Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Haiku Wednesday - Stress


Time for a deep breath,
And positive self-talk.  I
Can't stress this enough.

Join the fun!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Haiku Heights - Sacred


Things I hold sacred:
Life, love, friendship, promises,
The trust of a child.


Sunday Music Blogging - 9/26

Donna Diana Overture by Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek

Shadow Shot Sunday/Mellow Yellow Monday - 9/26-27

Take a turn in the

Circle for the bean bag toss.

It's all in the wrist!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Six Word Saturday

Flowers in front of our house

Gerber Daisy



UPDATE:  Mystic asks about the back yard.  Nope - not many flowers there.  The back yard has a different purpose.


Friday, September 24, 2010

What the Hell Friday?!? - Part 2 - OMG Edition

I read right wing and/or libertarian blogs, at least once in a while, in a serious attempt to avoid epistemic closure.  It is often - in fact, to a distressing degree - a disappointingly fruitless endeavor.

The Money Illusion is being dropped from the list of blogs I will peruse, because I have concluded that Scott Sumner is insane.


Yes, really!

His adoring followers are pretty whacked-out, too.  They think the union busting Nazis were actually socialists.

What The Hell?!? Friday - Unfortunately Misspelt Signage Edition

In South Bend, where sex education has evidently run amok.  Yikes!

All my other sign postings have either been my own shots or contributions from friends.  But this one, displayed at MSNBC.com is too -- er . . . good to pass up.

H/T to the LW

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wealth and Taxes

Here is a breakdown of taxes and income for CY 2010, from our old friends, the Tax Policy Center, via Greg Mankiw's blog, which I actually don't read - this is what sometimes happens when you rely on TEH Googly.

Since I don't read  Mankiw, and he offers no commentary, it's far from clear what his point might be - maybe just general information.  And, since I see only a table at the TPC page, it's probably Mankiw's graph.
How they managed to assemble data on CY 2010 by Aug.24 of the subject year is a bit mysterious, but we'll just go with it.

You often see or hear that the top whatever percentage pays some god-awful amount of the taxes.  Sure enough, the top 5% of the population bear over 40% of the tax burden.  That 5% and 40% look oh, so askew.  Until you realize that they bring in over 30% of the income.

The reasons for this number combination are two-fold.  First, we have progressive taxation, so the tax percentage paid by the top is above their income percentage by design.  This is a feature, not a flaw.  Second, the lowest 20% pay no federal taxes, at all, because they make less than $1500 per month - not enough to qualify as tax payers.  That's about $9.38 per hour for a 160 hour work month.  Actually, it's  a bit less on an hourly basis, since most months have more than 20 work days. Further, since the next quintile only makes enough to pay a total of 3.1% of the tax total, it simply falls out of the math that the percentage has to be made up somewhere.

So if anyone tells you we are soaking the rich - show them this graph, courtesy of Prof. Mankiw.

Another thing to think about is that those who make the most will also get the greatest benefit from retaining the middle class tax cuts.

Bet you didn't know that part!

The Stimulus was actually Quite Stimulating

I love graphs and data.  And since I'm reality based, I also appreciate that real world data is consistent with my view of the world.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers a graphic look at the effects of the stimulus package, along with some speculation of what would have happened without it.   Find it here.

The bottom line is that for being too small, partly wasted on totally ineffective tax cuts, and, one might argue, poorly targeted, the stimulus package probably prevented – or at least deferred – a collapse into GD II.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Is Holding Back Employment Growth?

Krugman offers a simple, straight-forward explanation:

 Businesses aren’t hiring because of poor sales, period, end of story

James Hamilton at Econbrowser disagrees, citing Russ Robert's specious contention that the twin problems are  taxation and regulation.  You can stop laughing now.  Roberts is from Cafe Hayek, and I've ridiculed him here before, though with the snark dialed down a bit, for me.  (And his response was quite gracious - I do admire that.)    Hamilton also displays Catherine Rampell's now notorious graph, though it's not at all clear that he read her text.  (I'm not going to reproduce it here.  It's in the links, and if you haven't seen it, you don't read anything about econ.)

All this set off an interesting and quite spirited comment string, where I was one of the commenters, natch.

My comments are brilliant, of course, but many others are also worth reading, (Johnathon's are particularly informative)  even those from the right-wingers - though mainly for their illustrative sheer wrongitude.  Interesting also, that total strangers had my back against some of the sillier contrary comments.  So I made sense, other than just to myself.

Food for thought.  Check it out.

Hydrodynamic Macroeconomics

In a recent series of posts, Karl Smith allows himself the conceit of comparing macroeconomics to hydrodynamics.  I am deeply skeptical of any attempt to model economics along the lines of physics - that's where the dismal science started around the time of Adam Smith, and got off on seriously the wrong foot, IMHO.

But Karl goes on to look at direct empirical comparisons, and not be driven or constrained by his analogy. His correlation of job growth to change in the rate of inflation is quite compelling.

The text and other accompanying graphs are fascinating.  Check it out.

For me, the missing piece is how to get from monetary policy to Karl's inflation target of 4%.   He's promised to fill in the blanks, some time soon.

Haiku Wednesday - Respect


How can I respect
The man we hired for his skills
Who doesn't do his job?

Of course, I mean this guy.

Join the fun!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Like I said, MEH!



More MEH!

Further revelations are far more likely to lower then elevate, don't cha think?  

And still more MEH!

Remember - you saw it here first.

Sometimes I kinda hate being right.

Wow.  We are SO screwed.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Old Time Krugman

Here's an old article by Krugman on what economic variable ought to be targeted by policy.

I'm linking it here so I can be sure to find it again.

Here is context.

Here is a more recent one on Leveraging and Deleveraging.

Plus this one (unrelated) by Bartlett on the ignorance of teabaggers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Poverty, Part 2

Yglesias checks in, with a graph and a narrative.

Social Security - all good.

Welfare reform - despite what he says, not so much.

For part 1, see here.

What the Hell Friday?!? - "Broadcasting Stupidity" Signage Edition

Here is a demonstration of muddled thinking that ought to be extraordinary, but is unfortunately all too common.  We want our Trillion Dollar wars, but we don't want to pay for them.  Nor for infrastructure, either, though I think it might include the street we were driving on.

I can't say for sure that the driver of this vehicle is a card carrying tea bagger, but certainly the ideas presented on this mobile billboard are consistent with thier mental processes.

I'm tempted to say that tea baggers are a very special kind of conservative - they combine the typical regressive tone-deafness to irony with abysmal ignorance and a depth of thought that on a good day might reach as much as one ångström.   But actually, they are typical.  This is just the current manifestation of what in the past has been the Liberty League, the John Birch Society,the Moral Majority etc.

Wow - we are so screwed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Poverty is in the news today - really, really bad new.

Here it is in pictures, but only through '09.  It's worse now.

Here we see, since 1975, the percentage of the population at 50, 75 and 100% of the poverty level.  Republican and Democratic administrations are indicated in Red and Blue, respectively.

Going back in history, the numbers move up and down significantly.  However, the only big drops in the number of people living in poverty were during the 60's and the 90's - and more specifically the Kennedy-Johnson and Clinton adminsitrations.

Note, though, the percentage living at or below half the poverty level - those destitute souls living in truly grinding poverty.  Their number is now the highest ever measured.  (It's probably lower now than in the 50's.  But you certainly can't thank Republican administrations - and the Bushes in particular - for any of that.)

Look at this, though.

While the percentage of older Americans living in poverty has declined quite dramatically, the percentage living at only half of the poverty level has actually increased.  This indicates a deep split in the retired population - successful haves, and struggling have nots.  And I can assure you - though I am not yet 65 - that struggling gets all the more difficult as you grow older.

Here is the percent at the poverty level for the entire population plotted with that level for those 65 and older. These are the top lines from the two previous graphs.

What are we to make of this?

Could the decline in aged poverty be a big success for Social Security and Medicare?  If so, what about the poorest?  Maybe their access to these programs is limited in some way.  I don't know.

In the general population, the percentage at only half the poverty level has continued to slowly increase.  Even the Clinton prosperity did next to nothing for them.  Is this a failure in wellfare reform?  Is this problem simply intractable?  I don't know that either.

What we do know is that wealth disparity has increased steadily over the last three decades, and is now at an all time high.

There's that data.  What's your narrative?

Data from the Census Bureau (Table 5).

H/T to Robert at AB

Update: (From The NYT, 9/17)

For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050.

Still Lazy Money

A couple of months ago I posted the chart on the M1 Money Multiplier, from the St. Louis Fed.

Here is an update.  Though the prefix UP, in this context, is a bit of forlorn hope.  This metric is going nowhere.

H/T to Karl at MB.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Haiku Wednesday - Food


Nourishment for the 
Body - what it means to you
Could be food for thought.

Join the fun!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Allah Be Praised - at the Hallowed Site of the Ground Zero Mosque

H/T to the Lovely Wife.

My Liberal Identity - Social Justice Crusader

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Yeah - I'd say that about sums it up.  Though on a different day I could easily have gotten a different result.

Cuz - everything about regressives is wrong, y'know.

H/T to Beale.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Music Blogging - 9/12

Shadow Shot Sunday - 9/12

Knotty weathered wood
Holds a skink with blue tail,
Not a blue-tailed skink!

Per Wikipedia, blue-tailed skinks are native to Australia's Christmas Island, and are not closely related to the Plestiodon skinks found in North America - like this one who would skamper around on the deck of our Vacation Cottage near the Smokey Mountains.  They do look very similar, though.

Here is the view looking from the deck, rather than at it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What the Hell Friday?!? - "No Disdain for the Obvious" Signage Edition

Another contribution from my friend Howeird, taken at his infrequently attended health club.

L.A. Times Crossword Puzzle Blogging

Friday September 10, 2010   John McInturff

Theme:  EY DROPS.   The letters EY are dropped from the end of the first word of easily recognizable phrases, to yield a new phrase with a comical twist.

A 20. Faultfinding brother? : MONK ON ONE'S BACK. Monkey on one's back. This expression goes back to ancient Egypt, originally meaning a guiding spirit or source of inspiration. More recently, it's some sort of burden, affliction, or addiction. I wanted a sibling brother, but a MONK will do just fine.

A 29. Debris in the hayloft? : BARN RUBBLE. Barney Rubble, Fred Flintstone's pal.

A 38. Impervious to chutzpah? : GALLPROOF. This one's my favorite.  Galley proof: the final proof copy of a page being typeset for printing, before it is set as a page of a book or booklet. 

A 50. What Michelle Kwan might do in a financial emergency? : HOCK SKATES. Hockey skates: essential hardware for the Buffalo Sabres.  Somehow, I don't think Michelle will ever be in that position.

A 59. Haystack-hiding Ottoman? : TURK IN THE STRAW. Turkey In The Straw.  Musical Americana.

No unifier, but five brilliant theme entries, two of them almost grid-spanning, along with ten 7-letter answers.  Wow!

Hi gang, Jazzbumpa here, aka JzB, more formally, Mr. Bumpa, or just plain Bumpa to my 11 favorite youngsters. But you can call me Ron.

This is a hard puzzle, and I never got on John McInturff's wave length. Even after I sussed the theme, I couldn't get TURK IN THE STRAW, due to errors in the perps. So, I was reduced to technical assistance for many requested answers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mellow Yellow Monday

Family vacation,
Breakfast in the mountains.  I'll
Have a banana.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday - 9/05

Taken a few weeks ago at the Knoxville Zoo.

Great white pachyderms:
You huddled masses with your
Backs against the wall

Iraq War Costs

Stiglitz and Bilmes reimagine the true total cost of the Iraq war at something north of $3 Trillion.

Their estimate is far too low.


When the United States went to war in Iraq, the price of oil was less than $25 a barrel, and futures markets expected it to remain around that level. With the war, prices started to soar, reaching $140 a barrel by 2008. We believe that the war and its impact on the Middle East, the largest supplier of oil in the world, were major factors. Not only was Iraqi production interrupted, but the instability the war brought to the Middle East dampened investment in the region. 

In calculating our $3 trillion estimate two years ago, we blamed the war for a $5-per-barrel oil price increase. We now believe that a more realistic (if still conservative) estimate of the war's impact on prices works out to at least $10 per barrel. That would add at least $250 billion in direct costs to our original assessment of the war's price tag. But the cost of this increase doesn't stop there: Higher oil prices had a devastating effect on the economy.

I'm astounded by their meekness.  Attributing only $10 of the oil price to the war is absurdly low - possibly by an entire order of magnitude.   So - their $3 Trillion guess is low by - very conservatively - another trillion, and quite possibly 2 or  even 3 trillion.  The current crude price of $74.34 is probably still above rational evaluation by 50%, or more.  A steady, but objectively extravagant 15% year over year increase from 2002 to now would result in a crude price of about $76.50.   A more realistic increase of 8% would leave it at $46.27.   There is a lot of room on the down side.

The price movement has followed a classic bubble pattern, and it's not at all hard to put Elliott labels on this chart   (as I have done below) and project crude prices around $30 in the next few years - especially if there is a double dip recession and actual deflation.

But there is also a great deal of destabilization in the Middle East, and increased Muslim militancy caused by this war that Stiglitz and Bilmes neglect to mention.  Each of these will have high economic and human costs far into the future.

The Iraq war is the most misbegotten foreign policy adventure in U.S. history.

H/T to AB

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sunday Music Blogging - 9/05

John Williams' Cowboys Overture is a good, not great piece of music; but it's pleasant to listen to, fun to play and the audience always enjoys it.  We opened our concert in the wind with it on Friday. The themes are engaging, if you can avoid thinking about a Marlboro commercial.  But the transitions are, to me at least, baffling; and from about 7:00 to 7:35 in the clip, it turns into generic John Williams what-the-hell.  Oh, well.

Six Word Saturday 9/4

Performed Outside In High Wind - Yikes!

I've played outside at least 40 times.  I've had rain delays and rain cancellations, but never a wind like this, with gale-force gusts.

Even for a grizzled veteran like me, it was a challenge.   Some of the string players who have no outside experience were overwhelmed.

Still - we brought off a really good performance under very trying conditions.  Made me proud.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The New Progressivism

Lawrence Lessig writes an interesting, but sadly naive post, filled with hope and historical perspective.

Where he goes wrong is in suggesting that a new progressivism can incorporate Reagan and Goldwater style Republicans, and reach out to the tea party.  Sorry - there are no Reagan or Goldwater style Republicans.  Regressives worship the myth of Reagan, but are either ignorant or in denial about what he actually achieved - the good and the bad.  Goldwater was simply a libertarian before his time, and a decent, though misguided person who came too late to realize the errors of many of his ways.   By an honest assessment, neither would be acceptable to current Repugnicants.  Even Mr Conservative would not be regressive enough.

The tea party is a different story.  They are immune to facts and logic, and unreachable by rational discourse.  They are the political heirs of - if not strictly identical to - the moral majority and the authoritarian followers who thought that George W. Bush was a good president.

I wish Lessig were right, but this time he is on the wrong side of history, which will now be ruled by right-wing populism, to the detriment of us all.

Good Debt, Bad Debt

Reminding us that all debt is not created equal, Krugman offers:

Whenever the issue of fiscal stimulus comes up, you can count on someone chiming in to say, “Only a moron could believe that the answer to a problem created by too much debt is to create even more debt.” It sounds plausible — but it misses the key point: there’s a fallacy of composition here. When everyone tries to pay off debt at the same time, the result is contraction and deflation, which ends up making the debt problem worse even if nominal debt falls. On the other hand, a strong fiscal stimulus, by expanding the economy and creating moderate inflation, can actually help resolve debt problems.

Delong adds:

There is nothing wrong with what Paul says. But I think it is incomplete, and that there is a better way of getting to the right conclusion.

The problem was created by too much risky debt and not enough safe debt. The result is that right now there is an excess demand for safe assets--like U.S. government securities. 

. . .

If our big problem were too much debt we would not be here, in depression. Too much debt generates inflation. The things that generate depression are shortages of financial assets, and excess demand for some class of financial assets then produces  .  .  .

Both posts are worth reading.  And what all of this casts into bold relief is the grotesque fiscal irresponsibility of the previous president, and the difficulty of cleaning up after his messes - further complicated by the fact that there are so many of them, in so many places.  Also, the gutting of regulations since Reagan has allowed capitalism to morph into the robber-baronism and economic disparity that ultimately brought on the other Great Depression.  Which is more or less why capitalism fails.

Alas, Obama lacks whatever it takes to get the country back on the right footing in the face of idiotic Repugnicant obstructionism.   And the public seems to be in the grip of right-wing populism - possibly the single most destructive political force known to man.

We are so screwed.

Conservative Pesimism

I've been pondering a post or two on the nature of conservatism, but haven't had time to gather my thoughts and compose the post I would like to write.  Over at Modeled Behavior, Karl wrote an interesting Pessimist Manifesto, that inspired me to respond.  Here it is, with editorial corrections.

You raise some interesting points, and it would take a counter-manifesto that I don’t have time to think through, let alone write, to give it the response it deserves.

In lieu of that, a couple thoughts.

"Bad things happen because badness is the natural state of the world."

Two differences between progressives and regressives are that (generally speaking) progressives are optimists, and reality based, while regressives are pessimisic and bound either by ideology or some other reality-denying mindset.

You, as an intellectual progressive, but emotional regressive, don’t fit either camp. So, when you speak of conservatives who should share your world view, you’ll find yourself the odd man out.

Conservatism is based on ignorance, prejudice (don’t take my word for it, this is directly from Russel Kirk), negation of reality (WMD, New Deal denialism, etc) and false characterizations (which might just be a subset of reality negation) – most economic models, frex.

A Progressive, like Keynes, when confronted with new data, changes his opinion. A Regressive, when confronted with new data, changes the data. Hence the current regressive attempts at history re-writing, re: the W presidency.

There is not a person in a thousand who arrives at political views via rational thought, vs the emotional comfort zone. I sincerely believe that those who do are former conservatives who overcame ignorance to embrace reality.

Which, I guess, is a bit of a manifesto after all.

Cheers! (And welcome to the real world)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What The Hell?!? Friday - Poorly Thought Out Signage Edition

Seen on a gas pump in Toledo.

Every time I've tried to postpay in advance or prepay in arrears, it just hasn't worked out very well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Haiku Wednesday - Secrets


Do you know what I
Know?  No!  No one knows.  But now -
Promise not to tell . . .

Nobody knows this,
Not my closest confident;
Shall I tell you? . . . Hmmmm.

Join the fun!


Or so I have been told.

This might be my only googlebomb participation ever.

But then again, one can't really be too sure about such things.

Anyway, John is over-reacting at least a little bit.

Many, many other companies are at least as bad, though not necessarily in the same way.