Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wegmans Morning Bargain

For all of you men who shop at Wegmans Supermarkets (simply the best in the known universe), here's a secret I just learned: meat is cheap in the morning.

Today, at least, the fresh meat section was peppered with cuts that had only a day or two before expiration. And the discounts were deep: beef cutlets and bacon (tasty bacon...mmm) 50% off, mixed ground meat 75% off, and one lonely package of spare ribs for $7.

Needless to say, my freezer is now stocked.

Monday, January 26, 2009

An Economic Mystery

Journalists are puzzled by a strange economic phenomenon reported today:
US home sales unexpectedly rose in December as buyers took advantage of much lower house prices, industry figures have showed.
How could this have happened? Maybe home buyers received a "stimulus"... no, there are no stimulii for regular folks. Turns out that housing prices fell precipitously this year. Oddly enough, economists think that the rebound in sales - a 7% rise over November - was caused by buyers taking advantage of low prices. Funny how that works.

The government should re-read this little piece of good news, and remember that buyers respond to prices. People don't think the world is ending, or that they won't be able to pay their mortgages over the next few decades. They do think that buying a house for cheap is smart, and their willingness to buy and sell at the right price is reviving a flagging sector.

Maybe if the rest of the economy were left to its own devices, prices in other sectors would fall, too, and things would get moving again. However, the administration will probably decide it's not worth taking that risk: instead, prices should be controlled and failing businesses in favored sectors should be "stimulated". We can't leave the economy in the hands of ignorant citizens!

Yankee Class

Joe Torre, despite being a Yankee, was a class act. At least, I thought he was. Now safely with the Dodgers, Torre is showing Bronx-bred pettiness. He's writing one of those stale "tell-all" baseball memoirs, replete (no doubt) with baseball-is-like-life platitudes and peppered with titillating clubhouse gossip. The worst, as reported, sounds like something from Call of The Green Monster:
In an explosive new book called "The Yankee Years," Torre gets most personal in his attacks against Alex Rodriguez, who he says was called "A-Fraud" by his teammates after he developed a "Single White Female"-like obsession with team captain Derek Jeter and asked for a personal clubhouse assistant to run errands for him.
I've never seen a manager kick a ballplayer under the bus so viciously. Then again, maybe this just proves what a space case A-Rod really is. If even a classy, popular guy like Torre can get so angry as to smear an active player like that, the player must have really, really disgusted him for a long, long time.

That is, by all indications, exactly what A-Rod did.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Huzzah for Gilli!

Global Review sends a big, warm hug to Gov. David Paterson for choosing Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to succeed now-Secretary Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand is a great choice, especially compared to dynast Caroline Kennedy, whose liberalism is exceeded only by her inexperience. The choice of Gillibrand is a nod to the diversity of New York state. Not all of us live in New York city, nor do all New York Democrats subscribe to city liberalism.

Gillibrand is an upstater (from Hudson, south of Albany), who has some conservative credentials, and - this is a huge plus for Global Review - voted against the $800 billion TARP bailout last September.

What a boon to have a Senator who listens to her constituents instead of telling them what they ought to believe!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barro's Multiplier

Robert Barro, Harvard professor, former Rochester professor, and strong candidate for a future Nobel Prize in Economics, has one of the best explanations of the concept of the multiplier effect in his WSJ article today.

Team Obama is doing their math with a multiplier of 1.5. That suggests that government spending will add one-and-a-half times its own value to GDP, without displacing any private production. Barro's own estimates show that wartime spending has a multiplier of 0.8, and peacetime multipliers have not been significantly different than zero. That is, in peacetime, government stimulus spending is completely offset by lowered private production. Society gets zero net benefit, and government debt rises.

If this is hard to understand, read Barro's article, which explains the concepts at greater length and with more fluency.


With the exception of the ugly portmanteau Isratine, today's NYTimes op-ed argument for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is thoughtful and even-handed. Few commentators achieve such a delicate balance, affirming both parties' rights and sufferings. The only thing more surprising is its authorship: that famous moderate, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, bylined as the "leader" (qa'id) of Libya.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Celebration of Democracy

Perhaps the most transcendent aspect of American life is the willing transfer of the most powerful office in the world from one man to his opponent. The lawful abjuration of authority by Mr. Bush will be the most noble moment of his life - as it was for Mr. Clinton, Mr. Ford, Mr. Truman, Mr. Hoover, Mr. Cleveland, Mr. Buchanan, Mssrs. Adams, and, most spectacularly, Mr. Washington.

Watch the drama and beauty live on C-SPAN.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Haiti Photos

Photos of my family's Christmas vacation in Haiti are online now! Here are a few samples... Enjoy!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Free what??

Craig's List posting of the day:
Free to anyone !!! (Rochester)
Reply to:
Date: 2009-01-17, 3:46PM EST

30 year old uterus free to anyone! I have no plans for a baby, so please take it! You must pay all medical expenses. Think about it, maybe your uterus is too old? Or perhaps you need an unusual gift. Let's not forget Valentines Day is around the corner!

Let me know if this sounds like something you might want. I do not discriminate, and I could care less what you want to do with it.

* Location: Rochester
My understanding is that she's offering a transplant, not surrogacy. I'm not sure that this has ever been done.

Things That Are Easy On the Eyes

  1. Warm air
  2. My girlfriend
  3. My new LCD monitor

Dutch Treat

Voor de eerste keer in twaalf jaren, nederlandse canalen werden bevroren. Ik wens dat ik toch erbij was!

Friday, January 16, 2009

We're Bigue in Prague

My hit counter tells me Global Review is getting lots of visits from Prague, Czech Republic. Who, praytell, are you, dear reader? What brought you to the Global Review?

Slavery of Liberation

Apologies to HopeAnne for totally plagiarizing her content, but this is too good to pass on. Naomi Wolf writes about the deadening quality of pornography in NY Magazine. She concludes with two anecdotes.
I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.”

When she showed me her little house in a settlement on a hill, and I saw the bedroom, draped in Middle Eastern embroideries, that she shares only with her husband—the kids are not allowed—the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

Compare that steaminess with a conversation I had at Northwestern, after I had talked about the effect of porn on relationships. “Why have sex right away?” a boy with tousled hair and Bambi eyes was explaining. “Things are always a little tense and uncomfortable when you just start seeing someone,” he said. “I prefer to have sex right away just to get it over with. You know it’s going to happen anyway, and it gets rid of the tension.”

“Isn’t the tension kind of fun?” I asked. “Doesn’t that also get rid of the mystery?”

“Mystery?” He looked at me blankly. And then, without hesitating, he replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sex has no mystery.”
For the record: I, for one, vastly prefer real women (one real woman in particular).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sweat Dreams

Nicholas Kristof publishes an excellent article praising the anti-poverty work of sweatshops in the third world. To people whose alternatives include picking over trash and starving to death on sub-subsistence farms, a sweatshop is, he writes, a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty, [a] gauzy if probably unrealistic ambition...

Closing down sweatshops would hurt the poor more than anyone else. Kristof suggests promoting African imports; other worthwhile initiatives are those that crack down on corruption, extend agricultural knowledge, and promote learning.

Plane Splashes Down In 15 Degree Water?

The news works swiftly. A plane taking off from LaGuardia airport went down into the frigid Hudson River about 15 minutes ago. CBS reports:

The plane is floating upright in the water near the USS Intrepid. Temperatures at the time of the crash in the city were just about 20 degrees, with the water temperature likely much colder.
Not only did a single bird reportedly kill both engines, but it also achieved sub-20 degree liquid water!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cochrane on the Financial Crisis

Dr. John Cochrane, whom my colleagues and I hope to invite to speak at our university this spring, has a straightforward critique of the Treasury bailout plan on his website. Here's a glimpse:
The treasury plan is a nuclear option. The only way it can work to solve the central problem, recapitalizing banks, is if the Treasury buys so many mortgages that we raise mortgage values to the point that banks are obviously solvent again. To work, this plan has to raise the market value of all mortgage-backed securities. We don’t just help bad banks. We bail out good banks (really their shareholders and debt holders), hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, university and charitable endowments – everyone who made money on mortgage-backed instruments in good times and signed up for the risk in bad times. This is the mother of all bail-outs...

Short of that, it will not work. Suppose a bank is carrying its mortgages at 80 cents on the dollar, but the market value is 40 cents. If the Treasury buys at 40 cents or even 60 cents on the dollar, the bank is in worse trouble than before, since the bank has to recognize the market value. Unless the Treasury pushes prices all the way past 80 cents on the dollar up to 90 or even 100, we haven’t done any good at all. And $700 billion is a drop in the bucket compared what that would take.

There is a lot of talk about “illiquid markets,” “price discovery,” and the “hold to maturity price;” the hope that by making rather small purchases, the Treasury will be able to raise market prices a lot. This is a vain hope – at least it is completely untested in any historical experience. Never in all of financial history has anyone been able to make a small amount of purchases, establish a “liquid market” and substantially raise the overall market price.

Since the Treasury will not be able to raise overall market prices, it will end up buying from banks that are in trouble, at prices fantastically above market value. This is transparently the same as simply giving the banks free money. Make sure the taxpayers get a thank-you card.
Cochrane also posits some less-risky, more proven alternatives to the Treasury's plan, including the orderly failure and re-purchase of banks, stock issues, and guaranteeing short-term credit between banks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Global Review Reinvades Gaza

Israel bombed Gaza in reprisal for continued Hamas rocket-lobbing last week; now they've sent in tanks and infantry. How long has it been since the last significant Israeli action in Gaza? Not very long: in March, over 100 Gazans and 3 Israelis were killed in a heavy exchange of fire.

Since Israel hasn't come up with a new strategy to deal with an old problem, Global Review doesn't feel any pressure to update its good ideas. The Gravity Strategy we expounded last March is still a more effective, less costly, and less damaging response to Hamas recalcitrance than Israel's (continued) passive-aggression.
Gazans should learn that what goes up comes down. It should be child's play for the IDF to install rocket sites near Sderot that basically mirror Palestinian Qassam attacks - and go after the launch site, even if it's a house in a neighborhood. They can use low-impact rockets; maybe initially something like tear gas, just to prove to the neighborhood that Israel has the capability to hit right back. If the attacks persist, Gazans will learn the Gravity Principle: what goes up must come down. They'll learn that if Hamas militants fire rockets up from their street, a missile comes back down on the street 45 seconds later.

By being predictable, Israel can offer Palestinian civilians clear incentives: neighborhoods that purge militants will not be at risk of attacks. This allows Israel to appear fair and proportional without allowing deadly attacks against her citizens.
Hamas, meanwhile, deserves every last death it has suffered among its leaders and followers. They have refused a ceasefire, and consider 100 deaths among Palestinians to be a perfectly acceptable price to pay for the privilege of killing one Israeli.

Monday, January 5, 2009


New York is facing a momentous decision by its empowered executive. The question is, who will Basil Paterson's son appoint to succeed Bill Clinton's wife: Mario Cuomo's son or John F. Kennedy's daughter?

The real question is, will New York ever produce another original leader?