Monday, March 26

Hypocrisy on gas prices

Showing this chart from The Washington Post:

David Boaz notes,
Republicans in 2006 accepted that there wasn’t much the president could do to reduce gas prices, but most of them think Obama could. Democrats show an even sharper shift; they overwhelmingly said that Bush could bring prices down, but few expect Obama to do so.

Sunday, March 25

I'm already home

Wu Zhen (吳鎮, 1280–1354)


Jonathan Chaves :
West of the village, evening rays linger on red leaves
as the moon rises over yellow reeds on the sandbank.
The fisherman moves his paddle,
thinking of home-
his pole, lying in its rack, will catch no more fish today.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Red leaves west of the village reflect evening rays,
Yellow reeds on a sandy bank cast early moon shadows.
Lightly stirring his oar,
Thinking of returning home,
He puts aside his fishing pole and will catch no more.

Tuesday, March 20

An obscurity of thinking and purpose

Reviewing The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen & Sonu Shamdasani, John Gray writes,
Ugly, coagulated sentences of this kind - of which there are many - may be no more than instances of the professional inability to write, which has become a requirement of academic life. But I think the objection to this kind of language is not simply aesthetic. Such clogged, periphrastic discourse testifies to an obscurity of thinking and purpose....
Hear, hear!

Sunday, March 18

Prove you’re not an idiot

"If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you’re not a racist, don’t vote for Obama in 2012 to prove you’re not an idiot."
Leon Cooperman, quoted by Alec MacGillis

Saturday, March 17

What is economics education like in North Korea?

As Greg Mankiw asks. I wondered the same thing. Although I should point out that Zhang Dejiang 张德江 had studied Korean in China in the early seventies, when the Cultural Revolution was still winding down, and it was still only August 1978 when he studied econ in North Korea. At that point Deng Xiaoping had just started consolidating power, and no one could have guessed how he would transform the Chinese economy.

Friday, March 16

Warren Buffett, the largest crony capitalist in the world

Enriching politicians like Dick Durbin along the way.

Scumbag Government

Democrats and Republicans share the blame for the housing debacle

In the midst of talking about her foreclosure story, Aimee Phan notes,
In 1995, President Bill Clinton initiated the National Homeownership Strategy: Partners in the American Dream to create 8 million new homeowners out of working class families, with a special focus on minorities, who historically had been priced out of homeownership.

“You want to reinforce family values in America, encourage two-parent households, get people to stay home?” President Clinton said in 1995. “Make it easy for people to own their own homes and enjoy the rewards of family life and see their work rewarded. This is a big deal. This is about more than money and sticks and boards and windows. This is about the way we live as a people and what kind of society we’re going to have.”

The government alliance with public and private housing industry organizations opened the door for subprime lenders to prey on inexperienced, but eager, first-time homebuyers. The qualifications needed to acquire a home loan sank to incredulous levels. No down payment? Not a problem. No financial documents? That’s fine. Just sign here. Under Clinton’s policy, the national homeownership rate grew to 67 percent.
So it's all the Democrats' fault, right? Not so fast:
One of the few policies President George W. Bush extended from the previous administration was expanding the homeownership market through his Ownership Society initiative. Like Clinton, Bush also argued that homeownership helped eliminate racial disparities.

“All of us here in America should believe, and I think we do, that we should be, as I mentioned, a nation of owners,” President Bush said at the White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership in 2002. “Owning something is freedom, as far as I’m concerned. It’s part of a free society. And ownership of a home helps bring stability to neighborhoods. You own your home in a neighborhood, you have more interest in how your neighborhood feels, looks, whether it’s safe or not. It brings pride to people, it’s a part of an asset-based to society. It helps people build up their own individual portfolio, provides an opportunity, if need be, for a mom or a dad to leave something to their child. It’s a part of—it’s of being a—it’s a part of—an important part of America.”

Bush’s administration created the $412 million American Dream Downpayment Initiative for first-time homebuyers and committed additional funds to housing counseling. In giddy response, mortgage lenders accelerated their subprime loan offers to even more previously excluded homebuyers. Countrywide Financial led the charge, generating nearly $100 billion in subprime loans between 2005 and 2007, more than any other lending company in the country.
She herself mostly blames others for her poor investment decision:
Our realtor and credit union loan officer convinced us to sign a five-year, interest-only ARM loan, since we intended to own the property for less than that time. They made it sound so easy, so simple, to make money on this secure, sound investment. We were plunging into the most sensible financial venture, like every responsible American should.

Yet, every conversation Matt and I had regarding the condo felt mixed and uncertain. We wondered if it was because it just felt new and unfamiliar... We should have realized the aggressive pitch the realtor and loan officer was pushing on us was one that was being pressured on millions of other first-time homebuyers.
She later adds:
Of course, it’s easy to blame someone else, especially if they are anonymous: the banks and lenders of Wall Street who encouraged these millions of impossible subprime mortgages that had to inevitably fall. It was our poor timing to come in just before they did, just as it was serendipity for my parents to enter when the market began to blossom. It is not fair. It is not even cosmic bad luck, as the fortune-teller predicted. It’s just reality.

Obama doesn't always mind rewarding irresponsible lenders and borrowers

Obama didn't exactly say "tax dollars shouldn't be used to reward the very irresponsible lenders and borrowers who helped...Solyandra". In fact,
President Obama himself told a Nevada town hall in February 2010 that “tax dollars shouldn't be used to reward the very irresponsible lenders and borrowers who helped bring about the housing crisis.”  At least that was Obama’s position until this month, when he announced a plan that would expand HAMP to include the real-estate speculators that helped inflate the housing bubble. 

Chu’s Performance Review: Way Below Expectations

Saturday, March 10

The Three Stooges

I never thought The Three Stooges were funny. As it turns out, this year they're all Republican.I'll vote for Ron Paul.

Wednesday, March 7

World Values Survey

Interesting data from the Online Data Analysis of the World Values Survey with regard to attitudes towards homosexuals, drug addicts, heavy drinkers, AIDS patients, immigrants and other possible neighbors in Greater China:
Americans & Chinese really don't want drug addicts as neighbors, except in Hong Kong, where they seem more hostile to "immigrants" (mainlanders, I'm guessing):
Because the Hong Kongers don't mind immigration that much, not nearly as much as Taiwanese:

Monday, March 5

"Geen" jobs aren't jobs

Matt Ridley:
When is a job not a job? Answer: when it is a green job. Jobs in an industry that raises the price of energy effectively destroy jobs elsewhere; jobs in an industry that cuts the cost of energy create extra jobs elsewhere.

The entire argument for green jobs is a version of Frederic Bastiat’s broken-window fallacy. The great nineteenth century French economist pointed out that breaking a window may provide work for the glazier, but takes work from the tailor, because the window owner has to postpone ordering a new suit because he has to pay for the window.