Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Help us Divided Government; You're our only hope!

People, one thing I know for sure is that I really really don't want either of the two leading fools running for president to have any chance to enact their policy agenda.

It's currently popular to argue that voters are ignorant and biased, but hell, so are the candidates!

So as my title indicates, I'm making a plea for our good friend Divided Government to save us yet again.

If you are so messed up that you are gonna vote for HRC, then please please please vote Republican in your congressional race(s) (House and maybe Senate).

If you are so moronic that you are gonna vote for Trump, then it's kind of your moral duty to vote Democrat in the congressional races.

My own preference would be for HRC to be prez but the republicans continue to hold both legislative branches. Her brand of lawlessness I think is more amenable to congressional checks than the Trumpster's.

If you vote for Gary Johnson (and if I vote, that's who I'll vote for), please please please vote for the party that you think is going to lose the presidency when you vote for congress!

So that's it. Pretty simple. You don't need a lot of information. If you somehow conquer your gag reflex and make it to the polls, split your ballot.


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Can I get an APAP?


People, I am 5'8" and 140 lbs. But yet I have sleep apnea. Robin begged/dragged me to going to a doc and getting an APAP machine (automatic positive airway pressure). I was very skeptical.

But man! It really works. I am sleeping deeper, and for longer continuous periods of time. I am waking up more refreshed. I rarely need a nap during the day anymore.

Before I would wake up like 5 or 6 times during the night, either choking from the apnea or from Robin waking me to say my snoring was driving her nuts. Even when I was sleeping, if Robin got up to use the bathroom, I'd usually wake up because I wasn't sleeping deeply.

Now I'm routinely sleeping 6 or 7 straight hours without waking up.

Amazing.

So big ups to Mrs. Angus for getting me to try this solution.


ps. I'm pretty sure Mungo uses a CPAP machine. Maybe he will share his testimony.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Spanish Pipedream


People, this is the most DC thing ever. From the Wall St. Journal comes the heart-rending story of the Maryland swim club that wouldn't let Katie Ledecky join!


The Little Falls Swim club membership is capped at 377 families. Joining via waiting list can take 7 years! Points toward membership are awarded by how close you live to the pool (in a 10 zone system). If you live more that 4000 feet (yes you read that right FEET) from the pool, they won't even accept your application!

Government created artificial scarcity combined with a price ceiling provoking a frenzied but meaningless status competition that seemingly consumes peoples' lives?

Oh, yes please!

Zoning makes building another damn pool nearby unlikely. Just being Maryland makes letting prices clear the market impossible.

The Ledecky family long ago joined a different pool and swim team (the impeccably named Palisades Porpoises) and the rest is history.

I guess you could say they all found Jesus on their own.






Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dumping on (anti-)Dumping


US anti-dumping laws transfer income from American consumers to American producers. Of course it's rarely stated that way. Generally it's alleged to protect American jobs.  At least one of our current presidential candidates is pushing tariffs as job-savers.

The WSJ gives a great example, the case of the US wooden furniture manufacturers. They sued China for dumping in 2002 and in 2004 they won, receiving both hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from China (thanks Byrd Amendment!!) and tariff relief.

Wow, isn't that great for American workers?

Well.......

Stanley Furniture Co., in High Point, N.C., received the biggest payout, $83.5 million, and says it used the money to invest heavily in a new line of domestically produced children’ furniture. But made-in-America wasn’t enough of a draw, said Stanley’s chief executive, Glenn Prillaman, who shut down the line in 2014. In 2015, Stanley’s U.S. employment fell to 71, down from 2,600 in 2005.

“The money allowed us to fight that fight on the scale that we fought for as long as we did,” he said. But “the consumer wasn’t willing to look past short-term gains of getting something for less” and continued to prefer imports.


In other words even with the tariff protection and $83.5 million of cash, the company continued to be so inefficient that they more or less went under.

Then there's the case of the company who spearheaded the suit:

As for Mr. Bassett, he says the $54.4 million in Byrd amendment money his Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. received financed factory modernization. Now, the outlook for the Galax, Va., firm “has never been brighter in 15 years,” said Mr. Bassett, the firm’s chairman. In part that’s because Vaughan-Bassett is making solid wood furniture, which is becoming increasingly trendy.

Even so, he said, Vaughan-Bassett’s employment of 560 is down by about half from 1,200 in 2005 when the company started receiving Byrd amendment money. Employment is even down from 700 workers in 2009, during the depth of the housing collapse. The new computerized machinery Vaughn-Bassett bought requires fewer workers, he said.

In other words, he took his dumping money and automated production while dumping his workers!

Now Bassett was smart and Stanley was dumb, so kudos to Bassett for making a smart business move.  But should US consumers have to pay for Stanley to automate their production?

So if price protection and millions of dollars won't protect American jobs either because of a poorly run company or a decision to automate, what to do?

My own view is to acknowledge that the unintended consequences of anti-dumping make it impractical as a job protection device.

If the Chinese government wants to subsidize Americans' purchases of furniture, so be it.

 Let's use something like a Universal Basic Income to deal with job displacement. Let's subsidize worker mobility so that furniture workers out of a job can move to a more dynamic sector of the economy possibly in another area of the country. Let's stop subsidizing home ownership, which when prices fall (which they will do again people!), people aren't "stuck" in a jobless geographic area.

But handing US taxpayer money to manufacturers who are going to squander it or do things the government doesn't want is a bad option. Maybe the government should also mandate what the companies getting relief must do with the money? Yes, that's the ticket. What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

30th Anniversary....

On the morning of July 5 (our 30th wedding anniversary, with thanks to John Cappleman, Kevin Grier, Randy Hutter, Brian Roberts, and Andrew Rosen for attending way back when...), I got up early to go to the grocery store.  Not many people there at 7:00 am.

I got to the checkout aisle, and the young lady (25 years old, not at all unattractive) gave me a big smile.  I'm thinking, "Oh, yeah, I've still got it."

Then she started actively laughing.  I looked down at the cart, and saw these three things:


That's right:  Roses, a sparkly anniversary card, and men's hair coloring. 

She apologized for laughing, but kept bursting into giggles as she tried to get the stuff charged.  She was still laughing, and telling the other store workers, about my cart contents, as I slunk off to my car.  I do NOT "still got it."  Fortunately, I'm married, so I don't really need it.

Happy Anniversary, Donna Gingerella!  I love you!

"Blue Devils": Ever Wondered?

You may have wondered how Duke chose the "Blue Devils" as their mascot.  (You also may not have wondered, I realize...)

If you DID wonder...wonder no more.  A five minute documentary, pretty well done.


Monday, July 04, 2016

Independence Day Rodent Action

Have you ever wondered how an American would act, if he were a small rodent? I think I have the answer.

We noticed some mouse droppings, and our dog-sitter claimed to hear "scritching" sounds (her word, not mine). So I put out some traps, baited with chocolate peanut butter.  Figured that would be irresistible.

Next day...found this (click for an even more Independent image):


Two things are noteworthy.

  • First, the trigger is licked completely clean.  This was extremely dense, sticky chocolate peanut butter.  Any jiggling and WHAP.  But no.  Licked it clean. Trap is still set, unsprung.  Balls.
     
  • Second, and even more American:  note the two small objects in the left foreground.  Yes, those are what you think they are.  The mouse, after eating all the bait, took a dump on the trap.

And that, dear ones, is the sort of spirit that makes America great.  A happy Independence Day to you!

Economic Freeedom and Racism

Tolerance in the United States: Does economic freedom transform racial, religious, political and sexual attitudes?

Niclas Berggren & Therese Nilsson
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Tolerance is a distinguishing feature of Western culture. Still, it varies between and within countries, as well as over time, and irrespective of whether one values it for its own sake or for its beneficial consequences, it becomes important to identify its determinants. In this study, we investigate whether the character of economic policy plays a role, by looking at the effect of changes in economic freedom (i.e., lower government expenditures, lower and more general taxes and more modest regulation) on tolerance in one of the most market-oriented countries, the United States. In comparing U.S. states, we find that an increase in the willingness to let atheists, homosexuals and communists speak, keep books in libraries and teach college students is, overall, positively related to preceding increases in economic freedom, more specifically in the form of more general taxes. We suggest, as one explanation, that a discriminatory tax system, which is susceptible to the influence of special interests and which treats people differently, gives rise to feelings of tension and conflict. In contrast, the positive association for tolerance towards racists only applies to speech and books, not to teaching, which may indicate that when it comes to educating the young, (in)tolerant attitudes towards racists are more fixed.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Bee Wilson hits the BREXIT rock bottom

OK people. This has got to be the absolute worst of all apocalyptic BREXIT punditry.

Here is the line that set my toes on fire:


"For the first time since the Second World War, Britain’s ability to feed itself is in question."


WTFF???!!!?????

First of all, exiting the EU doesn't force the UK to put tariffs on EU imports to the UK. They can just leave them at zero.

Second, I'm pretty sure that obesity, not food insecurity is the bigger problem in the contemporary UK.

There are plenty of countries with no FTA with the EU and they can all "feed themselves". If not, the EU FTA would not be the magic bullet to full bellies.

Here's some more rank stupidity:


"As a country that produces only around fifty-four per cent of what it eats, Britain starts to look vulnerable to fluctuating markets."

An FTA with the EU does NOT "protect" any country from "fluctuating markets". If the global coffee crop fails, prices will rise dramatically everything, trade agreements not withstanding. If a government does not let the price rise, then a shortage will arise instead.

And let's just finish off this dumpster fire with this gem:

Food is one of the unequivocal successes of the European Union.

Sweet Fancy Moses.

Actually I might partly agree with this one. Compared to the mess the EU has made of monetary policy, fiscal policy, dealing with its southern members' issues and dealing with the refugee crisis, the hideous CAP of the EU is not as bad as it otherwise might seem. After all, its cost has fallen from over 70% of the EU budget in 1984 to only 39% in 2013!

Zapatero, a tus zapatos!












Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brexit THIS!

People, I am really getting tired of all the hand-wringing, apocalyptic post-Brexit posts.  Please try to take a deep breath and chill.

It's not that big of a deal. Yes I know stock markets are down. They will come back up.

Yes the pound is down. Who give a $%#$%#$? So what?

If the UK actually exits (for me this is p = .75), economically it will be fine. The US doesn't have zero tariffs with the EU, but we still manage to survive.

This whole thing is much closer to a non-event than the earth-shaking mistake it's taken to be.

Some specific things that really bug me.

1. Claiming that the result was not democratic. Rogoff and Gowder, you both know better.  This is just ludicrous.  There is nothing more democratic than a referendum. Full stop. This was pure democracy in action. Many people who claim to love democracy but dislike this outcome are tying themselves in knots trying to avoid the implication that in this instance at least they are anti-democracy ( welcome to the club, let me show you the secret handshake).

People, the US is not a democracy! We are a Republic. We have tons of checks on democracy. Deciding everything by a simple majority referendum would be a disaster in the US. But it would be a decidedly democratic disaster.


2. Claiming that some voters have a greater right to decide than others and shouting that they were "robbed". It turns out that the youngest voters went for remain while older voters chose leave. And of course this means that the old are robbing the young and the vote is somehow illegitimate because..... old people suck? Because 18-24 year olds have so much more economic and political savvy than do 60 year olds?

I do like the idea that the shorter is your remaining life span, the less your vote should count. I wonder if the folks who are screaming about the pernicious old voters in Brexit would be willing to apply this principle to US elections?


3. Blaming Reagan. Oh Neoliberalism, is there nothing bad that you didn't do? This one is a howler of the highest order. Brexit has nothing to do with what the people who decided it said was important and was caused by Ronnie and Margie Thatcher!  Whatever you are mad about, just trot out the old shibboleths and invoke the ritual incantations. Why hasn't Naomi Klein pinned Brexit on Milton Friedman yet?

Did something happen you don't like? Look back in history,  find the first other thing that you really don't like. There's your cause.

Brexit apocalypse punditry has been some of the stupidest and laziest punditry I've had the misfortune to endure.

We will all survive Brexit with little lasting damage. This will be clear within 6 months.