Friday, November 19, 2004

Econ Majors

According to this CNN/Money article, it looks as though Econ/Finance majors are one of the top 10 majors sought by employers. So it looks like the recent surge in majors is or should be happening elsewhere as well.

When asked which new college grads they were likely to hire, the greatest number of employers said they were interested in hiring grads who majored in accounting, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, business administration and economics/finance.
Keywords: Econ Majors, Education

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Bumper to Bumper

In his Sunday November 7th, New York Times column “Consumed”, Rob Walker takes on the yellow-ribbon magnet fad wondering why over a million people have purchased the $5 magnet with the slogan “Support Our Troops.”

Initially, back in 2003, the magnet was developed to sell as a fundraiser for schools and churches, but with copycats, the little magnet that people place on their bumper has become an all-out fad.

Walker wonders why people are so moved to buy the magnet:

“One attraction, clearly, is the message: ‘Support our Troops’ is an idea with extremely wide appeal. Noam Chomsky—to cite an authority rarely referenced on the subject of car decoration—actually addressed the attraction of that exact slogan during the 1991 (magnetless) gulf war: ‘Who can be against that?

His point was that such phrases and symbols amounted to instruments of propaganda that divert discussion from issues of substance. Of course, to apply this to the magnet-bearers is to suggest that they are making some kind of public argument, engaging if not in rhetoric then at least in a kind of advertising-like coercion: ‘Hey, fellow driver on the public roads, I implore you to support our troops.’”

Instead of being an exhortation, Walker claims that bumper art is a declaration:
Flag = “I’m a patriot!”

Bush/Cheney or Kerry/Edwards = A particular brand of patriotism

Rainbow Flag/Equality Sign = “I’m Gay and I Drive!”

Then there are the typical:
“My Kid is an Honor Student at _____!”

But, as Walker points out, its hard to figure out what some declarations mean:
“And that weirdly popular (and unauthorized) image of the Calvin character from the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ urinating”

I’ve always wondered about this one, the “Naked Mud Flap Girl.” What does that mean? Is it an advertisement of one’s sexuality? Is it the cartoon-ish equivalent to a personals ad? Is it intended to be persuasive? Persuasive of what exactly?

If so, its not working “…onlookers are seldom, if ever, persuaded of anything.”

So why do people feel the need to make some sort of statement to strangers on the highway? Walker hypothesizes that its about the numbers

"Put a yellow ribbon in your yard, and only your neighbors will see it; put it on your car or truck, and as you crawl through your clogged commute, you may have an audience of hundreds or thousands. And maybe in the crowd you’ll notice others with declarative symbols just like yours. If there is no way to interact with them, it’s fine, because that was never really the point”

The Terrorists Are Winning

Stories like this get me angry.

"I was wearing a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt that zipped up.
Underneath was a tank top, but it was not something I would ever wear as
outerwear, never. The sweatshirt was not long or bulky; it was not a coat or a
jacket. It was not something you would remove in public," she said.

At the checkpoint, she did not set off the metal detector. "I was told
I had to remove the jacket. I told the screener that it wasn't a jacket, it was
a sweatshirt, and said that what I had on underneath couldn't be worn by itself
in public," she said.

She was escorted to a private room, where she waited for about five
minutes - worried about her laptop left unattended at the checkpoint - until a
female screener arrived. The screener was friendly but unyielding. "They made me remove the sweatshirt and stand there with my arms outstretched and legs
separated. It was so uncomfortable. Then she patted me up and down the back,
between the middle of my breasts with the back of her hand, and then lifted both
breasts from underneath while I stood there like a criminal."

What did they expect to find under the sweatshirt that couldn't have been hidden under a bulky shirt? Our response to 9/11 has been just stupid. We continue to accept massive delays, all because the TSA is trying to prevent another 9/11. These people couldn't find their ass with a mirror, I don't expect that they'll catch a terrorist. But they will inconvenience millions of passengers, adding to the ever increasing uncounted costs of fighting the war on terror. As long as people respond to the TSA's incompetence like this:
While a handful are from travelers claiming that women who object to being
manhandled (or womanhandled) at checkpoints ought to stop whining and submit gamely for the sake of security and Old Glory

Yeah it for Old Glory. Please, Old Glory would prefer we not give up our freedoms for some imperceptible improvement in safety.

Benjamin Franklin said it best:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety

Keywords: Terrorism

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Don't Vote

You could be like Stan in the genius episode 808 of South Park, and refuse to vote. He was put in the unenviable position of having to pick between Douche and Turd, and our choices are not much better. Besides, it is completely rational not to vote.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Equilibrium Real Interest Rate

Federal Reserve Governor Ferguson recently gave a nice speech concerning the concept of the equilibrium real interest rate. The interesting quote comes at the end, where he says:
This brief discussion highlights the uncertainties attending any attempt to measure the equilibrium real rate. I find these measures useful teaching tools to describe the complicated and iterative process of forecasting the path of the economy so as to arrive at the appropriate stance of policy. However, I believe it to be very important that the FOMC not go on a forced march to some point estimate of the equilibrium real federal funds rate. In my judgment, we should remove the current degree of accommodation at a pace that is importantly determined by incoming data and a changed outlook. Our knowledge of the workings of the economy is sufficiently imprecise that we could not attach much confidence to any single calculation that one might make of the equilibrium rate.

I wonder if he is really acknowledging the imprecision of our knowledge about the equilibrium real rate, or if he is merely training to anchor expectations, without actually committing to a number?

Keywords: ECO120, ECO301, ECO305, interest rates