"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

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Ridley Scott made two great sci-fi movies, Alien and Blade Runner, that brought more realism and philosophical depth to the genre. In his new sci-fi movie Prometheus, which I saw and enjoyed, he uses actors and actresses from some of my favorite shows and movies. Kate Dickie played Lysa Arryn in season one of Game of Thrones (fantasy). Idris Elba played Stringer Bell on The Wire (police procedural). Noomi Rapace starred in the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (detective film noir). Michael Fassbender was in the WWII war movie Inglorious Bastards.

Fassbender's android robot David's favorite film is Lawrence of Arabia. I'm not sure of the supposed significance of this. T.E. Lawrence led an Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire. Maybe David just likes Peter O'Toole's mannerisms and style. The writers are assosicated with the TV show Lost so there be no meaning and it was included with the sole purpose of giving the viewer somthing to think about and create the meaning for themselves.


The movie opens with a shot of some landscape which may or may not be Earth. (In actuality, Scott - like Benioff and Weiss of Game of Thrones - used Iceland.)  A humaniod alien on the surface commits suicide via bioweapon with a giant spaceship overhead. Why? What happened?

They don't expain it. Next two scientists discover an archaelogical finding in Scotland which has a map of planets (or star systems?) that corresponds to maps found at archaeological sites of other ancient civilizations. These civilizations couldn't have been in contact and had no way to discover this particular map of planet or starts which turns out to exist many light years away. The only conclusion that makes sense is that aliens gave them the map.

The scientists take it as an invitation, but maybe the aliens were just describing where they were from, who knows? The movie takes place in the year 2089 and so humanity does have the technology to find the particular set of planets (or star systems?) the map shows and to figure out tha one of the moons orbiting one of the planets is capable of supporting life. Humanity also has the technology to send a crew on a spaceship to the planet if a corporation was willing to finance the trip (apparently NASA remains defunded in 2089) and one is. I believe they say it cost a trillion dollars which wouldn't be a lot if inflation held at its 2 percent cross of gold rate these next 77 years. Or maybe a new global currency union has been constructed by then, who knows? Lost writers aren't know for having a tightly construed, logical mythos.

Anyhoo, the crew arrives at the moon to discover that A) the aliens share our DNA and so probably created humanity and B) the moon actually isn't the aliens' homeworld but rather is a bioweapon storage facility with many spaceships buried just below the surface. The ships' cargoholds are loaded with deadly bioweapons the scientist learn to their dismay. (I kept wondering about their lax safety protocols. Had OSHA been defunded like NASA?) They also discover many dead aliens and homemovies of the aliens fleeing in panic.

But not all of the aliens are dead. One is found in suspended animation or cyrogenic sleep. Making yet another mistake, the crew wake the alien who is very large, strong and violent. He immediately attacks them and rips off their android David's head. Then he jumps in the cockpit pilots the ship to lift off and head to Earth. How the remaining scientist know this I forget, but they are conviced their/our makers are going to to try to destroy us. They also believe the aliens were preparing to wipe out humanity before but they botched the handling of the bioweapons and killed almost all of the spaceships' crews.

Why would they want to kill their creations? There could be a few reasons like they were concerned that humanity would evolve to such an extent that they'd conquer their creators.

Or there could be multiple factions of aliens. Maybe some created humanity an act which was illegal and so the alien government was sending bioweapons to correct the illegal act? But the rebellious aliens sabatoged the aliens' spaceship with their own bioweapons. You would think that an alien race with the technology to create new species as complex as humanity would have some pretty thorough safeguards on their bioweaponry.

Or the aliens could have created multiple species which shared their genes but the aliens couldn't  completely control the evolution of these species and at some point - a couple thousand years ago when monotheism conquered polytheism - they deemed humanity a dangerous failure.

But why the alien suicide? My guess is that he sabotaged the spaceships and then killed himself. Hopefully there will be a sequel and we'll find out. The film ends with Noomi Rapace's scientist and the dismembered body of Fassbender's David flying an alien ship to the alien homeworld. Good luck, girl with the dragon tattoo, you're going to need it judging by the reaction of the live alien they found.
Money Still Matters by David Beckworth

(via DeLong)

Artsie non-linearity, economics, and the concrete steppes by Nick Rowe

(via Thoma)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Ben Bernanke Says Ben Bernanke Could Reduce The Unemployment Rate But He Prefers Not To by Yglesias

Bernanke Offers No Clear Sign of New Action by Binyamin Appelbaum
Republicans on the committee pressed repeatedly for Mr. Bernanke to make a clear commitment that the Fed would take no further action to stimulate growth.
“I wish you would look the markets in the eye and say that the Fed has done too much,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas told Mr. Bernanke.
Democrats, by contrast, inquired politely after the Fed’s plans and showed surprisingly little interest in urging the Fed to expand its efforts.
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat, made the nearest approach, calling on the Fed to act forcefully, but she did not ask Mr. Bernanke to commit to such a course of action, nor to explain why he has not done so.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

downward nominal wage rigidity

DeLong links to Tim Duy:
And she dismisses the idea that a large output gap is inconsistent with current inflation:
…substantial cross-country evidence suggests that, in low-inflation environments, inflation is notably less responsive to downward pressure from labor market slack than it is when inflation is elevated. In other words, the short-run Phillips curve may flatten out. One important reason for this non-linearity, in my view, is downward nominal wage rigidity–that is, the reluctance or inability of many firms to cut nominal wages.
To put in crude terms if it wasn't for downward nominal wage rigidity we'd have deflation. Right?

Bill Clinton: overrated

Toff Doctrine Monetary Policy From Alan Greenspan to Mario Draghi by Yglesias

Read the whole thing. Specifically about Clinton, Yglesias writes
A dangerous and telling precedent comes from the United States where it's widely believed that Alan Greenspan communicated to the Clinton administration that an agenda of deficit reduction would be rewarded with loose monetary policy while a non-approved agenda would be punished with tight money. This worked out well enough in the end because Clinton committed himself to Greenspanism, congressional Democrats more or less went along, and then Greenspan delivered the goods. As a result, Greenspan got to become the "maestro" and we enjoyed solid growth years. But imagine congress had balked, the deficit reduction package had failed, and then Greenspan tried to punish Congress with tight money. How would that have helped...

If Clinton's Economic Record Is Viewed Positively, Then It Speaks to the Horrible State of Economic Reporting by Dean Baker
The Post told readers that Bill Clinton is an effective spokesperson for President Obama in part because:
"Clinton himself presided over an economic boom and a balanced budget gives him credibility to make the case against Romney and the Republicans."
Actually, the seeds of the current disaster were put in place by the policies of the Clinton administration. President Clinton did nothing to try to check the rise of the stock bubble. Its collapse in 2000-2002 led to the longest period without job creation since the Great Depression, until the current downturn.
The economy only recovered from this downturn and began creating jobs again with the rise of the housing bubble. The burst of that bubble of course gave us our current downturn.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Memo to the Fed: Please learn more from the RBA by Scott Sumner
Australia has a 2-3% inflation target and faster trend RGDP growth than the US.  That sort of nominal growth would be beyond my wildest dreams for the US.  Rather think about how proactive they are.  Unemployment is low and inflation is in the sweet spot.  But they are easing monetary policy because they see the global slowdown, which for some reason the much more sophisticated Fed and ECB don’t quite comprehend.  They aren’t cutting rates because 5.5% NGDP growth is too low, they are cutting rates to make sure that 5.5% NGDP growth happens.

The Fed seems content to wait until our recovery is off the rails, and then pull out still another QE, each one less stimulative than the last, because they mostly work via signalling.  Every time the Fed fails to carry through it losses a little more credibility.  And the biggest irony is that the credibility loss they are worried about is too much inflation!  That’d be like Mitt Romney worrying that people will regard him as too spontaneous and reckless.

(via DeLong)

A commenter at DeLong's blog notes that the Rudd government also enacted a giant stimulus plan.

Walker's victory, un-sugar coated by Doug Henwood
Jonathan Chait on Scott Walker surviving the Wisconsin recall vote:
The Obama-Romney exit poll finding is probably the most surprising data point to emerge from the mess in Wisconsin. Obama has maintained strong support among minorities, and fairly strong support among college-educated white voters, but his standing with white voters lacking a college degree has fallen even below its low 2008 levels. If there’s any region where Romney ought to be making inroads, it’s upper Midwest states, where Obama still relies on blue-collar voters. Michigan and, to a lesser degree, Ohio ought to be exceptions, owing to the special circumstances of the auto bailout. Wisconsin and Iowa are ground zero for states likely to fall to Romney. Tonight’s exit polls suggest he’s much farther away than many of us believed.
But Walker’s win will certainly provide a blueprint for fellow Republicans. When they gain a majority, they can quickly move to not just wrest concessions from public sector unions but completely destroy them, which in turn eliminates one of the strongest sources of political organization for the Democratic Party. And whatever backlash develops, it’s probably not enough to outweigh the political benefit. Walker has pioneered a tactic that will likely become a staple of Republican governance. Fortune favors the bold.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Save Us, Ben Bernanke, You're Our Only Hope by Matthew O'Brien

The US economy and jobs: the basic arithmetic by Dean Baker
The discussions of the economy have lost sight of the basic score. The US economy is operating at close to 6% below its potential with employment down by almost 10 million compared with its trend level. This is an incredible waste of resources. It is also devastating to the unemployed workers and their families.
President Obama and the Democratic leadership have refused to put forward a serious alternative path. While they have been willing to argue that rich people should have to pay some taxes, they have not come to grips with the nature of this downturn, as if hoping that, somehow, the economy will just jump back to its pre-recession level of output through some magical process. There is no magic that will allow the economy to override basic arithmetic. In the short term, only the government can provide the boost necessary to support the economy. Over the longer term, we will need to get the trade deficit down through a more competitive dollar.
(via Mark Thoma)

Wisconsin Recall Vote

David Brooks (Bobo) on debt

Dean Baker responds

Turning Our Backs on Unions by Joe Nocera
Noah includes himself as one of those liberals “who spent too much time beating up unions,” as he told me recently. (He and I are both members of the informal Washington Monthly alumni society.) His thinking began to change in the early 1990s when he read “Which Side Are You On?” It is a powerful meditation on the difficulties unions face, written by Thomas Geoghegan, a Chicago labor lawyer. Researching “The Great Divergence” reinforced Noah’s growing view that when liberals turned their backs on unions — when they put, in his words, “identity politics over economic justice” — they made a terrible mistake.
Republicans outspent Democrats on the Wisconsin recall vote 7 to 1.

What Constrains the Federal Reserve? An Interview with Joseph Gagnon by Mike Konczal

Monday, June 04, 2012

Game of Thrones Week 10: Destiny and Other Foolish Notions by Charlie Jane Anders

"Valar Morghulis" Onion review (for newbies)

"Valar Morghulis" Onion review (for experts)