Food Mouth Chew

Just answering the person who found my blog by googling “how eat”.

Sonic Learns Remedial Econ II

(see Part I)

Matthew Yglesias writes,

So when gas prices get more expensive, spending on gasoline booms. With households credit-constrained, that means huge cutbacks in spending on things that aren’t gasoline. That becomes a huge hit to aggregate demand, and a big drag on our economy.

I still don’t understand how Matthew Yglesias thinks he is using the phrase ‘aggregate demand’.

When I buy gasoline, that’s C. If gasoline gets more expensive, so I have to spend $100 more on gasoline, Matthew is pointing out that I’ll feel like I have $100 less to spend on other stuff. But that other stuff is also C. Simultaneously increasing and decreasing C by the same amount, while leaving all other variables constant (which I assume Matthew is mentally doing, because he is perennially too lazy to do otherwise), has no effect on AD whatsoever, by definition.

Unless he’s making the (more complex) claim that having to spend more on gasoline not only removes that money from possible use on other goods, but also changes our behavior in a substantive way (through a ‘wealth effect’ or whatever) so as to reduce our consumption on everything. I see no such claim there though.

I suppose what he’s saying makes more sense if you consider gasoline to axiomatically consist entirely of imports (M), because higher imports (all else constant) does indeed reduce AD. But maybe I pay for that $100 more gasoline by buying fewer Toyotas (which is also an import), so again, the net effect on AD is nil. Does Matthew know or has he investigated which sort of substitution effects are dominant here? Anyway, if one is concerned about the effect on AD of increasing M in this way, how about just allowing for more domestic oil exploration and harvesting. Voila, that M becomes C, AD increases automatically, and Matthew Yglesias should be ecstatic.

The larger issue is that this AD-obsessed analysis seems spurious and doesn’t add anything whatsoever to the discussion. I’m perfectly able to see that us having to spend more money on gasoline hurts us economically and is a drag on our economy without bringing AD into the discussion. At most, if this ‘imports reduce AD‘ complaint means anything, I think it just reduces to mercantilism. Is all of Keynesianism like this? Spurious definitions and analyses that reduce to a bunch of economics that was already widely known centuries ago? Or is this just a case of an amateur Keynesian applying the only ‘hammer’ he has in his arsenal (“aggregate demand”) to every economic problem he sees?

Organic Food

I eat only organic food. I just don’t understand people who would ever put any non-organic food in their bodies. But me, I make sure that everything I put in my body (my temple) is 100% pure organic.

People clamor to know why. What I want to know is, why not, what’s wrong with you? I’m really not sure why you skeptics think it’s acceptable to eat foods comprised of silicon-based compounds in the first place, but as for me, it’s carbon-compounds all the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to McDonald’s to get me a nice organic quarter pounder or two. Mmm.

Why I Don’t “Believe In Science”

Steve Sailer links to an article about ‘why we don’t believe science’, complaining of their token example of putative left-centered science disbelief (vaccines causing autism) is a far less obvious one than (something racial, I guess).

All fair enough, but what about the other examples. Like global warming. Are they even valid in the first place?

It appears to be taken for granted that belief in global warming-requiring-social-policy-overhaul is ‘science’, and lack of said belief is not. My problem with this is that the vast, vast majority of people who ‘believe in global warming’ know none of the science to speak of (and no, I don’t count muttering something about ‘carbon’ and being able to draw arrows going in a circle from the sky to the ground to the sky as ‘knowing the science’). Most such people – and this seems especially true of the vocal ones – did not come to this belief by studying the science, knowing the science, critically evaluating the science, questioning the science, or anything of the sort. Instead, they (most of them) essentially adopted the belief because people they trust and ally with politically believe in it.

Which is okay by itself to an extent, but it ain’t science, and people who form views this way don’t get to claim the science mantle. I would even go so far as to say that ‘believing in science’ itself is anti-science. True scientists don’t ‘believe in science’, they practice science (which is a very different activity) and provisionally accept what appears to be its latest best explanations (while remaining always ready to critique and find flaws in them).

This suggests a weaker and more careful way to phrase what (I guess) it’s implied we’re all meant to do, which is just to say that we’re supposed to provisionally accept the current best scientific explanations of our world. Maybe that’s what ‘believing in science’ is supposed to mean. Fine. The problem there, though, is that it’s just assumed by our self-anointed Defenders Of Science that ‘our best explanations’ of the climate all point towards greenhouse-gas-driven AGW. I say assumed because, again, they don’t actually know that. How could they, when (again) they don’t know the science?

Ultimately, the problem I have with Defender-Of-Science thinking is that it seems to absolve its adherents of any responsibility to actually know the science. Instead all they have to do is point to some Scientist saying something they found politically convenient and say ‘I believe him’. In this way, it’s completely anti-scientific and hinders actual progress in peoples’ scientific thought. It’s all well and good (and correct) to say that we can’t all be experts on the chaotic chemistry- and physics-driven equations that govern the oceano-atmospheric system, but this doesn’t make it okay to just walk around saying ‘I believe in science’. If you know jack squat about the science then you have no basis whatever for even knowing, let alone going around declaring, what ‘the science’ even says in the first place. In that context, what exactly is it that you are even ‘believing’?

This is particularly so for a topic that becomes politicized, as ‘global warming/climate change’ indisputably has. That’s how we get to a point where instead of rolling up sleeves and doing the gritty work themselves, one is meant only to ‘believe’ something that Al Gore told them Scientists Said. People who raise questions, critiques, and doubts – i.e., people who do the very things that scientists are supposed to do – are then branded as ‘not believing in science’.

Which is perfectly consistent, however, because like I said ‘believing in science’ is anti-scientific, and if that’s what you do, then that’s what you are. Personally, I don’t ‘believe in science’.

Sea Salt

Man, there’s just no salt better than sea salt, is there? I won’t even touch regular salt. Eew. But sea salt is a whole different story. Not only can you totally tell the difference in taste – like night and day, really – it’s actually totally awesome for you (I bet).

Like, when I see that the potato chips I’m about to scarf down have sea salt on them instead of regular salt (which frankly should be banned), I just feel so proud of what I’m about to put in my body (my temple) that I have to fight the urge to write in to Prevention magazine and boast about it.

If you eat regular, non-sea salt at least some of the time, I’m like totally embarrassed for you.

Our Humble Symbiont Queen, Obamadala

I was wondering what exactly motivates President Obama to bow to virtually every foreign leader he meets – and (more importantly, in a way) why he isn’t universally derided for it (instead of derided only by the right) – and my mind turned (as it often does) to Star Wars. Specifically, the first prequel, The Phantom Menace.

As you all remember vividly, halfway through that gripping adventure Nabooan Queen Amidala has seen her capital city occupied by the droid army of the Trade Federation, and via the ideology of symbionts comes upon the solution of asking the Gungans for help fighting back – since they share the same planet and their fates are connected, you see – in a plan that (it turns out) requires them to sacrifice many lives for what is essentially a diversion so that her space fleet can attack in space.

At first, the fat froggy Gungan king wants no part of this, reasonably enough. However, Queen Amidala reveals herself, bows before him, and asks him humbly. That is when he replies, in the classic, memorable line that will live on forever in movie history:

Yousa no thinka yousa better dan us? Meesa like!

And so they help (and die).

This is probably why whenever I try to imagine engaging some Obama water-carrier as to why he seems to instinctively bow to everyone, and why it’s okay that he bows, the only defense I can imagine getting thrown back in my face are – essentially – that this shows heesa no think heesa better dan dem, and deysa gonna like.

In other words, it all makes sense as long as you subscribe to a George Lucas-style theory of geopolitics.

Experts Are Right, He Reasoned

In this post, Matthew Yglesias links to a study that shows a certain personality type (“egalitarian communitarians”), when shown a point of view by someone they are told is an ‘expert’, and shown a ‘fake’ resume of that ‘expert’, are almost universally inclined – 88 percent in one instance – to accept that ‘expert’ as “trustworthy and knowledgeable”. Meanwhile, “hierarchical individualists” are far less inclined to trust the (fake) ‘expert’.

As far as I can tell (and admittedly, it’s hard to tell), Matthew Yglesias thinks this illustrates something bad about the hierarchical individualists’ reasoning skills vs. those of the communitarians. Which, is hilarious to me. But I guess if I were a communitarian egalitarian – i.e., had better ‘reasoning’ skills – I’d just reactively accept the brilliance of Yglesias’s point.

After all, he has a Harvard degree. And not even a fake one (to my knowledge).

The Monster My Fellow Americans Unleash Upon Me Yearly

There is nothing like the experience of working through the bizarre labyrinth that is the modern tax return, and seeing the size of the chunk it effectively carves out of the fruits of your waking life, for bringing out one’s inner misanthrope.

Whatever else one might say of it, the current tax code and related rules and regulations are the product of us. Namely, me and the people around me (but mostly not me). The millions and millions of people around me. The people of my country. Americans. Either clawing at the money I earned, making rules about how much money I should give, making rules to reduce the money they and their friends (but not me) have to give, or all of the above.

And right now, I fucking hate all y’alls’es guts. Seriously. I fucking hate you all for what you’ve created. Go to hell.

The tax code is our doing. It has been created by our representatives and/or nannies (there is no meaningful difference). For every stupid-ass form I have to fill, rule I have to follow, tax credit I won’t get, and ‘alternative minimum’ tax I have to give to government busybodies rather than to my children, there’s a damn fucking NPR-listening Obama-voting housewife sitting in a Starbuck’s nodding to her girlfriend the fucking environmental lawyer that gee the rule or tax or credit in question ‘sounds like a great idea’ over synchronized nods and sips of latte. Repeat this atrocity fifty thousands times and you get our tax code.

Fuck the fucking lot of y’all.

You Am I

One of the irritating hazards of being a big fan of a rock band that is well-known in their country but not in yours, and doesn’t really have a big presence on iTunes, is that they can come out with a whole new album without you figuring it out till half a year later.

Damn them. Well, better late than never…can’t wait to spend some time with their ‘new’ late-2010 release.

Meanwhile here’s an older video I also didn’t know existed, to whet the appetite…

Sonic Learns Remedial Econ #1: Aggregate Demand

It’s starting to become apparent that perhaps I should try to learn some Economics. Despite my ersatz profession, in which I deal with economic concepts and indeed engage in economics daily, I can’t say that I actually ever studied much of it formally, beyond hazy memories of supply-demand curves on a chalkboard, some quick cramming of finance textbooks before my first quant phone screening interview, and perhaps a couple of abortive, ill-conceived attempts to play TradeWars in college.

This makes me feel as though I’m at a slight disadvantage when reading things such as the Mark Thoma post referenced below, or (say) Matthew Yglesias when he snidely complains of a post-budget-deal consensus view that

…“everyone agrees” that it makes sense to reduce aggregate demand in the middle of a recession.

You see, when I read such things, my every instinct, training, experience, my every ounce of intelligence tells me that I am reading meaningless goddledygook by people trying to punch above their intellectual weight. It’s not that I think Matthew Yglesias is wrong, exactly, so much as that he is throwing around words he was taught that do not have objective meaning, but which are nevertheless regularly used together, by the initiated (Keynesians, or whatever), in certain closed-circle constructions (i.e. ‘you should increase Aggregate Demand during a Recession’) that as far as I can see have the form and function of catechism, or prayers.

However, I can’t prove that these guys are speaking the nonsense that my brain tells me they are, because I simply didn’t sit through whatever undergraduate Economics classes these guys clearly took and are basing their feigned Economics expertise on. So what I’m going to do is to try to learn some. On the Internet.

The way I envision this working is that I do a little lazy reading, presumably on wiki, and I try to restate what I think I’ve learned. This will be similar to my teaching days – cram before the lecture, then give the lecture. (There is nothing like teaching a subject for helping you actually learn it. Do you think I really understood why the Mean Value Theorem was true before I taught calculus, or how to derive the (4,5) Runge-Kutta Method before teaching Numerical Methods?) In other words, I’m going to ‘teach’ my readers the Economics I can hastily crib. I’ll state Economics facts as I understand them. I’ll ask questions about the things I don’t understand. Then if/when I’m wrong about something, hopefully people will show up in comments to tell me what a moron I am, because it’s really like so. So haha, in this fashion I will learn by subterfuge.

I’m kind of excited about this new half-assed project I just made up, so let’s get started before I drop it. I can think of no better place to start than with this aggregate demand thing all the hip Keynesians like to talk about.

Aggregate Demand

Wiki:

In macroeconomics, aggregate demand (AD) is the total demand for final goods and services in the economy (Y) at a given time and price level.[1] It is the amount of goods and services in the economy that will be purchased at all possible price levels.[2] This is the demand for the gross domestic product of a country when inventory levels are static.

Right away we’re off to a rip-roaring start because wiki appears to have three, somewhat conflicting definitions of this (obviously important in the Keynesian pantheon) term. First, there is the total demand for ‘final’ goods and services (whatever that means) at a given time & price level. But it’s also the amount ‘that will be purchased’ at ‘all possible price levels’ (?). Which is it, demand at a given price or at ‘all possible’ prices? Let’s just assume you can have a continuum or family of aggregate demands, one for each specification of prices. Meanwhile, the third sentence gives a qualifier – ‘when inventory levels are static’ – that as far as I can tell never obtains in the real world. Ah, I just love 19th century style, quasi-thermodynamics-style scientific thinking.

Anyhow, one way or another, there are two immediate take-aways I have about aggregate demand: (1) you have to designate it with letters ‘AD’ because using letters for things = science, and (2) the idea is to capture how much stuff will be, or is, bought, overall.

Some questions I have right away:

1) What is stuff? The first definition above alludes to this problem by trying to get away with speaking about ‘final’ goods and services. What is ‘final’? Can this be defined? If I buy a widget, that’s a ‘final’ purchase, but what if a business buys a widget that is used to make a whatsit, is that ‘final’ or is the whatsit ‘final’? Which services are ‘final’ and which are intermediate? Appears to me a large chunk of our economy nowadays consists of one sort of ‘intermediate’ transaction or another.

2) This may be unimportant at this stage but I feel the need to aside that every purchase is an exchange, and every ‘demand’ is really two-sided. You might think that when I buy milk that I demanded the milk at the price that milk had on its price tag, but it’s equally-correct to say that the milk seller had a demand for cash, and I was offering a certain amount of cash for a ‘price’ of 1 gallon of milk. I want to be on the watch for these terms introducing an artificial distinction between the two sides of this transaction.

Anyway, let’s proceed to how AD seems to be used:

The aggregate demand is usually described as a linear sum of four separable demand sources.[3]

AD = C + I + G + (X-M)

Ah lovely. Define a concept and then proceed to ‘define’ it as some formula as if the formula automatically follows from the definition. A more appropriate way to describe this is as an attempt to partition AD into a small number of (presumably known/measurable) sources.

Anyway, we are told that C = ‘consumption’ or consumer spending, I = ‘investment’ (whatever that is!), G = government spending, and (X-M) = exports – imports = net export. So if I’m going to break it down in plain language, when stuff our economy makes is bought, it can either be bought by us of our own volition (as consumers; that’s C); by our government using force of law after having picked our pockets via taxes and/or printed money (that’s G); or by foreigners (that’s X-M).

Now we hit a snag because what is I? AD is supposed to be, loosely speaking, ‘all stuff demanded’. I is supposed to be ‘investment’. If I’m to believe that AD = C+G+I+(X-M), it appears to me that this can only really be a definition of investment: all stuff demanded that is not consumer spending, government spending, or foreign exports. If I later find out that investment (I) has an independent definition, I’m going to call foul.

The other snag is that wiki says those sources are ‘separable’, but that doesn’t really mean anything non-symbolic; i.e. sure we can ‘separate’ the quantity AD into these other quantities C, I, G etc., but what does that mean? Are they independent quantitites? I think not. Surely C depends on G, I, X, M, and surely M depends on C, I, G, X, and on and on. All of these quantities are interrelated and influence each other; attempts to ‘separate’ quantities that are not actually independent being another thing I feel like I have to be on watch for.

Anyhow, so this takes us to Matthew Yglesias’s complaint: that the government (in reducing the budget) ‘reduced aggregate demand’. We see that there’s no way he can possibly know this unless what he means to say is that the government reduced G, and since AD = G + (stuff), since G nominally will go down, that automatically reduces aggregate demand.

If that’s what he meant, then, we have now learned that he was indeed just wrong. Because in fact, AD = G + (other stuff that could and does depend on G too), and we don’t know whether reducing G actually will reduce that other stuff. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but the one thing we can be sure of with 99 94/100% confidence is that Matthew Yglesias has no idea what the actual effect of the budget deal on ‘aggregate demand’ will be. He simply did not do any real reasoning or computation about the true effect of the budget deal AD, and most likely, is not capable of doing so.

A natural next question is, why does it even matter whether AD has or will go up or down? What is Matthew’s real concern? But that will have to wait till another time,

End of Remedial Econ #1.

Our First Putumayo President

This seems to be the latest riff on President Obama’s past making the rounds (HT: Joseph Dantes)

I don’t really have a lot to contribute or add, as, I just don’t know that much in the way of facts about Barack Obama. Why would I, or anyone else? It’s not like he ran for President or anything. Okay scratch that; what I mean to say is, it’s not like he was elected President on the basis of his qualifications, experience, or character.

Barack Obama was elected President of the United States as a fashion accessory. It’s like those ‘Putumayo’ CDs in fashionably-brown paper cases that you can buy at Whole Foods or Starbuck’s. Nobody knows who sings those things, or anything about the singers, or songs. You don’t buy them because you’re a fan of the actual singers or songs (which are, presumably, pleasant enough). You will probably never even listen to them. You buy them because of what you hope it will say about you that you’re buying them.

Barack Obama is our first ‘Putumayo President’.

Millions of people voted for Barack Obama essentially so that they could feel good about themselves and the image of themselves and their country that they wished to project, especially after the supposed ‘cowboy’ years of Bush. The reasons Barack Obama fit the bill for this purpose are not that complicated, variegated, or deep, and essentially boil down to (a) being articulate and dapper in a guest-speaker-at-the-public-policy-seminar sort of way, (b) having a darkish skin hue and a multi-racial background, and (c) having the name ‘Barack Obama’.

Had any of the above things not been true, his candidacy might not have gone so swimmingly. I’ve said before and still believe that had his name been something like ‘Leroy Jackson’ there’s no way he would have won the Presidency or even been the nominee. But none of the speculations or theories at the above link – did he ‘really’ go to Columbia, was he gay, was he a drug dealer, etc. – are relevant either way. Notice how the fact that Obama was an admitted druggy while young made no blip whatsoever on his candidacy (whereas George W. Bush’s cocaine use was saved up apparently in the belief that it was an ace in the hole to be released by his opponents on the eve of the election, and probably turned his polling lead into a statistical tie that gave us the Bush v. Gore controversy).

In a very real sense, what Barack Obama was running for in 2008 was a completely different office than that sought by W. Bush, Gore, Dole, Clinton, Bush, Dukakis, Reagan, Mondale, etc. before him. He wasn’t running for Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He was running for (and won) our new, unofficial office of Multi-Cultural Symbol Of Hope. Let’s say one of the above (or other) theories turns out to be true, and proven: that young Barry Soetero/Obama was indeed a gay drug-mule, Pakistani plant, and/or CIA asset/double-agent. In what way will or does that affect his qualifications to be the national M.C.S.O.H.? It just doesn’t. I submit that any of those things could come out, and perhaps at first there would a big buzz and discussion, but inevitably the ‘embarrassing’ tidbit would be sanitized and, eventually, painlessly integrated into the rest of the mythology of Barack Obama’s ‘inspiring’ rise to prominence. A process of ‘glamorization’ would take place, glamorization of whatever it was that Obama actually did and still appears to be hiding, to the point where it will just be considered ‘cool’, along with everything else Obama has ever done or lied about having done. E.g., living with a gay lover in a railroad apartment on the Upper West Side and dealing a little heroin brought in by his Paki lover to Columbia classmates? That’s just cool. Isn’t it? It shows he’s had a wide variety of experiences, and knows what life is ‘really’ like, and ‘learned’ from his mistakes.

All the Smart People will agree. You can practically already hear them practicing trying to say it with conviction and berating others for not conceding the point. Possibly while forcing themselves to try to listen to, and pretend to enjoy, those ‘Putumayo’ CDs.

Qaddafi’s Unforgivable Sin

Spearhead notes a NY Times article detailing the important role played by a handful of powerful, Strong Women™ in taking us to war No-Fly-Zone with Libya.

Remember, Strong Women were against war back in the days of “code pink”, “get naked and have your picture taken as if that will stop war somehow” Iraq. So not for the first time, my mind immediately jumped to the 20 thousand dollar question: what’s so different about Iraq and Libya exactly that the latter made Strong Women say “attack!” while the former threw them into hissy fits?

The only thing I can think of is that it’s Qaddafi’s Ukrainian nurse. I’m guessing that really, really, really offends and threatens “Strong” Western women like Hillary Clinton in a way that, clearly, Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons and ethnically cleansing of the Marsh Arabs never could. The moral is, if you want to get the feminized West to attack some country, make sure the leader has a hot, voluptuous mistress (or send him one first) and then get her photos out there.

Just How Dense Is (The) Economist’s View, Anyway?

Mark Thoma, the person on the internet who states (the/an) “Economist’s View”, complains:

Millions of people still unemployed, and all we are worried about is the long-run budget and what might happen years from now.

I can only conclude that Mark Thoma, the internet’s Economist, can’t conceive of there being any connection whatsoever between (1) the long-run budget and what might happen years from now (vis-a-vis government fiscal and monetary policy), and (2) how many people are currently unemployed. That’s why no one worried about (2) is allowed to worry about (1).

Under the hypothesis that Mark Thoma, Economist, does indeed speak for the current state of Economics as a field, I would be forced to conclude that Economics is idiocy squared.

Of course, we are not bound by that hypothesis.

The Ignorance Of The Regulator

The following is a (paraphrased, rather than literal, to clarify meaning where in reality it was merely implied) email exchange between me, and some internal flunky who has to deal with The Regulator.

Act One

Flunky: Hi. Going forward, The Regulator wants details and documents for any Whatchamacallit Trades. I don’t know what that means at all, but please comply, preferably by just obediently adding something time-consuming to the zillion things you already do daily, weekly, and monthly, with minimal interference or guidance from me, so that I don’t actually have to do or think about anything. Thanks.

Me: Okay. Which documents exactly? And do Whatsit Trades count as Whatchamacallit Trades too, or are they only interested in purely Whatchamacallit Trades? These definitions aren’t always clear.

Flunky: …. Let me check.

[Time passes.]

Act Two

Flunky: So how are we coming with those documents?

Me: Wait. Has my question been clarified? I still need to know exactly what the Regulator wants and what he doesn’t.

Flunky: Like I said they want all “Whatchamallit docs”. I Ctrl-C’ed a direct quote because again, I don’t have the faintest idea what any of these terms mean. But do the interpretation for me so that I may continue to simultaneously not use my brain and cover my ass. Thanks.

Me: Yes, but like I said, there’s also Whatsits, which are similar to Whatchamacallits. I need to know whether they count. It matters and changes what and how much I will have to do here, and I wouldn’t want to be accused of failing to comply with the request.

Flunky: I don’t understand, really, at all. Let me call you.

[phone rings. Conversation ensues in which I attempt to explain the existence of Whatsits and the difference between them and Whatchamacallits]

Flunky [back on email]: Thanks for the explanation. Okay, so as discussed, I will check with the Regulator.

Act Three

Flunky: I have discussed this with the Regulator, and in context it appears unlikely that he was aware of Whatsits, though I’m not quite dumb enough to come out and say that in this forum. But, now that we have brought it up, he said sure, he wants docs for Whatsits too, thanks.

Me: [Sigh.] Okay. Which docs? There are several.

Flunky: How about all of them?

Me [internal]: Whatever.

[Time passes. I send details and docs regularly, to the extent I have them, except for Trade X]

Act Four

Flunky: Hey, so for Trade X, you didn’t send docs.

Me: There are too many, thousands of megabytes probably, for me to send via email, but they are all available at the public website whose URL I included.

Flunky: The Regulator says they won’t use the public website. We have to give docs to them.

Me: But anything I could possibly give is at that website.

Act Five

Flunky: I went to that website to try to print out the docs, apparently with the intent of handing them to the Regulator physically, in what can only be described as a colossal waste of human and physical capital, not like I care, since I just want to cover my ass. The real reason I’m writing is: there are so many! Can you tell me which ones are important so that I only print out those, and thereby cover my ass with minimal effort expended?

Me: I’m not sure. Perhaps if I had some idea of what the Regulator is looking for, or wants to know, about Trade X. Otherwise, it’s impossible for me to narrow this down.

Flunky’s Boss with Flunky Cc’ed: It’s up to us, not the Regulator, to say what is important about Trade X. It’s not up to the Regulator to either clarify, define, circumscribe, or articulate what it is about Trade X he thinks he must immediately be informed about as part of his crucial oversight duties and responsibilities. But if you have suggestions or guidance regarding this request, we would be happy to listen.

Me: Yes I do. Evidently, the Regulator doesn’t have the slightest idea what he wants to know about any of these trades. Evidently, the Regulator doesn’t actually even know what he is looking for. Therefore, the Regulator can’t possibly need any of these docs, because he can’t possibly be doing anything with these docs, other than perhaps filing them in a giant file cabinet that will be stowed in that government warehouse next to the Ark Of The Covenant.

Flunky’s Boss: … I’ll get back to you.

FIN

The moral of the story: Regulators don’t know jack about what they are charged with regulating. But that is not their primary motivation. Their primary motivation is to cover their ass. Thus anyone who bases any amount of hope or plans on ‘better regulation’ or ‘empowering the regulators to do XYZ’ either has never dealt with one, or is blowing smoke up your ass. This is why I am almost unconvinced things would be any different without ‘Regulators’ altogether – except, possibly, for the better. My experience of them, and requests downstream of them, is uniformly negative.

LINKS

Things I’ve flagged as worth linking to since the last time I wrote a blog post linking to stuff:

Yglesias Barometer II

The Proud Member Of The Reality-Based Community says,

…you don’t need the details [of the budget deal] to know that substantial short-term cuts in domestic discretionary spending will hurt the poor while harming macroeconomic performance

Of course not! Why would you actually need any details merely in order to draw macroeconomic conclusions?

Now I know the budget deal must be pretty good, and can just go swimming. See how useful the Yglesias Barometer is?

What To Do In The Event Of A Government Shut-Down

Obviously, we are all hoping and praying that this dire, cataclysmic event does not come to pass. But if it does, here are some handy steps you can take to deal with it as appropriately as possible:

  1. Remain in your homes.
  2. Shut off all power, gas, and water. Remove the batteries from any electronic devices and place them in a large open tub or box set prominently in the center of your living room.
  3. Box up and stow away any books you may have, or at least fasten them to their bookshelves using string, tape or other makeshift devices as available.
  4. Unlock your doors, in case any of your possessions are deemed required by the government in order to resolve this impasse.
  5. Identify or obtain one (1) sturdy, e.g. wooden chair per household member. Discard any cushions.
  6. Move en masse to the southwest corner of your home, preferably in the basement, and arrange the chairs in a clean row directly facing and next to the south wall (no more than 2.5 feet away). Move any furniture, shelving or other obstructions away from the wall as needed.
  7. Each household member should sit in his/her chair, tallest to shortest, with the tallest household member closest to the southwest corner. Infants may need to be immobilized in this position with restraints or duct tape.
  8. Sit in these chairs with backs straight and eyes pointed straight ahead at a fixed point on the wall (which may be marked with a pencil or sticker of no more than 1.5 cm radius as a visual aid, if necessary) .
  9. Await further instructions.

These easy-to-follow steps should help you get through the pending government shutdown with minimal disruption or mental activity. But above all, do not panic.

Funky

“Cup of Brown Joy” by Professor Elemental.

I feel as though I’ll be forever in South Bend Seven’s debt for making me aware of ‘chap-hop’.

My Yglesias Barometer

At the risk of exposing myself as an ignoramus and unworthy pundit who doesn’t follow the ins and outs of politics, let me start by saying I’m now vaguely aware there’s someone called ‘Paul Ryan’ (I think – something like that), but I’m not quite sure who he is.

The reason I know this is that approximately 50-70% of the recent posts on Matthew Yglesias are about ‘Paul Ryan’s [budget? or something]‘ and how horrible it is. I don’t really read Matthew Yglesias all that closely (who can?), but I do scan his blog post titles in Google Reader before doing a ‘mark all as read’, and as a result, I’m totally fully aware and up to speed that ‘Paul Ryan’ must have proposed a [budget? or something] that totally bothers Matthew Yglesias. This is because he seems to spend roughly half his ‘working’ hours diligently researching it, digging up graphs, and fulminating against it, whatever it is. Tossing a LOT of words into a LOT of blog posts to mount deft, Harvard-trained verbal attacks against the bad, horrible thing that ‘Paul Ryan’ has [proposed? done?] is VERY high on Matthew Yglesiases’es list of priorities, in other words, nearly to the point of obsession nowadays.

Accordingly, my presumption is that the thing that ‘Paul Ryan’ has [said? suggested? written?], whatever it is, is very sensible and worth doing. Or maybe, he’s a budding candidate for something [President next year?], or whatever, who totally threatens Matthew Yglesias. Either way, count me on ‘Paul Ryan”s side until I figure out otherwise. But someone let me know if I’m wrong, I can’t be bothered to actually look it up. It’s just easier (and more efficient) to consult my Yglesias Barometer.

Do Not Go To Graduate School

Recently I became aware of a blog on which are posted some 50-odd reasons out of a promised 100 not to go to graduate school. Although it claims to focus on humanities, those reasons do apply more generally. I can attest that I’ve read through them all and have failed to find fault with a single one thus far.

I tell everyone I meet and know who makes any noises in that direction that graduate school is a waste of time and they shouldn’t. The only exception cases I’m aware of involve fields that are highly credentialized, and where by ‘graduate school’ they are talking about that credential. You can’t be a doctor without going to medical school, you can’t be in a certain sort of business role without an MBA, etc. Okay fair enough. But the generic master’s/PhD degrees in academics – these are a waste of time for almost anyone other than a very specific sort of person (mostly, not a normal one).

The heartbreaking case is that of a young person, usually a girl, who gets all pouty when you say this because she is in a role/job she (impatiently, haughtily, and probably erroneously) sees as a dead end, and has somehow gotten the idea that graduate school is the way out and up. In such cases it’s like I’m bursting her bubble, and golly, do I hate to do that. But I say it anyway. After all, I tell myself, all things considered it’s probably better than saying what I’m really thinking, which is, why the hell does she care?, she’s going to get married at some point.

Sorry, I did what I do sometimes which I really shouldn’t, which is to start with generalities and by the end of the blog post get all specific on you. Confusing, I bet. Anyways, don’t go to graduate school, Jenny.

(Kidding!)

(i.e., Her name’s not Jenny.)

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