Thursday, June 2, 2011

Romney's Running for President

"From my first day in office my No. 1 job will be to see that America once again is No. 1 in job creation," he said as he officially announced his candidacy in New Hampshire, home of the 2012 campaign’s first presidential primary.
Does anyone know when the last year that the U.S. led the world in job creation?  I would guess late 90's at the most recent, if even then.  I would like to know how Romney will create more jobs in the U.S. than will be created in China.  Maybe by lowering U.S. wages to Chinese rates?

Update:  Better late than never, I changed the text color of the quote to make it more readable.  Sorry, I've been busy trying to get the crops in.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

Today's link: The Dismal Political Economist Interviews John Maynard Keynes, at The Dismal Political Economist:
Mr. Keynes:  You use fiscal policy to increase Aggregate Demand.  Increasing government spending is the best way to do this, since you can target specific areas, specific industries and specific pockets of unemployment.  Once you get the economy jump started, investment and growth will start to take the economy to full employment.  Just make sure you do it long enough and strong enough.

  1. Well Conservatives in the U. S. Congress want to cut government spending and decrease taxes on the very wealthy.  Will that work.

Mr. Keynes:  Well, not on this planet, maybe in some other solar system.  How exactly does firing government employees and firing employees in the private sector who provide service and goods to government return an economy to full employment?  And you need tax cuts directed at people who need the money and who will spend it on consumer goods to stimulate, you know, that  Aggregate Demand thing again.

Why would you let people like that into government?

  1. Well, they were voted in because voters disliked Democratic plans to provide universal health care for everyone at an affordable price.

Mr. Keynes:

Why would you let people like that vote?
The whole thing is worth reading.

Planting is Coming Along

We've got 55 acres of corn left to plant, and about 155 acres of beans, so we're about 75% done.  Unfortunately, I noticed symptoms of head scab in our wheat as I walked by today.  That's not going to be fun.  Also, a racoon killed a chicken, so I need to remove some racoons. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hitting the Fields

I probably won't post any more today, we're going to try to get a little more corn planted.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

an Enigma encryption machine

Today's link: Of Codebreakers and Mechanical Giants, at Epoch Times:
The Enigma machines made their debut in short-lived peace, just following the first Great War. Enclosed in foldable wooden boxes, the devices featured series of protruding knobs and keys, resembling a cross between an antique typewriter and a laptop computer.

These were among the first ciphers, boxes capable of coding and decoding staggeringly complex communications. German electrical engineer Arthur Scherbius invented the Enigma machines in 1918, believing the banking industry would find them useful. He would find, however, the devices were too far ahead of their time.

What he had invented was one of the earliest machines capable of encrypting data, wrapping a message in countless layers of code and rendering it safe from prying eyes. The electromechanical device was created with a hope that machinery could create a code so complex that no human mind could ever crack it.

The Enigma machine and the various Bombe "computers" developed to crack the code, fascinate me.

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming

That support crumbled suddenly over Memorial Day weekend. Tressel was forced out three days after Sports Illustrated alerted Ohio State officials that the wrongdoing by Tressel's players was far more widespread than had been reported. SI learned that the memorabilia-for-tattoos violations actually stretched back to 2002, Tressel's second season at Ohio State, and involved at least 28 players -- 22 more than the university has acknowledged. Those numbers include, beyond the six suspended players, an additional nine current players as well as nine former players whose alleged wrongdoing might fall within the NCAA's four-year statute of limitations on violations.
One former Buckeye, defensive end Robert Rose, whose career ended in 2009, told SI that he had swapped memorabilia for tattoos and that "at least 20 others" on the team had done so as well. SI's investigation also uncovered allegations that Ohio State players had traded memorabilia for marijuana and that Tressel had potentially broken NCAA rules when he was a Buckeyes assistant coach in the mid-1980s.
Last Friday, SI informed Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch of the new allegations and asked that Tressel be made aware of them. Lynch said the school would have some comment by the end of the day. No comment came, and on Saturday, Lynch told SI to contact Tressel's lawyer, Gene Marsh, for any response from the coach; Lynch also said he could not confirm that Tressel had been apprised of the new allegations. The implication was clear: Ohio State was distancing itself from Tressel. (E-mails from SI to Tressel and to Marsh and multiple phone messages for Marsh went unanswered.)
For more than a decade, Ohioans have viewed Tressel as a pillar of rectitude, and have disregarded or made excuses for the allegations and scandal that have quietly followed him throughout his career. His integrity was one of the great myths of college football. Like a disgraced politician who preaches probity but is caught in lies, the Senator was not the person he purported to be.
I guess this possibly explains the timing of the resignation.  Watching ESPN last night, it was interesting hearing "Not OSU enough" Kirk Herbstreit saying that Jim Tressel only covered up the scandal to protect the players.  Interestingly enough, trying to cover it up would also protect Tressel himself.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tressel Resigns

Embattled coach Jim Tressel, two months after publicly apologizing for fallout that resulted in suspensions for him and several of his players, has resigned from Ohio State.
"After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach," Tressel said in a statement Monday morning. "The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable."
Assistant coach Luke Fickell, who had been named to fill in for Tressel during the first five games of the 2011 season in which he was to be suspended, will take over as the interim head coach, Ohio State said in the news release.
Tressel was entering his 11th season as head coach for the Buckeyes. He finishes with a 106-22 record at Ohio State (66-14 in the Big Ten). He won a national championship in 2002, seven Big Ten championships, including the past six, and had a 9-1 record against Michigan.
School president E. Gordon Gee announced Tressel's departure in a letter sent to Ohio State trustees.
"As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program," the letter said, according to The Columbus Dispatch, which first reported Tressel's decision. "In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel's resignation.
Wow, I didn't anticipate that news on Memorial Day.  After the fact, I don't feel the schadenfreude which came with the allegations of Coach Tressel's coverup.  After he accepted responsibility and resigned, I feel more pity towards him that so much good work will be buried under his mistakes.  Good luck to him.

Update:  Ivan Maisel feels somewhat the same way:
It would be easy to convict the former Buckeyes coach with his own testimony. His 2008 book, "The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life," has 268 pages of maxims, philosophy and kitchen-table wisdom that the coach failed to follow.

"Discipline is what you do when no one else is looking!" (p. 73) is a keeper.
But taking delight in his demise feels hollow. In the end, a quiet resignation on a holiday weekend, Tressel left behind a sport mystified that a coach so smart would commit career suicide.
If the Ohio State administrators appeared baffled by the facts of Tressel's culpability, his colleagues in the coaching business were flummoxed by his actions. In nearly every in-depth interview I conducted with a head coach this spring, Tressel came up. The coaches yearned for some nugget of information that would explain the inexplicable.
It is a shame that Jim Tressel failed to follow his own advice, as Maisel notes:
And Woody Hayes won 76 percent of his games, made the College Football Hall of Fame and remains a statewide icon more than two decades after his death. Hayes committed acts that would have been grounds for firing at many schools long before Ohio State fired him in 1978. The university defended him longer and louder than anyone believed possible because of his ability as a coach, as a teacher and a molder of men.

Until it couldn't, which brings us back to Tressel. He won 83 percent of his games. He will someday make the College Football Hall of Fame. Ohio State loved how he represented as a coach, a teacher and a molder of men.

Chapter 10 of Tressel's book is entitled "Responsibility." The chapter discusses how Tressel stresses to his teams to accept responsibility and "do right." With his resignation, Tressel performed the former for not performing the latter.
Hypocrisy is never pretty when exposed.  That is a reason why I try to remind others of my own faults. If I let them put me up on a pedestal, they are bound to be disappointed at some point.  Jim Tressel tried to use the reputation he'd built up to sustain him through this disaster, and it just made the fall that much worse.  We shouldn't leave Gene Smith and Gordon Gee alone, either.  They also look pretty sad in this affair, and Gee especially, should catch hell.

Some Gave All

I hope you enjoy Memorial Day:

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

Today's link: The Truth About the American Economy, by Robert Reich:
Starting more than three decades ago, trade and technology began driving a wedge between the earnings of people at the top and everyone else. The pay of well-connected graduates of prestigious colleges and MBA programs has soared. But the pay and benefits of most other workers has either flattened or dropped. And the ensuing division has also made most middle-class American families less economically secure.

Government could have enforced the basic bargain. But it did the opposite. It slashed public goods and investments — whacking school budgets, increasing the cost of public higher education, reducing job training, cutting public transportation and allowing bridges, ports and highways to corrode.
It shredded safety nets — reducing aid to jobless families with children, tightening eligibility for food stamps, and cutting unemployment insurance so much that by 2007 only 40 percent of the unemployed were covered. It halved the top income tax rate from the range of 70 to 90 percent that prevailed during the Great Prosperity to 28 to 35 percent; allowed many of the nation’s rich to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax; and shrunk inheritance taxes that affected only the top-most 1.5 percent of earners. Yet at the same time, America boosted sales and payroll taxes, both of which took a bigger chunk out of the pay the middle class and the poor than of the well off.
In this post, I think he does a pretty good job of describing the differences in domestic policy over the periods he is describing.  I believe he plays down too much the effects of foreign competition and peaking U.S. oil production (1971), especially in the late 60's and throughout the 70's.  I think the governmental responses to these changes were lacking, and didn't take into account how much more Americans consumed than other nations.  These governmental failures in leadership led to an undermining of faith in governmental competence, making it easier for the Reagan revolution to gain a foothold.  After that, it has been general incompetence in government, especially Republican government, along with the constant drumbeat by Republicans that government can't do anything right, which has turned nearly half the population against all government.  Meanwhile, the best-off in our society have been making sure they can continue their lifestyles, at the expense of the vast majority of the population, when all of our lifestyles are unsustainable.  Without a significant reordering of our infrastructure and lifestyle, we will face a dramatic dropoff in standard-of-living.  I guess I see two choices, a voluntary moderate decrease in lifestyle, or an involuntary major decrease.  We need to figure out how we address this.  My first expectation is that we need more dense, walkable communities with more public transportation.

More On Getting Doctors Involved

Ezra Klein:
You should stop reading my blog and go read the commencement speech Atul Gawande gave to the students at Harvard Medical School. I’ll post some thoughts on it later. For now, I’ll just say that the conversation Gawande is having about the role of the doctor in the modern health-care system is, in my opinion, the single most important conversation in health-care policy right now, and that’s true whether you’re talking about controlling costs or helping people live longer and healthier lives. But it is not, in any way, a conversation Washington is equipped to participate in, or even interested in having.
From Gawande's speech:
Not long ago, I had an experience at our local school that brought home the stakes. I’d gone for a meeting with my children’s teachers, and I ran into the superintendent of schools. I told him how worried I was to see my kids’ art classes cut and their class sizes rise to almost thirty children in some cases. What was he working on to improve matters? I asked.
“You know what I spend my time working on?” he said. “Health-care costs.” Teachers’ health-benefit expenses were up nine per cent, city tax revenues were flat, and school enrollment was up. A small percentage of teachers with serious illnesses accounted for the majority of the costs, and the only option he’d found was to cut their benefits.
“Oh,” I said.
I went to the teacher meetings. On the way, I ran into a teacher I had operated on. She’d had a lymphoma. She was one of that small percentage who accounted for most of the costs. That’s when it struck me. I was part of the reason my children didn’t have enough teachers. We all are in medicine. Reports show that every dollar added to school budgets over the past decade for smaller class sizes and better teacher pay was diverted to covering rising health-care costs.
This is not inevitable. I do not believe society should be forced to choose between whether our children get a great education or their teachers get great medical care. But only we can create the local medical systems that make both possible. You who graduate today will join these systems as they are born, propel them, work on the policies that accelerate them, and create the innovations they need. Making systems work in health care—shifting from corralling cowboys to producing pit crews—is the great task of your and my generation of clinicians and scientists.
The whole thing is excellent.  Ironically, yesterday I went to a graduation party for a neighbor's daughter who just got her medical degree from a prestigious university.  Some of her family members were asking about what she'll do in residency and she was explaining going on rounds with the chief of surgery.  After she explained what all she had to do, somebody asked her how she kept everything straight.  She said she has to make a list, such as, "Give xx cc of this to this patient in 4 hours."  They asked about how she will remember to so that in 4 hours.  Her answer was to check the list every chance she gets.  I asked why couldn't they use an iPad or iPhone-type device, and she said it would be too time consuming to type all that stuff in.  I can understand that, but I would think being able to set alarms to remind you would more than offset some of the difficulties, especially if some speech-recognition system could record and enter the important data for them.  It would seem like if Ford can put their "Sync" system in a low-end model like a Focus, we could get better IT equipment than a notepad for doctors.

Getting Doctors Involved With Controlling Health Care Costs

Bruce Bartlett has an idea to try to convince the doctors to join the discussion for how to control health care costs without dismantling Medicare:
Putting the doc-fix in play would at least get the attention of doctors and show that there are real world consequences to talking about Medicare the way Republicans routinely do. Thus a second reason for my proposal is to create an action-forcing event that might have virtuous consequences.
Threatening a debt default to get Medicare reforms, as Republicans are doing, is utterly moronic. But holding the doc-fix hostage to fundamental Medicare reform makes a lot of sense. For one thing, if the doctors really thought they were going to get screwed, they would have an enormous incentive to put alternative Medicare savings on the table and lobby hard to get them enacted. And whatever group is screwed by whatever the doctors propose, probably the hospitals, would have an equally strong incentive to come up with their own alternative spending cuts. Thus there is the possibility of a virtuous spiral in which everyone in the health care field is coming up with ideas for cutting spending.

More on Republican Problems With Arithmetic

PGL at EconoSpeak (h/t Mark Thoma):
Glenn (Hubbard) argued that we enjoyed a reduction in the debt ratio from 1945 to 1960, which is true. In fact, the debt ratio continued to decline during the 1960’s and 1970’s despite the Vietnam War spending and the various recessions we had during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations.

The CBPP chart shows that the explosion in the public debt ratio discussed by Glenn Hubbard comes from three primary sources: (1) the Bush tax cuts (I don’t exactly recall Glenn objecting to these when he worked for the Bush Administration); the two wars started at a similar time; and (3) the recession and fiscal policy moves designed to limit the recession. Robert Barro back in 1979 noted that the US economy often saw jumps in the debt to GDP ratio as the result of major wars and recessions but for its history up to then, long-term fiscal policy tended to retire this debt over time. Ah but this was another example of the Cheshire Cat in economics – as soon as an economist documents this tendency for long-term fiscal responsibility, we get the Reagan tax cuts which were not accompanied by meaningful spending cuts. So the debt ratio rose dramatically until the fiscal discipline movements of the 1990’s – which were in part defense spending cuts and largely tax increases – began to show up in a debt ratio that began to decline. At least until we had the fiscal irresponsibility of the Administration that Glenn Hubbard served.

We should, however, mention the elephant in the room which is the projected increase in Federal spending on health care. The Administration that Glenn Hubbard served made the problem worse as it added a prescription drug benefit without adding any revenues to pay for it. The current Administration managed to pass health care reforms that would tend to limit this growth in spending but with no support from the Republican Party. And yet it is this same Republican Party that not only refuses to consider any revenue increasing measures but wants to cut taxes even more.
Republicans are irresponsible and not worthy of a vote.  The Bush tax cuts need to go away.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be ended. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

NASA Photo of the Day


Iceland’s Grimsvotn Volcano

On May 21, 2011, Iceland’s Grimsvotn Volcano erupted, sending an ash plume 12 miles (20 kilometers) high and closing Keflavik Airport, Iceland’s largest. Ash fell on much of Iceland, with some areas pitch black at midday on the 22nd.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

Today's link: Mysterious fund allows Congress to spend freely, despite earmark ban, at CNN:
Roughly $1 billion was quietly transferred from projects listed in the president's defense budget and placed into the "transfer fund." This fund, which wasn't in previous year's defense budgets (when earmarks were permitted), served as a piggy bank from which committee members were able to take money to cover the cost of programs introduced by their amendments.
And take they did.
More than $600 million went to a wide number of projects, many of which appear to directly benefit some congressional districts over others.
Well, that is quite the surprise.  Next, we'll find out that college football players receive money and perks from boosters.

Debt Ceiling Politics on the Ohio River

Interviews in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the home of the Bureau of Public Debt (h/t Mark Thoma):
The math nearly dictates that any solution would require deep cuts to the two giant entitlement programs for the elderly, Medicare and Social Security. That would sock Parkersburg. City officials say that a quarter of their economy is based on health care. The share of the town’s population age 65 or older is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average. A sudden slowdown in Medicare or Social Security payments “could have a huge impact” on the city, warns Ann Conageski, the city’s development director. “You’d see things coming to a halt.” Federal furloughs or mass layoffs could drain even more money from the local economy and the city’s tax base, starting with the salaries earned by the approximately 2,000 people who work at the Bureau of Public Debt (the government wouldn’t be borrowing, after all).
Parkersburg spreads thin along the Ohio, where the river makes an abrupt left-hand turn. Like many towns up and downstream, it has struggled for decades to replace lost factory jobs. The economy now runs largely on small businesses; health care for the large elderly population; and local, state, and federal government. In March, area unemployment was 9.6 percent, according to the Labor Department; that’s a drop of 1 percentage point from the previous month but is still above the national average. Realtors and loan officers say that the housing market—although it didn’t bubble as high as other parts of the country or crash as far in the recession—may not have hit bottom yet.
Some signs do point to gradual improvement. Several area car dealerships are expanding. Thanks in part to autos, local advertising spending is rising at Parkersburg’s three television stations, two of them network affiliates, said Roger Sheppard, the vice president and general manager of WTAP-TV. A few developers, city officials say, are moving ahead with new construction, especially of stores that sell things for $1 or less. DuPont, which operates a plant in town, is looking for engineers.