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    by Published on 12-05-2013 03:40 PM  Number of Views: 249 
    1. Politics

    Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday. He was 95.

    The South African president, Jacob Zuma, announced Mr. Mandela’s death.

    Mr. Mandela had long declared he wanted a quiet exit, but the time he spent in a Pretoria hospital in recent months was a clamor of quarreling family, hungry news media, spotlight-seeking politicians and a national outpouring of affection and loss. The vigil even eclipsed a visit by President Obama, who paid homage to Mr. Mandela but decided not to intrude on the privacy of a dying man he considered his hero.

    Read more http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/wo...obit.html?_r=0
    by Published on 10-05-2010 02:17 PM
    1. Politics

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Crane View Post
    What he said. And a rather brilliant post all the way around.

    DC, you ask, "What are they going to do differently with those Brazilian oil fields, or American ones, or anything else than the current owners?"

    They're going to ship it all to China to use in the Chinese peoples' automobiles. Which would starve us for fuel in the process.
    * As an aside, again, you haven't demonstrated that China actually could buy meaningful amounts of things. Just because their cash reserves are greater than the market value of a company doesn't mean you can organize a purchase on those terms.
    - Rather obviously, "China" is a conglomeration of many different people, interests and institutions that hold reserves. Even if they're still only halfway out of a communistic dark age, they're not a monolith. The same sorts of arguments were made against the much less monolithic Japanese decades ago.
    - These folks have to maintain reserves for all sorts of purposes. Putting it all in one pot would be disastrously risky and stupid.
    - Pricing is a dynamic process. You can't go out and buy 5B (or even the 2.5B or so necessary for a majority) shares of XOM at once because they're not all for sale. On the average volume day, typically under 0.5% of XOM shares change hands. To purchase more, a buyer would inevitably have to raise their bid price to induce more current holders to sell.
    - All of this makes the underlying idea you're getting at, that the Chinese could somehow easily go buy up the entire US (produced) oil industry pretty cartoonish. It's the sort of thing that makes for good movies, but only because reality is both safer and more boring.

    Now, moving on, let's suppose the Chinese government did somehow do this even though it's an impossibility.

    * I, as an American owner, or a Brazilian owner, am certainly willing to "starve" other Americans for fuel if they are not willing to pay what Chinese pay. Not only would most of Exxon's current shareholding ownership be pissed if their company didn't charge the best price it could get, they'd have rightful grounds to sue the directors. They're not running a charity, and neither would Chinese owners. Believe me, I've seen many of these guys in action, and they're not in it for their fellow countrymen. I don't get the logic that simultaneously says these guys are undemocratic and unaccountable to their countrymen, but they will sell the asset they've cornered at less than market price to their countrymen.

    Doesn't make sense. They'll behave like other owners of scarce assets and sell to the high bidder.

    * If the Chinese are willing to pay more, let them have it. I'll buy less gas and make a killing investing in high mileage vehicles. Which, clearly, would be very profitable here.

    * They'd also be very profitable in China of course, because to make any sort of profit on their cornering of the world's oil prices, the Chinese owners of oil will have to charge the Chinese a lot too. And as they charge more, economizing technologies and alternative means of transportation will become relatively cheaper. Even oil has substitutes, and as prices increase, the profit opportunities to creating substitutes will increase.

    * That is, there's no escaping the scarcity problem in general. At best, if the Chinese (or we, for example) bought all the world's oil, it probably only gets a few extra years of consumption. Instead of wasting money cornering the market, folks would be better off investing in better, more efficient ways of doing things. Which is generally what they're doing. They buy lots of lots of stuff with the wealth they've accumulated. Nothing wrong with that, and nothing blameworthy or worrisome about that.

    * Thus, I continue to conclude that a particular country, like China, owning a bunch of oil or another resource is a red herring. It's doubtful "China" could actually corner the market on a resource like this, and if it did, it would not be in the owner's interest to sell their resources much differently than the current owners do.

    * Insofar as their are problems to come, the "enemy" is not China, but scarcity of oil. It's going away one way or another, and converting to other power sources will be costly. But it also represents a tremendous profit opportunity. Trying to corner the market on a dwindling supply seems like a retrograde approach to the problem to me, and likely to end in failure.

    Quote Originally Posted by FatJerry View Post
    Because they are the most energy hungry nation in the World with one of the world's biggest populations
    Again, that's not a reason to fear or worry per se. It'd be pretty backwards, as you acknowledge below, to say this would be a reason to "crack down" on China, no? From any sort of humanitarian perspective, China is still a much poorer, more backward place than the developed world. They're growing quickly, and we should be thankful, for their escaping poverty, not concerned and secretly considering whether we should be bombing them back to the stone age to prevent competition and keep oil cheep for an extra two or three years.

    And because , as they complete their transition from a principally Agrarian Culture to a more Industrialized one , with all the socio-economic stratas attached to that they really won't need their Export markets as much as they've pimped them over the last 20 years or so, which, make them less inclined to keep current terms of trade ( because they won't need to ) and may make them more inclined to insist on getting paid back leading to increasing pressure on deleveraging ( against a possible aggressive inflationary back ground - more later as to this sub risk.)

    This is because the real story with them moving forward will be more about domestic demand
    Completely agree with this. But you agree, do you not, that this just recasts the issue of resources in more market friendly terms. Which, like I say, is a better way to look at it, but there's nothing special about the Chinese in particular then. Every big developing market (eg Brazil, Indonesia, India also) are doing the same things. As their internal demand increases, there will be higher prices for scarce resources.

    But... this doesn't make China that unique or dangerous. And it certainly shouldn't be that the developed world should seek to punish the developing for buying resources at market prices.

    So at face value you've got an emerging overt influence on key world energy markets that will become increasingly signficant , coupled with , a cultural transition where they are internally focused in production and consumption.
    There's a lot of interesting stuff to consider here. There's "overt influence" whether they own the resource or not, by virtue of their high demand. Culturally, one thing that's so far been left out of the discussion is that the Chinese (along with the Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and several other Far Eastern nations) have cultural preferences for higher savings rates than we do. We see all that money sitting there and think it's some sort of ominous power play. They see it as not venture capital but security for aging populations still trying to catch up to the West in terms of creature comforts.

    On a per capita basis, for example, it's pretty crazy to talk about the Chinese holding, effectively, 2.5x the reserves of the Japanese, but having 10x the number of people. From even the roughest numbers perspective, the $1850/person that the Chinese have banked from the rest of the world doesn't seem any more alarming than the $8300/person the Japanese have banked.

    The portents of all this lead to signifcant inflationary pressures in the States and Europe over the course of the next 5 to 10 years , where the fuel to the fire , is the inevitable debasing of the USD and the Euro currencies driven by the current account deficits/ sovereign debt issues that ultimately have to be taken into account.

    Denny is right when he says he references debt addiction.
    Indeed... which is sort of my point entirely. The worry about what the Chinese are doing, and the ham-fisted calls to "do something" about the "problem" they pose is like bitching about your neighbor's dog shitting in your yard while your house is burning down.

    And just like an addict the first step is to admit the problem.

    And this is the problem in the lack of political will and leadership in the US and in Europe.

    Basically , fuck the political inconvenience and the ugliness that ensues and the inevitable casualties that come from letting the Free Market do its thing without the Interventionists trying to hold an artificial market.

    Western Economy must let the market find its natural level, at which point , capital will find that point when deleveraging and asset deflation has found its natural point.

    You can't have a free market only when it suits you when you're inflating the bubble and everyone feels wealthier then what they actually are.

    Hank, Ben and the all the other intellects who have studied what Andrew Mellon did and have tried to outmodel what essentially was and is a more simple and honest function of a market.....are spending billions more dollars only to arrive back at a point ( ultimately in my belief ) that you've got to take the pain.

    And the real pain hasn't stared yet because the flip side of the free market hasn't been truly allowed to occur that would enable a quicker recovery.

    And if Interventionists and Intellects are allowed to hold sway they will continue to bequeth debt for your grand children and their kids in the long slow progressive ineffcient decline , and possible death , of our social, economic , and possible legal institutions we take for granted. This is the risk in not addressing the realities and the structural issues of Western society that over politicise the efficient workings of an honest economic model.
    I agree with the diagnosis (recognizing we're living beyond our means), but not necessarily the cure WRT financial markets. One thing the intellects are right about is that a full-fledged banking panic ought to be stopped because it burns the good along with the bad. There's some value, a lot, actually, in preventing what could be an orderly retreat from becoming a full on rout.
    by Published on 09-19-2010 06:03 PM
    1. Society
    2. Economics
    3. Politics

    Since this has a distinctly Chicago-slant, can we keep it here in this forum?

    I was pretty interested in the article from the latest edition of CSM that features Arne Duncan, and how he sees basketball and education reform. Also, a nice shot of the Prez playing with Arne and trying to defend a MUCH bigger gentleman as he goes to the basket.

    I seem to recall Scott May saying that he played basketball with Mr. Duncan back in his Maroon days.

    Here's a quote from him

    In a neighborhood where everything else pointed to Duncan's differences, basketball became a point of connection. And it was one of the few arenas where the scrawny white teen, who soared to the height of 6 ft., 5 in. much later, didn't have an advantage. But he began wandering Chicago's South Side and the west in search of games, crossing gang territory and playing near crack houses.

    "If you want to get better, you have to find the best people to play with," Duncan says during a recent trip to Chicago to play in a charity basketball tournament. "It was pretty simple for me."
    The issue of tying student performance and teacher salary seems to be putting the cart before the horse (how do you know your measure of student performance is what counts, and that the performance is tied with the teacher's ability?)

    Anyway, thoughts?

    by Published on 09-13-2010 04:07 AM
    1. Politics
    Article Preview

    This is the logical conclusion this whole religious mess, right?

    Last night, this came with an entertaining ...
    by Published on 07-29-2010 11:28 AM
    1. NBA
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    3. NFL
    4. NHL
    5. MLB

    Are you a sports writer looking for an opportunity to showcase your work? Maybe you are a die-hard football, basketball ...
    by Published on 07-19-2010 07:15 AM
    1. Economics
    2. Politics

    The Conservative Missionary
    Why Libertarians Should Be Conservatives

    Liberty is an extremely important value. Unfortunately, most libertarians act like it's the only value that really counts. There's a lot more to life than liberty: Happiness, prosperity, equality, virtue, culture, common decency, and even survival. Sophisticated libertarians will naturally object that liberty is great for all of these other values, too. Often, they're right. But not always. Liberty and these other values sometimes conflict, and there's no reason why liberty should always prevail.

    Let's start with the area where libertarians and conservatives have the most common ground: economic policy. Libertarians have convincingly shown that free markets are underrated. So far, we agree. But there's more than a kernel of truth to liberal complaints about the conflict between markets on the one hand, and prosperity, equality, and common decency on the other. We have a lot more government intervention than we should. But just as liberals exaggerate the benefits of government, libertarians exaggerate its defects. Judiciously halving government's role in the economy is reasonable. Laissez-faire in the face of monopoly, imperfect information, irrationality, externalities and other textbook market failures is not.

    Outside of economics, libertarians make the same basic mistake. But here, they're not alone. Many liberals also downplay the conflict between personal freedom and other values - and libertarians compound their error by being even more absolutist. Restrictions on drug use are a clear violation of individual freedom, but they also protect families from seeing their children turn into junkies. Would I ban alcohol? No - there are plenty of responsible users. But I do favor many existing government policies that try to limit the collateral damage of alcohol - age limits, sin taxes, licensing, and maybe even rehab programs. I'm open to the argument that marijuana deserves comparable treatment, but unlike libertarians and many liberals, I think we should cautiously modify existing laws instead of abolishing them willy-nilly. If marijuana legalization proves a resounding success, we can talk about harder drugs in two or three decades.

    I see the same problem with immigration policy. A few liberals - and many libertarians - literally advocate open borders. I recognize that immigration is the greatest foreign aid program in human history, and I sympathize with the plight of would-be immigrants in the Third World. Most immigrants - legal or not - are nice people. But open borders is crazy. It seriously risks killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. I'm very open to more cost-effective and humane ways to deal with the negative effects of immigration. But as long as immigrants are eligible for government benefits, hurt low-skilled native workers, and vote, the only people we should readily admit are the highly-educated and clear-cut humanitarian cases. I'd put Haitians in the latter category. Asking Mexicans to live on a $10,000 a year in Mexico is reasonable, but asking Haitians to starve in post-earthquake Haiti is a disgrace.

    Finally, let me turn to foreign policy. Here again, liberals engage in much wishful thinking, and libertarians compound their errors. Modern warfare is terrible. Most of the people the United States kills in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are innocents. If there were some way to spare them and successfully fight our mortal enemies at the same time, I'd strongly advocate it. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to do so. Muslim terrorists really do want to wipe us off the face of the earth, and they're happy to use fellow Muslims as human shields to do it.

    I know, they "only" murdered 3000 people on 9/11, but the distribution of terror has a long right tale. Slightly better planning by the terrorists could have multiplied the deaths by a factor of 10. The next big attack could easily be bigger by a factor of 100. And if you think Americans "overreacted" the first time, wait and see what they'll support the next time around. Liberals and libertarians who impede decisive action now are probably paving the way for worse things to come - a downward spiral that makes World War I look benign by comparison. I wish it weren't so, but that's the sad world we live in.

    Don't get me wrong. I treasure the libertarian contribution to modern political thought. Where would conservatives be without libertarian economists to expose the defects of government intervention? Libertarians are a valuable conscience on the conservative shoulder, asking us, "Why not freedom?" But in the real world, there are often good reasons to respond, "Here's why not." Sometimes in all good conscience, we must admit that the effect of liberty on other important values is too costly to pay.
    The Libertarian Missionary
    Why Conservatives Should Be Libertarians

    I agree with my conservative opponent that there are many important values. I'll accept his whole list - happiness, prosperity, equality, virtue, culture, common decency, and survival. And I agree that all of these values conceivably conflict with liberty. But like other conservatives, my opponent is too quick to deny priority for liberty - and much too quick to confidently announce that serious conflicts exist.

    Liberty is not just another important value. It is a moral constraint on the pursuit of other values. Consider the classic thought experiment where five people require organ transplants to survive. Almost everyone grants that it would be wrong for a doctor to murder a stranger to save his patients' lives. It might be noble for the stranger to volunteer, but taking his organs without his consent is wrong, even if it leads to a better overall outcome.

    The standard response to this experiment is to raise the stakes: What if the doctor could save a million lives instead of five? This is a good objection to absolutism. But the weaker conclusion - you shouldn't violate liberty unless you can reasonably expect a much better outcome - still stands.

    In any case, conservatives are too quick to accept alleged conflicts between liberty and other values. My opponent mentions standard market failure arguments against laissez-faire, but the connection between these arguments and major government programs is tenuous at best.

    Take Social Security, the biggest program in the U.S. budget. Conservatives want to curtail this program, but why won't they go further? My challenge: Name the market failure that leads people to neglect their own retirement. Irrationality is the only credible candidate, but this would at most justify forced savings for the irresponsible minority, nothing like the universal program we have.

    Still, when faced with an alleged conflict between economic liberty and other values, conservatives often show a healthy skepticism. Outside of economic policy, unfortunately, they leave their healthy skepticism behind. Take drug prohibition. Alcohol ruins far more lives, destroys more families, and kills more bystanders than all illegal drugs put together. Conservatives barely think about this problem, but they're confident that we should keep fighting the Drug War for the foreseeable future.

    Unlike some libertarians, I agree that prohibition reduces consumption. But probably not by much - see the Netherlands or Portugal. And after the American experiment in alcohol prohibition - or Econ 101 - conservatives can't reasonably deny that violent crime and adulterated products are largely side effects not of drugs, but of drug prohibition. Liberty will save lives - and when it does, conservatives should support it even if it isn't popular.

    Conservative opposition to immigration is even more disturbing. Immigration promotes almost every value my opponent mentions - especially for the low-skilled workers he wants to exclude. Life in the Third World ranges from hard to hellish. Just letting an immigrant move here to work at Walmart spreads happiness, prosperity, equality, common decency, and yes, survival. The economically illiterate assume, of course, that immigrants' gains come at the expense of the native population. But conservatives know better: International trade enriches the people of both countries, even if they're trading labor.

    Yes, some American sub-groups lose. But Borjas himself, the most prominent detractor of immigration in economics, estimates that decades of immigration have cut high school drop-outs' long-run wages by a mere 4.8%. And before you worry about the effect of immigration on the welfare state, remember that the American welfare state focuses on the old and the sick - and immigrants tend to be young and healthy.

    I know I'm not going to convince conservatives to join me in calling for open borders. But it's crazy to call open borders "crazy." The U.S. had virtually open borders for over a century - and it was a tremendous success. Mass migration didn't kill the goose that lay the golden eggs; instead, the golden geese multiplied like rabbits. It's possible that immigrants will vote to destroy the system that attracted them, but unlikely. Immigrants come here because they prefer life here to life at home. It wouldn't take a marketing genius to win them over to the cause of American liberty.

    Finally, let's turn to foreign policy. I don't know whether respecting the rights of innocents conflicts with our survival. Neither do you. The War on Terror might deter future attacks by putting the fear of God into our enemies. It might inspire future attacks by enraging otherwise harmless people who see their families die by American hands. It could go either way. This isn't wishful thinking; it's honest ignorance. (If you disagree, I will bet you; but since you claim knowledge, and I claim ignorance, I want odds). And honest ignorance isn't worth killing for - especially when the victims are innocents.

    Conservatives' greatest strength is their skepticism of government. But they aren't nearly skeptical enough. When government "solves" dubious problems by dubious means, abolition - not moderation - is the sober solution. And the burden of proof shouldn't fall on those who oppose the status quo, but on those who deprive their fellow human beings of their liberty.
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