Thursday, January 19, 2012

One size fits all

In this excellent interview, Werner Herzog allows that all of his movies could have been appropriately given the same title: "Gazing Into The Abyss".

Austerity & Growth

There is a lot of discussion on the question of whether austerity is growth enhancing or not. While it's an entertaining debate, I get the feeling that the subtext is that European austerity only makes sense if it's growth enhancing, and I don't think that's true.

To my mind, Greece has two choices, default and devalue or continue on a path of ever greater austerity. Why they seem to be choosing option "b" is beyond my comprehension, but given they don't exit the system, what other option do they really have? Obviously they have no monetary levers. Obviously, they cannot borrow to finance further spending "stimulus". Obviously they cannot compel Germany to just pay up or the ECB to apply the monetary level system wide.  Obviously, they are not going to export their way to prosperity in the near term. So it's pretty much austerity uber alles for them.

Italy is in largely the same boat, except their borrowing rates have not hit Grecian heights due to ECB interventions. Their only options are austerity or exit.

As for the US of A, the idea that we are practicing fiscal austerity is risible. You can't even see austerity from where we are currently standing.

Alan Blinder channels St. Augustine

 You know, "Lord, grant me chastity, but not just yet"!

In today's WSJ, Alan writes, "it would be smart to borrow, say, another $500 billion this year and then pay for it, say, 10 times over, with $5 trillion in deficit reduction spread over 10 years—starting, say, in 2014."

People say this all the time, Blinder, Christina Romer, Mark Thoma, but it doesn't make sense. All Congress can commit to doing is what they actually do in the present. Does anyone really think the coming "draconian sequesters" on defense will actually happen?

The "cuts are coming around the corner" language is just boilerplate, designed to inoculate the writer from the charge of fiscal irresponsibility when they advocate increasing current federal spending.

Current Congresses cannot bind future Congresses. If they really want to cut spending, the only way to do it is to (sorry in advance) JUST DO IT in the here and now.

Don't hold your breath.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tumblr of the Day

Pizza Fractals!

Look, This is Not Complicated

Let's spell it out.

If you are invited to go on the Jon Stewart Show, you should go. It will be fun, Jon asks softball questions, it will be great, you will get to talk about your book

If, on the other hand, John Oliver, or Asif Mandvi, or Jason Jones, want to talk to you, just laugh at loud and hang up the phone. Do NOT talk to them. Do not do an interview. Do not even answer questions in writing. They already have an angle. They are smarter than you are, or at least they will seem smarter after they finish editing the interview.

Why do otherwise smart people convince themselves that they are going to be anything other than reamed? Froma Harrop is revealed here to be an unbelievable hypocrite and a self-important fool.
She just couldn't believe anyone could disagree with her, and be anything but a "terrorist." She even goes so far as to say that that was NOT a metaphor. She meant it literally: disagree with me, and you are a terrorist. Didn't we all make fun of George Bush when he tried that same stupid line?

Now, I have always just thought Froma Harrop was another economically illiterate lefty journalista. Given that she never took any actual courses in college, it's not her fault.

But.... it turns out she is actually a really, really scary lady. Thanks, Jon Stewart, and thanks to John Oliver! Don't ever call me, by the way. I won't answer, John O.

Lagniappe: From Wikipedia.... Harrop is the President of the National Conference of Editorial Writers. One project of the NCEW is the Civility Project, aimed at restoring civility to America's public discourse. Her position was criticized by the Wall Street Journal, which noted the contrast between this role and her comparison of the Tea Party to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. In her response to the criticism, Harrop stated, "I see incivility as not letting other people speak their piece." She subsequently deleted all the comments from the post and shut down the commenting feature of her blog.

On Computers / WiFi in Class

It is so important to this professor that people only pay attention to him in all his narcissistic glory that he forced the class into a smaller room....

JUST so there is no wifi

Wouldn't it have been easier to stay in the large class and ban laptops? Or make it possible to jam wifi somehow? It can't be hard.

Or, you could just let the students decide. As I argued before.

Lee Siegel Is An Idiot

You don't have to be an idiot to write for the NY Times.

But it helps. P-Krrog, for example, is certainly not an idiot. But he has to act like one to publish in the Times.

Being an idiot is the only qualification I can see for Lee Siegel writing a column.

Some analysis, from NO MORE MISTER NICE BLOG.

A lagniappe: Here is Mr. Siegel being an idiot on the Daily Show. Now that "Kim Jong Il Looking at Things" won't have any new entries, perhaps someone can have a blog entitled "Lee Siegel Being An Idiot." It would have daily entries.

9 ball, corner pocket!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hashtag of the day


Darned Tricky Numbers

Sometimes people wonder what kind of people want to write for the lefty bed-wetting press. Why would such a talented person want to "give" so much of themselves, taking a low salary just so they can speak truth to power? Those guys must be VERY good people....

Or perhaps they are just another idiot who got some fraudulent "______ Studies" major. And so they never learned how to calculate percentages or hold a real job. Now they blame the system for how much their little lefty lives suck.

An example:

Survey: Illegal Corporate Campaign Contributions Up 400%

By Alex Seitz-Wald on Jan 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

In 2009, just 1 percent of respondents to National Business Ethics Survey — a large industry study funded by major corporations like Walmart — said they had witnessed illegal corporate political donations. This year, that number quadrupled to 4 percent. Management-level employees at large, publicly traded companies were most likely to see the illegal activity, with seven percent of senior managers saying they had witnessed it.

If this guy had not majored in International Relations (at Brown, no less, the home of "Studies Studies"), he would know that this is:

(4-1)/1= 3

3 n.e. 4

But of course the actual numbers don't matter. It's the truthiness of the scare tactic that's important.

A complicating factor is that the Dems got FAR more corporate money than the Repubs in 2008. The problem for the left is not that corporations can give money. The problem is that corporations can give money to Republicans. THAT cannot be allowed.

Nod to Chateau

Fair Trade Frolics

This is just remarkable. Mr. Overwater did convince me of the importance people on the left attach to good intentions, regardless of whether the consequences are actually good. I think that is a big explanation of the popularity of "fair trade": I am paying more for this, an act of sacrifice and therefore of virtue. The fact that essentially none of the money actually makes it to the farmers is beside the point. I sacrificed, and therefore I am a good person.

But it's bizarre that people actually think the fair trade scam makes food healthier, or that it has fewer calories. Wow. You bedwetters believe that whatever lame secular god you worship will bless you with thinness, because you performed the good work of paying more for regular old coffee that happens to have a "fair trade" label on it.

The “Fair Trade” Effect: Health Halos From Social Ethics Claims

Jonathon Schuldt, Dominique Muller & Norbert Schwarz
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract: The authors provide evidence that social ethics claims on food packaging (e.g., fair trade) can promote the misperception that foods are lower-calorie and therefore appropriate for greater consumption. In Study 1, participants evaluating chocolate provided lower calorie judgments when it was described as fair trade — a claim silent on calorie content but signifying that trading partners received just compensation for their work. Further establishing this effect, Study 2 revealed that chocolate was perceived as lower-calorie when a company was simply described as treating its workers ethically (e.g., providing excellent wages and health care) as opposed to unethically (e.g., providing poor wages and no health care) among perceivers with strong ethical food values, consistent with halo logic. Moreover, calorie judgments mediated the same interaction pattern on recommendations of consumption frequency, suggesting that amid the ongoing obesity crisis, social ethics claims might nudge some perceivers to overindulge. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

Nod to Kevin Lewis