Thursday, July 28, 2016

Red Implications

Anyone else suspecting that -- aside from the direction of the US Supreme Court for the next several decades -- the 2016 US Presidential election will also determine whether Ukraine gets annexed by Russia in 2017 or not?

And who wants to bet Putin would stop there?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


from President Obama's remarks in PBS video, June 2, 2016:
"First of all, the notion that I or Hillary or Democrats or whoever you want to choose are hell-bent on taking away folks’ guns is just not true.
And I don’t care how many times the NRA says it. I’m about to leave office. There have been more guns sold since I have been president than just about any time in U.S. history. There are enough guns for every man, woman and child in this country.
And at no point have I ever, ever proposed confiscating guns from responsible gun owners. So it’s just not true.
What I have said is precisely what you suggested, which is, why don’t we treat this like every other thing that we use? I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL Web sites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.
This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much — as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.
So, sir, I just have to say, respectfully, that there is a way for us to have commonsense gun laws. There is a way for us to make sure that lawful, responsible gun owners like yourself are able to use them for sporting, hunting, protecting yourself, but the only way we’re going to do that is if we don’t have a situation in which anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the Second Amendment. And that’s how the issue too often gets framed."

Monday, June 13, 2016

We Now Have More Examples of Libertarianism In Practice, But It Still Isn't Modern Economic Theory

For quite a while, the best example we could give fans of Ayn Rand regarding how their libertarian notions would work out in practice might have been Somalia. But, as Denise Cummins outlines in "What Happens When You Believe in Ayn Rand and Modern Economic Theory," recent times have seen at least two more examples: Sears and Honduras.

If there's one obvious quibble with Cummins' work there, it's in too blithely describing libertarianism as "modern economic theory" and equating libertarians with economists. While there are all too many libertarians who claim to be economists, there are quite a few economists who feel that these libertarians' claims are shaky (at least without inserting the adjective "shoddy" or at least "misguided" in front of "economists" when speaking of the libertarian ones). And there's strong argument that rather than "modern economic theory", libertarian would better be described as a throwback to neoclassical or Walrasian economics (albeit with some updating via Friedman). Friedman's Randian apologetics for neoclassical economics do not make it particularly "modern", even if his efforts combined with the eager fanboys of Rand have made libertarianism all too popular.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Running Government Like a Corporation

Former factory site in Flint by Blueskiesfalling
In the wake of the Flint leaded water scandal, we're seeing many decrying "running government like a corporation" or "running government like a business".

It goes deeper than that. The problem isn't just that we've got people trying to run government like it's a for-profit institution with no concern that should be weighed higher than cost savings. The problem starts with that so many of our businesses run that way. It doesn't work for corporations either. At least not in the long run.

Wages account for a lot of the budget the typical businesses. What happens when an employer is consistently stingy with salaries? They have trouble attracting top talent and maintaining morale.

Another big cost is quality materials. What happens when a company skimps on the quality of materials from which to make their goods? The quality of their products suffers, and customers eventually learn to avoid their products.

Then there's research. What happens when a company puts less into research than its competitors? It falls behind and its product line eventually stops appealing to buyers.

The illustrations could go on and on. In so many ways, a business that uses cost cutting and profit maximizing as a large part of its strategy sets itself up for being a short term success that will fold in the medium to long run.

We don't just need to "stop running government like a corporation". We need to stop running government like a mismanaged corporation in which the short-term profits are being maximized to earn big compensation bonuses for the CEO at the cost of the long term strength and stability of the corporation. And maybe just as important, we need to stop running businesses that way too.

Monday, February 1, 2016

December Just The Tail Of The Fed's Iceberg?

Did the Fed make a mistake in December?

Or is it more accurately put as David Beckworth tells it, "The Fed did not make a mistake in December. It made a mistake all last year by talking up interest rate hikes and signalling a tightening of future monetary policy."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cognitive Dissidents of Cognitive Dissonance

A more recent Barry Ritholtz article spurred re-reading of his entry from Jan 6th, 2016 remarking on the Big Short, and those of us frustrated by recurring myths can at least take some enjoyment in his prose. At least for some of us, worth a second read.
"These false claims, however, delight fans of cognitive dissonance, and they provide us with a textbook case of what occurs when facts intrude on an ideology that has failed real-life tests. Indeed, some of the people who helped cause the crisis are the biggest proponents of this counternarrative: radical deregulators, free-market absolutists and others simply couldn’t accept the facts, and rather than change their belief systems, they simply refuse to reckon with reality. The psychology behind this is well-understood: The reason to ignore a mountain of facts aligned against an ideological narrative is the brain’s refusal to cope with the possibility that a deeply held belief system might be wrong."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Southern Reformation

Remember when Ani DiFranco met protest over plans to do something where slaves were once used for profit? In truth, if we were to avoid doing anything where slaves were once used for profit, we must avoid the whole South. That would be ridiculous.

It would, however, be sensible to object to sites where monuments to the Confederates still stand. That doesn't have to be the whole South.

Our focus in these times shouldn't end with pulling down the Confederate flags (whether national or battle flags). Or even pulling these symbols out of state flags that contain them. It would be a shame to stop there.

Along with the flags, all those monuments to slavers, to segregation, and those who fought for such things should be pulled out of public places and transferred to museums.

And in every one of the museums that host such things, it should be made clear that these are relics of a time when we permitted treating people in ways that should not be permitted. These are relics we keep not for any reasons of proud heritage -- because it is most definitely not proud -- but to remind us to be vigilant lest we allow ourselves to slip into such despicable errors again.

If the South would still harbor dreams of a truly proud heritage, the South must face and put away that dark past to make way for the better parts of Southern life. To allow that which actually is good in Southern culture to shine and no longer be brought down by trying to pretend there'd been no mistakes, or that those mistakes had not been wrongs.

It'd make that sweet tea even more refreshing.