Author Archives: ricardo

fewtrils

The curmudgeon is on top form.

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123

Meme, via:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I’ll bend the rules a bit. I have 5 books on my bedside table at the moment, all started. This is not my normal style, at least not since I was about 7 years old and vaguely hyperlexic. Anyway, here are the extracts from each; perhaps either of this blog’s readers can identify the books.

“Sometimes I see flashes of Rick’s temper in him or hear him say something sexist that I know comes right out of Rick’s mouth, and I get scared. I don’t want him looking at Rick and thinking that this is what a man is supposed to act like. I wish I could protect him from ending up like his father.”

If the fact that he himself had assured the scholar of the same thing several months ago was irritating to Apollo, his expression gave no hint of it. “Yes,” he said. “They’re quite authentic, I’m told.”

That left the hive in a near-comatose condition. It was a harsh and imprecise process. Sometimes, the skep had to be ripped open in order to collect the product.

Cohen testified that there was no “direct relationship” linking heart disease to dietary fats, and that he had been able to induce the same blood-vessel complications seen in heart disease merely by feeding sugar to his laboratory rats. Peter Cleave testified to his belief that the problem extended to all refined carbohydrates. “I don’t hold the cholesterol view for a moment,” Cleave said, noting that mankind had been eating saturated fats for hundreds of thousands of years.

Blair’s EU initiatives in this period, all of which were to evolve later in his premiership, came at four successive European Councils. By late 2001, Blair was in his fith year as a regular attendee of these two-day meetings for EU leaders. They occurred four times a year (June and December councils at the end of presidencies were more important) and he had grown weary of them.

I guess the last one’s a bit easy.

unfortunately, he also inherited their thirst

I was saddened when I first heard Wesley Snipes was being done for tax evasion. I liked Wesley. He’s been in some excellent films. I love the Blade trinity. I was disappointed. I thought he was better than that. I tried to ignore the story.

And then I find out that he wasn’t evading taxes – he was denying them.

Wesley, I should never have doubted you.

a forced savings glut

The piece in the Atlantic by James Fallows caught my eye. It reminds us of the role the Chinese government has played in ensuring that Americans borrow from Chinese and not vice versa. The oddness of China-US goods flows is something I’ve been trying to drum into students recently. I like the way he puts it:

Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China.

Fallows goes on to make some nice points on the sustainability of this arrangement, but they’re mostly focused on the international sphere, for example on the prospect of a dollar crisis. One thing I haven’t seen addressed is the internal political sustainability of China’s currency management and export focus. [Note: I know that just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it’s not out there.]

Any faithful reader of this blog knows that mass-group-incidents, or MGIs, are on the up in China. Regional inequalities are large and the cause of significant internal migration. China is still poor, even poorer than we thought. And if the Beijingologists are right, Hu Jintao is worried:

Danwei gave an award to the China Media Project (based at the University of Hong Kong), which had an analysis of Hu Jintao’s big speech to the congress. Since China may well be approaching a moment of economic, environmental and political crisis, this has a claim to being the most important political speech anywhere in the world this year. The trouble is that these speeches are in code. Also, since Mao, China’s leaders have tended to adopt a technocratic, deliberately anti-charismatic public manner. Hu takes that about as far as it can go; he makes Jiang Zemin look like Iggy Pop. To decode the speech, therefore, one must count it. This the China Media Project has done:

And the results are in! ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ logged the most number of uses, appearing 52 times in Hu Jintao’s political report to the 17th National Congress. A distant second, ‘scientific development’ racked up 38 appearances. Used a total of 34 times, ‘opening and reform’ finished third, just edging out ‘harmony’ at 33.

‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’, a phrase patented by Deng, which in practice means ‘capitalism with Party control’, is the official policy of China, and the surge in mentions – up from 30 at the 16th Party Congress – is a strong, perhaps even a protesting-too-much, signal of continuity. ‘Harmonisation’, a new word, is more interesting. According to the excellent political blog Blood and Treasure, ‘the near tie between opening & reform and harmony means that Hu regards the maintenance of social stability as a discrete policy objective, rather than an inherent consequence of economic growth, as was the general line during the Jiang years.’ In other words Jiang thought growth would magically resolve questions of rising inequality, but Hu disagrees. This is a huge, huge deal …

An obvious question must be: how long does Hu let this go on? Will ‘harmonisation’ entail straying from the path of `export-led growth’ that so many developing countries seem to want to follow? [An even more basic question, to which we may find out the answer, is: in a country the size of China, is it sensible to say that export markets are needed for growth?]

The classroom view on free trade is that you can always compensate the losers, with some left over. The Chinese government is in a position to do just this, with its immense claims on foreign assets. It’s merely choosing to defer the compensation until a bit later, thank you very much. Just how much later it can afford to wait to call in these claims is the big unknown.

roissy and the wolfman …

…and the stevewoman should write a paper together. The way I read it, Roissy is providing some testable predictions that flow from the latters’ hedonic marriage hypothesis.

[Unrelated: when Varnson and I were grad students, Wolfers had almost cult status. Not a week seemed to go by without another interesting paper of his surfacing, or an insightful op-ed he’d written appearing. Then we’d go to his home page at Stanford GSB and see this picture of an Australian surfer dude. Slowly we cultivated the myth of Wolfers, until he was a Olympian figure who could bench press 300lbs with his left pinkie while writing AER papers and gargling Castlemaine XXXX.

By the time we left grad school we’d developed a shorthand. We’d see our ‘contemporary’ (different university, same time) mentioned in yet another article in The Economist, narrow our eyes and mutter “Wolfers..”, just as Seinfeld did with Newman.]

jeremiah varnson

This morning, for reasons that shall remain undetailed, Varnson reminded me of a maxim of the Crow tribe. Namely, that the greatness of a people is determined by that of its enemies.

[At least, I think it was a maxim of the Crow. As with the bulk of my historical knowledge, this factoid was gleaned from a Hollywood western. Mountain man Robert Redford is embroiled in a vendetta with the tribe, whose braves regularly attack him, singly or in small groups, in order to find honour battling a venerated adversary.]

This is a widely-held but seldom-acknowledged view. Consider those that cling to intellectual positions in the face of overwhelming opposition. It may be that they are courageous truth-tellers, each a Copernicus for our time. They are more likely to be the equivalent of Crow warriors rushing Jeremiah Johnson, axe against Winchester. For thereby is status acquired in certain milieux of civilised society. Without a great enemy, a worthy foe, one is nothing. And what worthier foe can one have but the fact? The fact is powerful, to be slain only by truly heroic assumption.

Enmity to the truth is insufficient. The brave must also speak of the strength of the opponent, lest we forget the magnitude of their task. John Edwards sings a song of corporations. The “market”, the great Jeremiah Johnson of the modern left, is deemed “all-powerful”. Not that the economically illiterate are alone in exaggerating the vigour of the enemy; consider the old racist fear of the virile black.

One must, of course, be even-handed and examine one’s own motivations in such matters. Am I vaguely sceptical of the anthropogenic global-warming hypothesis because the underlying scientific “consensus” smacks of the post-war Keynesian hegemony in macroeconomics? Or because it’s a mighty windmill at which to tilt?

In any intellectual dispute, then, the truly self-aware will allow for this quirk of psychology and ask:

Who has the bigger Johnson?