Friday, August 06, 2004


Interesting quote via Sand in the Gears
"In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
Sounds about right to me.


Alex Tabarrok discovers that modern civilization isn't all bad.
I've been buying this organic bread recently. I'm not a big organic guy (could you guess?) but it's low-carb and yet doesn't taste like cardboard. Several times, however, the bread has gone moldy within a day or two. Yuck. So I took some back to the store all indignant about how I only just bought this bread and now its moldy. The clerk explained it to me - heh, it's organic - no preservatives, get it? Oh, that's what preservatives do. I will never question civilization again.



Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Steven Taylor has the goods on the latest battle in Iowa.


Not if the FBI has anything to do with it. Check out Daniel Drezner's disquieting but link-rich thoughts on the subject. A teaser:
Let's say you're running the organization responsible for trying to track potential terrorists in the United States. Immediately after 9/11, let's say that one of your new employees tells you that some of the people doing necessary translating work (from Middle Eastern languages into English) are incompetent, helping to explain why relevant information never made it to the necessary links in the chain of command. What do you do?

A) Give this person a medal and start cleaning house;

B) Fire the person, request a gag order to prevent her from speaking publicly about the case, and attempt to retroactively label anything said about the case as a state secret?

You can imagine which choice was made. Read the whole thing for details.


Make that I can't say that I knew you at all. I'm referring to the recently deceased French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. But as Ann Althouse notes, his work is worth a look. Better late than never?


Dean Esmay tries to make a distinction between the two in political satire/commentary.


have gone Bush's approval ratings since 9/11. See the details here. Absent another rallying point, the trend appears unmistakably toward electoral defeat in November.

Monday, August 02, 2004


Link to .pdf file is here. Some highlights:
China remains the ROK's number one trading partner:
In the first six months, China has been Korea’s number one trading partner, accounting for over 16 percent of two-way trade. The United States was Korea’s second largest trading partner, with total two-way trade amounting to $34.2 billion or 14.8 percent. Japan was third with $33.4 billion in total trade and 14.4 percent. Exports to China increased 57.2 percent year-on-year to $23.5 billion, making China Korea’s number one export market. The United States was second, with $20.4 billion worth of exports; and Japan was third with $10.6 billion. Most of Korea’s exports to China are in intermediate goods, and studies by Korea International Trade Association (KITA), the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), and others have shown that a large portion of the final products are reshipped to third countries, with about 40 percent reexported to the United States. Imports from China were up 34.1 percent year-to-year to $13.5 billion, but China was in third place behind Japan with $22.8 billion and the United States with $13.8 billion.
So the ROK, like Taiwan, is subsidizing some of the U.S. trade deficit with the PRC.

The ROK is also particularly vulnerable to oil price increases:
A recent study by KITA found that South Korea would likely be hardest hit in the Asia-Pacific region by rising oil prices. According to the KITA report, a $5 per barrel increase in the price of oil would worsen Korea’s trade balance by $5.5 billion a year, while China’s trade balance would decrease by only $4.3 billion and the U.S. balance by $3.5 billion.


I have become increasingly cynical about the dismal science of economics. To be sure, economists spend much time, energy, and grey matter trying to understand and describe the incredibly complex phenomenon that is our modern global economy. But I am struck by the fact that there seems to be very little in the way of a consensus among economists on anything. And I am also struck by the fact that one can seemingly find an economic theory (or a real flesh-and-blood economist) to support just about any political position or policy. And there is always the old canard about wondering why all economists aren't fantastically wealthy if they understand the workings of the economy so thoroughly and so much better than the rest of us. Hence my only somewhat facetious equation of economists with diviners who read goat entrails of earlier ages. When they're right, they credit their theories. When they're wrong, some outside factor must have made the difference. Enter this interesting study that is summarized as follows:
Mathematical and statistical rigor is a prized aspect of academic economic research. The economics profession officially claims that such rigor advances our understanding of the economy and public policy issues, that there is, in effect, a public good created by research published in economics journals. Yet, a majority of AEA members who responded to a survey I conducted admit, at least privately, that academic research mainly benefits academic researchers who use it to advance their own careers and that journal articles have very little impact on our understanding of the real world and the practice of public policy.
Some findings:
More to the point of “scholastic” vs. “public discourse” orientation, the majority say that economic research in nationally recognized journals is not useful for individuals in business or industry or for teachers of college-level principles courses. It is mostly useful for academic economists engaged in research and for economics graduate students. And most economists agree that the profession and its members are ineffective at communicating with the lay public. Finally, a majority of responding economists either agreed with, or were neutral about, the statement that economic research in nationally recognized journals is not useful to government policy makers and does not provide spillover benefits for society.
Of course much of this would probably describe any number of other academic disciplines as well. So why do we continue to insist on such less-than-useful forms of knowledge production? Because, contrary to the popular perception of universities as hotbeds of liberalism if not radicalism, the academy is in many ways a very traditional and conservative institution.


at taxpayers' expense. Interesting piece by Gregg Easterbrook that is likely to get your dander up. A couple of teasers:
Since September 11, Governor Mark Warner of Virginia has flown to Reagan National in a personal plane 46 times; Senator Sonny Perdue of Georgia, 26 times; Governor George Pataki of New York, 24 times; Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, 16 times; Senator John Kerry, 14 times.
According to MapQuest, it should take Governor Mark Warner 1 hour and 48 minutes to drive the 105 miles from the Virginia statehouse to Reagan National. How much could a personal plane really shave off that time? Of course, maybe Warner doesn't want to get stuck in the I-95 round-the-clock traffic nightmare that sits between Richmond and Washington. But he should get stuck in it, to appreciate what his state's average citizens deal with every day. Instead he flies above their heads, at their expense.
Now consider ever-rising sales of ego planes. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, in 2002, the latest year for which statistics are available, 676 private jets of the Gulfstream class were sold. If each of those 676 new private jets flies a coast-to-coast roundtrip once per week, the petroleum burned would be equivalent to putting 70,000 Hummers on the road. General Motors expects to sell about 25,000 Hummers this year.

Read the whole thing.


Korea Life Blog photographs the experience. Things have changed considerably from the old days of the corner kage (??), the town open air market, and the big department stores paekhwajom (???) that were to be found only in big cities.

UPDATE: The ever-erudite Hunjangui karuch'im notes that traditional markets are disappearing.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Latest example? Cirque du Soleil (which is more and more like pre-Castro Cuba?)
Cirque is just 20 years old, but it now has three continuous shows in Las Vegas. Last year, 7 million people saw a Cirque show.

How fast things move from the margin! Twenty years ago, Cirque was kook central. Ten years ago, it was a minority taste. Now it’s part of the charmed circle of bourgeois taste, and standard Vegas fare. If we are moving towards Cuba before the revolution, we are traveling at speed.

What will the next big thing be?


Helped a friend of a friend move a day or two ago. The poor naive couple actually trusted that U-Haul would have a truck when they said they would. When the promised confirmation call never arrived, one of the would-be movers spent hours on the phone being put on hold, transferred from person to person, and rather rudely responded to. For me, this was nothing new. After being burned two or three times, I vowed never to use U-Haul again. Apparently, I'm not alone.

The question I have is, how does a company like U-Haul routinely not deliver promised products and services and still stay in business? My only answer is that most people move seldom enough that they forget previous bad experiences, or they assume that they were exceptions rather than the rule. Classic case of the market not really working all that well.

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