Happy Birthday Anthony
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Since Nikki’s departure on Sunday, my days have become so regular and uneventful, I have begun to wonder if what I am experiencing is some form of death. On the other hand, in response to my concern about my increasingly frequent episodes of elation and depression, my doctor has restored my happy pills regime. As a result, I now face each insipid day with a satisfying sense of drooling pleasure.
One of my blog posts surprisingly was picked up by Brad DeLong’s Journal. This pleased me because it never happened before and because DeLong’s blog is one of my favorites. Of course, one of the reasons they may have reprinted it may have been because my blog essentially was about how perceptive an economist I believed DeLong to be.
Through Brad DeLong’s Journal, I recently have been introduced to a blog written by Ashok Rao that contains some of the most penetrating and insightful analysis of contemporary economic thought I have read in a long time. What is amazing, however, is not the quality of the analysis but that Mr. Rao is only 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes a one to two thousand word article almost every day reviewing the recent publications of some of the most eminent writers in the field. How does he find time to do his school work?
The following is one of his quotes that I liked a lot:
“We today owe our intellectual and humanitarian heritage to Franklin Roosevelt. Not because he vindicated principles of easy money or public finance. Not because he vindicated principles of modern liberalism. But – for the first time in the history of our nation and all nations – he demonstrated that government can exist for the great benefit of the many at the minor cost of the few. For almost a century both political parties have lived by this end, if disagreeing on the means.
There is an ideology that accommodates the worst of efficient markets, supply side economics, and neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman. It is called right-wing hackery, with Niall Ferguson as high priest.”
This is Ashok (Ashok Rao)
ENTER THE DRAGON:
Vivian: Why did you have to go on?
Marlowe: Too many people told me to stop.
Mavis was in her shop when I arrived. She appeared to be cleaning the tattoo ink gun that I always thought resembled an assault weapon.
“OK,” I said. “Let’s try for the truth this time. You spoke with Holland. Were is he?”
She put down the weapon, gazed at the floor and said, “I do not know for sure.”
“But you have a pretty good idea.”
No answer for a few moments then, “Look I did not want anyone to get hurt, I only thought it might be a way to make a little money.”
“Confessions later, where’s Holland?”
“He has a friend who has a farm-house in the hills behind Pescadero. The friend travels a lot and Mark stays there now and then. I went there once. I do not know for sure if he’s there. He didn’t say. I’m just guessing.”
“Did you tell anyone besides Joe Vu about Holland’s call?”
“No..uh yes, I mentioned it to Lilly yesterday at the party..ah…wake.”
“Shit! Does she know about the farm?”
“I don’t know.”
I turned and stared out the shop window at the street and the Lexus in which Joe sat waiting. I tried to think. Did the Tons of Fun or whomever was running them know? They seemed not to. Why would they ask if I found something? Of course if they already found him, maybe they would want to know how close I was. Fuck, what am I doing here spinning out theories? I’m no fucking cop.
I turned back to her. “Let’s go over the story from the beginning.”
She haltingly began by telling how they met one day when he came into her shop for a tattoo. She eventually introduced him to Lilly. Besides buying some cocaine from him when he had some to deal she introduced him to Reilly who needed someone to help him with his remodel and Mark had been a carpenter at one time. Eventually Reilly told Mark about his dream to import furniture from Southeast Asia and sort of become another Ikea. Mark, Mavis and Lilly talked about this and Lilly mentioned Martin Vihn as a client looking for some cash investments. Eventually Mark became the go between with Clarence and Vihn. After about a month and a trip to Southeast Asia where he met with Clarence’s wife’s family things began to move along.
One day Mark came by the shop looking troubled. They went upstairs had a joint and Mark told her that someone wanted him to slip some jewelry into the shipment to be smuggled into the US. He was unsure about the risk but thought the money promised to him was enough to take the risk.
There were a few more trips back and forth to Asia one or two of which he was joined by Lilly. Then one night not long before the things were to be shipped, while they were sitting around stoned and Mavis suggested that maybe we could ship a little heroin also and they could split the sales. He did not say anything about it. The next morning she had second thoughts about it and told him so.
A few days before she hired me, Mark had told her the shipment had arrived but that more people knew about the smuggling than he thought. Mavis asked him who. He refused to answer but said that he thought their piece was secure. She began to scream at him that she had told him she did not want to be a part of it. That’s when he hit her and walked out. She had not heard from him until yesterday morning.
It was hard for me to believe anything she said but at the same time I hadn’t the slightest idea what if anything to disbelieve so I asked, “What did he say on the telephone call.”
“He said he was not far away and was in trouble and could I help him out. When I asked him what sort of trouble, he said that they may kill him. I asked who is trying to kill him, he said it was not something he wanted to tell me. He knew where the stuff was he said, ‘because I put it there.’ He said he needed money and help to get it away. I told him no, that I had hired you to find him and you had gotten hurt and I did not want anyone more to get hurt. Then he asked if you would be able to help him since there was a lot of money involved. I said I did not want you involved and asked him why he wasn’t asking Lilly or the gangster. He got himself in this mess and while I felt bad he had to get himself out of it. He threw a fit and threatened both me and you and hung up.”
“How do I get to the farm-house.”
“Why? Your not getting paid for this. Why put yourself in danger?”
“Well actually I am getting paid to find him but if I tell anyone about this I can’t promise he won’t be hurt.”
“I’m going with you. I know the way but I can’t describe it.”
Against my better judgement, I agreed.
“I have to change first.”
“Shit, Okay, I’m going to stay right here and watch. I don’t want you calling anyone.”
“Don’t you trust me?” she said with a smile.
“Not on my life.”
1870 to Present : Worldwide, 1870 saw five ounces of copper mined per person in the world. Today we mine five pounds. Today there are about seven times more people alive than in 1870. That means the total amount of copper mined is about 100 times more than was mined then.
1870 saw one pound of steel produced per person in the world. Today we produce 350.That means today we produce 2450 times more steel.
(I doubt that mathematically this level of growth can continue very far into the future. If not, then what happens?)
(What this chart really means to me is the regrettable tendency of this nation to enter foolish and unwinnable wars from the War on Drugs to the War in Iraq, that have proven to be a great drain on our treasury and which have impoverished us all. More empires and nations have vanished by engaging in improvident and fruitless wars than from just about any other cause one can think of. In fact, I cannot think of any nation, empire or civilization that has collapsed for being too generous to its ordinary citizens.)
B. Testosterone Chronicles:
According to the Harvard Business Review:
“Most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others about their talent for management. This is especially true for women. There is now compelling scientific evidence for the notion that women are more likely to adopt more effective leadership strategies than do men. Most notably, in a comprehensive review of studies, Alice Eagly and colleagues showed that female managers are more likely to elicit respect and pride from their followers, communicate their vision effectively, empower and mentor subordinates, and approach problem-solving in a more flexible and creative way (all characteristics of “transformational leadership”), as well as fairly reward direct reports. In contrast, male managers are statistically less likely to bond or connect with their subordinates, and they are relatively more inept at rewarding them for their actual performance. Although these findings may reflect a sampling bias that requires women to be more qualified and competent than men in order to be chosen as leaders, there is no way of really knowing until this bias is eliminated.”
(Harvard Business School seems to have confirmed my assertions in prior posts that perhaps after 10,000 years of male control in society, they should be replaced by female management of our dominant institutions. This does not mean that woman would not screw up as badly as men, only that their screw ups would probably be less catastrophic on species survival than that of men.
After all, bashing someones head in with a club, which seems to be something men do exceedingly well, may have had an important historical role in species survival and prosperity. Today, however, with the extent of the global interaction of humanity’s major institutions and the incredible and potentially devastating power of its technology, bashing someones skull in even with a metaphorical club does not appear to me to be a behavior conducive to either institutional or species success or for that matter survival.)
C. Tales of Inhumanity:
Vasily Grossman in the Ukraine with the advancing Red Army discovers what the Germans did in Kazary:
“There’s no one left in Kazary to complain, no one to tell, no one to cry. Silence and calm hover over the dead bodies buried under the collapsed fireplaces now overgrown by weeds. This quiet is much more frightening than tears and curses.
Old men and women are dead, as well as craftsmen and professional people: tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, jewellers, house painters, ironmongers, bookbinders, workers, freight handlers, carpenters, stove-makers, jokers, cabinetmakers, water carriers, millers, bakers, and cooks; also dead are physicians, prothesists, surgeons, gynaecologists, scientists — bacteriologists, biochemists, directors of university clinics — teachers of history, algebra, trigonometry.
Dead are professors, lecturers and doctors of science, engineers and architects. Dead are agronomists, field workers, accountants, clerks, shop assistants, supply agents, secretaries, nightwatchmen, dead are teachers, dead are babushkas who could knit stockings and make tasty buns, cook bouillon and make strudel with apples and nuts, dead are women who had been faithful to their husbands and frivolous women are dead, too, beautiful girls, and learned students and cheerful schoolgirls, dead are ugly and silly girls, women with hunches, dead are singers, dead are blind and deaf mutes, dead are violinists and pianists, dead are two-year—olds and three-year-olds, dead are eighty-year-old men and women with cataracts on hazy eyes, with cold and transparent fingers and hair that rustled quietly like white paper, dead are newly-born babies who had sucked their mothers’ breast greedily until their last-minute.
This was different from the death of people in war, with weapons in their hands, the deaths of people who had left behind their houses, families, fields, songs, traditions and stories. This was the murder of a great and ancient professional experience, passed from one generation to another in thousands of families of craftsmen and members of the intelligentsia.
This was the murder of everyday traditions that grandfathers had passed to their grandchildren, this was the murder of memories, of a mournful song, folk poetry, of life, happy and bitter, this was the destruction of hearths and cemeteries, this was the death of the nation which had been living side by side with Ukrainians over hundreds of years …”
(Taken from Brad Delong’s Journal)
D. Important points noted:
1. Izabella Kaminska: Dark inventory, death of a city edition:
“As we’ve argued before, the world is beset by a capital crisis not a debt crisis. There is too much capital and not enough productive use for it — at least not in western markets.”
2. Alvaro Vargas Llosa: Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America:
“The erosion of national boundaries—and even the idea of the nation state—is already underway as people become ever more inter-connected across borders. A jungle of myth, falsehood and misrepresentation dominates the debate over immigration. The reality is that the economic contributions of immigration far outweigh the costs.”
(I have argued these points, for good or ill, for years now.
Capital does not induce demand. In the Real world, only a very few entrepreneurs seek to develop incipient demand where there is money available in the hands of a consumer, most try to capture what is already there by manipulating desires. No-one invests money to encourage demand where the consumer has no funds to buy what is offered for sale.
As for immigration, for many reasons, we are entering a period of perhaps the greatest migrations of humanity in history. While it is true migrants seek greater security, they usually do not seek welfare. In every society welfare pays too little to make the trip worth it even where their lives depend on it. That is why so many of them take jobs no one else wants to do.
I believe one of the main reasons for opposition to immigration is not simple racism, that is just an excuse, but the real fear that immigrants will work harder than natives at jobs they compete for. Recall the largest mass lynching in American History was of a group of Italian immigrants in Louisiana essentially because the immigrant community was willing to work longer and at lower pay than the white natives.)
Government is real, and it has three basic functions:
1. Provide for the national defense.
2. Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent.
3. Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
(This chart makes it appear as though either we are the most lawless nation on earth or the most oppressive. Actually, we seem to imprison more people for victimless crimes like possession of marijuana than anywhere else. This trend accelerated in the 1990s and early 2000s when we began turning over operation of our prisons to private contractors.)