RWCG


To The People Who Are Always Signing Up For Websites And Junk Using My Gmail Address, And Giving It Out To Their Relatives And Employers Thinking It’s Their Own, Leading Me To Get Dozens of Sign-Up Passwords And Updates From Uncle Jake Every Week
May 31, 2011, 2:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I really, really wish you would learn your own damn email address, and get it through your thick skull that it’s not mine. Your first clue should be never seeing those registration emails that are sent within 15 seconds. Your second clue should be Uncle Jake wondering why you never write back. But clearly, you have no clue, because seriously, how freaking dumb do you have to be to not know your own gmail address?



My Favorite Regulatory Critic, And My Complicated Risk-Weighting Scheme
May 29, 2011, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the blogs I admire is Tea With FT by Per Kurowski. He is tireless and single-minded in his criticism of financial regulators, to a degree rarely seen in the blogging world, on any subject.

His strongest critique – and most striking in its simplicity and common sense – is of the current system of ‘risk weights’ (=charging financial institutions different amounts of capital for assets deemed to be in different risk categories). It is based on the seemingly iconoclastic and counterintuitive, but I think ultimately incontrovertible, observation that assets that everyone already thinks are risky aren’t the ones that cause widespread problems. Assets believed risky already get discounted by the market, in the thing we call the ‘price’, and by having more risk-averse buyers shy away from them.

The assets that cause widespread problems are those that everyone thinks are safe. So, charging lower ‘risk weights’ for perceived-safe assets is idiotic. The risk-averse don’t need any extra incentive or leverage to be induced to park their capital in perceive-safe assets, by definition; more to the point, telling everyone that in effect they can gorge themselves on perceived-safe assets is precisely what you would expect to set the financial system up for a big crash – unless one could somehow have a foolproof way of identifying assets that really are 100% safe. Which would be hubris. Not that that prevents Basel from trying.

This critique meshes perfectly well with my critique of the stupid idea to use rating agency reviews of assets (I know they are technically called ‘ratings’ but I call them reviews, for reasons better explained in that link) as part of official regulation of them. As Kurowski complains, the ‘Basel’ consensus is based on the notion that (what some rating agency calls) a “AAA” asset has very low risk, thus should be given less risk weight. This automatically leads to an incentive to repackage “AAA” assets out of sub-AAA assets. In other words, to take assets in a perceived-risky category and convert them into a non-risky category, so that the risk regulators will penalize them less, and more people can buy them.

The point is that the moment you even set up different ‘risk weights’ for different assets, you automatically create the incentive for this sort of regulatory arbitrage. You are asking for CDOs, in other words. Thus anyone who (1) thinks CDOs were a bad thing and shouldn’t have been created and had a hand in creating The Financial Crisis™ should be (2) against variable ‘risk weights’ and (3) against basing any regulations on rating-agency ratings. To be (1) but not (2) and (3) either bespeaks ignorance or lack of understanding of the products in question.

The interesting thing is that nobody seems to have a good reason for weighting “AAA” assets at 20%, etc.; it springs a sort of tacit, shared-consensus risk framework that everybody accepts but nobody questions (besides Per Kurowski). In Sonic Charmer’s ideal regulatory environment, all assets would have a risk weight of “1”. It would be a very complicated calculation. What’s the capital usage of this asset? 1 times the asset!

Think of all the spreadsheet columns saved….

Certainly in my Regulatory Eden, any utterance issued by “Basel” or the “Basel Committee” or whoever the hell they are would be ignored, as they have already proven their incompetence beyond a shadow of a doubt. So why aren’t they discredited? My theory is that it has a lot to do with being associated the word “Basel”. To most people, who don’t know where/what “Basel” is really any more than I do, terms like “Basel” and “Basel Committee” and “Basel II” probably connote little more than “some classy European city, so there’s probably classy old dudes in suits listening to translators on earphones (like at the UN) who probably know what they’re talking about”.

I suspect none of these stupid risk regulations would have gotten any mileage whatsoever if the committee had instead been headquartered in, like, Nashville Tennessee. “We welcome and vow to be compliant with not just the letter but the spirit of Nasvhille III” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Just a theory.



Wait So Oprah Wrapped It Up?
May 28, 2011, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

And silly me, I never got around to watching her show.

Was it any good?



Want Ads
May 28, 2011, 9:45 pm
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Buster Posey
May 28, 2011, 12:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As a Giants fan I am obviously biased but I agree with Rob Neyer here. Why are baserunners allowed to slam into a catcher who doesn’t have the ball? Would they be allowed to slam into a first baseman who doesn’t have the ball? A pitcher? What exactly about a catcher standing somewhere near home makes it ok to slam into him? Isn’t that just assault?

But I’d go one further. The ‘legitimate’ reason for a baserunner to slam into a defensive player is that he is holding a ball trying to tag you out, and you’re trying to get him to drop that ball.

Why is it legitimate to slam into a defensive player to try to get him to drop a baseball? I don’t understand the merits of including such methods into normal baseball. The skills baserunning plays are trying to bring to bear and test/reward are things like running fast, good fielding, accurate throws. Rewarding a runner for “knocking the ball out of his hands” only makes sense if that’s the sort of skill the sport of baseball is designed to test and put on display. Is it?

This has bothered me from both directions too, because (as Neyer writes) an escalation has taken place: baserunners try to slam into catchers because catchers are allowed to interfere with baserunners. I don’t understand why either is allowed.

Back in the ’80s, annoying and mediocre hitting catcher Mike Scioscia of the Dodgers was often praised for his ability to “block home plate”. When someone was trying to score this means Scioscia would squat and put his legs down across home plate in an attempt to obstruct the runner from being able to touch it without either smashing into him or acrobratically jumping over/around him. This is how he would set up to receive a throw – i.e., before he had the ball. And TV announcers would gush with praise over it.

Literally, this means Mike Scioscia was being praised by all his wonderful baseball fans for breaking the rules of baseball: blocking a baserunner from running down a basepath (particularly when you don’t actually have the ball) is against the rules of baseball. On every single of those “tough” plays where Scioscia saved a run by “blocking home plate”, according to the rules of baseball (the game he was playing) he really should have been called for defensive interference, and the run should have been awarded. I don’t mean to pick on Scioscia here (I have no tangible evidence he was even the worst offender at this in the first place, it was just his reputation); it’s just that it always bothered me that Scioscia became a semi star almost solely on the strength of this perceived skill. And then went on to manage the 2002 Angels who…but I digress.

Obviously now I can be accused of pro-Giants bias from both directions so let me just quote and agree with Neyer:

Baseball was not designed, and is not best played, as a contact sport.

In my view

1. The baserunner owns the basepath, and any defensive player who tries to “block” him, holding the ball or not, should be called on it and the runner awarded the next base.

2. Players can’t and shouldn’t physically assault each other. “Knocking the ball out of his hands” shouldn’t be a legitimate aim of a baserunner (whose job is to try to evade and run fast, not to assault). A baserunner who gets tagged but “knocks the ball out” should just be called out anyway – this should remove the incentive.

Point 1 is actually what I believe the rules of baseball actually say. Point 2 probably requires a rules amendment but is just sensible.

So I realize this will be a tough sell. But to baseball fans I say, suppose both 1 and 2 were enforced regularly and consistently. To the point where fielders had no incentive to try to block a baserunner and baserunners had no incentive to try to assault fielders. Now, please tell me what is the downside? You really think those home plate collisions are an awesome part of the game and want to keep them? Can you think about and articulate why? What exactly would you miss about them?

The career-ending injuries?



Basura
May 27, 2011, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Basura” is the Spanish word for Trash/Garbage. Do you know how I know that? Because I have seen a zillion trash cans in offices and public spaces with “Trash/Basura” printed on them, and I figured it out from context. I think I am probably a genius.

After all, Spanish-speaking people can’t figure out the reverse from context. (Apparently.) That is why we in the U.S., in our gentle benevolence, realized we needed to force-print “Basura” onto all our trash cans. Otherwise, how would Spanish-speaking people ever figure out what these cylindrical objects on the ground were?

But seriously. Whoever came up with this idea to print “Basura” everywhere, and whoever thinks it’s a good idea, must have a serious prejudice problem against Spanish-speaking peoples. They must believe that all Spanish speakers are absolute morons. That’s the only thing I can figure. There’s no other explanation for why “Basura” would be needed. Anywhere.

Suppose you, my English-speaking reader, were living and working in some foreign country for an extended period of time. One day, your first or second day there, you spot a cylindrical object on the floor of your office or on a street corner or in the public park. You peek down inside to see what the object contains, and see some paper products that are slightly wet and dirty, some empty soda cans, and the like.

Now, please tell me, faced with such a mystery how long do you think it would take you to put 2 and 2 together and deduce that that there thing is a trash can?

Similarly, now imagine that there is a word printed on the cylinder. It is some word written in the Latin alphabet with As and Bs and Cs and so on. You can therefore read and parse this word in your head, and attempt to pronounce it to yourself. Now: How long do you think it would take you to deduce that that word is the country’s language’s word for “trash”? And how long, really, would it take you to memorize that word? I could see forgetting it once. Twice. Thrice? After three times of encountering this language’s word for “trash”, do you think you’d be able to remember – once and for all – that the word on all those cylinders means “trash” in that language, upon encountering it on some cylinder?

Would you really need the word “trash” written above it? What for? After all, you’re not a moron.

But Spanish-speakers living in the U.S. do need “basura” written above Trash. In other words, they are all morons. At least, this is evidently what some people think.



Why Basically All The People Around Me Are Socialists And Fascists, And That’s OK
May 27, 2011, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I think the words ‘fascist’ and ‘socialist’ should be reclaimed for polite conversation. They are too useful not to be used.

‘Socialist’ has dropped into this weird uncanny valley where you’re basically not allowed to call anyone socialist, not because they’re not socialist, but simply because if you do, they’ll say sarcastically to other people ‘…but for my views they call me ‘socialist”. Yes, for socialist views one gets called socialist, why not? *shrug* It’s all very mysterious to me for example why we can’t just call the prevailing economic policies of most of the (D) party (and much of the (R) party) socialist. Why shouldn’t we.

Meanwhile, obviously ‘fascist’ long ago became little more than a pejorative, but the actual word is a very meaningful and useful term in its own right in the sense of using state power and monopoly to harness and unify private institutions towards public ends. This is the usage I would like to bring back, only, I’ll need to cleanse it of its pejorative connotations. (Wish me luck on tilting against that windmill!)

I promise I shall chronicle my success or failure in this very important linguistic campaign of mine on this very important blog over the next few years and decades. Stay tuned! With baited breath!



Smart People Spread
May 26, 2011, 2:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the things that frustrates me in disagreements is when the opponent demonstrates (what I guess can be called) insufficiently-mathematical thinking. Or just, more generally: lack of logic. I think this is what’s part of going on in the post below.

It’s perfectly ok to have genuine political disagreements, and in fact I have had such a long experience living in places and working in environments/industries where I am essentially a lone political curiosity that I’m quite well able to disagree respectfully.

But not when the opponent can’t even seem to grasp, or won’t acknowledge, the basic logical principles that apply to the situation under discussion.

For example: When it comes to Obamacare mandating this and that, it’s fine if you happen like those mandates, nevertheless it’s simply a fact that such mandates come with tradeoffs. There’s no such thing as a mandate with no tradeoffs. So a legitimate, intelligent discussion of Obamacare has to be centered on whether those tradeoffs are worth it. Maybe they aren’t and maybe they are, and reasonable people can disagree, but Obamacare’s defenders, almost as a point of pride sometimes, either can’t or won’t or are incapable of addressing the point at all – or, they wave it away, focusing only on the perceived benefits of their policy, as if they are costless. In my book this fails discussion 101 – actually it fails thinking 101 – and there is nothing further to say; the case for Obamacare is lost by forfeit, never having actually been made.

In the particular example of the below post, it’s simply a fact that if a law ‘mandates’ a company that was previously contractually selling product X to suddenly bucket Y along with X, this makes the value/cost of that product higher, and someone has to pay for that. (Here X = ‘health plan’ and Y = ‘…including 18-26 year old children as dependents on a health plan’.) Maybe that is right and proper, due to whatever reasons, to mandate such a bucketing but again: if you can’t at least acknowledge the inevitable effect (increased cost, on someone), I don’t know what discussion can be had.

Let’s continue: if you make the ‘health plan’ that these insurers contract with employers to offer more expensive, they will have to raise the price and/or absorb the cost (take a loss/less profit) themselves. I happen to believe it will essentially be the former. You can disagree, and believe it will be more the latter than the former (and make an actual argument as to why you think that), but you can’t just deny or ignore this effect altogether.

Let’s continue then: if you make the cost of a product (e.g. employee health plans) higher for the buyer (e.g. employers), it’s simply a fact that they will buy less of it, and/or defray the cost by buying less of something else. How much less, and what something-else they’ll buy less of, is open to debate. I personally think the most likely result is simply that employers reduce (cash) salaries to compensate, and/or don’t hire as many people at the margin, because after all, the cost of hiring/employing people went up, by definition. I might be wrong about that (or at least, about the extent to which that will be the reaction), and intelligent people could disagree. But it’s not open to debate that when costs of transactions are raised by government fiat, some trade-off will occur.

All of which is to say, you can disagree about tradeoffs, and about costs vs benefits, and even value the benefits differently than I do (e.g., using morality). But you can’t just ignore them altogether and expect me to have any respect at all for your opinion.

To venture off into a different example: an industry mailing-list I’m on has recently gotten bogged down in a discussion of affirmative action, so I’ve had a chance to see both sides of the issue stated (rather ineptly) by nonspecialists and non-expert debaters, and each new thread is a frustration. The reason is the same: reasonable people can disagree about affirmative action, but there are some logical facts about which they cannot.

One of these facts is that if you engage in anything meriting the term ‘affirmative action’, you are altering your hiring criteria such that – at the margin – a person can end up getting a job they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten due to having a certain skin hue and/or genitalia. Make no mistake: If you’re doing affirmative action, it automatically follows that this is, at least sometimes, taking place. If this never takes place, you’re not doing ‘affirmative action’ as is commonly understood.

In other words, logically, ‘affirmative action’ – if it means anything at all – effectively means naked discrimination, sometimes, at the margin, in favor of certain races/genders. This is simply a fact that no sane, intelligent person can deny. Yet of course, affirmative action’s defenders all denied it!

The common thread in these atrocities against logic is often that the person tries to hide their illogic in a dizzying mist of fancy words and hifalutin language. I believe, indeed, that what a lot of Smart People learn from school is how to dress up their arguments, however illogical, in ‘smart’ enough language that no one notices the lack of logic or feels qualified to call them on it.

There is a sense in which all too many Smart People have been trained to replace genuine, logical thinking with something resembling a competitive word game. And it’s really no wonder that the latter is more popular; logical thinking is hard and rigorous and requires actual brains and concentration, but competitive word games can be fun (I recommend the decent film Rocket Science for a primer on what I learned was called ‘debate spreading’), and require only that you know how to phrase all your thoughts in the form of fancy buzzwords and circumlocutions. i.e., That you went to a decent college.



Noneconomist’s View
May 26, 2011, 1:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Mark Thoma continues to stake his claim to being, in my book, the internet’s dumbest economist by linking approvingly to a post entitled More Solid Proof That Obamacare Is Working.

What do they mean by “working”?

They mean this: 18-26 year olds are going on their parents’ employer-provided health plans as ‘dependents’. You know, as the law forces insurers to allow.

This is a very strange and, I hasten to add, economically ignorant of what it means for something to be “working”. First of all I was unaware that the sole purpose of Obamacare was to increase the number of 18-26 year olds being on their parents’ health plans, that this was somehow a huge problem, or certainly that this was the metric by which Obamacare’s success would be measured. But even aside from that, there is no sign of any cost-benefit analysis anywhere in the thinking of this “economist”. Using such criteria, any law that forces everyone to do X is “working” as long as the number of people who do X increases. But I’m entitled to ask: so what?

Suppose there were a law forcing all employers to give all their full-time employees state-of-the-art $25k jacuzzis. What would happen?

First, some employers wouldn’t, and/or would simply cut back their work force. Some employers would probably switch a bunch of employees over to ‘contract’ workers. There would be a new wave of outsourcing. Meanwhile, at least some employers of higher-salaried folks would probably just bite the bullet and go ahead and purchase jacuzzis for their employees (and, in return, recoup some or all of it from salaries).

But, disregarding all of the other effects, it is clear that jacuzzi ownership would go up, at least a little, and so I can only assume that Mark Thoma, brilliant economist, would write on his brilliant blog the “Economist’s View” that the law is “working”.

Left unconsidered in such a conclusion, of course, are questions such as: Was trying to forcibly increase jacuzzi ownership a good idea? What are the costs and side effects of having done so? Is it actually worth those costs? You know, important questions. Cost-benefit considerations. Stuff like that. Stuff that an economist might actually be interested in.

Silly me. Mark Thoma is not an economist. At least, he evidently doesn’t play one on his misnomered blog.



Wrong Kind Of Argument Pt 2
May 23, 2011, 11:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Follow-up to this post, based on my tried and true theory, When in doubt use a baseball-card analogy:

Suppose

1. the government decided it would be an intrinsically good thing for everyone to own their own baseball-card collections, so they set up a government agency that would fund and guarantee 80% or more of new baseball-card purchases, tax credits for purchasing them, etc.

2. Baseball cards, not coincidentally, kept being bid up. This is normal economics. People mostly weren’t using their own money to buy them, there was ongoing government incentive to buy them, and there was always someone to sell them to down the road – they seemed like a great investment. So demand was huge.

3. A new baseball-card company sprung up, Private Label™, to try to take advantge of the apparent huge demand for baseball cards. Most Private Label baseball cards weren’t eligible for the government subsidies from #1, but they were still baseball cards, and actually a bit cheaper, so part of their selling point was more-bang-for-your-buck.

4. After a few years of this, the baseball-card bubble collapses, taking the economy down with it. And Private Label cards show the most obvious effect, as they lose 90% or more of their value.

5. The subject naturally comes up: who or what is ‘to blame’ for the bubble? Paul Krugman writes N columns asserting that the government can’t be to blame, because their subsidies and tax credits didn’t apply to Private Label baseball cards. He shows a pie chart demonstrating that the government had a very small piece of the Private Label subsidization market, and exonerates the government of any wrongdoing.

It’s easy to see that this argument is automatically wrong. It’s not that there are incorrect facts in it. It’s just that it’s the wrong kind of approach to use for making the case that Krugman wants to make. Clearly the issue is not ‘who bought the Private Label cards’ or ‘did the government buy Private Label cards’ per se so much as who distorted the market overall. And everything points to the government, and the Krugman pie-chart argument doesn’t show otherwise. Similarly it treats the Private-Label cards as a cause rather than a symptom of the bubble, implying that somehow if only Private Label cards had never been invented, the baseball-card market could have continued to march on its merry way like this indefinitely.

I see such arguments and scratch my head, especially when they come from Nobel-prize-winning economists.



Links
May 22, 2011, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
  • Bookworm got caught in a fuel-wasting traffic jam caused by kids having a ‘walk to school day’. You know, to save the Earth!
  • Steve Sailer on the political wisdom of (R) proposals to privatize Medicare:

    Let’s throw together tax subsidies, incredibly complicated health insurance products, customers who are going senile, and corporations staffed by bright MBAs with spreadsheets. What could possibly go wrong?

  • James Bowman is worth reading on Ezra Klein, Paul Krugman, and punditocracy.
  • Worthy pull quote from OneSTDV:

    We’ve created a false middle class largely comprised of legislative workers (affirmative action for gender and race). These people have no real job responsibilities so they make up stuff to do, like passing idiotic laws.

  • Seth Roberts makes an important point so many people seem to struggle getting through their thick skulls:

    If you know there was an Ice Age, you should grasp that the Earth varies in temperature a lot for reasons that have nothing to do with human activity.

    BTW he also says “when someone claims AGW is true, I stop taking them seriously as a thinker”.

  • South Bend Seven on polls:

    I believe it is socially irresponsible to conduct surveys and publicize the results if the question presuppose the fantasy that trade-offs do not exist.

  • I read this post of analysis of Bin Laden fallout and thought ‘wow! strong words’ before realizing it was written by Victor Davis Hanson. In retrospect, I should have just realized.
  • When it comes to the ‘scientific’ ambitions of macroeconomics, Eric Falkenstein puts into words what I can only intuit and mock, which is a big part of why I read him:

    Consider V, velocity. Velocity is the residual of the measurables nominal income and money. Thus, the derivative of V with respect to i (the interest rate) is really from the derivatives, and their correlations, of nominal income and money. Are either of these stable in any sense (d(PY)/di, dM/di)? No. They have no stable values and suggest they are no better than asserting a mathematical relationship between your body temperature and how much coffee you drank based on thermodynamics: there’s a simple effect from the initial impact, but very shortly feedback effects that make the initial physical model worthless. [...] Thinking about aggregates this way is pure blather…

  • Seth Roberts notes a journalist, Eoin O’Connell, who noticed that a fifty-author paper fails to control for muscle gain when trying to link meat-eating with ‘weight gain’ and (therefore?) bad health. Which is almost unbelievable, but not quite.
  • Half Sigma notes a study implying salt can be good for you. I knew it!


Arguments That Are Automatically Wrong: Mortgages
May 22, 2011, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sometimes you don’t have to know the right answer to be able to recognize a wrong answer. And sometimes just the method for getting an answer is enough to tell you that it’s wrong.

There are many subjects which I may not have time to fully investigate and become fully knowledgeable (if at all) on them, yet when seeing people who do write about them, I can nevertheless still tell that their arguments are full of crap.

Let’s take the argument that the government was not to blame for inflating the housing bubble. Here is an example (which I don’t mean to pick on as it’s far from the worst offender, but I came across it today):

the claims that Fannie and Freddie were the primary culprits behind the inflation of the housing bubble and the flood of fraudulent mortgages is nonsense. … the worse junk mortgages were not bought and securitised by Fannie and Freddie. These were packaged and sold by the investment banks, Goldman Sachs, Lehman, Citigroup and the rest. Fannie and Freddie got into junk mortgages late in the game, and even then, their primary motive was to regain lost market share.

This belongs to a species of argument, cherished also by the likes of Paul Krugman, that involves bringing statistical measures to bear so as to show that Fannie and Freddie didn’t buy ‘most of’, or a ‘majority of’, subprime loans, or didn’t issue subprime bonds, or whatever. The intent is to demonstrate that their ‘presence’ in the portion of the market deemed problematic (‘subprime’, or something) was small, and/or that other actors (investment banks, e.g.) bought the loans which were deemed problematic. The conclusion is that the government (Fannie/Freddie) can’t have been to blame.

It is clear that this argument is incorrect merely based on the methodology. The logic used is just plain incorrect, and in fact, economically ignorant. It cannot be correct.

This doesn’t mean I have a proof that the government was to blame. It just means that all the people I’ve ever seen saying it wasn’t, have crappy arguments that don’t hold water. They are using the wrong kind of argument, a kind that cannot possibly be correct.

Why is it the wrong kind of argument? Because it ignores how markets actually work, it ignores that supply and demand is fluid, it ignores that markets can be distorted/affected by large buyers/sellers, it ignores substitution effects – basically, it ignores economics. But this all remains true even if we’re talking about the mortgage market. And it remains true regardless of whether the distorting actor’s (the government’s) participation in this market was somehow limited to loans of a certain type.

The government poured money into mortgages, issued mortgage bonds with their ‘implicit’ backing, and meanwhile kept interest rates low. This all meant (1) it was relatively easy for homebuyers to get mortgages to buy houses, and (2) it was relatively difficult for investors to make decent returns giving loans to the same sorts of borrowers. In price terms, the ‘price’ of making the investment [mortgage loans to a bunch of regular Americans] had skyrocketed. And it had skyrocketed primarily because of the government. Not in spite of the government, and the government was not a side player: the government is the main player in this market.

But investors still wanted good returns. That didn’t change. Nor did the fact (encouraged by the government) that at that time, everyone still considered mortgage loans to Americans relatively safe. So, they demanded mortgage bonds (i.e., demanded ways of putting their money to work giving mortgage loans to people) that would pay higher returns – i.e., that would have an affordable ‘price’. This is the only reason the ‘private label’ mortgage-bond market exploded so much. It is the only reason that mortgage-backed CDOs ended up being created.

In short, the government (for various reasons good and bad) artificially bid up the price of a certain desired investment product A. This made it unaffordable (or at least, unappealing at that price) for a wide class of investors. Hence, a similar (but with lower standards) investment product B inevitably and predictably sprung up to meet that demand.

Now then. A Krugman could sit there and make pie charts all day long showing that the government only participated in product A not B. But that simply doesn’t prove anything. It doesn’t mean the government had ‘nothing to do with’ the creation of product B or the overall bubble in A+B. To assert otherwise, is an argument that is economically idiotic (in fact I doubt that a smart guy like Krugman – as opposed to whichever partisan hack writes his NYT columns – could actually sincerely believe it). It is automatically wrong.



Politics Isn’t About Policy, It’s About Sex
May 20, 2011, 10:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Oh my. Osama’s mistresses be dishing! Can a very special ‘Osama’s Mistresses’ episode of Maury Povich be far behind? HT Bookworm

No, I have no idea whether Maury Povich is on, or even whether that was the right type of reference there. But I digress.

This all goes along with my theory of Ideologies As Sex Fantasies, which I’ll state more briefly here (from a guy’s POV):

  • Theocrats/fanatics want society to let them own women for exclusive sex. Their main worry is being cuckolded.
  • Socialists want to shape society so that it supplies them with easy women. Their main worry is not being attractive, successful etc. enough to get any sex.
  • Classical liberals/conservatives want society to stop shoving sex in their face. Their main worry is their daughter turning into a slut.

Women have not-identical but complementary for being attracted to one of the above ideologies, of course.

I still maintain that you can explain the vast majority of the various ideologies’ policy preferences by simply noting the above and working out which policies are consistent with the various factions’ sexual obsessions. For example, would socialists oppose or approve of abortion? It’s not obvious from the definition of “socialism”. But it is obvious from the above.



We Are Embarrassing Only Ourselves With Our Puritanical Ways
May 18, 2011, 10:41 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s so embarrassing to be an American sometimes, what with our Puritanical ways.

Take this hubbub over the IMF guy. We have arrested and locked him in jail for “rape”. Rape!

People! This is the 21st century! And last I checked the IMF head is a French guy, with a sophisticated name, with hyphens!

European sophisticates – I just want you to know – I for one can’t even conceive of a French guy committing “rape”. The French are the great seducers. So it’s almost a contradiction in terms. Even if he forced himself on her, that’s what she wanted. Even if she didn’t want it, she wanted it. (He’s French and sophisticated!)

If you have any education or knowledge at all then about 99% of the reading you’ve done in your life consisted of the sophisticated writings of the Marquis de Sade. And those writings are just chock full of sophisticated, high-class avant-garde romance that I suppose (by our Neanderthal standards) would get categorized as “rape”, “torture”, “murder”, etc. Are you going to put all of literature on trial now?

We are the laughingstock of the world. I’m pretty sure the world looks at this French guy (I think his name is Dominique de Strauss de Villepin – something like that) and knows that, well shucks, here’s a classy guy, so let’s leave it at that.

Seriously:

  1. He’s French.
  2. He wears suits and talks with a French (French) accent on TV interviews and suchlike.
  3. He’s in charge of an international agency, with an acronym. It’s not like we’re talking about a biker gang or the NRA here. People: this is the sort of agency that European college girls probably like to go intern for.
  4. He’s sophisticated and upper class. It’s not like this is a Duke lacrosse player we’re talking about. This is an international French guy who stays in hotels!

The whole thing is just mind-boggling frankly. Why we would persecute this suave sophisticate with our backwards rules against quote unquote “rape” is beyond me. It’s all so embarrassing.

If you’re a movie buff like I am, and you like small foreign independent movies as much as I do, then you know that one of the Frenches’es greatest contributions to modern culture was the highly romantic Emmanuelle starring Sylvia Kristel. In artistic terms, there’s practically no better French movie you’re going to find (perhaps La Boum being a close second). Now look. This is no different really than what happens in the final third of Emmanuelle, which is that Emmanuelle meets an older, sophisticated man Mario (Alain Cuny) who takes her on a sophisticated journey of sexual awakening that involves letting some street wino pull down her panties feel her up, having public sex with whichever random Thai wins an impromptu kickboxing match, and so on, among other things. They walk and talk as Mario explains his (sophisticated) philosophy about how she should open herself to sex, and sex with strangers, and all sorts of other stuff that probably went over my head because after all, alas, I am but an American.

Now then. Are you seriously going to say to me with a straight face that there’s something wrong with Emmanuelle – an artistic French movie? Well then? What are we even talking about?

Honestly the longer this French guy remains in jail, the more of a crime against humanity and, indeed, sophisticates everywhere we are committing. I can’t even imagine what this poor man’s bankers, mistresses, and/or household staff must be going through at this time. Locked up by the Puritanical Yanks over a bit of jolly good fun “rape”! It’s like something out of the Middle Ages.

To the French, and other European sophisticates everywhere, who I’m sure are looking upon this travesty with a mixture of shock and horror: I can only say: it’s Not In My Name.

Afterthought 1: Don’t French and other European people have immunity from U.S. law, by definition? In light of this and the Roman Polanski lynching, shouldn’t they?

Afterthought 2: What happens to all of the International Money that this guy was actively in charge of, managing, and doing a lot of great things with as the highly-qualified head of the International Monetary Fund? I’m worried. Have we found another French L’Ecole graduate to take his place? Wasn’t it irresponsible to arrest him if the answer is no?

Afterthought 3: Is this a political persecution? Seeing as how France opposed The Iraq War, and this guy is a ‘liberal’. Connect the dots.

Afterthought 4: What sort of prison conditions is he being subjected to? Is it time to get the International Criminal Court or the ACLU to look into his rights and into whether the U.S. courts/prisons should be put on trial for crimes against humanity?

Afterthought 5: Finally, are his values and beliefs as a Frenchman being respected? For example: Is he being regularly given properly-handled snails to eat and young women to rape? (Just to name two examples.)



Cuz I’m Talkin’ About The Road
May 16, 2011, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Did you enjoy The Road as much as I did? Good fun at the movie-house.

I will say I liked the original version of the story much better…when it was called The Postman.

No seriously, I’m being totally serious here, The Postman was (and this is very sad to say, I realize) a better movie, on the same sorts of themes. Much more fun to watch, too.

The only thing I didn’t understand was howcome I never heard the Tenacious D soundtrack song anywhere in the actual movie.

SPOILER: I’m pretty sure the family the kid decides to join up with at the glimmer-of-hope-for-humanity ending, is basically just going to eat him. Well after all,

The road is f**kin’ hard,
The road is f**kin’ tough-ah,
There’s no question that-eh
It is rough, rough stuff.

Rare case where the soundtrack song goes along perfectly with the movie…



The Most Annoying Scene In The Action Movie
May 16, 2011, 12:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

We’ve all encountered this scene a million times in movies/TV:

Guy: I’ve got to go do the thing.

Girl: Please don’t go! It’s so dangerous and when you walk out that door I don’t know whether you’re coming back in!

Guy: But it’s got to be done. And it’s my job.

Girl: Okay, fine, just go. But I can’t promise I’ll be here when you get back.

Most recently seen on Justified as Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) makes his way back to Harlan County to…well it doesn’t really matter.

The point is, two questions spring to mind here. 1. Why is this scene so fricking annoying?, and 2. given that it’s so fricking annoying, why do scriptwriters keep on copy/pasting it into their plots?

These facts are usually present. 1. The thing the guy is going to do, that’s basically all he does. It’s not just his job, it’s his existence and the only thing he’s good at. 2. It’s also very important, i.e. the right thing to do (the girl always doesn’t care). 3. Crucially, the fact that the guy is the type of guy who does these things is, presumably, prominent among what attracts the girl to the guy. In other words, for the girl to ask the guy not to go get the bad guys is hypocritical and self-defeating; that’s the only reasons she’s with him, and if he ever stopped being that type of guy, she’d probably dump him.

So the only real effect of the ‘Don’t Go Do Your Job’ scene is to make the chick a damn nuisance that you want offscreen ASAP so you can get back to the interesting stuff.

So why even include it? Theories.

  1. Scriptwriters (being mostly guys, and disproportionately gay guys) don’t know anything about women. So, they don’t know what motivates them, what their interests are, what they would or might actually say in a given situation. So, they rely on tropes such as Don’t You Walk Out That Door.
  2. Relatedly: Scriptwriters are all misogynists who hate women and genuinely think a perennial, selfish, and stupid ‘don’t do your job’ stance is all that they are capable of or can add to the plot.
  3. Once the hero gets the attractive girlfriend/wife, scriptwriters feel they are boxed in (what bad can happen now?) and need to sprinkle drama in there to keep things interesting. So the girl inexplicably trying to prevent the guy from doing his job because it’s ‘dangerous’ – that’s the best they can think of.

You know what my favorite part of the entire Rocky series was?

Adrian: There’s one thing I want you to do for me.
Rocky Balboa: What’s that?
Adrian: Win…
Adrian: Win!

Damn that was good. In light of the above, it was even a bit groundbreaking. Sadly.



The One-Body Problem
May 15, 2011, 12:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I know I’ve linked to 100 Reasons Not To Go To Graduate School before, so the site is not news to my 3.1 readers. But I can’t resist b/c it’s still capable of amazing me: this post left me speechless because it hits way too close to home.



Hitler, Like Osama, ‘Won’
May 6, 2011, 2:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

After all, the United States spent a lot of money fighting him, and he did not survive.

Apparently, that’s all it takes to ‘defeat’ the United States of America.



One Or The Other
May 3, 2011, 4:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Regarding the whole ‘Muslim/sharia burial’ thing for OBL, here are two propositions.

1. Osama bin Laden did not represent true Islam, but a perversion of Islam. Islam is peaceful and his acts in the name of their religion were an insult to Muslims everywhere. The vast majority of Muslims do not endorse him and he does not speak for them.

2. It was right and proper to care about giving OBL a proper ‘Muslim burial’, whatever some jackass claims that to mean, because after all, he was a Muslim and if he hadn’t gotten a ‘Muslim burial’, a lot of Muslims the world over would be enraged, on account of how they identify with him – their co-religionist – so much.

Now then. Need I really point out that you can only pick one of these?



The Rest Of My Life
May 2, 2011, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

One thing I know about the rest of my life: I know that I’ll be living it in Canada

New album coming out this week – can barely wait, although you can ‘pre-order’ it, which, in the digital age, I’m still not sure why you’d have to do that or what that means! It’s a file on a computer somewhere, it’s not like they’re gonna run out of copies if I don’t ‘pre-order’ it…




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