Too Little, Too Late?

The European Central Bank finally announced today a 1.1 trillion euro program of quantitative easing (buying private bonds in addition to government bonds). It may not be enough, and the ECB won’t be getting much additional (fiscal) help from European governments.

Though ECB president Mario Draghi famously promised two years ago that the body he leads would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, the consensus seems to be that today’s announcement comes too late to prevent a prolonged period of trouble for Europeans. Even this larger-than-expected round of QE will be hard-pressed to stave off the clear and present deflationary danger that necessitated it.

Of course, though the new monetary measures may fall short of alleviating that danger, European governments aren’t likely to budge from their hard line against fiscal intervention. Angela Merkel recently came out in favor of economic distres…er, pressure. And today Draghi himself said, “It would be a big mistake if countries were to consider that the presence of this program might be an incentive to fiscal expansion.” That’s despite historically low borrowing costs and high unemployment in large swathes of Europe.

We Americans should be careful about throwing stones, though. In a similar position for the last few years, we’ve also been relying on unorthodox monetary policy instead of fiscal stimulus. And as far as I know, the Europeans don’t even have the benefit of regular bridge collapses to point them toward a potential use of stimulus funds.

The two big problems with using QE instead of fiscal measures to revive consumption/inflation at the “zero lower bound” are that 1) it’s inefficient, and 2) it tends to exacerbate inequality.

They’re related problems. Since QE usually involves a central bank pumping money into the economy by buying private bonds from large corporations, the immediate beneficiaries are the wealthy (as this famous-but-not-terribly-nuanced video demonstrates). Hence its inefficiency; the wealthy are much less likely to spend additional income than the poor. It should already be clear now why it promotes inequality, unless you’re still practicing voodoo after all these years.

But for now quantitative easing is Draghi’s only viable option in Europe. The reason liberal economists like Paul Krugman support QE, despite its flaws, is that it’s probably better than nothing. Let’s hope so, for the Continent’s sake.

Oh, and speaking of Professor Krugman, here’s Draghi’s blunt reasoning for warning against fiscal measures: they “would undermine confidence.” Expecting a Confidence Fairy blog post in 3…2…1…

Wait…Our Prosperity?!?!

Yesterday, I clicked hopefully on a link reading “Obama and Cameron: Prosperity Is Key To Defeating Terrorism.” President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron had penned a coöp-ed in the Times (UK). The piece is headlined “We won’t let the voice of freedom be muzzled,” which is an interesting choice from a president often accused of cracking down on press freedoms and a prime minister who is currently calling for an end to privacy on the internet. But more interesting to me was the subtitle:

“Safeguarding our way of life depends on economic strength and standing up to terrorism and international aggression.”

Though the second half is standard-issue meaningless tough talk, that “economic strength” set my heart aflutter. Had these two powerful world leaders finally concluded that Islamic terrorism’s primary cause was neither violence inherent to Islam nor barbarism native to Middle Easterners but the region’s explosive mixture of poverty, hopelessness, and youth unemployment? Would we be cutting spending on our mind-bogglingly massive defense budget and battling future terrorism by reinvesting it in a global pro-education, anti-poverty fund?

No, of course not. Here’s what they actually wrote: “We reaffirm our belief that our ability to defend our freedoms is rooted in our economic strength.”

In other words, we need to focus on making sure our own wealthy nations stay wealthy so we can keep pouring money into whack-a-mole military solutions.


A Tale of Two .01 Percents

The past year, everyone has been talking about the rise of inequality in the world, and in the United States, over the past few decades. In 2015, the richest .01 percent of Americans own over 11 percent of the country’s wealth.

But another .01 percent has been in the news today, although I haven’t seen the number put in such terms, as guns (~33,000) are likely to have recently surpassed automobiles (~32,000) in number of Americans killed per year. 33,000 is, of course, slightly more than .01 percent of 320,000,000, the population of the United States.

It’s obviously not a coincidence of any statistical significance, but it’s still interesting to note that America is either violent enough or unequal enough (or both) that the same number of people are shot to death yearly as own more than a tenth of the country’s wealth.

Nostalgic (Translated Thai Joke)

Today’s Translated Thai Joke is the product of an unusual aspect of Thai society.


Two young lovers carry each other back to their hotel room. After making love, they lie holding each other. The girl reaches a hand under the covers and places it over her partner’s privates.
She: I miss it so much.
He smiles proudly and shoots her an incredulous look.
He: Oh, yeah? You miss me already?
She: No, it’s not that. It’s just…I used to have one.


Trans women and cross-dressing men are extraordinarily common in Thailand. You’ve almost certainly met one of these if you’ve ever been to Thailand, whether you know it or not. The English term used in Thailand for a trans woman or effeminate man is “Ladyboy,” while the Thai word is kathoey (กะเทย). You’ll hear these terms all the time if you visit the Land of Smiles.

You might even encounter one of Thailand’s infamous kathoey kwai (กะเทยควาย, literally “buffalo ladyboys,” figuratively “Trannosaurus Rex”), a term used to refer to particularly poorly camouflaged cross-dressers. While “buffalo” is an uncommon insult in the Anglophone world, it’s very popular in Thailand as a way to refer to an especially large or slow person.

That’s all for now! If you didn’t like today’s joke, at least enjoy this clip of one of the most popular contestants in Thailand’s Got Talent history:

Quite A Bit Of Pressure (Translated Thai Joke)

Today’s Translated Thai Joke, below, comes to you in illustrated form courtesy of Thailand’s massive “Fan Club Man U” – and its members’ no-bull approach to appraising their team.

Welcome to Old Trafford, Angel Di Maria! Good luck handling the pressure.

“Quite A Bit Of Pressure”


In case you can’t read the cartoon:

Juan Mata: “Angel…you’re going to be under quite a bit of pressure in the first match.”
Angel Di Maria: “Because I’m wearing the #7 shirt and the club paid a lot of money to buy me, right?”
Mata: “No…because Young, Evans, Jones, and Fletcher are all playing.”
Di Maria: “…………”

The New Secretary (Translated Thai Joke)

Thais love jokes. Especially blue jokes. As a proud member of an all-Thai (besides me) group chat on Line, I’m privy to a constant stream of off-color Thai humor. I’ve decided I’ll translate the jokes that come my way for the enjoyment of the Anglophone world. (Disclaimer: I take no credit for the content of these jokes. The faint of heart and weak of stomach should read no further.)

“The New Secretary”

Mr. Krieger is interviewing a new secretary.
Mr. Krieger: Turn around, please.
Secretary: Yes, sir.
Mr. Krieger wraps his arms around her and places a palm over each of her breasts.
Mr. Krieger: Do you know what I’m doing?
Secretary: Measuring for my shirt size, sir.
Mr. Krieger, breathing deeply, passes his nose along the secretary’s neck and up and down the side of her face.
Mr. Krieger: Do you know what I’m doing now?
Secretary: Checking for body odor, sir.
Mr. Krieger begins removing the secretary’s clothing, one piece at a time.
Mr. Krieger: How about now? Do you know what I’m doing?
Secretary: Reviewing my general bodily health, sir.
Finally, all of the secretary’s clothing has been removed.
Mr. Krieger: And do you know what I’m doing now?
Secretary: Yes, sir. You’re performing some type of acupuncture to help cure my AIDS!

Germany vs. Argentina (Final)

Two great footballing nations meet in today’s World Cup 2014 final at the famous Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Germany, having humiliated hosts Brazil 7-1 in the first semifinal on Tuesday, will do battle with Lionel Messi and Argentina, who narrowly squeaked by the Netherlands Wednesday on penalty kicks.

These two sides have met in World Cup finals before. Diego Maradona led Argentina to victory at home in 1986, but couldn’t overcome a dubious red card and penalty in Italy 1990. It might be telling that each of those two matches was won by the country playing on its home continent. European and South American sides have met in the final on nine previous occasions; European teams are 0-7 outside Europe and 2-1 on the old continent (Pele’s Brazil beat Sweden at Sweden 1958). Still, the Germans have knocked Argentina out of the last two World Cups, and they can certainly have no fear of hostile crowds after their last match. This one will be decided by the players, plain and simple.

Continue reading “Germany vs. Argentina (Final)”

Holland vs. Argentina (Semifinal)

We witnessed soccer history yesterday in Germany’s 7-1 destruction of Brazil. The Germans were worth every bit of that scoreline – in fact, Mesut Özil’s late miss and Oscar’s even later consolation goal mean 7-1 might have flattered Brazil – and the specter of a final against Joachim Löw’s new Wunderteam hangs over today’s match.

But both nations competing this evening have their own place in the sport’s history: Holland is home to totaalvoetbal and Johan Cruyff, while Argentina can point to a pedigree of two World Cup victories and two of the game’s greats in Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Messi has been a player-of-the-tournament candidate in his first five matches, but so has Holland’s Arjen Robben (pictured above), the unstoppable dribbler and incorrigible diver. Which superstar will inspire his team to progression to the final against Germany?

Continue reading “Holland vs. Argentina (Semifinal)”

Brazil vs. Germany (Semifinal)

And then there were four. And arguably the best four in the competition: Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands, although Colombia and Chile could argue for their inclusion in the top tier.

The first match features five-time champions and hosts Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) against three-time champions Germany (1954, 1974, 1990). They’ve only met in the World Cup once, in 2002, when Brazil beat Germany 2-0 in the final on the strength of two Ronaldo goals. Germany have been one of the strongest sides in the world for years and are currently ranked second by FIFA; Brazil are ranked third, but they’ll carry onto the field with them the hopes, dreams, and energy of the world’s greatest soccer nation.

Continue reading “Brazil vs. Germany (Semifinal)”

Brazil vs. Colombia (Quarterfinal)

The second quarterfinal features hosts Brazil and surprising Colombia. Despite failing to impress so far, the Brazilians will still be favorites in front of their home crowd. Their South American neighbors, meanwhile, have been the best side in the Cup, with the best player in young James (“HA-mace”) Rodriguez. The world will be watching the matchup between James (pictured above) and Brazil’s own young star Neymar.

Continue reading “Brazil vs. Colombia (Quarterfinal)”