Monthly Archives: April 2010
“Why not? If you’re going to do it, do it. Let’s go!”
- Crist told the St. Petersburg Times that he will not keep his Republican registration, and he will instead change to independent.
You go there, Charlie!
The spill in the Gulf is now expected to be bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. The current expectation according to the EPA is 5000 barrels a day leaking from the destroyed well. Sky Truth, an organization which has been providing the aerial images, thinks it is closer to 6000 barrels a day leaking (if you want to figure out how much oil that is, 1000 barrels equals 42,000 gallons).
British Petroleum, the responsible party here, is not yet able to stop the leak and has not determined what cause the original explosion from which 11 men are still missing.
Henry Waxman, whose Congressional committee is responsible for offshore drilling, is calling for more information and this could get in the way of the decision which President Obama made a short time ago to get back into offshore drilling.
Whatever the case, the spill has overwhelmed current methods of control.
I’ll be on the radio with John Case tomorrow morning from 7:30 to 9:00 AM. Tune in to WSHC FM (the Shepherd University station), at 89.7. If you can’t get it on your radio you can listen in from the station’s web site.
I don’t know what we’re talking about or who the guest is, if any. Tune in and find out.
I think it is important to look at all sides of the Mideast problem… I am not thrilled with Netanyahu’s government nor with the American support for Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land while claiming to negotiate.
We rarely learn about non-violent protest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I guess because our press doesn’t want to come up against either the State Department or Israeli politicians.
Watch this if you have ten minutes to be disturbed:
As of this morning, I added font number 18 for sale at the UTF Type Foundry site. I did this by putting up Bill’s Real Rubber Stamps, a font I get a kick out of using for child-influenced signs:
I’m having a lot of fun getting back into the font business and a couple of hundred people a day are exploring the site… I’ve even sold a couple of the
BTW… all fonts come in packages containing both Mac and PC versions. Picture fonts come with keycharts. Deliveries are made by e-mail immediately upon making the sale. PayPal, credit and debit cards accepted.
If you get the chance and are looking for inexpensive printing and layout accessories, go to http://utftype.blogspot.com.
This clip from HuffPo:
For the third time, the Republicans in the Senate have Filibustered the opportunity to get the new Wall Street reform bill debated.
Harry Reid, commenting on today’s Republican stonewalling:
“All the talk by Republicans about wanting to do something about this bill before it gets on the floor is really anti-Senate, anti-American. It appears they’re more concerned about taking care of the fat cats on Wall Street.”
Commenting on the situation, Senator Claire McCaskill, outlined what the Democratic strategy would likely be to get debate to the floor:
“I think we’re going to go all night. I think we’ve made the decision that this is important enough that we’re going to stay up through the night and ask continually the Republicans to allow us to debate this bill out and open in front of the public. We need transparency on Wall Street, we ought to start right here in Washington.”
So keep an eye on the Senate tonight (good night to flick back and forth to C-Span 2 to see who will give in.
…Second one in two days. Maybe things are starting to turn around. I thought yesterday’s interview went pretty well, but I would prefer this company in Frederick… much closer to work at.
I’ll be back to the blog around lunch time if not before.
Here’s a brief clip from a Matt Taibbi article in the Guardian:
Last summer I wrote a brutally negative article about Goldman Sachs for Rolling Stone magazine (I called the bank a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”) that unexpectedly sparked a heated national debate. On one side of the debate were people like me, who believed that Goldman is little better than a criminal enterprise that earns its billions by bilking the market, the government, and even its own clients in a bewildering variety of complex financial scams.
On the other side of the debate were the people who argued Goldman wasn’t guilty of anything except being “too smart” and really, really good at making money. This side of the argument was based almost entirely on the Randian belief system, under which the leaders of Goldman Sachs appear not as the cheap swindlers they look like to me, but idealised heroes, the saviours of society.
I think I have a stronger agreement with the criminal enterprise… for what you may think, go in and read the whole article HERE.
Monday morning having a great cup of coffee in Mellow Moods on German Street in Shepherdstown. I’m a little early… John Case is meeting me here at 10:30 after he drives his Monday morning radio co-host home…Monday being his Poetry Day. I don’t know what we are going to characterize our Friday show together with… right now I am just guest hosting with him no matter who is invited.
It’s raining outside… second day of rain. Last night. along with the rain we had thunder and lightning and a brief bit of hail as the weather passed quickly overhead and moved North and East. It was bad enough that the Satellite Television went out three or four times while I was watching Stephen Hawking’s show on the Universe on the Discovery Channel… got so involved I missed the first Arrested Development episode and some of the second on IFC.
Hawking got into the Universe and Time Travel and it was fascinating… showing why you can’t (or probably can’t) go back in time, but can go ahead in time. Why space travelers who fly away from the Earth for ten days before they return are only five days older than when they left. Something about the dependence of Time on Mass (in this case the mass of the planet) where weight of the Earth slows time down but the weightlessness of space speeds it up. Right now, as I approach 64 next month, it can go as slow as it wants to here!
Anyway… I’ll get off the blog for a while and start looking for work on line… I need to get a job very soon… I don’t really care where. This ongoing unemployment is screwing up my homelife… Elly is constantly mad at me… and economically destroying our future. This is going to be a tough place to be at 64… I don’t want early Social Security… I need work.
“Anyone who says we need to be bipartisan should bear in mind that for the last several weeks Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader had been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks actually bailing out the banks and that basically the argument boiled down to saying what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department, because then people will know that they can’t let their buildings burn in the first place, right. It’s an incredible… so anyone who says bipartisan doesn’t include the Senate Minority Leader.”
- Paul Krugman on ABC this morning.
Yes, Virginia, There is a Legitimate Case Against Free Trade
Sunday 25 April 2010
by: Ian Fletcher, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
There is a myth in wide circulation that the superiority of free trade is simply a settled question on which all serious economists agree. The flip side of this myth, of course, is that anyone who criticizes free trade must either be ignorant of economics, or the spokesman of some special interest which hopes to benefit from trade restrictions. Such critics are not only wrong, the story continues with admittedly impeccable logic, but profoundly worthy of public contempt, as they are necessarily either dumb or corrupt.
Unfortunately, this myth is just that: a myth, promoted by special interests which benefit from free trade, whatever the harm to the rest of the economy. Serious economists actually recognize a number of very serious criticisms of free trade – even economists who ultimately decide that free trade is better than the alternatives. They generally don’t talk about the flaws of free trade too loudly, for fear of provoking the public into supporting stupid forms of protectionism, but they certainly know they are there.
Thanks to recent developments in economics (most visibly signaled by Paul Krugman’s winning the 2009 Nobel Prize), these criticisms are becoming more serious every day. There is, in fact, an inexorable erosion of the credibility of free trade going on in the academy, not that you’d know it from watching the economists who show up on TV.
The rest of this article is just a wee bit technical. The point is not to baffle the reader, but to pry open the mysterious “black box” of free trade economics a little, and let non-economists in on the big secret that economists regard as dangerous to talk about too loudly: free trade economics is a package of mechanisms that, like any piece of machinery, can and do break down all the time. And when they break down, free trade ceases to be a good idea.
Let’s crack open that intimidating black box, shall we, and have a look at the machinery inside? Free trade has roughly ten very serious problems.
The first problem is the assumption that trade is sustainable. But a nation exporting non-renewable resources may discover that its best move (in the short run) is to export until it runs out. The flip side of this problem is overconsumption, in which a nation (like the present-day U.S., maybe?) borrows from abroad in order to finance a short-term binge of imports that lowers its long-term living standard due to the accumulation of foreign debt and the sale of assets to foreigners.
The second problem is that free trade increases inequality even if it makes the economy grow overall (which is itself questionable). Because free trade tends to raise returns to the abundant input to production (in America, capital) and lower returns to the scarce input (in America, labor), it tends to benefit capital at labor’s expense. Economists call this the Stolper-Samuelson theorem.
The third problem is so-called “negative externalities,” the economists’ term for when economic value is destroyed without a price tag being attached to the damage. Environmental damage is the most obvious example, but there are others, like the cost of writing off expensively-developed human capital (otherwise known as “people”) when free trade wipes out entire American industries.
The fourth problem is positive externalities, like the way some industries (mainly high technology) open up paths of growth for the entire economy. All industries are not alike, and the profits of an industry today do not necessarily predict the industry’s long-term value for the economy. Free trade can allow these industries to be wiped out because it ignores this hidden value, harming the rest of the economy for decades to come.
The next four problems concern the all-important Theory of Comparative Advantage, the theoretical keystone of free trade economics. This theory, invented by the British economist David Ricardo in 1817, says that free trade will automatically cause nations to specialize in producing whatever they are relatively best at, and that this will lead to the best of all possible worlds. To wit:
Problem number five is that Ricardo’s theory assumes factors of production are mobile within nations. Unemployed autoworkers become aircraft workers, and abandoned automobile plants turn into aircraft factories. But this doesn’t always happen, and when it does, it is often at considerable cost.
Problem number six is the assumption, in Ricardo’s theory, that the inputs used in production (like labor, capital, and technology) are not mobile between nations. His theory says that free trade automatically reshuffles a nation’s factors of production to their most productive uses. But if factors of production are internationally mobile, and their most-productive use is in another country, then free trade will cause them to migrate there – which is not necessarily best for the nation they depart.
Problem number seven is that Ricardo’s theory assumes the economy is always operating at full output – or at least that trade has no effect on its output level. But if trade puts people and factories out of action, this isn’t true.
Problem number eight is that Ricardo’s theory assumes short-term efficiency is the origin of long-term growth. But long-term economic growth is about turning from Burkina Faso into South Korea, not about being the most-efficient possible Burkina Faso forever. History has shown time and again that the short-term inefficiencies of a tariff, properly implemented, are more than compensated for by the long-term spur to industry growth it can provide, largely because growth has more to do with the industry externalities mentioned above (problem number four) than short-term efficiency per se.
Problem number nine is that Ricardo’s theory merely guarantees (if true, which is itself questionable due to problems five through eight) there will be gains from free trade. It does not guarantee that changes induced by free trade, like rising productivity abroad, will cause these gains to grow rather than shrink. So if free trade strengthens our economic rivals, then it may harm us in the long run by stiffening international competition, even if it was advantageous for us to buy goods from these rivals in the short run.
The final problem is that, in the presence of scale economies, the perfectly-competitive international markets presumed by the theory of comparative advantage do not exist. Instead, industries tend to be imperfectly competitive and quasi-monopolistic. Under these conditions, outsize profits and wages accrue to nations that host such industries. And free trade will not necessarily assign any given nation these industries.
Hopefully, the above list should convince the reader that free trade is, at the very least, an extremely complicated question, and by no means something that anyone is entitled to consider simply settled. Therefore, it is high time that free trade’s critics were given the serious hearing that they deserve. America desperately needs a full-fledged debate on whether to continue with its Cold War policy of free trade or return to the protectionism we embraced from Independence until roughly the end of WWII.
Here’s a little treat for Sunday… a musical remix of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with input from Stephen Hawking as a music video. Enjoy.
“I have not moved out of the comedian’s box into the news box. The news box is moving toward me.”
Here’s a clip, but the whole article is worth reading:
April 30th is fast approaching and if you send $5.00 or more to support Under The LobsterScope by that date, you will get the regularly priced at $29.00 font, Bill’s Century Marks for FREE. After the 3oth this font goes back on sale at the UTF Type Foundry site and you will have to pay full price for it.
Unlike many other blogs that ask for a few bucks, I send you a free, quality picture font (see Sample below) immediately after your donation of $5.00 or more… this offer is not available ANYWHERE ELSE.
Look, even a small donation of $1 or $2 would help (although $5 helps a whole lot more.) The amount is up to you. We accept contributions through PayPal and the credit/debit cards shown below.
All contributors of $5.00 or more receive a copy of my Picture Font, Bill’s Century Marks in versions for BOTH Macs and PC, plus a handy keyboard chart.
In May, I will be putting Bill’s Century Marks back in the “for sale only” and I will make a new font available. Over the past few months many of you have come on board with an average donation of $10.00 and were sent our previous Free Font, Bill’s Cast O’Characters… I hope you are enjoying it.
So please click on the “Donate” button below, help us out with $5.00 or more, and get Bill’s Century Marks for FREE:
There was a lot of Tea Party coverage this week…
Bruce Plante in the Tulsa World:
It’s that 100% that always pokes its head through.
- and -
Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronical:
… and the blind shall lead the blind.
- and -
Chan Lowe in the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
and their Medicare coverage….
If you are not a local, you can get the program at WSHC’s on-line site. Go to:
http://897wshc.org/listenlive.html and listen in.
I’ll be on until 9:30 AM. Hope you get to listen in.