Monday, August 29, 2005

"There once was a girl from Nantucket ..."

... and I hope to meet her while up here in her neck of the woods on vacation.

In the meantime posting will be light while attending to spouse and kids.

Hmm... maybe I shouldn't hope to meet that particular girl with wife and family in tow.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Why you don't need to know anything about oil itself to take Tierney's side in the bet against $200-a-barrel oil.

NY Times columnist John Tierney has made a real-money wager against energy industry investment banker Matthew Simmons and the latter's claim that oil will cost $200 a barrel (in today's money, inflation adjusted) in 2010.

Simmons says empirical analysis shows oil resources are depleting and supplies are about to fall -- especially in Saudi Arabia -- in a way that must drive price starkly upward, something the players in the oil market haven't yet recognized.

Tierney invokes Julian Simon's case that the price of such natural resources always declines in the long run (his bet openly echoes Simon's famous 1980 winning wager on future commodity prices against famed eco-doomster Paul Ehrlich).

But those two positions apart, there's a simple yet powerful argument on Tierney's side of the bet that Tierney himself doesn't make. That is: if you know something will be worth $200 five years from now, and you are a greedy sort of fellow, you don't give it away for $65 today.

Oil companies are greedy. They have a big financial incentive to know more than anybody else about the state of the world's oil reserves. And clearly they don't believe those reserves will be worth anything like $200 a barrel in 2010, or they wouldn't be giving away as much as possible at $65, and be ramping up fast to sell even more. They'd instead be buying and holding oil and reserves and thus be pushing the price towards $200 today, making an automatic profit on anything they bought for less.*

Simmons answers that the oil companies don't know about the coming fall of Saudi production. He says the Saudis keep the status of their oil fields secret, but that he has made an investigative study of their status that gives him better information than the industry as a whole is using -- so he knows better.

Now the logic of this is questionable on its face. The oil companies have a huge financial incentive to understand the status of the Saudi oil fields, so why wouldn't they make the same kinds of investigative studies that Simmons has? If they have, why are they less competent at doing so than he is?

But put those questions aside ... all we need recognize is this: the Saudis certainly know the status of the Saudi oil fields better than Simmons does. And do the Saudis have a reputation for being major donors of commercial charity?

If the Saudis believed their oil was going to be worth $200 in 2010, would they be pumping flat out to sell as much as they can at only $65 today, and be in the process of ramping up production by 20% in the immediate future to sell more?

Unless they've taken to literally giving money -- and their nation's sole source of future wealth -- away, and in a very big way, it seems unlikely.

Thus we can conclude from their actions that the Saudis don't believe their production is about to falter, or they'd be nurturing their shrinking but appreciating-in-value resources -- rather than be selling them off at an accelerating rate at a 65% discount.

So the Saudis are on Tierney's side of the bet regarding Saudi production -- and that's good enough for me.**

UPDATE: The Simmons side of the bet gets new published support.

* This is why the current market price of an item generally is the best first guess of its future price on the basis of currently available knowledge. For if it is clear to even a minority of market participants that the price of the item will be much higher or lower in the future than now, they can make a small (or large) fortune for themselves by bidding it to that price right now.

Buy low now to sell high later. Buy fast, before competitors beat you to the opportunity. And buy as much as you can to maximize your profit. The buying drives the price up now, rather than later. (Or, conversely, sell high now to avoid taking a loss... )

This doesn't mean that the current price is an accurate prediction of future price, of course, because the unexpected happens every day. Economies unexpectedly surge and prices rise ... falter and prices fall (remember that oil was under $10 only seven years ago) ... politicians act ... new technologies develop ... industries reorganize ... and all kinds of other things happen, all in ways not seen five years previously. So prices always change.

The test of current price as generally being the best first guess of future price is not that it is correct, but that the error in it is equally likely to be high or low.

** There is some controversy in progress on the excellent Econbrowser site as to whether this bet is just a publicity ploy by Tierney and/or Simmons, since neither is putting up "real money" in light of what he could afford.

Well, of course it is a publicity ploy, by both of them. So what? The original Julian Simon bet was a publicity ploy too (only $1,000) and it worked. A good 25 years later people still remember it -- and are imitating it. And it's conveyed his ideas to far more people than a dozen serious academic papers would have.

Peak home prices, or maybe not.

The New York Times reports "Rents are rising again across the country", and gives the curious interpretation that this is a sign of a weakening in home prices.
The turnaround appears to be another sign that the boom in house prices and sales is finally slowing, as homes have become so expensive in many metropolitan areas that some people have decided to rent instead.
But, of course, a rise in rents should support a rise in home prices, other things equal, since a home that generates more rental income is worth more, and if rents increase then persons in need of housing find buying a home less expensive relative to renting.

Moreover, those who argue that there is a home price bubble have regularly claimed that the failure of rents to rise with home prices is evidence of the fact. I've no doubt this has been stated in the Times itself, but not wanting to go back into the pay archives will settle for the likes of this, this and this.

Rents in about 85 percent of large metropolitan areas have climbed in the last year, according to Global Real Analytics, a research company in San Francisco. Late in 2003, rents were falling in 85 percent of markets.
Such a general rise in rents might be read as supporting the recent rise in home prices, giving impetus to a further rise, or mitigating a coming collapse. But to read it simply as evidence itself of weakening home prices seems rather like ... Times-o-nomics.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Peak oil, or maybe not.

A few of the few readers of this blog have chastised me for posting too many comments on other peoples' blogs when I should be posting here (or at least provide pointers to those comments). OK, point taken, and I am grateful to those who are kind enough to care.

I'll confess now to spending my spare time last Friday over at Prof. Hamilton's very excellent Econbrowser, in a discussion with some Peak Oilers about the impending end of civilization as we know it by energy starvation.

They confirmed for me something I always suspected...
"Well, my impression is that with oil use per $ of GDP down 50% since the first oil shocks, the effect of a shock on GDP would be proportionately less today..."

Logically, the situation is worse now than before: a smaller reduction of the oil (ie. in barrells) will cause a larger change in the GDP!
... yup, conservation is bad.

Meanwhile, the NY Times employs Peter Maass to cover the same ground in the Sunday Times Magazine and provide us with such insights as ...
Few people imagined a time when supply would dry up because of demand alone.
But now we know -- supply dries up because of demand alone!

For such new, creative analysis of the economics of oil one really can't do better than the Times' strategy of giving the cover story to a name writer noted for many things other than knowing anything at all about either economics or the oil industry.

Update: Steven "Freakonomics" Levitt's opinion of the Maass piece seems rather less charitable than mine.

Update: The Times' John Tierney pulls a Julian Simon and bets $5,000 of real money against $200 oil in 2010. (Then lays off $2,500 of the bet on Simon's widow.) The money goes in escrow, winner take all on January 1, 2011. Finally, the Times has an op-ed writer who's interesting. Words are cheap, Paul, Bob, Mo -- let's see some more action.

Here and there...

Judge Richard Posner's recent essay about the nature of the press in the NY Times Book Review certainly peeved the right people -- starting with the Times' own editor Bill Keller -- judging by the letters they wrote in response.

Lava sledding returns to Hawaii. Just in time, it'll be a way to get around after they put their new price controls on gasoline in September.

A whole exciting new future for television -- starting with porn, no doubt.

The New York Sun is keeping all its articles about the AirAmerica scam on one web page.

Did you ever want to learn to yodel? Well, now you can online -- and graduate with a Certificate of Yodelology.

Military science marches on, now wearing combat underpants (illustrated!).
"The term 'go commando' will probably now disappear," said Colonel Silas Suchanek, who led the team responsible for procuring the equipment.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Something both "true and nontrivial" in economics.

From a Sunday newspaper book review....
Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East, by Clyde Prestowitz, Basic Books, 336 pages, $26.95.

The new economic power rising in the East, smashing that atavistic American totem, "free trade," is headed toward economic hegemony. The United States is doomed to pauperization unless it adopts industrial policies. Such is the compelling message of former U.S. trade envoy Clyde Prestowitz's new book, "Trading Places: How We Are Giving Our Future to Japan and How to Reclaim It."

Whoops! Did I describe the wrong book? Why, yes, I did. Prestowitz wrote "Trading Places" in 1990, just as Japan's "improvements" on free markets sent Japan into an economic plunge from which it has still not recovered.

But Prestowitz does have a new book out about, guess what? New economic power rising in the East that is smashing that atavistic American totem, "free trade." Same milk, new bottle. (I don't say "same wine, new bottle" because many wines improve with age.)...

Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam once tried to tweak Paul Samuelson by daring him to name one theory in the social sciences that is both true and nontrivial.

Samuelson's reply was the theory of comparative advantage, the insight that there are gains from free trade between two countries even if the absolute cost of producing all products is higher in one country than the other.

"That it is not trivial is attested by the thousands of important and intelligent men who have never been able to grasp the doctrine for themselves or to believe it after it was explained to them," said Samuelson...

Judge Crater missing no more?

The NYPD's longest-running unsolved missing-person case — the bizarre and legendary disappearance of Judge Joseph Force Crater — may finally be solved...

... the Cold Case Squad is investigating information provided by Stella Ferrucci-Good of Bellerose, who died on April 2, at age 91...

[In] a handwritten letter in an envelope marked "Do not open until my death" Ferrucci-Good claimed that her late husband, Robert Good; an NYPD cop named Charles Burns; and the cop's cabby brother, Frank Burns, were responsible for Crater's death.

She added that the judge was buried in Coney Island, under the boardwalk near West Eighth Street, at the current site of the New York Aquarium...
Giving new meaning to "sleeping with the fishes".
In her letter, Ferrucci-Good also claimed that Officer Burns was one of the cops guarding notorious Murder Inc. killer Abe "Kid Twist" Reles when he somehow plummeted to his death from the sixth-floor window of a Coney Island hotel in 1941.

Reles had become a mob informant to escape the electric chair, testifying against a slew of Murder Inc. killers. His suspicious death plunge came just hours before he was due to rat out mob boss Albert Anastasia.

... police told family members that five bodies were found when the aquarium was built. Police sources confirmed that skeletal remains had been found there in the mid-1950s. They said those remains are now being examined to see if they can be linked to Crater...
One wonders: just how long do they keep old bones dug up at construction sites? And what does an officer have to do to get placed in charge of the "old bones section" of the evidence room?

Paul Krugman, inexcusably tardy with the news...

In his latest column Prof. K breathlessly reports...
...the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.
But, gee, if two major media consortiums found that back then, why does Prof K wait until 2005 to report it? Unforgivable! (Next he'll be reporting that Judge Crater is missing!)

Unless he has some excuse ... such as his being misled by the NY Times' own consortium finding...
ABSTRACT - Comprehensive review of uncounted Florida ballots from 2000 presidential election, conducted by consortium of eight news organizations and professional statisticians, indicates George W Bush would have won election even if US Supreme Court allowed statewide manual recount of votes ordered by state Supreme Court; finds, contrary to allegations by partisans of Vice Pres Al Gore, that Supreme Court did not award election to Bush;... [etc.]
(Overkill: Kaus stretches to defend Krugman, Richard Bennett shows Kaus didn't stretch far enough -- but then, the elastic man in the circus couldn't stretch far enough.)

Here's a prediction: As long as the Democrats keep obsessing over how they "really won" in 2000, the Republicans will continue to steal elections ever more brazenly by ever larger margins ... 2002 ... 2004 ...

So Karl Rove is hoping you stay right on message there, Paul.

And as an extra mental exercise, imagine what Ted Kennedy would be doing for a living today if the dead hadn't risen in record-breaking numbers to vote Democratic in Cook County in 1960.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bloggus interruptus...

Blogging here is temporarily on hold as the office move begins to resemble an adventure through one of the inner circles of hell.

Hope to escape soon, will be back then.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Briefly noted...

"I guess the headline, 'decade of good news continues' just doesn't sell as many papers." Not when it's about the economy, apparently. So notes Prof. Hamilton at Econbrowser.

Who knew The Onion dates back to 1924?

A REALLY BIG BEER AD. "This ad had better sell some bloody beer!"

In England bigamy is a crime, and it seems the penalty for having three wives is 70 pounds ($126). The penalty for having them all discover each other in your hospital room as you recover from your triple bypass operation we can only imagine.

Harry Potter Wars

Forty-nine hours of computer games should have been enough.

Smart jail break of the week.

The NFL football season is near upon us again -- beware the intersection of Mars and Venus...
A man who got angry with his wife because she wanted to cuddle after sex when what he really wanted to do was watch sports on television was sentenced to death for killing her with a claw hammer... [AP]

If Jesus appeared to you on a pierogi, would you cherish the miraculous event forever? Or would you eat Him like any other pastry? No, you heathen Internet-era capitalist, you'd auction Him on eBay for 40 pieces something over $1,525 and counting. Holy pierogi!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The price of the tattoos of youth:

Long sleeves on 90+ degree summer days like today. Just found out why a couple of women who recently moved into the neighborhood seemed to think of long sleeves and high necklines as August heat-wave apparel. Yikes, neither was kidding!

Tattoo removal has become a growth industry, says the NY Post, a decade after the tattoo boom of the mid-'90s. Prime customers: Girls who in their 20s wanted to show how rebellious they were, now being women in their 30s who want to make a good impression on prospective mates and in-laws who won't want to see the wrong name "peeking out from a strapless wedding gown", and on employers (and, in the above local cases, on co-op boards).

Guys don't seem to care so much, "some men in their 20s and 30s want to remove Greek alphabet tattoos they got in their drunken frat-boy stage."

I tell the kids to stick to piercings, when you want to get rid of them they heal on their own.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ingrate French kids spurn French Family Values

France's young set off on 'bon voyage' to better life

France is facing an unprecedented new-generation exodus as many of its disillusioned younger people leave in search of a better life abroad.

Fed up with a country they describe as rigid, racist and old-fashioned, French youngsters are opting for a new start in Britain, Canada, America or New Zealand where they can find housing and jobs more easily than in France.

Unemployment among the under-25s in France stands at 23.3 per cent, and 40 per cent of 18-30 year-olds describe their financial state as "difficult". Many cite French employment practices as being at the root of the problem...

The French tradition of offering university graduates low- paid short-term work experience, rather than full-time employment, is also blamed for the precarious financial situation in which many young French people find themselves. A massive 36 per cent of the working population aged from 25-29 say they have no job security...

So those guaranteed jobs and long vacations aren't for everybody.

Zoot alors! It seems 29-year-olds don't have families in France!
Sociologist Olivier Galland believes a cultural gap is opening up between the young and the rest of French society.

"Eighteen- to 30-year-olds have an image of a rigid, authoritarian country lacking flexibility," he said. "They are looking for a more flexible hiring system ... as they head for those [other] countries..."

"But children, we rigged this job market for you!"

Teachers unions boycott Wal-Mart
The two largest U.S. teachers' unions joined a "back to school" boycott against Wal-Mart Stores, targeting one of the year's busiest shopping seasons ...

The 2.7 million-member National Education Association, the biggest U.S. union, and the 1.3 million-member American Federation of Teachers [are] urging shoppers to stay away from the world's largest retailer and buy school supplies elsewhere...
Well, they can, Wal-Mart isn't a monopoly.

And it sure beats having the teachers' unions spend these resources and organizational efforts on something less important like, oh, improving major public school systems with 50% (or lower) graduation rates, which people can't boycott because they are monopolies.

(Let's see, where was "education" found among the top 15 items on the agenda of the National Education Association's annual meeting? Oh, yeah. That's the luxury of being a monopoly.)

Best NFL football column by a Brookings Fellow returns.

TMQ is back for the season. If only he could predict game outcomes the way he predicted how the Space Shuttle would turn out, 25 years in advance. But he can't. The course of hugely expensive government boondogles is so much easier to foresee.
In Arena League action, the Colorado Crush defeated the Arizona Rattlers 74-69 in a game that featured 18 touchdowns and four field goals; the teams combined for 80 pass attempts and nine rushes. The Crush ended up winning the Arena League championship despite surrendering an average of 54 points a game and at one stretch going two full games without recording a defensive stop...

In a National Women's Football Association game, the Columbus Comets beat the Tidewater Floods 100-0...

Norbert Revels of Hamtramck, Mich., beat Edgar Downs of Gary, Ind., in the 2005 Super Bowl of vibrating electronic football ... 14-0 by staging a clock-killer drive that consumed an entire quarter...
It's been a long off-season, eh, Gregg?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

In praise of sweatshops.

Arnold Kling sings praises of third world "sweatshops"-- noting new research (.pdf) that shows they double the income of the people who work in them and put nations on the road to economic development.

Which brought to mind a moving article in the NY Times Magazine some while ago about how sweatshop labor brings more than just money to the poor, it saves lives...

it may sound silly to say that sweatshops offer a route to prosperity, when wages in the poorest countries are sometimes less than $1 a day. Still, for an impoverished Indonesian or Bangladeshi woman with a handful of kids who would otherwise drop out of school and risk dying of mundane diseases like diarrhea, $1 or $2 a day can be a life-transforming wage.

This was made abundantly clear in Cambodia, when we met a 40-year-old woman named Nhem Yen, who told us why she moved to an area with particularly lethal malaria. "We needed to eat," she said. "And here there is wood, so we thought we could cut it and sell it."

But then Nhem Yen's daughter and son-in-law both died of malaria, leaving her with two grandchildren and five children of her own. With just one mosquito net, she had to choose which children would sleep protected and which would sleep exposed.

In Cambodia, a large mosquito net costs $5. If there had been a sweatshop in the area, however harsh or dangerous, Nhem Yen would have leapt at the chance to work in it, to earn enough to buy a net big enough to cover all her children.
Of course, the classic mistake that naive opponents of sweatshops make is believing somehow that without them the people who work in them would be better off instead of worse off. They'd be home watching television, maybe. And the children, instead of working indoors in the factory, would be in some nice school probably -- not performing longer hours of child labor outdoors scavenging or in subsistence agriculture, in conditions much, much worse.

Even Paul Krugman (Slate era) has ventured praise of cheap labor and marveled at the righteously incoherent response he received from his liberal do-gooder readers...
Why, then, the outrage of my correspondents? Why does the image of an Indonesian sewing sneakers for 60 cents an hour evoke so much more feeling than the image of another Indonesian earning the equivalent of 30 cents an hour trying to feed his family on a tiny plot of land -- or of a Filipino scavenging on a garbage heap?
And don't pretend that the anti-sweatshoppers don't really want to close them down but only to improve conditions, importing western labor practices -- Paul has the answer to that transparent ploy.

So, go ahead -- help the poorest people in the world, buy yourself some imported sneakers and insist that they come from a third-world factory using sweatshop labor.

Just do it.

Then feel good about having done your bit to help the world's poorest and most in need, to make the world a better place ... while enjoying your sneakers too!

And as to ilk like this ...
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is pushing the city council to adopt an ordinance that forbids the use of municipal funds to purchase uniforms and other clothing made in "sweatshops." Across the country, colleges often adopt similar standards for clothing displaying their school logos. North American unions, such as Unite Here, the apparel and housekeeping workers' union, often lobby to impose working standards for developing countries similar to San Francisco's proposed ordinance
... who hypocritically pose as helping the poor while in fact screwing the poor over for their own selfish political and financial gain ... well, tell 'em where to get off the bus. Preferably where it will run over them.

"To the moon Alice, bang, zoom, to to the moon..."

"You and me both, for only $100 million."
Space Adventures, a company based in Arlington, Va., has already sent two tourists into orbit. Today, it is to unveil an agreement with Russian space officials to send two passengers on a voyage lasting 10 to 21 days, depending partly on its itinerary and whether it includes the International Space Station.

A roundtrip ticket will cost $100 million...

Eric Anderson, the chief executive of Space Adventures, said he believed the trip could be accomplished as early as 2008.
[NY Times]
Roundtrip, $100 million. Are they pricing one-way?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Is Paul Krugman double moonlighting?

First the gig at Princeton, and now this new Q&A column...

Esteemed Dr. Krugman -

If, as you assert in your column, the French earn less than Americans because they want to, can't it also be true that women might earn less than men because of an innate preference?

Help me out here,

Larry Summers - Cambridge MA
Does the Times know?

You thought they were just chewing their cud, hanging out there on the side of the hill.
cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found. Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future....

Dairy cow herds can also be intensely sexual.

"Cows look calm, but really they are gay nymphomaniacs," [says] John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol...
All right, anthropomorphizing farm animals up to a point (somewhere short of they're being 'gay nymphomaniacs', I'd think) to maintain decent compassion for all God's creatures is one thing ... but where may this lead us?
Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, said even chickens may have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems. [TimesUK]
Come that day, the resident psychiatrist at Purdue farms will have a very busy practice, no doubt.

Things to look at...

Color illusions

[tip: Neolibertarian Net]

And try anthropomorphizing what Pinky the Cat was thinking as the shelter folks tried to give him away.

[tip: Tim Worstall]

Monday, August 08, 2005

Federal tax subsidies in action.

There's a $2,000 tax deduction you can get for buying a new vehicle with gas-electric hybrid engine. Most people think of this as a gas-saving subsidy to promote fuel economy. But...
The hybrid version of the Lexus sport utility wagon follows in the tracks of the 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid by offering more horsepower than the conventional version of the same vehicle ... [without] even a nominal improvement in gas mileage [NY Times]
Hey, we've got a federal horsepower subsidy!

Now, recall how the government's CAFE fuel economy regulations created the SUV and see the result of fuel-saving regulations compounded: SUVs with extra horsepower!

August shorts

Mysteries of the universe explained: why cats don't like candy.

If World War II had been an online role playing game it'd have left a chat file.

Hawaii intends to host a That '70s Show, Gas Lines Special, by imposing gasoline price controls this coming September. Even after the feds warn them not to. (Why, of course I want politicians to control ever more of the economy -- let's start by putting them in charge of my health via nationalized health care! Speaking of which...)

NY Times opinion page observation of the week:
elderly Americans actually pay more for health care as a percent of their income now than they did before Medicare was enacted: 21.7 percent in 2000, versus 19.1 percent in 1965. Paradoxically, the program is also extremely expensive and wasteful.
"Paradoxically"? And, paradoxically, this was a column endorsing Medicare.

New scientific research confirms what all drinkers know, consuming alcohol makes you smarter. We thus conclude that the EU bureaucrats who are trying to put the finest traditional German beer servers out of business (tip: Roland Patrick) either are teetotalers or were born too stupid to be helped. They've never heard of sun block?

A City Journal article about politics on the funny pages quotes Al Capp, creator of the famous Li’l Abner, (I'm old enough to remember both of them) on how his politics moved from left to right during the 1960s...
“What began to bother me, privately, was that, as things grew better, the empire of the needy seemed to grow larger ... Yet I remained a loyal liberal. I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of liberalism. I spoke at liberal banquets in New York, Los Angeles, Washington.

"One day a lady photographer came to my studio and showed me a collection of Boston photographs. A publisher would publish them if only I would rattle off the captions ... This one, she said, will break your heart. She showed me a picture of a city street. It was mid-afternoon, the sun was shining. Garbage cans were tipped on the sidewalk. Bottles lined the gutters. On a porch sprawled a half dozen teenagers, drinking and smoking.

"The caption, I said, should be, ‘Get up off your asses and clean the street!’ The lady stormed out. I guess that was when I began leaving what liberalism had become."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The New York Times rejects Krugman's "no brainer" on China.

I couldn't help but notice how last week Gail Collins and the NY Times editorial board gave an editorial page lesson on trade policy to its own in-house mercantilist, Paul Krugman, regarding China.

Krugman had argued in his column that the US government should block the acquisition of the Unocal oil company by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, even though the latter had outbid all others by about $2 billion for it. But he worried that the US government wouldn't be able to do so for risk of offending the Chinese -- upon whom we have, he says, become so weakly reliant to buy our bonds, negotiate with the North Koreans for us, sell us cheap toothpaste, and so on.

As Krugman's good friend Brad DeLong put it...
As I read Paul, he says that if we did not need Chinese help on North Korea and if we were not very vulnerable to a cut-off of capital inflows, then it would be a no-brainer
But Gail & Co., showing a rare (for them) understanding of things political-economic, put paid to that "no brainer". Perhaps they read Krugman's own pre-Times days column mocking those who fear China's trade surplus.

Well, Krugman's analysis was zero-for-two in this column -- wrong both on what other puzzled economists are calling its "illiberal ... bizarre economics" and with the astute political analysis that the US is now so weak vis a vis China that the government would be reluctant or unable to kill the deal.

There was no reluctance at all, *bam*, the deal is dead -- for whatever bad political reasons.

Anyhow, he can't claim the Bushies did wrong this time, eh? Though they did.

As for the Times editorial board, I don't believe for a minute that they actually understand comparative advantage and the real reasons why free trade is good (e.g., as gone over by the old pre-Times Krugman). I rather think their stance on this issue, as on most, just reflects the politically correct beliefs of the liberal establishment elite which (unlike the beliefs of the liberal rank-and-file) still include support for free trade. They don't want to be seen in the same camp as Pat Buchanan -- where now Krugman is.

But heck, we'll take support for free trade wherever we can get it. And if a stopped clock is right twice a day we'll admit it and give it kudos on both occasions.

Time will move on quickly enough, no doubt.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Noted around and about ...

Posting will remain sporadic here through August (among other reasons, my office is in boxes while I'm still trying to make a living from it) but in the meantime...

I was going to ask, 'what's the point of a new Payola Scandal in this day and age?', but Daniel Gross over at Slate asked first. Of course, the point is that Elliot Spitzer is trying to pull a Dewey/Guiliani by building political name recognition here in New York as a high-profile prosecutor, no matter how dumbass the prosecutions he brings. Well, at least he's moved on from prosecuting over-greedy bathroom attendants like this fellow.

Counsel has a tough day on oral argument before the Court of Appeals (audio file).

More opinions on Krugman's French Family Values come in from Nobel economist Gary Becker and Judge Richard Posner.

Nobel economist Robert Fogel observes how projections of economic performance have been "uniformly too pessimistic" ever since World War II. More support for David Brooks' observation that "only pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious".

Bjørn Lomborg debates the Sierra Club's Carl Pope. Who wins? You decide. [Hat tip: Tim Worstall]

Bad news for life on Mars.

The Washington Post documents the Medicare fiasco, while the New York Times documents the Medicaid fiasco. Why, oh why, does Krugman want to inflict this on us all? Maybe before writing his next column claiming government health care is so successful he should take the trouble to read the papers.

Follow the bouncing ball biker!

The Democrats finally announce their Social Security reform proposal! And it is: Save more in your 401(k) so when Social Security goes bust you'll still have something.

Michael Moore is a cheap tipper ... and a millionaire, union-busting exploiter of labor ...
one senior staffer regularly responded to Moore's abuse by presenting the boss with a big box of doughnuts. He assured co-workers he was not trying to placate Moore. Rather, he figured Mike's intemperate scarfing would hasten the fat man's death.
... and a "bloated narcissist" ... but you knew all that.

The CIA is recruiting.

Why urban public schools fail, part (who can count?): Check the top 15 items on the agenda of the National Education Association's annual convention and see where "education" fits in.

Nifty video of a plane getting hit by lightning and flying off on its way.

Smart Indian Ocean tsunami victim: a Serbian ... in Serbia.

Alleged motor vehicle violation of the week: Two women pushing a broken down car after having a few drinks face charges for "driving under the influence" after they pushed their car into a parked one. An interesting enough case -- but I doubt the judicial outcome will match our favorite DUI appeals court decision.

Google rules!

That little post last Sunday about the hooker who couldn't keep her mouth shut quiet drew 2,000 search engine hits in one day with 94% of the searches by Google, 4% by Yahoo, and 2% by all others. (With almost no hits on Sunday or Monday -- the tide came in Tuesday morning. What happened then?)

So either Google's users have a highly disproportionate interest in $2,000 hookers or we see the extent to which it dominates the search business.

But should it? At this writing Google lists as the #1 web site of more than 3 million for "videos of fat people doing fat people".

Hey, is there something I forgot I posted? It's great to be #1 at anything, but...

Maybe I should be getting a message here? In addition to the above, hits continue to stream in for old posts on the "Jewel Affair" affair, Joe Massino, Tara's boob ... Maybe it's best to forget Social Security. A site redesign to Sex & Crime, All The Time just may be in the works.

Monday, August 01, 2005

An irony Paul Krugman will never understand.

Paul Krugman today, giving us one of his typical descriptions of the US government in action ...
the administration is getting nowhere on its grand policy agenda. But it never took policy, as opposed to politics, very seriously anyway. The agenda it has always taken with utmost seriousness - consolidating one-party rule, and rewarding its friends - is moving forward...

These bills don't have anything to do with governing, if governing means trying to achieve actual policy goals ... They're just machine politics at work, favors granted in return for favors received... In fact, you can argue that the administration does a bad job at governing in part because its highest priority is always to reward its friends...

Still, Republicans should feel good. Those legislative successes show that the political machine can still deliver the goods, even at a time when a majority of Americans disapprove...
Paul Krugman quite recently...

Above all, we need to put aside our anti-government prejudices
and ...

Modern American politics is dominated by the doctrine that government is the problem, not the solution ... You don't have to be a liberal to realize that this is wrong-headed.
Get it?

He spends 5 1/2 years relentlessly slanging the government as being inept, dishonest, corrupt, bad ... then tells us that above all, we need to put aside our anti-government prejudices!

That, of course, so we will be willing to ever expand the portion of the economy run by the government through new national health care programs, et. al., (to, for starters, say Krugman's preferred 28% of GDP instead of the current 17%).

Here's a simple irony Paul Krugman will never understand:

Milton Friedman and the small-government types on the right take Paul Krugman's complaints about the character of government much more seriously than Paul Krugman does.

(They take Brad DeLong's complaints more seriously than DeLong does, too.)

That's why they want small government.

Heck, I take Krugman's complaints about government more seriously than Krugman does. Politicians operate by consolidating power, rewarding friends, granting favors for favors received ... Yup, that's what they do! That's why I don't want to give them 11 points more of GDP (65% more) to play with.

But Krugman, while lecturing us ceaselessly about the evils and incompetence of the politicians in Washington, does want to give it to them. Go figure that out.