Assorted Links (12/6/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

The TSA body count

“Important privacy concerns aside, these new scanners and the enhanced pat-down alternative are costing more American lives than they save by causing fliers to drive instead. Driving is much more dangerous than flying, and the result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”

The Moral Frontiers of Stem Cell Research

“Scientists have recently developed a safe and efficient method to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from adult skin cells. Many opponents of embryonic stem cell research hail this news as an important step away from research methods that rely on destroying embryos.”

Faith Matters: The Kingdom of God in A Food Court

“On November 13 of this year, a group of shoppers in the food court of the Seaway mall in Welland, Ontario got the shock of their lives — in a nice way.”

The Changing Culture War

“Middle America retreats from marriage, and religion.”

Putin, Russian Democracy, and Wikileaks

“It will take years for the United States to restore its image as a trustworthy diplomatic partner. U. S. diplomacy has suffered a severe setback and its national security has been damaged by the Wikileak dumps of classified documents.”

How to Fight and Win the Cyberwar

“In The Wall Street Journal, Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News and World Report, writes that we should think of cyberattacks as guided missiles and respond similarly—intercept them and retaliate.”

Julian Assange, Information Anarchist

“Gordon Crovitz writes in his Information Age column for The Wall Street Journal that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hopes to hobble the U.S. government—not make it more transparent.”

Too Big to Succeed

“Despite financial reform legislation, the biggest banks still pose a threat to the American economy.”

The Controversy Over CQ Press’s Crime Rankings – The Numbers Guy – WSJ

“An annual ranking of U.S. cities by crime rates draws criticism for oversimplifying the issue and not telling Americans much about their personal safety.”

We Are Not Japan — The American, A Magazine of Ideas

“Why a deflationary spiral is not likely.”

Liberalism—An Autopsy

“In The Wall Street Journal, R. Emmett Tyrell Jr., editor in chief of the American Spectator, writes that the heirs of the New Deal are down to 20% of the electorate.”

The road to a US insolvency crisis

“Today’s auction of 10- and 30-year US Treasury notes and bonds won’t tell us as much about the US economy as auctions used to — because the Federal Reserve has started buying up the notes as part of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s “quantitative easing” effort.”

Will Netflix Kill the Internet? – BusinessWeek

“The crushing demands of video delivery and mobile devices are changing the economics of the Internet.”

The Intelligent Investor: The New Supercharged Index Funds

“For investors in these low-cost, autopilot portfolios that replicate the holdings of a broad basket of stocks or bonds, the best is yet to be.”

200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes (Hat Tip: Donald Marron)

Donald Marron posted this video from BBC on his blog the other day; apparently it is part of a BBC program offering called “The Joy of Stats”.  Hans Rosling, who is Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and Director of the Gapminder Foundation, provides a very remarkable presentation, showing in less than 5 minutes how wealth and life expectancy have changed over the course of the past 200 years for 200 countries!

How much government is good government?

An interesting debate occurred yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) featuring congressman Paul Ryan and New York Times columnist David Brooks.  Prior to viewing this video, I highly recommend reading the Ryan-Arthur Brooks (no relation to David Brooks) 9/13/2010 Wall Street Journal essay entitled “The Size of Government and the Choice This Fall”, and David Brooks’ response to the Ryan/Arthur Brooks essay entitled “The Day After Tomorrow”, as these essays provide context for the debate.

Assorted Links (12/3/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Charles Krauthammer – WikiLeaks founder Assange ought to be hiding from America

“Let the world see a man who fears the long arm of American justice.”

Presbyterians Against Israel

“In The Wall Street Journal, Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center write that liberal Protestants are engaging in historical revisionism concerning Jews and the Holy Land.”

The White House’s Tax Blink

“In The Wall Street Journal’s Potomac Watch column, Kimberly A. Strassel writes that the president may be getting serious about striking a deal with Republicans.”

How to Shrink the Deficit

“The Wall Street Journal writes that President Obama’s deficit commission lands with a predictable political thud.”

Time to Shut Down the FCC

“In The Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler writes that more transistors exist today than ever and there is plenty of capacity inside fiber-optic cables and out in the air. What’s missing is competition for consumers.”

Why Do We Have a Central Bank?

“In The Wall Street Journal, Gerald P. O’Driscoll Jr., a former Federal Reserve Bank vice chairman, writes that ordinary citizens will increasingly ask that question if the Fed keeps acting as an unelected fiscal authority.”

8th Grade Exam

“This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 from Salina, KS. USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS and reprinted by the Salina Journal.”

Fed Aid in Financial Crisis Went Beyond U.S. Banks to Industry, Foreign Firms

“The financial crisis stretched even farther across the economy than many had realized, as new disclosures show the Federal Reserve rushed trillions of dollars in emergency aid not just to Wall Street but also to motorcycle makers, telecom firms and foreign-owned banks in 2008 and 2009.”

HEARD ON THE STREET: Moral Hazard, Thy Price Is $3.3 Trillion

“Sunshine doesn’t hurt after all. Bank shares leapt Wednesday despite the Federal Reserve’s detailed disclosure of who got $3.3 trillion of emergency lending during the crisis.”

Refocus The Fed On Price Stability Instead Of Bailing Out Fiscal Policy

“The Federal Reserve’s recent announcement that it will purchase $600 billion in Treasury securities has ignited a firestorm of criticism, opening a much-needed debate over the central bank’s proper role in economic policy decisions.”

‘Contagion’ and Other Euro Myths

“In The Wall Street Journal, University of Chicago Professor John C. Cochrane writes that restructuring short-term debt as long-term debt—which is what default really means—would hardly be the end of the world.”

WikiLeaks R Us

“Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal that we can’t put the Internet genie back in the bottle.”

The Politics and Economics Of a U.S. Debt Default

“With federal spending in the United States rising to record levels in nominal terms, not to mention as a percentage of GDP, there’s a growing amount of commentary suggesting that the U.S. government is bankrupt, and that it will eventually default on its growing debt.”

The Rational War on Fat

“Is it likely that we’ll follow the perfectly rational incentives designed by benevolent governmental guardians to reduce obesity? Fat chance.”

Tax Increases and Behavioral Responses

“Both sides have largely dodged the issue of how high-income households would respond to these tax hikes. If there is a strong connection between taxes and behavior, then there may be a high price in failing to extend the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers. A body of academic evidence suggests this is in fact the case.”

Assorted Links (12/1/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Who Pays for Big Government?

“A comparison of France and the United States suggests that increasing tax revenue will ultimately put a burden on the poor, not the wealthy, an economist writes.”

Need Vitamin D Supplements? Depends Which Newspaper You Read

“Vitamin D: should we take less or triple that intake? Whatever you do, don’t just read this headline and run with it.”

There’s No Public Goods Problem in Higher Education

Apparently, colleges and universities no longer sell “…top quality, liberal education(s) that improve critical thinking skills, raise intellectual curiosity and improve students’ respect for the rule of law and private property”. Rather, “we are selling a whole smorgasbord of things that have little to do with education”; e.g., such as markets for marriage, gateways into careers and graduate school admissions, and fun places to party!

Democrats’ Dwindling Options on Tax Cuts – David Leonhardt

“Democrats’ only chance to pass legislation on the Bush tax cuts before they expire involves a retreat, and a millionaire’s tax may be part of the calculation.”

Should Investors Fear the “New Normal”? – Fama/French Forum

“In this video, Kenneth French explains why lower economic growth may not hinder future stock returns. In fact, history shows that average returns tend to be higher during periods of economic difficulty. The information about a current recession is factored into stock prices, and investors may require a higher expected… return to induce them to take higher perceived risk.”

After Meeting, Obama and Republicans Hopeful About a Deal on Bush Tax Cuts

“President Obama and congressional Republicans expressed determination Tuesday to reach an agreement on the tax cuts due to expire at year’s end, raising the possibility of a compromise that could avert a tax increase for virtually every American worker.”

WikiLeaks Foreshadows a Host of Digital Disasters

“Instead of harnessing the power of Silicon Valley to fight cyber attacks on government and business, the Obama administration is targeting top tech companies with anti-trust violations.”

2010 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar

“As we find ourselves in December once more, I’d like to present the third annual Hubble Space Telescope imagery Advent Calendar for 2010. Keep checking this page – every day, for the next 25 days, a new photo will be revealed here from the Hubble Space Telescope, some old and some new.”

What Ben Bernanke May Be Thinking

“In The Wall Street Journal, Nobel-winning economist Vernon L. Smith writes that the Fed’s easy money could help banks reset underwater mortgages and start lending again.”

Why the Spending Stimulus Failed

“In The Wall Street Journal, Michael J. Boskin of Stanford writes that new economic research shows why lower tax rates do far more to spur growth.”

Review & Outlook: The Dead Enders

“The Wall Street Journal writes that even after their defeat, Democrats keep insisting on a tax increase.”

RealClearMarkets – Ugly Tax Bill Is Washington As Usual

“Americans may have voted for change in November, but for now it is business as usual in Washington. Just take a look at the messy tax legislation that is working its way through Congress under the euphemism of a ‘tax-extenders’ bill.”

B-School Admission Essays, For a Fee – BusinessWeek

“Perfect Words and Essaywriter say they can deliver admission essays that will open the doors of elite business schools. Is it ethical?”

QE2: It’s About Debt, Not The Economy –

I have made similar points in a recent blog posting entitled “Political economy and the (inflationary) future” (cf.; among other things, QE2 provides policymakers with a way to “monetize” our nation’s growing debt by “…printing new money to finance deficit spending.”

Donald Marron: How Much Did TARP Cost? $25 Billion

“The much-maligned TARP program will cost taxpayers only $25 billion according to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. That’s substantially less than the $66 billion CBO estimated back in August or the $113 billion that the Office of Management and Budget estimated in October.”

While I am sure that Dr. Marron’s estimates are correct, the real long-term “cost” of TARP is not the net cash flow which was generated by the program; rather it is the impact that programs like TARP have on incentives for financial institutions to make increasingly risky investments and adopt highly leveraged financial structures because their “backs” are covered in case if things don’t turn out as planned. Geeky people like me refer to this as a “moral hazard” problem.

Puzzle: a drunkard and a cliff – Mind Your Decisions

“From where he stands, one step toward the cliff would send the drunken man over the edge. He takes random steps, either toward or away from the cliff. At any step his probability of taking a step away is 2/3, of a step toward the cliff 1/3. What is the chance of falling off the cliff?”

RealClearMarkets – Will Congress ‘Lame Walk’ the ’03 Tax Cuts?

“It has been a tough few weeks for the outgoing 111th Congress, what with the tea party throwing incumbents overboard and then giving the GOP establishment “the evil eye” on earmarks. If the Beltway crowd doesn’t realize it’s on double secret probation, it hasn’t been paying attention.”

The Superfluousness of Realtors – Homes sold through Realtors don’t garner a price premium over ones

“It’s a straightforward question asked by nearly all sellers of homes: Is it worth paying a 6 percent commission to a Realtor to sell this house? In other words, will a Realtor be able to command a price greater than 106 percent of the price an owner could get selling the house himself or herself?”