Monday, September 07, 2009

RTL Samoa: Video

From the BEEB

"Stop," from the SF Chron

The UK Guardian calls the switch "smooth."

TVNZ is less optimistic.

People Figure Stuff Out

I had no idea about this, but an interesting article about the Dutch village that eliminated traffic signals.

Can you imagine having no traffic lights or signs or any other way of keeping cars and people apart? The results would be dangerous chaos, right?

Well, they have a lot a faith in human nature in the small Dutch town of Drachten. Its main intersection is a busy place, where cars and trucks compete with people on bicycles, and others on foot.

The normal civic response - here and elsewhere - has been to put in more traffic lights, divide the roadway into lanes - control things. But the response in Drachten has been the opposite - they took the controls away.

A funny thing happened. The accident rate around the intersection went down - way down, from more than eight a year to fewer than two.

Another article. Brilliant. Excerpt:

The project is the brainchild of Mr Monderman, and the town has seen some remarkable results. There used to be a road death every three years but there have been none since the traffic light removal started seven years ago.

There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. "We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt," he said yesterday.

"It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.

"We only want traffic lights where they are useful and I haven't found anywhere where they are useful yet."

Mr Monderman, 61, compared his philosophy of motoring to an ice rink. "Skaters work out things for themselves and it works wonderfully well. I am not an anarchist, but I don't like rules which are ineffective and street furniture tells people how to behave."

Of course, John Stossel and John Staddon have made this argument in the U.S.

RTL Day: Updates....

5:30 am Apia time: It's quiet. Almost time for the church bells and police / fire sirens the announce the switch. Nice last minute video from NZ TV3 here....

UPDATE 1: I had not heard this before, but it makes some sense. The government has banned ALL alcohol sales, starting today (Sept 7), and extending throught the 2-day "holiday." Not that banning alcohol sales will keep people from drinking. But there is a special population whose attention might be gotten through a ban on alcohol sales. When they ask why, they will be told about the lane switch. And, of course, there will be a mandatory blessing. All the nightclubs and bars have to close by 10 pm, through Sept. 12.

UPDATE 2: Almost 9 a.m. now in Apia. This story, just posted, has very little content. I searched and searched for a webcam, set up somewhere in Apia or one of the other cities. Disappointing. CNN had nothing, at least not yet.

UPDATE 3: A BBC Story....Could the UK switch? UPDATE 4: This from the Samoa Observer.... (published 9:30 am Apia time)
The road switch happened at 6am today. So remember to keep left.
Chief Executive Officer of Land Transport Authority, Leasi Galuvao, urges that as most important. “And drive carefully,” said Leasi. “Stick to the speed limit.”
Leasi thinks drivers will be cautious the first few days of the switch.

The time of most concern is when motorists believe themselves adjusted to the new conditions and press the accelerator a little harder. That’s why the safety messages will persist up to three months from now, Leasi said. LTA’s technical unit was yesterday afternoon praying the rain would stop so that they could complete the remaining directional arrows at intersections in town before 6am today.

Road signs on poles are still being vandalised, with some pushed down with their coverings still on, Leasi said.


Right to Left Day. TODAY.

The always reliable BEEB is on the story.

Buses threaten strike. Although it is not really a strike, since the law says the buses are not ALLOWED to run if they don't have a door cut in the left hand side. Useful video from NZ TV3.

Bus owners want compensation from Government to change the side of the door of their buses to make it safer for passengers to embark and disembark. They put the price at $50,000 – which includes the cost of transferring the location of the steering wheel from the left to the right.

Government, through Land Transport Authority (LTA), wants only the location of the doors changed. But bus owners say the steering wheel needs also to be relocated for the sake of safety when vehicles are required to change to travelling to the left side of the road from tomorrow.

LTA offered free licensing for a year. That amounts to a total $2,360 – which bus owners say is nowhere near enough as compensation. Nor is the time given them to make the conversion anywhere near enough, they say. LTA believes otherwise.

The comments here in the Samoan Observer (Apia/Savalalo) are interesting....

Sunday, September 06, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 1: TOMORROW is Driverdämmerung

Tomorrow in Samoa: Twilight of the Driver--Driverdämmerung!:

(götterdämmerung -- Dictionary: göt·ter·däm·mer·ung or Göt·ter·däm·mer·ung (gŏt'ər-dăm'ə-rŭng', gœt'ər-dĕm'ə-rʊng')

A turbulent ending of a regime or an institution. [Comes from "Götterdämmerung," an opera by Richard Wagner, from German, twilight of the gods : Götter, genitive pl. of Gott, god (from Middle High German got, from Old High German) + Dämmerung, twilight (from Middle High German demerunge, from Old High German demerunga, from demar, twilight).]

A turbulent ending of a regime or an institution, indeed. Turnabouts will be difficult. (Götterdämmerung was the fourth in Wagner's "Ring" Cycle, so I guess the Ring Roads should be okay). Although I keep hearing that one way streets will be a "special problem." Why? No one said to change directions. Just change lanes. I can see why turning OUT of a one-way street onto a two way street will be tricky. I expect that the morning will look and sound something like this, at about the 4 mins 30 second mark in the video...

Also, remember, Samoa is the latest place in the world. Tomorrow almost never comes, in other words, because Samoa is barely east of the International Dateline. The switchover starts (as I noted yesterday) with some radio reminders and police roadblocks. By 6:00 am local (in other words, 1 pm Eastern Daylight Time in the U.S., a seven hour time difference between Raleigh and Apia), the switch will be in full Götterdämmerung.

If it matters, the weather forecast for tomorrow is cool and wet, a high of 81 deg F and morning rain.

Regulate this!

Alan Blinder in today's NY Times points out that the financial regulation we are likely to get is not the financial regulation that we might actually need. That is to say he expects that there will be additional consumer protection and pay limitations forthcoming (which he deems to be of second order importance), while things of first order importance like making derivative markets more transparent or creating new rules to deal with the potential failure of large financial firms may go unaddressed.

Well worth reading.

I am going to lose some of Mungo's libertarian street cred here, but I think that increasing the transparency of, and collateral behind, derivatives is a very good idea. I am not a fan of legislating pay limits or having a government panel set them.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 2: Nuts and Bolts of the Change

Our Samoan friends are dealing, as best they can, with the prospect of the road change. Here are some nuts and bolts discussions of the costs of the switch, and the exact sequence of events. Excerpt:

Police checks of vehicles and driver’s licences;
Drink driving enforcement campaign.
Encouragement: Police reminding all road users of the switch.
The following activities have been scheduled for the switch day:
Engineering--Between 0600hrs and 0610hrs remove tape from line markings and covers from signage.
Education--Radio and television reminders of switch, including associated speed limit changes between 0000hrs and 0400hrs;
Radio broadcasts begin again at 0500hrs ahead of switch and reminders continue until midnight.
Between 0600hrs and 0610hrs remove tape from line markings and covers from signage.
Radio and television reminders of switch, including associated speed limit changes between 0000hrs and 0400hrs;
Radio broadcasts begin again at 0500hrs ahead of switch and reminders continue until midnight.

Oh, and they are going to ring the church bells. I think I would just go to church and STAY for two or three days.

48 hours left. We'll see.

The match of the week (so far)

Taylor Dent beat Ivan Navarro last night, winning the 5th set tiebreaker 11-9. Both guys played serve and volley (Dent went to net 109 times, Navarro 146) with accurate and huge serves (Dent made 70% of his first serves with a top speed of 147 mph, Navarro 81% with a top speed of 130).

The full match stats are here.

After the match, Dent commandeered the umpire's microphone to thank the crowd and took a victory lap around the Grandstand, slapping hands with the crowd. He is coming back from two spinal fusion surgeries and has a great attitude about the sport as revealed in his post match interview.

Next up for Taylor is the most handsome Scottish person in all of history, Andy Murray.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Jobless Recovery

from the WSJ:

"The economy is experiencing another huge increase in productivity in the third quarter. Nonfarm labor productivity grew at an annual rate of 6.6% in the second quarter. Look for something in that eye-popping range for the current quarter. Here’s a rough sketch of the numbers: Today’s jobs numbers showed that the Labor Department’s index of aggregate hours worked by Americans was at 98.9 in August, down steeply from a second quarter average of 99.7. That’s from a combination of job cuts, reductions in overtime and other cuts to work shifts. Let’s assume there’s no change in hours worked in September. That would mean the total amount of hours that Americans worked in the third quarter would be down at about a 2.8% annual rate. The economy seems to be on track to grow at an annual rate of 3% or more. More output and fewer hours worked means more productivity in the neighborhood of 6%. You’ll be hearing a lot of talk about a jobless recovery in the months ahead. The upside is that this is good for corporate profits. The downside is that workers will suffer even after the economy comes back."


Mothers in Law, Part Deaux

I endeared myself to my then future MiL the first time I entered her house. In the kitchen, on the wall, she had framed and mounted a picture of Bill Clinton and John Paul II. I couldn't help myself, I blurted out "Cool picture! It's the pope and the dope!"

I was reminded of my heinous verbal indiscretion by this picture, on the front page of the WSJ today:

It's just too easy, but just too fun: Dumbbell, meet Dumbbell

Change you can believe in, and drink

Blue Matter compares Pepsi and Coke logos over the years.

I had not realized this difference. Interesting.

RTL-Day Minus 3: Why Can't We All Just Get a Lane?

Several MSM sources have now weighed in, including Gwynne Dyer (published many places, but locally in the Pacific here...)

And the Canadians noticed...

Randy James, for TIME, asks, why is it different?

The BEEB solicits comments, though no one has yet commented, as of this writing.

And the Daily Mail, that paragon of Brit journalism, has this. An interesting article, with some history. I'm not sure it is all true, but it is interesting. (And that pretty much describes MOST of British journalism, doesn't it?)

UPDATE: A Brit posts on the change. But she gets the date wrong, and expresses the hope that...well, read for yourself. Why move from right side to left side?
The answer is money. The Government wants to slash the number of big, expensive, fuel-hungry American cars being imported into the country. Instead, it’s hoping that ex-pat Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand will send cheaper-to-run right-hand-drive models to the folks back home.

No. NO, NO, NO. The concern is not for the fuel costs, but for the cost of smoking, pollution-emitting junkers. The PM wants MORE of these old junkers, and it is easier to get them from the Commonwealth island nations. Also, as I have noted repeatedly, the Samoan PM worries that American cars cannot escape tsunamis, because....well, I have no idea why he thinks that. But he does.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Radio Quiz

Every week, on the Bill Lumaye show, I do a call-in quiz. This week's was, I thought, better than average.

Which of the following international news stories is UNTRUE? One of these stories is ridiculous, and made up. The other three are equally ridiculous, but entirely true and real. Which one is false?
A. (Sick Terrorist Released) One of our closest allies released a convicted terrorist, a man convicted in an open, honest trial, of killing hundreds of people. This terrorist, on returning home, was greeted as a hero, and paraded around the streets with the leader of the country. The reason for the release was that the terrorist was not feeling well, though he did perk up quite a bit when he got home to such a boisterous celebration.
B. (Airbus Subsidy Suit at WTO) The U.S. is demanding that the European Union stop subsidizing the airplane manufacturer, Airbus. But this suit was brought before the U.S. took over, and offered much larger (three times larger) subsidies to its own auto companies General Motors and Chrysler. If the U.S. wins the Airbus suit, they will have to pay much larger fines if the EU sues about our automobile subsidies.
C. (Fly to Havana) President Barack Obama this week announced that he is lifting all travel restrictions for Cuba. Travel to Cuba has been restricted since 1974, and has been nearly impossible since 2003. Two U.S. air carriers, American and Air Tran, announced that they would begin regular service from Miami’s airport to Jose Marti International in Havana, in time for the (I’m quoting now) “2010 winter snowbird season.” I think, I’m not sure, but I think that 10,000 Canadians have already bought tickets for January.
D. (Island Lane Switch) A small island nation in the Pacific has decided to switch from driving on the right to driving on the left. This is in spite of the fact that ALL the 20,000 cars in the country are Left Hand Steering, and all the buses and trolleys have doors that open on the right hand side. The Prime Minister who made the decision to force the switch thinks that older, cheaper cars from NZ and OZ will now flood into his country, making it easier (quoting now) “for citizens to increase our mobility, and to escape tsunamis.” (Quick, kids, get in the car, a tsunami is coming!)

Preach, Bishop! Won't YOU Take the Pledge?

Someone has gone and made the Bishop angry. You won't LIKE the Bishop when he's angry. Here is his email:

After watching the really well done and moving "I Pledge" paean to President Obama and feel-good liberalism, I took the challenge and wrote my own pledge: I pledge to not buy a hybrid since its life cycle costs exceed those of my Tahoe. I pledge to increase my carbon footprint in order to encourage more plant growth. I pledge to not purchase any electricity from wind farms because they greatly increase costs without any measurable environmental benefit and they are UGLY. I pledge to overthrow the Endangered Species Act because it makes endangered species worse off. I pledge to educate my grandchildren about the evils of government. I pledge to promote free market environmentalism. I pledge to respect my neighbor's property rights by fighting restrictive zoning. I pledge to spend more time growing tomatoes. I pledge to introduce even more students to the great works of Western Civilization. I pledge to re-read Milton Friedman. Friedrich Hayek, Ronald Coase and the other great University of Chicago economists. I pledge to not be a servant to any government official but to serve my neighbors.

I'll take that pledge myself.

Mother in Law jokes: NOT Funny to Mother in Law

Sunda Croonquist is being sued by her Mother in Law, for making fun of the MiL in the stand-up comedy show that Sunda does.

The MiL is suing for actual damages, it appears. But the MiL should remember that truth is a defense in libel cases. As in, the daughter comic is "libel" to win. An example of the kind of jokes in question: Sunda's first visit (Sunda is black, btw) to her mother-in-law's (very white, very Jewish) house: "I walk in, I say, 'Thank you so much for having me here, Ruthie.' She says, 'The pleasure's all mine, have a seat."' Then, in a loud aside, 'Harriet, put my pocketbook away.'"

Here's the best part: Sunda's husband Mark is a lawyer. He is personally represnting Sunda, in court, against his own mother. What could POSSIBLY go wrong with that plan!? I guess grandma is not going to get to see much of the grand daughter. Sad, really.

The video....see for yourself if Sunda goes over the line.

Fortunately, I have a WONDERFUL mother in law, one who never does anything nuts or bizarre. So, I'm never tempted to blog about her, and get sued like this.

Nod to RL, who has an even BETTER MiL than I have. (Yes, he made me say that...)

Papers on Housing and Financial Regulation

Yet Another View on Why a Home Is One's Castle

Fuad Hasanov & Douglas Dacy, Real Estate Economics, Spring 2009, Pages 23-41

Abstract: We compute equity-based real after-tax rates of return for homeowners and landlords in the United States for 1952-2005. The study confirms that a combined aggregate for residential housing provides a high average net return and low volatility, has low correlation with financial assets and can provide a hedge against inflation. The efficient frontier analysis shows that the optimal portfolio for a household with a coefficient of relative risk aversion of four to five is one which contains a bit larger amount of housing than stocks, close to what one observes in the real world.


The Impact Of Deregulation And Financial Innovation On Consumers: The Case Of The Mortgage Market

Kristopher Gerardi, Harvey Rosen & Paul Willen Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract: We develop a technique for assessing the impact of changes in the mortgage market on households. We start with an implication of the permanent income hypothesis: that the higher a household's expected future income, the more it desires to consume, ceteris paribus. If perfect credit markets exist, desired consumption matches actual consumption and current spending forecasts future income. Since credit market imperfections mute this effect, the strength of the relationship between house spending and future income measures the "imperfectness" of mortgage markets. Using micro-data, we find that over the past several decades, housing markets have become less imperfect in this sense. Mortgage securitization has played an important role in explaining this phenomenon.

The Housing Crisis and Bankruptcy Reform: The Prepackaged Chapter 13 Approach

Eric Posner & Luigi Zingales, University of Chicago Working Paper, March 2009

Abstract: The housing crisis threatens to destroy hundreds of billions of dollars of value by causing homeowners with negative equity to walk away from their houses. A house in foreclosure is worth 30 to 50 percent less than a house that a homeowner either retains or sells on the market, and a foreclosed house damages neighboring property values as well. We advocate a reform of Chapter 13 that would allow homeowners to strip down the value of their mortgages in a prepackaged bankruptcy. Such a plan would give homeowners an incentive to keep or resell their homes, thus reducing the market value loss of homes while protecting the effective value of creditors' interests. Two further key elements of the plan are that it uses prices based on the average house price in a particular ZIP code, which reduces moral hazard; and it is automated, requiring only a rubber stamp by a bankruptcy judge or other official, thus preserving judicial resources. Other plans, including that of the Obama administration, are compared.

(Nod to Kevin L, who phones home)

RTL-Day Minus 4: Coordination Games and Bastiat

From 3-news, Kiwi-land, regarding the decision of the fake "Cabinet Meeting" on Tuesday....

Roina Vavatau, an opponent to the change, says there should be a delay in implementing the rules.

“We wanted to have a delay since we were not successful with the court case,” he says. We had anticipated that the best that we want to request from the government is to delay it further.”

Mr Vavatau’s request was ignored and on Monday the rules will change, but some villages near the main port of Sa'vaii are vowing to continue to enforce driving on the right hand side - even if only on the one kilometre stretch of road in their village. Protest organisers say the change is being implemented in an undemocratic way, and some village chiefs or matai's will ignore the rules.

Samoan Community Leader Litea Ah Hoi says the village chiefs want to maintain there local authority. “They are very proud to retain their position of authority even to the extent of defying central government,” she says.

Samoan leader Fa'amatuainu Tino Pereia says the change is positive for Samoa. “I think for Samoa it will harmonise Samoa’s driving patterns with the rest of the region,” he says.

“Not only that but also with the two significant countries of the region, Australia, and New Zealand which will then allow Samoa to have some sort of mobility within its own country.”

Mr Tino Pereira says September 7 will get off to a bumpy start but the majority off the 160,000 will eventually see sense in the change.

Many amazing claims in these quotes. First, the idea of a "region" for an island is a bit odd. You cannot drive from NZ or OZ, or Hawaii, to Samoa (and it's the same distance, approximately, with OZ being the furthest away.) Thus, by far the cheapest cars are the CARS YOU ALREDY HAVE. All of these are Left Hand Drive cars.

There are NO car-carrying ferries from OZ, NZ,or HI. Not one. And shipping cars 4000 miles is about 10% more expensive than shipping them 1000, on a bulk carrier. Just not a consideration. The expensive part is loading and unloading.

So, "mobility within its own country" suggests staying with the existing system.

As for "maintaining there local authority" (that is THEIR typo, not mine), this is coordination game, AND a power struggle. But if everyone else switches, the threat to stay on the right side of the road is not credible.

Finally, I am reminded of Bastiat's famous observations on the broken window, chapter 1 in "That Which is Seen and Not Seen." Bastiat addresses the argument that a broken window is a good thing, because it creates new business for the glazier. Bastiat goes on to say, "what will you say, disciples of good M. F. Chamans, who has calculated with so much precision how much trade would gain by the burning of Paris, from the number of houses it would be necessary to rebuild?"

It is true enough that forcing people to buy new cars, and new buses, and make other changes, will create the appearance of economic activity. What we won't see is the business, and work, and activity, that WOULD have taken place without this ridiculous in-kind tax.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

It's the Amazing...TURTLE PUPPY!

Once the turtle puppy gets on his back, he can't get back up!

RTL-Day Minus 5: Continued

So, who is bigger tool, the PM of Samoa or those two wacky French mayors?

Listen, and decide for yourself....

On the Pacific island of Samoa, traffic will switch next week from the right side of the road to the left. Protesters took to the streets. Bus companies are stuck with passenger doors on the wrong side. In France, two feuding mayors have declared a busy street one way — in both directions. Now no one can take the road that used to carry thousands of commuters into Paris each day.

Interview, on Radio Australia, with the attorney for PASS...

RTL-Day Minus 5: Dagen H

Håll dig till höger, Svensson An astute reader (yes, all KPC readers are astute, but this person is astute even by those elevated standards) notes that one should compare the impending Samoan disaster to the analogous disaster in Sweden.

Well, at KPC we live to serve. Well, and to complain. To serve and to complain, that's what we live for. Anyway, some background on Dagen H. Start with the WikiP entry, which is quite good. Excerpt:

Dagen H (H day), today mostly referred to as Högertrafikomläggningen ("The right-hand traffic diversion"), was the day, 3 September 1967, on which traffic in Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right. The H stands for Högertrafik, the Swedish word for "right-hand traffic".

There were two major arguments for the change: (1) All Sweden's immediate neighbours drove on the right (including Norway, with which Sweden has a long land border). (2)
Most Swedes drove left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles. This led to many head-on collisions when passing on two-lane highways, which are common in Sweden because of its low population density and traffic levels.
Nonetheless, the change was widely unpopular, and had repeatedly been voted down over the previous forty years. In a 1955 referendum, 83 percent voted to keep driving on the left. In 1963, the Riksdag (the Swedish parliament) approved the change and established the Statens Högertrafikkommission (HTK) ("state right-hand traffic commission") to oversee it. It also began implementing a four-year education program, with the advice of psychologists.[1]

The campaign included displaying the Dagen H logo on various commemorative items, including milk cartons, men's shorts and women's underwear. Swedish television held a contest for songs about the change; the winning entry was Håll dig till höger, Svensson ('Keep to the right, Svensson') by the Telstars. As Dagen H neared, every intersection was equipped with an extra set of poles and traffic signals wrapped in black plastic. Workers roamed the streets early in the morning on Dagen H to remove the plastic. Similarly, a parallel set of lines were painted onto the roads with white paint, then covered with black tape. Before Dagen H, Swedish roads had used yellow lines.

On Dagen H, Sunday, 3 September, all non-essential traffic was banned from the roads from 01:00 to 06:00. Any vehicles on the roads during that time had to follow special rules. All vehicles had to come to a complete stop at 04:50, then carefully change to the right-hand side of the road and stop again before being allowed to proceed at 05:00. In Stockholm and Malmö, however, the ban was longer—from 10:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday—to allow work crews to reconfigure intersections. Certain other towns also saw an extended ban, from 15:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday.

One-way streets presented unique problems. Bus stops had to be constructed on the other side of the street. Intersections had to be reshaped to allow traffic to merge.

Why put a reminder to "switch sides" on women's underwear? Why did one-way streets present unique problems? Why does Samoa want traffic to look like this? UPDATE: This Salon piece makes the comparison with Sweden quite nicely, and (importantly) mentions the timeless musical classic "Keep to the Right, Svensson." Ya gotta recognize....

What makes Roger go?

Insightful multimedia commentary here and a look at what it's like to play him for the first time here.

The men's  side of the Open is amazing this year with Federer, Roddick, and Murray all playing well, the uberpunk Djokovic seemingly regaining form, and the chance that Nadal might come back to life.

The women's side is basically Serena and a bunch of Russian players with serious serve issues (there are 40 players in the women's draw whose last name ends in "a").

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Running out of land....NOT

Unlearned Lessons from the Housing Bubble

Robert Shiller, The Economists' Voice, July 2009

"Many people all over the world seem to have thought that since we are running out of land in a rapidly growing world economy, the prices of houses and apartments should increase at huge rates. That misunderstanding encouraged people to buy homes for their investment value - and thus was a major cause of the real estate bubbles around the world whose collapse fueled the current economic crisis. This misunderstanding may also contribute to an increase in home prices again, after the crisis ends. Indeed, some people are already starting to salivate at the speculative possibilities of buying homes in currently depressed markets. But we do not really have a land shortage. Every major country of the world has abundant land in the form of farms and forests, much of which can be converted someday into urban land. Less than 1% of the earth's land area is densely urbanized, and even in the most populated major countries, the share is less than 10%. There are often regulatory barriers to converting farmland into urban land, but these barriers tend to be thwarted in the long run if economic incentives to work around them become sufficiently powerful... Despite a huge twenty-first century boom in cropland prices in the U.S. that parallels the housing boom of the 2000s, the average price of a hectare of cropland was still only $6,800 in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and one could build 10-20 single-family houses surrounded by comfortable-sized lots on this land, or one could build an apartment building housing 300 people. Land costs could easily be as low as $20 per person, or less than $0.50 per year over a lifetime. Of course, such land may not be in desirable locations today, but desirable locations can be created by urban planning. Many people seem to think that the U.S. experience is not generalizable, because the U.S. has so much land relative to its population...But, to the extent that the products of land (food, timber, ethanol) are traded on world markets, the price of any particular kind of land should be roughly the same everywhere...Shortages of construction materials do not seem to be a reason to expect high home prices, either. For example, in the U.S., the Engineering News Record Building Cost Index (which is based on prices of labor, concrete, steel, and lumber) has actually fallen relative to consumer prices over the past 30 years. To the extent that there is a world market for these factors of production, the situation should not be entirely different in other countries."

(Nod to Kevin L, who doesn't need land. He has evolved into pure energy, and exists in the atmosphere)

RTL-Day Minus 6 (continued)--Datelines and Separated at Birth

One of the cool things about Samoa is the fact that you can travel to yesterday just by going a few hundred miles. Consider the map: Notice that if you fly (or swim, if you swim fast) from Tonga to Samoa, you go from today back to yesterday.

Samoa: The last place on earth where it is today.

The reason that this is important is that the Prime Minister announced today that the protesters' last appeal is rejected.

Which reminds me: Consider this "separated at birth" sequence. Is it just me, or are these guys related?

Gmail...IS DOWN!

Holy Snappin' Turtles! Gmail is down. Google Apps Status September 1, 2009 12:53:00 PM PDT We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a majority of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 1:53:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change. (from the source....)

Ick. A big hassle for me. Can't really complain, since I don't pay anything. But...what a cluster firetruck.

UPDATE: Now Google says: Google Apps Status
September 1, 2009 1:02:00 PM PDT
We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 2:16:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.

Four minutes from now, an update? We'll see....

UPDATE II: LIAR! LIAR! DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY! Instead of an update, now Google says.... September 1, 2009 2:13:00 PM PDT
We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 3:13:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.

In other words, no freakin' clue do they have.

UPDATE III: Still no explanation. Here is the NYTimes Blog, on the outage. Here's the timeline, oldest messages at bottom, read up:

5:37 PM
The problem with Google Mail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support.

5:13 PM
We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 6:13:00 PM UTC-4 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.
Users can access their email via IMAP or POP. You can find instructions for how to do this here. Also, at this time, Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (applies only to Google Apps Premier and Edu customers) is not available.

4:02 PM
We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 5:16:00 PM UTC-4 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.
Users can access their email via IMAP or POP. You can find instructions for how to do this here.

3:53 PM
We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a majority of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 4:53:00 PM UTC-4 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.

11:18 AM
Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.

Go South Old Man!

From the every informative USA Today

"It sounds almost too good to be true: a health care plan with no limits, no deductibles, free medicines, tests, X-rays, eyeglasses, even dental work — all for a flat fee of $250 or less a year.

To get it, you just have to move to Mexico.

As the United States debates an overhaul of its health care system, thousands of American retirees in Mexico have quietly found a solution of their own, signing up for the health care plan run by the Mexican Social Security Institute."

There's gotta be a catch, right? Right!

The system has flaws, the facilities aren't cutting-edge, and the deal may not last long because the Mexican government said in a recent report that it is "notorious" for losing money. But for now, retirees say they're getting a bargain.


The IMSS plan is primarily designed to support Mexican taxpayers who have been paying into the system for decades, and officials say they don't want to be overrun by bargain-hunting foreigners.


Well, for the time being at least, I think our most cost effective form of health care reform is mandatory Spanish lessons for the elderly!!

Or, as Mrs. Angus put it, health care runs downhill. Canadians come here, we go to Mexico, Mexicans go to ..........??

RTL-Day Minus 6: NZHerald Reporter was Perhaps Too Credulous???

So, the NZ Herald Reporter was perhaps too credulous, and not used to dealing with Samaon despots.

Here's the NZH story...

Here is what Samoan "PRime Minister Wearing Khaki Shorts for Life" Tuilaepa* said:

"I can see that this is important to you, that you have made your voices heard, that you want us to reconsider," Tuilaepa commented after meeting the protesters.

"I promise you this, the Cabinet will meet today to reevaluate the hard decision we had already made, so that you know that we, like you, also care," the Prime Minister said.

The response was met by applause as Tuilaepa who had previously publicly refused to acknowledge PASS, finally took notice.

He has promised to have a decision by the end of today.

The problem is that clearly the PM was just blowing smoke. As this AP story makes clear, the PM is pulling the old "We already widened the roads" defense.

The great Samoan lane change disaster is back on. And it appears it was never really off. Wow.

*Pronounced "Too-EEL-ah-HAY-pah," by the way