"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Friday, February 11, 2011

Everybody's waiting for the man to come down from the tower.

Anna Faris and Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation fame are married in real life. The actress Teresa Palmer reminds one of Kristen Stewart.

Video for NWA's "Straight Outta Compton"

Wired and Shrewd, Young Egyptians Guide Revolt
"When people have been killed, from time to time you feel guilty," Mr. Lotfi said. "But after the war that night, we felt more and more that our country deserves our sacrifice."

A few days later, seven members of the group were abducted by the police after leaving a meeting at Mr. ElBaradei’s house and detained for three days.
Most of the group are liberals or leftists, and all, including the Brotherhood members among them, say they aspire to a Western-style constitutional democracy where civic institutions are stronger than individuals.
The young Google exec was abducted by the police and held incommunicado for 12 days before being released.

Iran Presses Opposition to Refrain from Rally
Iran’s authorities have increased pressure on the country’s political opposition days before a rally proposed by opposition leaders in support of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Fed Governor Kevin Wash resigns to "go work in the private sector"

Now Obama can nominate a governor who actually cares about the large output gap in the economy.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator(s) is(are) holding Noble Prize winner / Bernanke teacher Peter Diamond in limbo.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Dean Baker on Jacob Lew

Jacob Lew, the head of President Obama's Office of Management and Budget, had a column in the New York Times that should really scare the American people. While the purpose of the column was ostensibly to tell the American people that there are few easy budget cuts left, the scary part is that Mr. Lew seems to have little understanding of the economy.
Lew boasts about the huge budget surplus at the end of the Clinton administration. He shows no understanding of the fact that these surpluses were largely the result of a stock bubble, which was inevitably going to burst. The story of the economy's growth at that point was that the $10 trillion stock bubble fueled a consumption boom, which led to strong economic growth.
Of course the bubble was not sustainable, when it burst, the consumption it supported also disappeared. We only recovered from the recession when the housing bubble created enough demand to replace the demand lost from the collapse of the stock bubble.
The underlying problem was the over-valued dollar. This was a conscious policy of the Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who actively pushed a "strong dollar" policy. This policy effectively gave a large subsidy to imports and imposed a large tax on U.S. exports. The result was a huge U.S. trade deficit.
Given a large trade deficit, the economy needs either large government deficits or very low private savings to sustain high levels of employment. This is not a partisan issue; it is an accounting identity.
Mr. Lew shows no understanding of this basic point. Either this top Obama official is ignorant of basic economics or he is not being honest with the American people. Either way, it is an incredibly scary column.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The IMF's Epic Fail on Egypt by Yves Smith
Needless to say, there has also been a great deal of consternation as to how the West’s supposedly vaunted intelligence apparatus failed to see this one coming. This lapse is as bad as the inability to foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union (it’s arguably worse: a lot of people profited from the Cold War, and they’d have every reason to fan fears and thus look for evidence that would support the idea that the USSR was a formidable threat...
(And there was the CIA's George Tenet on the "slam dunk" of finding WMD's in Iraq)
If this isn’t bad enough, other sections of the report are downright embarrassing. The IMF does acknowledge that poverty is a bit of a problem, and look at the remedies it suggests:
Reforms for Sustained Growth
9. Continuing the reform momentum and reducing fiscal vulnerabilities remain the key medium-term challenges. Rapid growth is crucial to tackling poverty and the high level of unemployment. In this context, reinvigorating the structural reform agenda should help raise productivity and reinforce Egypt’s competitiveness.
Prioritizing reforms that promote macroeconomic stability and improve the investment climate will support the resumption of foreign direct investment. As noted, the planned fiscal adjustment and tax reforms are an important element of generating confidence, improving the business environment, and ensuring space for the private sector. Resumption of privatization and development of public-private partnerships (PPPs) will help mobilize private sector financing and know-how. Contingent liabilities associated with PPPs, however, should be monitored closely.
Reinforcing financial soundness and promoting financial sector deepening will help mobilize savings needed to finance private sector-led growth. The stability of the financial sector during and since the crisis is a testament to reforms since 2004. Staff supports the continuation of reform efforts with the CBE’s Phase II agenda. Introducing Basel II standards and supporting financial sector development will help facilitate intermediation of savings and increase private sector access to credit. Staff supports plans to adopt additional prudential measures to contain vulnerabilities that will arise with greater integration with the global economy and the introduction of new asset classes. Close coordination between the new nonbank supervisory authority and CBE will be a priority, and consideration should be given to introducing forward-looking risk management and developing global standards on liquidity and leverage.
Strengthening data quality and transparency will help improve the policy debate and business environment, and enhance Fund surveillance. The need for greater transparency and higher frequency data was underscored by the global financial crisis, and enhancements would help ensure that data availability is on par with other emerging markets. In particular, there is a need for more robust CPI and GDP deflators, and for publishing higher-frequency aggregate financial soundness indicators (as planned), and encouraging banks to make available detailed performance and soundness indicators.
This is all neoclassical trickle down twattle. People are hungry and can’t find work, and what does the IMF have in its toolkit? "Public private partnerships".
However Tunisia was a relatively wealthy Arab country and the Egyptian protesters were inspired by the successful Tunisian revolt.