Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Paris Hilton Calls Off Engagement;
what will happen to the ring?

Paris Hilton has called off her five-month engagement: [from WashPost, reg. req'd]

Paris Hilton has ended her five-month engagement to a Greek shipping heir. The celebutante-turned-model broke off the wedding plans with Paris Latsis...

"I'm sad to announce that I've called off my engagement. Over the last couple months I've realized that this is the right decision for me. We remain best of friends, and I'll always love him. I hope people will respect my privacy during this emotional time," Hilton told the magazine.

... Hilton, 24 and Latsis, 22, became engaged in the spring.

... Latsis gave the 24-year-old hotel heiress a 24 carat, $5 million diamond engagement ring. It was not immediately clear what would happen to the ring.

What's the usual practice for dealing with engagement rings when the engagement dissolves? Does the woman return the diamond?

What happened to that biggie that J.Lo received from Ben? I assume that the law of property and the common practice of returning the ring diverge on this question, but I don't know. Good question for my nephew to study in his prop/law course.

Special digression for regular EclEco readers:
I wonder if Paris Hilton has learned anything about string theory yet.

The Dog in the Night:
No Supreme Nomination

Remember all the mystery stories about the dog that didn't bark during the night? That the dog didn't bark was crucial evidence of something, namely that nobody disturbed it.

This morning's papers [NYTimes, WaPo] still contain no news about a nomination to fill the 9th seat on the US Supreme Court. My guess is that this is news.

A week ago, most pundits were expecting that President Bush would announce the name of his nominee to fill the 9th spot within 24 hours of Roberts' confirmation.
Here is a plausible story about what happened:
  • I presume the Bush administration had a short list of, say, 10 names. It seems reasonable that even before Roberts' confirmation as Chief Supreme, the admin had the FBI and others begin doing background checks on each of the ten.
  • They want this nomination to go at least as well and the Roberts nomination did, so they are looking for another squeaky clean, sort-of-strict constructionist.
  • But as the background checks proceeded, the names were crossed off for one reason or another.
  • Possibilities include: one had (too many) extra marital affairs; one had done drugs a bit more than casually as an undergraduate; another had been heard to utter a racial epithet; yet another was too openly anti-abortion; another gone through several spouses and partners; etc.

Eventually they exhausted the entire short list. Even though they might be able to squeeze one of those ten through the Senate confirmation process, the administration has chosen instead to come up with a B-list, which is currently under intense investigation and scrutiny. Once they have gone through that list, they will then have to decide on the optimal strategy.

But it has taken longer than they expected. There were too many skeletons in too many closets.

Update: Craig Newmark doesn't agree. He wrote in e-mail:

I believe this is Sherlock Holmes. And a small detail: it's not quite that the dog wasn't disturbed, it's that the dog knew the person who entered the house.
So Sherlock reasons, if the person were a stranger, the dog would have barked; the dog didn't bark; therefore, the person was not a stranger. If P then Q; not Q; therfore, not P. Sherlock thus illustrates modus tollens, one of the valid forms of deduction.

Or at least I hope so, because that is what I tell a couple of my classes.

> But it has taken longer than they expected. There were too many
> skeletons in too many closets.

Possible, but I don't think so. I go with one of two hypotheses that I regard as simpler.

1) There is strong internal debate, as rumored. Rove is pushing for one candidate, but other people W. respects are pushing for other candidates. Those arguments all could have been made before of course, but few would have been making them post-Roberts-as-Chief. W. wants one more weekend to consider the politics.

2) Related, they have one or two consensus candidates in hand, but they are trying to count noses for confirmation.

... Nobody has a good idea of who this nominee will be. (Or at least nobody who does-- which I expect is a very small group at this point--is betting a lot on Tradesports.) ... Fascinating.

Even More Sudoku

Last weekend, I provided a source for several different daily on-line Sudoku puzzles. Ms. Eclectic just found another one here, which seems to be an international contest sponsored in the UK. The difficulty levels of the puzzles we have done from that site seem accurately described. We don't do them as contests, though; we just enjoy having yet another daily Sudoku puzzle available on-line.

If you haven't done any Sudoku puzzles, or if you have tried them and given up, let me strongly recommend that you start with easy puzzles to get the hang of things. One collection that got us off to a comfortable start was this one:

. . . . .

Pretty in Pink;
locker rooms, offices, and lavender furniture

When I posted recently that my office is bright pink with lavender furniture, Kevin Brancato asked for photos. I don't have any.

But one of my colleagues [thanks, TS] recently sent me this story about ridiculous protests concerning the pink visitors' locker room at the University of Iowa.

The pink visitors' locker room at the University of Iowa's stadium is making some people see red.

The locker room for visiting football teams at Iowa is pretty in pink.

Several professors and students joined the call Tuesday for the athletic department to do away with the pink showers, carpeting and lockers, a decades-long Hawkeye football tradition.

Critics say the use of pink demeans women, perpetuates offensive stereotypes about women and homosexuality, and puts the university in the uncomfortable position of tacitly supporting those messages.

Fortunately, I'm comfortable with both my masculinity and my bright pink walls. But I hope those protestors don't come visiting!

[King Banaian also comments on this news item.]

Social Conservative and Free Market Advocate

Anyone who has read this blog for long understands that I am definitely an advocate of the free market. I didn't realize what an old fuddy-duddy I was on social issues, though:

You are a

Social Conservative
(38% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(81% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test
I have always thought of myself as much more libertarian than this test says. Two possibilities present themselves:
  1. I have been deluding myself. Really, I'm just a curmudgeonly grouch.
  2. The test is flawed.

I prefer the second option. [thanks to Composite Drawlings, also a capitalist, for the pointer]

Since I didn't agree with the results the first time, I took the survey again. I'm not sure I agree with the criteria, but at least this time I was able to cook the results to get what I wanted:

You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(78% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Note to my students:
No, you do not get to write an exam a second time if you do not like the results from the first time you wrote it.
I see that Kent is right in the middle as a capitalist.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Perceptions and Risks

In the Global Spin, published today by Hahn Investments, there is a lengthy diatribe about the uses and misuses of statistics [h/t to Jack]. It concludes,

While we may have waxed somewhat philosophical in this issue of the Global Spin, it nevertheless partly illustrates why we have embarked upon a cautious course for all the portfolios under our stewardship over the past year. We have been responding to heightening risks … and our interpretations of the fairy tale “statistics.” These may not be as popularly perceived, but to us the facts say that the risks are presently high and real.
The risks they see are the global explosion of debt, coupled with an inflation of the money supply. More reasons to go liquid. Consistent with this view, JJ says, "a realistic goal for the next decade may be to avoid losing money."

Going liquid: Ms. Eclectic recently brought home several bottles of "The Six Isles", a premium blended scotch. She doesn't much like it, but I like it at least as much as I like Cardhu. So, it appears, do others. No, I do not keep a bottle of it in my office.

Something Is Wrong Here

What am I missing? Two airplanes may have had a close call in Las Vegas, and, if they did, it may have been because an air-traffic controller became confused. [reg. req'd]
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 - An America West passenger jet taking off from Las Vegas missed hitting an Air Canada jet by about 100 feet last Thursday night, according to a preliminary report, because a controller in the tower confused two planes and issued conflicting instructions.
First, let's be clear that this is not a criminal setting. The concepts of "innocent until proven guilty" and "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" have no relevance in this case. If the FAA thinks the air traffic controller may have been responsible for a near miss, they must remove him immediately from his position. Fortunately they did:
The controller has been taken off duty and sent for more training, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and the episode is under investigation.
While "the episode is under investigation" makes some sense, but why was the controller "sent for more training"? If the controller was confused, I don't want that person in the control room again.

Being an air-traffic controller is not the type of job in which even one mistake can be tolerated, and this message must be sent, loud and clear, to all air traffic controllers:

You must not make a mistake. If you do, people might lose their lives, and you will surely lose your job.

At the same time, if the investigation reveals that the controller didn't make a mistake and was not confused, what is the point of sending him off for more training?

Perhaps this short-term decision is just a way of marking time while the investigation proceeds, a policy to make it look as if something is being done.

My Prediction:
The CBC Will Settle Soon

As I have posted several times before, I have been delighted with the current CBC lockout. The only thing that would improve it would be having a manager announce the titles and performers of music that is being played both before and after it is played.

But I think this slice of near-heaven is doomed for two reasons:

First, if management has any sense, they will realize that most CBC listeners/viewers do not really miss the CBC. From Michael Campbell, p C03, of the Sept. 29th Vancouvre Sun [h/t to JAK]:
Day 46 and the CBC is still out, but the country's holding together. Is there any limit to the resilience of the Canadian public?

You'll have to forgive me (of course, friends of the CBC won't), but the passionate supporters of the national broadcaster have always been over the top in couching the CBC as the glue that holds the nation together. For some, it's the primary rationale for the nearly $1 billion that taxpayers pay to support the public broadcaster.

To be more precise, according to the latest budget documents, Canadian taxpayers spend about $2.7 million per day to subsidize the CBC, which works out to $982.4 million a year (up from $702 million in 1997). It's this level of spending, combined with low ratings for the CBC's English-language television, that has many people asking whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth.
And if nobody misses the CBC, what is the point of subsidizing it to the tune of $47quadzillion? CBC managers should soon become concerned about whether a different set of politicians might vote to privatize the broadcaster and remove its subsidy because, if that were to happen, many of them would be looking for new jobs.

Second, the NHL is about to begin regular-season play. Hockey night in Canada has been a major revenue source for the CBC, and if they are unable to present hockey in its full glory, if at all, they will suffer both short-term revenue losses and long-term reliability concerns: the NHL could easily strike new deals with the other networks to provide even more hockey than those other outlets already provide, and the CBC could be left on the outside. The expectation of this possible loss of revenue, in both the short term and long term, gives the members of the guild a stronger hand in bargaining now than they had a month ago.

Management has presented a new offer to the Guild.
CBC management made what it described as "significant compromises" yesterday on several contentious issues, particularly new limits on the number of contract workers it would hire per year, in order to end its labour dispute.

However, the Canadian Media Guild, which represents the 5,500 locked-out CBC staff who have been walking on picket lines throughout Canada for seven weeks, called management's settlement offer only a small step toward ending the dispute.
My point estimate is that they will settle by mid-October. Here is hoping I am wrong. But if I am correct, here is hoping it is not for the wrong reason [$ subscription required]:

Heavyweight Liberal MPs called for an overhaul of the CBC management and an end to the labour law that allows the crown corporation to lock out staffers as management put a new offer on the table last night.
I had been impressed, up 'til now, that Liberal and NDP politicians have not become more involved on the side of the Media Guild. But this is something we do not need: MPs declaring the CBC a sacrosanct employer that must not be allowed to lock out its workers.

A Coffee-through-the-Nostrils Moment

From Kip Esquire:

Frederic Sautet has a theory:
I believe indeed that methodology and epistemology are the main reasons why Austrians are not invited and perhaps the reasons why they won't be invited for a long time....Kauder explained that economic laws are ontological and that to be an economist is also to be a metaphysician. Austrians are not alone in claiming that economic laws (as well the laws of mathematics, geometry, etc) are apodictically certain.

I have an alternative explanation: People ignore Austrian economists because they tend to use words like "ontological," "metaphysician" and "apodictically."

I use words like those.

Even some of those exact words.

But only when I'm writing up pretentious artist's statements for some of my art shows. E.g.:

His photographs and art work spring from his appreciation of rural life, relating human ontology with that which is beyond humanness, capturing the spirit and soul of both people and nature.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The New Anti-Semitism of the Left

When John F. Kennedy was in Camelot, the left may have had socialist tendencies, but it stood for freedom of opportunity and was rabidly anti-racist regarding all races. Not so, anymore, or so it seems.

From "The New Anti-Semitism" by James Lewis in The American Thinker [thanks to BenS for the link]:
I never thought I would see an open anti-Semitic political campaign in my lifetime. But after fifty years of skulking in the shadows, the old hatreds are rising like Count Dracula from his mouldy grave. According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, The London Guardian is reporting that the academic boycott against Israel's universities is being revived in Britain.

... The new anti-Zionist campaign calls for the abolition of Israel as a nation, but its supporters on the Left assure us it has nothing to do with racism.... [A]nti-Zionism equals racism, pure and simple. In fact, anti-Zionism, now spreading like wildfire among leftist churches, shows a particularly despicable kind of racism.
This next part really rings true for me:
One of the biggest lies on the Left these days is that there is a difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism means advocating the genocide of Jews. Anti-Zionism means advocating the genocide of Jews who live in Israel. I'm puzzled. What's the difference supposed to be?

When the Anglican Church calls for delegitimizing the State of Israel it doesn't use words like "mass murder" or "ethnic cleansing" --- but that is clearly implied. No sane person believes that five million Israeli Jews will simply hop a plane to Argentina or Germany, leaving the land of Israel to the tender mercies of Hamas and Hizbullah. Israeli society is deeply rooted in the love of its land. It can only be driven out with overwhelming force, like the nuclear weapons the Mullahs of Tehran are telling us they are building just for that purpose.

What the Anglican Church is therefore demanding is the abolition of an entire people in their land. That is the political program of Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler. It is simply monstrous coming from Christian church leaders.
When I attended theological seminary back in the mid-60s, it was because I thought the church and organized religion would be a vehicle for social change. It was because I shared a world view with many of my fellow seminarians that racism and genocide are wrong.

I am disgusted by the views of so many church leaders who appear to be overt racists and anti-Semites.

Photos from Katrina

If you haven't seen these, they are pretty awe-inspiring.

[note: it is a power-point display, so you'll need power-point to view this 3.4 mg. file]

Oil Futures

Nouriel Roubini says the price of oil is sure to go over $100/bbl sometime in the next few years. He argues,

Global demand for oil is growing at about 2.1% per year or about 2 mmb/d (million barrels a day) per year. So, new net supply has to increase by as much just to maintain prices at current high levels. But since existing production fields get depleted at the rate of over 4 mmb/d per year, new production from new oil fields has to be at least 6 mmb/d per year just to ensure that the additional net demand is satisfied.

So, where will the new 6 mmb/d per year new production come from? We would be very lucky if, between OPEC and non-OPEC producers, we get two thirds of this new production per year available between now and 2010. Thus, based on standard elasticities of demand for oil in face of a highly inelastic medium term supply, this implies that we will oil at $100 per barrel well before the end of this decade.
Professor Roubini is a very smart economist, and so I am reluctant to disagree with him. But as I have posted earlier, citing The Emirates Economist, the Alberta tar sands and the Western US oil shale reserves are potentially gi-normous. [see the item just below this one]

But more to the point: As I write this, oil futures prices over the next five and a half years range from under $67/bbl in the short-term down to near $60/bbl five years from now. If Roubini is right (and for all I know, he might be right), why hasn't his argument been capitalized into futures prices for oil?

Victor Davis Hanson:
Four Rules Learned from Ward Churchill

Professors outside the arts at major research universities are supposed to have Ph.D.s. The phantom Ward Churchill does not. How he was hired, promoted, and tenured without a doctorate is a mystery — the equivalent of a high-school teacher credentialed with an AA degree, or a medical doctor operating without an M.D.

Ward Churchill proclaimed that he is a Native American of various tribal affiliations; he is not. Even his ridiculous costumes, occasional threats, and puerile rants cannot disguise that fact.

He seems to be a pop artist of sorts, but his canvasses are not quite his own either. Those of like political mind have praised his scholarship, but much of what he writes seems derivative, or misrepresents or outright plagiarizes others.
In this article in the National Review, Victor Davis Hanson says there are four rules for all of us to learn from the Ward Churchill affair:

  1. Rule 1: Profess to be as far left as possible, understanding that extremism in the service of utopian virtue is no vice.
  2. Rule 2: Among the nerds and dorks, act a little like a Brando, Che, or James Dean, a wild spirit that gives off a spark of danger, who can at a distance titillate Walter Mitty-like admirers and closer up scare off the more sober censors.
  3. Rule 3: Whenever possible, reinvent yourself as anything but a white, straight American male. [Oops. Does Canadian work?]
  4. Rule 4. Don’t worry about the anti-capitalist’s embarrassing six-figure salary, plush job, lifelong guaranteed employment, and fondness for jet travel and hotels. Just keep acting like an ageless denizen of the Woodstock nation, professing to be a timeless dagger pointed at the heart of money-grubbing square America.

What a sad indictment of university bureaucracy that this guy got as far as he did.

Recalcitrant, unbending, immobile, a throw-back to a better, more idealistic age — this is the rock-cut image that the perpetual ‘60s professor taps into. And Churchill, with his photo-studio manufactured profile, pageboy locks, occasional fake Indian name, hip street lingo, and sassy banter did it better than any we’ve seen in quite a while — or at least well enough to wow the flabby university committees that allowed him to cash in.
[h/t to BenS for the link]

More Evidence that the Price of Oil Will Not Go Sky High over the Next 20 Years

The Emirates Economist links to this article in Fortune Magazine, which jumps on the bandwagon, noting the phenomenally huge oil reserves available in the Alberta tar sands.

Canada's Alberta province has oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's, but they're not a liquid asset.

... Unlike the smooth crude oil that spurts from wells in Kuwait and Texas, oil sands are essentially black mud. "It's like you took a bucket of sand and dumped your old motor oil in it," says Peter Duggan, a manager at the Aurora mine, which is operated by Syncrude, a partnership of Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and several other companies. Through a complicated series of steps (see following diagram) the mud is transformed into gas you can put in your car.

... "The oil-sands potential is huge," says Frederick Lawrence, a vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Oil & Gas Journal estimates that Alberta has 174.5 billion barrels of recoverable reserves in its oil sands, enough to meet Canada's needs for 250 years. That figure is second only to Saudi Arabia's estimated reserves of 264 billion barrels. All told, including deposits beyond the reach of today's technology, there could be 1.6 trillion barrels of oil embedded in Alberta.
Add the oil shale of the Western US to the Alberta tar sands, and it is easy to understand why oil futures decline over the next five years.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Podcast Interview

In his latest posting, James Reese invited Phil Miller and me to discuss some topics of mutual interest for his economics podcast. Here is his summary:
John Palmer and Phil Miller discuss their views on price gouging, scalping and sporting events, stadiums and economic impacts of professional sports on local economies. Both John and Phil contribute to Skip Sauer's The SportsEconomist Blog.
This is the link to the actual podcast .

Congratulations to Professor Reese for having his podcasts make the top 100 list in iTunes downloads.

[We wanted to discuss the economics of lap-dancing and the economics of escort services, but Professor Reese vetoed those topics.]

Entrepreneurial Market "Penetration"

From Adlolaya [courtesy of MA and BenS]:
This week's Jewish Chronicle reports on some.... latex, er, prophylactics distributed on campus by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students. The said items are blue and white and bear Magen Davids, though it isn't clear where they are positioned on them. They bear these slogans:

Israel --- you'll never forget your first time

Israel --- it's still safe to come

Israel --- standing tall and firm

Well, it's a novel approach to tourism promotion and political PR.

... The [Jewish Chronicle] headline is "Australian Jewish Students Prepare to Be Firm on Israel".
Hmmmm. Others might think it was a bit of a limp joke....

What Will Happen in the Economy?

Jack sent me this, which summarizes the huge drop in consumer confidence.
"Hurricane Katrina, coupled with soaring gasoline prices and a less optimistic job outlook, has pushed consumer confidence to its lowest level in nearly two years and created a degree of uncertainty and concern about the short-term future," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. "Historically, shocks have had a short-term impact on consumer confidence,especially on consumers' expectations."

Franco added, however, that as rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Katrina take hold and job growth gains momentum, consumers' confidence should rebound and return to "more positive levels by yearend or early 2006."
This analysis is consistent with the fact that despite the drop in consumer confidence, stock market indices increased. And yet, there are so many other reasons (besides the hurricanes and rising gasoline prices)for the decline in consumer confidence.

The housing bubble seems on the verge of breaking; US gubmnt debt is considerably higher than is healthy; foreign central banks are buying up lots of US paper, supporting the consumption binge in the US; and personal savings seem to be at an all-time low. It looks like a house of cards, ready to collapse. If so, is it time to rebalance one's portfolio?

Bob Dylan

I watched the PBS specials about Bob Dylan the last two evenings. They were fascinating, but I have to confess: I never liked Dylan's voice. I never liked his performances. The only things he wrote that I liked were numbers performed by other artists, e.g. "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Don't Think Twice".

He might have been a genius, but he never clicked for me.

Update: I see that my Alan Adamson, a co-blogger at Curling, had a very different view of Dylan and of the documentary. Lucky thing we don't listen to music together.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Time to Overbalance into Gold?

Last week, I said that I expect the US Fed to monetize a large amount of the coming gigantic growth in the US federal gubmnt deficit. If they do, and if they do it in a big way, look for longer run inflationary pressures as aggregate demand increases due to both the increased deficits and the increased money supply.

One response to anticipated inflation is to overbalance one's portfolio into gold. I have two different friends who have slowly done this recently. For more, check out this reference:
Mounting inflationary concerns, driven largely by higher energy prices, have pushed gold higher despite a stronger dollar," a Sept. 19 Goldman Sachs commodities report said.

Should New Orleans Be Rebuilt?

Economists' Voice has both a column and an article about whether New Orleans should be rebuilt. Here is the abstract from the article by Edward Glaeser:
Should government rebuild New Orleans? Edward Glaeser asks whether the residents would be better off with $200,000 in their pockets than to have $200 billion spent on infrastructure: shouldn't we be insuring the people, not the place? New Orleans has been declining and its people mired in poverty for decades; its port and pipelines cannot employ a large city, and $200 billion is unlikely to change that.
But let's not get our knickers in a knot over this. New Orleans is going to be rebuilt. The only relevant question is how much will be rebuilt and by whom.

My guess is that it will be rebuilt with a population of about 300,000 or so, at the most, serving the shipping, oil, and tourism businesses. And the mass exodus of the rest will cause economic and social disruptions of varying degrees throughout the south (and to a much lesser extent elsewhere).

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Robert Spencer has written a book entitled, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Click here to read a review of the book by Nancy Kobrin [h/t to BenS].
Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, an invaluable web site that daily informs readers of Islam’s global jihad, cuts right to the chase in this absorbing antidote to the received wisdom about Islam. He turns his attention to the most problematic nature of Islam: its ideologies of warring.

... He also takes remarkably precise aim at the politically correct myths that preclude an honest discussion about Islam.

Chances are, you’ve heard them all: “The Qur’an teaches believers to take up arms only in self-defense;” “The Qur’an and the bible are equally violent;” “Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists;” “Islam was once the foundation of a great cultural and scientific flowering;” “Christianity and Islam spread in pretty much the same way;” “The Crusades were an unprovoked attack by Europe against the Islamic world;” “The Crusades were fought to convert Muslims to Christianity by force;” “The Crusades were called against Jews in addition to Muslims;” “The Crusades were bloodier than the Islamic jihads;” and “The Crusades accomplished nothing.”

Against such feel-good bromides, Spencer quotes Ibn Warraq, a Muslim apostate and author who wrote that while there are moderate Muslims, Islam itself is not moderate. Most people are in denial when it comes to this candid observation. As for the misunderstood Crusades, Spencer sets the record straight: the Crusades were waged as a defense against the relentless onslaught of Islamic jihad.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Spencer’s book is its timeliness. Islam is widely acknowledged to be the world’s fastest growing religion, but few know just how fast. In fact, Islam is estimated to have reached 1.5 billion adherents thereby surpassing Christianity’s 1.2 billion faithful and dwarfing Judaism’s world-wide population at a mere 13-15 million. Leading counter-terrorist expert, R. Paz, who heads Prism, (The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements,, recently told the Christian Science Monitor that while most Muslims are in the moderate camp, "If we're talking about percentages, maybe the supporters of global jihad are only 1 percent of the Muslim world.'' That means, then, that there are about 15 million would-be Muslim terrorists.

. . . . . .

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Difference between Canadians and Americans

The difference between Americans and Canadians is that (on average, generally speaking) Canadians like big gubmnt and admit it; Americans like big gubmnt but deny it.

Robert Fulford of the National Post has a different take on the question:

Articulate Canadians tend to be believe that Canada has always relied on government for its existence and that improvements in our common life are most likely to come through government action. We consider government supervision more vital than individual enterprise, which makes us into a nation of regulators. When something new appears in the world, the American asks: How can money be made from this? The Canadian asks: How can we regulate it?
[h/t to Jack for the pointer]

Update: Mark Steyn says something similar to what I did about Americans:
American politics seems to have dwindled down to a choice between a big government party and a big permanently-out-of-government party.
I see he misspelled "gubmnt".

Will Subsidized Universal Daycare Solve Canada's Economic Problems?

Brian Ferguson, who writes A Canadian Econoview, is back, and his first posting upon his return is brilliant, witty, biting sarcasm about Paul Martin's recent pronouncement, (quoting from the New Brunswick Telegraph),
Canada's competitive edge in the looming economic showdown with China and India must be honed soon after its toddlers leave the crib, Prime Minister Paul Mr. Martin said Tuesday.

The prime minister said his proposed national child-care plan will help Canadian tots get a head start in a global economy where only the smartest countries will thrive.
Brian Ferguson's reaction?
Well, that makes sense. Everyone knows that the reason the Indian economy is finally taking off is because they decided to put all their kids into daycare. State regulated, unionized daycare, of course. Certainly it had nothing to do with India's undoing decades of socialist regulation and letting entrepreneurs make profits in open markets.
He is relentless in is attack. Read the whole thing for sarcastic comments on how subsidized universal daycare will solve all of Canada's economic and educational problems.

Georgia Schools Close to Save Gas;
Really Dumb Economic Policy

Most of Georgia's public schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday, taking two "early snow days," in an effort to conserve fuel in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Gov. Sonny Perdue asked for the closings on Friday, estimating that closing all of the state's schools would save about 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel by idling buses, plus an undetermined amount of gasoline by allowing teachers, staff members and some parents to stay home. Electricity also would be conserved by keeping the schools closed, he said.

... As he did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Perdue also asked residents — and ordered government agencies — to limit nonessential travel and use commuting alternatives including telecommuting, car pooling and four-day work weeks.

This is a ridiculous response to expected reductions in gasoline supplies. If the state is concerned about line-ups and shortages, they should increase the state gasoline tax. Higher prices, even in the short-run, work wonders at reducing the quantity demanded, and a higher gasoline tax would have the desired effect.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Houston: the Aftermath

Like nearly everyone else in Houston, my son and his wife are fine. In fact the power came back on where they live in less than 24 hours after the storm.

There are numerous blogs of people's experiences. One I have especially enjoyed following is Cynthia's. Here's one brief excerpt on the line-ups the day after the hurricane:
It's not understandable to me that people would pass up several open establishments serving food within the same mile strip on Westheimer, and then stand for hours in a line in the heat. They clearly didn't see that several Walgreens pharmacies, a Sonic drive-in, and even the Fox & Hound Grille and Pub, were open and had food to serve in the form of snacks, fast food, or full meals with beer. People were fixated on needing groceries, and needing them yesterday. What were they going to find in there that couldn't wait until tomorrow, when more places were open? More water?

Gas and food aren't the only things in short supply around here. For some people, there's also an appreciable lack of common sense.
Her experience reminds me of the big snowstorm I lived through in Chicago in 1967. The streets were so clogged with snow that we knew there would be no deliveries to the stores for several days. For some reason, everyone in the Hyde Park area was panicked about getting meat and milk. Meat and dairy counters in local groceterias were completely cleaned out. Yet the shelves still had dried milk powder and tinned stews. ...

To weather that storm, we went into a drugstore and bought two big bags of M&Ms.... Each.

More Sudoku:
Obtain Daily Puzzles from the Internet

I posted earlier about how we have become hooked on Sudoku, puzzles involving logic and (usually) numbers. After I wrote that posting, we ordered several more books of Sudoku puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty.

We have also discovered several sources of daily puzzles on the internet. Here are three that we look at nearly every day.
  1. Daily Sudoku from vnunet. After following this link, click on "play". The puzzles at this site seem consistently to be in the moderate range of difficulty. We usually print them out, but this site facilitates playing on line with several nice features involving colours and allowing you to type possible entries in the upper part of each square.

  2. The Daily Sudoku. This site tends to have easier puzzles early in the week, but much more difficult puzzles near the end of the week. It also has a nice "draw" feature for entering your own puzzle (from a book, perhaps) which then can provide hints or solutions if the puzzle isn't too difficult to solve with its algorithm. If you print any of these puzzles, it is usually easier to do them if you print them in a larger size than the default, which is medium.

  3. The Daily Mail has daily Sudokus of varying difficulty. Recently, they have also had some "ultimate" Sudoku, which look so challenging I haven't tried them [the opportunity costs of spending time on them are too high for me]. They also have a good-sized archive of printable puzzles of varying levels of difficulty. Below is one from their archives classified as moderate. [For those who want to learn more about the background of Sudoku, click here; and for hints on how to do the puzzles, click here].

An Unusual Survey

My friend, BenS, wonders what would happen if you could do a public opinion survey in France, Sweden, Germany, et al., with this question:
Would you prefer that we urge Jews to leave our country to be replaced by Muslims? Would you approve or disapprove this trade?
While I think I understand why he posed the question, I'm not sure I want to know the answer.
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