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October 20, 2014

"Rachel Carson's Deadly Fantasies"

Thanks to the rank bias of teachers of "environmental science" today's high schools students are unlikely to know the enormous damage Silent Spring did. Show them this.

"The One App You Need To Mention On Your Resume If You Want A Job At Google"

Econ Ph.D. students, send your resumes to Google!

Spoiler: the app is Matlab.

"Culture Wars All the Way Down"

Jonah Goldberg at the top of his form. Half funny, half original, insightful analysis. Even though this column depreciates economics a bit, it's a good argument. And I really like his discussion of "wedge issues".

So the other day I was on Fox talking about the minimum wage, or rather I was on Fox to talk about the politics of the minimum wage. I made the point I’m about to make right now. The reason Democrats are always trying to raise the minimum wage is so they can get Republicans to vote against the minimum wage, a point others have made in the past (including, I recently learned, Kevin Williamson in this excellent primer on the issue). More broadly, the minimum wage is a wedge issue for Democrats. The fact that it is at best an insignificant and silly idea and at worst really terrible economics is entirely beside the point.

When I first started following politics in a serious way, “wedge issues” were terrible, no good, very bad things. David Broder, Tom Edsall, Eleanor Clift, and others would decry the use of wedge issues — race, abortion, patriotism, etc. — because they “divided” Americans. What this really meant was they divided the enduring Democratic coalition, separating out working-class whites and other constituencies moving rightward with Reagan. Looking through the hundreds of stories on Nexis from the late 1980s and early 1990s on the sinister exploitation of such issues is really a lot of fun. Here’s a headline from a 1989 Edsall piece in the Washington Post: “GOP Honing Wedges for Next Campaign; Party Aims for Partisan Advantage by Making Corruption, Drugs and Crime Divisive Issues.”

Good lord! Will those Republicans stop at nothing to win elections? 

"Ebola Comes to America: Krugman & Stiglitz Must Be Delighted"

This is mean, nasty, over the top, and I liked every word of it.

"Fed up with the GOP Establishment? That's no reason to stay home on Election Day"

I concur.

And don’t just vote, but make sure others cast the right vote as well. Here’s why:

First and foremost, the right to vote should never be taken for granted. It is a gift and one we should cherish. It should not be tossed aside. No matter how disappointed we feel about our choices, we must make the best possible choice among the options.

Apathy is a luxury we can’t afford. If we want to grumble about RINO’s, the RNC, and establishment Republicans, that shouldn’t stop us from voting. Grumbling and voting aren’t mutually exclusive. Should anyone decide to express some choice words in the voting booth, save the best for Harry Reid. (More on Harry later.)

Frustration and anger + withhold my vote = lesson learned by the GOP is not a realistic equation, satisfying as it may feel, emotionally.

"Amazon Must Be Stopped"

The editor of New Republic thinks Amazon is a monopoly.

Many people reply effectively. Here are three.

Annie Lowrey, New York: "Amazon is Not a Monopoly".

Joe Nocera, New York Times[!]: "Amazon Plays Rough. So What?"

Reihan Salam, Slate: "In Praise of Amazon".


"Shale Boom Has America Sitting Pretty"

As the kids used to say, "No duh!"

Cheap energy is key for economic growth, and a glut of natural gas is leading to a kind of small renaissance in American manufacturing, especially in energy-intensive industries. More fracking means more gas, lower prices, and growth potential for firms that use that gas.

"Emma Watson And The Chamber Of Feminist Conundrums"

I particularly like the suggestion that Ms. Watson "needed a giant “FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS” sign behind her at this UN speech".

October 19, 2014

A new low for the mainstream mass media

The Washington Post, 10/16: "Want to feel better about Ebola? This (massive) chart should do the trick."

We wanted to come up with a way to represent the true scale of Ebola in the United States. So we made the graphic below, which depicts over 310 million tiny icons of people, three of whom are colored red to represent Duncan and the two people he infected. Our challenge to you: find the three people.

I'm not making this up. Click on the link if you don't believe me.

At least one writer and at least one editor at The Washington Post felt that to make the point that 2 is a really, really small percentage of 310,000,000, they needed to present a graphic

Do they think their readers are all five-year-olds?

"Unable to Meet the Deductible or the Doctor"

In the New York Times, no less.

Three cheers for Obamacare!

"The 33 Best Pizza Shops in America, 2014"

With very appetizing pictures of the pizzas.

October 18, 2014

"$39,643,352 Worth of NIH Funding That Could Have Gone to the Ebola Vaccine"

Yes, I think that there are more important uses for the NIH's money than finding out "why fat girls have a tough time getting dates" and putting on "fruit and vegetable puppet shows for preschoolers".

"‘Dogs And Cats Living Together': The Best Of Bill Murray’s ‘Ghostbusters’ Ad-Libs"

Mr. Murray can be pretty good.

"18 Different Novels Set In Africa That All Have The Same Darn Tree On The Cover"

Apparently, at least to Westerners, acacia trees say "Africa".

October 17, 2014

"Listen to a Lost Bob Dylan Song from the Basement Tapes Sessions"

Rockabilly. Pretty darn good: "Dress It Up, Better Have It All".

UPDATE: link fixed now. Thanks, Michael.

"Watch This Drag Racer Flip Four Times Then Walk Away From The Crash"

A seatbelt apparently helped.

"How They Make Lingerie Models Look So Good"

Apparently, you start with really attractive women and then it's downhill from there.

October 16, 2014

"5 Key Implications if Baghdad Falls to ISIS"

Interesting and important. But warning: heavy-duty pessimism.

The possible fall of Baghdad could be the most significant development in the War on Terror since 9/11. And yet many among the D.C. foreign policy “smart set” were not long ago mocking such a scenario.

"Don't Care About the Deficit? Now You Should"

Fine article with one important qualification: the deficit per se doesn't matter; goverment spending does. The growth rate of government spending must be cut, and soon.

"In Defense of Coaches Who Yell"

Jennifer Wilson, writing in Esquire. Bravo.

My kids have great egos. Their dad and I tell them when they're rocking it, and we tell them when they screw up. We hug them either way.

But when they are beyond the boundaries of our loving home, most people won't consider them the perfect little starfish that we do. And they have to know how to deal with that. How to prove their worth. In swimming, that means they'll do so by not sucking.

So no, I'm not scared of the old-school coach and his vigorous saliva spray of enthusiasm. But you know what I am scared of? I'm scared of kids who have the crap pampered out of them. Who think every single thing they do is precious and correct.

"The 15 Best Colleges In America, According To People Who Work In Finance"

Duke improves significantly from the main ranking.

October 15, 2014

"Anatomy of the next train wreck"

Patrick Sullivan warns--pay attention, please--that we risk repeating the Fannie/Freddie fiasco.

They who forget their history, are bound to be bullied into repeating it by the next politician who comes along;

"From Comedy to Farce"

Victor Davis Hanson presents a hellacious smackdown of our president.

It was tragically comical that the commander in chief in just a few weeks could go from referring to ISIS as “jayvee” and a manageable problem to declaring it an existential threat, in the same manner he upgraded the Free Syrian Army from amateurs and a fantasy to our ground linchpin in the new air war. All that tragic comedy was a continuance of his previous untruths, such as the assurance that existing health plans and doctors would not change under the Affordable Care Act or that there was not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS.

But lately the Obama confusion has descended into the territory not of tragedy or even tragic comedy, but rather of outright farce.

See also "Obama’s ‘blizzard of lies’".

"Underwhelming Growth: What the new GDP figures actually reveal"

Lawrence Lindsey:

. . . the Commerce Department released its final estimate of Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter. That marked five years since the recession ended—a period of massive experimentation with expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. While those policies were doubtless well intended, all they did was what standard economic theory says they would do—move future economic output to the present. They did not by any means increase long-term economic growth. 

The headline seemed encouraging—4.6 percent growth in the second quarter. But the first quarter was negative, so the average for the first half of 2014 was just 1.25 percent. If we get, as expected, growth between 3 and 3.5 percent for the second half of the year, 2014 will come in with average growth of just about 2.25 percent. That compares with average growth of 2.2 percent over the last two years, 2.2 percent over the last three years, 2 percent over the last four years and 2.2 percent over the last five years. Does one see a trend here?

"Why Europe Is Irrational About Israel"

An analysis that was new for me.

To propose immediate Palestinian statehood under these circumstances is psychotic, to call the matter by its right name. The Europeans, along with the United Nations and the Obama administration on most working days, refuse to take reality into account. When someone tells you that Martians are transmitting radio waves into his brain, or that Elvis Presley really is the pope rather than an Argentine Jesuit, one doesn’t enquire into the merits of the argument. Rather, one considers the cause of the insanity.

The Europeans hate Israel with the passion of derangement. Why? Well, one might argue that the Europeans always have hated Jews; they were sorry they hated Jews for a while after the Holocaust, but they have gotten over that and hate us again. Some analysts used to cite Arab commercial influence in European capitals, but today Egypt and implicitly Saudi Arabia are closer to Jerusalem’s point of view than Ramallah’s. Large Muslim populations in Europe constitute a pressure group for anti-Israel policies, but that does not explain the utter incapacity of the European elite to absorb the most elementary facts of the situation.

Europe’s derangement has deeper roots. Post-nationalist Europeans, to be sure, distrust and despise all forms of nationalism. But Israeli nationalism does not offend Europe merely because it is one more kind of nationalism. From its founding, Europe has been haunted by the idea of Israel. Its first states emerged as an attempt to appropriate the election of Israel. 

"Rent Seeking: America’s National Pastime"

George Will:

Come Tuesday, the national pastime will be the subject of oral arguments in a portentous Supreme Court case. This pastime is not baseball but rent seeking — the unseemly yet uninhibited scramble of private interests to bend government power for their benefit. If the court directs a judicial scowl at North Carolina’s State Board of Dental Examiners, the court will thereby advance a basic liberty — the right of Americans to earn a living without unreasonable government interference.

Related: "Cape Wind: An Unsightly Monument to Political Pull".

"What’s Up With the Democrats In Illinois?"

Good question. I don't know, but I hope the voters help them fix it.

Why all the class warfare?  When I was growing up, I never dreamed of living on government assistance.  I used to ride my bike and run through Oak Brook and dream of owning one of those houses.  I didn’t dream about creating a political machine.  I dreamed about creating the next McDonald’s . . . 

October 14, 2014

"The CDC Doesn’t Have A Funding Problem"

Not that any of my regular readers would believe, for one single second, the Liberals' new line that Republican funding cuts are responsible for us not curing Ebola, but just in case, see Walter Olson's short piece.

See also Nick Gillespie, "Can You Blame Ebola Outbreak on "Republican Cuts" to Health Budgets?" and Bobby Jindal, "The Facts About Ebola Funding".

"Denver Census Whistleblower: Unemployment Numbers Are Being Faked (Again)"

This deserves at least a few questions from the relevant House oversight committee.

See also "The Not-Credible Shrinking Unemployment Rate: Is the government deliberately misclassifying job seekers?"

"GOLDMAN: Here Are 3 Strategies For Surviving The Stock Market Whiplash"

Since two of the three strategies are ones I have been, and am, following, I like this article.

"Learn Economics Online Using These 33 Free University Courses"

I can't vouch for any of these courses, but they could well be useful.

"What if we applied feminist logic to other crimes?"

Fine question. Excerpt:

Stop blaming the victims of abduction

People need to be taught not to abduct children; children shouldn’t be told not to talk to strangers.

We are blaming children for their own abduction when we use family passwords, teach them about safe places and behaviors and tell them there are bad people in the world and what to watch for.

We don’t want our kids living in that world.


October 13, 2014

"The Financial Crisis: Why the Conventional Wisdom is Wrong"

By Richard Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo. It's strikingly clear, concise, and forceful. Everybody who runs for Congress or who manages the Fed or the SEC should be asked about it. Excerpts:

I am sure most of you have noticed the publicity surrounding BaoBao, the new panda cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo this year. Well, BaoBao should fit in well in Washington: she costs a fortune, she has no useful skills, and she is always on TV. . . . 

If you don't remember anything else I say today, please remember this: only about 20 financial institutions perpetuated this crisis. About half were investment banks and the other half were savings and loans. Only one, Citicorp, was a commercial bank, but was operating more like an investment bank. . . . Yet 6,000 commercial banks are being punished with Dodd-Frank penalties in the same way as the guilty parties. . . .

Politicians and regulators have responsed to each crisis by piling on more extensive and burdensome reulations, assuring citizens that they have fixed the problem without addressing the actual causes. 

Today the 6,000 commercial banks and their boards and management are spending most all of their time and resources on compliance, regulatory changes, and litigation for something they didn't do.

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