Monday, July 24, 2006

More Catastrophic Success


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will consider adding more U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad and other ways to counter surging violence when they meet at the White House on Tuesday.

Bush and Maliki will consider new approaches to quelling the bloodshed in and around the capital after Maliki's security plan for the region proved a disastrous failure.

"One of the first challenges, obviously, is to go ahead and find an effective way to secure Baghdad," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Senior Bush administration officials said one option to was to move more U.S. and Iraqi troops into Baghdad from different parts of the country.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Rules of Modern Business

Modern Business's Second Goal is to shift all costs off onto someone else. For example, why pay to get rid of waste if business can simply dump it into a river?

Importation of high-tech labor is yet another example of this practice. Why pay (taxes) to train the locals when it is more expedient to simply bring the labor in from somewhere else? Of course that winds up costing more in the long run, but then that fits nicely with the First Goal of Modern Business: worry only about the immediate future, take the resulting money and run.

The Trouble with Saddam

America is learning the hard way that it simply can't do the same things that dictators do and expect to maintain its integrity.

Granted, the Bush administration has been busy turning America ideals into torture chambers for 5 1/2 years, but time and the light of day are starting to weigh on those efforts as well.

This isn't PC to say, but perhaps Saddam managed to keep Shiites and Sunnis living together "peacefully" because he could do what most democracies can't: shoot lots of people.

I refuse to believe that the various ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East can't get along. It's entirely possible that the strife in the Middle East is the result of many other, more mundane factors and are simply dressed in the colors of religious hatred to provide an excuse.

While its safe to say that few have found peaceful answers to Middle Eastern harmony, it is certain that democracies like the US will always fail to instill peace by force. True democracies simply won't tolerate the brutalness required to sprout peace from the barrel of a gun.

Outsourcing and Wishful Thinking

We got into the Iraq war due to wishful thinking.

Discarding 2,000 years of experience to the contrary to state, without laughing, that the solution to strife in the Middle East is as simple as going in a shooting people is at best wishful thinking.

[snide aside] Oooohhhhhh! You mean the reason the Middle East isn't docile is because we haven't killed enought people?

True, wishful thinking is bad enough to give us the trouble we have now, but we've compounded the problem by outsourcing. No one in this administration has really sat down and figured out (without lots of the Wishful Thinking) what is really necessary to even provide stability, much less peace. Except for Rumsfeld's fantasy of Overwhelming Success on the cheap, the order of the day for addressing the Iraq situation has been to assign the problem to someone else.

First, the Prez decides that we need to transform the Middle East. So he tells the military, "Go transform the Middle East". The military turns to contractors and says, "Transform the Middle East". Those contractors turn to sub-contractors and say...

So if our goal was to transfer as much American treasury to contractors as possible in the shortest period of time, we have truly succeeded. Its a failure by every other measure.

The sad thing is that 49.9% of the population knew that before it even started.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Orwell: Lies and Reality

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

-- George Orwell "In Front of Your Nose"

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Good Economy

Someone continually telling you things are "A" when everyone knows that things are "B".

Bush Administration: The sky is green.
America: No, it's blue.

We always called this "blowing smoke up your *ss". I'm not sure where the expression originated, and honestly, it doesn't make any sense literally. But that's what the Bush Admin is doing.

Bush Administration: "We lowered taxes."
America: "Yay!"
Reality: "The money's gotta come from somewhere. You think prices are high *now*? Ha! You ain't seen nothin' yet... [cue music]"

Gosh! Would a politician tell us something we know is untrue?

What I find amazing is how many *economists* look at the disparity and don't think, "Whoa! We need to re-examine our numbers and methods" but instead tell everyone, "America just doesn't get it. Why?"

America: "Duh!"

It makes sense that politicians will continue to spew this babble. Sure, many people will spot the disparity between the current admin's view and reality and say, "Yeah, right". The politicians gain, however, those that A) many don't know better and B) some actually *are* doing better. So long as the number of people convince (and via bad logic deduce that the politician in question is doing "a good job") is larger than the number of people that get pissed being lied to, the pol can be better off.

But why economists? Possibilities come to mind:

1 The economist doesn't want to believe that all the work he/she has been doing is wrong and/or for naught.
2 The economist inquestion already has an assumption in mind and sub-conciously picks and massages data to match the foregone conclusion.
3 They're just incompetent.
4 They've got a hat in the ring.

My generous side picks 2. Its a very common human foible. Occam's Razor, if you will.
My skeptical of modern media side picks 4.

Economist's View

Selling the Economy

The administration continues to be frustrated that the public does not report satisfaction with the economy. For example, here's Al Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council from the New York Times:

"Obviously, it's frustrating to us that the American people don't recognize how well the economy is doing," Mr. Hubbard said.

Since the administration is used to relying on sales as much as results to achieve success in the policy arena, it's understandable why they would be frustrated that the sales job on the economy is not working. The problem is, it's a lot harder to sell people on something that's directly observable through their own experiences such as their day to day economic circumstances.

People know when they are better off or worse off, at least we assume they do when formulating basic building blocks in economics such as preference relationships, and when you ask them directly if they are better off, here's what they say:

Explaining Why People Are Pessimistic about the Economy, by Karlyn H. Bowman, American Enterprise Institute: Why do Americans seem so down about the economy, when many economic indicators are positive? Gallup points to the answer, in a poll that asked Americans how things have changed for them over the past year.

The May poll found that 99 percent of respondents said that the price they paid for a gallon of gas has gone up. (Who are the 1 percent?) In addition, 82 percent said the amount they pay for utilities has gone up, 73 percent said the price they pay for food has risen, 70 percent said their local property taxes have climbed, and 64 percent said the amount they pay for health insurance and the amount they pay out-of-pocket for health care or prescription drugs has gone up.

At the same time, only 38 percent report that their take-home pay after deductions has increased. That, and the pall the Iraq war is casting over things, goes a long way to explaining Americans' pessimism.

Are You Better Off ... ? In a June 24-27 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, 21 percent said their own family's economic situation is better because of President Bush's economic policies over the past five years, while 27 percent said it was worse off, and 48 percent said it was about the same. ... The Gallup poll cited earlier found that 42 percent said their federal income taxes had gone up over the past year, while 49 percent said they had remained the same. The local property tax bite was more severe. Seventy percent reported it had gone up, with 28 percent saying it had remained the same...

So 75% of the respondents do not feel their economic situation has improved, or it has deteriorated. The New York Times reports:

[A] poll released last month by the Pew Research Center found that just 33 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Bush's handling of the economy, while 54 percent disapproved. And a June survey by the University of Michigan, which tracks consumer confidence in government economic policies, found that 39 percent said Mr. Bush was doing a poor job, while 13 percent said he was doing a good job, and 47 percent rated him as fair.

Administration policy seems to be:

Administration: You're better off due to our economic policies.

Public: No we're not.

Administration. Yes you are.