Archive for July, 2006

Man Bites Dog!

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/31/2006

The LA Times tells an interesting story about events in its own back yard — Steve Sailer has the scoop. Quotable:

I must confess that I sometimes admire the stiff-necked elitism of the LA Times — its devotion to esoteric foreign coverage of the “Whither Kyrgyzstan?” ilk, its enthusiasm for thumbsucking wonkery about the future of the Social Security trust fund, its lofty disdain for chronicling the tabloid-worthy events actually taking place on the streets of America’s most tabloid-worthy city.


Sam Quinones July 28 article — “6 + 4 = 1 Tenuous Existence: An illegal immigrant couple with six children were already living in poverty. Then the quadruplets arrived. They’re still in a daze” — just might be the best in the rather dull history of the Los Angeles Times. It combines the two things traditionally lacking in that notoriously stuffy liberal newspaper.

First, human interest:

“On July 6, Magdaleno gave birth to two boys and two girls, drawing national media attention as a bewildered mother of 10 (with nine living at home). Now, she and her husband, Alfredo Anzaldo, 44, must figure out how to provide for everyone on Anzaldo’s maximum pay of $400 a week as a carpet installer…”

Second, relevance—in a newspaper normally willfully oblivious to what’s actually happening in Los Angeles:

“U.S. immigrants’ stories often are about reinvention and newfound prosperity, about leaving behind poverty and limitations.

“But that is not Magdaleno’s story.

“Both Magdaleno and Anzaldo are illegal immigrants, settled for years in an immigrant enclave. Magdaleno has the same number of children as her parents, who were peasant farmers in Mexico. Like her parents, she is living in poverty and struggling to provide for her family…

“Neither Magdaleno nor her husband speaks English, though she has been in the United States 22 years and he 28. Even her teenage daughters speak mostly Spanish; their English vocabulary is limited.

“Yet all of Magdaleno’s 10 children are U.S. citizens. The triplets receive subsidized school lunches. All the youngsters have had their healthcare bills covered by Medi-Cal, the state and federal healthcare program for the poor.”

Posted in California | Comments Off on Man Bites Dog!

Katrina — The Government In Action

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/27/2006

The WSJ tells the inside story on a government fiasco in the making. Thank God the government doesn’t run the schools, protect the borders, or control the money supply … hey, wait a minute …

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The LA Times Loses a Quarter Million Subscribers

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/27/2006

In a half-dozen years the LA Times has driven away 20% of its subscriber base — here are the numbers. It seems lots of people won’t pay a quarter of the cost of Starbucks for a dishonest product chuck full of leftist tripe. Who would have guessed? The population in SoCal has expanded by millions and millions in the last 25 years — but LA Times circulation is 150,000 below were it was in 1971. It looks like the demand for the LA Times is beginning to imitate the demand for that other 1970s winner– the eight track tape.

Posted in Economics, The Left | Comments Off on The LA Times Loses a Quarter Million Subscribers

Is the Whole Country on Crystal Meth?

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/27/2006

Don’t worry, be happy — Victor Hanson looks at an America living fat and happy off the seed corn. Quotable:

We Americans don’t seem to worry that we owe billions of dollars to the Chinese, or that our oil hunger is enriching hostile rogue regimes, or that our annual budget deficit keeps adding to our national debt ..

Why fret now?

Posted in Politics | Comments Off on Is the Whole Country on Crystal Meth?

The Truth Comes Out

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/26/2006

The Treasury Dept. admits what we all know: the Bush / GOP economic plan of huge spending increases and expanding tax cuts will make us all poorer in the future — and the Feds have produced a “model” to guess at just how much poorer we will all be.

Voters need to know that the Bush / GOP economic agenda on taxes and spending has nothing to do with sound economics or the public good.

Posted in Bush, Economics | Comments Off on The Truth Comes Out

Schwarzenegger Flips on Illegal Immigration

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/26/2006

Gov. Schwarzenegger is now labeling as racist those who oppose mass illegal immigration into California — a charge Schwarzenegger leveled against citizens who confronted him at a public meeting yesterday on the problems created by the millions of illegal non-citizens who have flooded into the state. Schwarzenegger also announced to the illegal-friendly paper La Opinion that he’s changed his mind about Prop. 187 and if he had it to do over again he would vote against the infamous 1994 ballot measure which the Gov. once supported.

According to a recent Field Poll illegal immigration in the #1 issue of concern among those who support Schwarzenegger in his race for Governor, and Schwarzenegger is at 85% support among Republican voters. So perhaps the Gov. if feeling that he has lots of room to run left on topics like illegal immigration — the only option Republicans have to express their opinion is either to support Schwarzenegger or stay home, and the Governor is betting conservatives will stick with him no matter how many times he moves left — or calls them bigots.

And he’s likely betting correctly.

Posted in California, Immigration | Comments Off on Schwarzenegger Flips on Illegal Immigration

Can Economists Think Darwinian?

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/24/2006

The our tenured mandarins might not but Eric Beinhocker certainly can. Quotable:

Eric Beinhocker .. has undertaken his own 500-page haj, entitled “The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics” .. it is good enough, and scholarly enough, to warrant [the attention of the professors] rather than their scorn.

.. Mr Beinhocker is himself critical of “loose analogising” between biology and economics. The economy, Mr Beinhocker says, is not “like” a rainforest. Rather, economies and ecosystems are both evolutionary systems in their own right. The evolutionary formula—variation, selection and replication—is a formal, “all-purpose” principle, which can perform its magic equally well in either domain.

How, then, does the principle go to work on the stuff of economics? The business plan is the economic equivalent of DNA, and the enterprise its host in the world. Mr Beinhocker envisages a Borgesian library of every conceivable plan, from farming wheat in Lebanon in 8500BC to manufacturing “supernano neural-blastule tubes” that have yet to be invented. Evolution provides a remarkably effective way for the economy as a whole to scour this vast library for viable strategies, finding “needles of good design in haystacks of possibility,” as Daniel Dennett, a philosopher, has put it.

Countless firms, busily tinkering with their business models, provide a source of variation. The market itself—what gets bought and what gets left on the shelf—imposes a powerful form of selection. And although business plans cannot reproduce, successful ones do command a growing share of the economy’s resources, as companies expand on the back of them and rivals copy them.

Such a process succeeds at the level of the economy as a whole, while remaining coldly indifferent to the fate of individual firms within it. Indeed, Mr Beinhocker cites research showing that progress owes more to new firms replacing old than to incumbent firms renewing themselves. This is not a comfortable conclusion for businessmen who might buy this book. But as a McKinsey man, Mr Beinhocker cannot resist offering a few tips to executives who are not content to be “experimental grist for the evolutionary mill”.

Such ideas are less threatening to economists: Milton Friedman evoked the notion of market selection over 50 years ago. But more unsettling than the ideas are the techniques and tools Mr Beinhocker advocates. He argues that economists should abandon blackboard deduction in favour of computer simulation. The economists he likes do not “solve” models of the economy — deducing the prices and quantities that will prevail in equilibrium — rather they grow them “in silico”, as he puts it.

An early example is the sugarscape simulation done in 1995 by Joshua Epstein and Robert Axtell, of the Brookings Institution. On a computer-generated landscape, studded with “sugar” mountains, they scattered a variety of simple, sugar-eating creatures, which compete for this precious commodity. Some creatures move faster than others, some see farther, and some burn sugar at a higher metabolic rate than their rivals.

Surprisingly, the results of their myopic lives can be gripping. Even simple rules of behaviour result in collective patterns that are impossible to foresee yet easy to recognise. The sugarscape, for example, is quickly beset by a division between haves and have-nots, which bears a strong statistical resemblance to the distribution of income in real economies. These macro-results cannot be deduced from the micro-rules simulators write. Rather, they emerge from the interactions of the creatures in the model, just as “wetness” emerges from the interaction of water molecules, rather than being a property of the molecule itself.

Such simulations may be unpredictable, but they are nonetheless understandable, Mr Beinhocker insists. By toying with different parameters, such as metabolic rates or the height of the sugar mountains, analysts can learn how to “tune” their model to generate different results. This understanding may be more valuable than a forecast, he argues. But whatever such enlightenment is worth, it is not easy to communicate to others. The revelations contained in a deductive proof or theorem are easy to pass on: they leave a set of footprints for other people to follow, making it easy for a theory to persuade and convert. For simulations, by contrast, “the only way to see what happens is to run the model and evolve it — there is no shortcut.”

Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Can Economists Think Darwinian?

From F.A. Hayek to Wikipedia

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/24/2006

The New Yorker does the Wikipedia story. Quotable:

As an undergraduate, Jimmy Wales [the founder of Wikipedia], had read Friedrich Hayek’s 1945 free-market manifesto, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” which argues that a person’s knowledge is by definition partial, and that truth is established only when people pool their wisdom. Wales thought of the essay again in the nineteen-nineties, when he began reading about the open-source movement, a group of programmers who believed that software should be free and distributed in such a way that anyone could modify the code. He was particularly impressed by “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” an essay, later expanded into a book, by Eric Raymond, one of the movement’s founders. “It opened my eyes to the possibility of mass collaboration,” Wales said.

Posted in Economics, Technology | Comments Off on From F.A. Hayek to Wikipedia

Rose & Milton Friedman Interviewed by the WSJ

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/24/2006


Is immigration, I asked–especially illegal immigration–good for the economy, or bad? “It’s neither one nor the other,” Mr. Friedman replied. “But it’s good for freedom. In principle, you ought to have completely open immigration. But with the welfare state it’s really not possible to do that. . . . She’s an immigrant,” he added, pointing to his wife. “She came in just before World War I.” (Rose–smiling gently: “I was two years old.”) “If there were no welfare state,” he continued, “you could have open immigration, because everybody would be responsible for himself.” Was he suggesting that one can’t have immigration reform without welfare reform? “No, you can have immigration reform, but you can’t have open immigration without largely the elimination of welfare.

“At the moment I oppose unlimited immigration. I think much of the opposition to immigration is of that kind–because it’s a fundamental tenet of the American view that immigration is good, that there would be no United States if there had not been immigration. Of course, there are many things that are easier now for immigrants than there used to be. . . .”

Did he mean there was much less pressure to integrate now than there used to be? Milton: “I’m not sure that’s true . . .” Rose (speaking simultaneously): “That’s the unfortunate thing . . .” Milton: “But I don’t think it’s true . . .” Rose: “Oh, I think it is! That’s one of the problems, when immigrants come across and want to remain Mexican.” Milton: “Oh, but they came in the past and wanted to be Italian, and be Jewish . . .” Rose: “No they didn’t. The ones that did went back.”

Mrs. Friedman, I was learning, often had the last word.


Does it disappoint Mr. Friedman that the Bush administration hasn’t been able to roll back spending? “Yes,” he said. “But let’s go back a moment. During the 1990s, you had the combination that is best for holding down spending. A Democrat in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress. That’s what produced the surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and during the whole of that era there was a trend for spending to come down. Then the Republicans come in, and they’ve been in the desert, and so you have a burst of spending in the first Bush term. And he refuses to veto anything, so he doesn’t exercise any real influence on cutting down spending. In 2008, you may very well get a Democratic president”–(Rose, interjecting: “God forbid!”)–“and if you can keep a Republican House and Senate, you’ll get back to a combination that will reduce spending.”

Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. “What’s really killed the Republican Party isn’t spending, it’s Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression.” Mrs. Friedman–listening to her husband with an ear cocked–was now muttering darkly.

Milton: “Huh? What?” Rose: “This was not aggression!” Milton (exasperatedly): “It was aggression. Of course it was!” Rose: “You count it as aggression if it’s against the people, not against the monster who’s ruling them. We don’t agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don’t agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously–such as, I don’t want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out–but big issues, this is the first one!” Milton: “But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it.” Rose: “And we will!”

Mrs. Friedman, you will note, had the last word.

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Lack Of A Conservative Belief System Doomed The Bush Presidency

Posted by PrestoPundit on 07/24/2006

So says William F. Buckley. Quotable:

I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress .. And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge.

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