Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Bobby Jindal Didn't Say-Part II


You mis-characterize what Bobby Jindal said. You claim he said it wasn't a racially motivated crime. No he didn't. He said regardless of your race or party affiliation all recognize this was a horrible crime. At least in the quotes I posted he made no mention of the racial aspect of the crime, as you point out. But I just grabbed the first one's I saw, so maybe your beef is with my editorial or search skills.

I'm not going to defend Jindal or anyone else on what they said or didn't say. Besides, I haven't said anything about the racial aspect of this crime. Doesn't make me a racist or blind to the racial issues in the US. My point was the Times unattributed statement (no quotes, no source, where did it come from? The Times' imagination of what they think Bobby Jindal thinks?) of Jindal was far different than the quotes from interviews and tweets by Jindal. My unwritten suggestion was the Times has an agenda, so blindly accepting everything it prints is lazy.


PS. You cite Media Matters to show voter fraud doesn't exist! Really? You may as well cite

What Bobby Jindal Didn't Say


Reading through through Bobby Jindal's comments about the Charleston murders what sticks out isn't what is said but what isn't. Nowhere in these passages is there any acknowledgement of the basic, essential, unmistakable fact of this crime. A white man killed 9 black men and women precisely because they were black. In fact, bizarrely, Jindal claims exactly  the opposite when he asserts that "it doesn't matter whether you are white or black." To the dead churchgoers, that is all that mattered; that is the only reason they are not walking among us today.

The 1st step in absolving oneself of a great crime is to deny it ever happened. The Civil war wasn't about slavery, it was about states' rights. Jim Crow wasn't about preservation of white supremacy, it was about equal separation of  the races  Four thousand lynchings weren't about a systematic system of state enabled terrorism, they were about protection of white female virtue. And systematic disenfranchisement, of blacks today isn't about preservation of white privilege, it's about voter fraud that doesn't exist. For all the progress that's been made, to deny the presence of racism in America today is to deny the reality of the folks who experience it.


Better For Whom?


I do agree with you that the state of race relations has improved over our lifetimes. So does the President. I was born the year Brown v Board of Education was decided. Since then overt discrimination on the basis of race has been outlawed. Expression of racial animus within the public sphere is no longer tolerated. African Americans occupy honored places in politics, the arts and sciences  entertainment, academia, and the media that would have been unthinkable a short time ago.  

And yet.

Economic and political progress remains limited for most African Americans. By any measure they are poorer than whites, and the gap has increased in the wake of the Great Recession. They achieve less education. They live less healthy lives and they die sooner. The criminal justice system systematically punishes them disproportionately for the same crimes as compared to whites. The proportion of black men <35 yrs of age incarcerated any given time defies belief.  

By and large the Republican Party's answer for all this is blame African Americans for their own troubles, to deny that racism in any form still exists in the country, and take every opportunity to limit their political power.

It's not, alas, as if the Democrats do much better despite a lot of lip service, or that poor whites are faring much better than poor blacks. As Thomas Edsall (whom I deeply admire) writes in today's column:

"All of which brings us back to the question of why there is so little rebellion against entrenched social and economic injustice.

The answer is that those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t."


What is Wrong With These People-Part II


I mostly agree with your assessment of the Charleston killings. However I'm much more optimistic than you seem to be on the state of race in the US. After all, the response in South Carolina, (Governor is a female of Indian descent, one of the Senators is of African descent, both Republican, by the way) was quite strong and swift. The killer was found, will be charged and probably put to death or put away for a very long time. This is a much different reaction than would have taken place 60 years ago. I don't see how the reaction to this killing will, "risk losing all of the ground we have made as a country over the past 50 years," as you say. And I think you have it backwards, the youth won't take cues from their leaders. On this issue all politicians will fall in line behind public opinion and public opinion is overwhelmingly consistent with many of the thoughts you expressed.

There was one major issue I have with your letter, and maybe it's a problem with your source, The New York Times. You are outraged by the reactions of Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Mike  Huckabee and Bobby Jindal. I have no particular positive or negative thoughts towards Jindal or Perry and think Santorum and Huckabee are only slightly removed from the clownishness of Trump. I happened to be listening to a podcast yesterday and heard Bobby Jindal's reaction to the shooting. It was far from the reaction painted by the Times. So I did a cursory search for his reaction. This is what I found.

From The Blaze:

“It doesn’t matter if you are black or white,” Jindal said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat we can all agree that nine people gunned down in a Bible study in a church, a house of God this evil, evil individual said he spared the life of one of those individuals so he could go and tell others what he has done.”
 From The New Orleans Times Picayune
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Twitter: "Every American needs to take a few minutes today, and in the days to come, to pray for the families of those murdered last night." He also said on a Twitter posting:  "I'm enraged by this ungodly act and my heart breaks for these families. I hurt for them."
 From Talking Points Memo

"I don't think we have words strong enough to describe how evil this is," Jindal responded. "Whatever words you want to put on to it. This man went into — from what we've heard, he goes into a church, sits there for an hour like you said, kills nine people and then says to some of the survivors 'I'm letting you live so you can go tell people what I've done.'"

"In my mind, look, there are no words strong enough to condemn that," he continued. "Evil, terror, whatever we want to call it. This is horrific. It's almost unimaginable."

As I said, I have nothing particularly positive or negative to say about Jindal, but it is curious the New York Times has an unattributed statement from Jindal that is completely different than every other statement even a cursory search revealed.

What's wrong with the New York Times?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What is Wrong With These People?


From today's NY time, a description of various Republican presidential candidates' take on the events in Charleston

"Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas described it as an accident. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania suggested it was an assault on religion. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas said that spirituality was the salve for racism. And Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who has not yet officially announced his candidacy, said the motives behind the attack were a police matter."

Are they stupid or just depraved?

This time the neurosurgeon got it right. Ben Carson writes in USA TODAY

"Not everything is about race in this country. But when it is about race, then it just is. So when a guy who has been depicted wearing a jacket featuring an apartheid-era Rhodesian flag allegedly walks into a historic black church and guns down nine African-American worshipers at a Bible study meeting, common sense leads one to believe his motivations are based in racism. When a survivor of the ordeal reports that the killer shouted before opening fire, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go" — well, that sounds to me a lot like racial hatred.

Let's call this sickness what it is, so we can get on with the healing. If this were a medical disease, and all the doctors recognized the symptoms but refused to make the diagnosis for fear of offending the patient, we could call it madness. But there are people who are claiming that they can lead this country who dare not call this tragedy an act of racism, a hate crime, for fear of offending a particular segment of the electorate.

We know what's at stake here, so let's stop all the interpretive dance around the obvious. Was it a depraved act of violence? Of course. Was it an act of unspeakable evil? Affirmative. Was it an attack on innocent Christians? Manifestly so. Is this killer a sick individual? In my professional opinion, yes, he is. What is his sickness? It's the sickness of racism, a spiritual sickness that distorts the mind and heart and causes irrational and baseless fear and hatred in people of all colors. Racism was once epidemic in America, but through struggle, sacrifice, soul-searching and meaningful social change, we have made much progress. Clearly, the struggle is far from finished, and we must own up to that fact and that challenge.

When an event of this magnitude occurs in the middle of an election cycle, politicians are often quick to try to score political points, look for scapegoats and easy answers. That's the lowest common denominator of politics at a time when we need true leadership. Now is the time to abandon political expediency and seize this opportunity to demonstrate what we are really made of as a people, as a great country. We have come together in times of crisis, and we have risen to the test time and time again. We are a people whose courageousness has consistently triumphed over fear. We can come out stronger on the other end of this terrible tragedy, and we can heal this sickness that is crippling our nation. I know we can. But first we have to face the facts."


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Iowa Car Crop


I was grumbling to myself why a simple benefit of trade is rarely put forth, then I saw this on Mark Perry's Carpe Diem blog.

There are two technologies for producing automobiles in America. One is to manufacture them in Detroit, and the other is to grow them in Iowa. Everybody knows about the first technology; let me tell you about the second. First you plant seeds, which are the raw material from which automobiles are constructed. You wait a few months until wheat appears. Then you harvest the wheat, load it onto ships, and sail the ships eastward into the Pacific Ocean. After a few months, the ships reappear with Toyotas on them.

International trade is nothing but a form of technology. The fact that there is a place called Japan, with people and factories, is quite irrelevant to Americans’ well-being. To analyze trade policies, we might as well assume that Japan is a giant machine with mysterious inner workings that convert wheat into cars. Any policy designed to favor the first American technology over the second is a policy designed to favor American auto producers in Detroit over American auto producers in Iowa. A tax or a ban on “imported” automobiles is a tax or a ban on Iowa-grown automobiles. If you protect Detroit carmakers from competition, then you must damage Iowa farmers, because Iowa farmers are the competition.

The task of producing a given fleet of cars can be allocated between Detroit and Iowa in a variety of ways. A competitive price system selects that allocation that minimizes the total production cost. It would be unnecessarily expensive to manufacture all cars in Detroit, unnecessarily expensive to grow all cars in Iowa, and unnecessarily expensive to use the two production processes in anything other than the natural ratio that emerges as a result of competition.

That means that protection for Detroit does more than just transfer income from farmers to autoworkers. It also raises the total cost of providing Americans with a given number of automobiles. The efficiency loss comes with no offsetting gain; it impoverishes the nation as a whole.

There is much talk about improving the efficiency of American car manufacturing. When you have two ways to make a car, the road to efficiency is to use both in optimal proportions. The last thing you should want to do is to artificially hobble one of your production technologies. It is sheer superstition to think that an Iowa-grown Camry is any less “American” than a Detroit-built Taurus. Policies rooted in superstition do not frequently bear efficient fruit.

Trump is an Ass


My disdain for Trump matches your dislike for Ben Carson. Trump is a fool and a distraction.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mankiw on the Ex-Im Bank.


Greg Mankiw, professor and chairman of the economics department at Harvard University wrote this on the Ex-Im Bank:

The Export-Import Bank
I just got back from Utah, where I was one of the speakers at a conference that has been dubbed "Club Mitt." One of the other speakers--this one a politician rather than a nerdy academic like me--spoke about the need to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  (I won't mention the person's name, since the event is off the record.)  What struck me is how weak the arguments were. 

Three arguments for the Ex-Im Bank were given:

1. It creates jobs.  Of course it does!  If the government were to put the names of all businesses into a hat, pull out a few randomly, and give those a per unit subsidy, those businesses would expand and hire more workers. That would not make it a good policy, because the wrong jobs would be created.

2. It returns money to the Treasury.  Really?  If the bank were truly a profitable venture, we could privatize it.  I bet if the government tried to sell off the Ex-Im Bank, it wouldn't get much, if anything at all.  If the Bank's activity were actually profitable, we wouldn't need a government-run bank to do it.

3. Other countries give similar subsidies to their firms. So what? If other nations engage in corporate welfare, that is no reason for the United States to follow suit in the name of a level playing field.  We don't need to import other nation's bad policies.

Maybe there are better arguments for the Export-Import Bank.  But if this is the best advocates of the Bank can do, it shouldn't be reauthorized.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Grandiloquent fustian!


I'm reading Volume I of Adam Badeau's "Military History of U. S. Grant." Here is a description of General McClernand, a political appointment by Lincoln, charged with operating an Army Corp, under Grant,

All this while, Grant was greatly annoyed by McClernand's insubordinate behavior. That officer claimed to have been placed in command directly by the President, and therefore to be independent of his superior. He constantly appealed from Grant in matters of military etiquette and law; his language was as intolerable as his actions were injudicious; his official papers teemed with self-laudation and grandiloquent fustian, assuming credit to which he was not entitled, raising objections to the orders of his commanding officer, making suggestions contrary to all the principles of military science, and fostering jealousies among different portions of the army and with the naval officers.
Grandiloquent fustian is not a term I hear everyday, but I sure would like to.


Friday, June 12, 2015

DeflateGate Disproved, but authors can't be trusted.


Earlier this year Christopher Monckton, Willie W. H. Soon, David R. Legates  and William M. Briggs wrote a report titled, "Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model." Rather than addressing the report's main argument, which is that models for global warming are really bad predictors, so the models assumptions need to be questioned, critics attacked the authors, specifically Willie Soon. Soon couldn't be trusted because he was in the pocket of big oil (so it was claimed), therefore the report could be dismissed without even addressing the central fact that climate models run too hot so their assumptions are necessarily wrong.

Let's see if the same thing happens with Deflating ‘Deflategate’which claims

Our study, written with our colleague Joseph Sullivan, examines the evidence and methodology of the Wells report and concludes that it is deeply flawed. (We have no financial stake in the outcome of Deflategate.)

The Wells report’s main finding is that the Patriots balls declined in pressure more than the Colts balls did in the first half of their game, and that the decline is highly statistically significant. For the sake of argument, let’s grant this finding for now. Even still, it alone does not prove misconduct. There are, after all, two possibilities. The first is that the Patriots balls declined too much. The second — overlooked by the Wells report — is that the Colts balls declined too little.
But here's the problem. The authors of Deflating Deflategate are the director or economic studies and a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute. Since AEI is "is a community of scholars and supporters committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise," surely their opinions and studies can be ignored, dismissed, derided and discarded as paid advertising of the Koch Brothers and Wall Street.

Too bad for Tom Brady and the Patriots that the wrong people had the right opinion.


Why Are The 2016 Obamacare Rate Increases So Large?


Bob Laszewski, in my opinion, has been the most balanced, knowledgeable commentator on Obamacare.

In his most recent note, published in Forbes,

I have also made the argument that after two years the Obamacare enrollment is coming up way short of what it needs for us to be assured that we have a sustainable risk pool—enough healthy people signed up to pay the costs for the sick.
Instead of moderate rate increases for one more year, the big rate increases have begun. They are particularly large among the health insurers with the most enrollment—the carriers with the most data.

Of course, there are alternative views, based on slicing the data differently, like this:

Lowest-Cost Exchange Premiums Remain Competitive in 2016; Consumers may be able to keep increases small by selecting a low-cost silver option

Specifically, premiums for silver plans will increase 5.8 percent on average across the states analyzed, ranging from a 12.0 percent average increase in Oregon to a 5.3 percent decrease in Michigan. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of 2015 exchange enrollees picked silver plans.

“While recent public attention has focused on a subset of plans that filed for premium increases of 10 percent or more, these data reveal that most plans are proposing more modest increases,” said Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere. “Notably, final premiums could be even lower than those proposed.” 
The latter report notes, "Accessing these low cost plans may require enrollees to change carriers in some regions," which makes the claim of moderate (my term, "moderate," but is 5.8%  moderate in a zero % inflation economy?) rate increases suspect. It's like saying iPhone prices are falling as long as you buy the iPhone 3 with 8GB of memory.


Skip Showers for Beef?


This can't be real. Is it real? It can't be. is a nonprofit organization established during the historic California drought of 2015, aiming to support the beef industry with innovative eco-friendly practices. We aim to advocate water conservation, educate the public on drought awareness, and develop and disperse creative resources that promote environmentally responsible beef consumption. Is it real? You bet it is! Pledge today!
 I feel like at any moment Jimmy Kimmel will own up to this.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Friends Don't Let Friends Raise Taxes


Indiana ran a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal inviting Aetna, GE and Travelers to move to Indiana to avoid Connecticut's proposed tax increase. (Funny, Bush said "No new taxes," and lost his next election. Malloy promised no new taxes, lied, and was re-elected on the promise of no new taxes, and lied again!)

The stories I've seen are putting the ad in the context of a pissing contest between Governor's Malloy and Pence. First Malloy criticized Pence over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, now Pence is hitting back. 

I think those stories are missing the point. 

Businesses like to threaten governments they will move if they don't get tax breaks, and often those threats are idle. Moving is expensive. It disrupts the lives of the employees. It can cause management of the business to falter. But they will move. Exxon (the old Standard Oil of New Jersey) moved to Texas, as did Pepsi and many others. And it's not just the old companies that move. Surprisingly, I read recently there are more tech start-ups in Austin Texas than there are in Silicon Valley. "Study: Silicon Valley Is No Longer America’s Startup Capital." 

Texas likes to contrast its lack of an income tax versus rising rates in California and elsehwere. Fortunately I don't worry about taxes increasing again in CT since I was promised twice they wouldn't be raised. After all, Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Oops, maybe I will worry about it.

But people and businesses don't move just because of taxes. It costs a lot less to live in some places. Part of that is a function of government policies. California has decided to make building structures difficult so rents are too damn high. Houston has had more housing starts in the past few years than ALL of California. Houston does not burden builders with the same restrictions California does and the result is greater growth in Houston. 

You could argue Houston is destroying its environment with its choices. I would disagree, and obviously there are many in this world who also disagree or believe the potential trade-off is worth it. The population of Texas grew 20% from 2000 to 2010. The US grew 10%, as did California. For the first time since it was a state, California's congressional delegation did not grow in the 2010 re-allocation. That should be a worrying sign to California (and the national Democrats). 

California is still growing, but the growth is slowing and as costs continue to rise for workers, consumers and businesses, I would guess growth continues to slow. Moves across country don't happen overnight, but over decades. Governor Malloy can worry about RFRA and criticize Indiana but if he continues to ignore the impact of his policies on the consumers, workers and businesses of Connecticut, he will preside over a continued weak economy and declining population. 

I have no interest in moving to Texas. I lived in Austin and wasn't impressed. But there are plenty of places I would move to and none of them are on the Eastern seaboard.