Friday, September 23, 2005

But.. er.. he was right

I was doing some research on Variable Rate Annuities last night, specifically hoping to find some advice / analysis by Krugman or DeLong. I wasn't looking for the raw numbers.. that's not my strength. But Krugman especially has proven time and again to be trustworthy on issues and holds himself to a very high standard.

What amazed me was the volume of online material related to the privatization debate by people who were disagreeing with Krugman, most of it circa 2003. Some of it was by hacks some was by economists.

What was interesting was that they all had a history of disagreeing with Krugman. You could go back, and see were they tried to pick apart his numbers historically.

I can't comment on the math used. But here's what I noticed. In each instance they would say "blah blah, krugman's wrong, employment will grow by 2004" or some such.

And sitting in Fall of 2005.. well wherever they disagreed with Krugman he was right. He may have been off by a few degrees, but the general point of his prediction was correct. Yet, becuase he was off a little, but on the right side of negative or positive growth they'd declare themslves correct

Krugman predicts -3% growth and we get -2% growth? You predicted +7%? Well, you were right cause growth wasn't 3% or worse.

I'll listen to the guy who was only off by 1/2%

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Credit Card Surcharges

The Seattle P-I had an article on credit card surcharges yesterday that is worth reading.

As a business owner who is very familiar with these charges I am able to call out the statement by Visa. I am not unbiased, although I do not fall into the category of merchant who gets slammed by the low ticket item dilema. And I am sure that there a perfectly good reasons why Credit Card companies don't want to move on the various fee structures. But to say that merchant's complaints that fees on low don't wash is either a lie or incompetence. Having worked at a larger merchant that does a lot of low ticket volume like Apple Computers or Starbucks Coffee do, I know these have huge impacts on the bottom line because I've seen the numbers and how aggresively these companies worked to negotiate better deals. Arguing that's not the case is just untrue.

But most merchants don't have the leverage to negotiate better fees. And the market doesn't appear to be helping, since there are several outstanding class action lawsuits accusing the various cc companies of colluding. It is interesting that the rates are all more or less the same.

Given my experience with the credit card world, let me suggest the rule about the surcharge isn't to protect consumers. It's to reduce awareness of the cost of running card so that consumers believe the mark up reflects price gouging at the merchant.

Anyway, here's the email I sent wellspent at the PI:

First I want to thank you for the informative article about processing fees. In general it was well done. I would take exception to Rosetta Jone's assertion that complaints that high fees cut into profits don't "wash in the end, she said, adding that the increased amount of business a merchant receives by accepting Visa or other cards is worth it.. The issue, as Ms. Jone's certainly understands, isn't whether or not being able to accept a credit card increases transaction volume. It does, and in many cases merchants don't really have much choice but to accept them. The issue is whether that increased traffic also leads to increased revenue. I am sure there are many companies that use fees increase their profits and fees as an excuse. But, it's also true that if it costs a merchant, say, .30 cents to authorize a card + 3% of the final sale of .67 cents then it's highly probable that the merchant is losing money on the transaction. My experience (although not scientifically validated) is that most of the merchants who charge these fees general rely on a high volume of sales at a low average ticket price. If Jone's is correctly quoted, then to say that argument does not wash is not very, well let's say forthcoming on Ms. Jone's part.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

You can make this stuff up.

Sean Hannity interviewed a representative of Able Defense yesterday. Another great example of how the right works. They never claimed Able Defense was a government organization. But they clearly implied it by consitently referng to the gest as Captain (I heard no mention of were this title came from). And they talked about being interviewed by the 9/11 comission and generally tried to present themsleves as a real neo-con intelligence group that predicted 9/11 and was prevented from stopping it by our liberal government.

Except it's all Bullshit.

There is no Able Defense. It doesn't exist as a legal entity.

The goal of bullshit is to say something that, even if you don't believe it, causes you to subconciously assume an underlying truth that doesn't exist. In this case, that there is a government agency that is neo-con and at some level anticipated some terrorism and validated neo-con analysis.

In fact, *none* of it is true.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bureaus Of Dori's Ass

So, to torture myself, I spent part of yesterday listening to Dori. One topic was the 20 million in FEMA money that local officials lost. The contention was that FEMA had given local officials $20 million specifically to work on levy's. Now, 90+% of the money is unaccounted for. Local officials claim that it was spent on levy work, but are unable to provide a paper trail.

Now, as with many of these type of assertions, it is my impression they are meant to show Bush is being unfairly blamed because it's the locals that mismanaged things.

If true, the allegation only substantiates the impression I have: city, state and federal officials f*ed up. I harp on Bush cause I can't vote for LA officials state and local but I can vote for or against Bush.

The big problem I have though is that there was no source referenced for the allegation. I did some looking and was unable to find any article or document about the supposed money.

At what point are you so ideologically driven, so determined to believe you were right to support Bush that you loose any sense of objectivity. Did you just repeat what you heard? Or was it a GOP talking point?

Thursday, September 08, 2005


I haven't posted for a bit cause I have been out of the country. Katrina hit while we were in Britain and we marvelled at how a bad situation went to hell so quickly and how the government at all levels failed to prevent the massive death toll. The point of government is to protect it's citizens and prevent the kind of death we saw in the aftermath.

Since then there has been a lot of talk about who is responsible for the inadequate response and the unnecceasary death toll.

Let me offer my response.

If you voted Republican, then you are. I think we are too easily able to create a cognitive disconnect between our actions and the consequences. It is waht allows leftists to protest Nike in China without conecerning themselves with how the workers at the factory will survive if Nike leaves. It allows us to avoid hard thinking on issues and making decisions that are not easy. Yah, it sucks that children work. It's easy to condemn a sweat shop, demand it close and then let the "liberated" children die because their only source of income just left town.

Similarly, it's easy to vote for Bush and then be shocked when things turn out bad. You know what, love him or not, his actions are completely, 100% consistent with his stated poloicies, approahces and track records. One reason I have truned so hard on him is that I supported the war in Iraq. To me that means I seriously understood innocent people would die. I accepted that knowledge because I was convinced that the greater good was at stake. But Bush lied. It was not. And I believed him, and because I made the mistake of believing him people who shouldn't be are dead.

If you voted for Bush, you voted for a course of actions that hobbled our goverments ability to prevent death. You voted for the decision to "privatize" disaster planning in Louisiana. You voted for a policy of appointing political allies to policy posts, such as FEMA. You knowingly allowed this to happen.

So take accountability. And stop blaming Bush. You voted for him. Blame yourself.