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Warren J. Dew

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When I cite a news article, I almost never cite The New York Times. There is a reason for this. The reason is that New York Times articles are long, detailed, well written - and carefully crafted to present only one side of the story. In more plebeian sources, one sidedness is often easily detected, but in the New York Times, the level of detail and the writing skill are very effective in lulling the reader into thinking they are getting the whole story - when in fact they are getting only half the story, if that.

The most recent New York Times article I read, forwarded by a good friend, is a case in point. The article is on the finding of Denisovan DNA in 400,000 year old femurs in Spain, previously thought to be from ancestors of Neanderthals. Since the DNA is Denisovan rather than Neanderthal, they conclude that the fossils, instead of coming from a Neanderthal ancestor, instead indicate that Neanderthals later replaced the preexisting population of Denisovans. It's a pretty convincing argument, if all you read is that article from The New York Times.

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Economists have finally shown why the Great Depression continued for so long. It was government policy: specifically, FDR's policies that interfered with the free market, just as many of us suspected all along.

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I was working late, when I heard repeated sniffling from upstairs. After a while I went to investigate, and sitting huddled on the top stair was Margaret, miserably sick with a cold. I sat a stair or two down to be closer to her level and hugged her, and she held me hard.

I got her to lie down on the couch in the back room by promising to sit with her, got some tissues for her, and sat next to her for a few minutes. Then, when it became clear that she just wanted my presence and not my active attention, and after getting her permission, I went downstairs to retrieve my laptop, and then came back up to continue my work sitting next to her.

Eventually her sniffles subsided and she managed to get to sleep. I couldn't make her cold go away, but at least I was able to make her less miserable.

I think that's what parenting is all about.
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As expected, but contrary to press hysteria, Twinkies and other Hostess products are being manufactured again. Two private equity firms bought the rights to most of the snack products - and also bought four of their bakeries - and they will be available again at most outlets on Monday.

Those who followed the bankruptcy last November will remember that the proximate reason for Hostess's Chapter 7 liquidation was the refusal on the part of their bakers' union to accept a new contract imposed under Chapter 11 reorganization. The underlying cause, however, was more an issue of union work rules on the part of the Teamsters - rules that, for example, required different products to be delivered on different trucks, resulting in substantial inefficiency. Basically the bakers' union didn't want to pay for the inefficiency caused by the Teamsters.

The new Hostess doesn't employ truck drivers at all. Instead, they contract out delivery to third parties. Not only does this permit the third parties to be more efficient, but it permits Hostess to deliver to more than twice as many stores - obviously a substantial benefit to the company.

They do still employ bakers - two shifts of them, at the moment - but the lack of union rules facilitates plans to invest in the bakeries and make them more efficient. Those efficiencies have permitted Hostess to switch to higher quality ingredients - their ingredient costs are up 9% - and perhaps eventually to scale back to a single shift.

Ultimately this is a success story. Inefficient practices that accumulated during good times are being trimmed out in favor of more efficient practices, which will ultimately provide the consumer with a better value for the next business cycle. This illustrates why the economy needs a recession now and then: to work out inefficiencies that are unsustainable in the long run. Now if only we would manage the recessions to promote the necessary restructuring, instead of dragging them out by trying to preserve the status quo, we could get the bad times over with more quickly.

Hostess products available Monday:,0,1531568.story
More detail on how the new Hostess is organized:
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Google+ is more featureful, yes. However, its problems with eventual consistency - which manifest as posts and comments disappearing and reappearing at random - are a major pain. I've commented on a few occasions to friends there that Google+ really needs user affinity to solve that.

Livejournal doesn't have those problems. As it turns out, that's because Livejournal has user affinity by cluster:

Okay, their clustering is a little primitive, as restores appear to require manual intervention. Google should just buy Livejournal, fix those implementation issues, and replace Google+ with it.

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It's clear that the Tsarnaevs are jihadist terrorists, and we can stop dancing around that fact.

A week ago, no one knew what a pressure cooker bomb was. Now, everyone does. But where does the idea come from?

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Yesterday Margaret wanted Redbones barbeque for dinner. We told her we couldn't afford restaurant food every day, but we could do it if we didn't go to the Dimsum restaurant today, which we often do on Saturdays. She agreed. My wife thought she would forget by today and throw a tantrum anyway when we refused to go to the Dimsum restaurant, but I thought she would remember.

Well, today she asked if we could go to Dimsum. We reminded her that she had agreed to skip it today. She didn't throw a tantrum; instead, after some minutes of thought, she said, "can we go to Mary Chung's" - a different kind of Chinese restaurant - "instead?"

I think I should have her handle all my negotiations from now on.

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Last week I discussed Japan's lost decades, and how the underlying cause of their recession is that a larger proportion of economic output is being taken by retirees, leaving less to be provided as pay and thus as incentives for those not yet retired to work.

This effect hit Japan starting in 1990 because they had substantial population increases before and to some extent during World War II, unlike the U.S. The U.S. did, however, have a "baby boom" following World War II. Those baby boomers are just starting to retire now, and will continue to do so through 2030.

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The ongoing Japanese recession has puzzled economists for decades. Here's the explanation. Part 1 of 2.

The 1990s were the "lost decade" in Japan. The country went into recession, unemployment reached unheard of highs by Japanese standards, especially among youth, and deflation set in. This did not end with the end of the 1990s, however - the 2000s were another lost decade, and Japan has yet to pull out.

It is becoming more and more clear that the lost decades have to do with the inversion of the population pyramid, with more retirees leaving the work force than young people entering it. However, the exact relationship is unclear. In a free market, a shrinking work force should decrease unemployment as labor becomes more valuable, rather than increasing unemployment as has been observed.

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Since our daughter will be kindergarten age in the fall, Elizabeth and I have been spending a lot of time researching public schools in the area. Our primary figure of merit has been Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System - MCAS - test distributions as adjusted for ethnic composition, not because we think that's a great way of grading schools, but because it's the only data we have and we think it's more accurate than nothing.

It turns out that all but one of the schools in our town are well below average for the state, and probably for the country. What was interesting was to contrast the approach of the one school that has good test scores with one of the schools with poor test scores.

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