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Saturday, September 23, 2006


These are drafts of posts I collected this week, but didn't get to or didn't post for one reason or another. I thought I'd post them "as is" instead of deleting them. There are quite a few:

Up, Up, and Away from the Middle Class

Thanks to Ken Houghton:


Taylor Rules in Iraq?

This is Felix Salmon at Economonitor:

Taylor's war, by Felix Salmon, Economonitor: The Economonitor ... encountered some difficulty getting in to the University Club last night, where John Taylor, the former Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, was plugging his new book giving a lecture.

Taylor, it turns out, is something of the Tom Clancy of international finance: his economics background notwithstanding, he clearly gets very excited by any kind of military hardware. He lovingly talked us through his slide show, pointing out the difference between various machine guns and even showing a short film of how his cargo plane would release flares to divert enemy rockets. There was not a chart or data point in sight: instead, it was nearly all pictures of soldiers, interspersed with many anecdotes about mid-air refuelings or the number of meetings that Taylor had in the White House Situation Room.

Taylor even set up a "War Room" at Treasury, and placed a "Your Country Needs You" poster outside the building to drive home to Treasury employees the crucial martial importance of the department.

Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all this there were some emerging-market crises to work out. And in fact Taylor did work very hard on the Uruguay bailout. But his priority, and, to hear him, that of the whole department, was the War on Terror: he said that his employees were like little kids playing soccer: they all had a tendency to run to the Iraq or Afghanistan balls.

Taylor is proud of rebuilding Iraq's monetary system: he showed a slide of the central bank, "after the looting," completely destroyed, as a sign of how little the Americans had to work with when they arrived. What he didn't mention was that the photo clearly showed a building which had been bombed to smithereens, and it's unlikely that was the job of looters.

The glossy, embossed title of Taylor's book is "Global Financial Warriors". Taylor clearly relished his new paramilitary role, so much that he's now reliving it in print and on the lecture circuit. Sometimes, the short, grey-haired, mousey ones turn out to be the most zealous.

Setting aside the presentation, at least in this case the person in charge had the proper credentials to lead the effort, and made it a priority.


Papers on inequality:

Chrissy elsewhere, by chris dillow: Why I'm not a classical liberal, over at the vastly under-rated Philosophy etc. As this will not satisfy anyone's appetite for serious thinking about equality, check out the papers at Equality Exchange - if only for proof that there's much more to egalitarianism than woolly-headed Guardianism.

The Latest Absurdithon

From Jonah Gelbach at CardCarryingMember:

Pick Your Principles to Suit Your Principal, by Jonah B. Gelbach: For more on John Yoo's absurdithon in yesterday's NYT, see this post by Orin Kerr over at Volokh for another embarrassing example of John Yoo's unfamiliarity with history (this time it's the history of things Yoo himself wrote). See also this follow-up post of Kerr's. It's disappointing but truly breathtaking just how much of a shill the quotes Kerr has unearthed show Yoo to be.

In a nutshell:

  • Clinton use aggressive interpretation of executive authority in foreign policy...bad!
  • Bush tear up statutes, sign them while promising to disregard them....GOOD!

It must be great to be able to choose your principles to suit your principal.

Sleep Deprivation as Torture

Someone who's been through it:

SLEEP DEPRIVATION AS TORTURE by Sanford Levinson: For what it is worth, I note that Menachem Begin, generally not thought to be a particular bleeding heart liberal, wrote, with regard to his own experience of being tortured in the Soviet Union, that the spirit of a sleep-deprived prisoner "is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget. ... Anyone who has experience the desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable it with it." It is foolish to assume that "torture" need involve the rack and the screw (or even waterboarding, which the U.S. seems to be moving away from). It is enough to keep people up for almost literally inhuman lengths of time. Or would anyone seriously argue that the sleep-deprivation apparently visited on Begin "really" wasn't "torture"? If so, what would such an argument be based on, beyond basically juvenile notions--drawn from reading too much action literature--that torture is necessarily restricted to certain kinds of inflictions of pain (or inductions of psychosis) and not others? ...

Changing Views on Housing

Robert Shiller on -- what else -- housing markets. This is about how housing is increasingly seen as an investment and how that affects the market during a downturn:

What are the homebuyers of today thinking?, by Robert Shiller, Project Syndicate: Many places around the world have experienced a housing boom since the late 1990s ...  rooted in speculative investment by ordinary home buyers, fueled substantially by the worldwide perception that capitalism has triumphed, and that all people must look out for themselves by acquiring property. Convinced that private ownership has become essential to smart living, buyers bid up home prices.

Moreover, the fear that one must get in on the boom before it is too late often drives people to bid up home prices faster now. This certainly seems to be the market psychology in China and India... Real estate booms have been going on in these countries' major cities for years. ...

But the boom generated by such beliefs cannot go on forever, because prices can't go up forever, and there are already signs of a hard landing. ... The psychology has suddenly changed, creating widespread fear of sharp drops in US home prices. ...

If home prices crash in the US, the bastion of capitalism, could it destroy confidence and end the boom in other countries? If so, could a worldwide recession follow?

This scenario is a distinct possibility, although there are reasons to be skeptical. Most importantly, the ultimate sources of the housing boom -- the beliefs about capitalism and future economic growth -- seem solidly entrenched.

The downward price trend in the US market, for example, does not seem to reflect underlying changes in long-run economic confidence. The survey that Karl Case and I conducted ... shows sharp declines in short-term expectations for home prices in the US, but relatively little change in long-term expectations. Most people still believe that housing is a great long-term investment. ...

Changes in people's fundamental ways of thinking are not easily reversed. Nor, therefore, is their interest in housing as a major speculative investment asset likely to change.

The transformation in investors' beliefs is striking. Before the real estate boom of the late 1970s, hardly anyone was worried about rising home prices. A search of old newspapers finds surprisingly few articles about the outlook for home prices. Those that did appear generally seem to be based on the assumption that minor fluctuations in construction costs, not massive market swings, drove the modest home price movements that they noted. ...

To understand the nature of the subsequent shift, consider that it is hard to find anyone today who worries that automobile prices will soar because rising demand in China and India for steel and other materials will push automobile prices out of reach in the future. Though a small group of collectors invests speculatively in antique or specialty cars, the idea of speculating in automobiles just is not in the public consciousness. That is how it was with housing until the late 1970s.

Now that we think differently about real estate, we will never be the same again. But, ... while changes in fundamental perceptions may not occur easily or fast, they should never be ruled out. Urban land prices in major Japanese cities have steadily dropped over much of the period since 1991, as the enormous faith in the miraculous powers of Japanese capitalism gradually faded.

The same kind of erosion in home prices could occur in many cities around the world. All that is required is that growth in housing supply eventually outstrips investors' faith in capitalism to sustain faster growth in demand.

Intelligently Designed Fossil Planting

The one who is the Higher Power keeps leaving all these clues to throw us off the true path. Or something:

Fossil of Child, Age 3 Million, Offers New Insights By John Noble Wilford, NY Times: If the fossil Lucy, the most famous woman from out of the deep human past, had a child, it might have looked a lot like the bundle of skull and bones uncovered by scientists digging in the badlands of Ethiopia.

The paleontologists who are announcing the discovery in the journal Nature said the 3.3 million-year-old fossils were of the earliest well-preserved child ever found in the human lineage. It was estimated to be about 3 years old at death, probably female and a member of the Australopithecus afarensis species, the same as Lucy’s.

An analysis of the skeleton revealed evidence of a species in transition, the scientists said in interviews today. The lower limbs supported earlier findings that afarensis walked upright, like modern humans. But gorilla-like arms and shoulders suggested that it possibly retained an ancestral ability to climb and swing through the trees.

“Her completeness, antiquity and age at death make this find unprecedented in the history of paleoanthropology,” said Zeresenay Alemseged, the Ethiopian leader of the discovery team and a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Two reports of the findings are being published in Nature on Thursday. The National Geographic Society, a supporter of the research, will run a popular article on the fossil child in the November issue of its magazine.

At a news conference today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the scientists gave the fossil the name "Selam,’’ which means peace in Ethiopia’s official Amharic language.

Scientists not involved in the research said the fossils were a significant find that should provide new insights about the afarensis species and a little-known period of early human origins.

“The child really confirms that afarensis was walking upright,” said Tim D. White, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It has the potential to answer old questions and raises some new ones” — including their behavior in trees.

Dr. White, who has found even earlier human ancestors in Ethiopia, participated in the analysis of the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy fossils. They were uncovered elsewhere in Ethiopia in 1974 by Donald Johanson, who is now director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

Other discoveries show that the afarensis species, thought to be among the earliest direct ancestors of humans, lived in Africa from earlier than 3.7 million to 3 million years ago.

In an accompanying commentary in the journal, Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who had no part in the discovery, said the specimen was “a veritable mine of information about a crucial stage in human evolutionary history.”

Dr. Wood, a paleoanthropologist, also noted how rare it was for the fragile bones of infants to survive long enough to fossilize. “But if they do, they provide precious evidence about the growth and development of the individual and the species,” he wrote.

Until now, Dr. Wood said, the earliest comparably complete specimen of a human-related child was that of a Neanderthal who lived less than 300,000 years ago in Syria.

The discovery team said the largely intact condition of the fossils indicated that the child was presumably buried in sand and rocks shortly after death during a flood in a desert region known today as Dikika, in northeastern Ethiopia.

Then, in December 2000, along came a team of fossil hunters led by Dr. Alemseged. On a steep hillside, one of the men, Tilahun Gebreselassie of the Ethiopia Ministry of Culture and Tourism, was the first to see the child’s tiny face looking up from a block of sandstone. It was a long and projecting face with a flat nose.

The face and skull were clearly that of a young afarensis, the scientists concluded almost immediately.

Dr. Alemseged’s team spent much of the last five years extracting the rest of the specimen from the surrounding stone with dentist’s drills and picks. The tedious work exposed the full cranium and jaws, the torso and spinal column, limbs and the left foot. The child’s one complete finger was curled in a tiny grasp, much like a young chimpanzee’s. The skeleton is much more complete than Lucy’s.

Although the fossils are still being studied, Dr. Alemseged and his colleagues noted several important findings and areas for further research.

The Dikika girl’s brain size, for example, was about the same as that of a similarly aged chimpanzee, but a comparison with adult afarensis skulls indicates a relatively slow brain growth slightly closer to that of humans.

The presence of a hyoid bone was a surprise. It is a rarely preserved bone in the larynx, or voice box, that supports muscles of the throat and tongue. The bone in the infant appeared to be primitive and more similar to those found in apes than humans, the scientists said, but is the first hyoid found in such an early human-related species and thus important in research about the origins of human speech.

The first relatively complete shoulder blades to be found in an australopithecine individual was one of the most puzzling aspects of the discovery, several scientists said. The lower body appeared to be adapted for upright walking by afarensis. But the shoulders and long arms were more apelike.

In the journal report, Dr. Alemseged and his team wrote that “the functional interpretation of these features is highly debated, with some arguing that the upper limb features are nonfunctional retentions from a common ancestor only, whereas others proposed that they were preserved because A. afarensis maintained, to some degree, an arboreal component in its locomotor repertoire.”

Also: In Focus: Special Report: Lucy's Baby

When I Get Older...

This is a nice tribute to a colleague:

Turning grey, The Economist Global Agenda [Free]: Raymond Mikesell, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, died on Thursday September 14th at the age of 93. Mr Mikesell’s old age brought with it a noteworthy achievement. He was thought to be the last surviving economist present at the conference in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which saw the establishment of the post-war economic regime and with it the birth of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. As the annual autumn meeting of the two institutions gets underway in Singapore, Mr Mikesell’s death is a reminder to the ageing figures of international finance that they may also have a natural lifespan.

The organisations were born into a world torn apart by war. The economists meeting at Bretton Woods also had sharp memories of the international financial crisis of the 1930s, when mercantilist policies and the failure of the international-payments system devastated world trade. They hoped to avert future crises by setting up multilateral institutions to act as a stabilising influence during the post-war reconstruction. The bank’s first job was rebuilding Europe; the IMF oversaw the fixed exchange-rate system established at Bretton Woods. Later on the pair sought new roles as the stewards of global economic development and financial stability.

Now the IMF and World Bank have fewer jobs to do. ... At this week’s meetings, the old couple will fiercely insist that they still have work to do. ... Both institutions are in dire need of a cure for creaky old age.

Martin Wolf agrees:

IMF’s ancien régime must give up privileges, by Martin Wolf, Commentary, Financial Times: Are we able to make multilateral institutions work effectively? Or is our world now so divided that even those we have inherited are doomed to founder? These questions have been raised in many contexts... But they are also raised by the debate over reform of the International Monetary Fund. What makes this example disturbing is that it should be a simple case: not only does the institution exist, but it has clear functions on which reasonable people broadly agree. Nevertheless, progress is enormously difficult.

My view of international institutions is pragmatic. States need to co-operate if our increasingly interdependent world is to function. The best way to do so is via multilateral institutions with clear objectives, legitimate governance and professional staffs allowed to exercise independent judgment.

Against these standards, how far do the present reform efforts of the IMF measure up? “Not well enough” is the answer. ...Given [this]..., how should the effort at reform be pursued? The first part of the answer is by being as clear as possible about what the fund exists to do: it is not development, for example, which is why its role in poor countries needs careful reconsideration. The second part of the answer is by appreciating that the fund will be successful only if legitimate. Countries that have a choice will refuse to be bound by the diktats of an organisation subservient to those they view as either present or past imperialists. Since the European Union has 32.2 per cent of the votes, the US another 17.4 per cent and Japan 6.2 per cent, that is quite certainly what they feel. ...

The current allocation of voting rights is not dramatically out of line with economic realities... The difficulty with the distribution of votes and of seats on the executive board is two-fold. First, surveillance cannot be credibly even-handed. Still more important, when it comes to emergency lending, those with the votes do not need the money and those who may need the money do not possess the votes. This lack of parity has made the fund an extremely unattractive insurer. All those who can have decided, therefore, to self-insure, with strange and costly consequences for the world economy....

Legitimacy, in short, is an essential component of the overall reform effort. From this perspective, as developing country critics have rightly noted, the decision to adjust the quotas of China, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey, albeit welcome, is an inadequate first step...

It is incredible that of the 24 members of the executive board six are members of the eurozone, seven are members of the EU and eight are western European. Not one of these countries will ever draw on IMF credit. Six of them do not even possess an independent monetary policy. Yet they insist not only on their continued overrepresentation on the board, but on their droit de seigneur in choosing the managing director.

If the ancien régime is unwilling to accept the changes that are needed for the fund to regain legitimacy across the world, it cannot complain if it ends up presiding over a disregarded, indeed discarded, institution.

What then is needed? The answers are: first, a sizeable reduction in the European share of the votes; second, a radical reallocation of constituencies to reduce the number of European members of the board; third, an open global search for the head of the IMF (and, for that matter, of the World Bank); and, finally, the grant of substantial independence in the exercise of the fund’s mandates to that managing director and the staff. ...

Europeans talk endlessly about making multilateralism work. They are right to do so. This, at last, is a chance for them to take the lead, not just in rhetoric, but in reality, too.

Should You Take Door #2?


Monty Hall Scenario By Alex Stone, Discover Magazine Blog: Every month I receive dozens of letters about Fuzzy Math, many of them claiming I have made a mathematical error. I appreciate the interest in the articles, and I must say I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that so many folks feel strongly about math! In this blog I will attempt to address some of the comments, questions, and flat-out disses I have received.

For starters, here is a typical response about a column on the famous Monty Hall scenario:

The reasoning behind "Fuzzy Math: The Monty Hall Scenario" (July 2006) sounds plausible enough, but is in fact fallacious. When a door is picked the odds are 1 in 3 that it's the one with the prize behind it, the same as the odds for each of the other doors. After Monty eliminates one of them, the odds become fifty-fifty not just for the door left that you didn't choose, but also for the door you chose. This can be clearly borne out by running a simple computer simulation a few thousand times. Sticking with your original choice is correct 50% of the time, and switching doesn't increase your success rate one iota. --M. S.

The Monty Hall scenario is a classic problem in probability, and the error that M.S. makes is very common. One might say that it is the "intuitive" answer, and many smart people have mistakenly thought it to be correct. The key point is that switching is tantamount to betting that you initially chose an empty door, the odds of which are always 2/3, even after one of the (empty) doors is eliminated.

One helpful way of looking at it is to use a “decision-tree” analysis. Let’s label the doors with the numbers 1, 2, and 3; with the prize behind door #2. We now analyze what happens after each of the three possible initial choices. If you initially pick door #1 (empty), then door #3 (empty) is eliminated, and switching lands you on door #2 (you win!). If you initially pick door #2 (prize), door #1 or #3 is eliminated (both empty), and either way switching lands you on an empty door (you lose!). Lastly, if you pick door #3 (empty), then door #1 (empty) is eliminated and switching lands you on door #2 (you win!). Conclusion: switching wins in TWO OUT OF THREE trials.

Another way of thinking about this problem is to consider limiting cases. (This is a useful technique is a great many math and physics problems!) What if instead of 3 doors there were 1000 doors (it's a big room, ok?) and the prize is hidden behind just one of them. You make your initial selection, the host then eliminates 998 empty doors and offers you the chance to keep your initial choice or swap for the one remaining door. Are the odds fifty-fifty that you picked the prize out of 1000 possible locations on your first try? Or is it more likely that you were wrong initially and the host, constrained to open only empty doors, revealed the most probable location of the prize by process of elimination? Think about it.

Of course you don’t have to take my word for it. One can do an experiment to find out for sure. It is a simple matter to write a computer program to execute millions of trials and tally the results. Such programs can be found online; here is one with the corresponding results for 100,000 trials. As you can see, in 100,000 games, swapping won 66,676 times. Here is another, more interactive version. Finally, for those who are sill unconvinced, I suggest playing the game on this website.

It’s a cool, deceptive little problem. Thanks to all those who wrote in, and I look forward to your future comments.

Poor and Republican

Why do the poor vote Republican?:

What's the matter with voting Republican if you're poor?, by Gary Younge, The Guardian: ...According to recent US census figures, since President Bush assumed power in 2000 poverty has risen by 7%, the proportion of those without healthcare has risen by 9%, and median household income has fallen by 3%. But where the poor are most numerous, it seems the Democrats are weakest. The 10 states with the lowest household median income, where people are least likely to have healthcare and most likely to live in poverty, all voted Republican in 2004. Not only are they poor, but they're getting poorer. The five states with the steepest falls in income backed Bush.

Indeed, if anything the Democrats' base seems to be among the wealthy. The same census figures showed that seven of the 10 states with the highest median incomes voted Democrat, and citizens who lived in Democrat states were less likely to live in poverty and more likely to have health insurance. And these states are getting wealthier. The five with the sharpest increase in income all voted Democrat in 2004.

Bill Clinton won in 1992 with the dictum "It's the economy, stupid". But what to make of a political culture where poor states elect the party that represents the interests of the rich and vice versa?

This is not a new question ... In his book What's The Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank described the tendency of working-class people to vote Republican as a form of derangement. He said that the working class had been hoodwinked into voting against its economic interests by "values" issues such as abortion and gay rights.

There were two main problems with this argument. First, it suggested that poor people are incapable of working out what's best for them. Second, it gave undue emphasis to economic interests, as if they should always take primacy at the ballot box. My guess is that Frank, along with many readers of this paper, vote against their economic interests when they vote for a government that will raise taxes and redistribute wealth. It doesn't follow that, because poor people also put different priorities (opposing gay marriage or abortion) with which we disagree ahead of financial wellbeing, we are principled and they are patsies.

But there was, as it turned out, another flaw with Frank's book. The central premise on which it was written was debatable, if not debunkable. Last year Larry Bartels, a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton, wrote a paper called: What's The Matter With What's The Matter With Kansas?. (It is a testament to the influence of Frank's work that those who seek to subvert its message must first subvert its title.)

The white working class, insisted Bartels, hadn't abandoned the Democratic party, and neither their moral values nor their religion distracted them from their economic interests. Bartels's argument was not quite as devastating as he claimed (Frank's facts stand up if you assess class by educational attainment rather than income), but it undermined the key assumption that poor white people vote Republican. They don't. According to CNN polls, 63% per cent of those who earn less than $15,000 a year and 57% of those who earn between $15,000 and $30,000 voted Democrat. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to vote Democrat.

So how are we to understand the fact that the poorest states voted for Bush? Soon after Bartels's paper came another by four academics, subtitled: Rich State, Poor State, Red State, Blue State, What's The Matter With Connecticut?. It revealed that rich people in poor states are more motivated to vote Republican, whereas in wealthier states there is a lower correlation between income and voting preference. In other words, thinking of the American political landscape in terms of different states (remember the map with the Democrat blue on the edges flanking a sea of Republican red?) hides the often far more important differences within states.

So what's the matter with all these analyses? First of all they seem to step over a huge elephant in the room - namely race. There is a reason why we are only talking about white working-class voters: black people, regardless of income, overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Indeed, were it not for black people, the Democrats would have won the presidency only once, in 1964. That was the year President Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights act, turned to an aide and said: "We have lost the south for a generation." We are well into the second generation now, and the racialised politics of the south seem to be influencing the rest of the country rather than the other way round.

In other words there is a clear racial attachment that white voters have to the Republican party that does not override income but certainly qualifies it. No understanding of why so many of them vote Republican can examine class as though it is distinct from race.

Second, they assume a greater class attachment to the Democrats than the party deserves. Unlike the Republicans, who openly lobby for the class interests of their supporters and deliver on them, Democrats do not promise substantial changes to the lives of ordinary working people in America and rarely deliver even on the symbolic ones.

Which brings us to the final problem. The strongest correlation between income and voting is not whom you vote for but if you vote at all. The more you earn, the more likely you are to turn out. According to the census, 81.3% of those who earned $100,000 or more turned out in 2004; the figure for those who earned less than $20,000 was 48%.

That's because the rich have something to vote for. They have two parties; the poor here have none. Ultimately, the question of what's the matter with Kansas or any other state must in no small part be answered by yet another one: what's the matter with Democrats?

Professor Pay in China

Moonlighting professors:

Professor's pay slip highlights teachers' dilemma, By Guo Qiang (chinadaily.com.cn): People may think that professors, especially those at famous universities, are wealthy, but they say they are rather poor.

Assistant professor at prestigious Peking University A Yi made it clear his monthly salary of 4,768 yuan (US$601) was not enough on his online web log and claimed there would be no way for him to make a living if he stopped 'zou xue' - a Chinese term meaning moonlighting.

A's move has raised concern over whether it is acceptable for teachers who are supposed to be focusing on students and teaching to do part time jobs.

There are no relevant laws or regulations prohibiting teachers from tutoring in China but most schools are not giving teachers the green light on the practice.

Schools are fearful that teachers will concentrate on their part time jobs rather than their teaching.

A is no exception.

A was formerly a host of CCTV's popular talk show Tell the Truth (Shi Hua Shi Shuo) and was appointed as an assistant professor at China's Cambridge University. But serving as a host or a guest brings both high praise and sharp criticism, which claimed A did not contribute to his job and called his virtue and professionalism into doubt.

However A rebutted the accusations, saying without moonlighting, he cannot make a living.

During an interview on Phoenix TV's talk show 'Yi Hu Yi Xi Tan', A stressed that it is natural for society to have elite and poor classes. Varied classes help motivate those that lag behind. "What I most fear is that elite class lacks care and love for the lower class," he said.

In response to speculation that A is lying to the public about his pay, A's colleague at Beida Kong Qingdong, backs up his claims.

Kong noted in his web log that A's pay slip posted in his web log is absolutely true.

"My monthly salary is almost the same as his. We are quite lucky, to be honest because there are lots of young teachers who only earn 2, 000 yuan (US$250)."

The average monthly income in China is US$145, according to figures released by the National Development and Reform Commission.

In addition to be a solid support of A, Kong speaks highly of his colleague's courage, noting that he is unwilling to present his own pay for fear of shaming Beida officials.

Kong says he and A have no other intention in making their poverty known other than providing the public with a chance to know the truth.

"The masses should not criticize professors who are engaged in part time jobs," he said.

A's claims outline the teacher's situation in China - most complain their salaries are too low, especially those in remote rural areas. They are only paid several hundred yuan per month in spite of their hard work and tough living conditions.

The Chinese government moved to allocate up to 40 billion yuan (US$4.94b) to raise the standard salaries of teachers in rural areas, the China Business News reported.

Is there a shorter name than A Yi?

Wasted Government

More problems with government programs under this administration:

Probe of FAA Contracting Finds Waste Mismanagement Blamed For Losses in Millions, By Del Quentin Wilber,  Washington Post: A Federal Aviation Administration contracting program, initially hailed as a way to make the agency more efficient, was so poorly managed that it cost the government millions of dollars in overruns, according to a government investigative report and legislators who reviewed its conclusions. The FAA has disbanded the program.

The program was designed to allow the FAA to obtain services faster and cheaper by using 142 approved vendors.

But the FAA ran into major problems shortly after the program's inception in 2002 because contracts were supervised poorly, many were not put out for competitive bids and officials did not set proper labor rates, according to a report to be released Monday by the Transportation Department inspector general's office.

The report does not say precisely how much the FAA was overcharged by contractors but describes a variety of problems, including the hiring of former FAA employees by contractors.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who requested the investigation, said the program's problems cost the government tens of millions of dollars.

"It's just outrageous how the FAA was not looking out for the taxpayers' dollars," Grassley said in an interview. "Three words would sum this up: absolutely no accountability."

FAA officials said they disbanded the program months ago and did what was necessary to resolve leftover problems. ...

The inspector general estimated that labor costs alone could have created overruns of $24 million to $44 million if the program and the contracts been allowed to continue.

More than half the contracts were not put up for bids, the report says. The FAA is allowed to award sole-source contracts, but of eight such contracts reviewed by investigators, only one was found to have had "adequate justification."

The report says companies were eager to hire former FAA employees. ... "While this practice does not violate any government regulations, it creates significant risks to FAA's ability to maintain arms-length relationships with its contractors when negotiating contract terms or overseeing contractor performance," the report says.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who also pushed for the inspector general's investigation, said the hiring of former FAA employees by contractors troubled him. "There is nothing wrong with hiring experienced people, but there is plenty wrong with hiring people and giving them a job they are not qualified to do," he said. ...

Clinton on Fox

Ambush and smackdown:

President Clinton blasts Chris Wallace By John Amato: I got us a rough transcript of Bill Clinton smacking down Chris Wallace as he tried to sandbag him over Bin Ladin that I reported on earlier today along with Duncan: Drudge is linking to a Youtube teaser video that looks to me purposefully out of sync to try and make President Clinton look crazed. Shameless…The whole segment will air Sunday morning…

CW: When we announced that you were going to be on fox news Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I got to say I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question. Why didn’t you do more to put bin laden and al queda out of business when you were President. There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called the looming tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993 bin laden said I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops. Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole.

WJC: ok…

CW: …may I just finish the question sir. And after the attack, the book says, bin laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that heinsight is 20 20.

WJC: no let’s talk about…

CW: …but the question is why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?

WJC: ok, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits but I want to talk about the context of which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right wing conservative on the Path to 9/11 falsely claim that it was falsely based on the 911 comission report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 commission report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people.

They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in black hawk down and I refused to do it and stayed 6 months and had an orderly transfer to the UN. Ok, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black hawk down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Bin laden had anything to do with black hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even new al queda was a growing concern in October of 1993.

CW: …I understand…

WJC: No wait…no wait…Don’t tell me. You asked me why I didn’t do more to bin laden. There was not a living soul…allhe people who criticized me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up so you get an answer.

CW: I’m perfectly happy to. Bin Laden says…

WJC: And secondly…

CW: Bin Laden says…

WJC: Bin laden may have said that…

CW: Bin Laden says it showed the weakness of the US

WJC: It would have shown the weakness if we left right away but he wasn’t involved in that. That’s just a bunch of bull. That was about mohammed adid, a muslim war lord murdering..thousand Pakistani muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitiarian mission. We had not mission – none – to establish a certain kind of Somali governemtn or to keep anybody out. He was not a religious fanatic.

CW: But Mr. President…

WJC: There was no Al Queda…

CW: …with respect if I may. Instead of going through 93.

WJC: You asked you. It you brought it up.

CW: May I ask a general question that you can answer. The 9/11 comission, which you talk about, and this is what they did say, not what abc pretended they said…

WJC: wait, wait…

CW: …they said about you and 43 and I quote, “The US government took the threat seriously, not in the sense of mustering anything like that would be….to confront an enemy of the first, second or third rank”

WJC: That’s not true with us and Bin Laden…

CW: …the 9/11 comission says…

WJC: Let’s look at what Richard Clarke says. You think Richard Clarke has a vigorus attitude about Bin Laden?

CW: Yes I do

WJC: You do?

CW: I think he has a variety of opinions and loyalities but yes

WJC: He has a variety of opinion and loyalties now but let’s look at the facts. He worked for Ronald Regan. He was loyal to him. He worked for GHWB and he was loyal to him. He worked for me and he was loyal to me. He worked for President Bush; he was loyal to him. They downgraded him and the terrorist operation. Now, look what he said, read his book and read his factual assertions – not opinions, assertions. He said we took vigorous action after the African embassies. We probably nearly got Bin Laden.

CW: …

WJC: Now wait a minute…

CW: ,..cruise missles..

WJC: I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tennet who President Bush gave the medal of freedom to and said he did a good job.. The country never had a comprehensive anti terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this, after the Cole I had battle plans drawn to go into Afhanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack search for Bin Laden. But we needed baseing rights in Uzbekistan which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 comission didn’t do that. Now the 9/11 commission was a political document too. All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.

CW: Do you think you did enough sir?

WJC: No because I didn’t get him

CW: Right…

WJC: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t….. I tired. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke… So you did fox’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

CW: Now wait a minute sir…


CW: I asked a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?

WJC: It was a perfectly legitimate question but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked why didn’t you do anything about the Cole. I want to know how many you asked why did you fire Dick Clarke. I want to know…

CW: We asked..


CW: Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday sir?

WJC: I don’t believe you ask them that.

CW: We ask plenty of questions of…

WJC: You didn’t ask that did you? Tell the truth

CW: About the USS Cole?

WJC: tell the truth.

CW: I…with Iraq and Afghanistan there’s plenty of stuff to ask.

WJC: Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on Climate Change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about…

CW: [laughs]

WJC: You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion dollars plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.

CW: But President Clinton…


CW: We were going to ask half the question about it. I didn’t think this was going to set you off on such a tear .

WJC: It set me off on such a tear because you didn’t formulate it in an honest way and you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side.

CW; Sir that is not true…

WJC: …and Richard Clarke…

CW: That is not true…

WJC: Richard Clarke made it clear in his testimony…

CW: Would you like to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative?

WJC: No I want to finish this.

CW: Alright,

WJC: All I’m saying is you falsely accuse me of giving aid and comfort to bin laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew al queda existed then…

CW: Ndid they know in 1996 when he declared war on the U.S. Did no one know in 1998…

WJC: absolutely they did

CW: When they bombed the two embassies…


CW: Or in 2000 when they hit the cole.

WJC: What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that think Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Queda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…

CW: [Laughs]

WJC: I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin laden. I regret it but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending special forces in to Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise…We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Queda was responsible while I was President. Until I left office. And yet I get asked about this all the time and they had three times as much time to get him as I did and no one ever asks them about this. I think that’s strange.

CW: Can I ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative?

WJC: You can.

CW: I always intended to sir.

WJC: No you intended to move your bones by doing this first. But I don’t mind people asking me. I actually talked o the 9/11 commission for four hours and I told them the mistakes I thought I made. And I urged them to make those mistakes public because I thought none of us had been perfect. But instead of anybody talking about those things. I always get these clever little political…where they ask me one sided questions… It always comes from one source. And so…


WJC: And so…

CW: I just want to ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative but what’s the source? You seem upset?

WJC: I am upset because..

CW: …and all I can say is I’m asking you in good faith because it’s on people’s minds sir. And I wasn’t…

WJC: There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds. That’s the point I’m trying to make. There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds because they’ve done a serious disinformation campaign to create that impression. This country only has one person who has worked…against terror…under regan…only one, Richard Clarke. And all I’d say anybody who wonders whether we did wrong or right. Anybody who wants to see what everybody else did, read his book. The people on my politicial right who say I didn’t do enough spent the whole time I was president saying why is he so obsessed with bin laden. And that was wag the dog when he tried to kill him. My Republican sec of defense – and I think I’m the only person since WW2 to have a sec of defense from the opposite party – Richard Clarke, and all the intellegince people said that I ordered a vigorus attempt to get Osama Bin Laden and came closer apparently than anybody has since.

CW: alright…

WJC: And you guys try to create the opposite impression when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s findings and you know it’s not true. It’s just not true. And all this business about Somalia – the same people who criticized me about Somalia were demanding I leave the next day. Same exact crowd..

CW: one of the…

WJC: …So if you’re going to do this for gods sake follow the same standards for everybody.

CW: I think we do sir

WJC: …be fair.

CW: I think we do. One of the main parts of the global initiative this year is religious reconciliation. President Bush says that the fight against Islamic extremism is the central conflict of the century and his answer is promoting democracy and reform. Do you think he has that right?

WJC: Sure. To advocate democracy and reform in the muslim world? Absolutely. I think the question is what’s the best way to do it. I think also the question is how do you educate people about democracy. Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there’s more than one way to advance democracy but do I think on balance that in the end after several bouts of instability do I think it would be better if we had more freedom and democracy? Sure I do. …The president has a right to do it? Sure I do. But I don’t think that’s all we can do in the muslim world. I think they have to see us try to get a just and righteous peace in the middle east. They have to see us as willing to talk to people who see the world differently than we do.

CW: Last year at this conference you got 2.5 bil in commitments, pledges, how did you do this year?

WJC: Well this year we had 7.3 bil as of this morning.

CW: 7..excuse me…

WJC: 7.3 billion as of this morning. 3 billion of that is. That’s over a multi-year. These are at most 10 year commitments. That came from Richard Branson’s commitment to give all his transportation profits to clean energy investments. But still that’s over 4 bil. And we will have another 100 commitments and probably raise another billion dollars. We have a lot of commitments still in process.

CW: When you look at the 3 bil from branson plus billions that gates is giving and warren buffest, what do you make of this age of philanthropy?

WJC: I think that for one thing really rich people have always given money away. They’ve endowed libraries and things like that. The unique thing about this age is first of all you have a lot of people like bill gates and warren buffest who are interested in issues around the world that grow out of the nature of the 21st century and its inequalities – the income inequalities, the education inequalities, the health care inequalities. You get a guy like gates who built Microsoft and he actually believes that he can help overcome all of the health disparities in the world. That’s the first thing. Second thing…there are a lot of people with average incomes who are joinging me because of the internet. Take the tsuami for example we had 1.3 billion dollars given….by households. The third things you have all these ngo that you can partner with along with the government. So all these thigns together mean that people with real money in ways that help people that before would have been only the object of government grants and loans.

CW: I know we’re over but can I ask you two political questions. Let’s talk some politics. In that same nyer articiel you say you’re tired of Karl Rove’s BS. I’ m cleaning up what you said.

WJC: I also say I’m not tired of Karl Rove. I don’t blame Karl Rove. If you’ve got a deal that works you just keep on doing it.

CW: So what is the BS?

WJC: well every even number year right before an election they come up with some security issue. In 2000 right before the election …In 2002 our party supported them in undertaking weapon inspections in Iraq and were 100% behind them in Afghanistan and they didn’t have any way to make us look like we didn’t care about terror. And so they decided they would…the homeland security bill that they opposed and they put some pill in it that we wouldn’t pass like taking the job rights away from 170,000 people and then say that we were weak on terror if we weren’t for it… This year I think they wanted to make the question of prisoner treatment and intercepted communications the same sort of issue until John Warner came and Lindsey Graham got in there and it turns out there were some Repbulicans who believe in the consitution and their convictions…some ideas about how best to fight terror.

As long as the American people believe that we take this seriously and we may have our differences over Iraq but I think we’ll do fine this election. Even if they agree with us about the Iraq war we could be hurt by Karl Rove’s new foray if we don’t make it clear that we care about the security of this country. We want to implement the 9/11 comission rec which they haven’t in four years. We want to…Afghanistan against bin laden. We want to make America more energy independent. If they want to talk about Iraq say what they really want about Iraq.

But Rove is good and why I honor him…I’ve always been amused by how good he is. But on the other hand this is perfectly predictable. We’re going to win a lot of seats if the American people aren’t afraid. If they’re afraid and we get divided again then we’ll only win a few seats.

CW: Do you think the Wh and the republicans want to make the American people afraid.

WJC: Of course they do. They wan another homeland security bill and they want to make it not about iraq but some other security issue. Where if we disagree with them we are by definition endangering the security of the country. And it’s a big load of hueey. WE’ve got 9 iraq war veterans running for house seats. President Reagan’s sec of the navy is the dem candidate for senate in Virginia. A Three star admiral who was on my NSC staff – who also fought terror by the way – is running for the seat of kurt Weldin’s in penn. We’ve got a huge military presence in this campaign and you can’t let them have some rhetorical device that puts us in a box that we don’t belong in. That’s their job. Their job is to beat us. But our job is to not let them get away with it and if we don;’t we’ll be fine.

CW: Mr. President thank you for one of the more unusual interviews.

WJC: I promise you I was not trying to the who

Royal Science Journal Archives

From true dough:

Archives from the Royal Society By true dough: I just received an email that I thought was worth sharing:

Jilliene Jewell Publishing Editor, Notes and Records of the Royal Society Over 340 years of landmark science available for first time, 14 Sep 2006. The complete archive of the Royal Society journals, including some of the most significant scientific papers ever published since 1665, is to be made freely available electronically for the first time today (14th September 2006) for a two month period. The archive contains seminal research papers including accounts of Michael Faraday's groundbreaking series of electrical experiments, Isaac Newton's invention of the reflecting telescope, and the first research paper published by Stephen Hawking. The Society's online collection, which until now only extended back to 1997, contains every paper published in the Royal Society journals from the first ever peer-reviewed scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions in 1665, to the most recent addition, Interface.

The archive is open here, and access is free until December 2006.

A Repentant Republican?

New O'Donnell Ad Begs Forgiveness For Social Security Phase Out Essay: Remember Rick O'Donnell? He's the GOP House candidate who's being attacked by Dem foe Ed Perlumtter for writing 12 years ago that "for freedom's sake," we should "eliminate Social Security." Now O'Donnell is officially surrendering on the issue. The Rocky Mountain News reports that O'Donnell is about to release a new TV ad formally apologizing for his past writings, calling them "the misguided thoughts of a kid." And in another clear sign that Dems have drawn blood, he's even got a new flyer in which he pleads for forgiveness. Note two pictures from the flyer below -- including one of O'Donnell kneeling before an old lady.

Here's the reason.

The Republican War on Science Continues

Another episode:

EMAILS: Bush Officials Blocked Scientist From Discussing Global Warming/Hurricane Link, Think Progress: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member on the Government Reform Committee, has just released a series of emails from the Department of Commerce that suggest that Bush officials “tried to suppress a federal scientist from discussing the link between global warming and hurricanes.”

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Waxman details how CNBC requested an interview with NOAA scientist Tom Knutson in October 2005 — one month after Hurricane Katrina — “to discuss whether global warming is contributing to the number or intensity of hurricanes.”

CNBC’s request was forwarded from NOAA to Chuck Fuqua in your office. Mr. Fuqua is currently a press officer. He used to be the Director of Media Operations for the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Upon receiving the request, Mr. Fuqua emailed back to NOAA, “what is Knutson’s position on global warming vs. decadal cycles? is he consistent with Bell and Landsea?” … [Dr. Gary Bell and meteorologist Chris Landsea have both expressed doubts about connections between global warming and hurricanes.]

NOAA responded to Mr. Fuqua that Dr. Knutson projected a “very small increase in hurricane intensity” due to increased greenhouse gas pollution. Mr. Fuqua responded, “why can’t we have one of the other guys then?”

This apparently ended the matter. NOAA’s Daily Media Tracking Log states that the request for the interview with Dr. Knutson was subsequently denied.

Whether Bush officials admit it or not, the scientific link between global warming and hurricane intensity is strong, and was bolstered again by a report released last week.

Read a full copy of Waxman’s letter HERE, and read copies of the emails HERE. Also, read about Waxman’s Safe Climate Act — the first bill ever to target global warming pollution.

    Posted by on Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 02:45 AM in Economics, Miscellaneous | Permalink  Comments (12)


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