Links 8/8/10

Climate change talks ‘backslide’ at Bonn BBC

Sauna endurance finalist collapses and dies in 110C Telegraph. Whoever came up with this terrible idea is culpable. This was bound to happen at some point.

Fishermen in Gulf ‘ghost town’ fear for future Financial Times

Obama’s Endangered Economists Toby Harshaw, New York Times. Serious gossip!

Romer Post-mortem Economists for Firing Larry Summers. More gossip!

Beck omits own analogy comparing Obama White House to ‘Planet of the Apes’ Raw Story

Obama Anti-Business? Think Again Ezra Klein, Newsweek.

The Washington Post Tries New Tactic in Campaign to Cut Social Security Dean Baker

Progressives Shouldn’t Defend the Individual Mandate: The Difference Between Ideology and Blind Partisan Defense Jon Walker, FireDogLake

Microsoft shares retreat after downgrade Associated Press. Read the bit about college student preferences….

A Tale of Two Chinas Morningstar (hat tip Paul S)

Public Pension Shortfalls: Don’t Forget Braindead Economists Dean Baker

Putting Our Brains on Hold Bob Herbert, New York Times (hat tip reader Francois T)

Ill Fares the LandNew York Review of Books and The Prospect interview: Tony Judt Suggested as a commemoration by Kendall.

Antidote du jour:

Picture 3

This baby six-week old kookaburra called Kookie and a tiny duckling have struck up a friendship at the Seaview Wildlife Encounter, near Ryde in the Isle of Wight. Kookie was saved by staff after they feared his parents would kill him. And the duckling was rescued from one of the park’s aviaries because he was thought too small to defend himself against larger birds. Keepers took a chance and decided to see what would happen if they were put together. The duckling instantly cuddled up under Kookie’s protective wing, thinking he was his mum and Kookie didn’t seem to mind playing the caring parent

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Deus-DJ

    With regards to the microsoft article…

    Most of that should have been a no-brainer, one that should have been recognized a few years ago.

    With regards to fewer copies of Office 2010 being sold, I believe that has less to do with a general dissatisfaction with Windows than the fact that most people find Office 2007 to be good enough.

    1. Deus-DJ

      In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the stats for Office 2007(after having been on the market for 4-6 months) having dropped to rates similar to what Office 2010 is seeing now. 2007 was a huge upgrade from 2003 and I give that more credit than to say there has been a generational shift, though that certainly contributes.

    2. exclusion zone

      Now that Apple’s not the underdog anymore and they’re groping your privacy just like the big boys, it’s time to switch to Linux and evade Apple’s control. You can try out different linux distributions with virtual box and put your favorite on a partition. It’s the withering away of the oligopoly.

    3. rd

      I agree with that. At certain point, people want to spend more time using and less time learning a new program.

      However, I have had three kids go to college over the past 7 years. Two of the three went with Macs that they chose. One of them has graduated and replaced her old iBook with a MacPro even though she uses Microsoft operating system products at work.

      We have an older desktop at home that still runs XP. When Microsoft stops supporting XP, it will likely get replaced with an iMac.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        One of my kids is a big Bollywood fan, so I see a fair few Bollywood movies. One of the recent (quite fun) Bollywood hits, Pyaar Impossible, involves a young developer who has his computer code stolen (who then cuts a deal to sell it for millions). I found it interesting that this young developer, who is also the hero of the story, works on a MacBook Pro — and there’s a great deal of Apple iconography throughout the movie (he hangs out at the Apple Store in Singapore, uses an iPhone).

        In one scene, we see the hero come out of his bedroom, and the door behind him shows a huge poster of Steve Jobs holding a Mac. His dad comes out of *his* bedroom, which has a poster of Bill Gates; my take on this bit of Bollywood fun: “Microsoft is your parents’ generation; you want to use a Mac.”

        Several of the recent Bollywood movies that my kids have watched show Macs, which struck me as an intriguing cultural shift.

        The iPod, then the iPhone, now the iPad have moved Apple into the forefront. And those platforms have attracted some very talented developers, so the Mac ecosystem appears to have more dynamism at present; when I see this reflected in Bollywood movies, it reinforces my sense that this is not a fluke.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          … sorry…!

          Pyaar Impossible, involves a young developer who has his computer code stolen (who then cuts a deal to sell it for millions). should have been, (the thief, who has stolen the code, then cuts a deal to sell it for millions).

          I find it extremely interesting that ‘product placement’ surely has found its way to Indian movies, as well as Hollywood movies. But it’s worth noting that the ‘heros’ appear to be using (or wanting to use) Macs.

          A ‘tea leaf’, but one that I find interesting.

          And college student adoption rates for Macs have been soaring the past few years; given the way that colleges now frequently incorporate online modules into their courses, that means more students are now using Safari.

          When I was teaching courses online (from a Mac) 10 years ago, about 95% of my students used IE on the MS platform and gave me grief about my Macs.
          Microsoft’s going to need to get as much mileage as it can out of the fact that its’ Bing! search engine is one of the Safari search options… but notably, students are now using Bing! on Safari (when they’re not using Google or Yahoo). That’s a sea change from even ten years ago.

  2. Francois T

    Re:Endangered Economists.

    Is there anything Summers didn’t screw up whenever something important had to be done?

    The more I read about the man, the less impressed I am.

    Is it only me, or what?

  3. attempter

    Shouldn’t that be 110F? At 100C wouldn’t the body already be boiling?

    Re “progressives” supporting the health racket bailout and especially the feudal mandate:

    I’ve pretty much taken the suggestion that calling the tea partiers “teabaggers” is too scurrilous, but I’m going to continue to call the Obama cultists liberal teabaggers, because they most of all are beneath contempt.

    This vile health racket bill is their worst crime, which is saying a lot, and the reactionary extortionate mandate to buy a worthless piece of paper, with the government acting as hired thug to enforce the stickup, is the most criminal part of all.

    This absolutely has to be our Stamp Act, or else we are truly undone.

    I recently wrote about the debt slavery the kleptocracy has in store for us:

    There’s no way a population at a permanent 20%+ joblessness/underemployment rate, with the rest in ever more dire straits, will ever be able to afford this mandate or the fine. (Only an idiot really thinks the “subsidies” will ever manifest; um, they’re trying to cut Social Security, the Third Rail itself, as we speak. Are you really insane enough to believe they’ll deliver on a new entitlement?!) So increasing legions of us will be in default to the IRS. This will be one of the main debt indentures I describe in that piece, one of the main enforcers of debt slavery.

    The policy is so radically reactionary that it really seems to be off the spectrum, in its own world of larcenous insanity. It was enacted and shilled for by vile neoliberal gangsters like Obama and Krugman.

    But, in the ultimate testament to their world-historical idiocy and innate treachery, it was liberals who provided the “base” for it.

    1. JTFaraday

      “Liberal” and “democrat” Krugman & Company’s turning the whole bid for healthcare reform around by harping on the new welfare queen “free riders” who couldn’t afford the private insurance in the first place is one of the nastiest things in domestic politics that I have ever seen.

      But, in the next breath they’ll go right back to harping on Reagan not so much because they disagree with him, apparently, but because the only politics they know impels them to attack the assorted rabble that makes up Reagan’s fanbase for the benefit of the Obamabots in the coliseum.

      I guess the ritual invocations of “small government” coming from the countryside are just too much for our corporatists to take.

      Worse than the teabaggers, I agree.

  4. dearieme

    “I’ve never had to interrupt people before in my life, right?” It seems a bit rich to complain about other people’s bad manners when she deploys the aggressive and demanding little “right?” at the end of sentences herself. Perhaps economists get to waive the rules of courtesy?

  5. Ignim Brites

    In additions to the reasons cited for Romer’s departure two others can be advanced: (1) If she stayed longer than two years her tenured position at Berkeley would be forfeited. Given California’s economy, it seems likely that there would be some chance she would not be given another position. (2) Her work on the effects of tax increases will be a big problem for the administration in the next couple of months. Better to leave and lie low.

  6. Ignim Brites

    The next climate summit is in Cancun! That is rich. Given the backdrop of an economy in renewed recession, escalating political violence world wide, the continuing escalation of the Escobarian revolution on the borders of the US; nothing will better cement the notion the global warming is an obsession of a frivolous elite. Who do these people think they are?

  7. Ignim Brites

    Re: Public Pension Shortfalls: Don’t Forget Braindead Economists Dean Baker

    “Unfortunately, the workers and the taxpayers will pay for the incompetence of the experts. The experts themselves are protected.”

    The difference in this crisis has been its depth and breath. Let’s remember that the main beneficiaries of the bailouts have then the relatively wealthy as a consequence of somewhat stabilized (subsidized) stock, bond, and home prices. In the next round, a bailout might not work. Stock, bond and home prices might collapse despite the efforts of the FED and the administration. Then the experts will feel the chill winds and hot fires of history like ordinary workers.

  8. Juha Savolainen

    As a Finn, I need to share this with you: there are Finns who prefer temperatures between 130 to 140 Celsius (yes, Celsius, not Fahrenheit!)in their sauna visits…Such temperatures are really high and outside the comfort zone of most of us, but if the humidity is in the right range, it can be done without fatal consequences. Which means that something must have gone desperately wrong with the sauna we are discussing. Personally I feel that sauna competitions are foolish, but rest assured on this: this terrible tragedy will lead to a lot of study and discussion on what went wrong, but will otherwise have little effect on the quintessentially Finnish tradition of sauna.

  9. Anonymous Jones

    I like Walker’s article, but there’s a difference between defending the mandate (which I think is part of a terrible overall health care policy) and attacking the fools who attack the mandate because they have a knee-jerk response to anything Obama does or they just do anything Fox News tells them to do without thinking about it in a larger context. Making a *wholly symbolic* proposition about just *one aspect* of the health care plan is stupid and doesn’t help the cause at all. Don’t vote for politicians in the pockets of the insurance industry. How bout starting with that?

  10. Jackrabbit

    Hints of Romer-Summers feuding seem overblown when you consider her relationship to Summers and indirectly to the Bush economic team as reflected in this Politico profile from November 2008.

    From the article:
    Christina Romer, 49, has known several members of Obama’s inner circle for years. As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was a favorite of a young assistant professor named Lawrence Summers. And this week, Obama picked Summers, a former Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, as a top White House economic adviser.

    Romer shares much of Summer’s centrist, pragmatic perspective on economic issues.

    “They will be natural allies on many issues,” said Greg Mankiw, former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

    A close friend of David Romer’s from their undergrad years, Mankiw was also the best man at the Romers’ wedding.

    “On nine out of ten issues they would independently come to the same conclusion,” he said. “And on the other, after they talked it out, they would come to same conclusion.”

    . . .

    Romer has described herself as having “liberal Obama-heavy political views,” but her work has drawn support from both parties. In a November 2008 paper, the Romers concluded that tax cuts can increase economic output, a finding cheered by in low-tax, Republican circles.


    She and her husband followed up that research with a recent paper (June 2010, I believe) that said, essentially, that tax cuts now would be a big blow to the economy.

    Seems to me that she was hired because she saw the world like Summers, and she’s leaving now mostly because a) her pro-Bush tax cuts makes her a political liability, b) someone has to be blamed , and c) she’s angling to be nominated as President of the FRB San Francisco.

    So lets now wring our hands over departure or be taken in by the view that she has somehow fought the good fight against Summers dastardly machinations.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Opps (again)

      The last sentence should read: “Lets NOT wring our hands over HER departure …”

    2. Jackrabbit

      Another mistake (I really messed up this comment, didn’t I?):

      “…tax cuts now would be a big blow to the economy” should’ve been “RAISING TAXES now (by allowing bush tax cuts to expire) would be a big blow to the economy”

  11. KFritz

    Re: Commemoration

    Great stuff. Judt was a mensch. I wonder if the photo, which shows him in such a confident posture, and the description of his illness at the end of the article is a deliberate juxtaposition.

  12. KFritz

    Re: Obama’s Endangered Economists

    I found Mankiw’s comparison of academia and DC very revealing. To translate (someone correct me if I’m wrong), “I’d rather be postulating in an ivory tower where I won’t be confronted w/ the results of my ideas than putting my ideas into practice and discovering their validity.” It’s a fact that working for the government in DC is not exactly direct implementation of one’s own ideas, but it’s still the place where economic ideas are translated into policy, however grotesquely.

    Contrast Mankiw and others’ “ivory tower” posture with this account of John Hussman’s day of decision to stay out of academia and work where his ideas have consequences.

    1. Jackrabbit

      I found the use of Mankiw as a source to be disturbing given his relationship to the Romers (the Politico article I mentioned above says he was best man at their wedding).

      I guess many just assume that someone in the Bush administration would be independent of someone in the Obama administration.

  13. Sundog

    Nice WaPo story on one aspect of US industrial policy — subsidies for debt.

    Over the past generation, debt in America has exploded, becoming a way of life in nearly every sphere of society. And the tax code has been its handmaiden. Home buyers, towns and corporations all enjoy tax breaks that grow as they borrow more. Indeed, federal officials have found that the deductions for business debt are so generous that the government is, in many cases, essentially paying companies to borrow.

    David Cho, “U.S. tax code encourages companies to rack up huge debt”

    Cho uses Macy’s as an example, which is appropriate considering that America’s largest employer is in the retail sector. (Walmart employs more people in America than live in Wyoming, or Vermont, or North Dakota, or Alaska, or South Dakota, or Delaware, or Montana, or Rhode Island, or Hawaii, or Maine, or New Hampshire.)

    The LA Times finds that total annual compensation for Robert Rizzo, former city manager of Bell, CA, amounted to over $1,500,000. (Bell is a suburb of LA that occupies all of 2.5 square miles; population around 37k; median household income around $30k.)

    A Times analysis estimated that Rizzo would collect an annual pension of more than $600,000 upon retirement.
    The newly reviewed records show that when the benefits package is added, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia’s $376,288 salary more than doubles, to $845,960. Police Chief Randy Adams’ pay jumps from $457,000 to $770,046 annually.

    Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives, “Benefits push Bell ex-manager’s compensation to more than $1.5 million”,0,1450972.story

    1. Deus-DJ

      There have been plenty of pension disasters(also read as abuse) like the one in Bell…read up on San Diego’s shit from a few years back. I recommend you read While America Aged by Roger Lowenstein

  14. davver

    There were plenty of actuaries that said the assumptions being used for pension funds were bogus. The management of these organizations didn’t want to hear that, so they got rid of anyone who disagreed and hired actuaries who would play ball. The worst offenders in this process were governments. Governments didn’t even follow the rules they tried to apply to private pension funds. And since governments used by far the most aggressive and irresponsible pension assumptions everyone started following their lead.

    1. Deus-DJ

      What you say is true regarding the actuaries, but let’s not confuse local with state with federal governments.

  15. rd

    The Public Pension shortfall article references a NY Times article

    The NY Times article uses the example of an annuity to come up with the required nest-egg for the pension payouts. I ran the numbers on the annuities mentioned. Basically, the insurance company was quoting about a 4% annual payout to them (the male had slightly higher payout than the women due to expected lifespans).

    We also have the data of 10 year real PEs of about 21 at present which typically presage little future capital gain over the next decade, stock dividend yields that are south of 3%, generally about 2% for the broad indexes, corporate bond yields of less than 6%, and treasury yields less than 3%.

    All of these data scream that the 4% declining fund payout scenario envisioned as “safe” by Bengen in his numerous articles is currently a realistic average declining fund payout today for a retiree, similar to what it was in the Great Depression.

    It is very clear that a current pension fund nest egg that has significant payouts to retirees scheduled in the next decade or two had better be planning on using total return numbers in the 4% to 5% range. Anything close to 7% is fantasy land.

    Personally, I am assuming no net investment returns above the inflation rate over the next 5 – 10 years for my personal accounts. I am planning on any substantial account growth during that time occurring due to addional savings. I suspect that I will be way ahead of the governments 10 years from now.

Comments are closed.