Friday, October 30, 2009

Ah, the good ole days

One thing we can say for sure is that women aren't nostalgic for the old days. If anyone is, just watch a few episodes of "Mad Men" as an antidote with its suffocated Mad Wife Betty Draper and its slapped-down Working Woman Peggy Olsen. If you prefer nonfiction, leaf through the early chapters of Gail Collins' history of "When Everything Changed" to those magical yesteryears when a flight attendant was weighed, measured and hired to be a flying geisha.

reminds me of Japan National Airways. Stewardesses aren't weighed to my knowledge but the age limit is 24.

Seriously, is contemporary fiction about the past any sort of proof for propositions about the past? And do we really want to base our claims of superiority on the level of service among contemporary flight attendants

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Churchill Moment

Here is video of women being beaten stripped and forced to eat human excrement because they were found to be witches. Now, would you have this sort of thing if the British were still in charge? I don't think so. Just sayin'....

Of course you could say that these witches got off easy. They were not burned alive and they have not committed suicide.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Obama Diet

So the administration's jobs program is a success because we are losing jobs more slowly. That is a good one. I'll use that the next time someone asks how my diet is going. Well, I'm gaining weight a lot more slowly. Could I call it the Obama diet? Or should we reserve that for actually losing your job and then actually losing weight?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Nobel Prize for Anti-Americanism goes to....

If you are doubting that Nobel Prizes seem to be given for anti-Americanism listen to Harold Printer's acceptance speech. Apparently he also at one time wrote plays. Note that this speech is carried approvingly by the charmingly named ""

Obama to New Orleans Katrina Victims: Stop Whinning

"I wish I could just write a check," Obama said. If that was his message, he should have stayed home. We now know that our government can make hundreds of billions of dollars available to irresponsible Wall Street institutions within a matter of days, if necessary. We can open up the floodgates of credit to too-big-to-fail banks at the stroke of a pen. But when it comes to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, well, these things take time.

Obama visits New Orleans to show how different he is from the heartless and incompetent Bush administration and this is what we get. "Hey, I can't just write a check." Seemed a bit lame from Bush, seems even lamer from a President sitting on commanding majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Seems even lamer still when a major part of the rationale for turning out the Republicans was their handling of Katrina.

His Oneness and the insurance companies

The President takes a direct aim at the insurance companies: Obama Threatens Insurers? Anti-Trust Exemption -

A couple of things come to mind. First, is repealing the McClarren Act a bad idea? It gives the insurance companies and anti-trust exemption but it also gives the states power to regulate insurance. The latter was the justification for the former. If you repeal the former provision aren't you going to also repeal the latter? Surely you are not going to demand both the insurance companies be regulated by at the state level and that they not cooperate with one another across state lines? That would be impractical. It would be like taking the banking system and breaking each bank into 50 separate companies, no? That would be inherently unstable certainly?

Moreover, isn't this just a bit too Chicago style? I mean, we are debating a major change in policy because the insurance companies would not play ball in backroom negotiations? That just seems a bit bare-knuckled. It seems to undermine democracy. We are having a policy debate and if I don't like what you say in public about the bill we are going to change the policy in a way that hurts you--will that really wash? People don't have much sympathy for insurance companies but they can imagine themselves in their position. Say the next policy is something that affects the funeral directors of used car dealers' association and unless your Washington representatives agree to come out holding hands and talk happy talk at the press conference with His Oneness we are going to change the law to hurt you guys...that is something people can see themselves on the receiving end of.

The insurance companies released a study the administration doesn't like and suddenly they are a public enemy singled out by the commander and chief--sounds a bit too cultish to me. When Roosevelt did it he was careful to do it with humor--we save the guy from drowning and now he is complaining that we left his top hat in the water. It feels like he has called us peasants out to storm the castle with our pitch-forks. Do you put the American people in the roll of peasants?

The study's conclusions are debatable and almost surely over drawn, but they are legitimate and any close examination of them will, as Paul Krugmann admits in his treatment of the subject in yesterday's NYTs, bring out that the administration's assumptions (or the Baucus bill's assumptions) are also implausible. If the insurance company's assumption of %100 pass through is implausible then surely the Democrat's assumption of %0 pass through is equally implausible. When you pick a fight like this you have to be dead-right, not just 51-49% compared to the other guy.

This debate might even work to the insurance companies' advantage on policy grounds. The administration has made its argument on the basis of increasing competition. That is why we need the public option. But when asked why, if they want to increase competition, don't they just let people buy their insurance from a national instead of a state market? The administration has never had a good answer for that. Axelrod looked particularly feckless in a recent exchange with Wolf Blitzer. Bringing this issue up seems to invite a repeal of the state regulation issue. It seems hard to argue for repealing one half of the McCarran-Ferguson Act without repealing the other.

Finally, McCarren: he was the guy that Senator Pat Geary was modeled after in the Godfather. That has to be a good reason to repeal the thing.

Here is a link to where they have posted the Obama address. It is really a bit creepy. "We" have reached a "bipartisan" consensus but "They" are trying to stop us.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Charles Krauthammer--The Indespensible One

Krauthammer's explanation of why preventative care does not save society money should be required reading. The fallacy comes, like so many others, from confusing two levels of analysis, the individual and the aggregate. At the individual level getting a $500 test that prevents a $10,000 disease is a great deal, $10,000 - $500. But for society it is $10,000 - $500*(the number of people that tested negative).

In this hypothetical the break even number is 1/20. If the disease is any less common than that the test is a waste of money. As Krauthammer reports, the CBO finds that prevention typically costs 10 times what it saves. Turns out everything is expensive, including human lives. Who knew?

Charles Krauthammer : The "Preventive Care" Myth -

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Tea partiers and GOP regulars scuffle in N.Y. House race - Washington Times

Duberger, call your office. The Republican party seems to have forgotten you. It is one to question evolution, but this is math.

Tea partiers and GOP regulars scuffle in N.Y. House race - Washington Times

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Median Voter Theorem

Someone had better tell the Conservatives about the median voter theorem according to this not so friendly source of advice.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The New Face of German Intolerance

According to German climate advisor Schellnhuber the "world must be carbon free by 2050." Forgive my scientific illiteracy, but isn't the world, kinda, you know, made of carbon?

Obama Negotiates with Fire

I think this is too hard on Obama. They are setting up negotiations so that if they fail it is Obama's fault. But after the 8 years of Cheney-Bush demonization, can we really expect the President to get fire to trust us in only one negotiations session? The man has only had his Nobel Prize for week. Lets be fair in setting our expectations.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The monolith myth

Christopher Caldwell reviews an excellent new book on the Danish Cartoon controversy.

One point that the Danish author makes in criticizing his own Prime Minister's handling of the affair was that the PM refused to see that the Muslim community was not "monolithic."

This seems to be a great underlying theme in a great many controversies over how to deal with an aggressive ideology. It is always for some reason thought to be a great point to observe that the aggressors are not "monolithic." It seems to come up all the time and is announced rather than argued. The assumption seems to be that once it has been demonstrated that the people that are threatening you are not "monolithic" some great and unanswerable point has been made. And somehow the point is so obvious it does not even have to be argued.

If a group of people want to kill you for different reasons the salient fact about the situation is their area of mutual agreement, not disagreement.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It can happen here

Terrorism can happen here. NYT's piece about the fight of the national guard and Army troops in Mississippi. It was largely kept off the front pages because the soldiers were ordered not to talk about it as well as not to fire back. Then the Cuban Missile crisis....

The Predator Insurance Company

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"The 'predator state' describes what happens when chicken coops are given over to foxes," Mr. Galbraith continued. "When consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection, and policing against fraud are handed over to lobbyists. And when health care is run for the benefit of private insurance companies, whose business model . . . is to target coverage on the healthy and delay payments to the sick."

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The breathless tone of statements like this one seem to suggest it is news that insurance companies want to make money. The reason we would rely on insurance companies whose business model is to "target coverage on the healthy and delay payments to the sick" is that the people buying insurance have the opposite incentives and we think that both parties in a free market will set the price at the most efficient level, the level that reflects the actual scarcity value of the goods and services being traded. It is like saying why let the prices of shares be set by stock brokers since they just want buy low and sell high? Because the people selling them have the opposite incentives and we think the price that results from their exchange will best reflect the underlying values of the goods involved.

Creeping Mandates

Volohk links to an oped by a couple that was fined for having inadequate health insurance under the Massachusetts plan. When the Massachusetts plan started 2500 dollar deductible plans were ok. Now they are not. They have to be only 2000 dollars. They are being fined $1000 because they state does not think they can afford the extra $500. Make sense? You too could have a future in government!

Thanks, Obama

Rich Lowry cites Hawthorne in explaining how Obama has revived the Republican party. Maybe Obama can work this into his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize: after all, he has to have some concrete accomplishment to mention in his acceptance speech.
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The 19th-century author Nathaniel Hawthorne warned of the perverse effects of grand schemes: "We miss the good we sought, and do the good we little cared for." For Obama, proving that we live in a center-right country presumably isn't a "good" at all, but he's done it with a finality that the late sociologist Seymour Lipset -- a student of America's cussedly right-leaning attitudes -- might envy.
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Friday, October 09, 2009

the giant hole

What this argument leaves out is Fannie and Freddie. The evil and greedy bankers (curiously intent on making loans that could not be repaid) were able to sell these loans to Fannie and Freddie. If there had not been these quasi-governmental corporations backing them they would not have been making loans and they would never have been capitalized. It may be true that there was a "giant hole" in the safety net, but the truck that drove through it was financed by the government's own creatures.

University of Michigan Law Professor Michael Barr, a specialist in banking and finance law, flatly rejected claims that the CRA was "a significant factor in the current crisis. CRA was enacted more than 30 years ago. It would be quite odd if this 30-year old law suddenly caused an explosion in bad subprime loans from 2002-2007....Subprime mortgages were mostly made by mortgage brokers and lenders and securitized by investment banks -- institutions not covered by CRA," he told the Huffington Post, adding, "CRA only covers banks and thrifts, and these institutions mostly have not suffered to the same extent or kind from bad lending as the non-CRA-covered institutions at the core of the current crisis. The problem here is not CRA. It is what the late former Fed Governor Ned Gramlich called 'the giant hole in the supervisory safety net' -- bad lending by firms outside the banking sector's rules for prudential supervision, capital requirements, consumer protection and yes, the CRA."

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I was watching the Sean Hannity show. He was interviewing Michael Moore. It was so sad because I was sympathizing with Moore. Hannity is just such a mouth. He would not let the man finish a sentence. It makes Moore's arguments seem stronger simply because Hannity would interrupt before the man could make his argument. The thing is there are answers to Moore's arguments but Hannity's brain can't move fast enough to reply directly to those arguments. What is worse is the evasiveness of Hannity. When Moore would catch him in some sort of fork Hannity would squirm and change the subject with another one of his canned rants. Are we really so desperate that we have to rely on men of such low quality?

Free at last

We are now officially free from any obligation to take the Nobel Prize, the UN or International public opinion seriously. Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, with Yasir Arafat there was at least something that occurred, a recognizable event took place. A peace treaty he violated from the second he signed it. But still, there was something. International opinion is now officially bullshit. This is just laughable.