Thursday, September 19, 2013

What? No Drunken Red Savages?

The usual suspects among the sports columnists are on the warpath again demanding that the Washington Redskins change their name. No matter that the owner Daniel Synder says that it will never happen as long as he owns the team and that polls taken show that the fans overwhelmingly want the name to stay the same. Finally one ESPN columnist Rick Rielly went against the stream of his fellows and published a column saying did anyone ask the Indians? Since Synder owns the team there is nothing that the NFL can do to force a change. This is unlike the NCAA which in 2005 issued an edict saying that any school using indian logos or nicknames would be banned from postseason play forcing many schools to change their names. Perhaps the biggest stink was the case of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux who were forced into submission because primarily of the prominence of their hockey team - although ironically their logo was designed by a Native American. The North Dakota legislature forbade the adoption of a new mascot or logo until 2015 so as of today they are the University of North Dakota ----------. When the NCAA whose hierarchy is made up of middle aged white men decided that the indian symbols were offensive, several schools notably Florida State (Seminoles) went ballistic. Other schools that had large Native American populations that had indian symbols such as University of North Carolina - Pembroke were granted exemptions. But isn't it ironic (Reilly also points this out) that many schools with Native American students called themselves Redskins, Braves and Savages? The last time I looked, the NCAA must have blinked. Some schools changed prior to the ban (Stanford Indians/Cardinal, Marquette Warriors/Golden Eagles, St John Redmen/Red Storm) while others changed because of it Arkansas State Indians/Red Wolves, Louisiana-Monroe Indians/Warhawks , Newberry Indians/Wolves and Carthage College morphed from the Redmen to the Red Men and their women's teams are the Lady Reds. But Catawba is still the indians, Illinois is still the Fighting Illini, Utah is still the Utes, Central Michigan is still the Chippawas, Alcorn is still the Braves and of course Florida State is still the Seminoles. What is interesting is that all the nicknames connote bravery and stature (Chiefs) rather than scorn and derision. Yes the Atlanta Braves once had a tepee in the outfield and a mascot named Chief Nok-a-homa who did a war dance every time a Brave hit a home run. They also had a laughing indian on their sleeves. But all that is gone leaving only the laughing gap-toothed indian logo of the Cleveland Indians - which even I find offensive. Nevertheless, the baseball team that preceded the Braves were a minor league team called the Atlanta Crackers. So why weren't white folks offended? What is hilarious is that the Negro league team was known as the Black Crackers. Isn't it interesting that the same columnists who have stood up for the indians have been silent on the name Rebels? Of course all the confederate symbols have gone now. When I went to the University of Georgia, the band was the Dixie Redcoat Marching band and played Dixie after the National Anthem and most of the crowd waved confederate flags. All the tailgaters flew rebel flags. But it was worse at Ole Miss. I even turned down an interview for a deanship at Ole Miss because of all the rebel nonsense. However, all that stuff is gone. I went to the Georgia/South Carolina game and saw not one rebel flag. Ole Miss' football and basketball teams are mostly black. My feeling is that if they aren't bothered by being called "Rebels" then why should I be offended for them?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No more Freeway of Love?

The Associated Press recently had a story on how America has appeared to have lost its love affair with the automobile. The article by Joan Lowry entitled "Less driving as car culture wanes" ( notes that the collective miles driven by Americans peaked in 2007 and has declined each year since. Also most notably the percent of teens and young adults with drivers licenses has dropped. What are the reasons why? Lowry mentions the obvious ones: the bad economy, terrible commutes from the suburbs and headaches of car ownership in the cities. Lowry also mentions modern reasons such as shopping online and an uptick in walking and biking to work. Now I doubt whether walking and biking to work have made a serious impact on the statistics. However, she does not give the reasons that are obvious to me. Cars have been neutered and are just no fun anymore. I recently drove 4 hours and did not see a single vehicle that I wanted to own. It used to be different with mainstream America and its Mustangs, GTOs, Corvettes, MGBs, TR3s, and other wonderful cars. Now most what you see are minivans (and pickups here in Tennessee). I was also struck by the volume of wimpy cars that looked like cars with the backend chopped off with lawnmower engines. Isn't it apparent that high gas prices, high insurance rates, fleet milage regulations and the emasculation of the American male have all worked to eliminate the fun from driving? As I wrote in this space back in 2009, that the love affair has been lost is evident from the music ( Gone are the songs rhapsodizing the automobile. Who would profess (other than a nerd) love for the vast majority of today's automobile?

Bernanke's Fed Policy Did More Harm than Good

This article appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel September 1, 2013 The Kansas City Fed’s annual meeting in Jackson Hole, WY has evolved from inviting me and other pedestrian regulators and economists to being a who’s who concave of Ivy League economists and central bankers. Instead of presenting esoteric academic papers, the conference now features a few papers on a particular theme and then discussions by central bankers on how they are saving the world. This year’s conference was about the legacy of Ben Bernanke although he chose not to attend. As can be imagined that legacy is controversial outside the world of central bankers. It is called unconventional monetary policy. While conventional monetary policy features manipulation of the fed funds rate and monetary aggregates like the money supply and monetary base, unconventional monetary policy revolves around large scale asset purchases. The Bernanke Fed initiated this policy with the establishment of specialized lending facilities early in the recession and lending to nonbanks and foreign banks. Gradually, the Fed wound down the special lending facilities and then concentrated on asset purchases inflating its balance sheet to around $3 trillion by year end 2012. Currently, the Fed is purchasing around $40 billion in mortgage backed securities and $45 billion in Treasurys per month. At Jackson Hole, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said that Bernanke and other central bankers had prevented a severe depression through unconventional monetary policy. She said that the policy was a clear success and the world’s central bankers should continue such policy. However Lagarde did not mention that such policy made the recovery from recession the weakest in history. The central bankers also did not dwell on the fact that such a policy has made it difficult to unwind. Indeed, the mere mention of the possibility by Bernanke sent the stock market into a tizzy. However, the fact remains that research indicates that the Fed’s policy has created market distortions, market volatility and asset bubbles that could lead to another serious downturn. In fact a paper at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concludes that the Fed’s term auction facility which was a program designed to lessen the spread between short term bank borrowing rates and equivalent Treasury rates (risk premium) actually increased the rates because it signaled to the market that the financial crisis was actually worse than the market had thought. At Jackson Hole a paper was presented by Northwestern University’s Arvind Krishnamurthy that the Fed’s purchases of mortgage backed securities had more of an economic impact than did the purchasing of Treasurys. Indeed Krishnamurthy finds that Fed purchases had little economic benefit. Perhaps not ironically, the purchasing of Treasurys did benefit the Administration in that it allowed increased deficit spending as the Fed financed the government’s deficit spending.