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Archive for February, 2011

Fetishizing Food and Sex: Libs and Cons

February 22nd, 2011 Comments off

A propos of B. R. Myers’ takedown of moralizing, self-satisfied, holier-than-thou foodies and food writing in The Atlantic:

It’s been said that liberals fetishize food the way conservatives fetishize sex.

But I realize there’s a difference: for conservatives, out-of-wedlock sex is bad. For libs, bad food is bad (especially — but not only — when it’s manufactured/store-bought).

One is about social sanction. The other is about aesthetics.

Do with that what you will.

Just Cause I Thought This Was Hilarious — For Multiple Reasons

February 20th, 2011 1 comment

From Steven Jay Gould’s The Flamingo’s Smile:

A hungry female black widow spider is also a formidable eating machine, and courting males must exercise great circumspection. On entering a female’s web, the male taps and tweaks some of her silk lines. If the female charges. the male either beats a hasty retreat or sails quickly away on his own gossamer. If the female does not respond, the male approaches slowly and cautiously, cutting the female’s web at several strategic points, thereby reducing her routes of escape or attack. The male often throws several lines of silk about lhe female, called, inevitably I suppose, the “bridal veil.” They are not strong. and the larger female could surely break them. but she generally does not. And copulation, as they like to say in the technical literature, “then ensues.” The male, blessed with paired organs for transferring sperm, inserts one palp, then, if not yet attacked by the female, the other. Hungry females may then gobble up their mates, completing the double-entendre of a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Is This Person Liberal or Conservative? In One Question.

February 20th, 2011 1 comment

The OK Trends blog on the OK Cupid dating site is pretty amazing. They pull all their hundreds of millions of pieces of data and suss out amazing facts about how people are, and how they interact. Here’s a beaut re: politics and ideology (Jonathan Haidt, take note):

The Best Questions For A First Date « OkTrends.

Say it Ain’t So!

February 20th, 2011 2 comments

Hands over ears, eyes closed, humming loudly. (Hey, it always works for me.)

During a private commission meeting last week, all four Republicans voted in favor of banning the phrases “Wall Street” and “shadow banking” and the words “interconnection” and “deregulation” from the panels final report, according to a person familiar with the matter and confirmed by Brooksley E. Born, one of the six commissioners who voted against the proposal.

via Financial Crisis Panel In Turmoil As Republicans Defect; Plan To Blame Government For Crisis.

Government Investment and the Post-70s Prosperity Gap

February 15th, 2011 11 comments

Does this look like a smoking gun to you? To me, at least, it looks like a very likely contributor to the stagnation of prosperity growth that we’ve seen since the 70s.

This is fed, state, local spending combined. I’ve cut off the top and bottom to concentrate on the post-war period, and because earlier years were wildly volatilized by the Depression and the war.

From ’52 to ’68 — sixteen years — government was quite literally investing in America, to the tune of >3% of GDP annually.

Over the next sixteen years that commitment to future prosperity steadily decayed. By the fourth year of Reagan’s term we were spending 1.8% of GDP — a 42% drop from 1968 levels, down 48% from the peak in 1958. It’s been floating around that low level for the last 26 years.

Update: This graph shows an even greater decline — total government investment spending, including structures, hardware (equipment), and software.

If you saw this graph for a business’s investment in fixed assets — with a graph of profits that follows right along with it — what would think about its prospects for long-term growth?

“No significant deregulation of financial institutions occurred in the last 30 years”

February 15th, 2011 6 comments

This from a dissenting view (PDF) to the Report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, by Peter Wallison — a fellow of the (wait for it…) American Enterprise Institute.

The depths of Republican self-delusion continue to be nothing short of breathtaking, even awe-inspiring in their magnificence.

What Caused The Great Recession? The Economist Sez: Too Much Money

February 13th, 2011 Comments off

As in, money, a.k.a. “liquidity.”

This in their review of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report:

Postmortems on the financial crisis: The official verdict | The Economist.

A criticism of three of the refuseniks—that the report fails to take proper account of the weight of global capital seeking returns by investing in American mortgages—is absolutely fair. Ask people in property what caused the crisis and the answer will invariably be the amount of liquidity in the system.

Emphasis mine.

1.Too much of our national income, savings, and wealth has been funneled off to circulate in the expanding whirlpool of the financial economy, instead of circulating in the real economy where people produce, consume, invest in, buy, and sell actual goods and services that are of value to humans.

2. At the same time, since the 1980s massive quantities of money/liquidity have been manufactured out of thin air (“printed”: primarily by financial institutions, with help from the government) and injected into the financial economy instead of the real econonomy.

See the first link above for details.

You Gotta Give Reagan Credit

February 8th, 2011 2 comments

The Most Depressing Graph I’ve Seen in a While

February 6th, 2011 3 comments

GDP Deflator and CPI

Not because it shows us how bad things are.

Because it shows us how little we know about how good or bad things are.

What’s a 1975 dollar worth today?

Either $3.40 or $4.21, depending on who you ask. That’s a 24% difference.

Every inflation-adjusted analysis you see depends on one of these price deflators, or one like them.

The lessons here:

• Whenever possible, try to draw your judgments based on analysis of nominal dollars, not real dollars. Ratios help here — Measurement X / GDP, for instance, instead of “Real” Measurement X.

• When you’re looking at analyses, watch out for ones that use multiple, different deflators. The NIPA tables have different deflators for different things, for fairly good reasons. But not every analyst is anything like as diligent in their efforts (flawed as they may be) as the NIPA compilers.

Prices and Plutocrats – NYTimes.com.

It’s Unanimous: Cut Spending! (As long as you don’t cut spending!)

February 5th, 2011 8 comments

Voter Ignorance Threatens Deficit Reduction. By Bruce Bartlett.

Feb. 1, 2011, YouGov poll found only one program, culture and the arts, on which a majority of people are willing to spend less…

Jan. 26, 2011, Gallup poll found 59 percent of people favoring cuts to foreign aid, but a majority opposed cutting any other programs…

Jan. 25, 2011, CNN/Opinion Research poll found a strong 71 percent of people want to reduce the size of government. When questioned about specifics, foreign aid again topped the list, with 81 percent favoring cuts. But only two other programs got majority support…

Jan. 12, 2011, Ipsos/Reuters poll … A strong majority oppose cutting Medicare, education, Social Security,…

All my gentle readers know, of course, that foreign aid is way less than 1% of government budgets, and a vanishingly small percentage of GDP…