Saturday, December 29

The Myth of American Meritocracy


A fairly long but very important article son. The long and short of it is that you have Asian ancestry and you have brown skin and you studied in a comprehensive and your parents aren't landed rich. So that means that you have to work that extra bit harder (which you are already doing, and I'm proud of you) to get into an Oxford or Cambridge.

But from a historical and economics perspective, do read the article because you will be faced with and working with people from this background.fascinating.


Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam.1 Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as “unprecedented.”

But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America’s most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America’s most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.

During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America’s richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent.2This situation, sometimes described as a “winner take all society,” leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners’ circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.3 On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out.4

Friday, December 28

Assault weapons are a protection against the USG

Your move…

Then again, for defenders of large iron based armed forces, here’s the debunked joke…

This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States' Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that's one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.[2


You cannot win…

You know what I found bizarre? that sales of ammo went up after the Newtown massacre. See here.

As far as gun sales and ammunition sales being elevated or higher, let’s call it a massive understatement. We showed that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) was out of certain guns online if you type in a ZIP code. The reality is much more extreme, and there is a bit of personal experience here that will show just how much the sales went up — EVERYWHERE is sold out! If you want to purchase a shotgun or a handgun, these are still available. If you are wanting a rifle that would be classified as an assault rifle, an AR, you missed your chance.

Gun buyers in Houston have bought up the entire inventory of AR guns. It is not just the guns. The ammunition is sold out. The magazines are sold out, and not just the magazines that hold 30 or more rounds. Even finding a 10-round magazine is elusive. And ammunition? The smaller boxes of ammunition in the 223-556 calibers may be found, but not the larger boxes. Try calling Top Gun, Academy, Carter Country and other stores and you will get more or less the same answer: “We are sold out entirely, we have no idea when we are getting new stock in, and we have no idea what the pricing will be.” Even the online sites that deal in guns and ammo are now low on inventory as sales have spiked.

Thursday, December 27

Some of the greatest

What an awesome photo and perhaps one of the greatest concentrations of intellectual horsepower ever captured in one shot…

Wednesday, December 26

Irony of Christmas

This quote says it all.

"Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.

Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it."

-- Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado.

This is what I simply do not understand in this entire debate over deficits, just how pig ignorant are you? to demand your children pay for your expenses? Are you indeed that stupid? what kind of a parent are you? I will tell you, you are the kind of a parent who is unable to take responsibility of yourself. You are the worst kind of citizens, who are happy to load the expenses on your children while enjoying yourself. And guess what? do you seriously think they will be happy to pay for those expenses when you are in an old age home? Here’s an example of the mindboggling moronity of this debate.


Middle-class couples who need residential care in old age could be hit with bills as high as £150,000.

Under Coalition plans to be unveiled in the New Year, the upper limit on the amount that must be contributed towards care could be £60,000 or even £75,000 per person.

This ‘cap’ is much higher than the £35,000 suggested by last year’s independent review into England’s care funding system.

If both husband and wife end up moving into residential care, it could mean they will have to pay out up to £150,000 before the state steps in.

In addition, they will still have to meet accommodation costs – the ‘bed and board’ charge for care home stays. This could push the total outlay to almost £200,000.

Critics say setting the cap so high will do little to stop thousands of pensioners having to sell their homes each year, denying their children an inheritance.

And they are likely to accuse David Cameron of letting the elderly down, as Downing Street has previously attracted positive coverage by backing the review’s proposal of a £35,000 cap.

At present, care home residents can be landed with unlimited charges if they have assets, including their house, of more than £23,500. Those who have no savings get care completely free.

Ministers have pledged to increase this threshold to £100,000, meaning people will no longer see their savings depleted to below this level.

But the benefit could be wiped out by the imposition of a cap that is more than double the amount that was originally expected.

And why is there this expectation that the state will take care of you? this is extraordinary. So for you to leave an inheritance, rest of us have to pay for your bills? erm, why?

Tuesday, December 25

After 1,500 years, frankincense returns to the Holy Land in time for Christmas

What a lovely idea.

KIBBUTZ KETURA, ISRAEL – Seven years after I revealed her success in sprouting a 2,000 year-old date palm seed found on Masada, botanist Dr Elaine Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies has done it again.

1,500 years after the last frankincense tree disappeared from the Holy Land, Dr Solowey has managed to grow the first shoots of a tree whose scented white sap was once worth more than gold.

At Kibbutz Ketura deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, Dr Solowey is carefully nurturing the fragile sapling in her greenhouse, where she is also growing myrrh and balm of Gilead – probably the “gold” brought by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

“This is the first frankincense tree to set seed in Israel in 1500 years,” Dr Solowey told me as she presented the tiny sapling for its first public photo-call this week. “It was necessary to bring this variety back to the country because the last people growing these trees near the Dead Sea left and the trees left with them.”

Must be some kind of a deep Zionist plot as well, but perhaps one day I will be able to sniff this…

Monday, December 24

Costs of welfare

Here’s some interesting statistics by Angela Merkel.

“If Europe today accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, then it’s obvious that it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life,” Ms Merkel said in the interview.
“All of us have to stop spending more than we earn every year.”

Pretty much obvious, but when you consider the levels of government spending across Europe, its shocking. For that matter across the board in the OECD countries, the level of spending is shocking. You know what pissed me off? is that we are spending and asking our kids to pick up the tab. That’s not being very good to our kids now, is it? bah