Open Thread – Monday (Edited)

I’m still working but took a break this afternoon to do a little reading. I’m trying to finish Unbroken but I’m not there yet. Next weekend is the book review………..hint, hint. I’ve also been working on our taxes, that’s right we filed an extension (just like the Romneys), but I have even less money now than I did in April to pay what we still owe……………yikes. And we finally got the rest of the parts we needed to finish our big export order to Taiwan, which we’re trying to get out the door (that’s money in the bank). Anyway, I did read a couple of interesting pieces during my breaks this weekend that might spark a little conversation.

Last week Nova linked this piece from the Atlantic about why liberals shouldn’t vote for Obama. It was interesting but didn’t sway me. I’d already explored all of the issues and decided I’m going to vote for him anyway. The most important issue for me is health care reform and even though he didn’t get the bill I wanted I’ve decided repealing the ACA is too big of a threat for me to not support him.

One of the issues discussed was our drone policy, particularly in Pakistan.

Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.

Then today I saw these charts and thought what the hell? I haven’t had the time to look into where exactly the information came from but according to them there have been exactly zero civilian deaths in Pakistan due to drone strikes this year. Can that be true?

This piece, “Is Karl Rove Losing It?”, is a pretty interesting take on Karl Rove and the author wonders if he really has as much power as he thinks he does. It’s probably just wishful thinking, those of us on the left aren’t too fond of the guy.

Karl Rove is back as GOP party boss, but this time it’s clear that even the best-laid plans of the savviest political strategists often go awry.

That became obvious earlier this week, on Sept. 25, when Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin reaffirmed that he was staying in the race in defiance of Rove, who had demanded Akin’s withdrawal and yanked American Crossroads’ millions from his campaign after Akin touted the prophylactic character of “legitimate rape.”

When pulling the super PAC dough didn’t faze the stubborn Missouri Tea Partyer, Rove went ballistic. “We should sink Todd Akin,” he declared , according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

Rove’s remarks did more than just reopen the schism between the GOP establishment he embodies and the Tea Party, which has begun to see him as a ruthless party boss. It also showed that the Republicans have another serious problem in addition to Mitt Romney’s disastrous candidacy: Karl Christian Rove.

And lastly this one suggests three reasons why Romney isn’t doing better than he is. I do realize it’s not over though…..believe me.

1. His stand on the auto bailout “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” has hurt him in states like Ohio.

2. He probably lost Florida when he chose Ryan as his running mate as the majority of seniors apparently don’t like their plans for Medicare…………even if they were excluded from the cuts.

3. His lack of connection with ordinary Americans exemplified by his 47% comments.

A Primer on War with Iran

– Mark

Where the Buck Stops…

So Yahoo! typically posts news articles that are amazingly content-free or are about Hollywood celebs (or both I guess).  But every once in a while, they seem to mistakenly post an article that is somewhat interesting in an academic way.  Now by no means is this one an in depth analysis, but I found it interesting.  It is entitled “Where did the mammoth US budget deficits come from?”  and can be found

Aside from the fact that it will confuse non-ATiM members because it does not distinguish between debt and deficit very well, it is a fairly straitforward look at the budget history and problems.  While it’s probably too simplistic for posters here in general, it could be a base for a more in depth budget discussion…perhaps in preparation for Debate I….or sequestration.

Saturday Football Open Thread, Week Five

Another crisp fall morning here in SLC–it’s only 54 outside right now (7:40 a.m. MDT) but it’s supposed to get up to 82 for the high today.  Life, elevated!  How’s the football looking?  Well, Stanford lost to UW in Husky Stadium Thursday night 17 – 13, which if you have to lose is at least a pretty place to do it (you should see the views of Lake Washington and the Cascades from the stadium).  BYU slaughtered Hawaii last night 47 – 0 in Provo; I didn’t watch either game as I was having dinner with friends on Thursday and busy with other stuff last night, so if anyone has any great insights into the games feel free to share.

Today’s games:

Mid Tennessee is at Georgia Tech, which must be yet another of those pre-ACC let’s-make-some-money-for-the-little-guy match ups.  (line: GT, spread 28).  Anything to note, yello? [Update: Wow!!  Mid Tennessee takes it 49 – 28!  Next week, yello. . .]

Penn State is playing at Illinois (line: PSU, spread 4).  Should be a good, classic Big Ten game.  Go Nittany Lions! [Update: PSU 35 – 7 as Illinois couldn’t convert a goal line stand as time ran out.]

Minnesota is at Iowa (line: UM, spread 6).  More classic (and by that I mean “three yards and a cloud of dust” plays) Big Ten ball.  Go, Golden Gophers! [Update: Iowa wins 31 – 13]

Clemson is playing Boston College (line: Clemson, spread 7).  Games are tightening up this week as we move into conference play. . . go, Eagles!  [Update: Clemson 45 – 31]

osu is going to lose to MSU, I just know it (line: MSU, spread 3).  You know where I’ll be at 11:30 1:30 MDT (stupid time zones!).  Game is on ABC.  GO SPARTANS!!!!!!  [Update:  damn.  osu 17 – 16]

Florida State is at USF (line: FSU, spread 17.0)  C’mon, Bulls, win this!  [Update:  FSU 30 – 17]

Texas is playing the other OSU (line: UT, spread 3.0)  Mark and okie, y’all be nice to each other, now.  Or at least polite!  (FOX at 7:50 p.m. EDT)  [Update: Texas wins 41 – 36 in the last minute.  OSU’s last possession was one of the wildest and wooliest I’ve seen in a long time–a nail-biter of a game!]

Wisconsin is at Nebraska, that Big Ten upstart (line: Nebraska, spread 11.5)  Another intra-ATiM game; I’ll leave Brent and Fairlington Blade to duke it out.  [Update: Nebraska wins 30 – 27 when UW fumbles on a 4th and 1 with 1:11 remaining.  Another nail-biter (the football’s getting much better now that we’re into the “real” games!!]

And, finally, Oregon State plays Arizona (line: Arizona, spread 3.0)  You’ve got another chance to prove McWing wrong here, ‘Cats!  Beat those Beavers!  [Update:  OSU wins 38 – 35–I lost track of how many times the lead changed hands in the 4th quarter.  Excellent game!]

Off this week are USC (vs Utah next week), Syracuse (Pitt), Michigan (Purdue) and Oklahoma (Texas Tech).

Morning Report 9/28/12

Vital Statistics:

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1433.2 -7.9 -0.55%
Eurostoxx Index 2470.5 -35.6 -1.42%
Oil (WTI) 91.65 -0.2 -0.22%
LIBOR 0.359 -0.002 -0.49%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.56 0.009 0.01%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.61% -0.05%
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 194.5 0.0

Markets are weaker on no real news.  Personal Income came in weaker than expected and personal spending was in line with estimates. The .5% increase in spending was driven by a .4% increase in prices. Bonds are up about half a point and MBS are up 1/4.

On the back of the puzzling statistic showing a 17% increase in new home prices, BLS is now saying an additional 453k jobs were added in 2011, bringing the hiring estimate up from 1.9 million to 2.3 million. Is the obama administration playing jiggery-pokery with the economic data?  Well, that is one way to fix the economy.

Amidst all of the usual theories about the cause of the financial crisis (Glass-Steagall, nefarious bankers, Fannie and Fred) we have another – flaws in democracy itself.  He does sound a bit like Thomas (Flathead) Friedman in that he envies more authoritarian societies that are able to push through policies without much opposition.

Is QEIII going to do much for the real estate market? According to Thomas Flexner, global head of real estate at Citi, it won’t “do very much at all.”  Blame tight lending standards. Also, as g-fees increase that will offset part of the lower interest rate effect.

What Kind of EconoTroll Are You?

Noah Smith of Noahpinion has published a taxonomy of commenters found on economics oriented blogs. It struck me that a lot of them sounded awfully familiar but I couldn’t quite put types to aliases. So I invite ATiMers to self-diagnose and pick what arbitrary ill-fitting bin they belong in. Feel free to mix and match. Choices include:

Post Keynesian
Market Monetarist
Modern Monetary Theorist
New Classical

As for myself, I have to classify myself as a Krugmanite, a type mentioned in the comments, since Krugman is the only economist I actually ever agree with even if I can’t understand anything labeled ‘wonkish’.

Morning Report 9/27/12

Vital Statistics:

  Last Change Percent
S&P Futures  1434.2 7.3 0.51%
Eurostoxx Index 2507.7 9.2 0.37%
Oil (WTI) 91.23 1.3 1.39%
LIBOR 0.36 -0.002 -0.55%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.74 -0.141 -0.18%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.64% 0.03%  
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 194.5 0.1  


Markets are higher this morning on speculation of further stimulus measures out of China, in spite of some lousy economic data. Bonds and MBS are down.

2Q GDP was revised down to +1.3% from +1.7%. Big revision downward. Durable goods slumped 13% on a decline in aircraft orders.  Revisions were down across the board. About the only bright spot was a drop in initial jobless claims to 359k.  While some might dismiss the drop in durables as just normal volatility, I would point out that Caterpillar has already warned.  Speaking of which, we are getting pretty close to pre-announcement season, when companies that are going to miss their quarter fess up to the Street.  

Yesterday’s report from the Commerce Department noted that sales of new single-family houses in August were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 373k, up 28% from Aug 11.  The shocking statistic from the report was that the median sales price of a new home was 257k, up 17% from a year ago. The homebuilders aren’t reporting price increases like that –  KB Homes said sales prices were up 5% YOY in their 3Q results, while Lennar reported a 4% price increase.  Is it perhaps that bigger houses are being sold now and that accounts for the increase?  Nope – McMansion builder Toll Brothers reported prices increased only 1%, and we all know that the remaining problems in the real estate market are at the high end, where it is cheaper to buy than build. And if prices really were increasing 17% YOY, housing starts wouldn’t be 750k, half of the 1959-2002 average run rate.  So something fishy is going on – perhaps Commerce is trying to put out good statistics to help Obama’s campaign and intends to quietly revise the numbers downward once he gets elected.

The first time homebuyer is still struggling to get involved in the real estate market.  The latest NAR Confidence Index Report showed that first time homebuyers were only 31% of all sales, much lower than their typical 40% share.  Tight credit and cash buyers account for the drop. Buyer traffic has jumped considerably over the past year, while seller traffic has remained flat. 


Robots Are Coming! (To Take Our Jobs)

I love optimistic futurism, and, frankly, I think it’s generally correct. Technology makes things better (well, everything except the human ability to greet tremendous, global improvements with bitter disappointment, because they still aren’t haaaappppyyyyy). Andrew MacAffee has it right, I think. Robots are coming to take our jobs, but the net result is it’s a good thing.

For a counter point, I direct you to The Android Sisters 1984 song, “Robots are Coming”.

“Robots are coming. Give us your jobs.”

Bites and Pieces: Macaroni and Cheese

Comfort food doesn’t get any more comforting than macaroni and cheese. Millions of harried parents crack open a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and have an easy dinner that they know will be gobbled. I once ran into a financial emergency in graduate school. I miscalculated my expenses and ran out of money before I ran out of month. [How quaint. Someone in his mid-20s without a credit card.] I sold a text book and made plans to eat mac & cheese for a week. Not content with boxes, I bought a pound of dry macraoni, a block of Velveeta, and a few additions such as a can of diced green chiles.

Fifteen years later, I was introduced to a better approach. My girlfriend’s room mate used to work at the New England Conservatory of music. There would often been left-over (good) cheese from receptions, which she would use to make the mac and cheese recipe from Best Recipe, a complication of favorites from Cooks Illustrated. Their recipe is adapted from John Thorne’s book Simple Cooking. I’ve been making a slightly tweaked version of it ever since.

Home made macaroni and cheese usually consists of pouring a Mornay sauce (white sauce with cheese) over cooked macaroni, possibly topped with toasted bread crumbs. Good, but not necessarily rich. I like rich. This one is akin to a custard, so it is thickened with eggs, not flour. Here is the base recipe:


2 large eggs

1 can of evaporated milk (or 1 ½ cups of milk)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper (black is fine, though white is nice for color)

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon dried mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (half an inch or so is fine)

12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces of dry macaroni


  1. Bring two quarts of water to a boil, add macroni and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until not quite done (it finishes cooking later).
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and combine with one cup of milk, salt, pepper, hot sauce and mustard. Shred the cheese.
  3. Pour macaroni into a colander to drain. Return to pot and toss with butter. Turn burn to medium and add the egg & milk mixture and 8 ounces of cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Gradually add the remaining milk and cheese, stirring until the mixture thickens.
  4. Top with bread crumbs if you like. Did I forget to mention the bread crumbs?

The original recipe calls for evaporated milk, which makes a terrific sauce, but one very high in fat. I think whole milk works fine. You could probably use 2%, but I wouldn’t go lower in fat content. When I first used regular milk, my sauce took ages to thicken. I’ve found that I can obtain the right texture by undercooking the macaroni and stirring under medium high heat. You can also get away with dropping down to two or three tablespoons of butter. Don’t go underboard, though. CI later published a low fat version of the recipe, which just goes to prove that some things don’t work.


I’ve recently started varying the recipe a bit, mainly with the spicing. I was at my brother’s lake house in July and spotted some KC Masterpiece barbeque sauce. I replaced the spices with BBQ sauce to taste, probably about about a quarter cup. It was a hit. Another time, I tried using a teaspoon five spice powder instead of the mustard. It gave the dish a subtle twist.

The Competition

Post your favorite recipe in the comments section or email me and I’ll add it to the main post. Perhaps we can do a mac and cheese cook-off!


Michigoose’s contributions:

Stove-Top Mac-n-Cheese

from Alton Brown


1/2 lb elbow macaroni

4 T butter

2 eggs

6 oz evaporated milk

1/2 t hot sauce (I like to use Cholulu Sauce)

1 t kosher salt

3/4 t dry mustard

10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I usually use a mixture of cheeses here, much like FB’s girlfriend’s roommate)

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain.  return to the pot and melt in the butter.  Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper to taste and mustard.  Stir into the pasta and add the cheese.  Over low heat continue to stir until creamy, about 3 minutes.

Very, Very Bad for you Baked Macaroni and Cheese

from Giada De Laurentiis


12 oz wide egg noodles

2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 t flour

2 cups grated Fontina cheese (packed)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (packed)

3/4 cup shredded mozarella

4 oz pancetta, diced and cooked crisp

2 T Italian parsley, chopped

Italian bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and butter a 13 x 9″ baking dish and set aside.

Cook the noodles until tender but still firm; drain well.  Whisk the cream, milk, and flour in a large bowl, then stir in half of each of the cheeses, the pancetta and the parsley.  Add the noodles and toss to coat.

Pour the noodle mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, then dust with bread crumbs.

Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese and crumbs on top begin to brown, about 20 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Michigoose’s Dad’s Macaroni and Cheese Supreme

I never actually got to eat mac and cheese when I was growing up unless it was at somebody else’s house.  My Dad had developed a serious aversion to it after he and my Mom had to eat it for weeks on end when they were first married and still poor college students.  After working on his own recipe for several years he finally developed one he could eat.  And like all my Dad’s recipe’s, it’s very, very involved!


1 cup macaroni, cooked and drained

1 1/2 T butter

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 T flour

3/4 cup skim milk

3/4 cup ham, fully cooked and cubed

1/4 t dry mustard

1 dash ground black pepper

1/4 t salt (he uses table salt, so adjust if you use something else)

1/2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 dash hot sauce (here he undoubtedly means Tabasco)

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 T butter

2 T green pepper, chopped (I think he means a jalapeno here)

Heat oven to 375 degrees; cook macaroni to al dente, drain and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat and saute onions until light golden in color.  Add the mushrooms and saute another 4 minutes.  Add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 1 minute.  Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

Stir the ham, mustard, pepper,salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, peas and cheese into the milk mixture and stir until the cheese is melted.

Toss together the sauce and macaroni, then spoon into a buttered baking dish.  Bake covered for 20 minutes.  Uncover, dot the top of the casserole with the remaining 2 T of butter and cover with bread crumbs.  Bake another 10 minutes.

Garnish with the pepper and serve.

Morning Report 9/26/12

Vital Statistics:

  Last Change Percent
S&P Futures  1433.8 -3.4 -0.24%
Eurostoxx Index 2512.3 -56.2 -2.19%
Oil (WTI) 89.94 -1.4 -1.57%
LIBOR 0.362 -0.001 -0.34%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.93 0.376 0.47%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.64% -0.03%  
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 194.5 0.0  

Markets are weaker this morning as Europe sells off and commodities weaken. Spanish bond yields are back above 6%.  Perhaps the late summer lull in European news is over and it will take center stage again.  If so, the markets didn’t have much time to bask in the glow of QE infinity. This is pushing yields down on the 10 year, and MBS are up slightly. Volumes should be light today for the Jewish holiday.

The FHFA House Price index increased 3.7% annually in July. This index focuses on Fan and Fred conforming loans, so it is more of a “core” index than Radar Logic or Case-Schiller which are affected by sales at the extremes of valuation.  This index is much more stable – the peak to trough drop for the FHFA index was only 20%, vs. something like 33% for the other indices.


Unsurprisingly, Philly Fed President Charles Plosser doesn’t think much of QE Infinity. Plosser hits at the Fed’s credibility in an unusual way – “Conveying the idea that such action will have a substantive impact on labor markets and the speed of the recovery risks the Fed’s credibility.”  It is unusual in that we typically mean “inflation fighting” when we mention credibility.  Plosser is one of the most hawkish members of the Fed. He forecasts the economy will expand by 3% in 2013 and 2014, which is an aggressive forecast, to say the least. 

If noted that actual borrowing rates have not been affected by GE Infinity, even though MBS have moved, you would not be alone. This has been a continuing theme in the press, which brings with it the predictable questions of price gouging.  Part of the problem is that so much capacity has been taken out of the banking sector in the last 5 years that they cannot handle the volume.  Since most of these loans are refis, the banks view this boomlet as temporary and are reluctant to hire for fear that they will end up being overstaffed when rates start rising. 

Real “inside baseball” stuff, but University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan discusses how our redistributive social safety net is skewing incentives to work, and also challenges Paul Krugman’s “Its the demand, stupid” argument.  

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