Archive for January, 2013

They asked, and I said I would, so . . .

. . . so I started a State Petition in Montana to challenge Citizens United. And I am supposed to publicise the link on all my portals, so here it is Challenge Citizen’s United Decision

Let’s see if anyone is listening in.

Fantastic food for thought

Take the time to read this 27 page summary of the discussion of 4 prominent economists with regard to the appropriate responses to the economic problems to the world economies at present, and what they have learned since the GFC. Three thoughts come to mind following my review of this article:

1. Thanks for the internet. I am grateful each and every day that I have access in nearly real time to the output of really great researchers and thinkers that would be unimaginable. I am still very disappointed that I never had the opportunity to go to UC San Diago, Princeton or someplace like that, but having access to the information coming of of these places through the internet really is almost like being there.

2. I found myself laughing out loud 3 times in the reading. Maybe this shouldn’t be as surprising to me as it is. These are smart people, and the basis of humour is intelligence, and making a point through humour is an effective way to make an argument. But getting a good laugh 3 times in a 27 page summary of the deliberations of a conference on macroeconomics was a pleasant surprise.

3. I think that Valerie Ramey may be on to something truly insightful through her studies. What if the US is being significantly hindered in its ability to come out of the recession caused by the GFC due to aggregate demand loss caused by a combination of the inefficiency of its private health system in conjunction with the behavioural response of people to the shock of the GFC (e.g. spending less, saving more and preparing for things to get worse rather than better). What if they are really willing to take less and be less mobile in their employment decisions due to the fear over loss of health care coverage? Isn’t structural reform of health care in the US (particularly a single payer system) then one of the best things that could be done with respect to stimulus OR efficiency, whether you are a salt water or freshwater economist?

More like a drumbeat

Where I had previously talked about the drip, drip drip, snap progression of natural systems, the rate of the evidence is now coming in more like a drumbeat of information that will be seen in hindsight as a truism.

I offer for your consideration the following:

NOAA’s current state of the climate report, establishing 2012 as a record for temperatures and chaos related to entropy; and,

The Australian Bureau Meteorology has been required to add two new colours to its palette to forecast temperatures over Australia. Now, they may have revised yesterday’s map based on the actual (record) temperatures achieved vs. what was forecast, but have a look at the map of temperatures achieved, and rest assured, they will still need the new colours again soon and regularly in the future.

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 11.48.45 AM

Rational gun control, unless it’s too late

So, I think I have the gun control issue partly solved in the USA, if anyone is still listening, but possibly not.

I actually asked my buddy Otto whether or not we need to just admit that these kids in Sandy Hook Elementary just don’t mean that much in the overall scheme of things. Isn’t that right, and shouldn’t we just admit that and move on, unless you are really interested in seeing that this sort of thing gets reduced in the USA? Perhaps the statistics above prove that to be true, but direct discussion with gun advocates suggests otherwise. You see, my buddy Otto is one serious constitution reading libertarian, and he is not interested in giving up any of his guns at all.

And I am with him, to a point. But I see guns in America as another set of dangerous goods that must be managed. We could also have some discussions around just what is required to maintain a “well regulated militia”, how large a magazine, how many of them, and what rate of fire is required, but even if we don’t go there, I have a set of reasonable suggestions that don’t significantly impact on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights, while making sure that everyone’s rights under the 1st Amendment aren’t jeopardised inadvertently in the move toward an armed camp in the USA. Because I honestly see it that way. I believe that my freedom of movement, association and pursuit of happiness are significantly diminished by having to worry if I am going to get shot trying to enjoy dinner and a movie, go to work, or school.

Through a bit of reading, and further discussions with Otto, I think I have an answer that appeals to the right, left, up and down in politics with a significant enough plurality amongst all that it works: personal responsibility. It’s always a good time in America to have a chat about personal responsibility, as it seems to be the answer to a number of the ills there, and everyone initially says they are all for it. The religious love it, despite the fact that they go all moral on you. The left can come to support it, because it finally gives them a chance to hold someone in power to account. And the right love it, because it has an emotional appeal to their both authoritarian and libertarian sides. The only people who couldn’t support it are the mentally defective, who by definition can’t be held personally responsible, so who gives a shit what they think.

Here’s how gun control works based on personal responsibility. Guns are a dangerous good that (peculiarly) if used as intended or not can cause the death of people, animals and some potentially significant property damage. They are also required to be available in the population to allow for the forming of militias to overthrow a despotic government, should that come to pass. In order for the government to unsure the maintenance of this potential to removal of itself by force, we need to know what the numbers are, and ensure that there is sufficient distribution and numbers that they can be called to use (I assume by the States individually) to overthrow the federal government. So the States really need the information, but what we really want to focus on is personal responsibility, so we need not write much regulation, that way the law can be cost efficiently implemented, and also generate some friendly competition in service providers for the information.

The law will say this: If you want own a gun in the future, you will be required to register it’s storage location with your state police, and commit to storing and maintaining it in a safe and secure manner. You are personally responsible for the safety and security of your firearm to prevent its being used by anyone who cannot be held personally responsible for its use in the killing of any human inadvertently or with malevolent intent, or in the negligent or wilful killing or damage to any property, unless that killing or damage is found to be lawful through a jury trial. That’s it. It’s also pretty much already law in most jurisdictions in the USA, following the implementation of registration.

You are already responsible if your 7 year old child takes your car and runs down a grandmother during a joy ride, or uses your gun to shoot 10-15 sheep on your neighbour’s property for sport. The only reason I want to make sure you register your gun is so that I can hold you responsible in the event you don’t maintain your dangerous good in a fashion that is safe and secure, and you have tons of leeway in defining “safe and secure” in your particular situation, because there is going to be no “prior restraint” in the implementation of my law. No one is going to be around to check, and no standards are going to be published to define “safe and secure” for you. If you make your guns kept for home protection, hunting or whatever safe and secure such that they are never used in a killing by your children through education or sheer intimidation, great. If you use a trigger lock, safe or concealment to secure your guns, cool. Whatever you want to do, you decide. And if a person breaks into your house, steals your .45 from under your pillow and commits a murder later, we aren’t going to hold you civilly or criminally responsible for his criminal acts. But if you are going to raise a sociopath, psychopath or a person who cannot control their anger, and they get ahold of your gun and use it to kill a bunch of people, you will likely have to pay, and potentially be held criminally responsible for gross negligence. So, you might want to consider some disaster insurance if you want to own an assault rifle and a dozen clips of ammo, or even an automatic weapon, which by the way I am pretty much OK with under my new legal regime. Just be fucking responsible.

Unless they refuse to register their guns, the only time the average gun owner is going to have any brush up against the law is forensically in the investigation of homicide, just like they are now, and even identification of the recalcitrants will be through forensic investigation, as there is no need for proactive audit or inspections. 2nd Amendment supporters are often quick to site how rare the cases of a person who cannot be held responsible is responsible for significant killing, so there should be almost imperceptible impact to those people. If you fail to register your guns and they are identified forensically, but not in relation to a killing or significant damage incident, you will be required to register them at that time and face some administrative penalty. In the cases where an unregistered gun is identified in the course of a criminal investigation, it will be forfeited, registered by the police and recycled for some beneficial use or materials.

For those paranoid of registration, let this be some comfort. Any incremental damage done by this perceived encroachment on your 2nd Amendment Rights is far offset by the benefit of the elimination of incidents like Sandy Hook, Aurora, the temple, Virgina Tech and Columbine. Because those incidents all involve damage to the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all those involved as victims. And in my world 1 comes before 2, especially if I can prove no significant reduction in 2 through regulation of my well organised militia.

Sure, but what have you done for us lately?

So, how’d we do in our predictions? And will I be foolish enough to publish a few more?

Well, as predictors go, I’m no Nate Silver. But that would require a devotion to pure math I just ain’t got.

On the other hand, I predict multiple things, so you know, its harder to hold up a record.

Anyway, on to the specifics:

• The carbon tax will end up being a non-issue, or even net positive to the Gillard government with the electorate when it comes into effect on 1 July.

Spot on.

• Kevin Rudd will not successfully challenge Julia Gillard to take over leadership of the Labor Party.

Spot on, and although only three weeks out, I wish I had tried to find a bet on it.

• Europe is already in a recession, and when they finally do the numbers after the fact, it will be a big one. My guess is a drop in GDP in the Euro zone of 3% and a duration of 2 years. Keynesian economic theory will win out in the argument over austerity or stimulus, but the Germans (and others) who want to paint the sovereign debt issues in Europe as a morality tale will realise this way to late, or refuse to admit it at least.

Still in the running, with all the timely stuff spot on, and the Germans are actually still taking that line.

• Greece will default on its sovereign debt after failing to come to an agreement with its lenders and failing to get assistance from the European Central Bank (due to the point above) and will therefore leave the euro and reintroduce its own currency so that it can devalue it in order to address its problem as an alternative to the austerity program being pushed on it (that cannot work in any case).

Nope. Maybe still this year, but it depends on what the Greek government is forced to propose next, and whether protest on the streets and escalation ensues.

• The USA will escape any serious damage from the european sovereign debt crisis and have surprisingly good growth in 2012 of about 2% of GDP.

Well, the final numbers for 2012 aren’t in, but when they are this is going to be spot on or near enough to.

• Barack Obama will be re-elected as President in the USA over Mitt Romney.

Oh, I rock, spot on. This one is particularly satisfying as I did manage to get a bet on this one, and I had the economy predicted right in the first place.

• Synaptor apps will be one of the biggest internet successes of the year in Australia

Dead wrong. Many problems with the market, the market fit, schedule, etc. Still technologically very good, and the next app is nearing release that should have more broad appeal.

OK, so let’s see if I have nay predictions for 2013. I really don’t have any big shocking ones, as it isn’t like 2012, when there seemed to be a lot of important things coming up that could change history.

Well, I shouldn’t say that, as we will likely have a Federal election in August, or soon after. This government will very much want to pick its time, and will need all the luck it can find to overcome the many stumbles and own-goals of 2012, which distracts from a pretty solid policy output. This government, on balance, deserves to be returned at this point, but only just on balance. If they fuck up even one seriously important thing from this point on, then its the Mad Monk for us for sure.

Economically, I think we have to bank on things getting better, albeit slowly. Australia should have at target, or just below GDP growth. Mining investment may be on the wane, but mining income from its investments will be ok to good, depending on how much growth we see in China on a recovering price. But the continuing recovery will not be wild, and I don’t think the Sydney market is going to go through the roof. Or Perth. Maybe New York, late in the year once any Sandy stimulus is finally passed and works its way into that market.

The US is going to go on at or just below target GDP growth, maybe 2-2.5% growth. It will be constrained by links to Europe, and its own dabbling with austerity when the fight over the debt ceiling raise occurs in 2 months. Keep some money in the bank to make some good buys in the market during that time of uncertainty, as there are likely to be anxious sellers of good value based on how bad the noise of that argument gets, despite the fact that we all know how it will come out. The debt ceiling will get raised to cover the money already committed by the US House in legislation and will not default in any actual way on its debt. Virtually nothing will happen to US interest rates even if any of the ratings agencies bother to lower their ratings during the manufactured crisis. I mean, do we take anything these venal idiots seriously anymore anyway? The US stock market will take a hit and be volatile then, but will recover and have a good to very good year. Who knows in the Australian market, and it’s pretty boring anyway.

The ECB will, as quietly as possible, start carrying out its actions in a manner that is consistent with a belief in keynesian economics, and also act as the lender of last resort as required, to keep the euro alive.

It’s going to be another very cool year in science, from NASA to to the Halron Collider, but I have no predictions there.

Start the New Year Off Wrong

. . . with some politics on both sides of the pond.

So the US Senate passed a compromise and now the US House has to vote on it, and the fanatical Republicans (all the usual actors, Bachman, Goh, etc.) don’t like it and are having a spack.

Then fucking don’t vote for it and fer fucks sake get on with it. There isn’t a filibuster in the US House, so unless the speaker is too much of a girl to bring it to a vote, and then hopefully not get re-elected speaker on the 3rd, as could happen with the reduced numbers the Republicans got in the last election. Also remember that that election (for President) was also run on a tax hike for the rich, and a specific one that is a hell of a lot tougher on them than the one in the US Senate bill. The progressives get the tax hike and you get exactly nothing is my starting point. Take it or leave it and we slash defence by 20% and blame it on you for sure. Obama can figure out a way to take care of the poor within its programs, and take more of a fair amount from the rich, in the many welfare programs for companies and the middle class that end up benefitting the rich more anyway.

Now shall we talk about the debt ceiling. I am totally in to reducing the total amount owed by the US government, and also the current account deficit, where it suits given the macro economic conditions. However, if we really want to reduce overall debt, we have to start with defence and health care (not health insurance) and forget about trying to take it all out of the middle class and poor. Look at productivity gains and distribution of those gains over the last 30 years, and you should come to the conclusion that what is proposed is very fair on the rich, and that there is a lot more that we need to do to make sure that workers share from increased productivity they provide.

Here at home in Australia, we have what passes for a scandal these days, with Maclin reportedly saying she could live on the $35 a day new start allowance. Well I got some news for some whingers here too, harden the fuck up. I can and do live on less than $35 a day now, and although Jenni makes allegedly 25x what the new start allowance equates to in a salary, and I have no idea what I am on. But I live on that amount now, and I don’t think that new start is meant to be the full amount to maintain any “lifestyle” whatsoever. Its meant to be the money use use to get around and feed yourself while you look for work. The Labor party needs to look straight down the barrel of the camera on the next dozen occasions and talk about a few things that really matter, and not worry if someone tries to pick at them, from right or left over statements that don’t really mean anything in the overall scheme of things.

Otherwise, show me the data that Australia and the States are fucking over poor people on a regular basis, forcing them to live in inhumane conditions, or not providing them additional support if they have bigger problems like disability or drug dependency. $35 a day to look for a job sounds about right to me at present.