March 24, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’ll be discussing tonight at both Virtually Speaking A-Z and at Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. Source material is here. Comments on audio tonight. Posts to come later.

Brad DeLong:

Is Economics a Discipline?

What Have We Unlearned from the Great Recession?

Paul Krugman

Asymmetrical Ignorance

Nobodies of Macroeconomics

Err.. Me.

at Eschaton


There’s more. But if you want to read before the discussion, or shortly after, the key issues are here.



March 8, 2011

Just wanted to document this.

Millions of dead anchovies, sardines and mackerel

Redondo Beach officials said initial assessments suggest oxygen depletion in the King Harbor basins caused the massive fish die-off.

City Manager Bill Workman said city officials with the help of marine experts would help determine if there was any environmental issue involved. Tests are now being performed on the water as officials begin removing the dead fish, which city officials estimated to be in the millions.

“There are no visible signs of any toxins that might have caused [the die-off] and our early assessment is that this was oxygen depletion,” Workman said. “This is similar to what we experienced five years ago but that was distinctly a red tide event but there’s no discoloration of the water, no associated foaming in the waves, Workman said. “There are no oil slicks or leaking of substances into the water.”

Workman noted that the harbor had been teeming in recent weeks with bait fish that even after their deaths “had no signs of degradation.”]


Prostitution crackdown leads to 25 arrests

Jewlery store says Lohan took necklace without permission


March 6, 2011

During the gestation of the unholy offspring of Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and the Obama administration Liberals expressed dismay, saying the proposals did nothing to repair the fundamental problems of for-profit oligopolies serving as middlemen that added costs and reduced the value of patient-doctor relationships. In the event the program was born with a birth certificate that read Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but now, unsurprisingly, goes by the nickname ACA.

Nothing in the legislation provided either effective regulatory reform or introduced any real competition in a medical care marketplace in order to control costs. So Liberals predicted that in states with low populations, and therefore only one or two insurance companies controlling prices and services, premiums would skyrocket.

And, lo, it came to pass:

Workers at a circuit-board factory here just saw their health insurance premiums rise 20 percent. At Buddy Zaremba’s print shop nearby, the increase was 37 percent. And for engineers at the Woodland Design Group, they rose 43 percent.

The new federal health care law may eventually “bend the cost curve” downward, as proponents argue. But for now, at many workplaces here, the rising cost of health care is prompting insurance premiums to skyrocket while coverage is shrinking.

As Congress continues to debate the new health care law, health insurance costs are still rising, particularly for small businesses. Republicans are seizing on the trend as evidence that the new law includes expensive features that are driving up premiums. But the insurance industry says premiums are rising primarily because of the underlying cost of care and a growing demand for it.

Across the country, premiums have more than doubled in the last decade, with smaller companies particularly hard hit in recent years, federal officials say.

In New Hampshire, where the population is among the healthiest in the nation, according to various surveys, the insurance market for individuals, families and small businesses is extremely fragile. More than 90 percent of private employers in New Hampshire have fewer than 50 employees. Small and medium-size employers try to shop around for health insurance, but have few alternatives from which to choose.

This year, groups of more than 20 workers have been experiencing premium increases of around 20 percent, insurance agents say, while smaller groups are seeing increases of 40 percent to 60 percent or more.

“The rate of increase is phenomenal,” said Jean Pierre La Tourette, owner of Flora Ventures, a florist with 11 employees in Newmarket, N.H., near Portsmouth. When he was recently notified that the monthly premium for single employees at his firm was going up by $229, or 40 percent, to $789, Mr. La Tourette said, he felt “a combination of anger and frustration.”

As I said then, Americans are not going to like being forced to buy crappy, expensive health insurance.

We’ll talk about this tonight with Eve Gittelson and Marcy Wheeler.


March 3, 2011

Lenore Skenazy joins us tonight, March 3rd.  While she had been a journalist, and a columnist for the Daily News–I was a fan at the time–she went national, because she let her 9-year-old take the MTA home by himself.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Good story. Told funny. If you don’t remember this–it went national–do read the whole thing.  The reason it went national, of course, is many, many people thought Lenore had demonstrated irresponsible, even criminally irresponsible, parenting by allowing her kid onto the MTA.

Lenore is making the same point here that Bruce Schneier makes in the video excerpt above (entire interview with Bruce and James Fallows.) My way of making that point is asking why kids don’t wear helmets all the time, instead of just when they are on their bikes.

The answer is the same as Bruce’s remark about so few people wearing bullet-proof vests–the improvement in security is not worth the trouble.  But there are kids who do wear helmets all the time. I knew one–she had severe epilepsy, and was at serious risk of hurting herself in a fall.

What’s interesting is how this has changed, in relation to how kids are raised in this country. I recall quite clearly being summoned by my mother to bike the couple of miles to a convenience store (Moran’s, no 7-11s in the area) to pick her up a desperately needed pack of Benson-Hedges.  Helmetless. Along two heavily traveled roads.

So what has changed? It’s probably true this was unwise on my mother’s part, but her asking me to do this was unexceptional, as, I expect, it was unexceptional for a kid in New York to ride public transportation by herself in Lenore’s youth. And it was more dangerous then!

That’s where we start tonight. What’s changed? Why?