Sunday, January 31, 2010

Emotional voting

In his Myth of the Rational Voter Byran Caplan argues that because we do not have to bear the consequences of our votes, we choose our politics on other bases. A pretty good example of what he is saying seems to be evident in this article, in which the author expresses some buyer's remorse for one of her emotional reactions, but seems unaware that all of her political views are nothing more than emotional reactions. (The comments are brutal.)

Deep thoughts

Arnold Kling ponders why the recession has been so deep here.

Palin makes a small mistake

From Sarah Palin's Facebook notes for Jan 25:
Instead of real leadership, though, we’ve had broken promises and backroom deals. One of the worst: candidate Obama promised to go through the federal budget “with a scalpel,” but President Obama spent four times more than his predecessor.
She is wrong saying spending has increased by four time. If you follow the link, her source says that the deficit has quadrupled, not spending. However, she may get a pass on that. Anyone who points out the mistake draws attention to the deficit, and her opponents probably want to avoid discussion of how big the deficit really is.

This time it is different

A long article at focuses on a quote from Reinhart and Rogoff's book:
"Our immersion in the details of crises that have arisen over the past eight centuries and in data on them has led us to conclude that the most commonly repeated and most expensive investment advice ever given in the boom just before a financial crisis stems from the perception that 'this time is different.'
The next place to be watching is Greece.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some youtube videos

Cooperation among killer whales:

A very funny commercial

Another funny commercial:

Hide the decline--a video about climategate

Obama and health care

Some impressive editing on this video of Obama as the taxman:

And then there is this:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Credibiltiy and global warming

The assertion that the glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains were rapidly melting was made for political reasons. Those writing the influential UN report knew it had no basis
Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.
The claim that Himalayan glaciers are set to disappear by 2035 rests on two 1999 magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled without any further investigation in a 2005 report by the environmental campaign group WWF.
It was this report that Dr Lal and his team cited as their source.
The WWF article also contained a basic error in its arithmetic. A claim that one glacier was retreating at the alarming rate of 134 metres a year should in fact have said 23 metres – the authors had divided the total loss measured over 121 years by 21, not 121.
Last Friday, the WWF website posted a humiliating statement recognising the claim as ‘unsound’, and saying it ‘regrets any confusion caused’.
Why does Glaciergate matter?
To understand why the future of Himalayan glaciers should arouse such peculiar passion, one must recall why they have long been a central icon in global warming campaigners' propaganda. Everything that polar bears have been to the West, the ice of the Himalayas has been – and more – to the East. This is because, as Mr Gore emphasised in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth, the vast Himalayan ice sheet feeds seven of the world's major river systems, thus helping to provide water to 40 per cent of the world's population.
Credibility is a terrible thing to lose, and the climate warming folks are rapidly losing it.

The American media seems to slow on this story. It is getting much more in Britain and, of course, India.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fish kill in Florida

The cold snap in Florida resulted in a huge fish kill:
Bob Pucinelli, former Bay area outdoors radio host, reported from the Everglades that the temperatures in some creeks there was 47.5 degrees, far below the 55 that is usually lethal for snook. The Bay area temperature was 41 degrees in many canals that had provided cold refuges for the fish in other seasons, according to captain Scott Moore, a leading Bay area snook conservationist. And north of Tampa Bay, the water was far too cold for survival of snook that had gradually migrated there over a succession of 10 warm winters. In fact, water on the flats was so cold, it killed some reds and trout in the Homosassa area.
There will be survivors, to be sure. Fish in spring outflows such as those in the Chassahowitzka, Homosassa and Crystal rivers should be fine, as will those huddled into the hot-water outflows from the state's many power plants.
There was, however, a silver lining:
While it might take snook and other saltwater game fish years to rebound, the cold snap should at least temporarily help less-popular freshwater natives such as sunfish by knocking off walking catfish, Mayan cichlids and other tropical exotics that have invaded the Everglades and many of South Florida's canals and ponds, said Loftus, who retired from the park last year and now runs a consulting business, Aquatic Research and Communication in Homestead.
I wonder how global warming can be blamed for this.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A hyperinflation forecast

Is Japan headed for hyperinflation?
The IMF says Japan’s gross public debt will reach 227pc of GDP this year. This is compounding at ever faster speeds towards 250pc by mid-decade.
The only reason why this has not yet blown up is because investors (mostly Japanese) have not yet had the leap in imagination required to understand their predicament, and act on it. That roughly is the argument of Dylan Grice from Societe Generale in his latest Popular Delusions note released today. “A global fiasco is brewing in Japan.”
 Japan is funding over a third of its government expenditures with borrowing (as is the U.S. in 2009), and in the past countries that fund at that level for several years are prone to hyperinflation. Japan has been a heavy saver, but demography should be reducing their ability to save--the percentage of the population that is retired is rising, and they will be drawing down savings. Right now think look OK because interest rates are so very low, but if they begin to rise, Japan's financial sitution my blow up.

Demographic decline presents serious problems to welfare states, especially if they have heavy debt. We will see how it works out for several countries in the next decade.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Is the Headstart program effective? A study from the federal government is not reassuring.
In sum, this report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade…

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

China is now the largest auto market

From the TimesOnline:
In 2009, Chinese sales of cars, trucks and other vehicles soared to 13.6 million, a 46 per cent rise from the previous year’s levels and comfortably higher than the 10.4 million equivalent vehicles sold in the United States last year. Only 33 years ago, there were only one million privately owned cars in the whole of China.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jobs lost

The latest unemployment data from the Department of Labor shows that the  U.S. economy continues to shed jobs. The graph below shows total employment.

The number of employed (total jobs) dropped by 589,000 from Nov to Dec. Most did not move to unemployed but dropped out of the labor force. In the past year, (December to December) 5,390,000 jobs have been lost--that is drop in the number of employed. However, there is some good news--the October unemployment rate was revised from 10.2% to 10.1%.

The labor force participation rate has dropped from 66.5% in December 2008 to 64.6% in December 2009. As people lost jobs, many left the labor force. If they had stayed in, being counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be 11.6%.

Since the high of 146,483,000 in November of 2007, the U.S. economy has lost 8,691.000 jobs and there is no reason to believe that we have hit bottom yet. That number dwarfs the slightly more than 2 million jobs lost in 1981-1983.

Previous post here.  Data are from here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why no recovery yet?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Gary Becker, Steven Davis, and Kevin Murphy ponder why the recovery has been so slow. They argue, though not using the term, that the Obama Administration has pursued bad supply-side policies.
In terms of discouraging a rapid recovery, other government proposals created greater uncertainty and risk for businesses and investors. These include plans to increase greatly marginal tax rates for higher incomes. In addition, discussions at the Copenhagen conference and by the president to impose high taxes on carbon dioxide emissions must surely discourage investments in refineries, power plants, factories and other businesses that are big emitters of greenhouse gases.
Congressional "reforms" of the American health delivery system have gone through dozens of versions. The separate bills passed by the House and Senate worry small businesses, in particular. They fear their labor costs will increase because of mandates to spend much more on health insurance for their employees. The resulting reluctance of small businesses to invest, expand and hire harms households as well, because it slows the creation of new jobs and the growth of labor incomes.
By failing to adopt a measured approach to economic policy, Congress and the president may be slowing the economic recovery, and thereby prolonging the distress from the recession.