Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bank Resolution

In the spirit of Cementgate, P O'Neill would like to inform readers of recent activities on behalf of the Irish people.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why does Paul Krugman hate Manx statisticians?

Prof. Krugman has one of those it-was-always-thus teaser quote posts --

Who said this? More important, when did he say it? --

".... I believe this present labor supply of ours is peculiarly unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer ..."

It's from a 1935 paper, leading Krugman to note -- 

That’s right: in the depths of the Great Depression, wise heads proclaimed the problem one of structural unemployment, which obviously could not be cured just by increasing demand.

Yet having opened with the Who said this question, he doesn't tell us who said it.  It was a man named Ewan Clague.  Clague was a statistician -- not an economist.  Here's his 1987 New York Times obit.  He was a Pacific Northwester of Isle of Man ancestry.  Before being a tax haven, there wasn't a whole lot to do in the Isle of Man.

Anyway, Ewan Clague was hardly a 1930s Tea Partier arguing against more stimulus to reduce unemployment.  As a statistician, he wanted to have more, er, statistics, so that the problem of unemployment could be properly studied.  And, as the quote suggests, he had a specific interest in understanding unemployment due to technological change, an issue which had been a concern even in the 1920s.  This was an era of massive change in industrial technology with understandable anxiety about how it would affect workers.  So he's an odd choice as a limb on the Austrian economics pinata.

Furthermore, when via The Google one tracks down some off-the-cuff memoirs he provided to the Harry Truman library, it's fascinating stuff.  The section about the planning for the post World War II economy is interesting.  Basically lots of people thought that the US economy would crash after the war because it had become so used to wartime demand that it would take years to get back on an even keel.  Yet contrary to his pessimism of the 1930s, Clague was convinced by the work of Vladimir Woytinsky (another man worth a little time to follow up) that the adjustment could be managed relatively easily and that the government was focused on the wrong problem: recession when they needed to worry about falling wages and inflation.

So yes, there are some quotes from back then that can be placed in strange contexts today.  But a little context from then is better than no context at all.

UPDATE: There's a related quote in today's Krugman column.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our number is up

Wall Street Journal news article reflecting Irish Department of Finance charm offensive --

The Irish economy surged 2.7% on a quarterly basis in the first three months of 2010, the top performer in the 27-nation European Union. Ireland will announce second-quarter growth Thursday; economists expect an expansion of 0.2% to 1%.

Actual 2nd quarter numbers --

The Irish economy contracted in the second quarter of the year as gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 1.2 per cent compared with the first three months.  Figures from the Central Statistics Office showed gross national product (GNP), which excludes the effect of foreign-owned enterprises’ repatriated profits, shrank by 0.3 per cent on the quarter.

The government and its boosters are blaming effects due to the presence of multinational companies -- the same thing that lay behind the "good" 1st quarter number.  To more, er, sober, analysts, declining government spending is part of the problem.

That Republican alternative healthcare plan explained

From National Review's account of the House Republican's Pledge to America 2010 election platform dealing with healthcare, with our helpful translation in italics --

expanded health savings accounts
The higher your income, the higher the tax break!

insurance purchase across state lines
Congratulations, New Jersey, some dodgy outfit in Mississippi is your only remaining insurance provider.  Yes, they have e-mail.

state-based high-risk pools
If the legislature funds the program next year, we can pay for the chemo if your cancer comes back. 

tort reform
Don't worry, we'll make the doctor do the surgery right the second time around.

Good luck with that, America.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Most austere people ever

From a predictably boosterish analysis of Ireland's economy by Davy (stockbrokers) --

It is critical in the context of Europe-wide fiscal tightening that Ireland follows through on its planned adjustments. Not only must the consolidation appear feasible, it must also compare favourably to the fiscal retrenchments in other countries that will compete with Ireland in the same debt markets: it must be a "competitive consolidation".

Competive Consolidation.  It's the new black.  Or rather the new Competitive Devaluation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The blame of those they better

The Washington  DC-based "Center for Security Policy" has put out a report entitled Shariah: The Threat to America.   Apparently the fact that you don't see too many Muslims around and don't see too many courts imposing Shariah is mere proof of the effectiveness of the conspiracy.  Among the bizarre things about the report is that it glories in a self-comparison with the "Team B" analysis commissioned by the CIA about the USSR in the 1970s -- the analysis that got wrong everything about the economy and defence capabilities of the USSR.  Anyway, here's an incidental sentence from the report --

In a civilized society, though, such a “neutral” position amounts actually to taking sides. Treating terrorism with the same even-handedness accorded to competing tax plans, for example, creates an atmosphere that is amoral to a point of immorality ... On some level, such behavior is the latest incarnation of the age-old encounter between the West and the rest – specifically, the non-Western “Other” encountered during various periods of Western exploration, conquest and colonization. Age-of-Exploration Europeans created the image of the Noble Savage, projecting a nobility onto the primitive peoples of the New World that canceled out, or at least compensated for, their obvious savagery. (p126)

This would be comic stuff until one remembers the kind of savagery to which the indigenous people of America (and everywhere else) were subjected.  But the comedy strand continues when one looks into where the Noble Savage concept comes from.  There appear to be no political philosophers among this crew.  Or English lit types.  Because the original usage comes from a John Dryden play with a subplot about a Muslim who turns out to be the son of a Christian but he fights for the Muslims anyway.   That's so meta.

Co-author Andrew McCarthy reveals that at least 3 Republican House representatives are reading the report, including Michele Bachmann.   There'll be more about this.

Sinking ship

During House of Commons questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland --

Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con): I thank the Minister for his reply. Have he and his team considered what lessons can be learned from the economic successes of the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s that could now be applied to the economy of Northern Ireland? 
Mr Swire (The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office): Yes, we certainly continue to study that. It is worth pointing out that despite the economic slowdown experienced in recent years the Republic of Ireland continues to attract major foreign direct investment. Indeed, the Republic of Ireland’s stock of direct inward investment is five times greater than the OECD average. According to one leading accountancy firm, there have been well over 50 investment projects this year alone. It is significant, we believe, when spending is being cut and many taxes are going up, that the one set of taxes that are not being touched in the Republic are the low rates of corporation taxes. 

Thus an illustration of the continued grip of low tax mania even when associated with an economy in crisis.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Under the confluence of alcohol

Taoiseach Brian Cowen on the now legendary interview --

it was prepared for over the weekend, there was a confluence of events that occurred.

The "events" are, er, soberly described by Miriam Lord.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another Private Eye moment

Actual BBC headline:

Irish PM 'not hungover on air'

Written as if that would be a departure from the usual.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The offside rule is biased

In case one feared that the USA was the country where everything is politicized, here's Silvio Berlucsoni to the rescue --

Il problema รจ che spesso il Milan si imbatte in arbitri di sinistra

"The problem in [AC] Milan is running into referees from the left."  This after a 2-0 loss to Cesena with 2 disallowed goals.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Minus One

Conservatives have strange counting problems when it comes to 9/11.  George Bush keeping the country safe for eight years and all that.  So here we have Daniel Pipes, doing what 9/11 anniversaries call for -- attacking other people who disagree with his buddies' interpretation of 9/11 --

In contrast to a conventional war, in which objective markers such as control of territory or the output of steel indicate trends, in this new kind of war one must look to subjective factors like understanding the enemy or pride in one’s own civilization. How, on this slippery basis, does the United States stand on the ninth 9/11?

Here's the problem. It's not the ninth 9/11. It's the 10th. The first one counts, when the actual bad things happened.  Incidentally, Pipes also claims that the conservative half of the population has done stuff "like reading the Koran."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Now we know what Bono told the Russians

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin at a dinner with foreign guests this week --

Asked by a British reporter whether Lenin's tomb should be moved from Red Square before the 2017 centenary of the Russian revolution, he pointed out that all over England are statues of Oliver Cromwell, the 17th-century English Puritan leader who overthrew the monarchy:"Who do you think was worse: Cromwell or Stalin?"

Photo: AP via NPR

Monday, September 06, 2010

Translation still an issue

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visiting Qatar, takes another run at his Israel should be wiped off the map comment --

any action by the zionist entity on Iran means erasing it from political geography, noting that the US Administration is not in a favourable situation and there is no indication that it will confront Iran or will initiate such an action.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Crazy Vaclav's Place of Markets

The right wing blogosphere, beginning with the No Left Turns blog, is propelling a quote from Czech legend and former President Vaclav Havel --

The government has embraced an arrogant ideology. They claim to know the key to prosperity. It's analogous to communism. They thought the same thing. The clever ones - themselves - would run everything. That's the analogy. The key to prosperity is to let things run themselves. We'll liberalize everything, let everyone look after himself, let business, not the state, run the economy. The state should have no views, no policies of its own. Just open it all up, step back, let it go and you'll see how well everything will work if we just leave things alone.

Cheering the quote, Justin Paulette says --

If he'd been born in America, Havel would have been a Republican - and might have succeeded Reagan as one of the great conservative leaders of our time.

Jonah Goldberg is elated --

[Havel] has a few scotches and comes out swinging for capitalism.

There's just one problem. If you read the quote, it's quite clearly a critique of laissez-faire politics, but Havel's sarcasm was clearly a little too calibrated for his new-found American audience.

But don't take our word for it. The quote comes from 1997 in events covered by the Czech documentary Citizen Havel and specifically concerns his feud (as President) with then Prime Minister and now President Vaclav Klaus who was advocating precisely the policies that Havel thought were going so wrong.

So what Goldberg et al have endorsed is an analogy of free market capitalism to communism in its absolute assurance that it knows what's right for the economy.

Next time dudes, make sure you have the right Vaclav.

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Bloomberg News profile of Ryanair's Michael O'Leary (again seeming to fall for his obvious PR stunts of proposing pay toilets and standing areas on planes) --

In his spare time, O’Leary breeds racehorses and cattle on his estate outside Dublin

Outside Dublin?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

It's not just in Private Eye

English journalism veteran Patience Wheatcroft writing from her new perch in the Wall Street Journal --

He [Tony Blair] has even established the beginning of his own potential finance house, setting up a business which has registered with the Financial Services Authority (please check)

The WSJ sub-editor, who is probably not called a sub-editor, forgot to look for the fact-check notes in her submission. Patience apparently doesn't fully trust a story that ran in Murdoch stablemate, the Sunday Times.