Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blinder-sided! The Free Trade Debate Heats Up!

Economist Alan Blinder made the front page of the Wall Street Journal today. His comments on the pains rather than the gains from free trade are likely to cause a stir in economics. Blinder is reconsidering his pro-free trade stance which to economists is akin to Richard Dawkins believing in God.

Former student Greg Mankiw, a very bright Harvard economist and former Bush advisor, is not taking this sitting down. He's rooting for the Jedi; I guess that means team: the free traders.
I love Alan Blinder, both as a person and as an economist. I took courses from him as an undergraduate at Princeton, wrote my undergraduate thesis under his supervision, coauthored one of my first published articles with him, and have been friends with him for more than a quarter of a century. I am therefore surprised to see him lured by the dark side of the force.
The WSJ article is here.

A cutting comment from Professor Mankiw's blog is here:

Blinder's conversion seems to be driven by extremely weak evidence. E.g., on his visit to the Davos summit (his first mistake) he heard how excited businessmen were re the propects of savings from outsourcing; anecdotes from Tom Friedman's book; a dinner where a financial exec told him how good the quality of financial analysis done by overseas analysts, etc.

I mean, the man took a life of rigorous empirical research and replaced it with Lou Dobbs like horror stories as the driving force for policies that would be truly destructive (tax breaks for firms that only hire US workers (destroy the WTO framework), a school system that trains kids to participate in jobs that can't go overseas (whatever that means).

His solutions, in short, range from the banal (better education and training) to the bizarre.

My guess is that he knows his message of alarmism is popular among those who run Congress and may soon run the White House, and he's becoming their favorite economist.
More from Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Random Reference

Sometimes the reviews are more memorable than the albums. Vincent Gallo reviewing King Crimson sticks in my mind.
I bought with my own money, well money I stole, my first Beatle album in 1967. The Beatles were the perfect band for a seven-year-old to get interested in music, rock music. By the way, I never liked hippies, I hate hippies, especially pot smoking hippies. Marijuana and socialism were the evils of the twentieth century.
Read the whole review. It says more about the artist Gallo than the band at hand. And that's not a bad thing.

Why Multiculturalism sucks

I oppose efforts by devout Christian pharmacists who refuse to dispense the so-called Morning After Pill. But I notice the double standard when it comes to faith-based restrictions on the handling of pork by Muslim employees.
Many Muslims believe the pig is an unclean animal and consider it a sin to eat pork. The Qur'an has multiple passages in which Allah instructs believers to avoid eating pig flesh. It is so core to their beliefs that some consider it sinful to sell the meat, because that encourages others to participate in a sinful act.

In the Muslim world, there is even a stronger taboo against pork than alcohol, said Owais Bayunus, an imam at the Abu Khudra Mosque in Columbia Heights. Wearing gloves will not solve the issue, he said. "There is a school of thought within the Muslim community that if you sell pork or alcohol to someone, then you are contributing to the propagation of a sinful activity," he said. "Many Muslims do not want to see non-Muslims involved in a sinful product."

At Target stores, some Muslim cashiers opposed to selling pork had grown accustomed to waving over other employees whenever they came across bacon, ham or other pork products, even pepperoni pizza. In many cases, they simply switched on a little light above their registers and another cashier would rush to their side and swipe the product for them.

The practice seemed to work well for Robla. She said she needed help scanning pork products only "about two or three times a day." In other cases, customers would volunteer to swipe the items themselves.

Occasionally, however, Robla said, people would get annoyed when she told them it was because of her religion. "Some people would say, 'If you won't scan it, then I don't want this thing,' " she said. "I don't understand it. Some people don't even want to wait a few seconds."

This is the end game of multiculturalism, folks. Sharia law is next. Europe and Canada are already bending over backwards. When will Western socialists learn?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Viva Patti Smith; The sea of possibilities

I think her album Easter is one of the greatest rock records ever. Others stick with Horses, her debut.

Here she is writing about her induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. I probably disagree with a lot of her politics and even some of her aesthetic sensibility (see the near idiotic failure of Radio Ethopia). But undeniably she's always been a sincere innovator bringing raw poetry to rock.

Her modesty in crediting her late husband the legendary Fred Sonic Smith is heartfelt.
My late husband, Fred Sonic Smith, then of Detroit’s MC5, was a part of the brotherhood instrumental in forging a revolution: seeking to save the world with love and the electric guitar. He created aural autonomy yet did not have the constitution to survive all the complexities of existence.

Before he died, in the winter of 1994, he counseled me to continue working. He believed that one day I would be recognized for my efforts and though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was bestowed — gracefully — in his name.

Today I will join R.E.M., the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions. Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered? Am I a worthy recipient?

I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him — the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honors. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who has loved rock ’n’ roll and crawled from the ranks to the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic landscape of the new guard.

Because its members will be the guardians of our cultural voice. The Internet is their CBGB. Their territory is global. They will dictate how they want to create and disseminate their work. They will, in time, make breathless changes in our political process. They have the technology to unite and create a new party, to be vigilant in their choice of candidates, unfettered by corporate pressure. Their potential power to form and reform is unprecedented.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's the gumbit stupid

The people who are complaining about the conditions at Walter Reed are the same people who support turning over everything to government despite lame attempts to blame "privatization."

The partisans who are scoring political points by gnashing their teeth over the outpatient failures at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are missing the point: The government did it.

It is especially aggravating because many of these same partisans want to turn the nation's health care system over to...the government.

Or have they somehow missed the fact that the care of veterans is the responsibility of the government? Do they somehow believe that a single-payer health care system, or universal health care, or whatever else they want to call it will be immune to the kind of bureaucratic insensitivity, apathy and bungling that is integral to government?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"The open society is coming undone"

Viva Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Why don't you hear howls of support for Hirsi Ali from Western leftists? I suspect for most on the American left Islamism has emerged as the counterveiling force (replacing Marxist theology) against "American hegemony." This, I contend, is an exercise in self-hate and ultimately a broadside against the Enlightenment.

And yet contemporary democracies, she says, accommodate the incitement of such behavior: "The multiculturalism theology, like all theologies, is cruel, is wrongheaded, and is unarguable because it is an utter dogmatism. . . . Minorities are exempted from the obligations of the rest of society, so they don't improve. . . . With this theory you limit them, you freeze their culture, you keep them in place."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A good life lived by Ernest Gallo, an American success story

Another Italian-American success story. Only in America!

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Ernest Gallo, who parlayed $5,900 and a wine recipe from a public library into the world's largest winemaking empire, has died at his home in Modesto at the age of 97.

"He passed away peacefully this afternoon surrounded by his family," Susan Hensley, vice president of public relations for E.&J. Gallo Winery, said Tuesday.

Gallo, who would have been 98 on March 18, was born near Modesto, a then-sleepy San Joaquin Valley town about 80 miles east of San Francisco. He and his late brother and business partner, Julio, grew up working in the vineyard owned by their immigrant father who came to America from Italy's famed winemaking region of Piedmont.

They founded the E.&J. Gallo Winery in 1933, at the end of Prohibition, when they were still mourning the murder-suicide deaths of their parents.