Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The last word on hedonics: "unfungible"

Hedonics fails because it wants to factor unfungible (non-transferable) added value into inflation indexing. Are retired people living on Social Security supposed to eat fewer potatoes as TV performance improves for the same price? Let them eat high definition?

If the Timex I wear today cost half what it would because it is made overseas, that frees up money for potatoes. That it keeps immeasurably better time (almost immeasurable error) cannot be traded off for more of anything else.

Add value that cannot transfer should be counted as unfungible added income. Lucky American consumers; we get to keep up with some part of average income increase -- that the market could not squeeze out of us.

Only God could figure the right inflation number for by a more powerful computer at the same price (and I am sure He would have a very interesting explanation). Meantime, for we human beings, it is enough to know that the price of the computer went up or down so much and the power went up or down so much. Any attempt to melt the two together would leave us with something akin to Heisenberg's uncertainty: unable to delineate cost and value (as in, position and momentum) -- in other words, a not very helpful measurement.

Ironically (hypocritically?), Hedonics believers advocated an inflation measure (C-CPI-U) that would have skipped over changes in value if they pushed inflation numbers in the wrong direction. If the price of pork went up -- forcing consumers to eat more rice (because cheaper; not because they are going macrobiotic) -- C-CPI-U would have allotted less weight to pork in the basket of goods used to track inflation and allotted more weight to rice -- as if the substitutes were voluntary instead of led by price changes. Republican logic.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Had a billion American Indians inhabited the million square miles of America's Midwest...

Had a billion American Indians inhabited the million square miles of America's Midwest, our settlers would faced the same population density -- one thousand per square mile -- encountered in the West Bank by Israeli settlers -- that is, before Israeli first worlders battered West Bank third worlders back into half the space (affluent moderns needing more room to breath -- and swim).

To fill out the billion Indian comparison: 150 million American settlers would have to have carved out -- extra -- room for themselves. What today's 300 million Americans face are the least rational responses of the Palestinian people's billion-plus co-religionists for what they deem our role in the "dozerkrieging" of Islamic land.

The accidents of history make it easier for America to take the rap for Israel's mis-doings: Israelis speak the same language, live the same lifestyle, the other half of their ethnic group lives by and large in the United States, their people even gave rise to our Christian-Judaic culture.
An Israeli defense analyst recently worried that, for all Israel's local conventional and nuclear preponderance, her continued existence could be called into question by a single nuclear strike on Tel Aviv. Enough Israelis might, then, take flight for safer climes to insure others followed and so on.

Country emptying could be just as likely to play out with nuclear material-free bomb works* (no plutonium core) -- snuck into Tel Aviv and left to be discovered -- with no one to blame and no reason to fully retaliate: the perfect nuclear blackmail?

Could the shadow of nuclear blackmail drive Israel to the ultimate mad option?: go Stanley Kubrick and deploy a doom's-day device -- that does its dirty work without the possibility of human intervention? (Witness Israel's recent nation blasting over a couple of POWs.)

In real life Israel hasn't the thermonuclear technology to build a full-fledged, civilization ending weapon (see Herman Kahn). Possibly Israel could improvise a poor man's version -- arraying half (100?) her Hiroshima type bombs widely and deeply enough underground to blow millions of tons of matter into the upper atmosphere, triggering nuclear winter.

-- or -- alternately --

Israel could adopt the ultimate sane option (practiced by successful first-worlders everywhere): no more "dozerkrieging" next-door neighbors, no-choice returning misappropriated land and homes and no fair waiting until resistance ends before doing both (it works the other way around). A growing Arab consensus can assure Israel that withdrawing the unbearable occupation would do more for her genuine security than embarking on mutually assured destruction.

In the twentieth century, a smart Jew gave the world E = MC squared.

Twenty centuries earlier, a Smarter Jew (by me) gave the world: "Love thy neighbor as thyself, already" [A certain amount of "lingo" was culled from the New Testament for wider distribution -- always going to be more Gentiles, right?]
It does not take a Solomon to calculate that a nation of 5 million who occupies a neighbor of 4 million -- to park a few hundred thousand of her own on half their ancestral land -- will be condemned to exist always half-concentration camp and half-free. Oy!

Denis Drew
[*Anyone could sneak nuclear-free bomb works into any city in the world in the hope someone else catches the blame. Anyone includes Mossad. Red Star Rogue recounts a credible tale of old Soviet hard-liners attempting to provoke a war between the US and China -- leaving the USSR the winner -- by staging what was to look like a Chinese sub nuking Honolulu, only to have the sub blow a hole in itself upon the attempt (and be later recovered by the Glomar Explorer). Any such event should be investigated as painstakingly as any airline crash in the expectation that the explanation may take the same kind of time to work its way out.]