Easy Come, Easy Go….

From Brad Setser….

Russia’s reserves fell by over $30 billion during the third week of October — tumbling from $515.7b on October 17 to $484.7b on October 24. Roughly $15 billion of the fall reflects the fall in the dollar value of Russia’s euros and pounds. But about $15 billion reflects Russian intervention in the currency market, as well as the drain on Russia’s reserves associated with the loans Russia’s government is making to Russian banks and firms seeking foreign exchange to repay their foreign currency debts.

A $15 billion weekly outflow is rather large.

At this rate, Russia’s remaining reserves will be gone in about 32 weeks. But it is unlikely to continue at this rate. Still, this shows that having large reserves does not guarantee economic stability in a nation’s future.

The Future Has Not Happened Yet

If you try to talk about how demographics will affect a country’s economic future you will alway come acrossed a few people who will argue that all the problems can be fixed by people working longer. To a certain degree, this makes a lot of sense. People are living longer so it seems as if they should be able to work longer. But in the here and now, living longer has not correlated to working longer. On the contrary, as the average live span has gone up, the working age has gone down. From Brian Sullivan…..

We continue as a nation to retire younger. More workers are making smart investment and retirement decisions and that’s helping say “so long” to the working world at an earlier age. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average “exit” age from the workforce has dropped from 66.9 in 1950-55 (the study is done in 5 year increments) to 62.0 years in 2000. Five years earlier. Good work!

As we retire younger, we live longer. Our lifespan continues to hit a record in America. The accounts vary, but on a whole its safe to say the American lives to be an average of about 75 years old. Women live to an average age of 80, men drag the average down. And this upward trend is going to continue. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the average lifespan in America will increase by another 2 years by 2015. Even men may live to be 80 someday.

Admiral Yi: The Other Lord Nelson

Many people have heard of Lord Nelson(1) and his famous naval victory in the Battle of Trafalgar(2). Far fewer people have ever heard of Admiral Yi(3) who was every bit as brilliant a naval commander as Lord Nelson, if not more so.

For example, in the Battle of Myeongnyang(4):

on October 26, 1597, the Korean admiral Yi Sunsin fought the Japanese navy at sea in Myeongnyang Strait, near Jindo Island. With only the 13 ships remaining from Won Gyun’s disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chilchonryang, Admiral Yi Sunsin held the strait from a fleet of 133 Japanese warships and at least 200 Japanese logistical support ships. Many Japanese warships were sunk or disabled during the battle and the Japanese were forced to retreat.

Admiral Yi delivered this remarkable victory after his own king had stripped him of his rank and nearly tortured him to death on false charges of treason. The fleet Admiral Yi had carefully built up from 63 ships to 166 was given into the command of a rival admiral–who promptly went off and lost the entire fleet (except for 13 ships) to the Japanese. Admiral Yi was then restored to his command. But King Seonjo, who judged that the Joseon navy had lost their power and would never be restored again, sent a letter to abolish the navy and join the ground forces under General Gwon Yul. To which Admiral Yi responded in his own letter, “…I still own thirteen ships. As I am alive, the enemies will never gain the Western Sea.”

The rest, they say, is history.

Because of his military brilliance and success, Admiral Yi inspired much envy. As a result of this, in the course of his career he was twice falsely accused, stripped of his rank, and tortured. Nonetheless, he continued to faithfully serve his country until his death.He is reputed to be one of the few admirals to have been victorious in every naval battle (at least 23) in which he commanded.

He lived a life one could write a novel about.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Nelson,_1st_Viscount_Nelson
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trafalgar
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Admiral_Yi
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Myeongnyang

The Death Of A Secular Society Prefigured

From the Jewish Press…

Religious Zionists today make up about seven percent of the total population of the country. But their sons comprise twenty percent of IDF combat soldiers, nearly a quarter of the IDF’s junior officer corps, and fifty percent of its company commanders.

The growing prominence of religious Zionists in all combat arms of the IDF is a consequence of a now two-decade trend among religious Zionists in Israel to serve in combat units – the more elite, the better. A contrary trend among upper middle class secular youth not to serve in the IDF at all renders the contribution of the religious youth all the more noticeable to the general public and all the more crucial for the IDF.

That latter trend has found a sympathetic audience in Yediot’s pages. Just last month the paper ran a cover story in its weekend magazine showcasing the daughter of the deputy head of the Mossad. The young woman is now anticipating prison in the wake of her refusal to serve in the army due to her anti-Zionist ideological beliefs.

These countervailing social currents of increased religious participation and decreased secular participation in fighting units was brought to the public’s attention in a graphic manner during the Second Lebanon War. In the course of the war, only one soldier from Tel Aviv was killed in battle while over a dozen soldiers from religious communities were killed in combat.

h/t The Belmont Club

A secular society is one that will not last long. From having children to military service, secular cultures have shown themselves unwilling to do the things that a culture needs to do to survive. Most conservatives would agree with this observation.

But conservatives tend to take it for granted that what will replace a secular culture will be better as long as it does not come from outside the racial/cultural subgroup that they belong to. I have no such confidence.

Its Official

From Felix Salmon….

If you’re one of those people who needs a negative GDP number to convince yourself that we’re in a recession, here you go. But the headline -0.3% figure isn’t the worst bit: that would be the 8.7% fall in disposable personal income. If there was any doubt about the outcome of this election, that number alone should put it to rest: there’s no way that the incumbent party can win in that kind of economic environment.

From the Economist….

The unemployment rate has risen to 6.1% and is set to continue upwards. Ford and General Motors, as well as Whirlpool, an appliance manufacturer, are among big American firms that have announced job cuts recently. Employment figures due for release on November 7th are likely to show that around another 175,000 jobs were lost in October, pushing the unemployment rate up to 6.3%, according to a survey of forecasts by Bloomberg. Fewer jobs mean lost income and less spending.

Companies seem to be cutting overtime and hours worked more then jobs. I think that is a good thing. But how long can it last?

I don't need any help forgetting anything

From Danger Room….

A team of scientists from the United States and China announced last week that, for the first time, they had found a means of selectively and safely erasing memories in mice, using the signaling molecule αCaMKII. It’s a big step forward, and one that will be of considerable interest to the military, which has devoted efforts to memory manipulation as a means of treating post-traumatic stress disorder. But some military research has moved in another direction entirely.