Friday, June 30, 2006

Math error causes bridge accident

During bridge construction in Tacoma, Washington, a ship bringing road-deck sections hit the existing Tacoma Narrows Bridge, due to a math error. A large one. The distance from the water to the under side of the existing bridge is 135 feet - at high tide I assume; the tides run over 15 feet. Their calculation said that the loaded barge would clear by 36 feet. So they tossed some scaffolding on top. When going under the bridge the scaffolding hit it. An error of 36 feet out of 135 feet? That's 26.6667 per cent. That's a huge error. Who made it? The Washington State Department of Transportation. Seattle Times

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Doha Round - more trade, less poverty

The World Trade Organization negotiations called "the Doha Round" is at a critical point. We need the diplomats to succeed for the benefit of the people of the US and of every country that participates. Wall Street Journal (paid subscription)
The record on how trade can spur development is compelling. The World Bank has estimated that, in the 1990s, per capita real income grew three times faster for developing countries that significantly lowered trade barriers (5%) than for other developing countries that lowered barriers less (1.4%). Just as important, the income gains were enjoyed by people at all income levels. The World Bank also estimates that eliminating trade barriers in goods alone (not including trade in the rapidly growing services sector), could boost incomes in developing countries by at least $142 billion a year. That figure exceeds the combined total of $80 billion in foreign economic assistance by G-7 countries last year and a current G-7 proposal for $42 billion for developing country debt relief.
And despite being a fraction the economic size of manufacturing and information services, agriculture is holding things up:
The United States put forward an offer last fall to make meaningful cuts in trade-distorting domestic agricultural supports if other countries would reciprocate with deep cuts in tariffs and trade-distorting domestic support. So far, our trading partners have not matched our ambition -- but it is not too late.
Hope that they will be successful in making a good deal.

US government plans to violate contracts

This is very serious. The US Treasury Bill is the - or one of the - most respected investment in the world. It earned this pinnacle because our government is stable and trustworthy. But many in Congress has voted to break that trust. Not on treasury bills, but on oil contracts. They don't like the deals that were made under Bill Clinton. You know, the Democrats gave the store away to big business. So they are talking about asking the oil companies that bought the contracts to renegociate them. Not! They don't intend to ask, but to force them. In English that means the US Government would break the contracts. There are some other ideas being floated. To give preference to the companies that voluntarily accept worse terms. There is nothing voluntary about that. It's forcing, but using a euphemism. The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription) reports:
The House has passed and the Senate Appropriations Committee is considering a measure that would punish companies that refuse to renegotiate the leases, granted by the Interior Department in 1998 and 1999, by barring them from bidding on new leases. Meanwhile, the House is to vote today on a measure proposed by Rep. Richard Pombo, a California Republican, that would require companies that won't agree to pay a higher royalty to pay a "conservation of resources fee" that would add $9 a barrel or $1.25 for each thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced.
Now this is better:
A third approach, being pushed by Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, wouldn't punish the companies but would encourage them to renegotiate the contracts to raise their royalty payments as "the right thing to do." He said he was confident that most companies will do so if Congress doesn't impose penalties. "I want to make sure that this Congress respects contract sanctity," he said.
Rep. Pombo has been on my good list for years. He is stepping off of it. Do I make myself clear? I am opposed to our government violating contracts.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Europe Kyoto hypocrites

The Europeans talk big. They are always right and the US always wrong. They are smart and sensitive; we are dumb and brute force. The US spoke clearly about the Kyoto treaty on the atmosphere. Before the conference the Senate voted 95-0 to reject it if developing countries were exempted. AlGore signed it anyway. President Clinton talked big about it, but never submitted the treaty to the Senate for confirmation. That tarnished our record, but Bush set it straight. President Bush announced that we would not join the Kyoto protocol, though we would work on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. That really got the Europeans looking down on us. Well, if they look down they won't see the US. We are above them now. None of the countries of Europe is meeting its "Kyoto commitment" to reduce greenhouse emissions. And the program they set up to trade carbon emission rights was cheated on by everyone except the believing British. First, on CO2 emissions at Yahoo News:
New data has shown that the European Union (EU) remains embarrassingly off track for meeting its pledges under the Kyoto Protocol, the UN climate-change pact it championed after a US walkout. Instead of falling, EU greenhouse-gas pollution actually rose in the latest year of monitoring, adding to the task of meeting the Kyoto goals, according to figures released by the European Environment Agency (EAA) in Copenhagen. "Despite the various policy initiatives, this report highlights that the trend is still going in the wrong direction," declared EAA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade.
Second, on carbon credit trading -
Amidst much fanfare last year, European and other signatories to the Kyoto treaty adopted emission trading as their method of choice to tackle global warming – instead of economy-busting carbon taxes or draconian command-and-control regulations. Under this scheme, each participating country is given a carbon allowance, which it then divvies among its domestic industry in the form of pollution rights or credits. Companies are allowed to trade these credits with each other on the theory that those able to cut emissions cheaply would have an incentive to do so --and sell their spare credits to others for whom cuts are more expensive, keeping overall program costs as low as possible. But this so-called market-based scheme collapsed in May when prematurely released data revealed that there was a glut of credits. The per ton prices for these credits dropped from 31 Euros to 12 Euros in just three weeks, finally settling near 9 Euros. If the credit glut – and subsequent market crash – had stemmed from dramatic emission reductions as some initially thought, it would be cause for celebration. In fact, it was the result of an overly generous allocation of credits.
And the author goes on the explain how every country except the UK "overestimated" their expected level of carbon use - read that "cheated." So the whole thing is a joke. Via James D. Hudnall Past: Nuclear for Kyoto Fears

Blair Kills Kyoto at Clinton's Summit

Krugman fact checking

Paul Krugman tells so many fibs in his columns that a cottage industry has sprung up to fact check everything he writes. And they find something every week. After requesting the New York Times to publish corrections. Repeatedly. Then insisting, the NYT started doing it. And when their ombudsman retired last year in his final column he expressed regret that he didn't get after Krugman on his consistent errors. Congratulations to David Lundry of Kirkland for getting this letter published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (about the 6th one down).
Bush's plan was not exactly a big secret Paul Krugman again demonstrates that in his writing he never lets facts get in the way of one of his themes. In his Tuesday column, he writes that when running for re-election, George W. Bush "waited until after the election to reveal that what he really wanted to do was privatize Social Security." In his speech to the 2004 Republican convention, Bush said, "We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account -- a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away." Of course, that was not the only time Bush mentioned his plan to privatize Social Security during the campaign. David Lundry Kirkland
Via "Krugman fact-check central" Donald Luskin.

Airbus - when in trouble form a circle and start firing

Airbus bit off a huge challenge developing the huge A380 within their own schedule. And the risk is huge, since it is at the edge of the market - only suitable for flying between the largest hubs. The A380 delivery schedule has slipped by 6 months - twice now. And Airbus needs a new plane to compete with the Boeing 787, but the A380 is taking all their development money and the skilled people. So they can't respond. The 787 has out sold the Airbus A350 by 3 to 1. And the Airbus A340 has been stopped by the new long-range 777-200LR and -300LR. So the Airbus leaders formed a circle and started firing at each other. Thomas Lifson has an excellent summary at The American Thinker.
Airbus, the European champion of the cause of state-directed enterprise, is in crisis. Even French President Jacques Chirac has been forced to acknowledge “management problems” at Airbus’ parent EADS, which is partially owned by the French State. Going into the last weekend, a spokesman for the French Finance Minister Thierry Breton offered a 72 hour deadline to “sort out” Airbus and its parent EADS. There are plenty of problems to sort out, and the deadline has come and gone with not much sorting, and almost no outing, evident in the public sphere.
And Boeing people here in Seattle like this:
Costly though this will be, the damage to Airbus’ credibility could be even cotlier. Most industry observers are skeptical about other important promises not yet delivered, including critical range and fuel economy specifications. One observer noted: ‘There is huge reputational damage here. Would you buy an aircraft from these people today? The answer is probably no. You’d go to Boeing.’
Quote source: UK Guardian.

Monday, June 26, 2006

We have it much better than 100 years ago

Is life tough? Is the price of everything going up? Not according to the historical statistics. Prices have gone down. Quality of life has improved greatly during the past 100 years. Our income per person in real dollars (adjusted for inflation) has tripled. But really more than that, because in 1901 people spent 80% of their income on the big three while now we spend only 50% on those. So the remainder that is available for health care, transportation, education and entertainment went from 20% of the small income to 50% of the tripled income. So it multiplied by 2.5 times 3 which is 7.5 - seven and a half times more income is available for health, education, transportation and discretionary spending. The Century Survey was authored by Bureau of Labor Statistics regional commissioners in New York and Boston. Seattle Times reports:
With most jobs paying less than 30 cents an hour, food was expensive: the average cost per pound was 13 cents for bacon, 27 cents for butter and 22 cents for a dozen eggs. As mass production made food more plentiful and cheaper, the share of the family budget taken by food steadily declined, dropping to 13.1 percent in 2002-03.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

New York Time vs. America

The New York Times has decided that they can determine what is necessary to keep America safe. Of course if there is another terrorist attack it will be President Bush's fault. He is at fault for anything that goes wrong. But the New York Times reserves to it self the right to eliminate programs that keep us safe. Military blogger Sgt. T. F Boggs asks Times editor Keller why he chose to cause American soldiers to be killed. Hugh Hewitt suggests that Congress makes clear it has been violated by Mr. Keller:
Not, of course, with a law curtailing press freedom, which would be unconstitutional and opposed by any friend of the Constitution. But rather, as Bill Kristol and I just spent a segment discussing, with House and Senate Resolutions --preferably drafted, debated and voted on next week-- expressing outrage at the endangering of national security via the publication of sensitive national security information that obviously assists terrorists in eluding capture or killing. Perhaps the papers would find some supporters among the congressmen and senators, but I believe that a strongly worded condemnation of the papers'actions would pass, and would as Bill argued, send the message that it isn't the Bush Adminsitration the papers are defying, but the legislative branch as well.
We are all less safe because the New York Times decided that they have the final word on endangering our lives.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Can the World Bank improve poverty?

How can the World Bank improve poverty when it avoids independent evaluation of its programs? Professor Adam Lerrick of Carnegie Mellon, published by Cato Institute, reports that WB has its own captive audit department which delivers glowing reports about every program. It has rejected suggestions that a truly independent group be assigned to audit its programs. Instead it renamed its internal evaluation group to be the "Independent Evaluation Department." And no one is allowed access to the data to undertake their own evaluations. The following is from an email from Cato. I will look for an on-line version when my internet access improves.
The optimism of weighty reports cannot cover up the realities on the ground. The living standards of the poorest nations have stagnated and even declined as much as 25 percent.1 Thirty-eight countries have amassed $71 billion in unpayable multilateral loans, encouraged by the bank’s self-serving projections of country growth, on which rich country taxpayers must now make good. Corruption has been exposed both within the bank and in its programs and is now estimated at more than $100 billion.2 Protest is rising among leading African scholars who seek to stop all aid because it serves only to entrench and enrich a series of corrupt elites. Massive anecdotal evidence of waste, ineptitude, and outright theft can no longer be ignored. The bank gives itself good marks and boasts that more than three-quarters of projects completed had “satisfactory outcomes.”3 But when the auditors are captive, when the timing of judgment is premature, when the criteria are faulty, and when the numbers are selectively manipulated—how credible are the conclusions?
And a footnote points out:
Aid was not the moving force behind the impressive gains in China, India, and Indonesia where virtually all progress in developing-country living standards has occurred.
And it is your money that they are using: $2.5 billion per year for the next 40 years is from US taxpayers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cut taxes, Raise spending and Reduce the deficit

President George Bush did it. Rich Lowry reports at National Review
When President Bush pledged in 2004 to cut the deficit in half by 2009, critics guffawed. The Boston Globe headlined a story, “Bush’s plan to halve federal deficit seen as unlikely; higher spending, lower taxes don’t mix, analysts say.” “Fanciful,” “laughable” and “all spin,” said the critics. Well, it turns out that 2009 might be coming early this year. The 2004 deficit had been projected to hit $521 billion, or 4.5 percent of gross domestic product. Bush’s goal was to cut it to 2.25 percent of GDP by 2009—not exactly as stirring a national goal as putting a man on the moon, but one that was nonetheless pronounced unattainable. This year, the deficit could go as low as $300 billion, right around the 2009 goal of 2.5 percent of GDP.
Growth did it.
The key to the reduction is revenue growth, which has been stoked by economic growth. Government revenues are up 12.9 percent in the first eight months of this year over the same eight-month period last year—without any tax increases. When individuals, investors, and corporations have more cash in a growing economy, they send more to the federal government in tax payments. This, despite—or, more accurately, because of—a couple of rounds of Bush tax cuts that were supposed to have been fiscally ruinous
Growth caused by tax cuts. It's not magic.

Censorship in Nevada

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the valedictorian of Foothill High School Valerie McComb was cut off in mid speech by school authorities. Because she was going to mention the influence of God in her life. This is censorship. Censorship is prior restraint of speech by the government. It's not done after, but before. It cannot be done by a newspaper or other media. It is done by the government. She was speaking her own thoughts. Establsihment of a church was not involved, because she wrote her speech, not the cowardly school bureaucrats. The Las Vegas Review-Journal The school bureaucrats way their position has been upheld by the 9th US Circuit Court. That is basis to conclude they are in error, because the 9th is the Circuit most over turned by the US Supreme Court.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wind Power and Evil Profits

There is good news and bad news on wind power. Good: Wind power is a good enough investment with the higher oil and gas prices that private investors are putting up millions of dollars to install 133 wind turbines that together will generate 200 MWatts of power - enough to supply 60,000 homes. Bad: Profit. People will make money off it. The ranchers will get substantial royalty checks - $160,000 per year for one family. The Big Horn project is near Bickleton, Washington. Google Map - I couldn't get "Bickleton" to show, but it's at the middle of this map. Actually the Seattle Times might be saying that it is good that the ranchers are making money off the use of their land. It just seems out of character.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The sound of one hand clapping

Senator Joe Biden is running for president of the United States. Don't get too excited. Will he ever stop talking about himself? He was the low light - well, one of them - of the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito for Supreme Court. HIs knowledge of international affairs is nearing disappearing, but he considers himself to be an expert. He will raise a lot of dust - if he can. And give the Republicans some room.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Allow investment or else stagnate

Mexico is protecting its oil industry from outside influence. By not allowing foreign investment. On the other hand, Alberta, Canada welcomes investment - about $80 billion. Mexico has a per capita income of $6,000 per year and its oil industry is in-grown and stagnant. Alberta's is growing and innovating; per capita income is $55,000. There is a corelation. The Wall Street Journal reports (mail link should work for a few days):
The idea of a virtual wall to stop risk capital from entering Mexico is so dumb that only a political class actively pursuing poverty could be perpetuating it in today's global economy. With oil at $70 a barrel, the opportunity costs of Mexico's monopoly energy policy are skyrocketing. That's not the only problem. Pemex's union pensions are unfunded and Mexico's proven reserves are shrinking. If nothing is done to change the model, Mexico's oil sector and Pemex retirees are both in real jeopardy.
Unfortunately the voters of Mexico don't realize the damage done by preventing investment:
In the July 2 presidential race, the hard-left candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Andres Manuel López Obrador, is running on a pledge to protect Pemex as is. This champion of old, authoritarian Mexico from the desperately poor, oil-rich state of Tabasco is now in a statistical dead heat with the more free-market National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderon. Mr. Calderon has timidly suggested that, yes, perhaps Mexico might open the energy market to some private investment but he has not made it a major issue in the campaign. Voters are rational but not necessarily informed. That's what political debate is for. Unfortunately, Mexican politicians seem to have concluded that Pemex -- the Mexican symbol of sovereignty against the mighty North -- is the third rail of politics and it's best not to go near it. If that's the case, the past is prologue.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Great Econ writer Tim Harford

A journalist who explains economics so people like you and me can understand: Tim Harford writes for the Financial Times of the UK. Visit his own website for columns and Dear Economist. His book The Undercover Economist I will read before I spend time on Freakonomics. Harford's topics are more "every day."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On Trial for Insulting Islam

Oriana Fallaci is on trial in Italy for insulting Islam. That's as bad as a "hate crime" trial in the US. Jihad Watch reports. Courtroom Jihad in Italy: the Fallaci trial begins today, no doubt with the mujahedin laughing behind their palms at the indignant compliant dhimmis. Indignant, that is, at Fallaci, not at the mujahedin who so skillfully use our legal system and the prevailing and suicidal multiculturalist zeitgeist against us. As one Muslim leader told the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey, Giuseppe Bernardini: “Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you.” Buy her book The Force of Reason. It's now at #677 on Amazon! I have to rush to work...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Al Gore's fiction show continues

* * See the update below * * Albert Gore, Jr., is counting on you and I to forget what he did in Congress for years. Gore was the tobacco agriculture and industry's defender. But he tells audiences that after his sister Nancy dies of lung cancer his family turned away from tobacco. But he is lying. And counting on us to forget. Debra Saunders reports:
Just 10 years ago, Gore told the Democratic National Convention that after his sister Nancy's needless death in 1984 from lung cancer, he committed himself "heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking." In his new film, Gore again dredges up his sister's death and how it led his once tobacco-growing family to turn away from tobacco. After the DNC speech, reporters with memories intervened. America learned that contrary to his rhetoric, in 1988 Gore campaigned as a tobacco farmer who told his brethren that "all of my life," I hoed it, chopped it, shredded it, "put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it." The year his sister died, Gore helped the industry by fighting efforts to put the words "death" and "addiction" on cigarette-warning labels. For years, Gore supported Big Tobacco in other ways.
Is he totally dishonest? Or just in far, far over his head? It looks like both. When he took office as Vice President of the United States one of his first projects was to streamline government - not to make it smaller, but so it could take on more. He set hundreds of civil servants, I mean, bureaucrats, to scurrying around brainstorming, writing memos, having meetings and getting awards for doing their jobs faster with fewer resources. One his fist big announcements of a way to improve his government had already been discovered by every 4th level file clerk:
When the budget process takes away funding that is not spent at the end of the budget year you buy anything - anything - because if you don't spend the money you get less the next year. Because you obviously didn't need it; you didn't spend it.
Albert Gore, Jr., proudly and sincerely announced his big discovery around the country. A high school sophomore could have done his job. Saunders continues but it's not so much fun. His main problem is not lack of work experience, but being able to separate the facts from the fiction he weaves. - Gore signed the Kyoto protocol despite a prior vote by the US Senate 95-0 against its provisions. Because of that vote Clinton never asked for the Senate vote that was required to put it in force. - "Average automobile fuel-efficiency hit a 19-year low under Clinton/Gore -- it was worse than under Ronald Reagan. President Bush has raised fuel standards more than Clinton/Gore." One of my favorite Albert Gore, Jr., -isms was when he debated Vice President Dan Quayle. I rushed home from work to watch that, because I knew Quayle was a match for Gore. Quayle intended to make easy points by quoting from Albert Gore, Jr.'s book The Earth in the Balance. He had the decency to contact Albert Gore, Jr's office to tell him he was going to bring the book to the debate. Albert Gore, Jr's office told Quayle not to bring the book that Gore is so proud of. Is he proud of it? Gore had to hide from what he had written when his political future was on the line. That is the kind of man he is. * * Update 7/8/06 * * Albert Gore, Jr's movie is a "success." "An Inconvenient Truth" has grossed $13.8 million in only 6 weeks. That's more than $2 million a week, while currently playing only 562 screens. SF
"It's been very impressive, especially for a documentary that is essentially a slide show," Dergarabedian said.
--------- Also. The Oklahoma University College Republicans gave out free snow cones to students for an event they called "Global Cooling Day."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Racial Government Defeated

Good news. The US Senate did not get the supermajority needed to pass Daniel Arakaka's racial government. It would have set up a separate government for only those with one drop of Hawaiian blood. Hawaii is very diverse and integrated, so this would be a step backward socially as well as an insult to every American. I saw it reported that there were no hearings on Akaka's bill in Hawaii. There is a lot of opposition to it and old Daniel didn't want to hear it. So he didn't allow a hearing. Honolulu Advertiser
But opponents hammered at the bill, saying it would create an unconstitutional, race-based government. "Nearly every time our government has taken race into account when dealing with its citizens, the effects have been detrimental if not devastating," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the assistant majority leader. "Unfortunately, today the Senate is considering a bill that would wreck the progress we have made." McConnell said the bill "violates the letter and spirit" of the Constitution. "The way this bill tries to maneuver around this unconstitutionality is by ... creating a new tribe of Native Hawaiians," he said. "But this new tribe is a shell game. As recently as 1998, the state of Hawai'i itself acknowledged that the tribal concept has no historical basis in Hawai'i."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rev. Dale Turner

A fine, positive man passed away in Lake Forest Park, WA, yesterday. Rev. Dale Turner was a Congregational minister who spread a very positive view of mankind, how a positive attitude helps and having one. He retired about 24 years ago, then wrote a newspaper column until a year ago. His theology was pretty liberal for me. But I totally appreciated his positive message. I heard him speak at least once. He passed out cards with positive phrases on them. They were fun for their variety - in shape, paper color, ink color and font. Since he lived in my suburban city I have seen him a few times. And last September when I was working at the polls he and his wife came in to vote. I asked him about his book that had recently been published. He answered my question, then thanked me for asking! The Seattle Times featured him on the front page today.

The Age Time Bomb

This is one where the US is better than all other developed countries - even than China! But we have to be concerned about the aging of our population. The portion of our population over age 60 will increase from 16.7% to 26.4% by 2050. With fewer people in the work force, but more on Social Security and Medicare, our economy will slow down. For the investor this means we must demand higher returns on long-term bonds, not in 2050, but soon. Higher interest rates. So we want and need more workers in the next generation. Either by birth of by immigration. The situation is much worse in Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Russia. And CHINA! China's one-child policy is already "paying off" with shortages of young workers in many skills. See "Shortage of Workers in China?" But the future will be much worse. According to the UN data China will move from lower than the US to considerably higher on the over age 60 fraction. This Wall Street Journal email link should work for a few days.
... geopoliticians are focusing most on China and the U.S. -- the world's fastest-rising power and its incumbent. China is following an aging course similar to that of Japan, but its trends hold more dangers as it begins from a lower income base with less-developed pension and health systems. Mr. Bennett talks about a 1-2-4 equation, where one Chinese child supports two parents who support four grandparents, but in reality, many parents have no child to support them. "There's this slow-motion humanitarian tragedy coming down the track for China," Mr. Eberstadt says.
And Russia is in terrible shape. The birth rate is lower and the death rate is higher. Oil in the ground can only be used once. But the human resource is creative for 50 years and is what makes a nation great. The US:
He says the U.S. trend is more a story of its "exceptionalism" among industrialized countries, with higher birthrates that grow out of significantly different attitudes. U.S. birthrates are 30% higher per family than those of Europe or Canada. "This is the expression of millions of unorganized, spontaneous couples," says Mr. Eberstadt, who adds that the U.S. will be the only industrialized country to hold on to its share of global population in the next half century. That also will give it more of a risk-taking nature than allies on matters ranging from fighting terrorism to technological innovation. "The U.S. will have less and less affinity with other developed countries," he says. "It will be harder and not easier to find common ground with allies."

Monday, June 05, 2006

What's Right with Kansas - growth and jobs

Thomas Frank is very confident that the people of Kansas are fools for supporting Republicans, even conservative one, when they could be voting for big government, higher taxes, and even higher taxes, and welfare for everyone. His book on this is What's the Matter with Kansas? But Thomas Frank has it wrong. Kansas is not sinking in poverty due to cruel capitalism and global trade. Scapbook in the Weekly Standard discovered (Link - scroll down to "Dog Bites Man") that David Leonhardt in the New York Times corrected poor Frank:
Close inspection uncovers a big problem with Mr. Frank's economic analysis. Wages haven't been falling in Kansas. Up and down the economic spectrum, they have been higher in the last few years than they were at any point in the 1980s or 90s, according to inflation-adjusted numbers from the Economic Policy Institute. The median Kansas worker made $13.43 an hour in 2004, 11 percent more than in 1979, which might help explain why many people don't vote on bread-and-butter issues anymore. . . . More to the point, some other improvements have accelerated recently. In just the last 15 years, the murder rate has been cut almost in half. Many big cities are far more vibrant places than they used to be. About 33 percent of young adults get a bachelor's degree these days, up from 25 percent in the early 1990s. The gap between men's and women's pay reached its lowest ever last year. The divorce rate has stopped rising. Many luxuries of earlier generations--owning a three-bedroom house, flying across the country, calling relatives who live overseas--are staples of middle-class life. If all this doesn't add up to a rise in living standards, I'm not sure what the phrase means. We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
The New York Times printed this? Yes.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

China needs more than capitalism

We have long hoped that China's economic loosening and growth would lead to freedom and democracy. But China is still ruled by Communists. They hold complete control; there is no move toward elections at all. Minxin Pei has researched and written a book - China's Trapped Transition: The LImits of Developmental Autocracy. China has stalled in a "trapped transition," he says. I haven't read the book, but am relying on a review in the Weekly Standard by Ellen Bork. I think nonsubscribers can read this.
Pei, a political scientist who directs the China program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, does not dispute the significance of China's dramatic post-Mao development, including rapid economic growth, greater access to information and personal mobility, the decline in the state role of the economy, and its integration into the global economy. But he points out that the causal link often assumed between economic development and the achievement of democracy, or political liberalization, has failed to operate in China. ... ... Pei devotes the rest of China's Trapped Transition to arguing that the lack of political reform can be explained by examining the choices leaders of China's quasi-totalitarian state have made, and why. China has stalled in a "trapped transition," Pei argues, because its Communist leaders insist on maintaining power and taking a gradual approach to market reforms. This is not part of a strategy for political liberalization; instead, China's leaders have been at pains to shore up their monopoly on power. The dividends of economic reform are used to "strengthen their repressive capacity and co-opt potential opposition groups, especially counterelites." Seeing even limited erosion of their political power causes them to "intensify their efforts to maximize current income while maintaining a high level of repression to deter challengers."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Anti-Growth and Hugs

In recent news. Besides Albert Gore Jr.'s attempt to corral you into his bigger government programs because global warming is a crisis and you caused it - See Rod Martin at Hernando Today on the oil shortage - not. A non-guru from India passed through Seattle this week with hugs for everyone. I am not making this up. Mata Amritanandamayi is called the "hugging saint" and she hugs everyone. So take time off work to go where she is and wait in line for 15 to 30 minutes and get a hug.
"She said, 'Love is the answer; love is the way,' " said Berlin resident Jyota Borges, who hugged Amma for the first time Thursday.