-workings of 39 NYC charter schools from interviews and surveys of principals, teachers, and students, along with administrative data.  They correlate the school policies and characteristics with estimates of school effectiveness in raising student achievement from lottery-based and quasi-experimental matching estimates. They find that a bundle of five school policies suggested by their in-depth qualitative research – frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations – are strongly positively correlated with improvements in student achievement.

The art of the non-denial denial

Nobody ever did it better than a man named Clinton;
I don't think you will be able to find a single instance where I changed my position due solely to a donation.
That was supposedly an answer to a question about whether or not he did change positions because of campaign contributions. And it's not a lost art, at all. Not now that another Clinton is running for President;
Brian Fallon, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, tells the [NY] Times the suggestions of impropriety were "baseless".
There is not a shred of evidence "supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation", he adds.
Which is in response to stories breaking in the New York Times and Washington Post supporting the theory that she very well might have. As the BBC piece explained;
In the Times Jo Becker and Mike McIntire write about a Russian energy conglomerate's purchase of a Canadian company with uranium mining interests in the US and Kazakhstan. It's a detailed, 4,000-word investigation with a lot of moving parts, but the gist is clear.
The chairman of the Canadian company that profited from the sale, Ian Telfer, donated millions of dollars to the foundation - most of which was not reported publicly. The founder of the company, Frank Giustra, also donated $31m (£20.5m) to the foundation and flew former President Bill Clinton to Kazakhstan in 2005, at a time when the nation was considering whether to grant uranium mining rights to Canadian company.
Can we count those shreds? Or these;
In 2010, at roughly the same time, the Russian company, Rosatom, was attempting to purchase the Canadian company, President Clinton travelled to Moscow and was paid $500,000 by a bank affiliated with Rosatom.
The US government, including the Department of State then headed by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, had to approve the Russian purchase, as it involved acquiring strategic mineral rights on US soil. It did.
So where are the feminists to insist that the Caesarina's husband must be above suspicion.


Either that or with no further political ambition, is Washington state Senator Tim Shelton;
Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said he would introduce a measure Friday that would forbid school districts from counting days that teachers strike as sick days or snow days. According to a news release from Sheldon’s office, those makeup days can be added onto the end of the year and teachers get full pay for them.
“I don’t think people realize teachers get paid when they go on strike,” said Sheldon, who caucuses with the Republican Senate majority, in the news release. “It’s not supposed to be that way. But during my 25 years in the Legislature, we’ve had plenty of teacher strikes, and I’ve never seen teachers lose a day’s pay for walking off the job.” [our bolds, naturally]
Which reminds us of something we said awhile ago, in response to a Seattle PI story from 2003;
Gov. Gary Locke yesterday called for striking Marysville teachers to return to their classrooms Monday with or without a contract. But the teachers union rejected his proposal to end what is now the longest school walkout in the state's history.
Attorney General Christine Gregoire also weighed in on the dispute, writing both the Marysville School Board and the union to remind them of their students' right to a full 180-day school year -- and of the potentially diminishing opportunity to provide that instruction if the strike, now in its 39th day, continues.
Neither Locke nor Gregoire threatened legal action to force the teachers back to work. Nor has the School Board.
Nor even hinted that they might, as then Governor Locke put it;
"We think it's important they put the interest of the kids first. We cannot  force them to do anything."
To which we commented (in 2003);
Now, why would the governor make such a counterfactual assertion [bolded, above] as in the last sentence of the above quote? Why does the AG not use her power to force the teachers back to work?
Is it not relevant that the AG is running for the Democratic nomination for governor? That Locke, a young man, is not without further political ambitions? And that no one who crosses the WEA is going to have a future in the Democratic party in Washington state?
And, in fact, then AG Gregoire did become Washington's governor (though by the skin of her teeth, and some illegal votes cast) and Locke did go on to serve as Ambassador to China for Barack Obama. We don't expect Senator Shelton to duplicate that sucess, if the state's educationists have anything to say about it;
Rich Wood, a spokesman for the statewide teachers union, said Sheldon and his colleagues should focus on passing an education budget that complies with the state Supreme Court’s order that the Legislature fully fund basic education, rather than punishing striking teachers.
“Sen. Sheldon and rest of the Senate majority are the ones walking out on our kids,” Wood wrote in an email. “They’re leaving Olympia early without an education budget, and they’re in contempt of court for violating our students’ constitutional right to an amply funded public education.”
That constitutional right is a story in itself.

Read more here:

Read more here:

The friend of our new best friend is in for it

As if any more evidence of the brutality inflicted on the poor of Latin America by the socialistas was needed, comes a new report;
Al menos 11,3% de las personas en Venezuela consume dos o menos comidas cada día. 80,1% refiere que no le alcanza lo que gana para comprar comida. Al estudiar los datos por estratos socioeconómicos se revela que del grupo de personas que dijo que no podía hacer sus tres comidas diarias, 39,1% pertenece a los sectores sociales que no tiene una vivienda de calidad y tampoco tiene estudios académicos completos, es decir, pertenecen a los sectores sociales más empobrecidos.
Roughly: at least 11.3% of Venezuelans eat only two meals per day. 80.1% report they don't earn enough to buy food. Of those who report that they go hungry, 39.1% are from the poorest sectors of Venezuelan society ( El Presidente Maduro's  base).

The PanAm Post says, get used to it, hombres;
Specialists argue that Venezuela is going through a similar situation to the “Special Period” that Cuba experienced between 1990 and 1993. Economist José Toro Hardy explained that Cubans of the day were affected by severe rationing, the destruction of industry, and the reform of the agricultural sector, which ended up damaging the health of people across the island.
Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González, argued that Venezuela is currently in a worse situation than Cuba during the Special Period. “In Cuba a kilo of rice for each family was a kilo of rice, but in Venezuela it means three quarters of a kilo, if it comes, and a quarter of a kilo on the black market,” he added.
Economist Henkel García meanwhile told a local news outlet that Venezuelans should prepare themselves for a “drastic adjustment” of their food intake, similar to Cubans in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, both due to rising inflation as well as generalized scarcity.
!Qué lástima!

Ask the man who drives one

In this case, Dan Neil of the WSJ. Who is someone who lived to tell about the experience of actually driving Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion (as in dynamic maximum tension). The picture below appeared in the NY Times back in the day (don't get the idea from the picture that congress had anything to do with it, they had their own, even wackier ideas, some of which still bedevil the country to this day).

Image result for Dymaxion Car

Others weren't so lucky with its front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-steering. Mr. Neil drolly says, it; something of a fatalistic choice. It crashed at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, killing the test driver and injuring two passengers in an accident that was splashed across front pages, scaring off investors. Later it was sold to Gulf Oil and was burned to the axles in a refueling incident.
Because scared off investors are an omen;
Still, with respect, Mr. Fuller: three wheels? You are all about first principles and systematic thinking, yet nature makes clear that four points of contact with the ground, not three, is advantageous. Find me a three-legged animal. Your single-rear wheel design is more streamlined, I’ll give you that. But your stability and vehicle control is bad, so very bad.
Your mileage may vary...if you can keep one going long enough to find out.

Waiting for the sunrise

It's foolproof! Someone claims (in this case a certified economics expert from The Show Me State) the government has lower overhead than the private sector, and the next day the disproof arrives and shows me that's wrong (in this case from Jeffrey Mayor of the Tacoma News Tribune);
[There is] more than $298.3 million in deferred maintenance at Mount Rainier. Olympic National Park has $133.2 million in delayed work. In total, there is almost $507.2 million in unfunded repair projects at eight National Park Service units in Washington [state].
Nationwide, the Park Service puts the total for 2014 at $11.49 billion for 407 locations.
You can keep your overhead down, if you just don't care about results. A luxury that private sector, profit seeking entities can't avoid (not for very long, anyway). Because, contrary to the nation's Accountant in Chief, profits don't eat up overhead (made to a joint session of congress on September 9, 2009). It's actually the other way around.

Deferred maintenance is not overhead avoided. Far from it, avoiding timely maintenance and repair only increases the costs down the road. As the old saying has it, a stitch in time, saves nine. But, you'd have to use accrual accounting to know that, we guess.
Each year, the park [Mt. Rainier]  has $6 million to $8 million to spend on maintenance but would need another $4 million to $5 million to cut into the backlog of deferred maintenance, King said.
The estimate to replace the park’s infrastructure is $1.3 billion, according to the report.
With the money available, the park is working to reduce the backlog.
For instance, a few years ago, you could see daylight streaming through cracks in the wall of the Sunrise Day Lodge. The park has worked to resolve those “daylight issues,” King said.
Yeah, by ceding the responsibility to those evil capitalists;
In addition to using money from its own budget to cut into the backlog, the park is working with one of its partners to tackle projects at the Paradise Inn and elsewhere.
When the park signed a new contract in 2014 with Rainier Guest Services, the concessionaire agreed to take on deferred maintenance projects. The estimated value of the work is $2 million, said Mary Wysong, the park’s concessions manager.
“The park had 75 deferred maintenance items we’ve committed to fixing, such as replacing windows in the annex,” said David Wilde, chief operating office of Rainier Guest Services.
The concessionaire taking on more maintenance work will allow the park to spend its money on other projects, “of which there are myriads at Mount Rainier,” King said.
Markets to the rescue!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cuba is Mickey Mouse without the royalties

Come the revolution (the official end to the embargo, promised jointly by Barack and Raul) will Bob Iger overlook the copyright infringement at this amusement park in Varadero outside Havana? It's one way for Cubans to enoy themselves for a few hours in the paraíso de los trabajadores, as well as a way for some to earn a little more than their state salaries of $20 a month (the parents of the niñita had to pay Mickey to pose with her).

What will happen to the Castros (or their successor tyrants) if they have to play by the rules as the rest of the world does.

(photo courtesy of Yusnaby Perez's blog)


We're just country economics hobbyists here, professor. Trying to shed a little light on matters of public policy (labor intensivelywise).
This is your last post in this thread. You have your own blog; criticize me there if you want to. I don't have any obligation to give you free traffic if you're not doing the same. You are still free to comment on other posts.
Silly us, we thought he'd enjoy the repartee (even maybe the attention). But, since we have been invited to;
Well, we know that efficiency involves getting the most output for the least input. Then we look at the data; that's how we know it to be true. The VA, Medicare, and Medicaid all have much lower overhead costs than private insurance, giving them a leg up in being more efficient.
We would argue that the claim of lower overhead costs--which we bolded in the above--is mostly a quirk of government accounting gimmicks. I.e., it is an oft remarked upon fact that government, incongruously uses cost basis accounting (suitable for only the smallest businesses) rather than accrual basis to match revenues and expenses. And to ignore some expenses entirely.

Though the worst aspect of the claimed low overhead, is that Medicare and Medicaid are rife with fraud. Again, that's well reported.
Medicare would be even more efficient if the government allowed it to negotiate drug prices like private insurance companies do.
Or even more corrupt, you never can tell.
And you want to tell me there are all these imperfections in the U.S. medical market, but the U.K. is pretty close to pure socialized medicine, with the providers being government employees. So the U.S. system is far more market-oriented than the U.K. system -- yet the U.S. system is more than twice as expensive. You want to compare imaginary market outcomes rather than look at what really happens in medical markets.
That's a response by Professor Thomas to my challenge to his assertion that, Markets improve efficiency for lots of things, but healthcare clearly isn't one of them. Which challenge was;
How could you know that to be true? In the USA government pays for about half of all health care through the VA, Medicare and Medicaid. It heavily subsidizes private insurance through the tax code.

It retards innovation with occupational licensing that allows a cartel to limit competition in the provision of health care, as well as in the market for drugs. Government has been much better at inhibiting market competition in health care than allowing it.
We don't find, 'It's worse in the UK.' to be that to be responsive to the point. Especially since the British newspapers have regular stories of how the National Health Service deprives the citizens of medical care (which is one way to keep your expenses down, true). We used to amuse ourselves with such;
Crowded wards, a shortage of nurses and financial problems led to 1,176 people contracting Clostridium difficile over two and half years at three hospitals in Kent.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary today described the failures as a "scandal", and said he would send the damning report to all hospital bosses in Britain so lessons would be learned.

Though the superbug was rife on the wards, managers failed to act. Isolation units were not set up, nurses were so rushed they did not have time to wash their hands and patients were left in soiled beds. Bedpans were not decontaminated properly and beds were not cleaned as well as they should have been.
The health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission, concluded that the infection probably or definitely killed at least 90 patients and was a factor in the deaths of a further 241.
Fourteen patients who died were found to have C.diff but it did not contribute to their deaths. In total 345 people died with the infection.

....The report said some patients at the hospitals run by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital Trust should have made a full recovery from their initial illness. But they caught the bug and died. Police will determine if there are grounds for criminal charges.
Of course, if your goal is simply to have a lot of people 'insured', rather than treated for their illnesses ....

As luck would have it ...

Hillary Clinton Supports Amendment To Get Hidden Money Out Of Politics

That's headline news at NPR.
"We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccounted money out of it, once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment," she said to a gathering at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.
Well, the indefatigable Michael Cannon, blogging at, provides a rich target;
The longest-running and perhaps most significant way the administration has broken the law to protect ObamaCare is by issuing illegal subsidies to members of Congress.
.... Many members of Congress and their staffs were therefore surprised to learn that, as of the moment the president signed the ACA [aka, Obamacare], that very law threw them out of their health plans. The ACA prohibits members of Congress and their staffs from receiving health coverage through the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program. They remained free to purchase health insurance on their own, but they would have to do so without the [tax free] $10,000 or so the federal government “contributed” to their FEHBP premiums. In effect, the ACA gave members of Congress a pay cut of around $10,000.
 When that fact became apparent, congress had the perfect, bi-partisan, incentive to re-write the law. Which Barack Obama didn't want them to do. So, what's the big deal about a little law?
Rather than risk Congress reopening the ACA to restore their lost health coverage – because who knows what other changes Congress might make in the process – the administration simply pretended that that part of the law didn’t exist. The Office of Personnel Management announced that members of Congress and their staffs could remain in the FEHBP until the ACA’s Exchanges launched in 2014. The president thus stuck to his promise, if you like your health plan, and you’re a member of Congress, you can keep your health plan.
But what happens after 2014, and that matter of the $10K income tax free?
...the law still cut off that $10,000 “employer contribution” to their health benefits. According to Politico, “OPM initially ruled that lawmakers and staffers couldn’t receive the subsidies once they went into the exchanges.” After the president intervenedOPM just ignored that part of the law and started issuing (illegal) subsidies on the order of $10,000 to hundreds of individual members of Congress and thousands of individual congressional staffers.
Cannon labels these subsidies, 'bribes'. And, apparently so does Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who chairs the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. He's been trying to draw attention to these 'bribes' to himself and his colleagues (and their staffers). Polling shows that 90% of the voters agree that this stratagem of the Obama Administration is unfair, so why did five Republicans on the committee vote with the nine Democrats to retain them?

Cannon asked;
I have spoken to many GOP staffers, including leadership staff, about how these illegal subsidies are immoral and standing in the way of ObamaCare repeal. Their faces freeze the moment I raise the subject. Often, they don’t say another word and leave the room as quickly as they can. I understand their fear. They have families. Mortgages. Illnesses. To them, ending these illegal subsidies seems like a $10,000 hit to their annual income.
Unaccounted money for the powerful. You go, girl.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

'We're with Hillary!'

Or would be, if we were Yanks, say the British Commies;
COMMUNIST Party general secretary Robert Griffiths will launch a manifesto for the 21st century today, claiming that only “the Communist Party is calling in this election for sweeping measures to tax the rich.”
Whose money is it, after all?
He accused the main Westminster parties of colluding with Britain’s tax avoidance industry to deprive the Treasury of tens of billions of pounds each year.

The Communist Party leader, who is standing in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, also proposed a “Tobin-type tax” on financial transactions in the City and a “modest” 2 per cent wealth tax on the richest a 10th of the population.
To topple, v. transitive; to overthrow, to defeat. As used in;
In a meeting with economists this year, Mrs. Clinton intensely studied a chart that showed income inequality in the United States. The graph charted how real wages, adjusted for inflation, had increased exponentially for the wealthiest Americans, making the bar so steep it hardly fit on the chart.
Mrs. Clinton pointed at the top category and said the economy required a “toppling” of the wealthiest 1 percent, according to several people who were briefed on her policy discussions but could not discuss private conversations for attribution.
See you at the barricades, Doll.