Sunday, August 31

After the Olympics--now what?

Pallavi Aiyar writes:
Without the Games and their prestige to drive home the necessity of “harmony” at any cost, China’s ruling party will have to confront its greatest Achilles heel – its inability to admit to the existence of real diversity and dissent – head on.

For years now the Olympics have acted as a safety net for the juggling act China’s ruling party is constantly engaged in. The post-Olympic aporia that the country is likely to experience spells higher risks with less than predictable outcomes. Expect some furrowed brows in Zhongnanhai.

Monday, August 25

Mitt Romney

Consider these scenarios.

Scandal A: A prominent politician gets caught sleeping with a campaign aide and plunges himself into an ugly paternity dispute -- all while his cancer-stricken wife is fighting for her life.

Scandal B: A prominent politician's signature health-care plan turns out to have been put together badly, and he is forced to confess that the plan will cost taxpayers billions more than expected.

Shankar Vedantam goes on to say
evolutionary psychologists argue that the reason John Edwards's adultery has more zing in our heads than a dry policy dispute that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars is that the human brain evolved in a period where there were significant survival advantages to finding out the secrets of others.
But what about that prominent politician's signature health-care plan that was badly put together? Who was it? Mitt Romney?

A feeling of comfort with the advocates and adherents

The choice of a political ideology, which is to say of a general orientation that guides a person's response to a variety of specific political and ethical issues, is less a matter of conscious choice or weighing of evidence than of a feeling of comfort with the advocates and adherents of the ideology.
Really? What does that say about me?

Saturday, August 23

But a recession is the end of the world for the US

China's Olympians have walloped their American counterparts this past fortnight, capturing 16 more gold medals and ending the global supremacy that US athletes have enjoyed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is an outcome that will only deepen the United States' present funk, with pundits sure to compare China's inexorable rise with America's decline, asking when the lines will cross.

The answer is not for a long time - if ever. By almost any measure the US remains in a different league. Its gross domestic product was $13.8trillion last year, dwarfing China's $3.2 trillion. GDP per capita was $46,000 to China's $5,300. Of the world's 30 largest companies, 11 are American and 3 Chinese, according to Fortune magazine.

But what is striking to casual visitors to China, however, is the extent to which its people have adopted the attitudes that made America great - the optimism, dynamism and patriotism, the can-do spirit, the determination to leave the next generation better off than one's own. In three weeks travelling around China last month, I found a country oozing with confidence.
...but a recession is the end of the world for the US.


Although every Chinese child is taught the legend of Yue Fei, a 12th-century general whose mother tattooed “serve the country with utmost loyalty” on his back, tattoos were considered disreputable in China for centuries. Imperial courts tattooed criminals’ faces before sending them into exile. By the 1949 revolution, the tattoo was the favored mark of crime syndicates and subsequently condemned by the Communist Party. Today, tattoos remain taboo for many of China’s elder generation, which sneers at the sight of a sun or lotus inked on the back of a trendy neighbor. the last 10 years, hundreds of tattoo parlors have opened in Beijing, and body art has become a language that connects young Chinese across subcultures and cities. “People’s minds have opened up along with the economy,” Mr. Dong said. “Before, all you saw were Mao jackets. Now when you walk down the street you see punks and skaters and they all have tattoos.”

We are not qualified

Beijing's gleaming new sports stadiums, efficient subway lines and legions of smiling volunteers are a testament to the Communist Party's power to mobilize a country of 1.3 billion people. But to do so, the party has had to draw vast resources from faraway towns and villages, where millions of ordinary citizens ...are now suffering from water shortages, blackouts and business losses brought about because of the Games.


While few are willing to publicly criticize the Olympics, outrage has spread online among the anonymous.

"I just want ask this one question: Are farmers not people?" a resident of the coastal province of Shandong wrote on one online message board, expressing frustration over the blackouts in his area. "We are in the dark, sweating all over.

"A number of farmers are not big earners in income," the writer continued. "They can not spend money to see Beijing Olympics. . . . From within the heart it is not fair."

Others say they are torn between their duty to the state and their individual losses.

The article suggests that one Cheng Linpeng lost his job as a fish farmer when the central government approved a water diversion project aimed at relieving shortages in Beijing and other parts of the arid north.
He said he's excited China is doing so well but doesn't know anyone who is going to the Games. When asked if he thought about going, he looked surprised.

"Would we be allowed?" Cheng asked, explaining that migrant workers are considered second-class citizens in Beijing. "The place is not so big, and it wouldn't be able to hold everyone who wants to come. We are not qualified."

Thursday, August 21

Both plans would balloon national debt

-- The sharpening rhetoric between John McCain and Barack Obama over their competing plans to overhaul the nation's tax system has underscored one of the most profound differences between them -- how they would target America's wealthiest taxpayers.

Under McCain, the rich would see their tax burden ease. Under Obama, their rates would rise dramatically.

For much of the campaign, the two candidates have talked sparingly and obliquely about how they would deal with affluent taxpayers. But a recent volley of acid-edged campaign ads stirred up the tax issue, and a question posed last weekend by Orange County pastor Rick Warren zeroed in on how both men defined "rich."

Obama said the dividing line was an income of $250,000 a year, while McCain responded somewhat flippantly that it was $5 million. McCain aides said later that the senator was joking, but his remark quickly became a campaign flashpoint.

"I guess if you're making $3 million a year, you're middle class," Obama sniped, prompting a McCain aide to fire back: "It's not the job of the government to define who is rich."

Where to draw the line among the nation's wealthiest taxpayers is the central difference between rival tax blueprints that offer starkly differing formulas for reviving a faltering economy.

On Tuesday, new ads from both camps played on the public's rising anxiety about taxes, incomes and the volatile economy. "Three Times," an Obama television ad airing from Virginia to Colorado, savages McCain for lavishing $200-billion tax "giveaways" on "big corporations." McCain responded with "Millions," a radio ad that predicts Obama will "raise taxes on your income, your electric bills, even your life savings."

The two camps immediately issued rebuttals, each claiming its position on taxes was being distorted by the opposition. The Obama campaign contended that the overwhelming majority of Americans would not see a tax increase under his plan, only the wealthiest 5% or so. The McCain side retorted that the "$4 billion" in tax breaks for oil companies mentioned in Obama's ad was misleading because McCain is proposing an across-the-board tax cut for all corporations and is not favoring the oil industry.

A close look at their proposals shows that the differences fall neatly along the traditional policy gulf that has long divided Republicans and Democrats: liberating the wealthy with tax cuts to stimulate the nation's prosperity versus raising their rates to redistribute the tax burden and pay for crucial government programs.

"The real fault lines are over how to treat people in the highest tax brackets. It gets to the heart of their economic philosophies," said Leonard E. Burman, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington-based tax reform group that has questioned the details of both tax plans.

Both candidates have promised to balance their tax relief programs with budget cuts designed to trim soaring deficits. But the Tax Policy Center has warned that both plans -- coupled with the candidates' high-cost healthcare proposals -- would balloon the $9.6-trillion national debt. The center's analysis reported that McCain's tax proposals would add $5 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years, while Obama's would add $3.6 trillion.

Wednesday, August 20

London's smog worse than China's

Beijing’s poor air quality – 300 or so micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre – has generated volumes of purple prose, but London’s numbers in the 1950s were consistently above 400, and surged to 1,600 during the Great Smog – more than five times Beijing’s in early August.

Supremely Wrong

...let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister -- no matter how beloved -- is supremely wrong.

It is also un-American.

Positive economic impact of Olympics neglible

To date there has not been a study of an Olympics or other large-scale sporting event that has found empirical evidence of significant economic impacts such as increases in household income. is unlikely that anyone ever will.

Monday, August 18

China’s one-child policy

to blame for one-seventh of the increase in crime.

Why did China blow more than $30 billion on the Games?

The total costs may exceed $37 billion, more than the Chinese government will spend this year on education or public health or relief for the Sichuan earthquake. Note that thirty-odd billion is more than twenty bucks a Chinese citizen.

Saturday, August 16

Does Obama Want to Raise Gas Prices?

a windfall tax on profits means that...gas prices will stay higher in the future than they would have been without the tax
theory ... tells us that excess profits attract the competition that wipes them out... and do so by lowering the prices of those things which were in short supply. Which is, I think, exactly what we all want to happen, no? Let's make gas cheap again! So confiscating those extra profits will mean that first, no one making them has the money left to look for more and, secondly, no one is going to dive into the industry if they think that they won't be allowed to keep the profits they might make.


Interesting article. Except when the author writes
...many people, and not just my American friends, wonder about the discrepancy between what they hear on screen and what they read in the subtitles. The explanation is really quite simple.

...[P]eople process spoken information faster than written information. Subtitles follow the pace of spoken language. The amount of text used in subtitles therefore needs to be reduced so that the reading speed matches the speed of the dialogue. The faster a character speaks, the more the translator needs to reduce his text. Most of the time it is simply impossible to do a word for word translation.
Except, as a commenter notes, in captions for the hearing impaired.

How bad is that?

Staci Simonich, an environmental chemist from Oregon State University whose lab group has made three trips to Beijing to study the city's air...[said on average], she's been measuring particulate levels about six times higher than those seen in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

A good day in Beijing, she said, is roughly comparable to America's most polluted cities.
How bad are America's most polluted cities?

We live in interesting times

Interesting how prominently Chinese quackery features in alternative medicine these days. The People’s Republic, which is lavish in its sponsorship of research into Chinese pseudoscience, must be thrilled.

Thursday, August 14

Phelps’s typical menu

Here’s Phelps’s typical menu. (No, he doesn’t choose among these options. He eats them all, according to the Post.)

Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelet. One bowl of grits. Three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.

Lunch: One pound of enriched pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo on white bread. Energy drinks packing 1,000 calories.

Dinner: One pound of pasta. An entire pizza. More energy drinks.


Nazis and Maoists

Author Hu Fayun ... still remembers the shock of reading [The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich] for the first time, describing it as astonishingly original and powerful. He said, 'this book ripped a giant hole in my ideology,' because the slogans and actions of the Nazis were so similar to China's Cultural Revolution.

5,000 Years of Chinese History

The vast area known today as China has indeed witnessed the development of human civilization for millennia. But so have India, Africa, Europe and the Near East. The implication that non-Chinese peoples lack a comparable degree of history is false. The Jews have a history of at least 5,000 years, as do the Egyptians and Indians. The recorded and archaeologically attested history of the Celts is of similar length to that of the Chinese; the early history of both peoples disintegrates into unattested mythology...

In making statements about China's "5,000 years", the term is being applied retrospectively. In this sense it actually denotes nothing more than a geographical area. Modern Iraq, Egypt and Pakistan can make even more impressive claims on this basis.

But despite these facts, Chinese people have been taught that they are the heirs to a more ancient civilization than are other peoples of the world. Most believe it. The message conveyed in Chinese schools and universities, and echoed by the media, is that China's history makes it special. This particular lesson has sunk in deeply. History has become an instrument of national self-assertion.

The unquestioning approach that is nurtured in the Chinese study of history allows many bizarre notions to slip into popular mindset, beside the notion that Chinese civilization's longevity somehow distinguishes it from other nations...

The teaching of history in modern China is, of course, intended to foster patriotism. It is this that allows China to lay claim to the achievements of Mongols and Manchus while attacking them as enemies or oppressors at the same time.

Beijing 2008: The end of US, erm, dominance? | Jottings from the Granite Studio

"I’d hardly call the US track record over the past fifty years of Olympiads ’dominant.’

Nor would it seem prudent to link gold medal tallies with the health or prosperity of a particular country or economy or to the stability of its political system. After all, in the years between Seoul and Barcelona, of the top 10 countries in terms of overall gold medals in 1988: the top two (USSR and GDR) ceased to exist, four others (Romania, Bulgaria, South Korea, and Hungary) saw authoritarian regimes replaced by…less authoritarian regimes, and we all know what happened in the PRC (#8 in ‘88 with five gold medals) the summer after the Seoul games.

Wednesday, August 13

Let them eat rice

Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley says:
If part of our problem is that the Chinese are going to eat meat and you've got to have corn and soybeans to feed the Chinese their meat, then why isn't it just as legitimate for the Chinese to go back and eat rice as it is for us to change our policy on corn to ethanol?

The Folly of Obama’s Tax Plan

Although Obama is offering a new series of tax breaks, they undermine rather than improve economic incentives. First, whether or not you get those breaks will depend on your income. In Washington, taking away tax breaks as families work harder to make more money is called a “phase-out.” Economists have a different name for it—we call it a tax. Reducing a person’s tax credit as his income goes up also reduces his incentive to earn more income.
via Tyler Cowen, who adds, "I do not intend this presentation as an endorsement of John McCain's utterances on fiscal policy."

Tuesday, August 12

Anything McCain says is an underhand attack on Obama

From last night's ABC news:
CHARLES GIBSON (Off-camera) Next we're going to turn to presidential politics and a campaign strategy that was once suggested to Hillary Clinton by a top advisor in her primary campaign against Barack Obama. The idea was to question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy. But there are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now. So we turn to our senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER (Off-camera) Good evening, Charlie. Well, Senator Barack Obama this week is on vacation with his family in Hawaii, the state where he was born and where the grandmother who largely raised him still lives. Some of Obama's opponents have debated how much they want to draw attention his unusual background, his unusual roots. A Kenyan father, a childhood largely spent in Hawaii and Indonesia.

(Voiceover) As Senator Barack Obama vacations with his family in Hawaii, a controversial memo has surfaced about his roots there. In a March 2007 memo, obtained by the "Atlantic" magazine, Mark Penn, the top strategist for Obama's then rival Senator Hillary Clinton wrote that the campaign should draw attention to Obama's heritage. Obama's "boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii exposes a very weakness for him - his roots to basic American value and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not as his center fundamentally American in his thinking and values. Let's explicitly own American in our program, the speeches and the values. He doesn't." Many Democrats are disgusted.

BOB SHRUM (FORMER DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): It's an appeal to stereotypes. It's an appeal to prejudice. I think it's ugly. And I think if Hillary Clinton had done that, she would permanently besmirch her reputation, her legacy and her place in American politics.

JAKE TAPPER: (Voiceover) Some Democrats say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough.


JAKE TAPPER (Voiceover) Playing up Obama's popularity abroad.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day.

JAKE TAPPER (Voiceover) And then there was this.

ANNOUNCER (POLITICAL AD) John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.

JAKE TAPPER (Voiceover) A line many saw as implying something not American about Obama.
Wow. So because a Democrat wanted to attack Obama as foreign, and because McCain says he wants to listen to Harleys, not foreigners, and has a picture of himself as a POW, and that means he's criticizing Obama for being a foreigner? I don't think much of McCain, but according to Gibson/Tapper, virtually anything he says is an underhand attack on Obama.

The Chinese Communist Party's legitimacy

Anne Applebaum discusses Yang Jisheng's 楊繼繩 Tombstone 墓碑
If the Chinese Communist Party were to present an honest version of its own past, its own legitimacy might also come into question. Why, exactly, does a party with a history drenched in blood and suffering enjoy a monopoly on political power in China? Why does a nominally Marxist party, one whose economic theories proved utterly bankrupt in the past, still preside over an explosively capitalist society? Because there aren't any good answers to those questions, it's in the Chinese leadership's interest to make sure they don't get asked.
More on Tombstone here.

How I Make Bread

The day before I bake, I start with the following:

¼ teaspoon regular yeast (instead of rapid rise), mixed into
1 cup water; I add
2 cups flour and
1 teaspoon kosher salt (regular table salt may also work)

Mix together and let rise 6 hours in a warm place.

Refrigerate several hours (overnight, in my case)

To be able to eat at noon, I take it out of the refrigerator at 9 am, take the wet mix out of the bowl and let it rest on a floured board under an overturned bowl for an hour.

At 10 am I divide it into two, shape each one into a square, then fold the square down into a long rectangle that I shape into a baguette. During the previous two steps I try to handle it gently as to avoid puncturing bubbles.

Then I place the baguettes on the baguette mold (coated with bran) and cover them with a floured cloth to rise for a total of 1½ hours. For the first hour I leave them in a warm oven (on a rack that has unglazed quarry tiles arranged on it), and then take out the baguettes and preheat the oven to 450º.

I then bake them for 20 minutes.

Then eat!

This is a slight modification of this. While the crust is not a crisp as a real French baguette, the flavor is excellent.

Monday, August 11

A game like FISA

In the game... person, the subject, is selected from a group of people at a party and asked to leave the room. He is told that in his absence one of the other partygoers will relate a recent dream to the other party attendees. The person selected then returns to the party and, through a sequence of Yes or No questions about the dream, attempts to accomplish two things: reconstruct the dream and identify whose dream it was.

The punch line is that no one has related any dream. The individual partygoers are instructed to respond either Yes or No to the subject's questions according to some completely arbitrary rule. Any rule will do, however, and may be supplemented by a non-contradiction clause so that no answer directly contradicts an earlier one. The Yes or No requirement can be loosened as well to allow for vagueness and evasion.

The result is that the subject, impelled by his own obsessions, often constructs an outlandish and obscene dream in response to the random answers he elicits. He may think he knows whose dream it is, but then the ruse is revealed to him and he is told that the dream really has no author. In a strong sense, however, the subject himself is the dream weaver. His preoccupations dictated his questions which, even if answered negatively at first, frequently received a positive response in a later formulation to a different partygoer. These positive responses were then pursued.

Thursday, August 7

Calves-foot jelly

Calves-foot jelly has two forms: sweet, common in 19th-century Britain and America...and savoury--called petcha, a standard of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking. Both dishes start with a long braise of split cow's feet. The latter adds garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and usually retains the meat that falls from the feet; the former adds sugar, Madeira wine, brandy, cinnamon and citrus, and discards the meat. In both cases the stock is chilled until it sets, and the fat that rises to the top is skimmed off.
Also a reference to Elizabeth Gaskell's "My Lady Ludlow".

Economy of Thought

[Boone Pickens] says we spend $700 billion a year on foreign oil, which he calls a "transfer of wealth." But exchanging money for oil at the market price is an exchange of things of equal value. If we didn't value their oil more than our dollars, we wouldn't participate in such a bargain.

...these plans are fulfillments of ritual, not practical proposals -- and their authors indicate as much by the economy of thought they put into them.


Take the universal recrimination over our failure to impose tougher fuel-mileage mandates, in which Mr. Pickens also indulges. These complaints are lofted without the slightest attention to what we've actually learned in 30 years of such mandates -- that car buyers simply amortize their forced investment in fuel-saving technology by driving more miles. They buy more affordable homes farther from town; they commute longer distances to work; they trek across two counties to buy groceries at Wal-Mart rather than the pricey supermarket down the street

Wednesday, August 6

Denise Spellberg is a piece of work

...a very ugly, stupid piece of work.

Wouldn't ya know. Someone claims that Sherry Jones, the author of the maligned book, "herself is a P.C. thug of the highest order".

Tuesday, August 5

The "Hairy Polemicist"

From David Remnick's The Exile Returns:
Solzhenitsyn gave Americans little reason to relax or to admire themselves. Two of his supporters, the scholars John Ericson, of Calvin College, and John Dunlop, of the Hoover Institution, have compiled book-length collections of writing largely about the reaction to Solzhenitsyn in the West. Even in the years before Solzhenitsyn arrived in this country, the attacks came from high and low, and they were endless. In 1974, before becoming the main book critic at the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley wrote for the Knight-Ridder chain that Solzhenitsyn was a “not-very-thinly-disguised Czarist.” Writing the next year in the Guardian, Simon Winchester referred to Solzhenitsyn as the “shaggy author” and the “hairy polemicist,” and declared that he had become “the darling of the redneck population.”
Reason quotes from what is apparently D. M. Thomas' Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life:
Simon Winchester, the English Guardian's Washington correspondent, praised Ford for his "reality and integrity" in denying a hearing to the "shaggy author," the "hairy polemicist" who had become the "darling of the redneck population" after talking for an hour and a half to thousands of "sagging beer bellies."

Keeping Students Out of Science

[Contemporary American education] begins by treating children as psychologically fragile beings who will fail to learn — and worse, fail to develop as "whole persons" — if not constantly praised. The self-esteem movement may have its merits, but preparing students for arduous intellectual ascents aren't among them. What the movement most commonly yields is a surfeit of college freshmen who "feel good" about themselves for no discernible reason and who grossly overrate their meager attainments.

The intellectual lassitude we breed in students, their unearned and inflated self-confidence, undercuts both the self-discipline and the intellectual modesty that is needed for the apprentice years in the sciences. Modesty? Yes, for while talented scientists are often proud of their talent and accomplishments, they universally subscribe to the humbling need to prove themselves against the most-unyielding standards of inquiry. That willingness to play by nature's rules runs in contrast to the make-it-up-as-you-go-along insouciance that characterizes so many variants of postmodernism and that flatters itself as being a higher form of pragmatism.

The aversion to long-term and deeply committed study of science among American students also stems from other cultural imperatives. We rank the manufacture of "self-esteem" above hard-won achievement, but we also have immersed a generation in wall-to-wall promotion of diversity and multiculturalism as being the worthiest form of educational endeavor; we have foregrounded the redistributional dreams of "social justice" over heroic aspirations to discover, invent, and thereby create new wealth; and we have endlessly extolled the virtue of "sustainability" against the ravages of "progress." Do all that, and you create an educational system that is essentially hostile to advanced achievement in the sciences and technology. Moreover, those threads have a certainty and unity that make them not just a collection of educational conceits but also part of a compelling worldview.

The antiscience agenda is visible as early as kindergarten, with its infantile versions of the diversity agenda and its early budding of self-esteem lessons. But it complicates and propagates all the way up through grade school and high school. In college it often drops the mask of diffuse benevolence and hardens into a fascination with "identity."
In other words, what's wrong is the promotion of ideas like
  • self-esteem
  • diversity and multiculturalism
  • "social justice"
  • "sustainability" over "progress"

Is green U.S. mass transit a big myth?

Apparently not, because mass transit is rarely full.
A full bus or trainload of people is more efficient than private cars, sometimes quite a bit more so. But transit systems never consist of nothing but full vehicles. They run most of their day with light loads.
Yeah, the local transit always seems mostly empty whenever I see it. But is always the green move for any individual to take existing mass transit over their car. That's because the transit is running anyway, so the incremental cost of carrying one more passenger is indeed less than just about any private vehicle. It is similarly green to carpool in somebody else's car that's going your way.

Chinese parents value firstborns regardless of sex

The existence of families with more than one child has allowed researchers to track the practice of sex selection before birth, particularly since hard data on abortion and infanticide is scarce.

Health policy expert Avraham Ebenstein of Harvard University examined China's 2000 census data and found that the sex ratio of first births for couples was close to the natural sex ratio, but it became increasingly skewed following the birth of one or more daughters. That suggests parents value firstborns regardless of sex, but practice sexual selection for later children if they do not yet have a boy. 'The steep rise in sex selection rate between first and second births is responsible for 70 percent of missing girls,' Ebenstein says.

Monday, August 4

What is a "windfall" profit anyway?

How does it differ from your everyday, run of the mill profit? Is it some absolute number, a matter of return on equity or sales -- or does it merely depend on who earns it?


Mr. Obama didn't bother to define "reasonable," and neither did Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, when he recently declared that "The oil companies need to know that there is a limit on how much profit they can take in this economy." Really? This extraordinary redefinition of free-market success could use some parsing.

Take Exxon Mobil, which on Thursday reported the highest quarterly profit ever and is the main target of any "windfall" tax surcharge. Yet if its profits are at record highs, its tax bills are already at record highs too. Between 2003 and 2007, Exxon paid $64.7 billion in U.S. taxes, exceeding its after-tax U.S. earnings by more than $19 billion. That sounds like a government windfall to us, but perhaps we're missing some Obama-Durbin business subtlety.

Maybe they have in mind profit margins as a percentage of sales. Yet by that standard Exxon's profits don't seem so large. Exxon's profit margin stood at 10% for 2007, which is hardly out of line with the oil and gas industry average of 8.3%, or the 8.9% for U.S. manufacturing (excluding the sputtering auto makers).

If that's what constitutes windfall profits, most of corporate America would qualify. Take aerospace or machinery -- both 8.2% in 2007. Chemicals had an average margin of 12.7%. Computers: 13.7%. Electronics and appliances: 14.5%. Pharmaceuticals (18.4%) and beverages and tobacco (19.1%) round out the Census Bureau's industry rankings.
And what about farmers?

Friday, August 1

I was dismayed to hear Jennifer Fuller's report on WSIU radio citing the study regarding the U.S. trade deficit with China and its supposed influence on American jobs, without a hint that it might be biased. The Economic Policy Institute, which produced the report, is identified as "left-leaning". As the reporters like to say, follow the money: the report was funded by labor unions and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which are also hostile to trade.

The protectionism advocated by these parties is a form of extortion, forcing consumers to involuntary pay higher prices. Most economists will tell you that Americans as a group are net winners from trade and globalization.

The EPI ignores the creation of jobs elsewhere in the economy that are made possible by trade and globalization, which creates jobs not only through exports but also through foreign capital flowing into the United States creates jobs through direct investment in U.S. companies and indirectly by lowering interest rates, which stimulates more domestic investment.

Even when trade does displace workers, in a flexible and growing economy, new jobs are created elsewhere. In fact, job losses in manufacturing during the past decade have been more than offset by net job gains in better-paying services sectors.