Wrong like it’s their job to be wrong!


Things have not been going well of late for the ideologues who also wax economic regarding inflation, interest rates, austerity, etc. They’ve been wrong at every turn. Luskin, Ferguson, Bowyer, Laffer, Kudlow, the WSJ editorialists, and so on…

…I continue to be amazed that folks who can be so devastatingly wrong, for so long, on such a broad array of topics, can continue to hold sway…Interestingly, these same folks were stunningly wrong about a decade ago about when they banged the drum for war against Iraq. Overthrowing Saddam, of course, was a high priority for the neocons, and they needed to drum up broad support to get folks on board. What better lever to pull than to claim that oil prices would drop through the floor once Saddam was out of the picture and Iraqi oil flowed freely?

Here was the conservative line on what would happen to oil prices after we ousted Saddam…

Rand Corp (by recollection): Under a free market [ed. note: The author’s article was all about our liberation of Iraq], oil prices would probably fall to between $8 and $12 per barrel over the next 10 years — down dramatically from today’s price of about $25 per barrel…

Fortune: No one knows for sure which way things will go. But if you have to make a bet, the most likely scenario is that a year from now, with a new regime in Baghdad and long-dormant Iraqi wells finally pumping out crude, oil prices will be back in the mid-20s.

Heritage Foundation: An unencumbered flow of Iraqi oil would be likely to provide a more constant supply of oil to the global market, which would dampen price fluctuations, ensuring stable oil prices in the world market in a price range lower than the current $25 to $30 a barrel.

National Review: “…markets clearly expect lower prices. On the eve of hostilities, oil was selling for about $37 per barrel…But once it became clear that Iraq’s liberation was at hand, the price quickly dropped to about $28 per barrel, cutting our annual oil bill by $70 billion. With full Iraqi production, the price might drop to $20 per barrel or less, giving us the equivalent of an annual tax cut of about $120 billion per year…”

WSJ: Of course, the largest benefit–a more stable Mideast–is huge but unquantifiable. A second plus, lower oil prices, is somewhat more measurable…Postwar, with Iraqi production back in the pipeline and calmer markets, oil prices will fall even further. If they drop to an average in the low $20s, the U.S. economy will get a boost of $55 billion to $60 billion a year.

One more time, rightwing ideologues sent our troops halfway around the world to “bring freedom” – and deliver the profits from Iraq’s oil into the coffers of Wall Street.

They are wrong time after time. Not always as dramatically as in Bush’s invasion of Iraq. No matter. The professional liars in Congress will beat the war drums on command from the generals of finance every time they are called upon. Time for voters to shut them up.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Why is violent crime so rare in Iceland?

The state-owned Harpa concert hall and conference center

…Before my first visit to Reykjavik in August 2012, my law school thesis was settled – a study of cyber warfare and the Geneva conventions.

But a week in Iceland changed my perspective. I was pleasantly flummoxed by what I saw.

Violent crime was virtually non-existent. People seemed relaxed about their safety and that of their children to the point where parents left their babies outside and unattended.

I’d spent time in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, but those countries now appeared plagued with crime by comparison.

Once I got back to America, I changed my thesis topic…I wanted to know what Iceland was doing right…

According to the 2011 Global Study on Homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Iceland’s homicide rate between 1999-2009 never went above 1.8 per 100,000 population on any given year.

On the other hand, the US had homicide rates between 5.0 and 5.8 per 100,000 population during that same stretch…

First – and arguably foremost – there is virtually no difference among upper, middle and lower classes in Iceland. And with that, tension between economic classes is non-existent, a rare occurrence for any country…

On one of three visits to Althing, the Icelandic parliament, I met Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, former chairman of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Alliance. In his eyes – as well as those of many Icelanders I spoke with – equality was the biggest reason for the nation’s relative lack of crime.

“Here you can have the tycoon’s children go to school with everyone else,” Sigurdsson says, adding that the country’s social welfare and education systems promoted an egalitarian culture

Crimes in Iceland – when they occur – usually do not involve firearms, though Icelanders own plenty of guns…

The country ranks 15th in the world in terms of legal per capita gun ownership. However, acquiring a gun is not an easy process -steps to gun ownership include a medical examination and a written test…

RTFA for more details.

I love Iceland. Haven’t been there in years; but, the standards I always found in Icelandic politics I felt reflected the matriarchal side of the legal system. For centuries and generations, property rights descended through the women of any family. Governance always offered a higher priority for evenhanded and fair decisions than the contested immediate context in the rest of the West.

A quick survey of the breadth of Icelandic culture that’s reasonably accurate IMHO is over here.

Potatoes may help feed Ethiopia in era of climate change

Semagn-Asredie Kolech, left-center, with a group of Ethiopian farmers

With unpredictable annual rainfall and drought once every five years, climate change presents challenges to feeding Ethiopia. Adapting to a warming world, the potato is becoming a more important crop there – with the potential to feed much of Africa…

Ethiopia sits on the brink of thriving financial and gross domestic product forecasts, as its government formally merges green economics with climate-change resilient policies. But the country’s agricultural economy suffers from poor cultivation practices and frequent drought. However, new efforts – including Semagn-Asredie Kolech’s research – are beginning to fortify the country’s agricultural resilience, reducing the threat of starvation and bringing on the rising possibility of exporting potatoes to other African countries.

Annually, Ethiopian farmers plant potatoes in the spring and late summer. Yet, they still search for optimum planting dates and vie for vibrant drought-tolerant varieties if planted in the short-rain season, and sidestepping late blight, if planted in the longer rainy season.

At an Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future forum in March, Kolech presented preliminary research gathered last summer. He surveyed Ethiopian farmers in potato-growing regions to understand their varietal inventory and crop practices. Farmers tried new varieties, but they often reverted back to using their traditional cultivars…

Kolech said that he found that the usage drop-off is due mostly to poor storage quality. New varieties have good attributes, such as high yield and late blight resistance, but in northwestern Ethiopia where more than 40 percent of potatoes are grown, the potato color and taste changes in storage earlier than the local varieties…

In 1970 Ethiopian farmers planted less than 30,000 hectares of potatoes. Today, more than 160,000 hectares are planted. With a population of 93 million and a land size almost double that of Texas, Ethiopia can accommodate growing 3 million hectares of potatoes, Kolech says.

The environmental and economic prospects for Ethiopia are so intriguing, this June five Cornell faculty members…will travel with Kolech to Ethiopia to meet with potential government and nongovernmental collaborators. Their travel will be funded by Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and a collaborative CARE-Cornell Impact through Innovation Fund.

Bravo! The sort of activist education and research that helps define a leading university.

We the Geeks: a Constitution for nerds and geeks

…The White House is launching its #WeTheGeeks initiative, a series of online video chats meant to “highlight the future of science, technology and innovation in the United States.” The first one happened Thursday at 2 pm ET on the White House’s Google+ page and included four leading thinkers in science and technology. We at CNN.com began to wonder what would happen if there really was a part of the dusty old U.S. Constitution devoted to geeks. So we, who are geeks ourselves, drafted one. Below, you will find Article I of the Geek Constitution.



Section 1

All exponential powers herein applied to numbers shall not be imaginary, or be powers of three, unless it is deemed applicable.

Each House shall respect curiosity and the search for knowledge.

Members are encouraged to make scientific discoveries, if they so desire, but they may indulge any other topic of their choosing.

Such proclaimed Geeks shall be able to disarm the Keeg, to be heretofore known as the inverse Geek.

Horses may be ridden, unless it is declared that more pony is required. In that case, rainbow-colored ponies shall suffice.

Section 2

The House of Representatives shall be a weekly gathering, and leaders from each state shall be determined by rolling a d20.

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have memorized at least 50 digits of the mysterious number pi.

Section 3

The Senate will gather in a laboratory. Some members will be responsible for conducting experiments, while others will take measurements. White laboratory coats may be worn, but are optional.

No Person shall be a Senator until they can recite the periodic table of elements in their sleep.

Section 4

The time, place and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives can be calculated using complex equations. Such results shall be recorded in binary format.

The Congress shall assemble at least once per year, and shall eat as much pizza as they want.

The “Constitution” carries on from there. A lot!