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Monday, March 25, 2013

Miscellaneous Links

I've been offline for a week, as household duties took precedence. With my wife and one of our children doing school visits, I was left to manage the other three children, plus four hens, three dogs, two cats and one guinea pig.  All of whom survived my care, which I consider a success. In this area of my life, I like to set the bar low.

To make up for lost time, I'm doing something different, just some links to good stuff and not so much text by me about them:

Sports:  Great analysis showing that Mark Gasol should be Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA. Meanwhile, Charlotte Bobcats get lost driving to the basket.

Finance / Economics:  (1) Great interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness and Antifragile) at  Main takeaways: (1) debt is bad, because it is rigid and not flexible like equity; (2) the genius of free markets and capitalism is not only that they show, through profits, where investments should be directed, but that they also show, through failure, where investments should not be directed.  Which government intervention in economic activity screws up (think Fannie and Freddie).

(2) A very good overview of "austerity" and deficit monetization in the UK

Venezuela (also file under Humor):  Interim President Maduro reports that the reason the Catholic Church elected a Pope from Latin America is that Hugo Chavez told God to make it happen: "Sabemos que nuestro Comandante ascendió a las alturas y tuvo un cara-a-cara con Cristo. Algo influenció la elección de un papa sudamericano. Alguien nuevo llegó al lado de Cristo y le dijo: bueno, nos parece que la hora sudamericana ha llegado” [We know our leader ascended to heaven and had a face-to-face meeting with Christ. Something influenced the election of a South American Pope. Someone arrived at Christ's side recently and said to him, "OK, it seems to us that South America's time has arrived"]. Apparently Chavez is smarter than God to his supporters.
Public Policy:  (1) Famously condescending liberal Bill Maher now realizes his tax rate is now over 50%, and that's not right.

(2)  Excellent look from NPR at how the disability part of Social Security has been turned quietly into a perpetual unemployment / welfare substitute for people who are neither disabled nor employable.  Explains how state governments hire private contractors (the "disability industrial complex") who take in tens of millions of dollars a year to push people off of state-funded welfare or unemployment programs onto SSI, which is 100% federally funded. Explains how parents are incentivized to keep their kids underperforming in school so they can keep getting a check from the federal government on account of the kids' "disability"; Nicholas Kristof wrote about this in the Times a couple of months ago as well).   Explains how SSI will run out of money within a generation unless it borrows from the Old-Age portion of Social Security (and thereby bankrupts that fund within two generations).