Archive for August, 2009

Carry On Up The Khyber Any Decade Now

Monday, August 31st, 2009

At the moment, it’s not working.

Not clear if the General means the work, no idea what the work is.

Not clear if the General means the strategy, no idea what the strategy is.

Not clear what the General means by success, no idea what success is.

Not clear when, how, or what victory will come to pass, no idea what victory is.

Gorilla tries to help out: “It’s all about updating Movingforwardville: we clear the village, we rebuild the village, we become the village. The Afghans will be but a distant memory, just like the Soviet Union!”


Aspirin: A Bleeding Good Study

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Yet again, the claims of the pharmaceutical industry in the service of marketing more pills have come up short.

This time, it’s aspirin.

Seems there’s no benefit for otherwise healthy people to take aspirin as a preventive measure against stroke or heart attack. But there is a doubling of the risk of haemmorage.

Gorilla isn’t troubled: “Other than alcohol, and of course the studies aren’t very comforting on that one, there’s very little good in self-medication, but advertising still works great on the bottom line!”


The Profit Illusion

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Wow, American taxpayers have made a profit on bailing out the banks!

Except the $4 billion profit doesn’t count the hundreds of billions in taxpayer guarantees of the toxic loans held by zombie banks like Bank of America and Citibank, to say nothing of the largesse bestowed on AIG, GM, and Chrysler or the Fed becoming an SIV for the US Treasury to the tune of several trillion.

Alas, the shoe hasn’t begun to drop on these “investments”, but of course that’s Goingbackwardville.

Gorilla thinks: “There’s no accounting for accounting, so it’s better to keep the spoons hidden!”


Democracy Comes To Japan

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Only took 55 years!

It will be very interesting to see how successfully the new Japanese government copes with the entrenched special interests that have run the country into the ground, particularly in the last 20 years.

Gorilla says: “Hope they have more luck with Movingforwardville than we have!”


TGIF And Predictions

Friday, August 28th, 2009

These were the events that mattered this week:

*Ted Kennedy died. A great American and a great Senator. Gorilla thinks his kind of liberalism seems as dead as can be in the world of Movingforwardville.

*Lots more talking about Middle East Peace. Gorilla thinks the odds of a serious peace process are about as remote and as good as they’ve been in the past 60 years.

*No real seriousness about health care reform. The crazies still rule the roost and the President doesn’t want to take on vested interests. Gorilla says we’ll get very little more than window dressing passed this year.

*Afghanistan continues to spiral downwards. There’s plenty of recognition that our policy isn’t working, but very little realism about what we can do to make things work. Gorilla believes we’ll be surging to withdrawl within 18 months.

*Goingbackwardville keeps getting in the President’s way. CIA torture, ever larger banks gaining ever freer passes to moral hazard, and rewarding the failures of Ben Bernanke et. al. with another term: Gorilla wonders when if ever we’ll decide that stupidity isn’t the first and only policy option.

*The dollar carry trade is the next bubble in international finance. We’ve become the new Japan, with the same old insolvent banks. Gorilla guesses this means we are the old Japan, with the same old insolvent banks.


We Should Be So Lucky

Friday, August 28th, 2009

A postwar record high for Japanese unemployment: 5.9%!!!

Gorilla thinks: “Is it the sushi? The protectionism? The savings rate? The wasabi? We need to sell them more of our houses and get this country moving again!”


Pulling The Plug On Ted Kennedy

Friday, August 28th, 2009

As the New York Times points out, the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s medical treatments in the last year of his life cost anywhere from $100-500,000.

The brain cancer for which he was treated has no known cure, and in the past 40 years life expectancy has gone from 4-6 months to 15-18 months.

Of course Senator Kennedy had insurance and sufficient private resources to pursue any kind of treatment anywhere in the world.

But the issue illustrated here is the vast amount of resources (estimated at 70% of all medical spending) that are spent on the last year of life, with no great change in the outcome. These costs are born by everyone in the form of higher insurance premiums, and in the case of the poor no insurance at all (both the rich and poor help to make our costs the highest by far in the world).

It’s exactly this sort of discussion that is missing from the health care debate. That’s what rationing is all about. We have to decide what treatments are worth covering and at what cost, because we as a society cannot afford unlimited care for every disease.

Currently, the insurance companies and the size of one’s wallet do the rationing, in future it is hoped that a more competitive system will bring the administrative costs of private insurance down and provide a basic standard of care for all. Those with the resources will of course be able to pursue more expensive treatments.

I think Ted Kennedy was prepared to make these hard choices in order to achieve the cause of his lifetime. But many of us don’t seem ready to have a serious debate leading to pragmatic decisions on providing coverage and accepting the inevitability of death. Until we do, health care reform is little more than a slogan.

Gorilla says: “We won’t be able to plug in lower costs until we unplug our fear and electrify our rationality!”


An Exploding 3-5 Idiot

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Richard Holbrooke again, in Kabul and worried about election fraud undertaken by President Karzai and his supporters (and of course, some others who have no chance of winning).

“Explosive” talks were held, with many denials and much shouting all round. The Idiot may have walked out, but like everything else over there that’s in denial!

Does it really matter who wins this election? Without the NATO troops, Karzai’s or anyone else’s government wouldn’t last 5 minutes.

The Afghan and related warlord armies have been fighting for more than 30 years, first against the Russkies, lately against the Taliban, yet we can’t get ’em trained to take over militarily for at least another 3-5, despite saying we could only 3-5 ago.

Gorilla concludes: “Whatever the point was in Afghanistan, we’ve sharpened it down to the quick, and a quick getaway is what we’ll get!”


The Smarter Money

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Surprise, surprise, the higher your family’s income, the better are your test scores on the SAT!!!

Of course, this is not exactly news. The vast majority of money spent on education is provided locally, meaning that those towns, cities, and counties with the wealthiest inhabitants get a better education for their buck. More money means better test preparation, zero worries about unemployed parents, fewer broken homes, less malnutrition, more job opportunities in the community, etc. etc. etc.

Ah, but if we only had vouchers, say the rich and their Republican benefactors, we can give poor kids the same money and let ’em choose the school of their choice!

After all, you’ve got to be certain of your darling’s future in places like Northwest Washington DC and Manhattan, so you throw a selected few poor kids some crumbs and hey presto, success that can be repeated everywhere!!!

Except there’s no clear or convincing evidence that voucher systems result in better educational outcomes, whether in private or public schools.

Gorilla thinks: “Still, it’s another magnificent ideological solution from Mr. Market’s acolytes: if everyone had an equal chance to go to a great private school, we’d have exactly the same lousy educational system, only it would cost the taxpayer even more!!!”


Too Big To Tax Smaller

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The chief British financial regulator, Lord Turner, thinks it would be a good idea to tax bank profits more so as to reduce the size of the financial services sector.

Would that such words were ever uttered in Washington, DC by any or all of our vast army of regulators!

But that’s a song from Goingbackwardville, not a consituency with much clout these days.

In Movingforwardville we must retain, but not rein in, the comparative advantage of banks losing trillions on behalf of the US taxpayer. High paying jobs are at stake!!!

So, any chance of Tobin taxes on Wall Street?

Gorilla answers: “So long as the same regulators and their political overseers remain in charge of what Lord Turner called the efficient market train wreck, um, no”.