Thursday, November 29, 2007

Silver Threads

Among the bold enough to brave Britain's NHS:
Pyjamas designed to protect hospital patients from MRSA are going on sale at Marks & Spencer.

They are woven with two per cent silver thread in the lining.

M&S is offering the Sleep Safe pyjamas at 100 of its stores after tests showed garments containing silver can reduce the spread of superbug infections.

Such pyjamas have been trialled in a handful of hospitals.

An M& S spokesman said: "Silver is known for its infectionfighting properties and has been used by the military.

"The fabric has been clinically proven to reduce the risk of MRSA by killing bacteria that come into contact with it."

....However, Tony Kitchen, vicechairman of MRSA Support, said: "If they are like normal pyjamas, then the infection can still get in - because every body part is not covered up.

"It sounds like a gimmick. It cannot be a super-suit and probably doesn't make a jot of difference.

"The problem lies within the hospitals themselves. They are dirty and it shouldn't be up to the public to safeguard themselves."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Be a Stand Up Guy...

...and, take a load off your feet:
Scientists have found intriguing evidence that one major reason so many people are overweight these days may be as close as the seat of their pants. Literally. According to the researchers, most of us sit too much.

....When we sit, the researchers found, the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat just shut down.

....It was hard to believe at first," said Marc Hamilton, associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia and leader of the research team. He said the team didn't expect to find a strong signal when they began researching what happens to fat when we remain seated. But the effect, both in laboratory animals and humans, turned out to be huge.

The solution, Hamilton said, is to stand up and "putter."


Over Chinese cacti:
Mexican politicians are demanding action to protect the tequila industry from Chinese competition.

The lower house of Congress voted to urge the government to stop Chinese firms patenting maguey - a type of agave cactus used in tequila.

MPs are also worried that Chinese and Japanese firms could target the market in another cactus species, nopal.

Nopal leaves are increasingly popular in the US, where there is already strong demand for tequila.

"Nopal and Maguey are Mexican plants and if we don't take the necessary measures in time, we run the risk of losing the denomination of origin", Cesar Duarte, the deputy who sponsored the move, told the Efe news agency.

No Mas

Having taken the money Woody Allen runs:
American filmmaker Woody Allen will be shooting future Mediapro projects "neither in Catalonia, nor in Spain," the production company's president Jaume Roures explained yesterday.

Roures described a tense situation which unfolded during the recent filming of Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Barcelona. During shooting, the opposition Popular Party (PP) accused the city's Socialist mayor of "acting like there was nothing in the world but Woody Allen."

....[Roures] stated that of Allen's two upcoming collaborations with Mediapro, both originally scheduled for Spain, one will be shot in San Francisco and the other outside Spain, due to "the pressure put on us this year, which was miserable."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What's Wrong With This Ferry?

The Washington State Ferry System has pulled four of its boats out of service, and can't decide what to do:
While the state's four Steel Electric-class ferries remain idled by concerns over pitting and leaks in their hulls, Washington lawmakers were told Monday there is no simple solution to putting the car ferries back on the Port Townsend-Keystone route.

Building new ferries to replace the 80-year-old vessels could cost $40 million each....

State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond last week ordered that the four Steel Electric ferries — the Klickitat, the Illahee, the Nisqually and the Quinault — be taken out of service to inspect their hulls.

That came after evidence that the Quinault, now in dry dock on Harbor Island, was showing signs of damage from 80 years on saltwater. "We reached the tipping point," Hammond said. "The most prudent thing to do was to pull them out of service."

The boats, built in 1927, are the only ferries capable of operating in Keystone's narrow and shallow Whidbey Island harbor.

Emphasis, the FLUBA's in that last sentence, because in 1927 the State of Washington wasn't in the ferry business. Those ferries were built by entrepreneurs seeking profits by transporting people and their cars around Puget Sound. Which should be a clue for the state legislature.

Don't know how lucky you are

To be back in the U.S.S.R., boy:
...young and trendy Muscovites are in the throes of nostalgia for the staples of Soviet childhoods, relics of a time when the U.S.S.R. was at the height of superpower status.

That may explain why one of the most popular fashion designers this fall is Denis Simachev, who is selling overcoats fastened with hammer-and-sickle buttons, gold jewelry minted to look like Soviet kopecks and shirts festooned with the Soviet coat of arms, complete with embroidered ears of wheat.

"People in their 30s see these kinds of symbols as reminders of happy memories, like going to pioneer camp where they lived together, ate breakfast together and played sports," said Simachev, 33, who wears his hair in a Samurai-style ponytail. He insists he is no Communist — for one thing, his overcoats sell for about $2,100 and his T-shirts for about $600. His boutique is sandwiched between Hermès and Burberry stores on a pedestrian lane, Stoleshnikov, that is one of the capital's most expensive shopping streets.

Simachev first attracted notice with a collection of retro Olympic tracksuits emblazoned with CCCP, the Cyrillic initials for the U.S.S.R., and T-shirts printed with the likeness of President Vladimir V. Putin, which served as a wink at the cult of personality forming around the leader.

....After more than a decade of Westernization, in which international brands have flooded the Russian market and the Russian elite have taken to wearing designers from Valentino to Louis Vuitton, a "Back to the U.S.S.R." movement among consumers seems a logical step, some social observers here say.

"At first, the people of my generation wanted to try those things that our parents could not, but now that we have seen everywhere, we are coming back to our roots," said Evelina Khromtchenko, the editor in chief of the Russian edition of L'Officiel, a French fashion magazine.

Simachev has developed a swaggering fashion lexicon typified in his men's wear by fur hats, fur boots, jackets with muscular shoulders and slim-hipped, low-slung trousers. "We are from Russia, from the former Soviet Union," he said. "It's what I know about, it's what inspires me, and now, after years of Russians trying to live a Western lifestyle and forget they are Russian, other people are getting it."

Unlike the Americana of Ralph Lauren, with his easeful style born of the Ivy League, Simachev's evocation of motherland style often provocatively incorporates jingoistic elements. In the past four years, he has designed collections inspired by the war in Chechnya, the boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Soviet Navy and, this season, Moscow criminal gangs of the 1990s.

....Russians more steeped in Soviet history say they are appalled at the merchandising of the symbols of totalitarianism. "Personally, I would never wear something by Denis Simachev because, for me, those symbols mean Stalinist terror, Communism, a KGB spy system and the cold war," said Alexandre Vassiliev, a fashion historian who has published 14 books here. "I disapprove completely."

And I'm what you might call a water man, Jack

Would this be going too far for even Capt. Lionel Mandrake:
...this week, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water - after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world's largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents "indirect potable water reuse" and "toilet to tap" by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

...."These types of projects you will see springing up all over the place where there are severe water shortages," said Michael Markus, the general manager of the Orange County district, whose plant, which will process 70 million gallons, or nearly 3 billion liters, a day, has already been visited by water managers from across the globe.

The finished product, which district managers say exceeds drinking water standards, will not flow directly into kitchen and bathroom taps; state regulations forbid that.

Instead it will be injected underground, with half of it helping to form a barrier against seawater intruding on groundwater sources and the other half gradually filtering into aquifers that supply 2.3 million people, about three-quarters of the county. The recycling project will produce much more potable water and at a higher quality than did the mid-1970s-era plant it replaces.

The Groundwater Replenishment System, as the $481 million plant here is known, is a labyrinth of tubing and tanks that sucks in treated sewer water the color of dark beer from a sanitation plant next door and runs it through microfilters to remove solids. The water then undergoes reverse osmosis, forcing it through thin, porous membranes at high pressure, before it is further cleansed with peroxide and ultraviolet light to break down any remaining pharmaceuticals and carcinogens.

The result, Markus said, "is as pure as distilled water" and about the same cost as buying water from wholesalers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Heckuva Job, Brownie

Britain's PM wants to adjust the incentives facing the unemployed:
Unemployed people claiming benefits will be forced to undertake training to get them back to work under a package of sweeping welfare reforms unveiled by Gordon Brown.

....Under the proposals...those out of work and claiming benefits will be forced to undertake a"skills health check" after six months claiming Jobseekers Allowance to identify deficiencies in their basic numeracy, literacy or language needs.

Those who need further training but refuse to undertake it will face cuts in benefits.

....Mr Brown pledged the wide-ranging welfare reforms would boost the UK’s skills base.

The package of welfare reform is largely targeted at stemming the growing problem of so-called "Neets" - teenagers not in education, employment and training.

There are estimated to be 206,000 teenagers, plus several hundred thousand more in their early twenties, who fall into the category and research shows they face a lifetime on benefits.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Shopping Season

The supposedly moribund U.S. economy surprises the experts:
The nation's retailers had a robust start to the holiday shopping season, according to results announced Saturday by a national research group that tracks sales at retail outlets across the country.

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, total sales rose 8.3 percent to about $10.3 billion on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $9.5 billion on the same day a year ago. ShopperTrak had expected an increase of no more than 4 percent to 5 percent.

"This is a really strong number. ... You can't have a good season unless it starts well," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, citing strength across all regions. "It's very encouraging. When you look at September and October, shoppers weren't in the stores."

Go Fish

But don't bring any home to the UK:

Although fish stocks, including cod, are growing, almost a million tons of fish caught in trawler nets are being discarded every year because the fishermen have passed their official quota levels.

Jonathan Shaw, the fisheries minister, has pledged to call for a "modest" increase in Britain's quotas at next month's meeting in Brussels.

....The quota system is forcing crews to throw millions of pounds worth of dead fish back into the water ever year because they are banned from bringing fish to shore once they have reached their quotas.

The EU, which has cut cod quotas steadily in recent years, is likely to reject the Government's calls for higher limits. The UK's total cod quota was reduced last year from 9,037 to 7,773 tons.

A Sunday Telegraph investigation last week found that British fishermen in the Channel were throwing back almost six times as much fish as they were landing - because they reached their monthly quota after only two days.

....Dennis Clark, the skipper of a 60ft trawler, Luc, based in North Shields, said the quotas had pushed Britain's fishing industry "to the brink".

"Green groups have seen to it that quotas have been cut wafer thin but we don't feel there is any justification for them," he said.

"Fisheries science is not exact. Three years ago we were told cod was extinct and now it's everywhere. The cod will come back when the conditions are right."

Mr Clark said the restrictions had forced a growing number of large trawlers to opt to work as "guard ships" on pipeline and cable-laying operations, earning £1,500 a day, more than double what the trawlers would earn on a good day's fishing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Usted puede luchar...

Madrid would have given New Orleans a run for its money:
Corruption "ran rampant" in Madrid City Hall for years until police swooped on a cadre of civil servants earlier this month, accusing them of running a racket to obtain bribes from businesses and individuals in exchange for municipal licenses, court documents show.

....a Civil Guard report ....goes on to accuse the suspects of "enriching themselves" on the backs of people who "only wanted to open their businesses and work in peace, but were instead obliged to hemorrhage money and watch as their assets were ransacked without compassion by civil servants hungry for quick and tasty bites."

The civil servants, in collaboration with a network of solicitors, architects and others, would push through building and business licenses in record time in exchange for backhanders.

Investigators are concentrating their attention on 187 particularly suspicious licenses that were obtained in less than a month, when the average time is two years.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Life Styles of the Rich and Stupid

Flaunt it only if you got it legally in Britain:
A brazen benefit fraudster posed for a local paper snap in front of his lavish house while being investigated for illegally claiming £65,000 in benefits.

Peter Labazzi and his partner Stephanie Tinworth lived a lifestyle of luxury. As well as owning "his and hers" Jaguar sports cars and a Bentley worth more than £110,000, the couple's daughter spent four years at a private school costing £17,500.

And, despite an investigation by Waltham Forest District Council into housing and council tax claims, Labazzi posed for a photograph in front of his lavish £800,000 Wing Walk house in North Weald, Essex, for local reporters.

....He and his partner illegally claimed thousands of pounds in benefits over nine years after Tinworth, 46, convinced the council she was living in a home in Walthamstow, east London, as a single mother.

But she and the rest of the family were living at other addresses owned by Labazzi.

Benefit workers at the council became suspicious in September 2006 after discovering Tinworth's children had the same surname as the property's owner - Labazzi.

The couple were both questioned in March - two months later he made... [a] public appeal for help in unlocking the secrets of his historic home, which was built in 1925.

He said he had heard rumours there was a picture of King George and Winston Churchill at his property, which was originally built by the Ministry of Defence to house North Weald Airfield's wing commander.

The couple were jailed at Snaresbrook Crown Court earlier this month for 21 months each after pleading guilty to one count each of conspiracy to defraud.

Summit I Said?

International etiquette butts heads with economic reality in Zimbabwe:
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe should consider staying away from the forthcoming EU-African summit,according to the host nation, Portugal.

"If you ask me if I would like him to come to Lisbon I would say that I would prefer that he ... not come," said Foreign Minister Luis Amado. British prime minister Gordon Brown has said he will stay away from the December meeting if Mr Mugabe attends.

But African states have made it clear that they want Mr Mugabe to attend.
And Mr Mugabe says he does want to be there.

....Britain accuses Mr Mugabe of human rights abuses and rigging elections. Scandinavian EU members have also voiced concern about him.

He is subject to a travel ban in Europe and his government is under EU sanctions. But travel bans are traditionally lifted for big international meetings.

Bordering On

Spain hasn't quite gotten the hang of Yankee ingenuity:

Madrid - The organizers of the 33rd America's Cup, which was due to be held in Valencia in 2009, have decided to delay the competition until 2011.

The decision comes in the light of legal action by the US team BMW Oracle against current cup holder Alinghi, of Switzerland, on the basis that it has chosen an illegitimate yacht club as lead challenger for the next event. The action is based on a claim that the Valencia yacht club does not meet the terms of the competition as a legitimate venue.

Our emphasis in the above.

Pedal Power

The strikers are costing the French economy big Euros, but one industry is making out like bandits:
The Paris region has taken the biggest brunt of the walkout, which has created a commuting nightmare along with an economic one.

For the Paris-area hotel sector, the movement amounts to a 20 percent to 50 percent drop in clientele according to the local hotel union. Theatres have been similarly hit.

Meanwhile, exhibition centres around the capital fear a longer-term impact.

"These kinds of events weaken us compared to the foreign competition," said Phillippe Bertin, director of client operations at the Paris-Nord Villepin centre, who estimates turnout at its four showrooms dropped 20 percent last week.

Even those who should be profiting from the strike -- notably taxi drivers -- complain traffic jams have scuttled their profits.

Still one business is booming: bicycles.

The sports chain Decathlon, for one, claims a surge in bicycles and cycling equipment sales in its Paris stores....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used to Do

The politics of ideas in country music gets reprised:
Democrats angered at the image of country and western as Right-wing “redneck music” are planning a tour of Middle America during the 2008 election campaign by Nashville artists opposed to the Iraq war.

An alliance called the Music Row Democrats is poised to re-launch itself early next year in an attempt to seize back country music from the Republican camp and spread their message that President George W. Bush’s party does not care about ordinary people.

Slowly but surely, more country singers are performing songs critical of the Bush administration. Merle Haggard, who once sang the anti-hippie anthem “Okie from Muskogee” for President Richard Nixon at the White House has even penned a tribute to Hillary Clinton.

In his “Hillary", dedicated to the Democratic front runner, Haggard sings: “This country needs to be honest/ Changes need to be large/ Something like a big switch of gender/ Let's put a woman in charge."

....some country stars such as Tim McGraw – who has said he may run for Tennessee governor – have “come out” as Democrats.

“Republican Blues”, by the bluegrass artist Tim O’Brien, dealt with issues ranging from domestic spying by the US government to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

So, Move It On Over?

Oh, Big Baarrruuuuuther

No one is anonymous anymore in Britain, except the junior staff responsible:
Every parent in the country has been put at risk of fraud and identity theft after the Government lost 25 million personal records in Britain’s worst ever data protection breach.

Two compact discs containing bank details and addresses of 9.5 million parents and the names, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers of all 15.5 million children in the country went missing after a junior employee of HM Revenue and Customs put them in the post, unrecorded and unregistered.

....experts warned that the data could be hoarded for years by criminal gangs before being used to commit fraud on an unparalleled scale.

....The discs - which were not encrypted - also contained all the information a criminal would need to commit identity theft by applying for loans, credit cards and goods in someone else’s name.

....The CDs were posted on October 18 from HMRC’s offices near Newcastle, but failed to arrive at their destination, the National Audit Office in London.

Managers at HMRC were not informed until November 8, and Mr Darling was told on November 10, but the police were not called in until November 15 - a week after managers were told and five days after Mr Darling knew about it.

HMRC said the staff member who sent the CDs assumed they had gone missing in the postal strike or in an office move by the NAO and kept quiet “hoping that it would turn up”.

Welcome to the Pantheon

The battle is on in France:

"I have the feeling that the government is practically challenging us to strike," says François Chérèque of the leftist Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT). And according to Bernard Thibault, head of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), which is closely aligned with the French Communist Party: "They want to use the conflict to set an example. At stake is the question of whether France's unions will continue to have a say in economic reforms in the future."

This is no exaggeration. For Sarkozy, who wants to prepare the nation for the rigors of globalization, the conflict has great symbolic value. Just as former US President Ronald Reagan turned a dispute over benefits for government air traffic controllers into a showdown, the French president hopes to use his handling of the current conflicts as proof of his assertiveness. And like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who acquired the nickname "Iron Lady" when she forced trade unions to their knees in the 1980s, Sarkozy wants to establish himself as a fearless reformer in a republic that has long defied reform.
Seeing It Through to the End

The idea that he could end up a paper tiger like his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who eventually capitulated after a series of tough battles over pension reform, is a nightmare scenario for Sarkozy. "I will not give in," he barked at an employee who had openly threatened him with the "pressure of the street" during a visit to the Saint-Denis railroad depot. "This blackmail won't work with me," the president hissed. His route is already mapped out. "I will see it through to the end," says Sarkozy, "even if it means losing popularity."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Y Un Pollo en Cada Pote

Hugo wants to buy a lifetime appointment for himself:

In two weeks, Venezuela could be starting an extraordinary experiment in centralized socialism fueled by oil. By law, the workday would be cut to six hours. Street vendors, housewives and maids would have state-mandated pensions. And President Hugo Chávez would have significantly enhanced powers and be eligible for re-election for the rest of his life.

A new constitution, expected to be approved by referendum Dec. 2, is both bolstering Chávez's popularity among people who will benefit and stirring contempt from economists who declare it demagoguery. Signaling new instability here, dissent is also emerging from among his former lieutenants, some of whom say the president is carrying out a populist coup.

"There is a perverse subversion of our existing Constitution under way," said General Raúl Isaías Baduela, a retired defense minister and former confidant of Chávez's who broke with him this month and defected to the political opposition. "This is not a reform," Baduel said in an interview. "I categorize it as a coup d'état."

....One of the 69 amendments to the Constitution would allow Chávez to create new administrative regions, with rulers called vice presidents chosen by him. Critics said the reforms would also shift funds from states and cities, where a handful of elected officials still oppose him, to communal councils, new local governing entities that are predominantly pro-Chávez.

Interviews this week on the streets here and in Maracaibo, Venezuela's second-largest city, offer a window into the strength of Chávez's followers and the challenges of his critics. His supporters, many of whom are public servants in a bureaucracy that has ballooned in size since he came to power, have flooded poor districts to campaign for the overhaul.

....In comments after a summit meeting of Latin American leaders this month in Chile, Chávez laid out his project in simple language: "Capitalist Venezuela is entering its grave and socialist Venezuela is being born."

Alien Hated... in Britain, as they were beastly:

An illegal immigrant has demanded to be flown home after saying he was fed up with British people - because they are "rude and unfriendly".

Speaking today, Mokhtar Tabet, 30 - who has been given a home, food and free travel around London - claims his local council has breached his human rights by moving him to a place he does not like.

.... Croydon Council says it has bent over backwards to help Tabet, who fled Algeria in 2002.

A spokesman said: "Mr Tabet was accommodated in Norbury Crescent, with Croydon Council paying his rent, council tax and utility bills.

....Mr Tabet is entitled to return to Algeria at his own expense and admits that he "does not like it here".

But he refuses to do so and says Britain will have to pay for his travel if it wants him to leave.
He moaned: "I miss Algeria. The English people are not helpful, they are so unfriendly and rude.
"I thought I had made friends in Croydon, but when I ask them for money they don't give me it, so I know they can't be my friends."

Mr Tabet fled Algeria in 2002 after being arrested for refusing to give up his home so the army could monitor terrorist activity in his town.

Released after 30 days' solitary confinement he fled to Britain, illegally entering the country on a flight from Tunisia, and sought asylum.

He now receives £32 a week in vouchers from Croydon Council to buy food with while he awaits deportation.

Unsatisfied at this, he griped: "Croydon Council only gives me food vouchers, they won't give me cash. I want the money.

"I have nothing to buy new clothes with, I have to go to a refugee centre. But if there's not anything nice there, you leave with nothing.

"I want the council to give me a bigger flat and money instead of vouchers."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Well I'll be down to get you in a taxi, kitty

You'd better be ready around half past eight (after I drop off the kid):

A cat is baffling his owner by wandering off at night before expecting to be collected by car every morning at exactly the same time and place.

Sgt Podge, a Norwegian Forest Cat, disappears from his owner's home in Talbot Woods, Bournemouth, every night.

The next morning, the 12-year-old cat can always be found in exactly the same place, on a pavement about one and a half miles (2.4km) away.

His owner, Liz Bullard, takes her son to school before collecting Sgt Podge.

She said the routine began earlier this year, when Sgt Podge disappeared one day.

Ms Bullard rang the RSPCA and began telephoning her neighbours to see if anyone had seen him.

An elderly woman who lived about one and a half miles away called back to say she had found a cat matching Sgt Podge's description.

Ms Bullard collected him but within days he vanished again. She rang the elderly woman to find Sgt Podge was back outside her home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

School Choice

The Seattle School District's loss, turned to the advantage of nearby suburban children:

Seattle Public Schools rejected a deal with a local nonprofit to start a technology-based school — not once, but three times since 2005.

So the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) went elsewhere, and now the Federal Way School District is poised to sign a deal this morning for a $1 million annual donation to start a program for grades 6-12 at Totem Middle School. The agreement will almost double the per-student money for kids enrolled in the school, which is in north Kent.

...."It is going to provide our students with an exciting option," said Federal Way Superintendent Tom Murphy. "It's going to open the doors to science and engineering and math and technology for careers for a lot of kids who perhaps never thought that was an option for them."

TAF already runs some after-school and supplemental programs in Seattle. Part of its mission is to help underserved kids learn about math, science, engineering and technology. TAF intends to start five academies over the next decade around the region.

Murphy approached TAF director Trish Dziko after reading media coverage about her Seattle proposal. At the time, Dziko was embroiled in controversy with the Rainier Beach High School community, which accused the district of secretly negotiating behind their backs and said Dziko was trying to "take over" their under-enrolled South Seattle school.

Dziko, a Seattle Public Schools parent who left Microsoft in 1996 to start TAF, continued to negotiate with Seattle, proposing a technology academy at African American Academy K-8, another struggling South End school that caters mostly to African-American students. But district leaders didn't want to expand the African American Academy into a K-12 school when other South End schools were struggling to fill classrooms.

Dziko said she spoke briefly with the principal at Cleveland High School before she gave up and offered the opportunity to the Federal Way and Renton districts.

To err is human.

To loaf is French, said Victor Hugo:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a speedy end to transport strikes against his pension reforms [that would end the ability of public sector workers to retire at age 50].

His spokesman said the action ought to stop "in the interest of passengers" now that conditions for talks with the unions on the package had been created.

Rail and bus services were crippled in Wednesday's action over cuts affecting 500,000 public sector employees.

....In Wednesday's other developments:

French electricity grid power output was down by 8,000 megawatts amid walkouts by EDF electricity and GDF gas workers

Shows at the Paris opera and Comedie Francaise were cancelled as performers joined the strikes

Thirty-five of France's 85 campuses were disrupted by blockades as students protested against a law letting universities accept private donations and charge tuition.

Would That Paul Krugman Attended

Or read this dissection of Bush Derangement Syndrome:
...Bush hatred is different. It's not that this time members of the intellectual class have been swept away by passion and become votaries of anger and loathing. Alas, intellectuals have always been prone to employ their learning and fine words to whip up resentment and demonize the competition. Bush hatred, however, is distinguished by the pride intellectuals have taken in their hatred, openly endorsing it as a virtue and enthusiastically proclaiming that their hatred is not only a rational response to the president and his administration but a mark of good moral hygiene.

This distinguishing feature of Bush hatred was brought home to me on a recent visit to Princeton University. I had been invited to appear on a panel to debate the ideas in Princeton professor and American Prospect editor Paul Starr's excellent new book, "Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism." To put in context Prof. Starr's grounding of contemporary progressivism in the larger liberal tradition, I recounted to the Princeton audience an exchange at a dinner I hosted in Washington in June 2004 for several distinguished progressive scholars, journalists, and policy analysts.

To get the conversation rolling at that D.C. dinner--and perhaps mischievously--I wondered aloud whether Bush hatred had not made rational discussion of politics in Washington all but impossible. One guest responded in a loud, seething, in-your-face voice, "What's irrational about hating George W. Bush?" His vehemence caused his fellow progressives to gather around and lean in, like kids on a playground who see a fight brewing.

Reluctant to see the dinner fall apart before drinks had been served, I sought to ease the tension. I said, gently, that I rarely found hatred a rational force in politics, but, who knows, perhaps this was a special case. And then I tried to change the subject.

But my dinner companion wouldn't allow it. "No," he said, angrily. "You started it. You make the case that it's not rational to hate Bush." I looked around the table for help. Instead, I found faces keen for my response. So, for several minutes, I held forth, suggesting that however wrongheaded or harmful to the national interest the president's policies may have seemed to my progressive colleagues, hatred tended to cloud judgment, and therefore was a passion that a citizen should not be proud of being in the grips of and should avoid bringing to public debate. Propositions, one might have thought, that would not be controversial among intellectuals devoted to thinking and writing about politics.

But controversial they were. Finally, another guest, a man I had long admired, an incisive thinker and a political moderate, cleared his throat, and asked if he could interject. I welcomed his intervention, confident that he would ease the tension by lending his authority in support of the sole claim that I was defending, namely, that Bush hatred subverted sound thinking. He cleared his throat for a second time. Then, with all eyes on him, and measuring every word, he proclaimed, "I . . . hate . . . the . . . way . . . Bush . . . talks."

Auntie Maim

Fatima Bhutto isn't a fan of her late father's sister:
[Benazir] Bhutto's political posturing is sheer pantomime. Her negotiations with the military and her unseemly willingness until just a few days ago to take part in Musharraf's regime have signaled once and for all to the growing legions of fundamentalists across South Asia that democracy is just a guise for dictatorship.

It is widely believed that Ms. Bhutto lost both her governments on grounds of massive corruption. She and her husband, a man who came to be known in Pakistan as "Mr. 10%," have been accused of stealing more than $1 billion from Pakistan's treasury. She is appealing a money-laundering conviction by the Swiss courts involving about $11 million. Corruption cases in Britain and Spain are ongoing.

It was particularly unappealing of Ms. Bhutto to ask Musharraf to bypass the courts and drop the many corruption cases that still face her in Pakistan. He agreed, creating the odiously titled National Reconciliation Ordinance in order to do so. Her collaboration with him was so unsubtle that people on the streets are now calling her party, the Pakistan People's Party, the Pervez People's Party. Now she might like to distance herself, but it's too late.

Why did Ms. Bhutto and her party cronies demand that her corruption cases be dropped, but not demand that the cases of activists jailed during the brutal regime of dictator Zia ul-Haq (from 1977 to 1988) not be quashed? What about the sanctity of the law?

When her brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto -- my father -- returned to Pakistan in 1993, he faced 99 cases against him that had been brought by Zia's military government. The cases all carried the death penalty. Yet even though his sister was serving as prime minister, he did not ask her to drop the cases. He returned, was arrested at the airport and spent the remaining years of his life clearing his name, legally and with confidence, in the courts of Pakistan.

Ms. Bhutto's repeated promises to end fundamentalism and terrorism in Pakistan strain credulity because, after all, the Taliban government that ran Afghanistan was recognized by Pakistan under her last government -- making Pakistan one of only three governments in the world to do so.

And I am suspicious of her talk of ensuring peace. My father was a member of Parliament and a vocal critic of his sister's politics. He was killed outside our home in 1996 in a carefully planned police assassination while she was prime minister. There were 70 to 100 policemen at the scene, all the streetlights had been shut off and the roads were cordoned off. Six men were killed with my father. They were shot at point-blank range, suffered multiple bullet wounds and were left to bleed on the streets.

My father was Benazir's younger brother. To this day, her role in his assassination has never been adequately answered, although the tribunal convened after his death under the leadership of three respected judges concluded that it could not have taken place without approval from a "much higher" political authority.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Puerto Escondido and the Cerveza Factory

Or, The Accidental Chocolatist:
Scientists have discovered that chocolate was invented at least 3,100 years ago in Central America and not as the sweet treat people now crave, but as a celebratory beer-like beverage and status symbol.

Researchers identified residue of a chemical compound that comes exclusively from the cacao plant - the source of chocolate - in pottery vessels dating from about 1100 BC in Puerto Escondido, Honduras.

This pushed back by at least 500 years the earliest documented use of cacao, an important luxury commodity in Mesoamerica before European invaders arrived and now the basis of the modern chocolate industry.

...."The earliest cacao beverages consumed at Puerto Escondido were likely produced by fermenting the sweet pulp surrounding the seeds," the scientists wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One of the researchers, anthropologist John Henderson of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said cacao beverages were being concocted far earlier than previously believed - and it was a beer-like drink that started the chocolate craze.

"What we're seeing in this early village is a very early stage in which serving cacao at fancy occasions is one of the strategies that upwardly mobile families are using to establish themselves, to accumulate social prestige.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

Sang Marilyn Monroe, and we may know how she knew:

Women with curvy figures are likely to be brighter than waif-like counterparts and may well produce more intelligent offspring, a US study suggests.

Researchers studied 16,000 women and girls and found the more voluptuous performed better on cognitive tests - as did their children.

The bigger the difference between a woman's waist and hips the better.
Researchers writing in Evolution and Human Behaviour speculated this was to do with fatty acids found on the hips.

In this area, the fat is likely to be the much touted Omega-3, which could improve the woman's own mental abilities as well as those of her child during pregnancy.

After awhile...

Globe trotting econo-blogger Megan McArdle will have to keep her eyes open:

Soldiers and villagers are hunting for hundreds of crocodiles washed away from a farm after floods in central Vietnam.

The reptiles were swept away on Saturday when a flash flood knocked down a fence at a crocodile farm in Khanh Hoa province, officials said.

....About 5,000 crocodiles lived on the farm. They are reared in Vietnam for their skin and meat.
....Local official Nguyen Ngoc Hoa told the BBC how people had rushed to the scene in the hope of catching the animals and earning a reward.

"One would be paid 100,000 dong ($6; £3) for one baby crocodile, and 20,000 dong for 1kg [2.2lb] of the grown-up creature," he said.

"People are actively involved in the hunt as the pay-back is far greater than one day of their work payment."

Oh, for the good ol' days

When the white guys ran things:

The number of South Africans living on less than $1 a day has more than doubled in a decade since shortly after the end of apartheid.

The South African Institute of Race Relations survey said 4.2m people were living on $1 a day in 2005.

This is up from 1.9m in 1996, two years after the first all-race elections.

"Poverty has increased both in absolute numbers and proportionally," SAIRR said in a statement....

Despite good economic growth in recent years, unemployment has remained consistently high at about 26%.

SAIRR says poverty is also increasing among the white population while inequality was growing among the black population.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

They're eating their own...

...beloved leader at Semi-Daily Journal:

I adore Bob Herbert, and am shocked that anyone would think to so denigrate his work and efforts. I have no reasonable words to describe how upset I am with such an attack by Brad DeLong.
Shame, shame, shame.
Posted by: anne November 10, 2007 at 03:50 PM

Serves him right for banning all the people he was losing arguments to. She lost her favorite targets. And, I think I can identify the next guy to be shown the door there:

I've always been of the opinion that the federal government's economic policies should always be based on my personal sitaution. After all, I am more representative of the country as a whole than anyone else. They should just index the price of Golden Grahams at my local Safeway to keep track of the cost of essential goods.

In the meantime, I am doing everything I can to improve my situation by posting comments on how the government needs to look out for me more. Eventually, with enough of these comments on various blogs, we will have a Democratic Congress that will solve my--and by proxy, all of our--economic problems.

I'm glad that this one lone columnist has the guts to stand up and criticize the President for his failings in a paper whose readers aren't always receptive to such radical ideas.
Posted by: Neil
November 11, 2007 at 05:02 AM

Friday, November 09, 2007

Who are you going to believe?

Bill Clinton

Former President Clinton said Thursday that he is to blame for his administration's failed health care plan, not his wife, who spearheaded the effort.

"She has taken the rap for some of the problems we had with health care the last time that were far more my fault than hers," the former president said.
Or, the lyin' eyes and ears of a guy--Berkeley economist Brad DeLong--who was right there at the time:

My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

So when senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal. When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that. When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate. And when substantive objections were raised to the plan by analysts calculating the moral hazard and adverse selection pressures it would put on the nation's health-care system...

Hillary Rodham Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch--the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's the Highway

For the song Paul Anka wrote for Frank Sinatra when he was threatening to retire:

Frank drops a bombshell - he says, 'I'm quitting the business. I'm sick of it, I'm getting the hell out.' I was floored by this - no more Frank, no more parties."

When Anka returned to New York, he took the sheet music out of his drawer and played it on his piano, subtly changing the melodic structure.

"At one o'clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, 'If Frank were writing this, what would he say?'

And I started, metaphorically, 'And now the end is near.' I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was 'my this' and 'my that'. We were in the 'me generation' and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: 'I ate it up and spit it out.' But that's the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys - they liked to talk like mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows." Anka finished the song at 5am. "I called Frank up in Nevada - he was at Caesar's Palace - and said, 'I've got something really special for you.'?"

But enough is enough, even for one of his biggest money makers:

Anka, 66, admits he was "somewhat destabilised by the Sex Pistols' version. It was kind of curious, but I felt he was sincere about it." He likes versions by Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey and the Gypsy Kings, and admits he got "a little bang" from Elvis Presley's performance.

....Otherwise, Anka says his fondness for his most successful song has waned. "I stayed in a hotel room in Boston and there were 82 Irishmen on Paddy's day singing My Way till four in the morning. I got sick of it after a while. I'd get letters from guys on death row.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Follow the Money

If you can, in Hollywood:

Ostensibly, the crucial sticking point is the writers' demands for a bigger share of the burgeoning DVD market. But the larger issue is how to carve up the revenue pie when technology is changing so quickly that it's impossible to predict how big or even what shape that pie will be.

"So much is unknown about where distribution and entertainment is headed," says Roger Goff, principal of Goff Law Corp., an entertainment-law firm in Redondo Beach, Calif. "And everyone bandies about these huge hypothetical profits that nobody wants to be left out of. So it's making the negotiations even harder than usual."

....Producers know they must give the same concessions to the directors' and actors' guilds as the writers, which induces extreme caution in every agreement. The last strike lasted five months and cost the industry some $500 million.

....Over the years, writers have negotiated what many producers call more than a fair share of revenues, largely in the form of residual payments. Current Writers Guild of America (WGA) contracts provide for a sliding payment scale. A typical TV scribe might receive roughly $25,000 for a show that runs twice on a network (once as a first-run episode, then again as a rerun). The scale may go down quickly for subsequent airings in syndication, from $5,000 to $3,500. After it hits a certain point, say $300, that's where it will continue to pay the writer in perpetuity every time an episode airs. Many writers depend on these payments as a financial bridge between jobs.

But as programs move to new venues, such as the Internet and cellphones, nobody knows if revenues will follow.

....The last time writers went on strike, VHS videotape was all the rage. Today's DVD market, which generated more than $24 billion last year, has leveled off, [Jeff] Fishman [ president of JSF Financial] points out. "Who knows how much longer people are going to go into a store and rent a DVD to play at home?"

Writers want to double their residual payment — from about 4 cents to about 8 cents — for every DVD sold. But when tastes change, profits can evaporate, Fishman says. "Studios can't afford to lock themselves into doubling their cut of DVD sales," as the WGA is asking, because there are fixed costs in marketing and stocking DVDs. A formula for payments could hurt them if sales slump.

"Anyone who thinks they can put their arms around either the profits or the structure of the industry to come is just fooling themselves," Fishman adds.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Can't see the forest...

...for the missing acres of trees:

Robin Hood might have a hard time hiding out in the Sherwood Forest of today.

The forest once covered about 100,000 acres, a big chunk of present-day Nottinghamshire County. Today its core is about 450 acres, with patches spread out through the rest of the county.

Experts say urgent action is needed to regenerate the forest and save the rare and endangered ancient oaks at its heart.

....The forest is beloved for its connection to Robin Hood, the legendary 13th-century bandit who supposedly hid there from his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham, in between stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

One of Sherwood's oldest and most celebrated trees is Major Oak near Edwinstowe, the town where legend has Robin marrying Maid Marion. Historians believe it and other Sherwood oaks could have been saplings back in Robin's time.

....Each oak has its own management plan and some even have names, like Medusa, Stumpy and Twister. Rangers monitor them closely, watching for branches that look droopy or stressed, anxious to ensure that each tree lives as long as possible, said Paul Cook, a senior ranger.

Ancient oaks survive about 900 years, of which 300 years are spent growing and 300 dying.

It's Raining Violets

John Taylor and George Schultz are on the sunny side of the street:

Because the current account deficit equals saving minus investment....Herein lies the silver lining. The housing turmoil has indeed cut a chunk out of investment – residential investment has fallen by $81bn in the three quarters during which the current account deficit declined, and even more compared with the peak of the housing boom earlier last year. Hence a good part of the current account reduction can be directly attributed to the decline in residential investment. Moreover, the decline in housing prices is starting to increase the personal saving rate, as home equity loans are drying up and people are recognising that their housing wealth is not as large as they had expected. When asset prices were rising, households could spend what they earned and still see an increase in their net worth. Sometimes spending even exceeded income. Now, consumption is falling relative to income, so there is more household saving.

Including both the direct investment effect and the personal saving effect, about three-quarters of the reduction in the current account deficit can be attributed to the housing market turmoil. So while the agreed economic policies have begun to improve the current account, and will continue to do so, they have had important assistance. The housing market correction has been an important factor in the current account correction; as a result we are seeing a dramatic beginning of a welcome rebalancing of the world’s investment and saving flows.

Damned if you do...

...and if you don't...which, the Wall Street Journal says, is just the way politicians like it:

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Congress prodded, even strong-armed, banks into making more mortgage loans to low-income and minority families. Washington enacted anti-discrimination and community lending laws with penalties against lenders for failing to issue riskier mortgages to homebuyers living in poor neighborhoods or with low down payments and subpar credit ratings. And so it was that the modern subprime mortgage market was born.

Now, and for a variety of reasons, some two million of those loans have gone sour, and the same politicians are searching for villains. Leading the charge is House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, who is accusing banks of "predatory lending"--by which he means making loans to the very group of borrowers that Mr. Frank and his colleagues urged banks to serve.

As early as today, Mr. Frank plans to hold a committee vote on his Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007, which would impose new rules and financial penalties on subprime lenders, while providing new lawsuit opportunities for distressed borrowers. "People should not be lent money that's beyond what they can be expected to pay back," Mr. Frank says. Now, there's an idea. Why didn't the bankers think of that?

Mr. Frank's proposal is a trial lawyer's dream. It would forbid banks from signing up borrowers for "overly expensive loans"; require banks to make sure that the consumer has a "reasonable ability to repay the loan"; and insist that loans must be "solely in the best interest of the consumer." This kind of murky language would invite litigation from every borrower who misses a payment. If it becomes law we can expect to see billboards reading: "Behind on your mortgage? For relief, call 1-800-Sue-Your-Banker."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Like a Bowl Full of Jelly?

Not in our mall you don't:

Santa is being told to shift the pounds before Christmas - because the obese saint is failing to set a "good example" for children.

....Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent, has even gone one step further and set-up a Santa boot camp.

Fiona Campbell-Reilly, spokeswoman at the shopping centre, said: "Santa has been around for years, but society has changed and our Santa needs to reflect this.

"Bluewater's Santa Boot Camp is getting Santa in shape and setting a good example to children who idolise him.

"He will still be the same lovable jolly man, but will be fitter and healthier."

'Take it like a man, Paul...

That's what I do':

In one of your recent columns you wrote, "Michael Moore can waddle anywhere he wants in America without fear of violence from Republicans. But we still have to hear about every testy e-mail Paul Krugman ever receives as if liberals are living in the black night of fascism. Any time Krugman wants to get into a ‘Most Vicious Hate Mail’ contest, just say the word. You don't hear me sniffling."

How about posting 2-3 pieces of your hate mail, with the email address blotted out, of course, so people can see what it's like?

1) I can't because then I'd have to take six showers after doing such a wimp-ass, girly-girl thing as complain about my hate mail like Paul Krugman....

Saturday, November 03, 2007

No Child Left Behind...

...except for the Black ones living in Fairfax County, Virginia (thanks to Arnold Kling):

I’m a parent of two boys who attend public school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Fairfax County is a very large, mostly suburban school division. It’s the twelfth-largest school division in the country, with more than 140,000 students. It has an excellent reputation as an outstanding school system with high achievement. Children in Fairfax County are generally fairly easy to teach. The median household income in Fairfax County is about $90,000 per year.

At a school board meeting in October 2004, almost three years ago, I stood in front of the school board with this graph ... which compares the level of achievement of black children in Fairfax with that of black children in Richmond, Virginia. Both school districts have about the same number of black children—between 15,000 and 20,000—although in Richmond, black children represent 90 percent of the schoolchildren in that city. In Fairfax, they represent 10 percent.

Across the chart, you’ll notice that the data are pretty consistent: reading, math, science, and social studies in third grade, and the same in fifth grade—all the standardized tests they take in Virginia.

What may surprise you, as I told the school board and the administrators at the time, is that the blue bars represent the city of Richmond, and the red bars represent Fairfax County. On every state test given to elementary school students in Virginia that spring, black children in Richmond significantly outperformed black children in Fairfax County.

…. I wanted to know what it was they were doing there, so I telephoned the principal to ask him some questions. With great enthusiasm, he and several other Richmond principals talked about their successes, which, it turned out, came from the same things I would later learn are at the center of No Child Left Behind. George Mason [elementary school] had to change, the principal explained. All the children were failing. Yet there was nothing radical in what they were doing, he told me. They were simply making every moment of the school day count by teaching in ways that were proven to get results. The hardest part, he said, was changing the mind-set of teachers and staff. But once that was done, everything else was just plain common sense.

What had to come first, he said, was that they had to stop blaming others and making excuses for failure; instead, they had to take responsibility themselves for teaching their students. He said, “We have no expectations of the home. We understand that we can’t count on anyone else to teach our children. It’s our job to do it here in the school. And it’s not easy. So every minute of our school day is precious.”

[big snip]

A comment by the head of instruction in Fairfax County to the Washington Post was quite revealing. She said that Richmond’s progress had little relevance for Fairfax County because in Fairfax County, the vast majority of students were passing. School officials, she said, didn’t want to give up the creativity that comes with current teaching methods. She feared that many in our community would say, “This is not what I want for my child.”

The majority of children in Fairfax County are wealthy and white. They can get by with poor instruction. And majority rules, I guess. The disadvantaged children in Fairfax County—well, I guess they’re simply out of luck.

Friday, November 02, 2007

We want to thank all the little people... slamming their livelihoods. Hollywood's millionaire writers are ready to strike, and the fallout may be devastating for small businesses who service the industry:

Show business also helps drive the local tourist economy. "If tourists see that the entertainment industry is shut down, we worry they will think the entire city is shut down," said Kyser. He noted that restaurant business in the southeast San Fernando Valley — home to Universal Studios and the largest concentration of production — has already dropped 30 percent as anticipation of the strike grew in recent weeks.

Indeed, most of those affected by such a strike have no direct stake in its issues.

The New York-based book industry, for instance, may find studios reluctant to buy film rights to new works at a time when no writers are available to adapt them for the screen. "In the first part of a strike, buyers will be sitting and waiting to see if it gets resolved," said Amy Schiffman, who specializes in literary sales for Hollywood's Gersh Agency.

Similarly, thousands of businesses, whether mom-and-pop companies that train dogs for television shows or lumber yards that specialize in building materials for sets, face possibly dire consequences, some sooner than others.

"I'm really scared," said Oren Ashkenazi, owner of TVC Television and Cinema Wardrobe Clearners, located near the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California The cleaner processes up to 2,000 garments each night for television programs like "24," and is not set up to accept retail customers.

At Green Set, a 13-acre tree nursery that rents plants to set decorators, employees are facing sharply reduced hours. Meanwhile, owner Dan Needham, who just provided flora for Steven Spielberg's upcoming "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," said he is trying to break into the party business. "This is an awfully good reminder of the need to diversify," he said.

Everyone's a Critic

The Vatican hasn't gotten over Henry VIII's daughter yet:

A Vatican-backed historian has attacked the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age as a “distorted anti-papal travesty” that risks dividing the West just when it should be rediscovering its “common Christian roots” in the face of Islam.

Writing in Avvenire, the official organ of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Franco Cardini said that the film formed part of a “concerted attack on Catholicism” by atheists and “apocalyptic Christians”.

....Professor Cardini said “a film which so profoundly and perversely falsifies history cannot be judged a good film”. It had potentially offered “a contribution to the understanding of a moment of vital importance.”

Instead, the Virgin Queen was portrayed as “an able politician and courageous sovereign” while King Philip II of Spain was shown as a “ferocious, fanatical Catholic, swinging his rosary like a weapon and roaming the Escorial Palace like a madman, full of impotent fury, dreaming of subjugating the world to the Catholic faith”.

The defeat of Spain’s “invincible armada” in 1588 was caused by a storm but was presented in the film as a “shining victory for free thought against the forces of darkness in the form of the Inquisition”, Professor Cardini said.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

She Stands by Her Man

Anna J Schwartz and Edward Nelson take Paul Krugman to the woodshed over his disingenuous treatment of Milton Friedman's legacy in the New York Review of Books last Spring. He compounded his errors with a flippant response to their letter to the editor in March:

...the letter from Anna Schwartz and Edward Nelson actually illustrates Friedman's slippery treatment of the Fed's role in the Depression even better than the examples I used in the article. On one side the letter says, as Friedman did, that the problem was that the Fed did too little—that it failed to exercise its power to rescue the banks. But on the other side the letter approvingly quotes Friedman saying that the Fed did too much—that in the absence of the Fed, with its "enormous power," we wouldn't have had a downturn on "anything like the scale we experienced." I'm sorry, but those are contradictory positions. If there's doubletalk here, it's not on my part.

....And it is, by the way, very strange to imply that only monetarists thought that Nixon's wage and price controls were a mistake.

Regarding that last sentence, Schwartz and Nelson quote chapter and verse from the most prominent neo-Keynesians--Samuelson, Okun, Tobin, Heller--of the time agreeing with Nixon's policy. As well as illustrating that Krugman's claim about 'contradictory positions' is similarly malarkey. Their concluding paragraph is:

Paul Krugman is a respected trade theorist. But he does not speak authoritatively on subjects on which he has no expertise. Monetary economics is not his field of expertise.
Krugman’s research background does not qualify him as an authority on Milton Friedman’s
work. Krugman’s scholarly publications rarely mentioned Friedman and, when they did, they
acknowledged the contributions of Friedman and monetarism in a way that contradicts his
(2007a) essay on Friedman. Friedman’s reputation is intact despite Krugman’s deplorable
efforts to denigrate him and his contributions.