Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Marxist perspective on today's capitalism:

RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism

It's am eleven minute YouTube lecture by British social theorist David Harvey with someone drawing cartoons in sync with the narrative. Fun to watch. Doesn't offer much of a solution, though.



This is how it should be. Fox News Sunday for 1 August 2010:
All Republicans.


Friday, July 30, 2010

If you believe Max Boot, then you'll believe anything:

In a WaPo op-ed urging that the U.S. not cut the defense budget, Boot goes the historical route and comes up with this:
After World War I, our armed forces shrank from 2.9 million men in 1918 to 250,000 in 1928. The result? World War II became more likely ...
Imagine how Hitler might have acted in 1939 had several hundred thousand American troops been stationed in France and Poland. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful he would ever have launched his blitzkrieg.
Britain guaranteed Poland and didn't have any troops there on September 1, 1939. The United States was, in the wake of World War I, staunchly isolationist and there is absolutely no way American troops would have been stationed in Poland, or France for that matter.

Boot's argument runs like this:

There was a war. U.S. bolstered its defense capabilities. The war ended and the U.S. demobilized. And there was peace.

But then there was another war!

post hoc ergo propter hoc


Hank Paulson's big joke:

From his WaPo op-ed: (emp add)
A significant root cause of the [financial] crisis was the combined weight of government policies promoting homeownership; these are apparent in the housing GSEs, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Federal Home Loan Banks, the federal tax deduction for mortgage interest and various state programs. Homeownership was overstimulated to the point that it was unsustainable and dangerous to the broader economy. (...)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should not be allowed to revert to their old form, crowding out private competition and putting taxpayers on the hook for failure while shareholders benefit from success.
But that's exactly what Paulson did by funneling money through AIG to Goldman Sachs - of which he was CEO.

Barry Ritholtz has a sharp take-down of Paulson's essay. It's not pretty, but worth reading.

Of interest, the op-ed's comment section is overwhelmingly hostile towards Paulson, although there is always be the occasional Hannity-listener who cheers him on. That said, I haven't seen such a negative reaction in the Post's comments section for a long time. Looks as if Paulson failed to make his case.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is this guy?

Jon Chait takes down a dude - J.D. Foster, Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy at the Heritage Foundation - over an argument about tax levels.

Foster is ridiculous, and not just with the issue that Chait engages. Just take a look at his posts. Keep in mind that he's a Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow! (and be appropriately humble)

What's interesting is how does the Heritage Foundation get any respect from anybody if they have guys like Foster speaking for them?


Fox Nation invents political themes:

Here's the headline at Fox Nation: Did the President Meets His Match in Chris Christie?

Here's the entire text of the story that forms the basis for that headline:
N.J. governor greets Obama briefly
By MATT NEGRIN | 07/28/10 2:14 PM

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie planned to greet President Obama when Air Force One landed in the state on Wednesday afternoon, but he wasn’t scheduled to attend the president’s meeting with small-business owners.

“I’m not aware of any invitation to the event in Edison,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told POLITICO. “We were invited to the arrival ceremony.”

“The governor’s happy to welcome the president to New Jersey,” Roberts added.

When Obama visited New Jersey in July 2009 to campaign for Gov. John Corzine, whom Christie defeated, Christie offered a mocking “warm, New Jersey welcome” to him in a YouTube video that highlighted the state’s economic troubles.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker also greeted Obama when the president arrived.
Presumably Obama "met his match" in the You Tube video, where the only substantive points made by Christie were that state taxes are high in New Jersey!


Lanny Davis defends Charlie Rangel:

Are those fellows peas in a pod or what? In any event, here's one of Davis' bullet points: (emp add)
Second, did Rangel significantly enrich himself as a result of his ethical mistakes, if he is found to have made them?
Davis also compares Rangel to Shirley Sherrod, which is certainly imaginative.


Shorter David Broder:
If I only write about a civil* political campaign for senator in Delaware - a state with less than a million people - then I won't have judge either national party on it's honesty or low tactics this election year.
* Which may not even be that, now that a Tea Party endorsed candidate is challenging Republican Mike Castle. (see also


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mark Halperin (yes him) on the current media landscape:
The Sherrod story is a reminder — much like the 2004 assault on John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny. Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.

... all of us who are involved in politics and media should take a moment to recognize that we have hit a low point. And let all of us resolve that, having hit bottom, it is time to start climbing out of the pit.
He offers no solution, but a good start would be for the old media to ignore the conservative new media (or at least treat it as suspect and proceed very carefully) and stick to developing their own stories.


Lots of people in the U.S. are behind bars:

Some startling statistics (and stories) in this Economist article.

Of interest, this:
Making a false statement to a federal official is an offence. So is lying to someone who then repeats your lie to a federal official.
That would seem to imply that all lying is effectively illegal since any lie could be repeated to a federal official. When did this become part of the law?

Also, looking at the numbers, 1% of the adult population is behind bars. One percent! That's got to be a drag on the economy.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That op-ed by Kashkari:

Provoked a response by Tom Petruno of the Los Angeles Times:
... having the former head of the bank-bailout program now arguing for social-spending cuts is just baiting an already angry public. Kashkari's simplistic "TARP good, entitlements bad" theme isn't going to play well anywhere other than Wall Street.
Of note, Kashkari now works at Pimco and that company would lose money if interest rates on bonds were to rise.

It's surprising how often these Wall Street guys do or say things that piss of the rest of us.

UPDATE: In the ranks of the PO'd are Dave Sirota, John Cole, FireDogLake


Monday, July 26, 2010

Bruce Bartlett nails it:

From a worthwhile interview:
Republicans have a completely indefensible position on taxes. In their view, deficits cannot arise from tax cuts. No matter how much taxes are cut, no matter how low revenues go as a share of GDP, tax cuts are never a cause of deficits; they result ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY from spending—and never from spending put in place by Republicans, such as Medicare Part D, TARP, two unfunded wars, bridges to nowhere, etc—but ONLY from Democratic efforts to stimulate growth, help the unemployed, provide health insurance for those without it, etc.


Money flows:

Barry Ritholtz has a great diagram showing where the federal government gets and spends its money.

Defense is really big, huh? Also, what's that $612 billion mandatory "other" all about?


CNBC/Reuters want's you to think everything is peachy:

Headline: New Home Sales Surge in June, Inventory at 42-Year Low

But a different view over at Calculated Risk: New Home Sales: Worst June on Record
Ignore all the month to previous month comparisons. May was revised down sharply and that makes the increase look significant.
Both are technically true, so who do you trust in terms of where this economy is headed?


Gini Index:

From the CIA World Factbook: (emp add)
This index measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income in a country. The index is calculated from the Lorenz curve, in which cumulative family income is plotted against the number of families arranged from the poorest to the richest. The index is the ratio of (a) the area between a country's Lorenz curve and the 45 degree helping line to (b) the entire triangular area under the 45 degree line. The more nearly equal a country's income distribution, the closer its Lorenz curve to the 45 degree line and the lower its Gini index, e.g., a Scandinavian country with an index of 25. The more unequal a country's income distribution, the farther its Lorenz curve from the 45 degree line and the higher its Gini index, e.g., a Sub-Saharan country with an index of 50. If income were distributed with perfect equality, the Lorenz curve would coincide with the 45 degree line and the index would be zero; if income were distributed with perfect inequality the Lorenz curve would coincide with the horizontal axis and the right vertical axis and the index would be 100.
What is the number for the United States?



Robert Samuelson is making sense:

From his op-ed: (emp add)
The contrast between revived profits and stunted job growth is stunning. From late 2007 to late 2009, payroll employment dropped nearly 8.4 million. Since then, the economy has recovered a scant 11 percent of those lost jobs. Companies are doing much better than workers; that defines today's economy.

The most obvious explanation is that the relationship between labor and capital (to borrow Marxist vocabulary) has changed. Capital has gotten stronger; labor has weakened. Economist Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern University argues that the "shift of executive compensation towards much greater use of stock options" has made corporate managers more zealous cost-cutters in recessions and more reluctant hirers early in recoveries. Lowering the head count is the quickest way to restore profits and, from there, a company's stock price.

In a new study, Gordon dates the economy's changed behavior to the 1980s. Until then, companies tended to protect career workers, and unemployment followed a path predicted by economist Arthur Okun in a famous 1962 paper. But now, unemployment exceeds Okun's formula, and "jobless recoveries" have become standard. After the 1990-91 recession, consistent employment growth did not resume for about a year; the lag was nearly two years after the 2001 recession. (The National Bureau of Economic Research, an economists group, determines the end of recessions, usually when economic output begins expanding. Job growth does not automatically coincide with output expansion. The difference is accounted for by productivity gains -- greater efficiency, or more output per worker. The bureau has not yet declared an end to the last recession, though the economy began expanding in the summer of 2009.)

Aside from executives' stock options, Gordon cites weaker unions and more competition from both imports and immigrants as subverting workers' bargaining power.
Samuelson doesn't have a remedy for the situation, although some are out there: protectionism, reduced immigration, more labor-friendly legislation (e.g. strengthening unions).


Shorter Washington Post op-ed:
Letting business run rampant is good policy and cutting your Social Security benefits is the patriotic thing to do.
Actual excerpts from the essay;
Our belief in free markets is founded on the idea that each individual acting in his or her self-interest will lead to a superior outcome for the whole. The financial crisis has reminded us that free markets are not perfect -- but they do allocate capital better than any other system we know. A "me first" mentality usually makes markets more efficient.

Cutting entitlement spending requires us to think beyond what is in our own immediate self-interest. But it also runs against our sense of fairness: We have, after all, paid for entitlements for earlier generations. Is it now fair to cut my benefits? No, it isn't. But if we don't focus on our collective good, all of us will suffer.

While it does not happen often, our political system is capable of making unpopular decisions that are in our collective best interest.

The challenge of entitlements is more difficult than the financial crisis: First, we must reach consensus to make cuts before the fiscal crisis is upon us.

Our leaders need to make the case for cutting entitlement spending by tapping into our shared beliefs of sacrifice and self-reliance.
The piece was written by Neel Kashkari, who served as an assistant Treasury secretary during the George W. Bush administration. He led the Office of Financial Stability and ran the Troubled Assets Relief Program until May 2009. Remember him? He was that young (bald) fellow who participated in the bailout of Goldman Sachs and others via the AIG funnel.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

What our former Secretary of State is up to:

Other than Dick Cheney, the rest of the Bush administration has kept a fairly low profile.


Do it:

Democrats are betting that ending tax cuts for the rich will play in their favor

President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress are setting the stage for a high-stakes battle over taxes in the final weeks before the November congressional elections, betting that their plan to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy will resonate with voters who have lost houses and jobs to what many see as an era of Wall Street greed.

Raising taxes is usually a perilous move. But Democrats, facing the potential loss of their majorities on Capitol Hill, believe that the strategy will both force Republicans to defend tax breaks for a tiny, wealthy minority and expose GOP hypocrisy on budget deficits.

Raising taxes is usually a perilous move. But Democrats, facing the potential loss of their majorities on Capitol Hill, believe that the strategy will both force Republicans to defend tax breaks for a tiny, wealthy minority and expose GOP hypocrisy on budget deficits.
Let's have the 2010 elections be about something, and this is as good an issue as any. If the public vote for Republicans, then that's the way it is. And if extending the Bush cuts for the rich mean bigger deficits that will translate into severe cuts to government services, Medicare (and probably even Social Security) then that's what they voted for. And it's hard to really care about politics from that point on.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

About that "applause" at the NAACP speech by Sherrod:

Didn't happen. Saletan makes the case and concludes that Breitbart and company are lying about what happened (since the full video was released) in five instances.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shorter Josh Marshall:
Regarding the Sherrod affair, there has been far too little criticism of the press, including Fox News. Especially Fox News.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who done it?

The Washington Post has an editorial where it laments the "damage done to Ms. Sherrod" by the "posting of a video snippet that took Ms. Sherrod's words out of context".

Yet no mention is made of the name of the website (BigGovernment) or the person (Andrew Brietbard) that started the affair.

It concludes with, "most of the blame must fall on the Obama administration and Mr. Vilsack". Which was the talking point on Fox this Wednesday.


Is Andrew Breitbart the new Bill O'Reilly?

Seems like it, at least from the personally-pugnacious angle.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm with the states on this one:

Despite being rebuffed twice by the U.S. Supreme Court, five states filed suit Monday with a lower court demanding tougher federal and municipal action to prevent Asian carp from overrunning the Great Lakes and decimating their fishing industry.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania said in their complaint the situation had become more dire since a live bighead carp was found last month in a Chicago-area waterway only 6 miles from where it meets Lake Michigan — well past an electric barrier designed to block the voracious fish's path. (...)

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in northern Illinois. It accuses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago of creating a public nuisance by operating locks, gates and other infrastructure through which the carp could enter the lakes.
That argument didn't convince the nation's highest court to order the locks closed earlier this year despite two requests from Michigan and other states. But the justices' rulings were procedural and did not deal with the merits of the case, Cox's spokeswoman Joy Yearout said.

The discovery of a 20-pound carp in Lake Calumet on Chicago's South Side might make a federal judge more inclined to rule favorably, said Nick Schroeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center at Wayne State University. Previously, Michigan and the other states based their request largely on DNA evidence that critics dismissed as unreliable. (...)

The Army Corps has refused to close shipping locks and gates on the waterways, saying there's no guarantee that doing so would keep the carp out of the lake. Industries that rely on shipping say closing the locks would injure the regional economy.
"Politically motivated lawsuits are not going to solve the problem," said Jim Farrell, an executive with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. "The fish barrier is working. We've found one fish north of the barrier in 10 months of searching."
One in, they will be impossible to get out. It's reasonable to shut down the locks until the carp can be "chased back" a hundred miles or so.

The Army Corp have repeatedly said that there efforts (e.g. electric barriers, poison) would stop the migration. They have failed to do so.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Racial tensions set to rise?

Fox News has been banging the drum about the New Black Panther Party for a couple of weeks. Sean Hannity on his radio show today is playing audio tapes of various NBPP people saying outrageous things. This merits watching.

It's not clear how this is "supposed" to play out. It can't go on forever. How with Fox and similar agents let go of the story?


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The ultimate endorsement:

In the news:
Republican Sharron Angle says her campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada is "a calling" from God and that her faith is helping her endure a fiercely competitive race in which Democrats have depicted her as a conservative extremist.
It's one thing to have the Chamber of Commerce, NRA, Club for Growth, even Sarah Palin endorse you. But God? That's way better.


Obama echoes Republican talking point:

This is pretty remarkable.

Mark Sanford (over a year ago):
"When times go south you cut spending. That's what families do, that's what businesses do, and I don't think the government should be exempt from that process."
Obama (this week):
"At a time when so many families are tightening their belts, [my nominee for budget director is] going to make sure that the government continues to tighten its own."


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

William Kristol likes the crazy:

In an essay that's being viewed as an outreach to the Tea Party, he writes:
I was telling a friend about the Philly Tea Party, noting a few eccentric proposals from some of its participants. He commented, “Well, that’s better than talking points.” He’s right. At this moment, bold and seemingly impolitic or impractical ideas are more useful than the diligent repetition of mostly sensible short-term critiques and proposals.
Towards the end, he writes:
... the GOP can be the party of the future as well as the present. It can be the party of fundamental reflection and radical choice as well as the party of day-to-day criticism and opposition. This isn't easy. It can lead to mistakes and missteps, tensions and confusions. But it's what the moment requires.
Conor Friedersdorf scratches his head:
Mr. Kristol is calling on the Republican Party to do something radical without saying what, or even seeming to care. His column is a rhetorical blank check ...


Barry Ritholtz on today's deficit hawks:

After writing positively about Reagan's approach to the economy and budgets, he concludes with this: (emp add)
I continue to see the Austerian movement in the United States as thinly disguised partisan politics. These are people who will say anything to keep the subsidies and tax benefits flowing to their electoral base. They will say anything –regardless of whether they actually believe these things — to thwart the opposing fellows priorities.

Anyone who believes the new deficit fighters care about deficits has not been paying attention. This is simply about power and money and legislative priorities and cash. With only a very few exceptions, it has nothing to do actual fiscal priorities and debt loads and deficits.

The vast majority of these new deficit chickenhawks — who voted for unfunded entitlement program (prescription drugs), who gave away trillions in unfunded tax cuts, who voted for a trillion dollar war of choice, are simply not to be believed. Their past actions speak far louder than anything they might say today.
Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats have no easy answer for their actions over the last 10 years when they failed to speak up about the deficit, but now can't seem to talk about anything else.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shorter David Broder:
Here's some advice from a guy at the AEI on how to make hard-right Republicanism - aka the Tea Party - more palatable to voters.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Housing/financial bubble/scandal:

TNR has a crisp review of what happened. It's bullet points are:
  • First, there was a stand-down of the financial police. [aka "desupervision"]

  • Second, the response to desupervision was a criminal takeover of the home mortgage industry.

  • Third, the counterfeit mortgages were laundered so they would look to investors like the real thing. This was the role of the ratings agencies.

  • Fourth, the laundered goods were taken to market.
Bush and Obama administrations are critiqued by the author, James K. Galbraith.

Of interest, Galbraith calls the deficit hawks a different name: Deficit Hysterics. I wonder if that will catch on.

It's a good read.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Then and now:

Early 1800s:
... southerners began to stick up for slavery in what became known as the proslavery movement. (...)

[One argument was] that southern slavery was better than living in Africa, because in the South they would have a lifelong home with better living conditions.
Rand Paul

"The poor in our country are enormously better off than the rest of the world."
Rand Paul is speaking spatially. He could have spoken temporally and pointed out the the poor have it much better than people living 500 years ago.

The thing with these libertarian/Tea-Party types is that there is no limit in terms of how far they will go in tolerating (and advocating) extremes in human welfare. They can always assert that the unfortunate (maybe even you) have it better than someone in another place or in another time.

CODA: Then there's the issue of if Rand Paul is even correct in his assertion that "The poor in our country are enormously better off than the rest of the world". Is that enormously better than everybody? Enormously better than the average Dane? Enormously better than the poor of Madagascar?


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bernanke: I can make the yield curve bend to my will.

That's pretty much what he said in a 2002 speech about preventing deflation.

Couple that thinking with other talk of the Fed purchasing assets, and hence bolstering their prices, and you're moving far away from any sort of market and fundamentals - driven correction of the excesses of the past decade.

It could work. But it's hard to see how such blunt instruments can help sort out the messy, and complex, imbalances that we have to clear up.


Sarah Palin vs. Defense Secretary Gates:

From her June 27 speech:
"Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 [billion] to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines and $11 billion carriers. He went on to ask, 'Do we really need . . . more strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?' " Palin said. "Well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can and yes, we do, because we must."
Because we must.

Impeccable reasoning.

Anybody can play this game. Want more funding for NASA? Just say we should increase its budget, because we must. Etc.


Shorter David Broder:
I'm beating the drum about the deficit and "fiscal responsibility" once more. But I won't talk about how we got there with the Bush tax cuts and two unfunded wars.


Where are the Tea Partiers on this?

WaPo: (emp add)
Federal Reserve weighs steps to offset slowdown in economic recovery

Federal Reserve officials, increasingly concerned over signs the economic recovery is faltering, are considering new steps to bolster growth. ...

Fed leaders are weighing modest steps that could offer more support for economic activity at a time when their target for short-term interest rates is already near zero. ...

One pro-growth strategy would be to strengthen language in Fed policy statements that the central bank's interest rate target is likely to remain "exceptionally low" for an "extended period." The policymakers could change that wording to effectively commit to keeping rates near zero for even longer than investors now expect, perhaps adding specifics about which economic conditions would lead them to raise rates. Such a move would be opposed by many members of the Fed policymaking committee who are wary of the "extended period" language, arguing that it limits their flexibility.

Another possibility would be to cut the interest rate paid to banks for extra money they keep on reserve at the Fed from 0.25 percent to zero. That would give banks slightly more incentive to lend money to customers rather than park it at the Fed, although it also could cause technical problems in the functioning of certain credit markets.

A third modest possibility would be to buy enough new mortgage securities to replace those on the Fed balance sheet that are paid off as people take advantage of low interest rates to refinance.

None of those steps amounts to the kind of massive unconventional effort to drive down mortgage rates and prop up growth that the Fed took in late 2008 and early 2009, when the economy was in a deep dive. Then, the Fed began buying Treasury bonds, mortgage securities and other long-term assets -- more than $1.7 trillion worth by the time the purchases concluded in March. ...

Fed officials do not rule out launching a major new asset-purchase program. Rather, they say they would consider one only if their basic forecast -- of continued steady expansion in the economy -- proves to be wrong.
Like it or not, this is market manipulation, and using a hell of a lot of money to do so. If you add it all up, it's three times what Obama has asked for with the stimulus (even more if you only count the spending part of the stimulus).

So where are the protests against Bernanke? From the Tea Partiers, and from Republicans? There are a few Ron Paul types that want to abolish the Fed, but for the most part the polemics are directed against the Democrats and not this powerful federal financial institution.

On a lighter note, this from the comment thread for that WaPo report:
Here's my plan - the Fed sends those "massive infusions of cash" to ME. In return, I promise to stimulate the economy. My ideas include gold chains, furs and jewelry to women friends, fast cars and old whiskey. I promise to keep spending until the economy improves or I collapse.

The advantages of this plan should be obvious - the money goes into the economy, not held on bank balance sheets or gambled on Wall Street; I would not insist on a multi-billion dollar bonus - the sight of a renewed America is reward enough for me; and the state I live in (California) would have an easier time with its' annual budget if it receives taxes paid on my purchases and my increased state income tax. Finally, I promise not to take advantage of any tax loopholes - I'll spend all the billions in the good ol' USA - maybe take a trip to the Gulf States, I hear they could use a few more tourists.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The only one:

Of all the federal programs, only Social Security is getting bipartisan support for cuts. Not defense. Not Medicare. Not agriculture subsidies.

Only Social Security.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Shorter David Brooks:
We should follow economic advice from not-too-bright people who count with their fingers and toes.


Monday, July 05, 2010

Climate science debate:

On the issue of what to do about global warming, Jim Manzi has been deemed a "reasonable" conservative in the debate. He accepts that it's happening and is caused by human activity. The disagreement is in what to do about it. Manzi's position is that it's not worth implementing various policies (e.g. carbon taxes) because, on net, economic activity would suffer.

This is discussed in a TNR article by Brad Plummer.

Of interest is this excerpt:
Manzi bases his argument on his reading of the IPCC's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. According to the IPCC's own estimates, he points out, a temperature rise of 4°C can be expected to reduce global GDP by about 3 percent in 2100. And on the flip side, the IPCC pegs the cost of keeping carbon concentrations in the atmosphere below a "safe" level of 450 parts per million at around 6 percent of GDP. And so, Manzi concludes, mitigation probably isn't worth it.
Here the issue is 3% loss due to global warming vs. 6% loss due to carbon-concentration-restraint policies.

But what about that other figure? A temperature rise of 4ºC. That's 7ºF. Which means a huge change in, well, basically everything. A change in how you go about your day (much more indoors w/ air conditioning). A change in the landscape. A change in recreation (no more skiing for you!). A change in what you can eat (at least afford to eat).

But those changes do not figure in a measure of global GDP (at least not significantly). Manzi ignores them because he is only interested in economic cost/benefit calculations.

Manzi would probably support placing ads on the face of Half Dome in Yosemite Park if the numbers worked out. The aesthetic damage has no monetary value for people like him. If the reduction in tourist dollars is offset by the ad revenue, then go ahead and do it.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

The New York Times will end up mute:

Bill Keller of the Times, on the use of the word "torture":
“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to [not use that word and, instead] supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves”
Virtually every word takes a side on an issue (nouns, verbs, adjectives). Even what most of us consider "reality" has dissenters.

Will we see the New York Times change their name to New-Amsterdam-but-stolen-by-the-British Times?

Putting that aside, how about Israel? Most folks would say it's a legitimate state, but there are a few who dispute that. Could using the name of a state be a problem? Yes, look at Macedonia:
It became a member of the United Nations in 1993, but as a result of a dispute with Greece over its name, it was admitted under the provisional reference of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, sometimes abbreviated as FYROM.
Best to write nothing, that way no one will be offended.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

This guy is on your side:

Obama's Deficit Commission has two co-chairmen, Republican Alan Simpson, who wants to slash entitlements, and Democrat Erskine Bowles who ...
Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chairman of the bipartisan White House Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, floated a long-term goal of reducing federal spending to about 21% of U.S. gross domestic product, slightly above the recent norm but significantly lower than current spending projections.

While praising Democrats' recent health-care overhaul for expanding access to services, Mr. Bowles also emphasized the need to find significant savings in federal health spending and other entitlement programs. If not, he added, "it will just consume the budget."

Fellow panel member Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, termed the discussions "productive."

"The explosive growth of government spending is clearly the problem, and I was encouraged by the growing consensus around this obvious reality," Mr. Ryan said later in a written statement.
"other entitlement programs" probably means Social Security.