Saturday, March 05, 2005

Krugman: The Failed Prognosticator

You remember the columnist I most disrespect. Here is another great take on his work from a blogger - JustOneMinute: Happy Anniversary To Paul Krugman: "a head start on preparations for the second anniversary of Paul Krugman's bold interest forecast. Roll the tape from March 11, 2003, please; his lead:
With war looming, it's time to be prepared. So last week I switched to a fixed-rate mortgage. It means higher monthly payments, but I'm terrified about what will happen to interest rates once financial markets wake up to the implications of skyrocketing budget deficits.
Well. Per the Federal Reserve, I see that mortgage rates were 5.67% on March 7, and 5.61% on March 14, 2003.
Today, despite the war, financial markets continue to slumber - as of March 3, 2005, the Federal Reserve tells me that fixed rate mortgages were at 5.79%. Robert Samuelson puzzled over this a few days back.
Perhaps the Earnest Prof is a bit stronger when forecasting equities? Let's check his stock market call of June 20, 2003; with the S&P 500 closing at 994.7 on June 19, 2003, Krugman wrote this:
The big rise in the stock market is definitely telling us something. Bulls think it says the economy is about to take off. But I think it's a sign that America is still blowing bubbles that a three-year bear market and the biggest corporate scandals in history haven't cured investors of irrational exuberance yet.
Or, to put it another way: it's hard to find any real news to justify the market's leap. Instead, investors seem to be buying stocks because they are rising which is pretty much the definition of a bubble.
As of this writing on March 4, 2005, the S&P is at 1221, up 11 on a good jobs report.
Hmm, did I mention jobs? That calls for a link to Mickey's 'Krugman Gotcha Contest' from the fall of 2003. I appear with a late entry, citing Krugman's Bold Assertion, from July 25,"...

and goes on and on citing Krugman's failed prodictions.

Remember al-Qaqaa?

It was just ka-ka.

Jonah Goldberg: What ever happened to The Most Important Story on Earth?: "Remember al-Qaqaa? This was the massive cache of explosives that American forces failed to secure after the fall of Saddam. In the final week of the presidential campaign it was The Most Important Story on Earth."

Short answer: the story diasppeared from the headlines after the election as the story was not as consequential as it turned out contrary to the media (primarily the NYT) which loved the story immediately before Bush v Kerry.

Friday, March 04, 2005

VDH on Europe

One of the many joys of Fridays is Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online:

"Our cousins abroad cannot figure out why a crass nation of former European rejects, led by a cowboy from Texas, is wealthier, stronger, and more willing to sacrifice for principle than a more venerated, cultured, and aristocratic civilization. Europe, it turns out, worships class and privilege in the flesh while it damns them in the abstract even as the uncouth popular culture of America that has corrupted the planet is most welcome and at home in, of all places, Europe.
All this was known to our ancestors, chronicled in our literature, enshrined in our popular memory, and carefully noted by our diplomats from Jefferson and Lincoln to Roosevelt and Wilson. Yet the half-century aberration of the Cold War disguised our differences and lured us into collective amnesia. Unlike World War I, after World War II we wisely stayed on to prevent another conflagration. Yet having a common enemy in the Soviet Union misled some of us into thinking that an identical Europe and American would always see eye to eye, when we never really had despite our cultural and democratic affinities. And now we have come to the end of the Age of Exception, a sobriety brought on by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the stark aftermath of September 11, which scrapped off the thin veneer and revealed particle board, not oak, beneath."

National Review Online's Fun Feature

If you think you have a good vocabulary just try knowing every word William Buckley routinely uses to put you (me) in place. A feature I love that expoilts Buckley's tendency is a daily feature on National Review Online. For example here is today's quiz:

"WFB's Word of the Day

Which of the following words can be defined as The horizontal angular distance from a reference direction ? [3/4/05]

A. Venue
B. Azimuth
C. Latitude"

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Guardian : British and French agree on Lebanon

In a hopeful column about the goings-on in Lebanon, a valid yet unusual point about the Middle East and the Bush reponse, Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment Timothy Garton Ash: British and French agree on Lebanon:

"One of very few universally valid laws of history is the law of unintended consequences. The effects of what men and women do are rarely those they intend, and sometimes they are the exact opposite. If that happens here[Lenanon], it would be hard to imagine a nicer illustration of the law.

Suppose al-Qaida had not destroyed the twin towers in New York. Would the Middle East be in such ferment?"

Social Security Ownership

OpinionJournal - Featured Article: "The only political trump that reformers have, and the one the White House has to make its main theme, is ownership. Not just an 'ownership society,' in the good phrase Mr. Bush often uses, but ownership of your own payroll taxes to build your own retirement assets. This is the nub of the entire reform debate, because it gets to the fundamental issue of who controls the money that Americans pay into the Social Security system.
As it stands, millions of Americans still believe in the fiction that their payroll taxes are being squirreled away in a savings account in their name somewhere in the U.S. Treasury. This is largely because politicians of both parties have spread this fantasy over the years, the better to be able to continue to spend that loot themselves to buy votes for the next election. The undeniable truth is that Mr. Bush's reform is the only idea on the table that would create such accounts, complete with ownership rights written into law. "

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Greenspan Urges Action on Social Security and Medicare

The New York Times > AP > Business:
"Greenspan reiterated that he supports President Bush's push for setting up personal retirement accounts by diverting up to 4 percentage points of payroll taxes into the new accounts.
Diverting the payroll taxes into the Social Security trust fund, he said, had merely allowed the government to run larger budget deficits. Greenspan said that switching to the private accounts would be a way to bolster the nation's low savings rate.
In his prepared testimony, Greenspan did not repeat the cautionary message he sent last month: Creation of the accounts should be done slowly to gauge the impact the increased borrowing that will be needed will have on financial markets.
``The one certainty is that the resolution of the nation's unprecedented demographic challenge will require hard choices and that the future performance of the economy will depend on those choices,'' Greenspan said.
The Fed chief said that unless growth in the huge benefit programs is restrained, these programs will require more and more government resources, rising from about 8 percent of the total economy currently to 13 percent by 2030.
``In the end, the consequences for the U.S. economy of doing nothing could be severe,'' he said."

NYT's Kristof on the Horror of Darfur

Darfur is a tradegy that points out the uselessness of the UN. As usual if anything is done it will be done by the United States and perhaps the coalition of the willing. Kristof rightly points out the horror of the situation in an op-ed titled The American Witness:

"If American voters cared about Darfur's genocide as much as about, say, the Michael Jackson trial, then our political system would respond. One useful step would be the passage of the Darfur Accountability Act, to be introduced today by Senators Jon Corzine and Sam Brownback. The legislation calls for such desperately needed actions as expanding the African Union force and establishing a military no-fly zone to stop Sudan from bombing civilians.
As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: 'Man's inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.' "

Dean's Ego

Again from John McCaslin:
"Past presidential candidate, former Vermont governor and medical doctor Howard Dean has worn his share of hats, most of which he manages to attach to his signature as the new leader of the Democratic Party:

'Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
'Chairman, Democratic National Committee.'

Reminder of American Losses in Iraq

Notes from recent Congressional trip fromJohn McCaslin: "There was no better reminder for Sen. Jim DeMint [R-SC] that freedom comes at a high price than the flag-draped coffins loaded aboard his flight from Iraq to Kuwait over the weekend."

...As we flew back to Kuwait City for the night, I was saddened to see flag-draped coffins aboard our plane," he said. "Upon landing and witnessing the respectful ceremony given to our fallen heroes, it was a reminder to us all that freedom does not come freely."

Original Article for Source of CIA Criticism is here:

Commentary - What Became of the CIA: "What Became of the CIA"

More on the CIA from the WSJ

OpinionJournal - Extra: "The Clinton administration greatly accelerated this process, not only by sharply cutting the CIA's budget but also by reining in almost all risk-taking operations and browbeating the agency into becoming a showcase for the Clintonian brand of affirmative action. And showcase is the right word: if the CIA typically shrouds itself in secrecy, when it comes to racial and gender preferences, few government agencies have made their internal workings quite so visible. The drive to hire more 'Asian Pacific' and Hispanic officers at the very moment the CIA was facing a critical shortage of Arabic speakers, and at the very moment when Islamic terrorism was emerging as the most significant threat to our national security, speaks volumes about how and why the agency failed in its mission of safeguarding the United States.
Just as there is no single cause of the CIA's manifold shortcomings, however, so there is no single solution that can put things right. The United States is today once again at war, and contrary to the CIA's leading expert on Osama bin Laden, we are facing not a 'gentle' adversary but one that has already demonstrated its capacity to murder large numbers of us. In this war, intelligence is the most important front--which means that fixing the CIA or, if it cannot be fixed, replacing it with something different and better, remains the government's most pressing task. Unfortunately, grafting a new layer of bureaucracy on top of what exists, as Congress has just done, does not even begin to grapple with the real weaknesses of the present system."

PC and the CIA

Linda Chavez: "The Central Intelligence Agency might be the last place in Washington you'd expect political correctness to have taken root. But as Gabriel Schoenfeld demonstrates in a disturbing new article, 'What Became of the CIA,' in the March issue of Commentary magazine, the agency has turned into 'a government bureaucracy like any other, its managers and employees preoccupied with endless reams of restrictive regulations and simultaneously caught up in many of the newfangled pathologies of the American workplace,' including affirmative action programs."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

William F. Buckley Jr. on Hunter S. Thompson

Contrary to popular articles after Thompson's suicide here's William F. Buckley Jr. on Hunter Thompson on National Review Online:

"One can be sorry that Hunter Thompson died as he did, but not sorry, surely, that he stopped writing."

Painful Admission from the NYTs

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Mideast Climate Change: "...this has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance."

Overstock and the Model

What's With That Ad?: [The model for the ads...] "...In addition to German and English, Sabine speaks French and Italian. She is proficient in basic tactical pistol skills, because she thought it would be a fun thing to learn. She also has a private pilot's license and 350 hours in the air. "

"Sabine is gorgeous, but in a non-threatening way. Men find her approachable, women think she's friendly. "We didn't want someone that the gal in rural Minnesota couldn't relate to," says Simon. I guess she means the Minnesotan gal who flies aerobatic planes and speaks four languages."

"Before Sabine's spots launched in October 2003, had a measly 12 percent brand recognition. By November 2004, recognition was at 46 percent. I know I remember the brand. And I know why. Love her or hate her, in the end it's all about Sabine."

Chess is for Kids

OpinionJournal: "Two years ago, she founded her nonprofit Susan Polgar Foundation to promote chess to young people nationwide, with a special focus on girls. This year, more than 3,000 of them will participate in regional qualifying events for the second Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. The University of Texas at Dallas will award a full four-year scholarship to the highest finishing player who has not yet graduated from high school when the tournament is held in Phoenix this August. She also is looking for support, both from donations and from politicians, for her foundation's Excel Through Chess program, which aims to introduce chess to every child in every school to help them do better in their studies and in life."

Study after study has "shown that children who are exposed to the game are ahead of their peers who are not involved with the royal game. Chess is a wonderful tool to increase concentration, self-control, patience, imagination, creativity, logical thinking and many more important and useful life skills," she says. "

WSJ on Iran

OpinionJournal: "But the U.S., with its stake in Iraq and the Persian Gulf, its opposition to terrorist groups that Iran sponsors, and its commitment to spreading democracy in the Mideast, cannot be indifferent to a nuclear Iran. The problem is not that we have yet to hit on the right mix of carrots and sticks to cajole Iran into responsibility. The problem is that Iran's theocratic regime is by its nature inimical to American interests; any move that extends its life also prolongs the hazard it poses to the U.S.
That does not mean the U.S. should drop diplomacy and take up arms against Iran tomorrow. It does mean that if any headway is to be made, the Administration needs to be absolutely clear about Iran's intentions and Europe's motives. Signing on to Europe's strategy offers one certain outcome: a nuclear Iran. "

Thomas Sowell: On Media and Academic Fairness

Thomas Sowell: Believing the true believers: "too many of our schools and colleges have been so busy pushing particular forms of political correctness that they have not bothered to explain why other views by other people cannot be ignored intellectually or disregarded politically."

"The time is long overdue for our media and our educational institutions to start presenting both sides of issues -- and for our schools and colleges to start teaching students how to think, instead of telling them what to think."