Optimistic

Just in case you still had a smidgeon of doubt that Obama’s administration is doomed to economic failure:

Obama vows to increase number of soldiers…
Obama vows to seek cure for cancer ‘in our time’…
Obama says bank bailout may cost more than expected…
Obama promises universal EDUCATION THROUGH COLLEGE…
Obama promises universal health care…

Of course, I am using the term “optimistic” in the sense of the English football commentator, who usually reserves it for a ridiculous shot taken from an absurdly long distance by the sort of player who only scores two or three goals in the best of seasons. What on Earth is the freaking point of sending a bunch of cretins who couldn’t learn to read in 12 years of high school to college? University degrees are already the virtual equivalent of high school degrees, by the time Obama is done, they may be the equivalent of finishing junior high. And a cure for cancer… why not just have done with it and promise everyone flying unicorns that smell of rainbows? I find it interesting that Obama is reduced to vowing that the USA will survive a “day of reckoning”. The mere fact that he has to say it tends to indicate that the issue is in doubt.

Meanwhile, Charles Murray is in awe: It looks very much as if the president is oblivious to everything we’ve learned about social programs and educational reforms in the last 40 years—and by “we” I include policy analysts on the left as well as right. The guy never indicates that he is aware that we’ve tried a whole bunch of the same stuff he wants to try and evaluated it repeatedly and—read my lips—it doesn’t work.

Come on, Charles, don’t player hate. Obaminate!

UPDATE – Ben Shalom stimulates more public confidence: “We’re not making it up,” Bernanke told the House Financial Services panel. “We’re working along a program that has been applied in various contexts,” he said. “We’re not completely in the dark.”

He’s right, the program has been applied in various contexts. The very small fact he left out is that it didn’t work then either.


Smells like a new book

I just received word today from a publisher that they have decided to publish my next book. It’s too soon to say anything official about it, but if you think about it, you’ll probably be able to figure out the subject matter.


Of “scientific” models and other frauds

SP emails word that other people with experience in both finance and computers have noticed the same problem with global warming that I have often described with regards to both global warming and evolution:

I have always been suspicious of climate models, in part because I spent some time in college trying to model chaotic dynamic systems, and in part because I have a substantial amount of experience with financial modeling. There are a number of common traps one can fall into when modeling any system, and it appears to me that climate modelers are falling into most of them.

Of course the underlying issue, in less mathematical terms, also tends to apply to the reliably unreliable evolutionary models. At least the global warming faithful appear to understand the basics of predictive modeling enough to try manipulating them; evolutionary biologists are so mathematically and/or computer illiterate that they often don’t understand that historical backtesting is not a dependable form of proof. For example, Richard Dawkins’s Weasel program really has to be seen to be believed; it’s an amazing demonstration of the completely obvious that not only misses the point, but exposes the crudity of the thought processes behind evolutionary theory.

And, as was pointed out in the New York Times today, no amount of hiding behind “science” will change the fact that what they’re actually doing is dogmatic politics and ideology, not actual hypothesize-test-and-observe science.

A scientist can enter the fray by becoming an advocate for certain policies, like limits on carbon emissions or subsidies for wind power. That’s a perfectly legitimate role for scientists, as long as they acknowledge that they’re promoting their own agendas. But too often, Dr. Pielke says, they pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense. To bolster their case, they’re prone to exaggerate their expertise (like enumerating the catastrophes that would occur if their policies aren’t adopted), while denigrating their political opponents as “unqualified” or “unscientific.”

“Some scientists want to influence policy in a certain direction and still be able to claim to be above politics,” Dr. Pielke says. “So they engage in what I call ‘stealth issue advocacy’ by smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones.”


Asleep at the wheel

This is sure to boost public confidence in the administration:

Barack Obama on Monday launched what he promised would be an enduring bipartisan process to bring down the fiscal deficits that have started to explode under his watch. Mr Obama, who called 130 lawmakers and members of think-tanks to the White House for what he described as a “fiscal sustainability summit”, added that by the end of his first term, he would halve the budget deficit he inherited from George W. Bush….

Although Lawrence Summers, head of the National Economic Council, fell asleep on the podium, most attendees, including Republicans, appear to have appreciated the exercise.

I’m really enjoying what passes for the Obama presidency. This economic crisis isn’t tragedy, it’s farce. And I, for one, am laughing. Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed expert on the Great Depression, Ben Bernanke, demonstrates that he didn’t learn anything pertinent from his much-ballyhooed studies of it:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Tuesday the economy is suffering through a “severe contraction” and pledged to use all available tools to lift the country out of the recession that already has cost millions of Americans their jobs…. Bernanke hoped that the current recession, now in its second year, will end this year.

If someone’s health is damaged from an overdose of steroids, giving them even more of the same steroids they previously injected isn’t going to make them better. And if an economy is contracting due to credit-inflated malinvestment, injecting more cheap money into the system to prop up the worthless investments isn’t going to cause it to grow again. The failure of the Fed to do the right thing may be a net positive in the long run, though. The credibility of central banking is rapidly being destroyed, and a failure to ward off a second Great Depression may have the capability of killing the concept for at least a few generations to come.

As I said in the AGD study, it really looks like 1930 right now. If I was in the market, I’d be watching out for an impressive bear market rally kicking off soon, then collapsing in the fall once it becomes clear that the contraction hasn’t ended, ala 1931.


The decline of Revolutionary Iran

Spengler cites observations that appear to contrast directly with the conventional wisdom:

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran’s birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran’s population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy. But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy….

Two indicators of Iranian morale are worth citing. First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. “More than 90% of Tehran’s prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying,” reports Der Standard.”

Second, according to a recent report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, “Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts.” That is, 5% of Iran’s adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century.

This is interesting, although as Spengler notes, it’s also dangerous. Anomie is not reserved to the West; it may be that Western Islam has taken on an increasingly violent aspect due a sense of cultural weakness and desperation rather than cultural confidence. Spengler’s statistics are startling, but his conclusion doesn’t surprise me too much, as whenever the short-sighted intellectual herd starts babbling about the inevitable long-term consequences of the current trend, I take that as a sign to start looking around for signs of a peak. Longtime readers will recall my similar skepticism of all the “Permanent Majority” chatter on the part of the Republican commentariat upon hitting the party hitting its high-water mark in 2004.

This highly visible generation of European Muslims are only the second generation; remember it’s usually the third generation that is most susceptible to decadence and decline. If the Islamic Republic is overcome by this spiritual decay, I think it’s more likely than not that European Islam, which has tended to follow the radical arc of Khomeini’s Revolution, will eventually do so as well. This is especially true in light of the economic chaos that should dominate the next decade or two, as it will almost surely see the end of the continent-wide collection of multiculti-promoting governments.

Spengler previously commented upon these developments with a memorable aphorism: “A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women.”


Speed at the Combine

I think I’m pleased that the Vikings appear likely to pick up Sage Rosenfels. If nothing else, he’s demonstrated that he’s a competent NFL quarterback and he’s not going to cost them too much either. I think I’d still consider drafting a project in the later rounds, though, as I think it’s unlikely that Rosenfels will ever be an elite quarterback. Still, he can’t be worse than the Tarvaris Jackson Experiment or the Frerotte Interception Machine.

By the way, all the talk about 40 times got me curious, so I looked up my old times. It seems I was just a bit faster than Reggie Bush, at 4.32 to his 4.33. However, one thing I didn’t realize is that at the Combine times are artificially fast compared to track times, since at the Combine the timing is started in reaction to the player’s movement, whereas track starts are in reaction to the gun. Under those easier conditions, I think I might have had a shot at going under 4.3.

In fairness, I have to point out that very few football players have any idea how to start. I wasn’t especially good out of the blocks, but I was once challenged by the fastest rugby player at the university. He beat me when we started standing up on grass and ran the length of the rugby field, but when we raced 55m on the track, I blew him away by several steps. So, technique obviously makes a difference.

Dammit, I should have played cornerback….


The Little Old Ones

I think Jamie will rather like this one. It’s a very good quasi-remake of Blackbox’s Ride on Time by J-ax, a Milanese rapper, called I Vecchietti Fanno O. It’s very catchy and is on all the time at the gym lately. The lyrics are actually rather smart, describing how his “iron generation” has aged without maturing.

How do you, how do you, how do you
Get old without maturity?
It will touch us, it will touch us
Getting old without maturity.

While the song is openly celebratory of this lifelong immaturity, with amusing lines about putting a DJ on the dance floor of the old folks home and how it will be surprising if anyone lives long enough to make it there given the Cold War and the way everyone used tanning beds, one shouldn’t mistake the cynical attitude underneath it either. I Vecchietti Fanno O is a very Generation X response to the Baby Boomers and their My Generation theme. There’s no bathetic posturing about hoping to die before one gets old, merely a desire to preserve a youthful mentality in old age. Let’s face it, there’s no doubt that some of us will be playing Nintendo Wii, or the 2050 equivalent, in the retirement home.

As a one-time lyricist myself, I especially liked the way he turned the repetition of “You’re such a…” into “I already know it”, which in Italian sounds almost identical to the English. And it’s interesting that Italians are about the only European nationality that has flow, although the language is certainly a big help with its easy rhymes.


Why do women feel so angry?

The answer, quite obviously, is because they’re stupid:

I’m filled with a permanent nebulous, undirected rage that my life has become a Gordian knot of obligations, responsibilities, guilt, duties and expectations. I can’t even go for a walk in the park without factoring in the needs of half a dozen people. I resent that every second of my day is owned by someone else….

Unlike a man, I just can’t seem to find it in me to say ‘No’.

Not all women are angry. Not all women have multiple marriages, step-children, children, and full-time careers, while also harboring ambitions to become a writer and/or a mermaid princess. This woman has completely failed to understand the basic concept of opportunity cost; when middle-class women were told by men that they could not have it all, that it was impossible to have a serious career and be a good wife and mother, too many of them shrieked “sexist” and blithely proceeded to plunge themselves into impossible situations. You’ve come a long way, baby, now shut up and take it like the man you wanted to be.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for these idiotic, overscheduled, pride-filled women who are far more concerned for their public image than for their families or their jobs. My sympathies are reserved for the children whose lives they are ruining, the men who mysteriously choose to put up with them, the nannies who have to pick up the pieces after them, and the societies that are in decline in part because of them.

She wants to be acknowledged? By all means, let us freely acknowledge that women of this sort are foolish, short-sighted, functionally stupid, and most of all, a regrettable artifact of a peculiar moment in history that will soon be gone.


WND column

War or wu-wei?

Last week, I explained the purpose of Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill and why it is doomed to fail. Intriguingly, Wall Street’s massive vote of no confidence in the bill, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average drop 6.2 percent last week and smash through significant technical support at 7,550, seems to have shaken the confidence of some of the economists who had most strongly supported the stimulus notion.

After reading Krugman’s blog post attacking the Gilded Age this weekend, I’m a little less convinced that he’s moving away from his previous position. Instead, it’s entirely possible that he’s simply demonstrating intellectual incoherence, as he doesn’t seem to realize that part of what he wrote in that post directly contradicts what was written in the NYT column published a few days later. And it should be very interesting to see what the neokeyns make of Obama’s proposal to cut the budget deficit by raising taxes and reducing some spending, as an untimely focus on deficit reduction is precisely why they claim FDR’s New Deal wasn’t properly applied Keynesianism.


Correct me if I’m wrong

But something doesn’t seem to add up here. Some guy named Spencer posting on Paul Krugman’s and Matt Yglesias’s blogs cites the following statistic in discussing whether economic growth was better during the 66 years between 1850 and WWI or the 63 years between the end of WWII and 2008.

Real per capita gdp growth
1800-1850…0.7%
1850-1950…1.4%
1950-2008…2.1%

Now, it’s entirely possible that I’m missing something, but it would be interesting to know where Spencer got his numbers. Because, if one takes a look at the actual numbers from which real GDP per capita can be derived, using 2000 dollars, US GDP is reported as $43.92 billion in 1850 and $583.7 billion in 1916 when the US entered WWI. That’s 13.3x growth in 66 years. Since the US population grew from 23,191,876 to 101,961,000 over that period, (4.4x), real GDP per capita rose from $1,893.77 to $5,724.74, or 3.02x.

That’s more than twice the GDP growth in the post-WWII period where real GDP grew from $1,786.3 billion in 1945 to $11,671.3 billion in 2008. That’s 6.5x growth in 63 years. So, the US economy grew less than half as much, although since the population also grew at a slower rate, from 139.9 million to 303.8 million (2.17x), the change in real GDP per capita, from $12,765.84 in 1945 to $38,414.59 in 2008, means that the total growth in real GDP per capita was basically identical over the two periods at 3x. But this means annual GDP per capita growth averaged around 4.5 percent, which is twice what Spencer is reporting for the post-1950 period and 4x 1850.

Anyhow, if I’m correct and GDP growth over both periods averaged 4.5 percent per capita, the GDP growth over the 1850-1916 period is arguably more impressive because GDP not only increased twice as fast but the period also spanned a very destructive civil war. The post-1945 period, on the other hand, was not only relatively peaceful, but also gave an unharmed and steroid-boosted American economy the benefit of selling to a world that had seen much of its productive capacity destroyed by WWII.

Also, I’m not sure how appropriate the use of a per capita statistic in the place of real GDP growth is anyhow. It seems to have been selected to reduce the impact of the historical GDP growth, and given the negative effects of immigration we’ve seen over the last 20 years, can anyone seriously argue that the addition of another 160 million immigrants would have necessarily increased recent economic growth? I mean, if that were the case, then why don’t we just import all 160 million now… hang on, I think I just figured out how what passes for the mind of a Republican politician operates.