Saturday, August 30, 2008

Climate models

have no predictive value (via Mr Pete).

Aid is good, jobs are better

Aid is important for Africa's poorest countries, but we must also address the real reason why growth stalls: The cost of doing business is just too high.
Read the whole thing (via Chris Blattman).

Friday, August 29, 2008

The thing I love most about Sarah Palin

as an advocate of a more limited government (and, thus, freer Americans) is that she stopped The Bridge To Nowhere.

Just as I suspected about those pesky short sellers

They improve the price mechanism by offsetting players desiring to inflate.

Graph of the day

This is what happens when a pro-ANWR drilling Alaskan governor becomes a VP candidate.

Middle class in Manhattan

I addressed where $250k per year fits in Manhattan a couple of days ago.

Today, Felix Salmon picks up the same topic, but his comments are not working for me, so I will post here for your consideration:
Let's say that a family of 4 in Manhattan makes $250,000 per year, and they give $25,000 to charity and save $25,000 per year (retirement & college savings plans totaling $20,000).

Federal, state and city income & sales taxes will take about $80,000. So they are left with $10,000 per month to spend. Of course, a 2 bedroom apartment will cost about $7,000 per month, and since more than half the households under the poverty line have a car, let's give them a car, parking spot and 4 unlimited Metrocards, which costs $1,000 per month to carry in the city.

I'm not sure that $2,000 per month for food, clothing, utilities, travel & entertainment, and everything else constitutes rich.

$250,000 for a SINGLE PERSON, now that is rich. But households have almost 3 people in them.

Felix, I take it you don't have kids yet.

Intrade GOP VP contract

calling the appointment for Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska:

Palin could be next Dan Quayle or Harriet Miers; but she appears to have more executive experience--as a mayor of a tiny town and a governor--than the other ticket.

Quotes of the day

... the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.--Barack Obama

Republicans and the Clintons have long observed that Obama’s New Politics is pure hokum. He runs negative ads, he lies about his record and his opponent, he flip flops on issues of “principle” and he breaks promises (e.g. campaign financing).--Jennifer Rubin

A ship in harbor is safe but that’s not why it was built.--Sarah Palin

In the next few days a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters will be asking why she wasn’t the VP.--Howard Wolfson

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finally, change I can believe in

But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy..--Barack Obama
I appreciate Obama's charisma. Even more, I appreciate his message and theme that we are not Two Americas, but One. It is so easy to tear down and divide; I believe that Obama wants to unite and reconcile.

But I couldn't help but wince, frequently, during his speech, when he talked about the problems of Americans. Because a lot can be traced back to the failures of government.

Where is the source of inflation, unemployment, falling home prices? Could it be our government policies of extending mortgages to people who cannot afford them, so that now, the credit markets have ground down to a near halt, and monetary policy which has reduced the buying power of the American household?

And why would we want to isolate and protect ourselves from the global oil markets? Producers send us a prized commodity in exchange for little pieces of paper. We are not utilizing all of our reserves, but even if we did, what would the price of gasoline be if it could only be refined from domestic crude? $15/gal? $25/gal?

And that will still be cheaper than energy from current wind and solar technologies. Until there are some huge breakthroughs there, I'm a fan of exploiting nuclear and geothermal energy--but those require big capital expenditures up front, which will divert trillions from, what? Social Security and Medicare?

Opting out of the oil markets could quadruple our current unemployment rate. Forget losing a third of our wealth to meet the European standard; we could end up a lot closer Mexico's GDP per capita levels.

There were surpluses under Bill Clinton, yes. But he cut 1% of GDP out of the defense budget, which would equate to $500 billion in today's terms. Take that away; no surplus. And what would have happened if the 1993 WTC bombers were treated as enemies rather than criminals, and Bin Laden was apprehended in Africa in 1998, instead of being a diversionary tactic during Lewinsky-gate? What if Jamie Gorelick, Clinton's appointee, does not successfully build the wall between the FBI and CIA and prevent terrorist intelligence operations (her mandate was to prevent the investigation of illegal foreign donations to Clinton and Gore).

Maybe 9/11 doesn't happen.

We do need change, Senator Obama. I hope you can bring it, if elected. I don't think McCain will bring it, given his legislative track record. (But at least he has one).

Colorado & Nevada bounce back

towards Obama:

Democrat: 273 [+9]
Republican: 232 [+5]
Dead Heat: 33 [-14]
Total: 538 (270 to win)

Previous map here.

Obama says he is not comfortable with taking the presidency

given his inexperience. Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Hillary & Bill Clinton agree with him.

Education is too important

to tolerate this type of rent seeking.

DNC delegates disagree with Obama

on his federal tax plan. They think he's going to tax the rich way too much!

Markets by the pound

$20,679 Platinum
$22,680 Fifty Dollar Bills
$22,680 Cocaine
$45,359 Hundred Dollar Bills

$77,292 Rhodium
$11.4 M Good-quality, one-carat diamonds
$55 M LSD
$26 Quadrillion Antimatter

What does it say, that Malia and Shasha Obama are huge fans

of the Jonas Brothers?

As a dad to a 7-yr-old daughter, I must confess that I am able to sing Troy Bolton's tenor parts on his duets with Gabriella Montez ...

Obama sans teleprompter

gives me the same awkward feeling as Dubya. Check out Letterman's "uh" count, 1:40 in.

Of course, McCain is very consistent, with or without.

How artists spend their time

Had to post this, as I work with and am related to several artists:

Newegg is speaking truth to power

helping the poor keep more of their money.

Forbes' 10 best retirement locales

#10 Nashville
#9 Atlanta
#8 St. Louis
#7 Denver
#6 Indianapolis

#5 Salt Lake City
#4 Houston
#3 Minneapolis
#2 Dallas
#1 Columbus
I noticed that several of these cities are NFL hosts with domed stadiums. (This might qualify me for Beauty and the Geek).

Nice DNC roundup

by Tony Woodlief (via Megan McArdle):

The big news this week is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in love. Everyone is cool with it, especially Bill Clinton. This may prove to be a complicated relationship, however, because Obama is actually Jesus Christ. His ascension is scheduled to take place before a live audience tonight in Denver at approximately 8:30 Mountain Daylight Time.

There was some question about whether Obama's heavenly citizenship will prohibit him from serving as U.S. president, but legal experts concur that since heaven is somewhere "way way up there," it is technically in U.S. airspace. They note by way of precedent that Dick Cheney did not stop being Vice-President for the 18 consecutive months he spent flying across the country after the 9/11 attacks.

In related news, Obama has selected Joe Biden to be his Vice-President. Biden is a wise statesman from the Senate, and not the mean-spirited, plagiarizing, third-rate legal mind and lifetime politician from Scranton who also goes by that name.

Obama's team is also expected to include Moses as National Security Advisor, St. Paul as Secretary of State, and Elijah as campaign spokesman.

The Republicans, meanwhile, plan to proceed with their convention next week at an undisclosed IHOP in Canada, where John McCain will lie in state.

Extending, does Al Gore take the mantle of John the Baptist? No, that would have to be George W. Bush, just on the relative wilderness.

U.S. 2nd quarter GDP revised from +1.9% to +3.3%

That's very material, flying in the face of the multitudes of depression-mongers filling our airways (most of whom were probably journalism majors, and never had to take a single serious math course).

I am short both the 2008 and 2009 Intrade recession contracts.

Federal deposit insurance fund

is seriously underfunded.

This is another case--on a huge mound of cases--that demonstrates that government solutions, even led by private sector stars like Hank Paulson, underperform private solutions.

Government is good for many things: protecting individuals, protecting individuals' rights, funding infrastructure and research that are not addressed by the private sector (for example, the Louisiana Purchase and the Internet).

Government is not good for managing people's money, health care, and education--the markets are outperforming government agencies in these areas. We are paying for Social Security once, but the surplus is being embezzled for other programs, so we will have to pay for it yet again. Medicare is also underfunded, and provides neither new solutions nor cheaper solutions to the sick. And as great as a public school is--say UC Berkeley--there are many preferred private schools who provide better education and also better research.

I would love to see our government play to it's strengths, and get out of sectors where it is preventing people access to better alternatives.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart to the rescue. Again.

Quotes of the day

Weirdly, McCain seems to have taken a lead in the rapid-delivery YouTube department. I wouldn't have predicted that.--Glenn Reynolds

No offense, but that sounds like a bunch of commie gobbledygook.--Norm MacDonald, to Nastia Liukin, on gymnastics judging and points system

To showcase your work ... you need a stellar Web site and if a newspaper doesn't have that, you can't be stuck in the 20th century with your old newspaper.--Jay Mariotti

Certain writers have a style that can be best likened to body odor: irresistible to some, obnoxious to many and apparently imperceptible to the writer himself.--Robert Macfarlane

Paulson's bazooka is cheap. It's been ineffective in terms of stopping the bleeding in the share price. And as for lethal, it depends on whose death he was talking about.--Caroline Baum

The problem with teacher's unions is inherent in the way that Democrats talk about unions: by banding together, they say, you create a powerful counterweight equal and opposite to the power of the companies in negotiations. So the schools have a gigantic, powerful bargaining bloc. Who doesn't have a bargaining bloc? The kids.--Megan McArdle

If Mr. Obama is really to remind the nation of Martin Luther King, he might follow King's example of taking a moral stand. King did not vacillate on his call for civil rights laws, voting rights laws or fair housing laws. He took a stand even with his own supporters. In his historic speech on Aug. 28, 1963, King declared "there is something that I must say to my people," and then spoke against bitterness, hatred and violence even in the name of "gaining our rightful place" and freedom.--Juan Williams

Stephanopoulos then asked Obama to explain his relationship with Ayers. Obama’s answer: “The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense, George.” Obama was indeed only eight in early 1970. I was only nine then, the year Ayers’s Weathermen tried to murder me.--John M. Murtagh

When I heard of Peter's sudden death from leukemia last month I was more shocked and saddened than I would have expected. I had lost a challenging former critic and a good new friend. Peter Rodman was a man of great wisdom and great civility. The West has lost one of its most articulate defenders.--William Shawcross

... William was invited to invade by the English Whig aristocracy and that his "Declaration," far from being "spin," was the only basis on which he was allowed to set foot in England. If the domestic Protestant governing classes had not effectively chosen William over James, the Dutch invasion fleet would have met the fate of the Spanish Armada.--Andrew Roberts

Dustin Pedroia hit his first career grand slam to highlight a seven-run outburst in the eighth, Jason Bay drove in four runs, and Paul Byrd pitched six strong innings of five-hit ball Wednesday night as the Red Sox crushed the Yankees, 11-3, before a sullen Yankee Stadium crowd of 55,027.--Michael Vega

More erosion of the First Amendment

at the DNC.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Graph of the day

actually, of the past 4 decades.

A 66% increase, within my lifetime. Wow!

William Bernstein's brief history

on economic growth. Read the whole thing!

National performance rankings for the 2008 Olympics


#1 Jamaica
#2 Bahrain
#3 Estonia

#4 New Zealand
#5 Australia

#33 USA

#47 China

Wall Street aspirants are taking cover


I took the GMAT in 1987, scored a 780*, decided against it, and I have no regrets.

*I have no idea how scoring may have changed in the past 2 decades, but would not trade that score with anyone. Of course, standardized tests don't say much about intelligence, and I'm your proof.

Biden's largest impact on his country?

Perhaps ushering us into the Age of Borking.

Obama's toughest fact check

at least in my opinion.

I'm not in favor of abortion any more than slavery, but I'm also not in favor of the government pushing individuals and families in either direction. I think this is why I'm not registered with any political party.

I smell a newspaper bailout request


Wells Fargo & Citibank alerts

Too afraid to put up indicative numbers?

Financial services will remain weak for the next 2-4 years, in my estimate. This will keep the stock & real estate markets flattish as well. I wish my wealth and employment outlook in the short term was better, but I don't think that's being realistic.

UPDATE: Evan Newmark is more bullish than I am, citing 3 possible catalysts to a nearer recovery:
#1 McCain wins the Presidential election

#2 The U.S. housing market sees a bottom

#3 The momentum trade switches to U.S. stocks
My responses would be: 1) there's a great chance Obama will win, 2) mortgages might still be hard to come by, and 3) without stronger earnings sentiment, momentum skips stocks for now

Barney Frank: Right on the goodness of prediction markets

Wrong on the goodness of government agencies.

Quotes of the day

We should be led by Osama bin Laden. I mean Obama and Biden.--Charlie Wilson (yes, of recent movie biopic fame)

This election, in other words, is becoming a contest to decide which type of elite voters hate -- or fear, or mistrust -- more: A social elite or an economic elite?--Ezra Klein

The problem with direct flights is that the fuel for the last part of the journey has to get carried the entire distance. Carrying fuel uses fuel to push that fuel along. So airplanes if airplanes carry less fuel and stop more often they become more fuel efficient. The elimination of direct flights from New York is probably partly a reflection of this fact.--Randall Parker

The economic planners want to blame consumers for not saving, and they want to "nudge" consumers to save more. But the most prodigious dis-saving has been done by the economic planners. If Social Security consisted of personal accounts, then that $5 trillion would be sitting in what I once called the ultimate lockbox. Instead, it needs to be collected again in future taxes.--Arnold Kling

Recent research on President Bush's tax relief in 2001 and 2003 has found that the lower tax rates induced taxpayers to report more taxable income. In particular, the reduction in the top two tax rates induced taxpayers to report more taxable income—an increase in the size of the tax base—to such an extent that this positive behavioral response likely offset roughly 25 percent to 40 percent of the static revenue loss of lowering the top two tax rates.--Bob Carroll

Anybody else notice that all the "racism" stories seem to be about...Democrats?--Jon Henke

Feldstein is worried about house price declines "overshooting" their proper value. If he knows what the proper value of everyone's house is, he should set up a hedge fund to buy houses that fall below that value, while shorting the market-traded house price indexes in cities where house prices are still too high. In fact, Feldstein doesn't know the proper value of everyone's house. And I think it's time to stop looking for ways for government to make more bets and enact more subsidies in that market.--Arnold Kling

Oil profits bad… government “green” spending good. The last successful government energy project made a big splash in New Mexico in 1945. And yet they oppose nuclear power.--Stephen Green

It turns out that banking regulations and tax rules encouraged banks to buy Freddie and Fannie preferred stock. Regulators require to banks to maintain a capital cushion against losses on loans. This capital requirement can be met by holding cash or cash equivalents and certain investments that were considered relatively risk-free. The preferred stock of Fannie and Freddie was one of the highest yielding investments banks were allowed to hold to meet capital requirements ... --John Carney

Fox News is running a Hillary hagiography. All I can think is, “THIS is CNN.”--Stephen Green

What impressed me is that WALL-E is brutal in its portrayal of obesity, despite treating it with humor. It pulls no punches. I can only imagine how uncomfortable this might have been for some families to explain to their kids, and Pixar deserves real kudos for making folks think about it. WALL-E is a parable that at its core says that technology is anything but cold and lifeless. It reminds us that the challenge to humans in handling an explosion of technology is not to lose our humanity.--Tim Kane

Obama has such a small a resume that it is a wonder he still needs to run from it.--Tom Maguire

Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I’m not interested in the darkness anymore. I’ve got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don’t want to go back into that dark place.--Joe Eszterhas

$250,000 per year is not rich in Manhattan

It's approximately middle class, if you use relative statistics such as median.

Of course, we pay the same for consumer goods, such as a car. But in Manhattan, we also get to pay $400 per month to park the car. Of course, no one NEEDS a car, what with public transporation, and NYC's transit system is actually quite good (it's far from perfect, but not bad, considering it's been run by the government for quite awhile). But more than half the households considered "poverty" have at least one car, and the freedom that comes with it.

The real downer living here is the 13% in state-and-city income tax we pay, on top of federal income tax (a tax rate which triggers the Alternative Minimum Tax at lower income levels than the rest of the country). That puts us above the Canadians (not that I want to wait 6 weeks for an MRI under their "free" healthcare system).

Here's the CNBC debate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bret Stephens says Russia is Dangerous

but Weak. Sounds like Iraq in the Nineties:
And here's a crazy thought: The same laws of social, economic and geopolitical gravity that applied in Brezhnev's U.S.S.R. apply equally in Mr. Putin's KGB state.

Take something as basic as demography. "In the next four decades," noted CIA Director Michael Hayden earlier this year, "we expect . . . the population of Russia to shrink by 32 million people [to about 110 million]. That means Russia will lose about a quarter of its population. To sustain its economy, Russia increasingly will have to look elsewhere for workers. Some of them will be immigrant Russians coming from the former Soviet states, what the Russians call the near abroad. But there aren't enough of them to make up that population loss. Others will be Chinese and non-Russians from the Caucasus, Central Asia and elsewhere, potentially aggravating Russia's already uneasy racial and religious tensions."

Or take oil and gas production, which accounts for one-third of the country's budget, 64% of its export revenue, 30% of foreign direct investment, and a little more than 20% of gross domestic product.

There's bad news here, too. Oil production is set to decline this year for the first time in a decade, a decline that is widely expected to accelerate rapidly in 2010. Of Russia's 14 largest oil fields, seven are more than 50% depleted. Production at its four largest gas fields is also in decline. Russia drilled about four million feet of new wells last year. In 1990, it drilled 17 million.

None of this is because Russia is necessarily running out of oil and gas: Existing fields could be better managed, and huge expanses of territory remain unexplored. Instead, it is a function of underinvestment, incompetence, corruption, political interference and crude profiteering. "If you're running Gazprom but you don't really own it, then your interest is in maximizing short-term profits, not long-term development," a Western diplomat told McClatchy's Tom Lasseter.

With the exception of Robert Mugabe, no other leader has so completely fouled his own nest as Mr. Putin, or squandered so much international good will. In 2003, Mr. Putin formed, with Germany and France, a coalition of the unwilling to oppose the invasion of Iraq. It was a coalition he might have built on to consolidate Russia's place in, and perhaps eventually atop, Europe. Even Condoleezza Rice seemed prepared to go along, with her reported inane comment that the U.S. should "forgive" Russia while "ignoring" Germany and "punishing" France.

Instead, we have the spectacles of Russia's nasty meddling in Ukraine's 2004 disputed presidential election, the murder in Britain of ex-KGB man Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, and to cap it off this month's Georgia venture.

Now the Poles have agreed to U.S. missile defense, John McCain's call to expel Russia from the G-8 suddenly seems credible, and even European leftists are looking askance at the man they once cheered for his Iraq stance. No doubt Mr. Putin despises these people -- and can afford to, as long as Europe remains overwhelmingly reliant on Russian energy and energy prices remain high.

But those prices are bound to fall, as they always have. What will Russia be left with then? And what will it mean for Mr. Putin's clique, where the possibility of infighting has only grown with the split between his ex-KGB siloviki pals who wanted the presidency and the members of Mr. Medvedev's camp who got it?

For much of its history, Russia has been a weak state masquerading as a strong one -- a psychological profile in insecurity. That's why it has generally sought its advantage internationally by acting as an opportunistic spoiler, as it now does over Iran, rather than as a constructive partner seeking to magnify its influence (à la Britain) or as a rising power patiently asserting its place (à la China).

Biden and Obama in full agreement

on financial ties to Tony Rezko.

Like Microsoft imitates Apple

so Major League Baseball follows the NFL.

Obama is not pro-choice

when it comes to free speech. So much for his constitutional scholarship.


The race for the White House tightens

even further, with Ohio and Colorado now anybody's game. Previous map here.

Vote predictions derived from Intrade contracts.

Another anecdote bearing out the futility in Chris Masse's trading strategy--he would have bought Obama on July 1 when the Democrat had 306 projected votes, instead of the 264 he has now.

Democrat: 264 [-29]
Republican: 227
Dead Heat: 47 [+29]
Total: 538 (270 to win)

Environmental bimbos

here (via Tigerhawk):
#7 Paul McCartney Gets a Hybrid... Flown to Him by Private Jet

#6 Jennifer Aniston Brushes Her Teeth in the Shower

#5 Sheryl Crow Uses One Sheet of Toilet Paper Per Visit

#4 Woody Harrelson Has "Vegan" Clothes... Flown by Private Jet

#3 Coldplay Offsets Their Carbon Footprint Via Dead Trees

#2 Harrison Ford Waxes His Chest Hair to Save the Rain Forest

#1 Al Gore Holds Green Concerts, With Artists Flown by Private Jet
It's nice to have a big heart and a tiny brain?

Inequality in sports must be eliminated!!!

All competitions must be regulated to result in ties.

Karl Marx is happy.

Are Barack Obama and Warren Buffett

economic man-bos? Obama says:
If you talk to Warren, he'll tell you his preference is not to meddle in the economy at all—let the market work, however way it's going to work, and then just tax the heck out of people at the end and just redistribute it.
as if tax policy has zero effect on markets. I think my 7 year-old suffers from less denial.

The latest episode of Bikini Statistics

Statistics are like a bikini. What they present is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital--Aaron Levenstein
Law schools game rankings by channeling lower scoring applicants to part-time programs.

Previous B.S. episode here.

Nancy Pelosi

is an energy bimbo:

Ms. Pelosi appeared Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," where Tom Brokaw gently pointed out that the various Democratic alternative energy ambitions are "not going to happen overnight." Replied Ms. Pelosi: "You can have a transition with natural gas. That, that is cheap, abundant and clean compared to fossil fuels." Later, she again said that "I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels," and that wind, solar, biofuels and "a focus on natural gas, these are the real alternatives."

Apparently Ms. Pelosi's new script is still being reworked, but it's a telling mistake. Not only is natural gas every bit as much a "fossil fuel" as oil or coal. More to the point, these concentrated organic compounds found beneath the earth's surface must be extracted by . . . drilling. And sometimes even drilling offshore, on the Outer Continental Shelf. But more drilling is what Ms. Pelosi had refused to allow just a few days ago.

Natural gas was once the toast of the Beltway, since it burns cleaner than oil and coal, though that was before Democrats became hostile to any form of carbon energy. But lately natural gas is making a comeback, thanks in part to the high-profile advocacy of T. Boone Pickens, who has been embraced by Democrats as the latest green champion. As a follow-up, we'd like to see someone ask Ms. Pelosi if she still supports more natural gas exploration once she learns that it's made from evil carbon.

The markets may fail us, but not as horribly as Congress would and does.

If you thought the Chinese would be interested in dumping US Dollars

Think again.

Quotes of the day

If the Obamas see soulmates among the Kennedys, they see the Clintons as, if not spoilers, then at heart a more complicated and tactical family.--Patrick Healy

I spent 5 1/2 years in a prison cell without -- I didn't have a house. I didn't have a kitchen table. I didn't have a table. I didn't have a chair. I spent those 5 1/2 years ... not because I wanted to get a house when I got out.--John McCain

I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.--Hillary Clinton

John Edwards has been barred from making a speech at the Democratic Convention because he had an adulterous affair and lied about it. In his place, Bill Clinton will be speaking. What am I missing?--Anonymous

If [Barack Obama] really thinks that, by liberating Iraq from a dangerous tyrant, American somehow set a bad example that invited Russia to invade a small, peaceful and democratic nation, then he should state it outright – because that's a debate I welcome.--John McCain

The reason so many people misunderstand so many issues is not that these issues are so complex, but that people do not want a factual or analytical explanation that leaves them emotionally unsatisfied. They want villains to hate and heroes to cheer-- and they don't want explanations that do not give them that. --Thomas Sowell

There are countries in Europe that would love to have their unemployment rate fall to the 5.7% unemployment rate to which ours has risen. Yet those who seem to want us to imitate European economic and social policies never seem to want to consider the actual consequences of those policies.--Thomas Sowell

Both major political parties are infested with protectionists who would discriminate on the basis of national origin no less virulently than David Duke or any other racist would discriminate on the basis of skin color.--Steve Landsburg

Ours is a better world because of America. The world is safer because of the American soldier. The world is wealthier because of American enterprise. The world is healthier because of American technology. No nation is perfect, but imagine the world without America.--Tim Montgomerie, Peter Cuthbertson, and Stephan Shakespeare

Monday, August 25, 2008

Memphis Minimum Wage as high as

$10, panhandling.

Esquire rounds up the dumbest

VP picks of all time.

Warren Buffett's genius

Torts for the tort lawyer.

Rick Warren

gets it, a lot more than I thought he might have. Pastor Warren, I apologize for misunderestimating you.

Change I believe in


Pay no attention to that woman

behind the curtain.

Those who can't do


A sporting reason for the old USSR

to reconstitute.

Graph of the day

courtesy of Greg Mankiw.

It appears a free oil market might affect fatalities more than government regulation.

Quotes of the day

Apparently in Obama's view, the more rich people there are, the worse the economy is doing.--James Taranto

Perhaps the McCains will adopt George [Hussein Onyango Obama].--Glenn Reynolds

The candidate of change went with the status quo.--Ron Fournier

I'd like to see you president instead of the guy we have now.--Joe Biden in 2004, to John McCain

We’re not saying the Democrats are unpatriotic or anything, but why do they need to have the Pledge of Allegiance on the Teleprompter?--Joe Garofalo

... the emergent order is like a pool, and the plans of businesses are like rocks tossed into the pool. They cause some disturbances, but the pool settles down in its own way. The plans of government may work similarly. We want to pretend that the government can transform the pool into any shape it chooses. In fact, it can only toss in rocks, just like anyone else.--Arnold Kling

What’s the function of a film of this kind? Essentially as a primer on love and marriage directed at very young people, imprinting on their little psyches the idea that smooth-talking delinquents recently escaped from the local pound are a good match for nice girls from sheltered homes. When in ten years the icky human version of Tramp shows up around the house, their hormones will be racing and no one will understand why. Films like this program women to adore jerks.--Whit Stillman

Friday, August 22, 2008

Q. How much wind farm to power New York City?

A. TWO HUNDRED TIMES the space of Manhattan:

At, Kurt Cobb worked the numbers. Generously, he presumed the windmills would use 5-megawatt turbines – generating three times the output of a typical 1.5-megawatt turbine. He compared that with a 500-megawatt fossil-fuel (coal) power plant needed to power a city of 300,000 people. A typical power plant, he noted, would cover 300 acres, but use only 30 of those for the actual facility.

Cobb calculated it would take 233 5-megawatt wind turbines to equal the coal plant's output, since the wind doesn't blow constantly. Each would need to be spaced 2,065 feet away from the others (five times the diameter of their 413-foot rotors). Adding the rotor diameters to the spacing requirement equates to a 110-mile long line of windmills, half a mile in width.

It comes to 55 square miles. That's to provide electricity for a town of 300,000 people.

New York City has 8.1 million residents. Manhattan Island totals 23 square miles. So, based on Cobb's calculations, it would take six and a half Manhattan Islands, each covered totally with windmills, to power one-tenth of New York City. And if standard 1.5-megawatt wind turbines were used, they would take three times more space.

Mayor Bloomberg's vision is flawed. But it's typical of the pie-in-the-sky energy "solutions" suggested by those who would rather "go green" than "get real."(Bloomberg looks positively reasonable compared to the Australian engineer who proposed a giant helicopter carrying wind rotors 15,000 feet into the sky, and sending back electricity through a tether wire super-sized extension cord!)

Going back to Kurt Cobb's calculations, if we wanted to meet the electric needs of 300 million Americans rather than only 300,000, we'd need a half-mile swath of windmills, each of them hundreds of feet high, 110,000 miles long, crisscrossing the continent 40 times between New York City and Los Angeles.

That's a lot of land to condemn. The cost would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, since each large windmill costs millions.

National Wind Watch calculates that wind power consumes an average of 50 acres per megawatt when you include the need to remove trees in the vicinity. On that basis, powering America with wind means we'd have to cover Nebraska with wall-to-wall windmills, leaving no room to grow corn (and thus threatening ethanol).

But even if it were practical (and affordable) to convert to wind power on such a massive scale, it generates other consequences, both aesthetic and scientific .

New York State's largest windmill farm to date, the $400 million Maple Ridge project, features 195 medium-size (400-foot high) windmills, part of a windmill surge in upstate New York sparked by state and federal incentives. That project has generated great controversy even in its rural setting. According to area researcher Dr. Nina Pierpont, it has also created "wind turbine syndrome," a variety of ills such as inner ear problems, headaches, difficulty sleeping, ringing in the ears, mood disorders, irritability, panic attacks and child misbehavior, all attributed to the low-frequency rumblings of the windmills.

There are practical problems, too. If the structures are put totally in the boondocks, massive new transmission lines must be built to carry the power to where the people are.

Thanks to Bruce McQuain.

May-Treanor/Walsh give a nice shout out to President Bush


I suspect Camille would approve.

Bloomberg says WSJ says Tim Kaine is Barack Obama's VP

I don't have a link, as the Bloomberg tape just printed it at 12:15pm EST. Will update when available.

Unfortuantely, Intrade was down, so I could not check where things were trading.

He who laughs last, right Chris?

UPDATE: Jack Tapper says there is a hoax email out there, which could be the basis for the Bloomberg article.

UPDATE: The Kaine VP contract popped from 10 to 16 on light volume.

KEYWORDS: Timothy Kaine, Virginia Governor, running mate, announce, Vice President, choice, selection, candidate

Obama's Harvard Law Review "lost note" has re-emerged

at Politico (via Glenn Reynolds):

The subject matter took Obama to the treacherous political landscape of reproductive rights, and - unlike many student authors - he dived eagerly into the policy implications of the court decision. His article acknowledged a public interest in the health of the fetus, but also seemed to demonstrate his continuing commitment to abortion rights, and suggested that the government may have more important concerns than "ensuring that any particular fetus is born."

The temperate legal language doesn't display the rhetorical heights that run through his memoir, published a few years later, but provides insight into his support for abortion rights and expanded social services.

"[T]he case raises the broader policy and constitutional considerations that argue against using civil liability to control the behavior of pregnant women," Obama wrote of Stallman vs. Youngquist.

And he concluded the article with a flourish: "Expanded access to prenatal education and heath care facilities will far more likely serve the very real state interest in preventing increasing numbers of children from being born in to lives of pain and despair."

An enemy of freedom

is an enemy of mine.

Back home, T. Boone Pickens is drawn to the Dark Side.

Quotes of the day

When you know that the state rather than parents ought to be raising kids, evidence is not going to make a difference.--Arnold Kling

A white Democrat midget called Dennis Kucinich runs every four years on Obama-like platforms and is routinely laughed out of the contest.--Tim Blair

Title IX says that if Columbia University has varsity sports for men, it has to provide equal varsity sports for women. So I’m using that varsity sports analogy by saying the Women’s Studies is the varsity sport of college co-education. Therefore, Columbia University has to provide a Men’s Studies program if they want to be equal.--Roy Hollander

The way to make yourself really miserable is to compare your salary to that of the most overpaid, incompetent peer or superior. The way to make yourself feel really good is to compare your salary to others at the company who are even more undervalued than you are. 99% of people opt to make themselves miserable rather than feel good.--Arnold Kling

... the wind power advocates see no problem with putting thousands of windmills on hundreds of square miles of land. Yet they are adamantly opposed to drilling on 2,000 acres of ANWR. Tell me, which do you think would pose more of a threat to wildlife - an oil rig on 2,000 acres or thousands of spinning windmill blades on hundreds of square miles?--Bruce McQuain

First, every day spent on this is a day Obama can’t bolster his foreign policy credentials, talk about the economy, or reassure voters he has gravitas. Second, Obama’s liabilities far outweigh McCain’s. Rezko’s buddy vs. the POW? Chicago politics vs. McCain the maverick? The McCain team would be thrilled to make this a contest of biography and character. And remember those liberal pundits who warned that if the contest was about Obama he would lose? Well, McCain is about to make it about Obama.--Jennifer Rubin

The authority to issue a dissent to an order to dismiss a petition for certiorari is likewise well established. . .A majority vote to censor a justice of the court and prohibit the issuance of a dissenting opinion may be unprecedented in the history of American jurisprudence.--Oliver Diaz, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice

* * *

We are at a Smithian moment, in which the temptation for the Fed to spend its last dime of credibility may prove irresistible. Investors are already being taxed by inflation and can rationally expect that tax rate (the inflation rate) to be raised going forward. Wages are not keeping up. Main Street is being taxed to fund Wall Street excess. Anyone who works, saves and invests is exposed to confiscation of his capital and earnings through inflation.

If the Fed maintained its independence of action and said no to the inflationary finance of Congress's profligacy, we wouldn't have reached this point. But the Fed has forsaken that independence amid an absence of leadership.--Gerald O'Driscoll, Jr

* * *

Economists are generally wrong with complicated models but right about concepts. For example, they know that additional domestic drilling won't make much of a dent in the energy problem. And they know that free trade is generally good for all economies. (You can argue with my examples, but the point is that some things are generally known by economists while not being understood by the general public.)

By analogy, a mechanic knows that changing your oil is good for your engine, but he can't tell you what problems you will have with your car next year. You shouldn't ignore the mechanic's advice on changing oil just because he doesn't know when your battery will die, or because he didn't personally perform any scientific studies on oil changes.--Scott Adams

Success is not always easy to see

We tend to venerate those who ride to the rescue after a disaster has occurred.

But those who were professionals, and in their service PREVENTED disaster from occurring in the first place, those people are much harder to find. Because the disaster didn't happen, they never got the spotlight. You may have a parent or grandparent who was a hero, without anyone in your family even realizing that fact.

I think this person fits the definition of success:

General David Petraeus's tenure in Iraq draws to a close at the end of the month, and it's a measure of his success that he is departing to far less political fanfare than when his tour began. In September 2007, called him General "Betray-Us," and Hillary Clinton said his claims of progress weren't credible. Now those critics are silent.

When General Petraeus took command 18 months ago, Iraq was sliding into chaos, and President Bush's "surge" was the last chance to bring the country under control. Last April, Majority Leader Harry Reid confidently declared, "The war is lost," and it would have been, if Mr. Bush had taken Mr. Reid's advice. Instead, he stuck with General Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy, and now violence of every measure has been tamped down; Sunni-Shiite political reconciliation is underway; the Iraqi Army is growing in expertise; and the U.S. and Nouri al-Maliki's government are finishing negotiations toward a long-term security agreement.

Warren Buffett gets real about the government

Buffett is well known about his complaints that he pays less tax than his secretary. Well, Warren, when you are the richest man on earth, you might have more access to institutions--who will shelter your income and wealth from taxes--than the rest of us.

But in the case of Fannie & Freddie, Buffett is spot on:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest mortgage finance companies, ``don't have any net worth,'' billionaire investor Warren Buffett said.

``The game is over,'' Buffett, the 77-year-old chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in an interview on CNBC today. ``They were able to borrow without any of the normal restraints. They had a blank check from the federal government.''

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae touched 20-year lows yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange on speculation a government bailout will leave the stocks worthless. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson won approval from Congress last month to pump emergency capital into the companies, which account for more than half of the $12 trillion U.S. mortgage market.

Mr. Buffett, I hope you continue to follow the logic of your observations: a smaller government will yield smaller government disasters.

Here is some more history on the government's creation of the GSE mess.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chinese cheating in the Olympics?

Man, they are getting more American every day. Thanks to Dan from Madison.

What's fair?

Charts and lyrics by David Altig; Russell Roberts plays the muse.

Joyful music leads us sunward

In the triumph song of life.

What is Obama's Real moral failure?

Michael may have found the answer.

McCain's 2 opportunity costs: donations and friendly media coverage


Amity Shlaes lists a proven receipe for an economic depression

1. Tighten money supply too much
2. Increase protectionism (instead of trade)
3. Blame the markets (instead of listening)
4. Increase taxes (instead of helping families)
5. Increase the size of government (instead of freedom)
6. Ignore the cost of change

Tom Maguire has a fresh roundup of Annenberg-Gate

i.e. the Ayers-Obama Coverup. Looks like it's gaining steam, and--just like the Edwards-Hunter affair--the mainstream media will have to (reluctantly) pick the story up.

Pesky bloggers!

For an African-American, this one seems to be channeling quite a bit of

upper-middle class white guilt.

Seth Godin's "Life of the Kindle Skeptic"

reminds me about my Google cynicism:
The Kindle is a lousy idea. No one will read a book that way.

The Kindle is late. Amazon has no clue how to launch a product.

The Kindle is poorly designed. See, we told you.

The Kindle's pricing model hurts book publishers. It will never be adopted by them.

The Kindle is pretty cool. Non-techies like it.

The Kindle is sold out. Amazon doesn't know how to produce a product.

The Kindle is selling far more than anyone ever predicted.

The Kindle will sell millions and we are raising our predictions for Amazon's earnings as a result.

... The Kindle missed our estimates. See?

John Goetz highlights more chicanery with the global temperature "adjustments"

by NASA's GISS, which just so happen to cool the earth, just ahead of this alleged period of global warming.

I remain short the Intrade global warming contract, even though I've been covering since it's so close to zero:
UPDATE: Donald Sensing on the coming ice age and the lack of solar activity required for warming.

Olympic medal counts

per nation, national GDP, and populations. Pretty cool; thanks to Mark Perry.

How many oxymorons can you find in the following statement?

Barack Obama: A Free-Market-Loving, Big-Spending, Fiscally Conservative Wealth Redistributionist.
Maybe my use of the term "oxymoron" is moronic, and I should have said "contradictions" instead. Here's a swing at a cultural parallel:
Carrie Bradshaw: A Marriage-Loving, Bisexually-Curious, Regretfully Adulterating Polygamist.

Quotes of the day

At Saddleback Barack Obama learned this: If you want to be president in the U.S., nothing on God's green earth is ever above your pay grade.--Daniel Henninger

... the Socratic method doesn’t really teach you to “think like a lawyer.” At best, it teaches you to think like a litigator.--Steve Bainbridge

Dick Cheney, Dark Lord of the Sith, gave 75% ($6,869,655US) of his 2006 income to charity.--Shannon Love

You know you’re in trouble when the most interesting new character is Jabba the Hutt’s uncle.--Roger Ebert, on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"

I have a sneaking suspicion that if there were a way to make movies without actors, George Lucas would do it.--Mark Hamill

The film [WALL-E] was a not-so-subtle call to replace our current state with another way of living; to focus on the simple and the natural instead of complicated consumerism and life-absorbing technological advances. ... was this was really coming out of Disney studios — purveyor of all things luxurious and commercial?--Philip Johnston

Thus Obama was against a bill even NARAL could not, figuratively speaking, find it in its heart to oppose. Because, as one poster explains, it would not want to be thought to oppose the protection of live infants. Being thought to oppose the protection of infants is, after all, a very bad thing.--Tom Smith

* * *

... the U.S., acting unilaterally and with virtually no fanfare, sharply cut back its stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear warheads. As far back as 1991, the U.S. began to retire all of its nuclear warheads for short-range ballistic missiles, artillery and antisubmarine warfare. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, not one of these weapons exists today. The same authoritative publication estimates that the number of tactical warheads in the U.S. arsenal has dwindled from thousands to approximately 500.

Russia has also reduced the size of its tactical nuclear arsenal, but starting from much higher levels and at a slower pace, leaving it with an estimated 5,000 such devices -- 10 times the number of tactical weapons held by the U.S. Such a disparity would be one thing if we were contending with a stable, postcommunist regime moving in the direction of democracy and integration with the West. That was the Russia we anticipated when we began our nuclear build-down. But it is not the Russia we are facing today.--Gabriel Schoenfeld

Health care seems to be above Obama's pay grade


'If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system," Barack Obama told an audience in Albuquerque on Monday. He was lauding the idea of a health-care market -- or nonmarket -- entirely run by the government.

Most liberals support single payer, aka "Medicare for All," because it would eliminate the profit motive, which by their lights is the reason Americans are uninsured. The Democratic Presidential candidate takes a more moderate campaign line, though we suppose just about everything is "moderate" compared to a total government takeover. While preferring that option in theory, Mr. Obama continued, his health-care plan is designed to "build up the system we got," and over time, "we may . . . decide that there are other ways for us to provide care more effectively."

The Senator has expressed similar sentiments before, including throughout his combat with Hillary Clinton. But repetition doesn't make it any less telling, especially about his political instincts and the breadth of his ambitions. Mr. Obama's health-care plan includes a taxpayer-funded insurance program, much like Medicare but open to everyone. The goal, like HillaryCare in the 1990s, is to displace current private coverage and switch people to the default government option. What's new is Mr. Obama's smoother political packaging.

With good reason, critics often call this a back-door route to a centrally planned health-care bureaucracy. For all his lawyerly qualifications, Mr. Obama has essentially admitted that his proposal is really the front door.

If only he could befriend the facts. Otherwise, health outcomes will be getting worse in America.

Microsoft enlists Jerry Seinfeld

to respond to Apple's successful "Mac vs. PC" ads. It seems appropriate, since Microsoft's Windows was a ripoff of the Mac OS, and Seinfeld married an opportunistic plagiarizer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You could go for a Ph.D in economics

but I'd rather just memorize Stigler's List.

Quotes of the day

We have a tariff on imported ethanol from Brazil, which is made from sugar cane. Ethanol here is usually made from corn. Sugar cane ethanol is about eight times more efficient than that made from corn. By removing the tariff, Brazilian ethanol becomes cheaper and will make ethanol-gasoline blends cheaper.--Bob Pindyck

I wonder whether the women’s anger is a reaction to the mayor’s crudeness or a standard response by monopolists who are threatened with competition.--Daniel Hamermesh

Inflation may be moderating

Inflation has been uncomfortably high. While soaring oil has been partly to blame, I believe the real problem to be easy money. However, the U.S. money supply looks like it may not be growing anymore, which should reduce inflation and strengthen the dollar, thereby increasing the buying power of households.

The Fed needs to raise rates. As important as easy money to Wall Street is for the economy, it needs to be considered in the context of households. I've been advocating for this since last year. Since then, CPI has popped from 2% to 5.6%.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Biden VP contract soaring today

Not so good for me.

Genetic map of Europe

(courtesy of Steve Bainbridge).

Some points of interest:
  • The relative isolation of Italian genetics is probably due to the Alps, providing a geographic barrier to the free and unhindered flow of population to and from Italy… Although Hannibal, the Celtic and Germanic influence in Italy’s north and of course the expansion of the Roman Empire would seem to contradict this.
  • Yugoslav genetic variation is quite large (hence the big pink blob), and overlaps with the Greek, Romanian, Hungarian, Czech and even the Italian ones.
  • There is surprisingly little overlap between the northern and southern German populations, each of which has more in common with their other neighbours (Danish/Dutch/Swedish in the northern case, Austrian/Swiss/French in the other one).
  • The Swiss population is entirely subsumed by the French one, similarly, the Irish population almost doesn’t show any characteristics that would distinguish it from the British one.
  • British and Irish insularity probably explains why so much of their genetic area is not shared with their closest European cousins, i.c. the Norwegian/Danish/Dutch cluster.
The biggest mystery to me would be, given the Yugoslavic region boasting the most shared genes, why it is more apt to conflict. How to answer, game theory perhaps?

This is precisely why

I am more fundamentally-driven in my trading than technical.


was a surprise.

At least beer helps Czechs, who moderately consume it, in other ways.

I just did my first Intrade VP trade

against Chris Masse's well reasoned advice. I'm now long Tim Kaine and short Joe Biden. I find Kaine to be compelling for Obama's consideration, because Virginia is a critical state for 2008 (and because Joe is pretty dumb).

Six Minutes on School Choice

in the delightful genre of British comedy (via Don Boudreaux):

The Ron Insana Hedge Fund Story

comes to an end.

I suspected this would happen, back in June, 2007.

Football draft bleg

Quotes of the day

China is proving that American companies will throw freedom of speech out the window if the price is right.--Megan McArdle

* * *

So much for the assertion -- made so confidently this year by Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer -- that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would rescue the mortgage market from the housing slump.

It's time Mr. Paulson put taxpayers ahead of Wall Street.--WSJ

* * *

Will a “debt burden” of 40% (publicly-held debt %GDP) bankrupt our grandkids? How about 80%, or 120%? Oops, wait a minute, 120% debt is what my grandparents’ generation bequeathed to their future grandkids in 1946. Well, I became one of those grandkids, and here we are sixty years later: not only has the debt failed to eat us alive, but we’ve run it back down to 40% of GDP—not because we reduced the debt, but because we grew the economy.--Steve Conover

* * *

The most painful and frustrating economic policy blunder of the past 50 years was the Great Inflation of the 1970s. Painful, because it was the catalyst for three damaging recessions (1973-75, 1980, 1981-82), all the while eroding living standards and seriously undermining confidence in America.

It was also deeply frustrating. Despite the teaching of Milton Friedman -- which clearly explained that inflation was caused by too much money chasing too few goods -- a combination of bad economic models, denial and political expediency allowed it to happen.--Brian Wesbury

* * *

There is something unseemly about Greenspan's conduct. Former presidents don't criticize U.S. foreign policy during times of war, Jimmy Carter notwithstanding. The same unspoken rule should apply to economic policy...

When the press calls, just say "no comment." This is an acquired skill, but I'm sure you'll catch on.--Caroline Baum

* * *

The question of personhood is not definitionally religious, even if the only people interested in expanding society's definition of personhood are religious. Blacks are people, and those of us without any particular religious convictions are able to apprehend this, even if 150 years ago the only people much interested in prosecuting their claim to personhood were ministers and their flocks.--Megan McArdle

In effect, Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand a slew of government spending programs that are disguised as tax credits. The spending on these programs is then subtracted from the total tax burden, in order to make the claim that his tax plan is a net tax cut overall.--Peter Ferrara

The time women spend putting on make up and getting dressed works out at 3,276 hours over their lifetimes while men only devote 1,092 hours to looking their best.--Jessica Salter

* * *

Amazingly, 50 to 90 percent of the earth’s heat (no one is sure of the exact figure) comes from the radioactive breakdown of uranium and thorium, which make up 2 percent of the earth’s crust. The energy released from these radioactive elements is enough to raise the earth’s internal temperature to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun.

Let’s mine small amounts of uranium, put them in a controlled environment, accelerate the breakdown a bit by initiating a chain reaction, and use the heat to boil water to produce electricity. In fact, this is what we do in a nuclear reactor.--William Tucker

* * *

If God behaves differently in response to testing prayers than to non-testing prayers, then we will not learn whether non-testing prayers help (or hurt). On the other hand, if the null hypothesis is that prayer should have no impact, and we find one in patient-blind randomized control trials, then the atheists have some explaining to do.--Ian Ayres

Monday, August 18, 2008

I think Rick Warren went from puppeteer to puppet for Obama

Pastor Rick Warren asked each Presidential candidate which Justices he would not have nominated. Mr. McCain said, "with all due respect" the four most liberal sitting Justices because of his different judicial philosophy.

Mr. Obama took a lower road, replying first that "that's a good one," and then adding that "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he, I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution." The Democrat added that he also wouldn't have appointed Antonin Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, though he assured the audience that at least they were smart enough for the job.

So let's see. By the time he was nominated, Clarence Thomas had worked in the Missouri Attorney General's office, served as an Assistant Secretary of Education, run the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sat for a year on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's second most prominent court. Since his "elevation" to the High Court in 1991, he has also shown himself to be a principled and scholarly jurist.

Meanwhile, as he bids to be America's Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama isn't yet four years out of the Illinois state Senate, has never held a hearing of note of his U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had an unremarkable record as both a "community organizer" and law school lecturer. Justice Thomas's judicial credentials compare favorably to Mr. Obama's Presidential résumé by any measure. And when it comes to rising from difficult circumstances, Justice Thomas's rural Georgian upbringing makes Mr. Obama's story look like easy street.

Even more troubling is what the Illinois Democrat's answer betrays about his political habits of mind. Asked a question he didn't expect at a rare unscripted event, the rookie candidate didn't merely say he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Instead, he instinctively reverted to the leftwing cliché that the Court's black conservative isn't up to the job while his white conservative colleagues are.

So much for civility in politics and bringing people together. And no wonder Mr. Obama's advisers have refused invitations for more such open forums, preferring to keep him in front of a teleprompter, where he won't let slip what he really believes.

I wish that Warren would have asked him a follow up about Robert Bork, whose credentials were probably better than ANY of the current Justices at the time of their respective nominations.

Graph of the day

over at Mark Perry's:

The U.S. will lose capital--both financial and human--if it cannot remain tax competitive. This will lead to greater American poverty.

Misleading us on infant mortality

Statistics are like a bikini. What they present is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital--Aaron Levenstein
U.S. morbidity statistics already need to be adjusted for wealth effects (such as obesity, traffic fatalities, and immigration); and special interest groups often fail to do so in their quest of policy revision.

Today, Mark Perry lifts the veil on a long-running hoax: many countries do not count premature babies who do not meet a threshold of mass qualified for a "live birth".

But the U.S does count these little ones as live births.

Previous installment of B.S. here.

Quotes of the day

... regression analysis shows that two very important variables are the total population and per capita incomes of different countries. Also important are whether a country has an authoritarian government-such as communism- a country's climate, and whether a country is the host country for a particular Olympics. These five variables taken together predict closely the total number of medals won by different countries in the winter as well as summer Games.--Gary Becker

An international comparison shows that the time needed for doubling per capita GDP is 58 years in England during the period of 1780-1838, 47 years in the United States during 1839-1886, 34 years in Japan during 1885-1919, and 11 years in Korea during 1966-1977. China has set a new record--per capita GDP in China doubled within only 9 years between 1978 and 1987, and doubled again in another 9 years between 1987 and 1996.--Growthology

High school cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school females over the past 25 years.--LiveScience

... the Normal Retirement Age for Social Security in 2004 would have to be at least 71 (using lowest number in the table) and more likely 73 or 74 (using the gender blended results from Methods 1 and 2) in order to be consistent with the real age of 65 in 1935. Using the same logic, the age of Medicare eligibility would have needed to have been advanced by at least five years. Such adjustments would be politically difficult, but age inflation and the lack of adjusting for it has quite a bit to do with the solvency problems of Social Security and Medicare.--John B. Shoven and Gopi Shah Goda

The New York Times practically dry humps the leg of DeBeers. Suspicious.--Chris Blattman

... the Furman-Goolsbee piece seems to take a surprising step away from bipartisanship. They take a swipe at Senator McCain's proposal to replace the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance with a more flexible health insurance credit. When President Bush suggested a similar idea last year, Furman and coauthors called it "a step in the right direction," and many other commentators agreed. It is too bad that Team Obama is now dissing the proposal.--Greg Mankiw

If you thought that too much free market and not enough regulation caused the mortgage mess

Think again:
Franklin Raines, the Fannie chairman and first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company, warned that [Andrew] Cuomo's rules were moving Fannie into risky territory: "We have not been a major presence in the subprime market," he said, "but you can bet that under these goals, we will be." Fannie's chief financial officer, Timothy Howard, said that "making loans to people with less-than-perfect credit" is "something we should do." Cuomo wasn't shy about embracing subprime mortgages as a possible consequence of his goals. "GSE presence in the subprime market could be of significant benefit to lower-income families, minorities, and families living in underserved areas," his report on the new goals noted.

A falling tide

lowers all boats:
As Wall Streeters feel the pinch, they’re no longer hiring so many nannies. “It’s been a week and no one’s called,” says Christopher Sager, an out-of-work Soho nanny. “There are, like, 300-plus people looking at two jobs.” Caregivers face lost jobs, reduced hours, pay cuts, and added responsibilities as wealthy families trim household staff. Genevieve Thiers of says her babysitter-listing service has fielded more than 2,500 new job seekers since February, up from 1,300 in the previous six months. The number of child-care postings on Craigslist jumped three months ago, as more out-of-work nannies advertised their services.
I'm fortunate that my wife job shares, and that my in-laws are close by and help us out quite a bit with our kids. We get a higher quality of childcare at a lower cost than pretty much anyone else in Manhattan.

I'm even more fortunate that my bank and business remain strong. It's going to be quiet few years for financial services.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quote of the day

Most nations gain their advantage by making things more efficiently, and at lower cost, than their competitors.

To the extent that the French enjoy a natural advantage, it is in their inefficiency: They are the world's most efficient producers of structured indolence. They are the kept women of the global economy; their status depends, in part, on their practical uselessness.

Reinvent the British and you get a global finance center, edible food and better service. Reinvent the French and you may just get more Germans.--Michael Lewis

The negative correlation between poverty and Christianity

from the Chinese perspective. I was on vacation when this came out; very interesting piece. An excerpt:
One of the most important dissenting voices in China today belongs to Peter Zhao, a Communist Party member and adviser to the Chinese Central Committee. Mr. Zhao is among a group of Chinese intellectuals who look to the West to find the key to economic success. Mr. Zhao in particular believes that Christianity and the ethical system based upon its teachings are the reason that Western countries dominate the global economy. "The strong U.S. economy is just on the surface," he says. "The backbone is the moral foundation."

Without a unifying moral system enforced by common values, Mr. Zhao argues, there can be no real trust between people. Without faith among business partners and between management and shareholders, only the threat of the law can keep people honest. "There are problems of corruption emerging. . . . There is concern about whether China's market economy will ever become a sound market economy."

Mr. Zhao has made his case in both popular and academic publications in the past several years, publishing more than 200 articles -- for instance, "Market Economies With Churches and Market Economies Without Churches" -- explaining how Christianity leads to long-term growth. "From the ancient time till now everybody wants to make more money," Mr. Zhao told me. "But from history we see only Christians have a continuous nonstop creative spirit and the spirit for innovation."

Mr. Zhao began formulating his ideas during a 2002 trip to the U.S. "In the U.S., the spires of churches are more numerous than China's banks and rice shops. On a street near Harvard Square," Mr. Zhao recalls, "I once stood and looked about me, only to find that in three different directions there were three churches." The trip seems to have made a personal as well as an intellectual impression. Shortly after returning home, Mr. Zhao became a Christian himself.

Mr. Zhao's argument goes beyond the need for common values. He claims that Christianity produces greater wealth than other religions or no religion. His view is partly historical -- the wealthiest societies are those that are traditionally Christian, either Catholic or Protestant. He says that Christianity provides three elements necessary for economic growth: motivation -- those who work for God rather than for pleasure, money or status don't tire of being productive; a moral framework that makes for less exploitation and less corruption; and a mandate to care for the poor and disenfranchised.

"Traditionally," he says, "when Chinese become rich, they buy houses or maybe they marry a second wife." But they start to become lazy. Not so with Americans. "Even Bill Gates is still working very hard." Christians, he says, not only have a higher motivation but will use their wealth for the benefit of others. "It's like Sam Walton," Mr. Zhao says, citing the founder of Wal-Mart, whose headquarters he visited recently. "He had a lot of wealth, but he still lived simply, and he used his wealth to bless a lot of other people."

Of course, Mr. Zhao is not the first to make the connection between Christianity and capitalism. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, is well known for lamenting Christianity's propensity to create wealth. "I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased," Wesley explained in a sermon called "The Uses of Money." "For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches."
I should note here that the Scottish Enlightenment was incubated in a highly Calvinistic society. Ironically, when England adopted the principles of Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Reid et al, their GDP overtook China's as the world's largest and Britain became a world empire: A small nation, without any competitive edge in natural resources.