Re: Politeness

2012-11-25 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Nov 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:
 While I didn't want to complicate my reply at the time, I do want to take
 this opportunity to say that in no way was I referring to how much Jon
 achieved or hasn't achieved.

Hilarious!

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Re: Politeness

2012-11-25 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Nov 25, 2012 at 11:21 AM, Warren Adams-Ockrassa
war...@nightwares.com wrote:
 Having been watching from the sidelines, it's amazing how easy it is for me
 to decide whose voice is respectable and mature, and whose is childish and
 petulant, in this discussion.

If only it were also easy for you to post something of value, instead
of your opinion which is worthless.

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Re: Politeness

2012-11-25 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Nov 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM, Jon Louis Mann
net_democr...@yahoo.com wrote:

 He assumes that I am not a successful politician because I have not won an 
 election.

Actually, no, that is not why I assume you are not successful.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-24 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 Do whatever you want with my opinion,

Thank you, I  will.
^^
politeness

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-24 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 Half of the article that I'm giving a link to talks about him. It is written
 by another Nobel prize winner,

Without commenting on Burgin's book, I will point out that Robert
Solow (bad Solow?) writes an extremely biased commentary about the
book. What would you expect from a co-author of the textbook that
extolled the virtues of the economy of the Soviet Union?

Here's a short commentary on Solow's commentary:

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/11/robert-solow-on-hayek-and-friedman-and-mps.html

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-24 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 12:27 PM, Kevin O'Brien zwil...@zwilnik.com wrote:
 I also note in passing that a study done a few years ago
 about charitable giving found that economists were the stingiest group in
 the study, which I found not at all surprising.

Would you be referring to the study published by Bauman and Rose in 2011?

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268111000746

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Re: Politeness

2012-11-24 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 6:47 PM, Jon Louis Mann net_democr...@yahoo.com wrote:
  It's not like he's some genius who doesn't suffer fools; that I would 
 respect.

It is not like you are a successful politician. Why would anyone care
about having your respect?

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Re: Politeness

2012-11-24 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 7:49 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 I actually think

I'm not so sure about that.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-21 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 7:12 AM, Kevin O'Brien zwil...@zwilnik.com wrote:

 So at this point I can only conclude that the Republicans are congenital
 liars.

You are wearing selective blinders. All politicians are liars.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-21 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 9:30 AM, Klaus Stock k...@stock-consulting.com wrote:
 So at this point I can only conclude that the Republicans are congenital
 liars.

 You are wearing selective blinders. All politicians are liars.

 But not all are congenital.

Ha!

 Luckily, most voters do not care if the lies are plausible or at least
 delivered convincingly.

I'm would not say it is lucky, but in my observation the most
effective lies are the ones where the politicians tell people exactly
what they want to hear. Plausibility is not so important.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-20 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 1:27 PM, Kevin O'Brien zwil...@zwilnik.com wrote:

 BTW, my doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan involved banking
 and monetary issues. One of the best lessons I learned was that people who
 really understand what they are talking about can say it it plain English.

Which makes it ironic that you are potentially misleading people with
the absurd concept of money on the sidelines.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-20 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 1:27 PM, Kevin O'Brien zwil...@zwilnik.com wrote:

 OK, I'm not at all clear on how you got top-down management out of what I
 said.

I'm getting tired of correcting all this nonsense, but I thought I'd
respond to this at least. You are the one claiming you know better how
to allocate resources than the millions of people who are currently
handling it themselves. If that is not an attempt at top-down
management, then I don't know what is.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-20 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 2:01 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 You change the regulations of the parasites on Wall Street...
 ...You should read more.

If only it were that simple. Regulators have been trying to manage
things for decades. Between regulatory-capture and the law of
unintended consequences, creating regulations to accomplish a certain
goal is exceedingly difficult.

You should think more.

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Re: Where to now?

2012-11-20 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 2:25 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:
 And the suceeded for 60+ years.

Ha, hahaha, ho ho ho. Very funny.

 You would benefit by occasionally listening to other people.

How about Hayek?

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they
really know about what they imagine they can design.
--Friedrich Hayek

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Re: Galileo was wrong!

2011-08-28 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Aug 28, 2011 at 3:01 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 It's funny, when you think about it.  A Protestant can rail against every
 other church and found his own church.  But if you're an ultraconservative
 Catholic, how in the world do you argue that the Pope is dead wrong on the
 important issues?

It is pathetic when you think about it. Of course there will be
religious people who have trouble accepting reality as revealed by
science. The whole point of most religions is to accept things without
proof. Anyone who is suprised by religious people who have trouble
distinguishing reality from delusion is lying to themselves about the
consequences of indoctrinating people into religious beliefs.

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Re: RE: Facebook is evil, why it must be eradicated [was: Wikileaks?]

2010-12-07 Thread John Williams
Ultimately, these sorts of issues are due to insufficient diversity.
As long as there is a majority (or perhaps even a large uniform
minority) who believe something strongly, there will be businesses or
government policies that cater to this majority. Whether government
representative or business leader, the thinking goes that restricting
things that are disliked by the majority will be beneficial to one's
position as politician or business leader. The people who complain
about the restrictions are outnumbered or outweighed by those who
support the restrictions. And even among those who do not support the
restrictions, many will tolerate them because it is not important to
them.

In order to fight this sort of thing, you have to change the majority
opinion. Good luck with that.

An alternative is to support fringe or niche groups that do not
believe in such restrictions. That is difficult with something like
facebook, where much of the utility of the service comes from having a
large, mainstream network of people as members.

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The Ben Bernank and the quantitative easing

2010-11-15 Thread John Williams
It's like watching a cartoon of train wreck...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTUY16CkS-kfeature=player_embedded

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Re: Can Honerable People Have Mortgages?

2010-10-24 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Oct 23, 2010 at 9:58 PM, Mitch mi...@oceanbound.net wrote:
 Here's what it seems you are writing:
 Cars are made to withstand impacts. Car insurance covers the cost of 
 repairing collisions. Not every driver will drive without a collision.
 Therefore, insured drivers individually do not have any obligation to avoid 
 collisions.
 Do you see that even though the insurance industry is there to pay for 
 collisions, wanton abuse is not what it is calculating for?

That reminds me of a scene from a movie, but I cannot remember what
movie it was. Guy goes into car rental agency with gold card and rents
a car plus all of the insurance he can get, then he deliberately
drives the car through the side of a building across the street. It
was funny in the movie, but that is not an honorable thing to do.

It is hard to come up with good examples for this sort of thing. I'll
make another attempt.

Consider home insurance for damage, particularly fires. I imagine the
actuaries include some amount in the premium they charge to account
for arson (i.e., deliberate burning of the house) that is never
discovered, so that the insurance company has to pay off. The
actuaries try to account for everything they can, so surely they must
consider undiscovered arson. But that does not mean that it is okay to
burn your house down, just because the insurance company has included
some amount in the premium for undiscovered arson. Deliberately
burning your house down is cheating the insurance company. It is not
honorable.

Strategic default is also dishonorable. It is cheating either the
insurance company or the lender (depending on whether there is
mortgage insurance).

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Re: Loan modifications (was Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries)

2010-10-22 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 9:27 PM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 7:41 PM, John Williams jwilliams4...@gmail.com
 wrote:

 That suggests that you are not going to strategically default. I
 wonder if there are any other clues that the lender was able to glean
 that suggested you would not strategically default.

 I'm curious strategically defaulting moral in your world-view?\

No.

  How about
 non-strategically defaulting?  What do these terms mean?

A strategic default is a somewhat more formal term for walking away,
i.e., choosing to stop making mortgage payments and let the property
be foreclosed upon, usually because the property is worth less than
the outstanding mortgage.

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Re: Loan modifications (was Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries)

2010-10-22 Thread John Williams
On Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 1:38 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

I answered this in another post, but I'll explain a little bit
differently here. I see the mortgage insurance as insurance against
the borrower being UNABLE to pay back the money, not just choosing to
default.

 Well you can see things however you wish, that is your prerogative.
 However, if you were in charge of deciding who gets what loan rates, that
 would be a very bad assumption to make.

No, we were discussing behavior of the borrower. The rest of your
comment was irrelevant, so snipped.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 8:09 PM, David Hobby hob...@newpaltz.edu wrote:

 Hi.  I'm with Keith on this.  A mortgage is not an
 absolute promise to pay back the loan.  Rather, the
 deal is that if the borrower does not keep up payments,
 the lender can take back the property.

I'm not sure why you imply that I disagree with that, assuming we are
talking about a nonrecourse loan, which is what I assume Nick has.

But the issue is that Nick, for whatever reason, is not walking away.
Instead, it seems he tried to get the lender to accept payback of less
than he borrowed, but the lender did not agree to it. Then there was
some story filed with the Justice department, which I do not know the
details of, but it sounds like it must be complaints about the lender
refusing to accept being paid back less than the amount that was
borrowed.

Nick, feel free to jump in here if I have something wrong.

Another complication is that many of the mortgages are now owned,
directly or indirectly, by the Federal government. That is what I
meant when I wrote earlier that not paying back the full loan amount
can ultimately result in the average taxpayer footing the bill.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 12:39 AM, Charlie Bell char...@culturelist.org wrote:

 Other than implying that Brad censors his blog of disagreement and
 Nick is dishonest, you mean?

Brad called me a troll and tried to incite people to censor me, which
is not polite. I replied to that insult rather politely, in that I
asked him why he thinks he has the power to censor people on this
email list, as he does on his blog. As for censorship on his blog, do
you mean to imply that you think he does not delete comments he
disagrees with? Because I know for a fact that he does, and he has
done it to the comments of many people who have tried to post polite
opinions that did not agree with Brad's agenda.

As for Nick, we were having a discussion about how honest people deal
with borrowing and paying back money. Given that the discussion had
started by Nick mentioning his attempts at loan modification, it would
be virtually impossible to discuss the situation without it being
possible for people to see some implications. But that does not
constitute an ad hominem argument, since the discussion was actually
about the ethics of the situation.

 And for the record, _ad hominem_ is not personal attack.

I am well aware of the meaning. You used it ambiguously. Literally,
the Latin translates as to man or to the man, which could of
course refer to about anything about a man or humanity in general. It
is generally used as a modifier, such as ad hominem attack or ad
hominem argument. Since you did not specify, I made a guess at what
you meant.

 It is failing to respond to an argument, or using a person's
 attributes as a reason why their argument is wrong. Right up with the
 other logical fallacies.

So you meant ad hominem argument.

 And pointing out that you're trolling is likewise not a personal attack,
 it's a description of your behaviour,

An incorrect description of my behavior, to which I replied with a
question about Brad's censorship behavior.

 All I can do is respond to the writing you post, and that writing is
 weak and your reasoning poorly explained. That's not a personal attack
 either.

How do you categorize responding to a post you disagree with by
writing FUCK YOU and saying that you are going to kill file the
poster?

 I would LOVE to see someone post well-reasoned arguments for the
 conservative right position in the States, but I'm not seeing them
 here (or anywhere else, for that matter).

If you think that I can be categorized as the conservative right,
then you do not understand my views at all. Not surprising, since your
past behavior has been to get extremely angry about my weak writing
and poor explaining, and then to stop reading my posts. Which is of
course your prerogative, but it seems odd that you become so upset
just from reading such worthless arguments. I would think the more
natural response would be boredom and skipping to the next thing to
read.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 12:43 AM, Charlie Bell char...@culturelist.org wrote:

 Small government and low taxation libertarians don't explain how these
 infrastructure services are to be maintained if the mechanisms for
 maintaining them are disbanded

Actually, quite a few libertarians do explain how that can be done. I
assume that either you disagree with the explanations you have
encountered, or that you have not read any significant libertarian
essays on the subject.

By the way, the Chris' post fits the definition of a troll much better
than anything I have posted recently, since it was not addressing any
points that had been made in the thread so far, did not appear to make
any effort to explain the change of subject or make a serious point,
but rather seemed designed to be inflammatory.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29
In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,
extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an
online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent
of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of
otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

But I do not mean to complain about anyone trolling. I just wanted
Chris to clarify his point if he had one, or to find out if he did not
have a point.

And I only brought up trolling now because Charlie's behavior seems to
indicate a tendency to call a post a troll if he disagrees with the
opinion expressed, and to call a post worthwhile if he agrees with the
opinion expressed.

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Re: Can Honerable People Have Mortgages?

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 9:05 AM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 But, there was always a possibility that I'd be
 hit by a devastating illness after the mortgage went under water, so that it
 would be impossible to sell the house for enough to pay the mortgage and it
 would be impossible to keep up payments.

...

 Given that, do you consider it dishonorable for me to have taken out a
 mortgage?

Of course not. But I would expect an honorable person, if they were
not foreclosed upon, and if they recovered from the illness and had a
new income, to attempt to pay back the money. That would probably not
be an issue if I understand the situation you described, since there
probably would have been a foreclosure.

Are you saying that Nick has an extreme hardship that is keeping him
from paying his mortgage?

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Re: Can Honerable People Have Mortgages?

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 9:18 AM, Brad DeLong brad.del...@gmail.com wrote:
 Indeed. By John Williams's definition every borrower everywhere at any time
 is a dishonorable scumbag.

No, that is not my definition. I suggest you try to think logically if
you want to understand my viewpoint. You seem to be getting emotional.

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Re: Can Honerable People Have Mortgages?

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 10:11 AM, Brad DeLong brad.del...@gmail.com wrote:

 Dan--
 John Williams's:
 cannot be seen as written in good faith.

Cannot be seen by you, perhaps. You write as if your opinion is the
only one that is possible. I wonder if you really believe that, or if
it is just your rhetorical technique.

 Williams does not know Nick's story. He simply assumes Nick is a scumbag,
 and posts accordingly.

Actually, I have a pretty good idea, and I posted that Nick can
correct me if I am wrong. And I do not assume Nick is a scumbag.

Although it sounds like you do not know much about me, but you assume
I am a troll, and possibly a scumbag.

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Re: Can Honorable People Have Mortgages?

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 I'm curious John, if you agree with this
 general understanding that Brad stated, and that virtually every businessman
 and economist I know agree with, or if you think that there is no way of
 telling why, say, the interest rate for Greek sovereign bonds is higher than
 the interest rate for German sovereign bonds, because economics is so
 complex, one cannot make that inference.

Heh, very funny. Sure, you can assume I do not disagree with everyone
in the world. And you can likely draw some typically erroneous
conclusions from your assumptions.

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Re: Loan modifications (was Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries)

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 8:39 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 They lied to by saying they had no choice because the loan
 owner would not allow them to make the modification, admitted that another
 division of their own company owns it, then tried to tell us that they could
 not disclose who owns it.'

So who does own the loan, and what are their policies on modification?
You say they lied rather than they made a mistake. So I guess you
must know more about the details than you wrote above, since most of
what you described (some I snipped) sounds like incompetence to me,
not malice.

 I don't feel great about seeking a lower interest rate, but indeed I have
 threatened to walk away from the house if they continue to screw us around.
  They stand to lose a couple of hundred thousand dollars... which I could
 save us right now by walking away.  Believe me, that is tempting.  But I do
 think it would be unethical to do that unless they really treat us extremely
 unfairly.

If what you have described does not qualify as treating you extremely
unfairly, then what does?

To me, it sounds like they are incompetent (although in their defense,
all of the loan securitizations have made the situation complicated).
But since you want to modify an agreement in your favor, you more or
less need to jump through their hoops, even if they are ridiculous.

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Re: Loan modifications (was Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries)

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 1:00 PM, Chris Frandsen lear...@mac.com wrote:

 On Oct 21, 2010, at 2:02 PM, John Williams wrote:

 But since you want to modify an agreement in your favor, you more or
 less need to jump through their hoops, even if they are ridiculous.

 John, do you believe in negotiation/ old fashion bargaining?

Yes. I wrote if you want to modfiy the agreement. I do not consider
stopping payments and leaving the house as modifying the agreement.

 Part of the initial contract, I am sure, was a very clear discussion
 of the grounds for foreclosure which go into effect when you decide
 not to jump through their hoops. As it is part of the contract, I do
 not think it is dishonorable for one party or the other to cause the
 clause to be implemented.

Note that in many states, it is the law that mortgages are
nonrecourse, meaning that the lender cannot pursue the borrow to
recover the debt.

If I understand you, then you are saying that since the mortgage
specified what happens when the borrower defaults on repayment
(foreclosure), and since it is a nonrecourse loan, then it is okay for
the borrower to make a strategic default. Legally, of course, that is
true.

But morally, choosing to not repay the money is not okay. If I borrow
money, then I am giving my word that I will do everything within my
power to pay it back. It is that simple. It makes no difference
whether the agreement specifies what happens if I fail to keep my
word, I am still honor bound to try to keep my word. I may know that
the penalty for stealing a car is X years in jail, then if I steal a
car and serve my time, I have still done something dishonorable.

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Re: Can Honerable People Have Mortgages?

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 Given that, do you consider it dishonorable for me to have taken out a
 mortgage?

Of course not. But I would expect an honorable person, if they were
not foreclosed upon, and if they recovered from the illness and had a
new income, to attempt to pay back the money.

 Given the fact that a portion of the interest I paid the bank was a premium
 to cover the banks loss in case of such a default; why is it dishonorable to
 consider that an insurance payment?

Because choosing not to pay back money that you agreed to pay back is
dishonest. The fact that the agreement specified penalties and
conditions in case of default does not change the fact that the
agreement was that you would try to pay back the money.

 No, I'm saying that, if you read what Nick wrote, that he had a deal with
 the bank, and that they tried to back out of it on a technicality.

I imagine the lender or its agents would dispute whether there was
actually a deal to change the mortgage. Until both sides agree to
the change, the old agreement is in force. It is certainly sounds like
the situation has been poorly handled, and if indeed the people Nick
was dealing with deliberately misled him, then they behaved
dishonorably. But if someone behaves dishonorably towards me, I will
be unlikely to trust them again, but I am not going to take that as
carte blanche to behave dishonorably myself.

 Plus, it is stupid for the bank.  He's willing to pay on a mortgage bigger
 which exceeds what the bank can get for the house.  Given the overpriced
 nature of housing in California, even a small reversal now can make a
 mortgage payment overwhelming.

Is it stupid? It may be, but I'm not sure we have enough information
to judge for certain. Maybe Nick will keep paying at the rate he
originally agreed to, rather than strategically defaulting.

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Re: SETI@home (history)

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 2:59 PM, Alberto Monteiro
albm...@centroin.com.br wrote:
 IIRC, there was a story somewhere that the s...@home software
 included a bug (like a crippleware) that would make it run
 _much slower_ than it could run, because there was not enough
 data for the millions of computers that would process this
 data.

I do not know if that is true, but if it is true, I would call it a
feature, not a bug. If there is no useful SETI data for my computer to
crunch, I'd rather have the CPU cycles available for something else.

Or did you mean that it consumed CPU cycles doing something useless,
like calculating digits of PI repeatedly?

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Re: Loan modifications (was Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries)

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
You did a poor job of quoting there, Dan. It would be helpful if you
could just quote the directly relevant parts.

 If I am paying for insurance for the lender in case I don't pay it back, why
 is it immoral to accept the penalty for not paying it back, knowing that I
 prepaid insurance for the lender.

I answered this in another post, but I'll explain a little bit
differently here. I see the mortgage insurance as insurance against
the borrower being UNABLE to pay back the money, not just choosing to
default. If your insurance agreement makes it clear that it is
factoring in the chance that you choose to default, then I see no
moral problem. I think that would be hard to pin down in a written
contract, though.

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Re: Loan modifications (was Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries)

2010-10-21 Thread John Williams
 So, you think that violations of TiLA and RESPA are properly described as
 incompetence?

I cannot answer that without a lot more details which are probably
impractical for you to provide to me.

 Meanwhile, today, I'm taking a break from running an orbital floor sander
 that I'm using to refinish the floor in one of the rooms of this house that
 some people say I should walk away from.  We continue to make improvements.

That suggests that you are not going to strategically default. I
wonder if there are any other clues that the lender was able to glean
that suggested you would not strategically default.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 5:09 AM, Charlie Bell char...@culturelist.org wrote:

 Whereas in much of Europe, it's just tax you pay knowing there's a health 
 system and social security that is functional if, god forbid, you actually 
 need it. Like you pay for roads, schools etc.

I am not very familiar with how that works in Europe, but in the US,
that is not how it works. Most of the money for SS and MC is paid by
working people to support current retirees. Unfortunately, the
demographics and costs are such that those paying now will not receive
anything close to what they paid in, many years down the road when
they are finally able to retire.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 5:14 AM, Charlie Bell char...@culturelist.org wrote:

 And *WHOOSH* did you miss Pat's point.

 Point being, people who come to work ill 'cause they can't afford to take a 
 day off 'cause they don't get sick leave and have to pay for the quack, so 
 they turn up to work with the sniffles.

No, you completely missed the point. Which is that paying for that
sort of health care for working people is not a problem. It is other,
premium health care for retired people that is making the system
unsustainable.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 6:26 AM, Chris Frandsen lear...@mac.com wrote:
 Sorry, Charlie, it seems the new angry crowd out there either think that 
 roads and sewage systems just appear or that we pay too much for them.  We 
 can all go back to dirt roads and septic systems, you know:-)


Was this supposed to have the slightest relevance to the conversation?
Or are you just inserting totally random comments?

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 7:38 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 I could tell the horror story of our efforts at loan modification, but I'll
 just say that it is one of the stories submitted to the Justice Department
 by the House California Caucus.

If by loan modification, you mean getting someone else to pay back
some of the money that you borrowed, you might want to consider that
it is likely that it will ultimately be average taxpayers footing the
bill, and whether it is fair that taxpayers who did not agree to your
mortgage should have to pay some of it off.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 8:28 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 The average taxpayer elected officials who deregulated the financial
 industry so much that it became impossible for the average taxpayer to be
 able to know the actual value of a house.  We got the government we deserved
 and the price of it.

So it is someone else's fault that you borrowed money and now do not
want to pay it all back yourself?

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 9:27 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 I didn't say it was someone else's fault.  I'm a taxpayer, too.  I am also
 responsible for the bad policies.

So, if it is not someone else's fault, why do you think someone else
should pay for money that you borrowed? It sounds like you are trying
to blame others in some form of collective guilt, and therefore get
out of paying back all of the money that you borrowed.

 Please explain why nobody but borrowers should have responsibility for a
 market failure, which seems to be what you are implying.

No, you seem to be assuming that borrowers were losers, and the only
losers, in the housing bubble.

But regardless, it is a simple concept. Honor, honesty, integrity,
whatever you want to call it. If a person agrees to something
voluntarily, then they should keep their word.
I'm pretty sure you voluntarily agreed to borrow money and pay it back.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 10:00 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 Is that true for people who borrow from loan sharks?  Does the lender's
 behavior matter not?

An honorable person would not borrow from anyone, loan shark or
otherwise, and then attempt to renege on the pay back agreement. It is
really not a difficult concept. An honest person keeps their word.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 10:00 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 It was not an easy decision to seek a loan modification.  But the
 ethics of it are not as black-and-white as you say.

It absolutely is that simple. A honest, responsible person does not make
an agreement and then refuse to honor it. An honest person admits that
they made the agreement of their own free will, a responsible person
accepts the consequences of their actions, and an honorable person does
everything in their power to keep their word.

 The question would be black-and-white if the lenders had behaved ethically
 and honestly, but I think it is obvious to everyone at this point that they
 did not.

In what way did the lender fail to honestly keep the agreement you made
with them? Did they attempt to charge a higher interest rate than was
agreed to? No. Did they say that you borrowed more than you actually
did? No. Did they charge an illegal interest rate? No. Did they send
someone to break your legs because you missed a payment? No.

Your lender obviously does not fit the legal definition of a loan
shark. And it sounds like they are only trying to get the money back
that they lent you, and that you voluntarily agreed to pay back to them.

 The idea that a person has a moral obligation to pay back a loan shark
 on the loan shark's terms is ridiculous.

Only if you consider honesty and keeping your word to be ridiculous. An
honorable person would not agree to borrow money from anyone, even a
loan shark, if they thought that there was any possibility that they
would not be able to honor their agreement and pay back the money that they
borrowed.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 11:12 AM, Brad DeLong brad.del...@gmail.com wrote:
 Could we get this troll--Mr. Williams--out of here please?

What gave you the idea that this email list is like your blog, where
you can censor anyone who does not agree with you, Brad?

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 11:44 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 Hard to know if the quiet was due to trolling or some externality.

It looks to me like this email list is usually quiet because the vast
majority of the members have self-selected so that they have many of
the same opinions. You do not get many interesting discussions that go
X is good. I agree. Me too. Count me in. +1.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 12:40 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 I think that is only part of it.  I think that the general trend away from
 email lists to twitter is a strong factor.  For example, the Culture list is
 a lot quieter than it was 6 years ago, even though the mix of folks hasn't
 changed that much.  8-9 years ago, there were 100 emails/day here, and most
 of it wasn't due to clashes between viewpoints as different as yours and the
 median of this list's viewpoints.

Is the email list falloff in average traffic strongly correlated with
the rise of twitter? To me, twitter does not seem like a close
substitute.

A closer substitute might be web discussion forums, which have been
growing steadily for years. The closest substitute to a book email
discussion list that I can think of would be the discussion boards on
goodreads.com.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
Nick Arnett nick.arnett at gmail.com wrote:
 On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 11:52 AM, John Williams jwilliams4200 at 
 gmail.comwrote:
  On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 11:44 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arnett at gmail.com
  wrote:
 
   Hard to know if the quiet was due to trolling or some externality.

  It looks to me like this email list is usually quiet because the vast
  majority of the members have self-selected so that they have many of
  the same opinions. You do not get many interesting discussions that go
  X is good. I agree. Me too. Count me in. +1.

 I disagree!

We should disagree to agree.

I think Nick should disagree with this.

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-20 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 1:54 PM, Charlie Bell char...@culturelist.org wrote:

 You can leave the troll. It's taken only a few posts for me to realise that 
 John has zero interest in engaging with any point, just repeating his own 
 point over and over, and then using _ad hominem_  like he's doing in response 
 to Brad. Thought I'd see if the previous 3 years demonstration that 
 deregulation completely failed had mellowed him or changed his mind, but it 
 apparently hasn't.

I did not ad hominem anyone. The only person I have seen to
consistently engage is personal attacks is you.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 6:35 AM, Julia ju...@zurg.net wrote:
 The old people don't equate to the old culture.  There's a fairly large
 intersection of the two, but neither is a subset (proper or improper) of the
 other.

I understand that, but as you say, there's a fairly large
intersection of the two.
I agree, which is why I posed my question. I don't think the fact that
there is not a perfect correspondence of old culture with old
people answers my question.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 8:41 AM, Pat Mathews mathew...@msn.com wrote:

  Besides which, we greedy geezers will pass our ill-gotten wealth down to
 you hard-pressed Xers and your children in due time via the normal process
 of inheritance, if the medical bills needed to keep us functioning don't eat
 every last bit of it up.

 Not greedy, in most cases, just poor financial planners / lack of
understanding of future costs vs. savings. As demonstrated by the above
comment.

As a group, Americans nearing the age they expect to retire have saved far
too little to support themselves and their care until they die (which is a
lot longer now than it was 50 years ago).  In the aggregate, there is not
going to be wealth, ill-gotten or otherwise, to pass on. The reverse,
actually.
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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 10:06 AM, Pat Mathews mathew...@msn.com wrote:

  There is NO WAY an ordinary wage-earner could have saved enough to cover
 the sort of insurance-inflated medical bills common today.


If true, then by what magic of aggregation can a group of such people afford
something that most individuals cannot afford?

There are only two possibilities I can think of:

(1) A fraction of the group members have saved a great deal, enough to
support the rest of the group

(2) A different group will pay to support the group that did not save enough


The problem with (1) is that I think even if you confiscated all of the
excess savings of those who have saved enough for themselves, you still
would not have enough to take care of all those who did not save enough.

The problem with (2) is how does the other group save enough to support
themselves as well as support the first group? It is either a giant Ponzi
scheme that will eventually collapse, or you are relying on some innovations
that reduce care costs in the future, something which has not happened so
far despite many advances -- people always want more and better life, and
they have tended to choose that over freezing the status quo and reducing
the costs.
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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 11:01 AM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 I have tended not to answer you John because I have not been able to solve
 the problem of dialog with you.  Whenever I use facts or correlations to
 support an argument you point to the causal density of economics (not your
 term but a neat term I found explaining why social sciences aren't science)
 to state that there is no way to use data to point to conclusionseven if
 the data is so simple as people getting negative interest from T-Bills shows
 an extreme flight to safety.

Your difficulty is caused by your belief that a few simple data points
can accurately predict how a complex system will behave in the future.
You refuse to accept that it cannot be so. If it were so, then there
would be people who consistently predict things like the unemployment
rate or the chances of Fannie Mae blowing up. But what we actually see
are the experts rarely getting their predictions correct, such as
this:

http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/june-2010-unemployment-numbers-theyre-real-and-theyre-spectacular/

 But, in this case, we have an obvious solution.

It may be an obvious thing to do, but it is not obviously a solution
to the problem of how to pay for the best medical care for Americans.

 While folks have heard horror stories about
 medical care in the UK and Canada, etc. surveys of satisfaction with care
 get greater percentages of people who are satisfied in those countries than
 in the USso they can't be all that worse.

Satisfaction surveys (for all areas) are notorious for being
unreliable. The results depend on how you ask the question. And it is
never clear what you are actually measuring. One well-known phenomenon
is that people tend to respond to these things relatively -- if they
are better off than their neighbor, then they are happy. But that
makes the results of happiness surveys difficult to interpret, since
each person may be measuring relative to a different benchmark.

I prefer to consider more objective measurements for judging health
care quality. For example, 5-year-survival-rates for a given serious
disease.

 If we paid primary care physicians $100k/year, specialists $130k/year, and
 about as much as every other developed country for all the other parts of
 medical care, as well as required malfeasance for malpractice, we'd be able
 to reverse the inflation in Medicareand have costs in line with what is
 affordable.

Are you suggesting that we prohibit by law anyone from paying doctors
more than your proposed amounts? If so, I would strongly oppose such a
law. I find the idea of putting someone in jail because they paid a
doctor too much to be reprehensible.

If you mean that we should create a two-tiered health care system, one
where the doctors agree to treat the national health-care plan people
and to have a salary cap, and a premium tier for those doctors who do
not want a salary cap and for those who can afford to pay their rates,
well. I do not find that as repellant as the first option, but I do
not think it will work. The people in the lower tier will be always
clamoring for the higher quality, higher cost care of the higher tier,
and so the costs will keep rising quickly, just as they are now.

 As for Social Security, if we capped the highest SS payment to inflation
 instead of the increase in the average income,

I agree it is a good idea, but it is not a new idea. The fact that the
Carter administration changed it despite objections about the
unsustainability, and that it has not been fixed yet, makes me wonder
what the chances are that it will be done now.

  and got back on the
 GDP/capita growth rate of 1960-2005 (number picked out of my head, not
 cherry picked.  Pick any other two dates between 1940 and 2007 which are at
 least 30 years apart, and I'll be happy to use that.)

I hope that GDP growth can return to that rate, but it seems we have a
long way to go to get there from here.

  The real problem, as I see it, is that the GDP
 growth from 2000-2008 was mostly tied to the housing bubble and bank
 profits.  If you look at jobs growth from 1939-2010, and take a mean
 percentage growth per year as the baseline, you will see the US starting to
 fall off the baseline in 2001.  The last 3 years have been very bad, but
 real growth stopped when the internet bubble burst.

Yup.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 1:07 PM, Pat Mathews mathew...@msn.com wrote:

  Okay. Have it your way. We/they didn't save enough and consume health care
 with reckless abandon. May you never be in the workplace where the clerk,
 knowing that one must never, ever, consume health care one cannot afford,
 comes to work with the flu.


That is a poor example of reducing health care costs. Flu shots cost almost
nothing compared to expensive diagnostics (MRI, CT scans, etc.) or  major
surgeries. Also, paying for health care for the working is not a big
problem, but paying for decades of premium health care for the retired is a
big problem.
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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 3:03 PM, Bruce Bostwick
lihan161...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
 On Oct 19, 2010, at 8:53 AM, John Williams jwilliams4...@gmail.com wrote:

 On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 6:35 AM, Julia ju...@zurg.net wrote:

 The old people don't equate to the old culture.  There's a fairly
 large
 intersection of the two, but neither is a subset (proper or improper) of
 the
 other.

 I understand that, but as you say, there's a fairly large
 intersection of the two.
 I agree, which is why I posed my question. I don't think the fact that
 there is not a perfect correspondence of old culture with old
 people answers my question.

 It's not an absolute correlation.

Didn't I just agree with that in the text quoted above? I don't
understand your point.

My point, to borrow Julia's phrasing, is that since there is a fairly
large intersection of the two (but not a perfect correlation), that
the old people and the old culture should have approximately equal
political power. Then I picked a political issue (SS, MC) that old
people are generally in favor of, but which young and middle-aged
people should favor much less, and asked why, if the old culture has
so little power, they appear to have control of the issue.

I don't believe any of the replies so far have directly addressed my
question. The closest thing I saw was the implication that young
people don't really care about the costs (and I'm not sure I believe
that, anecdotal evidence notwithstanding).

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Re: Starting Engineer's Salaries

2010-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 3:29 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 they give the average starting salary for an EE in the US as 59,646, but in
 the SF area it is about 74,700.  So, that is about a 25% premium.  At
 simplyhired.com they state that the average EE salary in the SF area is
 $87k/year.  That's not bad money, but you can't buy a million dollar house
 with it.

 Housing prices are about 6x higher in the Bay area than in the Austin area.
 Salaries for engineers are 25% higher.

It sounds like the SF Bay area is more likely to appeal to single
engineers willing to live in a small apartment and spend all their
time at work. As compared to Austin, which sounds like it may appeal
more to a young married couple just starting a family. I wonder if the
SF tech firms are counting on that.

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Re: Back to the plantation...

2010-10-18 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 11:55 AM, Jon Louis Mann
net_democr...@yahoo.com wrote:
 Like I said, I'm no fan of Bernanke, but Garrett is even worse.
 I'm disgusted with the Democrats as well, but the tea baggers
 are REALLY out to lunch, breakfast and dinner!~)

I'm not sure what you are saying. It sounded like you were saying that
anything that came out of Garrett's interview with Bernanke is not
worth considering because of Garrett's party affiliation, but that
cannot be what you meant, since that would be judging a person based
on their group, rather than on what the person actually says or does.

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Re: Down with the government

2010-10-18 Thread John Williams
I'm curious, if the old culture is in such decline, why are Social
Security and Medicare still untouchable? There is no way, with the
current system, that today's young and middle-aged are going to get as
much out of the system as they put in. It is a giant Ponzi scheme. So
if the old are so powerless, why doesn't the system get reformed to be
more age-equitable?

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Re: Down with the government!

2010-10-16 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Oct 16, 2010 at 1:34 PM, Dan Minette danmine...@att.net wrote:

 I'm not sure why you think the main argument against letting banks fail is
 false.  It is that the financial system as a whole could have collapsed if
 there was no intervention.

Maybe he thinks it is false because it IS false. A lot of financial
company fat cats screamed for help to their cronies in Washington, and
of course, their old chums came to their rescue. What's a trillion in
taxpayer dollars between friends?

By the way, he said corporations. Why do you immediately assume he
was referring to banks? I know it is hard to keep track of all the
handouts the politicians gave to their cronies during their bailout
spree, but off the top of my head:

Fannie Mae
Freddie Mac
AIG
Bear Stearns
Citigroup
BoA
GM
Chrysler

Are you seriously going to argue that the failure to bailout all of
those would have led to disaster?

The politicians and their advisors have no clue about what would have
happened without the bailouts. He is an example of the predictive
ability of Obama's financial advisor:

The paper concludes that the probability of default by the GSEs is
extremely small. Given this, the expected monetary costs of exposure to
GSE insolvency are relatively small -- even given very large levels of
outstanding GSE debt and even assuming that the government would bear
the cost of all GSE debt in the case of insolvency. For example, if the
probability of the stress test conditions occurring is less than one in
500,000, and if the GSEs hold sufficient capital to withstand the stress
test, the implication is that the expected cost to the government of
providing an explicit government guarantee on $1 trillion in GSE debt is
less than $2 million.
--Peter R. Orszag, et al.  Implications of the New Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac Risk-based Capital Standard, in Fannie Mae Papers, Volume
1, Issue 2, March 2002.

Dan Minette wrote:
  As it stands, the estimate of the bailout costs are now
 down to $50 billion, as the government sells some of the assents it got in
 the bailout at bargain prices at a higher price.

Still drinking the Kool-aid, I see. I know there is little hope of you
seeing the truth, but I will give it a shot anyway.

The Fed has purchased over $1.5 Trillion in MBSs from Fannie and
Freddie, a large fraction of which are delinquent mortgages and
valued on the books significantly higher than the amount at which the
properties can be liquidated. And there are more big foreclosure waves
coming in late 2010 and in 2011. The FASB has helpfully suspended
rule 157, mark-to-market valuation, until at least 2013, allowing
substantial discretion in asset valuation. In other words, the asset
values currently on the books are pure fiction. You can get a decent
idea of the market value of many mortgages by checking the FDIC auctions
of mortgages it obtained from bank takeovers. Most of them are selling
well below 50 cents on the dollar.  What happens after 2012 when the
Treasury backing of the bad GSE loans goes away?

If a corporation engaged in this sort of fraud, the board and officers
would have been put in jail. But when the politicians do it, the gullible
think they are heroes saving the public!

Dan Minette wrote:
 I'm honestly curious what you think would have happened if the government
 did nothing and just let the chips fall where they may.

As I have explained to you before, there is a difference between
allowing the bad companies to fail, and doing nothing. Congress should
have passed emergency legislation streamlining the process for the bad
shareholder and bondholder debt to be stripped away, allowing the
solvent operating portion of the companies to be sold off, thus
allowing the useful portions of the companies to continue operating,
while properly penalizing the shareholders and bondholders who
imprudently allocated their capital.

I'll conclude with an excerpt from Ben Bernanke's Humphrey-Hawkins
testimony before Congress in July. He was questioned by New Jersey
Congressman Scott Garrett  of the House Financial Services Committee.

SCOTT GARRETT: You bought over a trillion dollars of GSE debt, and to
that point, under normal circumstances, on the Fed's balance sheet
what you have on there are Treasuries, or if you had anything else on
there, I assume you would have a repurchase agreement for those
securities on your balance sheet. Now of course around two-thirds of
that are in GSE debt.

BEN BERNANKE: Correct.

GARRETT: So right now, those are guaranteed - whether they're
sovereign debt or not, we don't know - but they're guaranteed by the
U.S. government. But they're only guaranteed to when? 2012, right?
After that, Congress may in its wisdom make another decision, and at
that point in time, you may be holding on your balance sheet - two
thirds of your balance sheet - something that is not guaranteed by the
Federal government. First of all, you don't have a ... do you have a
repurchase agreement on those with anyone? No.


Re: Trolls

2010-09-07 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 12:07 PM, Jon Louis Mann net_democr...@yahoo.com wrote:
 Some time ago I unsubscribed from this list because of the comments of one 
 person who has since matured.  Now I am having a similar problem with someone 
 on Dr. Brin's FB page.

If there is nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with
the universe.
--ST:TNG, Dr. Beverly Crusher

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Re: Trolls

2010-09-07 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 5:39 PM, David Hobby hob...@newpaltz.edu wrote:

 Well, that was certainly helpful.

                        ---David

 I'm no help either, though.

We both helped increase list traffic, which has been quite low...

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Re: Sherlock: new British TV show

2010-07-31 Thread John Williams
On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 6:25 AM, William T Goodall
w...@wtgab.demon.co.uk wrote:
 So far there are three feature-length (90 minutes) episodes. The next two are 
 broadcast on 1st and 8th August. The first got sufficiently good 
 ratings/reviews that more will be made eventually. The current eps will be on 
 PBS in the USA sometime. The DVD and Blu-Ray are out in the UK later in 
 August.

I had thought it was going to be a typical series, but now that you
mention it, it makes more sense that it will be a set of mini-series.
I guess they will show in the US on Mystery.

Have you heard whether Moffat plans to do any original scripts, or
will they all be based on Doyle's books?

 I liked it. There is a bit of a renascence of imaginative TV in the UK lately 
 with _Torchwood_, the _Dr Who_ reboot, _Primeval_ (which was renewed after 
 being cancelled) and of course _Being Human_ and _Misfits_.

The only one in that list I'm not familiar with is Misfits. I did not
like the most recent Torchwood season, and Being Human is just to
angsty for my taste (apparently it was first conceived as real
flatmates with psychological problems). I haven't gotten around to
sampling Primeval yet.

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Sherlock: new British TV show

2010-07-30 Thread John Williams
Anyone catch the premiere episode of Sherlock (A Study in Pink), a new
British TV show?

It is a remarkably good, modern version of Sherlock Holmes, written by
Steven Moffat of Dr. Who fame. I believe it is airing on Sundays in
the UK (not sure about that, I downloaded my copy). I hope the UK
viewers like it as much as I did, so that a lot of episodes are made
and eventually air in the USA.

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Re: Tea Party Racism

2010-07-25 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Jul 25, 2010 at 11:06 AM, Doug Pensinger brig...@zo.com wrote:
 Is the Tea Party fundamentally racist?  Or is it just coincidental
 that it formed as a black man was taking office?

I think you will find haters in just about any large group of people.
Groups that have been around a while and have ways of filtering out
the shriller voices (or at least muting them), while newer groups like
the Tea Party seem to lack those filters.

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Startide Rising Kindle released

2010-07-21 Thread John Williams
At long last, the Startide Rising Kindle edition has been released. I
just received it.

Now, all 6 of Brin's Uplift novels are available in Kindle editions.

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Re: On Listmail

2010-04-29 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 10:02 PM, Doug Pensinger brig...@zo.com wrote:
 Maybe we've already had this discussion, but have you read Banks' Transition?

No, and I do not plan to. I'll read any Culture novel he writes, but I
am not interested in his political ideology.

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Re: On Listmail

2010-04-28 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 9:07 PM, Doug Pensinger brig...@zo.com wrote:
 Ahem.  Hello?  Anyone here?

I agree with most of what you say, but I just haven't felt like
starting any discussions on this list recently. The two main things
that I have previously been interested in discussing here are SF and
politics. From my point of view, the current political situation in
the US is a disaster and just too depressing to even think about.

As for science fiction, it seems to me that there has been little good
science fiction coming out lately. If only David Brin would write a
book about Tom Orley and the skiff, that would be fun to discuss here.

I normally do not read much fantasy, but with the dearth of science
fiction coming out I have been reading some fantasy novels. I recently
finished The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett. That is the sequel to
The Warded Man (aka The Painted Man), which is the first book in
the series. I'm really enjoying the series so far. Peter really knows
how to build a fantasy world and tell a story. And the characters are
great, Unfortunately, the next book is not due out until 2012.

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Re: KJ6FOI

2010-02-25 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 6:43 PM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 This is something I've been thinking of doing for decades.  When I started,
 one of the obstacles was learning code at 5 wpm, which I accomplished.

Did you want to learn Morse code?

When I got my license year's ago (haven't used it in a while), there
was a no code technician license.

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Re: KJ6FOI

2010-02-25 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 7:37 PM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
  However, some of
 the spectrum is still restricted to CW (code) only.

Right, the masochist channels  :-)  Or, perhaps, the apocalypse
practice channels.

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Re: Br?n on global warming

2010-02-15 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 1:41 PM, Charlie Bell char...@culturelist.org wrote:

 On 13/02/2010, at 7:05 AM, Keith Henson wrote:

 I think people are properly skeptical of the need to suffer that is
 preached by the global warming community.

 Um, exactly what is this global warming community that preaches a need to 
 suffer?

I have the same impression as Keith. There seem to be a lot of global
warming activists who want to switch everyone to much more expensive
technologies. Or else they have not understood the numbers and think
that the cost of making a large reduction in worldwide CO2 emission is
not very high -- thinking that little things that don't cost much will
make much of a dent in worldwide CO2 emissions.

  Far as I know engineers
 have never been asked how they would refreeze the Arctic Ocean or slow
 the glaciers sliding into the sea.

 Need to stop the forcing first before you can think about reversing the 
 effects, surely...

Surely not, if by stop forcing you mean change people worldwide enough
to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. Much more realistic to work on
mitigating the effects.

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Re: Google Buzz

2010-02-11 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 7:14 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:
 So... Google Buzz introduced itself to me this morning, just as I was
 reading an article on privacy concerns about it.  The biggest one is that it
 automatically imports contacts and shows them as friends.

When buzz popped up its page for me, I can't remember what exactly I
clicked on, but it was the most dismissive choice (cancel or
whatever). I just checked the Buzz item in my menu-list on the left,
and it says I have 0 followers and 0 friends. So it does not appear to
have automatically imported anything from my contacts.

Why do you think it imported something from your contacts? Did you
click on setup or whatever when the buzz screen popped up?

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Re: Google Buzz

2010-02-11 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 7:32 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 Welcome to Buzz
 Buzz is a new way to share updates, photos, videos and more, and start 
 conversations about the things you find interesting. You're already set up to 
 follow the people you email and chat with the most.

 Then a list of people, followed by two people who are already following me.

 And then this:

 Your Google Reader shared items, Picasa Web public albums, and Google Chat 
 status messages will automatically appear as posts in Buzz. To edit your 
 connected sites or change privacy settings, view connected sites.

I don't remember seeing anything like that. But I also didn't have any
shared items or google chat or anything set up. All I have are gmail
contacts.

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Re: Spray-on glass (was Re: ping)

2010-02-10 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 9:08 AM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 On Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 8:33 AM, Chris Frandsen lear...@mac.com wrote:

 I have blink feeling that this is a big deal. Any thoughts?
 http://www.physorg.com/news184310039.html

 It caught my eye, too.  If it really does all that they say, it will have a
 tremendous impact.  And the patent owner will acquire many of the dollars in
 the world.

I checked Nanopool's website, and one thing I did not see addressed
was durability. A 1nm coating of quartz just does not sound very
tough. One application they mentioned was coating corks for wine
bottles. I find it hard to believe that the coating will completely
adhere to the cork as it is jammed into the bottle, and then speared
with a cork-screw and tugged out of the bottle. (Incidentally, is
there any reason cork is used in wine bottles other than tradition?
why not a conventional bottle-cap? Is it just wine connoisseur
stubborness, I'd never drink wine with a bottle cap!)

Another issue is silicosis. Small particles of SiO2 are known to cause
lung disease. I would not want to be a test subject for spraying this
stuff around the house or eating food grown or processed with it.

I would think the first applications, if it is as good as they say,
are for building materials. Coating stone, brick, wood, etc. But even
for that, I would not want to be a guinea pig. What happens after
years of weathering, expansion/contraction, etc?

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Re: Uplift books on Kindle?

2010-01-27 Thread John Williams
The Jijo trilogy is now available on Kindle (as separate books). Also,
Uplift War is available. The publisher says that Startide Rising and
Sundiver are coming to Kindle in late February.

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Re: Is this thing on?

2010-01-21 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 4:25 PM, Dave Land dml...@gmail.com wrote:
 _It_ is on, but nobody is on _it_.

How's _it_ hangin' ?

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Re: BRIN: Uplift books on Kindle?

2010-01-13 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 11:42 AM, David Brin db...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
 I have a query in.  Alas, it is a department that I have no influence over,
 but I will keep trying...

Thanks for checking. I hope someone replies to you! I have heard from
some other authors that it is difficult to get a useful response from
people about Kindle release issues.

On the bright side, Heaven's Reach released today on Kindle.

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Better Off Ted

2010-01-12 Thread John Williams
I think there are some Better Off Ted fans here. One of the episodes
tonight, The Impertence of Communicationizing, looks like it will be
pretty good. This website has some uncensored outtakes of the episode:

http://scifiwire.com/2010/01/better-off-ted-cast-drops.php

You can see how they shot one scene with TV-language, and then another
uncensored scene. I'm not sure if they were just goofing around, or
trying to get picked up by HBO, or what. They surely knew some of that
language would not make it past the TV censors.

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Re: BRIN: Uplift books on Kindle?

2010-01-11 Thread John Williams
On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 3:00 PM, David Brin db...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
 The Startide Rising release says January 11 2009.   I suspectt that's a
 misprint and should be January 11, 2010?  That'd explain the glitch and
 should resolve in a week.

Nope, still no Kindle edition of Startide Rising available.

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BRIN: Uplift books on Kindle?

2010-01-06 Thread John Williams
I was checking again for the Uplift books on Amazon Kindle, and things
have improved since the last time I looked, but the status is odd.

Uplift War is available on Kindle, and Heaven's Reach is available for
pre-order (Jan 13 release).

Oddly, Brightness Reef and Infinity's Shore are nowhere to be found on
Kindle. Why release Heaven's Reach but not the other two in the
trilogy?

And Startide Rising is still missing. If you search the Kindle store
for David Brin, you find a listing for Startide Rising: Kindle
Edition - Jan 11, 2009 Buy $3.55 Available for Pre-order but clicking
on the link gives a page that says Pricing information not available
and no way to purchase or pre-order the Kindle edition of the book.

What is going on?

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Re: Cloud Computing Smears (Was: Google Wave)

2009-10-19 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM, Deborah Harrell
harrellmed...@yahoo.com wrote:
 From: John Williams jwilliams4...@gmail.com

 massive snip
 Never underestimate the power of human error. As this
 debacle demonstrates.

 Which particular debacle would that be?

I was referring to the Sidekick debacle:

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Mobile-and-Wireless/Microsoft-Claims-Sidekick-Data-Will-Be-Restored-This-Week-491196/

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Re: Cloud Computing Smears (Was: Google Wave)

2009-10-18 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Oct 18, 2009 at 9:42 AM, Bruce Bostwick
lihan161...@sbcglobal.net wrote:

 On Oct 18, 2009, at 12:25 AM, Max Battcher wrote:

 On 10/18/2009 0:38, John Williams wrote:

 On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 8:36 PM, Julia Thompsonf...@zurg.net  wrote:

 Er.  In that sort of a situation, I myself would set up a RAID for
 storing
 the data, *much* less chance for losing it.

 RAID does not protect from rm -rf / , which (some variant of) is my
 guess at what happened. Although now they are saying most of the data
 is recovered, so maybe it got munged in a reversible way.

 Any cloud service at this point is going to be tens, if not hundreds, of
 servers. (Major services easily run in the thousands of servers, and if you
 count virtual servers the biggest services are using millions of servers
 already.) At this point any outage that is going to affect a service as
 whole is generally going to be a lot subtler (and possibly a lot nastier,
 such an accidental viral infection due to an underlying bug/exploit in the
 service) than a rm -rf /.

 At least, assuming the system admins are doing their jobs correctly rm -rf
 / to a single server is extremely unlikely to cause massive outage or
 damage... (As a service gets large enough hard drives are expected to fail
 randomly, and surprisingly frequently, and services should be designed
 around that problem...)

 And, as with a RAID except on a much larger scale, there's built in
 redundancy and error correction, so the system tends to self-heal.  About
 the only threat is viral mechanisms that propagate through the system.

Never underestimate the power of human error. As this debacle demonstrates.

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Re: Cloud Computing Smears (Was: Google Wave)

2009-10-17 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 8:36 PM, Julia Thompson f...@zurg.net wrote:
 Er.  In that sort of a situation, I myself would set up a RAID for storing
 the data, *much* less chance for losing it.

RAID does not protect from rm -rf / , which (some variant of) is my
guess at what happened. Although now they are saying most of the data
is recovered, so maybe it got munged in a reversible way.

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Re: What's to read?

2009-09-22 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 11:19 PM, Doug Pensinger brig...@zo.com wrote:

 I think the reason you're still waiting for Brin's books is also the
 answer to you're question about the number of titles available.
 They're probably negotiating with a lot of authors for the rights or
 dealing with copyright issues.

Brin said he already signed the contract for Kindle versions.

But author reluctance may be an issue, as you say. I read that J. K.
Rowling refuses to have any of her books be released electronically.

Still, I'd think that science fiction authors would tend to be willing
to have their books released electronically.

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Re: What's to read?

2009-09-21 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 2:30 PM, Pat Mathews mathew...@msn.com wrote:

  I have a Sony 505. The books on my reader are on my reader and on my
 desktop, not on my account on someone else's server. If anyone wants to
 delete them [think 1984] or whatever, they have to physically steal my
 reader and then delete the book.


That Kindle book deletion thing was a debacle, but Amazon has promised not
to do it again, and I tend to believe them, since it caused such an outcry
and they don't want that kind of bad press again.

For the cautious, Kindle content can be backed up to a computer. I'm not
sure what would have happened if someone had 1984 backed up, and then copied
it back to their Kindle, with the wireless on, a few days after the original
deletion order came through. Of course, you can turn the wireless off and
then restore the backup, and it is impossible for Amazon to do anything
until you turn wireless back on.

But hopefully none of that is necessary in the future. I just want to see
the book selection increase. It still boggles my mind why so few books
released before the Kindle, but in the last 30 years or so, have come out in
Kindle or other e-book formats. Someone must have a digital copy of the book
text somewhere, and it is trivial to convert it to the Kindle or ebook
formats. It seems like free money for someone.

By the way, have you investigated how the book selection compares for Kindle
vs. your Sony 505? Particularly with science fiction titles?

I'm still waiting for Brin to release the various Startide books on Kindle.
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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:41 AM, Bruce Bostwick
lihan161...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
 I think you're oversimplifying the arguments for regulation.  I don't
 believe anyone involved in the process seriously believes regulation is a
 one-dimensional parameter,

I think you give politicians far too much credit. I have no doubt that
quite a few politicians do not put any more thought into regulation
than more, and I have to make it look like I am doing something.

 The measures that were most effective in the past year or so in terms of
 containing progressive collapse

Which measures would that be, and how do you know they were beneficial
in the way you claim?

 one which, when left
 completely alone, tends to evolve toward increasing instability and
 ultimately just the kind of collapse we saw a year ago.

That is what the politicians constantly claim. The reality of the
matter is that no one really knows whether there would have been a
collapse. In fact, it may well be regulations and unintended
consequences of regulations that made things worse than they might
have been.

 The fact that regulations designed to enforce a
 certain degree of stability and the presence of certain fail-safes in the
 system that prevent progressive collapse when rogue players do play fast and
 loose is not a one-dimensional parameter at all, it's inherent in the nature
 of the regulations that are, in fact, necessary to protect the market system
 as a whole from the risky behavior of the people it's composed of.

Just because regulations are designed to do something does not mean
that people will behave as the designers expected. In fact, it is
often the opposite. People devote a lot of energy trying to find flaws
in the regulations so that they can do what they wanted to in the
first place. And find flaws they do.

 Never forget that you're dealing with a system made up of the collective
 behavior of millions of individual human beings,

And the corollary: governments are made up of the collective behavior
of many politicians and technocrats whose sole motivation is to gain
more power and to hold on to more power.

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
Tyler Cowen writes about how politics and regulations contribute to
financial crises:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/business/economy/13econ.html?_r=1

| FOR years now, many businesses and individuals in the United States
| have been relying on the power of government, rather than competition
| in the marketplace, to increase their wealth. This is politicization
| of the economy. It made the financial crisis much worse, and the trend
| is accelerating.

| Well before the financial crisis erupted, policy makers treated
| homeowners as a protected political class and gave mortgage-backed
| securities privileged regulatory treatment. Furthermore, they allowed
| and encouraged high leverage and the expectation of bailouts for
| creditors, which had been practiced numerous times, including the
| precedent of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. Without these
| mistakes, the economy would not have been so invested in leverage and
| real estate and the financial crisis would have been much milder.

| But we are now injecting politics ever more deeply into the American
| economy, whether it be in finance or in sectors like health care. Not
| only have we failed to learn from our mistakes, but also we’re
| repeating them on an ever-larger scale.



| President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the birth of a
| military-industrial complex. Today we have a financial-regulatory
| complex, and it has meant a consolidation of power and
| privilege. We’ve created a class of politically protected “too
| big to fail” institutions, and the current proposals for regulatory
| reform further cement this notion. Even more worrying, with so many
| explicit and implicit financial guarantees, we are courting a bigger
| financial crisis the next time something major goes wrong.



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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:41 AM, Bruce Bostwick
lihan161...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
ty and the presence of certain fail-safes in the

 Never forget that you're dealing with a system made up of the collective
 behavior of millions of individual human beings, because that understanding
 is fundamental to the understanding of how the system as a whole works and
 why it breaks down the way it does.  It's very efficient at what it does,
 but the nature of what it does is itself chaotic, and that human element is
 the most chaotic part of it .

This made me think of something I had read, but it took me a while to
find it. This is from Friedrich A. Hayek:

http://mises.org/story/3229

| This corresponds to what I have called earlier the mere pattern
| predictions to which we are increasingly confined as we penetrate from
| the realm in which relatively simple laws prevail into the range of
| phenomena where organized complexity rules. As we advance, we find
| more and more frequently that we can in fact ascertain only some but
| not all the particular circumstances which determine the outcome of a
| given process; and in consequence we are able to predict only some but
| not all the properties of the result we have to expect. Often all that
| we shall be able to predict will be some abstract characteristic of
| the pattern that will appear — relations between kinds of elements
| about which individually we know very little. Yet, as I am anxious to
| repeat, we will still achieve predictions which can be falsified and
| which therefore are of empirical significance.

| Of course, compared with the precise predictions we have learned
| to expect in the physical sciences, this sort of mere pattern
| predictions is a second best with which one does not like to have to
| be content. Yet the danger of which I want to warn is precisely the
| belief that in order to have a claim to be accepted as scientific it
| is necessary to achieve more. This way lies charlatanism and worse. To
| act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which
| enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking,
| knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do
| much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection
| to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought
| not to discourage the overconfident because their experiments may
| after all produce some new insights. But in the social field, the
| erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial
| consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men
| being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in
| itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those
| spontaneous-ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man
| is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims. We are
| only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system
| the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based — a
| communications system which we call the market and which turns out to
| be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than
| any that man has deliberately designed.

| If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the
| social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other
| fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails,
| he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of
| the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge
| he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes
| his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the
| appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does
| this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of
| ever-growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has
| engendered and which tempts man to try, dizzy with success, to use
| a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our
| natural but also our human environment to the control of a human
| will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge
| ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility
| which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal
| striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a
| tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of
| a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from
| the free efforts of millions of individuals.

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 9:55 AM, Bruce Bostwick
lihan161...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
 On Sep 14, 2009, at 11:29 AM, John Williams wrote:

 The rest of the answer is that the Federal Reserve stepped in and put the
 brakes on the ridiculously overleveraged derivative trading that was going
 on,

How exactly did the Fed put the brakes on derivative trading?

 injected some strategically placed capital into the firms that had the
 collateral and other fundamentals to support it,

The government bailed out firms that had made errors and would have
otherwise failed, thus creating a huge moral hazard. Instead of
allowing creative destruction -- bad firms fail and better firms
survive, leading to a gradual improvement in the strength of surviving
firms -- the government propped up the bad firms and preserved most of
the flawed systems that led to the 2008 downturn. Thanks to the
government, the next downturn may be deeper.

 It's worth noting, too, that those injections of capital were loans, the
 bulk of which are already in the process of being paid back.

Not by a long shot. In reality, the government has committed money to
backstop hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars of risky
assets. Even the auditor of the Fed could not answer how much and
where this money has been committed, or how many trillions were at
risk. Only a tiny fraction of this money has been paid back.

Those sorts of shenanigans are more or less to be
 expected in the complete absence of any sort of regulation.

Those sorts of shenanigans are the RESULT of unintended consequences
of regulations providing incentives to do things in more obscure ways.

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 9:55 AM, Bruce Bostwick
lihan161...@sbcglobal.net wrote:
 I believe that's the only rational assumption around which to design any
 regulatory strategy.  One of the assumptions is that the regulation must
 evolve with the market and take exactly that sort of gaming the system into
 account.

But in practice government bureaucracy does not manage to keep the
regulations -- the huge number of complex regulations, which interact
with each other in unpredictable ways -- in sync with the market
players. Government is far too slow to keep up, and not nearly clever
enough to reign in millions of highly-motivated individuals all trying
to accomplish their goals.


 At this point I have to ask exactly what your concept of regulation *is*,
 because it seems to be very different from mine.

I think my view of regulation is less theoretical and idealized than
yours. I do not see regulation as behaving at all as the designers
expect. The systems involved are far too complex to be understood and
predicted. In most cases, regulation causes more problems than it
prevents. Here is an example of what I am talking about:

Cause and Effect - Government Policies and the Financial Crisis
Peter J. Wallison

http://www.rgemonitor.com/financemarkets-monitor/255258/cause_and_effect_-_government_policies_and_the_financial_crisis

| Although the media are full of talk that we face a crisis of
| capitalism, the underlying cause of the financial meltdown is something
| much more mundane and practical--the housing, tax, and bank regulatory
| policies of the U.S. government. The Community Reinvestment Act
| (CRA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, penalty-free refinancing of home
| loans, tax preferences granted to home equity borrowing, and reduced
| capital requirements for banks that hold mortgages and mortgage-backed
| securities (MBS) have all weakened the standards for granting mortgages
| and the housing finance system itself. Blaming greedy bankers,
| incompetent rating agencies, or other actors in this unprecedented
| drama misses the point--perhaps intentionally--that government policies
| created the incentives for both a housing bubble and a reduction in the
| bank capital and home equity that could have mitigated its effects. To
| prevent a recurrence of this disaster, it would be far better to change
| the destructive government housing policies that brought us to this
| point than to enact a new regulatory regime that will hinder a quick
| recovery and obstruct future economic growth.

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
There appears to be some ignorance masquerading as certainty floating
around here. In the interest of reducing ignorance and increasing
humility, here are some educational papers.

The Financial Crisis and the Policy Responses:  An Empirical Analysis of
What Went Wrong
John B. Taylor

http://www.stanford.edu/~johntayl/FCPR.pdf

| In this paper I have provided empirical evidence that government
| actions and interventions caused, prolonged, and worsened the
| financial crisis. They caused it by deviating from historical
| precedents and principles for setting interest rates, which had worked
| well for 20 years. They prolonged it by misdiagnosing the problems
| in the bank credit markets and thereby responding inappropriately
| by focusing on liquidity rather than risk. They made it worse by
| providing support for certain financial institutions and their
| creditors but not others in an ad hoc way without a clear and
| understandable framework. While other factors were certainly at play,
| these government actions should be first on the list of answers to the
| question of what went wrong.


Causes of the Financial Crisis
Viral V. Acharya and Matthew Richardson

http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~sternfin/vacharya/public_html/acharya_richardson_critical.pdf

| ABSTRACT: Why did the popping of the housing bubble bring the
| financial system—rather than just the housing sector of the
| economy—to its knees? The answer lies in two methods by which
| banks had evaded regulatory capital requirements.  First, they
| had temporarily placed assets—such as securitized mortgages—
| in off-balance-sheet entities, so that they did not have to hold
| significant capital buffers against them. Second, the capital
| regulations also allowed banks to reduce the amount of capital
| they held against assets that remained on their balance sheets—
| if those assets took the form of AAA-rated tranches of securitized
| mortgages. Thus, by repackaging mortgages into mortgage-backed
| securities, whether held on or off their balance sheets, banks reduced
| the amount of capital required against their loans, increasing
| their ability to make loans many-fold. The principal effect of this
| regulatory arbitrage, however, was to concentrate the risk of mortgage
| defaults in the banks and render them insolvent when the housing
| bubble popped.


THE REGULATED MELTDOWN OF 2008
Juliusz Jablecki and Mateusz Machaj

| ABSTRACT: Capital regulations stemming from the Basel accords
| created incentives for banks to securitize mortgages, even risky
| ones; hold them at a correspondingly low Basel risk weight; or
| shift them off of banks’ balance sheets to obtain even greater
| leverage. Securitization was praised by economists and regulators for
| dispersing risks to investors across the world, providing greater
| resilience to the financial system. However, since in reality banks
| tended to hold onto securitized assets—either on their balance
| sheets or off of them, in off-balance-sheet entities—the accumulated
| credit risk remained with the banks, especially in the “shadow
| banking sector.” This explains the heightened vulnerability of the
| financial system to a sudden collapse.


The Credit Rating Agencies: Understanding Their Central Role in
the Subprime Debacle of 2007-2008
Lawrence J. White

http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/economics/docs/workingpapers/2009/credit%20rating%20agencies.critical%20review.revised%204-8-09.pdf

| The three major credit rating agencies -- Moody's, Standard  Poor's,
| and Fitch -- played a central role in the subprime mortgage debacle
| of 2007-2008. That centrality was not accidental.  Seven decades of
| financial regulation propelled these rating agencies into the center
| of the bond information market, by elevating their judgments about
| the creditworthiness of bonds so that those judgments attained the
| force of law. The Securities and Exchange Commission exacerbated this
| problem by erecting a barrier to entry into the credit rating business
| in 1975. Understanding this history is crucial for any reasoned debate
| about the future course of public policy with respect to the rating
| agencies.

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
Three Myths about the Crisis
Jeffrey Friedman

http://causesofthecrisis.blogspot.com/2009/09/three-myths-about-crisis-bonuses.html

...

| To be sure, banks that bought mortgage-backed securities to reduce
| their capital cushions were, indeed, knowingly increasing their
| vulnerability if the securities went sour.[6] But absent the Recourse
| Rule, there is no reason that banks seeking a safe way to increase
| their profitability would have converged on asset-backed securities
| (rather than Treasurys or triple-A corporate bonds); thus, they would
| not have been so vulnerable to a burst housing bubble. The Recourse
| Rule artificially boosted the profitability of a certain type of
| investment that the Fed, the FDIC, and the other regulators thought
| was safe.

| We know in retrospect that the capitalists who took advantage of the
| Recourse Rule, such as those at Citibank, were making a mistake. But
| not all capitalists did. JPMorgan, for instance, recognized the danger
| and escaped destruction. None of these capitalists were irrational;
| all were self-interested; yet they had different perceptions of how to
| pursue their self-interest, based on different perceptions of risk.

| In relatively unregulated markets, this diversity of viewpoints is
| precisely what makes capitalism work. One capitalist thinks that
| profit can be made, and loss avoided, by pursuing theory A; another,
| by pursuing theory B. These heterogeneous strategies compete with each
| other, and the better ideas produce profits rather than losses. In a
| complex world where nobody really knows what will work until it is
| tried, competition is the only way that people’s endless capacity
| for error can be checked, and loss is the regrettable but inescapable
| result.

| In the banking industry, however, bankers’ heterogeneous ideas
| were homogenized (although not entirely) by the Recourse Rule, which
| loaded the dice in favor of the regulators’ idea of where risk
| did and did not lie. The regulators thought that AA or AAA tranches
| of asset-backed securities were 60-percent safer than individual
| mortgages. This was not an “irrational” theory, either: The
| tranching structure created by Moody’s, Standard and Poor, and Fitch
| had a lot to be said for it, and even the little-known fact that the
| SEC had effectively conferred oligopoly status on these three rating
| companies[7] did not guarantee that disaster would follow. But the
| crucial fact is that the Recourse Rule imposed a new profitability
| gradient over the bankers’ calculations, producing the same effect
| intended by all regulations: It altered their behavior, the better to
| align with the regulators’ ideas--in this case, their ideas about
| prudent banking. By thus homogenizing the inherently heterogeneous
| competitive process, the regulators inadvertently made the banking
| system more vulnerable--if, in fact, the regulators’ theory was
| wrong.

| If we seek the sources of a systemic failure, a logical place
| to look is among the legal rules that govern the system as a
| whole. Unfortunately, these rules, being legal mandates, have not
| survived a competitive process, so if they are based on mistaken
| ideas, we all suffer the consequences. That turned out to be the case
| with the Recourse Rule.

| Contrary to popular belief, then, the crisis of 2008 is best described
| as a crisis of regulation—not a crisis of capitalism.

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 12:56 PM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:


 On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 11:57 AM, John Williams jwilliams4...@gmail.com
 wrote:

 There appears to be some ignorance masquerading as certainty floating
 around here. In the interest of reducing ignorance and increasing
 humility, here are some educational papers.

 The Financial Crisis and the Policy Responses:  An Empirical Analysis of
 What Went Wrong
 John B. Taylor

 http://www.stanford.edu/~johntayl/FCPR.pdf


 Interesting that you chose not to quote the paragraph that describes his
 opinion of the heart of the financial crisis.

It seems to have been summarized by the part I excerpted, which was
Taylor's conclusion. The big MBS push was largely an unintended
consequence of government regulations. And it was made worse by
government regulations, as described in the paragraph after the one
you quoted:

| In the United States there were other government actions at play
| here. The government sponsored agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were
| encouraged to expand and buy mortgage backed securities, including those
| formed with the risky sub-prime mortgages. While legislation, such
| as the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, was
| proposed to control 9 these excesses, it was not passed into law. These
| actions of these agencies should be added to the list of government
| interventions that were part of the problem.

 The behavior he describes
 below is precisely what the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 made
 lawful by removing the regulatory barriers that were in place for decades.

Where does Taylor write that? Or do you claim it from another source?
If so, what source?

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Re: Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-14 Thread John Williams
On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 1:30 PM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:


 On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 1:08 PM, John Williams jwilliams4...@gmail.com
 wrote:

  Interesting that you chose not to quote the paragraph that describes his
  opinion of the heart of the financial crisis.

 It seems to have been summarized by the part I excerpted, which was
 Taylor's conclusion.

 Oh, come on.  When somebody says that X is the heart of the problem,
 that's not subject to your interpretation.   The paragraph you chose was just
 the one that supported your argument best

How about when someone writes an article, and at the end puts a
heading Conclusion? What is your interpretation of that?

Taylor also wrote a similar paper to the one I referenced, but
unfortunately the full-text of the article is not available online, as
far as I can tell. But it has an abstract he wrote, and so should
settle this silly argument over what Taylor considered most important:

ECONOMIC POLICY AND THE FINANCIAL CRISIS: AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS OF WHAT
WENT WRONG
John B. Taylor

| ABSTRACT: The financial crisis was in large part caused, prolonged,
| and worsened by a series of government actions and interventions. The
| housing boom and bust that precipitated the crisis were enabled
| by extraordinarily loose monetary policy. After the housing
| boom came to an end, the Federal Reserve misdiagnosed financial
| markets’ uncertainty about the location and value of risky subprime
| mortgagebacked securities as being, instead, a liquidity problem, and
| it took inappropriate compensatory actions that had side effects that
| included raising the price of oil. Finally, in mid-September 2008,
| the government’s ad-hoc bailouts, and the unpredictable terms of
| the proposed TARP legislation, appear to have caused a sharp spike in
| uncertainty in the financial markets.


 Never bet that people here won't
 go look at the sources you cite.  Or that we're stupid.

Huh? I provided the links so that anyone interested could read the
entire article.

 He didn't need to write it, any more than he needed to write that the sky is
 blue.  He was describing the behavior that was illegal for decades.

Is that your way of saying that you do not have a reference to cite
about your claim?

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Re: DeLong on health insurance reform

2009-09-13 Thread John Williams
On Sat, Sep 12, 2009 at 6:58 PM, Doug Pensinger brig...@zo.com wrote:
 John Williams  wrote:

 http://american.com/archive/2009/august/maybe-we-should-spend-more-on-healthcare

 Yikes.  Let's first look at the source of the article, The American
 Enterprise Institute.

Actually, the source of the article is the author, James V. DeLong.
The publisher is The American, and the owner of the publisher is the
American Enterprise Institute.

Here's a bio for James V. DeLong:

http://cei.org/people/james-v-delong

 Described in Wiki as some of the leading
 architects of the second Bush administration's public policy.

Well, if you are interested in the background of the author, Jame V.
DeLong, you could look at specifics of his life, in the bio above. He
does not seem to be closely associated with the American Enterprise
Institute. In fact, his associations look rather diverse, a quality
which you have praised.

Or we could continue playing your game of six degrees of separation.
James V. DeLong can be linked to the Clinton administration in two
steps (1. Bradford, 2. Clinton's deputy assistant secretary of
Treasury), and those steps are less tenuous than the two you have just
outlined.

 If you want to figure out how expensive health care should be, looking at
 other systems around the world should at least give a ballpark idea as
 to what we should be paying.

In what sense should be? I don't see why I should choose something
just because someone else has. I should be able to make my own choices
as to what benefits me the most. Which is one of the points DeLong was
making:

| The proper level of spending depends on the value derived from it,
| and in the end this level should be whatever results from the sum of
| consumer choices made in the light of the value received.

 And if we're doing the lions share of
 the innovation when it comes to medical research, then maybe we need
 to figure out how to get the rest of the world that benefits just as
 much as we do (if not more)

One way to accomplish this is for American companies who develop
useful new techniques to profit by selling related goods or services
throughout the world.

 Personally, I think that a system that places an emphasis on
 boner drugs, reformulation of proven drugs and anti-depressants that
 don't work is in need of an overhaul in and of itself.

I don't have a problem with any of those drugs being sold to people
who want to buy them. Just because I don't want to buy them (at the
moment), does not mean that others should be unable to buy them. We
should all have the choice to buy any of those drugs, and as many more
as people can think up. Diversity is good.

 Finally, if the proposed reforms are really what we need to fix the
 system, why weren't they implemented when they had the ear of the
 president and a cooperative congress?

Who is they? Are you saying that James V. DeLong's proposed reforms
are not worthwhile because the American Enterprise Institute did not
persuade the Bush administration to eliminate the tax subsidy for
employment-based health insurance? I don't think that could be what
you are saying, since it does not make a lot of sense. But I cannot
imagine what else you meant.

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Health care reform: without a correct diagnosis, there is no cure

2009-09-13 Thread John Williams
Jeffrey S. Flier is Dean of Harvard Medical School. In the Journal of
Clinical Investigation article referenced below, Flier offers his
ideas on health care reform.

http://www.jci.org/articles/view/41033

Flier identifies three root causes for the symptoms of America's
health care ills:

| First, there is our inefficient and inequitable system of
| tax-advantaged, employer-based health insurance. While the federal
| tax code promotes overspending by making the majority unaware of the
| true cost of their insurance and care, the code is grossly unfair to
| the self-employed, small businesses, workers who stick with a bad job
| because they need the coverage, and workers who lose their jobs after
| getting sick.

| Secondhealth insurance markets suffer from overregulation, which
| limits innovation in both insurance and new ways of delivering medical
| care.

| Third, we have Medicaid and Medicare These programs pay providers
| by administrative pricing formulas that are well documented to promote
| both overuse and underuse of appropriate care, have led to rising
| expenditures decoupled from better health, and obligate massive future
| deficits that everyone agrees are unsustainable. They are also rife with
| fraud and abuse.

Flier also recommends David Goldhill's recent article in The Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care

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Re: From CNN: Democratic leaders in Congress soften on public option

2009-09-13 Thread John Williams
On Sun, Sep 13, 2009 at 6:46 PM, Nick Arnett nick.arn...@gmail.com wrote:

 This seems unfortunately, since it certainly appears to me that the health
 care industry could benefit from more competition.

I'm always in favor of more competition. But I think the best way to
increase competition, without increasing government spending[1], is
for the Federal government to pressure the states to reform state laws
that limit interstate competition for health insurance. Perhaps make
Medicaid funds dependent on such reforms.

[1] I know that reformers claim the government option would not be
subsidized, but I find that extremely hard to believe. I'm afraid it
would end up sucking down taxpayer money quite soon.

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Re: Knowledge of Complex Systems and Ecch-onomics

2009-09-11 Thread John Williams
On Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 3:14 PM, dsummersmi...@comcast.net
dsummersmi...@comcast.net wrote:
 Some of the time, but only some of the time, I have the sender as the
 poster, not brin-l.  Alberto was nice enough to send it back to me so I can
 repost it.

As I posted before (maybe you missed it if that was when the list was
having problems), that is because your messages have the Reply-to: set
to both your personal email- and the list email-address.

So if someone hits reply, it depends on whether their email client
uses the Reply-to: or the From: field to reply. If they use the
Reply-to: then an email should go to both the list and to you
directly. Unless your email filters one of them, you should then
receive two copies when that happens. I suppose it is also possible
that some email readers arbitrarily choose just one of the two
email-addresses in the Reply-to: field.

I usually manually remove your personal email (as I have done on this
reply) from the To: field so that my reply only goes to the list.

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Regulation and the financial crisis

2009-09-09 Thread John Williams
http://www.american.com/archive/2009/september/regulation-and-the-financial-crisis-myths-and-realities

| Myth 1: Banking regulators were in the dark as new financial
| instruments reshaped the financial industry.

| Myth 2: Deregulation allowed the market to adopt risky practices, such
| as using agency ratings of mortgage securities.

| Myth 3: Policy makers relied too much on market discipline to regulate
| financial risk taking.

| Myth 4: The financial crisis was primarily a short-term panic.

| Myth 5: The only way to prevent this crisis would have been to have
| more vigorous regulation

...

| The biggest myth is that regulation is a one-dimensional problem, in
| which the choice is either “more” or “less.” From this myth,
| the only reasonable inference following the financial crisis is that
| we need to move the dial from “less” to “more.”

| The reality is that financial regulation is a complex problem. Indeed,
| many regulatory policies were major contributors to the crisis. To
| proceed ahead without examining or questioning past policies,
| particularly in the areas of housing and bank capital regulation,
| would preclude learning the lessons of history.

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Re: Predictions and Re: Smaller Government-Is it possible or a pipe dream?

2009-09-09 Thread John Williams
On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 12:40 PM, Chris Frandsenlear...@mac.com wrote:

 Yes! I believe that the clarification of the possible meanings of the word
 sized which you have provided are/ could be indeed perhaps what the
 gentleman was suggesting. I would not be surprised however if he took
 offense at any attempt at such clarification.

I don't take offense at questions. But I'm not particularly interested
in discussing my viewpoints with people who write things like this:

 John Williams responded in less than 60 minutes to the previous post,
 used an excellent vocabulary to polarize and did not respond to the
 suggestion in the subject that perhaps he was hallucinating.  Are we
 dealing with a computer program here? Or just someone who has been
 programmed?

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Re: DeLong on health insurance reform

2009-09-08 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 7:27 AM, Chris Frandsenlear...@mac.com wrote:

 Given human nature as I have experienced it, John, I do not see how a
 civilized society could exist following a total voluntary ethic.

It is interesting how some people claim my posts are repetitive, while
other people seem to miss what that I have written before.

No, I do not propose that the US should abolish all taxes, and I have
written that here before.

I wonder if you are aware that US government is now much bigger and
spends much more than it has for the majority of America's 233 years?
I would like to see a government sized more like US around WW1 or
earlier.

I also wonder why you are so interested in commenting on your
imagination of what I think about government, rather than discussing
health care, in particular, the subject of this thread, DeLong's
health care article. Not that I mind you talking about what you
imagine my thoughts are about any subject, but you might want to start
a new thread for that: What does John think about __?

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Re: Smaller Government-Is it possible or a pipe dream?

2009-09-08 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 10:57 AM, Chris Frandsenlear...@mac.com wrote:

 No way will that happen unless there is an
 international disaster and major die-off of the human species.

I don't have much evidence to evaluate the reliability of your
predictions, but what evidence I have seen makes me doubt their
accuracy.

 Now when we decide to get serious
 about dealing with global climate change government spending will balloon
 even more, so prepare yourself.

Another highly dubious prediction. But if taken literally, perhaps it
saves itself by having the highly unlikely beginning condition, so
that the ending need not be wrong if the beginning condition is not
satisfied.

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Re: DeLong on health insurance reform

2009-09-08 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 2:02 PM, David Hobbyhob...@newpaltz.edu wrote:
 John Williams wrote:

 I don't get this.  You recently wrote:

 No, I do not propose that the US should abolish all taxes, and I have
 written that here before.

 So some taxes are O.K.?  But I imagine that some of the
 people paying those taxes would rather not have their
 money spent on items paid for with those taxes.  So
 can't they always make the same complaint you did above?

 Help me out?  When do you believe taxation is justified?

Once again I am asked something that I have already answered, and yet
others say my posts are repetitive.

If you really want to discuss this again, please start a new thread
and ask me again.

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Re: DeLong on health insurance reform

2009-09-08 Thread John Williams
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 3:29 PM, David Hobbyhob...@newpaltz.edu wrote:
 Until this is
 resolved, kindly cease to refer to taxation as
 taking your money, etc.

Are you serious?

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