Thursday, January 31, 2008

U.S. Recession Not For Sure

Lets not jump the gun here people. The economic outlook for the United States doesn't look that great right now (at least for the short term). They are, so far, not in a recession and may not go into one. Intrade puts the odds at about 65% while the Joint Economic Conference paper puts the odds at 35.5%

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Have Arrived!

My profile email got spammed for the first time today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From My Screen To Yours

...and everything in between. Wired magazine's graphic showing the life cycle of a blog. I'm not sure all of my posts go through all these steps, but I like to think that they do.

Reason why nationalism is ridiculous #684

Losing 12 billion dollars is not a good thing. Yet my finance professor yesterday passed out a newspaper article about the rouge trader who recently lost about 12 billion dollars for his employer. He then went on to say that this was good news because up until then the worst rouge trader in history had been a Canadian. Not only is it weird he thinks losing $12 billion is a good thing. Why is it that he thinks this person from Calgary has any more to do with him then the fellow from France?

What's wrong with being a best seller?

There seems to be a stigma among book people that best selling writers are "trashy," or "not serious writers". For some reason this trend isn't observed in music. Music geeks are always complaining about how bad "pop" music is, but if you want to be considered great, you have to be popular. In literature, being popular is almost a liability if you want to be remembered as great.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Have To Admit....

....I'm a Parrot Head

--It's impossible to listen to a Jimmy Buffett song and be in a worse mood than you were when it started.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs...

... is a mantra repeated by politicians all over the world, but it doesn't mean much. Why? because it doesn't matter how much of your population is employed as it matters how much those jobs are worth. Yes, the level of employment does go up in a boom time, and down again in a bust time. However, there are plenty of countries with very low living standards that have levels of employment similar to Canada. The difference? Their jobs pay one or two dollars an hour. Next time you read a "job report" in the paper, dig a bit deeper and see what kind of jobs are being created.

Relatively Evil

I've noticed that a lot of folks around the University of Victoria get really offended by people who call Fidel Castro evil. These people seem to have their own set of strange views of what they consider evil. Personally, I'm not sure if Castro is evil or not, but here's a list of things that are less evil than Fidel Castro:
  • Starbucks
  • Milton Friedman
  • The United States
  • Fossil Fuels
  • The Canadian Forces
  • Wal-Mart
  • Fox News
  • Steven Harper
  • Microsoft
  • Exxon
  • World Bank
  • McDonald's
  • The Field of Economics
  • ...And many many more...
-Get the point?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bad Stimulus Plan...Very Bad

Nothing that Ive read about the new American stimulus plan makes me at all optimistic. Libertarian economists point out that we haven't reached the point where fiscal stimulus is necessary, while more liberal economists point out that not enough of the money will be put into the hands of people likely to spend it. Despite this, the benefits to Canada will most defiantly be positive, though small, simply due to the fact that it's being paid for by the American taxpayer.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some Good News!

The economics blogs have been full of bad news the last week or so. So I think I'll lighten the mood a bit with this piece from wired:

A biofuel startup in Illinois can make ethanol from just about anything organic for less than $1 per gallon, and it wouldn't interfere with food supplies, company officials said.

Coskata, which is backed by General Motors and other investors, uses bacteria to convert almost any organic material, from corn husks (but not the corn itself) to municipal trash, into ethanol.

"It's not five years away, it's not 10 years away. It's affordable, and it's now," said Wes Bolsen, the company's vice president of business development.

Get the full version here

--You hear a lot of wishful thinking about alternative energy, but the folks at wired seem to know their stuff. The solution to global warming will most likely come from the private sector, but that doesn't mean that there is nothing the government can do. A carbon tax would increase the innovation in alternative fuels as well as making them more feasible.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It is Production That Leads to Wealth

A student in one of classes asked a question to the extent of, "but if companies are spending money on lawyers to lobby the government, aren't they still putting money into the economy?" Yes they are putting money into the economy, but they aren't producing anything. It is production that causes wealth because somebody gets to consume that production (like you are "consuming" this blog). Paying a lawyer to lobby the government is a waste of a lawyer (yes, they do occasionally do useful things). This creates a drag on the economy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Helicopter Effect

Ben Bernanke has routinely compared a increase in the money supply to a helicopter effect. Meaning it increases the money in everyones pocket, like a helicopter dropping money (get it?). So I would imagine that today's historic rate cut of .75% would look something like this:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nevada is not in the south

I was watching the CTV evening news on Saturday. The anchor said that caucuses were held in two southern states. Those two southern states being South Carolina and Nevada. Nevada is not in the south. It is in the west. They didn't even look at the map. This is Canadian national television. Anybody else embarrassed?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Free Economics Courses!

Are you looking to improve your knowledge of economics by looking at websites? If you read my blog, you probably are. So check out MIT's free online courses. You too can experience the joy of being a university student, without any of the credits (or debt).

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

There is no ideology of ignorance, just ignorant people who are ideological. I won't do into what ideologies can claim the most ignorant people, it's objective, and varies by geography. This is why I believe it's important to think for yourself, and not choose your believes because you like the company it keeps.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A glimpse of the future?

I just got out of class and people sitting both sides of me were playing with their IPhones under the desk

Thursday, January 17, 2008


The top chart is the odds of a U.S. recession on Intrade. The bottom is what the DOW has been doing the last couple months....*Gulp*....and does anybody know how to turn off the underline? I turned it on some how and can't get it off.

Why I Read the Economist

It's not because it's coverage is written at a higher level than other news magazines, it's not because they offer non-nationalistic coverage of global issues, it's not even because of the the glossy pages. It's because they have cover art like this!

...they are carrying sovereign wealth funds....FYI

We Don't Need Public Ferries

Why? because a private system would give the public more options at a lower cost. The argument that fixed costs are so huge only one company can operate doesn't hold up. There are two different companies that offer ferry service from Port Angeles to Victoria. Japan has over twenty different ferry companies and their market is pretty competitive. The only time public ferries may be useful is for services to small islands with little demand. Not much of BC ferries business meets this definition. Despite this, I don't see how many reforms for BC ferries (or anyone else) on the horizon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Post a video...

....and people will watch it

...they'll learn something along the way. Here's Paul Krugman's recent column if you are interested.

World's laziest press corps

Here's the globe and mail's article on BC's new transit plan. Here is the government news release. Look closely and you'll notice something...THEY'RE EXACTLY THE SAME. No criticisms, no analysis, not even "the man on the street" is heard from. They just write down what the government tells them to. Maybe Bush should endorse the plan, maybe then they would print a criticism.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I doubt IQ tests

I have no training in psychology, lets make that clear. Despite this, I find it really hard to believe something as complex as a human mind can be measured in a couple hours of answering questions. I think it would be near impossible to figure out, even if you had an unlimited about of time. Sure somebody who scores 130 is probably a lot brighter than somebody who scores 70, but there is a lot more going on .

P.S. I have never taken a IQ test, in case you were wondering if I was trying to reconcile a low score.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

De-Regulate the auto-industry

'Cause I want one of these. My friend drives a '61 volvo that gets about 15 MPG, has zero safety features, and tops out at 100km/hr. It is legal to sale in North America. The Nano (pictured), gets 50 MPG, has safety features, and tops out at 100km/hr. It is not legal for sale in North America. I do not understand the logic.

Would the Conservatives Please?

...End content regulations for Canadian radio. I'm tired of listening to Avril Lavigne and Nickelback. I don't like Avril Lavigne and Nickelback. The stations in Washington State don't come in.

Why University Is Like The Soviet Union

  • You make no money

  • You work very hard

  • The work you do is of very little importance

  • You wait in lineups to get your food

  • People consume cheap vodka in excess

  • Your life is consumed by bureaucratic procedures

  • You dream of getting out and living in freedom

  • You hope your work will one day change the world, but it won't

  • Some of your friends are communists

  • You see security officials everywhere

Saturday, January 12, 2008

We Need a Tax on Bandwidth

Why? because people downloading TV shows are slowing down the entire Internet, that's why. It doesn't need to be big, just large enough to cut the lowest hanging fruit. The revenue should go towards building a faster Internet. I doubt this will happen, the only country willing to take on a project like this is the US, and their politicians don't seem to be crazy about taxes.

Stop The Madness

A month ago all the search results for the Canadian economy lead to pages saying how good things were going. Now when I do the search, I get a bunch of people saying that we're heading for a recession. I wish people would just admit that they can't predict anything and save us (me) the trouble.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Things you learn while blogging

1. It's harder than it seems.

2. New traffic isn't automatic.

3. People like pictures, post a picture and people will read what you say. I don't know how that works

4. Ads make you a lot of money if you have a lot of traffic, and not much if you don't have a lot of traffic.

5. I lose subscribers/traffic when I'm visiting my girlfriend for the weekend.

6. There are days when nothing interesting happens.

7. It is rewarding knowing that people are enjoying your work

8. I often wonder why the hell I'm doing this

9. So far #7 has outweighed #8

10. If you post a video, people will watch it

11. I find myself inserting the word "that" when it's no way necessary

12. Blogging is a excellent way to procrastinate be continued

Our Schools Have Problems...Big Problems

Most people think it's a good think it's a good thing to get rid of things that don't work and keep that things that do. Yet our school system has a hard time picking up on that fact. Why should they? The public educational environment provides no reward to free thinking and innovation. Take this article from the NYTimes:

Of course, it is my responsibility as a teacher to engage the students in these classics so they can understand, analyze and appreciate the writings of our greatest thinkers. But I cannot. I have tried strategy after strategy, sought advice upon advice, and still, I am unable to spark sustainable interest in the vast majority of my students. Few students do the readings and even fewer seriously consider the ideas or themes presented in these writings. The class discussions are disgracefully unanimated and the student essays are dull, tedious and impersonal. For most students in my class, the months dedicated to the canons of Western literature are a dreadful waste of time. And yes, I know, this failure is mostly my fault.

This absolute uninterest in the classics is in direct contrast to the students’ reactions to books they are better able to relate to and understand. When my literature class reads great books like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, “A Long Way Gone”, “Our America”, “Random Family”, “Push”, “The Outsiders”, “Smoke Signals”, “The Color Purple”, “Mama”, “There Are No Children Here”, etc. the students are actually vying for the privilege to read in class. The class discussions are dynamic and cover tremendous ground. (There is nothing as satisfying as when a class discussion becomes so intellectually and emotionally charged that a security guard enters to make sure everything is okay.) The students’ writings are more thoughtful, perhaps revelatory. Miraculously, some students even do their homework. A lot of the students are fully engaged, and learning actually occurs as we analyze the ideas, themes, and literary techniques presented in the aforementioned books.

Get the full version here

--This type of thinking is what people like to call "a good idea." Yet somehow I doubt the people running our school will pick up on it.

Canadians "spooked" about the economy and I wonder why

I've pointed out before that it's quite odd Steven Harper is lowering expectations for the Canadian economy. Politicians are the head cheerleader for their country. Now I read in the CEP news that Canadians are "spooked" about the economy, despite fairly good growth rates:

14:33 01/09 (CEP News) Ottawa – Canadians’ outlook for the economy in the coming year is at the most pessimistic level in 24 years according to a survey conducted by POLLARA Inc. on behalf of the Economic Club of Toronto (ECOT).

The survey of more than 4,500 Canadians showed half of them expect their household income to fall behind the cost of living in 2008, reflecting an 18-point increase in that sentiment compared to 2006.

“Canadians are spooked and they want some evidence that there are plans afoot to improve things,” said POLLARA Chairman Michael Marzolini, who presented the results of the annual poll at ECOT’s annual Economic Outlook Conference.

Get the full version here
This could be partly due to the regional growth rates. Some places in Canada are doing much better than others. This isn't particularly unusual, however, and I can't think of anywhere where the economy is incredibly horrid.

The High Loonie Hurts All Exports

For some reason a lot of people think that the high Loonie hurts the tourism sector. This is true, but it also hurts every producer in Canada that sells things outside of the country. It also creates an incentive to buy things from abroad instead of domestically. I don't know why people (and the media) only focus on tourism, is there something in out society that makes us feel more, or less, sorry for a tourism worker who gets laid off?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wealth Begets Wealth

I make money from the ads on my blog.

People advertising on my site make money from extra traffic

People who click on the ads find a new (potentially) interesting site

Google makes money when people click on the ads

Poor Media Coverage Is Our Fault

The fact that a video of Hillary Clinton crying may have won her the New Hampshire primary is frightening. Defiantly not the best way to pick the next leader of the free world. People like Paul Krugman like to complain on how the media focuses on personal issues instead of actual content when covering political campaigns. He's right that we would be better off is people considered policy and not personality when choosing who to vote for. But the fact that the video of Hillary crying and others like it instantly rise to the top list on youtube show that this is the type of coverage that people enjoy watching. It may not be the media's fault.

P.S. I don't find the Canadian media or political process any better.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Not Surprising, and Not Good

Winning over the Alberta's voters will be a major hurdle in creating a carbon tax. Their opposition is defiantly understandable, but Canada can't make any ground in cutting carbon emissions without dealing with the oil sands. Alberta has had their share of growth lately, they can stand to have some restrictions placed on them. Take this article from the

Alberta's government says it will oppose any federal efforts to bring in a carbon tax after an advisory panel commissioned by Ottawa released its report Monday.

The panel was struck to study ways Canada can make a 60 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Large companies in Alberta that fail to cut their emissions intensity by March 31 will pay $15 a tonne on excess carbon output, which goes into a technology fund.Large companies in Alberta that fail to cut their emissions intensity by March 31 will pay $15 a tonne on excess carbon output, which goes into a technology fund.

The National Round Table on Environment and the Economy recommended placing a price on carbon dioxide emissions and developing a carbon tax or trading system to target emitters.

"There are some very valid observations in this report," said Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner about placing a dollar value on a tonne of carbon dioxide, but he disagreed with the idea of a carbon tax.

"From Alberta's perspective, we have been and continue to be opposed to any kind of implementation of an across-the-board tax."

Alberta already puts a price of $15 a tonne on carbon emissions beyond a set target.

In July, the province ordered companies that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas annually, such as oilsands producers and coal-burning plants, to cut their emission intensity by 12 per cent.

That means the plants will have to produce 12 per cent less emissions for each unit of output. The reduction is measured against the average intensity reported by companies in 2003 to 2005.

They have until March 31 to either cut emissions, pay $15 a tonne into a technology fund that invests in projects to reduce emissions, or buy an offset in Alberta to apply against their emissions total.

Renner said he'd prefer to see Ottawa follow that type of plan, rather than carbon taxes where money would be collected for general revenues.

"What we have implemented here in Alberta and we see as being consistent with what the federal government has been proposing is putting in a planned process that will establish a price for carbon and … over a reasonable period of time reduce the carbon emissions for large industrial emitters and eventually see us with real reductions in CO2."

Industry says carbon tax should be invested in technology

The energy sector agrees with Renner's position.

"We''ll pay for our share of our emissions, but we're not going to pay for other sectors or other parts of the country's emissions," said Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Wishart Robson, Nexen's climate change adviser, says the money from any carbon tax should only be used to help cut emissions: "To invest in technology, to invest in better transit systems, to make the other kinds of structural changes that are necessary to deal with a lower-carbon future."

But a carbon tax appears to have little support in Ottawa. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion have rejected the idea in the past, saying it will damage the economy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Why There're More Lights Where!

I've had this photo set as my computer desktop for a couple weeks now. Today I found a pattern that I'd never seen before, and it's truly amazing. Even from outer space you can see the differences between market centrally planned economies.

Look at North America, see how the lights form a random pattern? There is no logical form, it looks organic, like something out of nature. If this were the beginning of the 19th century, no one person would be able to predict how the west would look like!

Now look at Europe and Asia. Europe looks like North America, but once you hit the iron certain the lights take on a different pattern. You can see the hand of the Soviet engineers. Cities follow a predictable pattern. There are logical hubs and linear transportation networks. It it much more linear and less networked. It would seem this sort of planning would lead to increased efficiency, but it didn't. Before today, whenever I looked at this picture, I focused on which places had the most lights. I never realized you can see WHY these places have the most light!

Increased Risk Of Recession In The U.S.

The odds a recession for the U.S. on Intrade has risen as of late. Currently it's around 57% (the chart doesn't include trading today). Looks like the housing problems could have big ramifications after all. This, of course, will be bad for Canada. Though commodity prices aren't as dependent of the U.S. as they once were. The Canadian community could quite possibly weather bad economic conditions in the United States.

Good and Bad News On Literacy

StatsCan reports that literacy levels are lower for First Nations and Metis living in urban Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This doesn't mean the education system isn't working for minorities. Once you control for education, the racial differences go away. This means the education system is working (at least for equality), but we need to be more careful to make sure that every child get access.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"This is the Dorkiest Thing Of All Time"

That is what my friend said when I pointed out all the gains Obama has made on Intrade. The polls put him even with Hillary in New Hampshire with the wind at his back. That being said, I think that New Hampshire is going to be a decisive blow. If Obama can pull off the Iowa-New Hampshire sweep it will be hard to stop his momentum. While if Hillary wins, her current lead in the polls will carry her to the nomination. So don't touch that dial.
P.S. I'll go back to writing about Canada tomorrow.

Improving The Political Process

For those of you who missed Saturday's Democratic debate in New Hampshire the candidates were standing behind cute little podiums like those found in game shows. This gives me ideas. Maybe, instead of doing debate after debate where the candidates deliver the exact same talking points, the candidates could meet in a special showing of Celebrity Jeopardy. Stay with me. There could be categories like, U.S. History, The constitution, Economics, Flag Pins....The possibilities are endless!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Media Bias

I don't claim to be morally instep with the folks at proud to be Canadian (a blog), but their recent posting show a legitimate criticism of the Canadian media. I do not agree (at all) with his assertion that the Canadian media is less bias. The American media is just as biased, but bias in other ways. The difference in media coverage accounts for a lot our political differences with Americans. Reporters outside of the United States demographically tend to be more anti-american. The American press hesitates to say anything too damning of either side, even if they deserve it.

As I’ve often said, Canada’s liberal media is now so culturally liberal-left—right down to their core—that they don’t even know how liberal they are anymore. In some cases they don’t even realize what they’re doing in betraying their liberal-left bias and favoritism —it’s just instinctive to them; in other cases they know full well, and blithely drive their leftist agenda as if we’re all stupid.

After the Iowa Caucuses, in which both the Republicans and Democrats chose their favorites, Canada’s liberal media almost uniformly chose to feature a flattering photo of Barack Hussein Obama (they never use his middle name) in what they’d have you believe is their fair and balanced coverage.

Here’s Obama in the Regina Star Phoenix; and online at
image image’s online poll even featured an exciting Obama theme:

Here he is at the state-run Shocka. :

Here he is in the Vancouver Sun and the Windsor Star:
image image

Here he is on the cover at the liberals’ Globe and Mail
in one of those warm family shots; and on La Press’s cover:
image image

Le Soleil and the liberal-leftists’ Toronto Star
practically had to rename their papers L’Obama and Barrack Star
image image

There were also those which managed to squeak a picture of Mike Huckabee on the cover, but only with one of Obama too—or better yet (for them), Obama, Hillary and Edwards—all Democrats of course.

The Montreal Gazette took at shot at fair and balanced in a teaser box;
while the Ottawa Citizen also managed a two-fer:
image image

While the Globe and Mail featured only Obama on their print edition,
online they managed to squeeze Huckabee into the picture.

The London Free Press featured Obama, third-place finisher
Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards—all Democrats

Not to be outdone, the liberal-lefts’ state-owned CBC Newsworld has covered the Obama win to death so far this morning.

image • 8:45 PT (or so): Early this morning, they featured a university professor. The Canadian media is utterly obsessed with university professors, and I’m almost sure it’s because they are reliably left-wing or even outright Marxists, and can thus be counted on to present the right spin according to the liberal media, for those of you who are uninformed or perhaps naive (which is how the media seems to view all their viewers) and therefore impressed by university professors. The interview went something like this: Bush is obviously enormously disliked or even detested, especially by Canadians as if that makes any difference, and therefore the name of the game is beating him. Apparently it’s unclear to them that he isn’t running. Nonetheless, the Republicans have created a “sluggish” economy (notwithstanding the most amazing, booming economy that they have enjoyed —since soon after 9/11 no less). And things aren’t going well in America, at all!

Here’s a tiny bit of another “hard-hitting” Nancy Wilson follow-up question (my highlighting, obviously):

Nancy Wilson: That’s interesting because certainly I suppose to some extent, Republicans are mindful if not downright haunted by George Bush —certainly Canadians keep hearing about how unpopular the Bush administration continues to be —that must be the kiss of death going into the election campaign, so how daunting is it for ANY Republican candidate to win the White House at this stage?

Professor: Well, uh, some candidates do believe in miracles!....

[Wilson laughs]

image • 9:12 AM PT (approximately) —Then they featured a black man named Roland, who was asked about.... Obama! (Exclusively). He is the author of a book called “Speak Brother—a Black Man’s View of America”. He was clearly a strong Obama supporter. The state-run CBC’s producers could not have had a clue about this predilection for Obama.

image • 9:35 PT (approx) -- A little later, they featured a black woman who is a spokesman for the National Council of Negro Women and was so clearly an Obama supporter that she practically spit with excitement as she spoke, so excited was she over Obama’s win. This time the “very interesting” angle was—how might Oprah’s support for Obama be helping Obama? So you can imagine how that interview went. Anchor Nancy ("very interesting!") Wilson asked questions clearly designed to lead her to say supportive things about Obama, and then largely sat there and let her guest drone on and on… followed by still more fluffball, leading questions… for endless minutes. At one point, the guest seemingly mocked Mike Huckabee for getting the support of Hollywooder Chuck Norris, while Obama has the apparently God-like (to her) Oprah support. Nancy Wilson concluded with: “very very interesting!”—adding that extra “very” as she often does.

• 10:02 (approx)—The CBC’s man in Washington, Henry Champ, gave a reasonable balanced view, but I still think it was tilted toward Obama and other Democrats. They featured speeches by Obama, Clinton, and Edwards—all Democrats. He later spoke about Republican winner Mike Huckabee and showed a clip, but once again, mostly spoke in terms of how he’s a Republican and how he ipso facto has a difficult job ahead of him.

image • 10:20 (approx)—Another interview featuring a fair and balanced expert. His name? Jeffrey Feldman. HE WRITES FOR “THE DAILY KOS”—one of the most rabidly left-wing blogs in America. The Daily Kos is very, very well known—celebrated among liberals—and to anyone who is even remotely paying attention —as a rabidly anti-Bush, anti-conservative, anti-everything-conservatives-stand-for blog. I mean rabidly so. If the CBC producers missed the obvious about the Daily Kos being left-wing, they also missed Feldman’s declaration of bias from just yesterday, there at the Daily Kos: “Whoever prevails in the caucuses (I have my ideas), one thing is certain: I am proud of our side [his bolding]. The Democratic Party...”. Was he introduced that way on CBC Newsworld for our benefit? No! Of course not. He was introduced like this, by the anchor, Andrew Nichols: “ political prognosticator… a professor at New York University—he’s also an author and a political blogger.” That was it. No particular label.

The anchor, Andrew Nichols, holds a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa.

This particular interview has since been repeated in the exceedingly boring rotation at CBC Newsworld. So far, no conservative bloggers have been interviewed as far as I know, but I’m quite sure we’ll be very well informed as to their “conservative”, “Christian-right”, “right-wing”, “religious-right”, or “nutbar” status or bias, if they do (but they won’t). So as usual, for a little bit of sanity and balance, and a bit of a waker-upper, I’m heading over to the superb Fox News Channel —the best channel in Canada.

--He makes a good point, but the words "superb" and "Fox News" should never be used in the same sentence. Here's a picture from the fox news website, in the middle of America's very important primary season:

I think I've said enough.