Saturday, September 15, 2007

What's bred in the bone

Central Banker turned annoying gadfly Alan Greenspan had a well deserved reputation for talking without actually saying anything, especially when testifying before Congress. Apparently this was a lifelong skill as evidenced by this 1957 letter to the Editor of the NY Times defending his mentor's book Atlas Shrugged against a negative review:

Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. Mr. Hicks (the reviewer) suspiciously wonders "about a person who sustains such a mood through the writing of 1168 pages and some 14 years of work." This reader wonders about a person who finds unrelenting justice personally disturbing.


Holy Crap! I really hope he was trying not to actually say anything there, because if he was trying to say something, what he says is pretty freakin' scary.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Heresthetics in Action!

When Mungowitz and I were little lads in grad school, the late great William Riker was a frequent visitor to Wash U. Riker coined the term heresthetics to refer to the art of changing political outcomes without changing people's underlying preferences. One way he claimed this could be done was by introducing a new policy dimension into the debate, which is pretty much exactly what the Anti-Evo movement in Bolivia has been able to do.

I don't know how much they read Riker, but somehow by starting a seemingly frivolous campaign to have the capital moved back to Sucre from Morales stronghold La Paz, the anti-Morales folks have effectively stymied Evo's bid to re-write Bolivia's constitution in a way that improved indigenous rights and also allowed Evo to remain in office for the forseeable future!! The million strong Evo "street team" is reduced to demanding that the capital stay in La Paz rather than demanding restitution for centuries of abuse at the hands of the Santa Cruz elite.

Somewhere, wearing a deafeningly loud sport jacket, Bill Riker is looking on and smiling.

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry.....

As you may have gathered by now, I live in Norman OK. Besides OU football and Native American Gaming, there isn't much going on 'round here.

My neighborhood, which features a wooden bridge (pictured on the left) and a big barn, is actually a tourist attraction. People come to have their photos taken on/by the bridge in their prom dresses/wedding dresses/glamor-shot gowns/mullets etc. (really!).

Often the photo taker has backed well out into the road and you gotta decide whether to swerve/stop/or thin the gene pool. Mrs. Angus and I have become inured to all these shenanigans, or so we thought until yesterday when we happened upon a big boned lass in cowboy gear posing on the bridge with her sheep!!! (Really!) Mrs. Angus took in the scene, turned to me and said "that was the prettiest sheep I've ever seen. I'd get my picture taken with it". (I swear that I am not making any of this up)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Charter Schools In LA

Our good friend Hispanic Pundit gives some interesting cuatro uno uno on charter schools in Los Angeles.

The empire strikes back.....


Greenspan Acknowledges He Failed to See Early on the Risks of 'Subprime' Mortgages

When he was at the helm, Greenspan maintained there was little the Fed -- which also oversees the safety and soundness of banks -- could do about the subprime situation. One of the Fed's governors, however, had raised a red flag about questionable lending practices.

"Well, it was nothing to look into particularly because we knew there was a number of such practices going on, but it's very difficult for banking regulators to deal with that," Greenspan said in the interview.

Some blamed Greenspan's interest rate policies for feeding the housing frenzy. Sales had hit record highs and house prices galloped from 2001 to 2005. Then the market fell into a deep slump.

The Greenspan Fed from early 2001 to the summer of 2003 had slashed interest rates to their lowest level in decades. It was done to rescue the economy from the blows of the bursting of the stock market bubble, the 2001 recession, the terror attacks and a wave of accounting scandals that shook Wall Street.

Critics say the Fed kept rates too low for too long, encouraging a Wild West mentality in housing.

Greenspan, however, defended the institution's actions.

"They are mistaken," he said of the critics. "It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function. This required that we keep rates modestly low," he said.

Bear with me folks while I make a couple of observations.

1. As I recently pointed out, the fed funds rate was too low according to the Taylor Rule in 2004 and 2005 as well as in 2001-2003. Even though the Fed was raising rates in 04/05, economic conditions were calling for larger and faster rate increases.

2. We have GOT TO STOP ALLOWING/EXPECTING THE FED TO MICRO MANAGE THE ECONOMY!!! "It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function". In 2001-2003? Are you freaking kidding me?

The Fed needs to target either the price level or inflation and forget all this unfreezing and bubble popping and fine tuning nonsense. Central Bankers: get over yourselves. Yer doin' it wrong!

And they wrote it all down as the Progress of Man*

Hi, I'm Angus and I am an audio luddite. I make my own amps upstairs in my "project room".
I own and use an old Tektronix
oscilloscope to help test out my designs. I build my own
speakers in the garage. My CD player uses vacuum tubes (FWIW, this is
all true).
But I can't realistically run my own recording studio and progress and philistines are

ruining my music. Everyone uses IPODs. Most everyone puts compressed MP3s
(or some other compressed format)
on them and listens through piece of crap earbuds.
This is so popular that recording engineers are
starting to optimize recordings for being
heard in this manner.

HOLY PINK FLOYD! SAY IT AIN'T SO!


It's so. supposedly some recording artists want to hear the producers mixes of their tracks on an
ipod before
deciding if it sounds good enough.

Here are some quotes from industry pros "courtesy" of the ever gated WSJ:

"Right now, when you are done recording a track, the first thing the

band does is to load it onto an iPod and give it a listen," said Alan Douches, who has worked with Fleetwood Mac and others.

"Years ago, we might have checked the sound of a track on a Walkman, but no one believed that was the best it could sound. Today, young artists think MP3s are a high-quality medium and the iPod is state-of-the-art sound."

For example, says veteran Los Angeles studio owner Skip Saylor, high frequencies that might seem splendid on a CD might not sound as good as an MP3 file and so will get taken out of the mix. "The result might make you happy on an MP3, but it wouldn't make you happy on a CD," he says. "Am I glad I am doing this? No. But it's the real world and so you make adjustments."

As a result, contemporary pop music has a characteristic sound, says veteran L.A. engineer Jack Joseph Puig, whose credits include the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. "Ten years ago, music was warmer; it was rich and thick, with more tones and more 'real power.' But newer records are more brittle and bright. They have what I call 'implied power.' It's all done with delays and reverbs and compression to fool your brain."

I'm not totally crazy, I gotz an IPOD. But I download to it in apple's uncompressed (lossless) format.
Sure it holds fewer songs that way, but I still have a few hundred on there with room for more.

The difference in sound is astounding. Please don't make me have to build a recording studio
in the back yard.

Stand up for real music today!



* John Prine: Paradise


Durham Bulls Game

Last home game of the season last night at the DBAP. For some reason, not many people come to the "Governor's Cup" games, even though it is the World Series for the International League of AAA baseball.

So, we got excellent seats, fifth row behind the visitors on-deck circle.

Bulls won, 5-1, behind a dominant pitching performance by Jeff Neimann.

Some highlights, at least from my perspective:

1. In the "sumo" contest, where two people put on fat suits and wrestle, one guy falls down. The other grabs the downed guy's sumo diaper, yanks it up, and runs forward. This has the simultaneous effects of giving downed boy an excellent wedgie, and run his face through the grass for nearly three feet. Best sumo ever.
(YouTube video of a different, but also enjoyable, sumo contest)

2. A very fine brawl. Unusual in AAA. But Bulls pitcher Neimann (6'9", 260 lbs!) threw (uncorked, I think I have to say) a 94 mph sailer that went about six inches BEHIND Richmond batter Doug Clark's head. It was also at least 18" ABOVE Clark's head, to be fair, but Clark got (as KPC friend Jim Bouton put it) the "red ass." Clark started fussing at Neimann, waving his bat, fuming. Clark is 6'2", 210, not small, but I don't think anyone really wants to fight Neimann. He is monstrous. Two pitches later, Clark hits a single just past the first baseman, and pitcher Neimann moves toward first in case Bankston (1st baseman) made the play. Clark starts fussing again, pushes are exchanged, both benches clear, there is some vigorous debating and genealogy questions ("YOUR mama was so....) are raised.

Order is restored. But then Richmond coach, Brundage, gets into it with the third base ump. Brundage gives it the full Lou Pinella (Lou is the original red ass, of course). They are yelling and moving around each other. I say, "come on, let's play!" My son turns to me, aghast. "Are you kidding? This is great!" And, of course, it was.

3. A towering fly ball was hit. I mean, it was above the lights, you could barely see it. And then it starts coming down...pretty much right at our seats! We all stand, hoping (not really) to get a chance to catch this ball (it had to be smoking on atmospheric reentry). It lands about four seats to our left, down one row. As my eye followed it, I saw this little morality play:
a. young woman, bent over forward, in her seat, yelling, hiding her head.
b. young man, gamely standing over her, hands over her back, to protect her.
c. young man, seeing that ball is coming RIGHT AT THEM, ducks his own head, and runs across two other people to get to the aisle. Just bails, a total morale break.
d. ball lands about 8 inches to left of young woman.
e. young man returns to seat, laughing.
f. young woman stares at him, gives him a pretty solid straight right to the chest. "You wimp!"

Other fans start the "Aaaaaaahhhhh-lice" cheer. Young man no longer laughing. Young woman pretty much stared straight ahead, arms folded, for the next two innings.

4. Best part of the night for me: A confirmation that the younger generation is getting the information needed about the classics, the REAL classics. I notice (it's 9:30 pm) that my younger son is wearing sunglasses. I mention this. My sons, in unison, say: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we are wearing sunglasses. HIT IT!" Brought tears to my eyes. Who says that today's youth aren't learning the canon?


(YouTube of Durham Bulls 2007 Fan Appreciation Video) What a guy....makes ya cry....UNT I did.

For the 1,000th Post: Prez Pong

Usetabe, you had to go to Stuckey's for really horrible, schlocky stuff.

Now, it's on the internet. But will future generations see it? It's not made out of plastic any more, it's...virtual!

For example, this is as bad as anything Stuckey's sells. But will it last? An excellent bit of Americana, schlock, and history all in one. The various "begin!"s and the music....excellent.

(1,000th post on this blog. Whodathought!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Too Insure Promptness

Why tip? Why not tip?

I was fascinated to read that "In Iceland, tipping in a restaurant is considered an insult." Is the norm, "I give you sullen, indifferent service as a matter of choice. Do not try to bully me with offers of riches, American pig! I cannot be bought. Here is your cold dinner. I'll be back in half an hour with your silverware."

Well, in the union shop I used to work at, working AT ALL was considered an insult. You could get beaten up (I was threatened by two guys with shovels) for working at more than a snail's pace.

Presumably, the cost of labor is the same total, regardless of whether the hourly wage is lowered in anticipation of tips, or if there is no tipping and hourly wages are higher.

Of course, that's not true empirically. The recent decision of American, and other airlines, to charge $2 per bag is KILLING the skycaps out front of the terminal. Their wages have not increased, but tips have dried up almost completely.

So, a question for all you life-arrangers out there: should tipping be outlawed? Required? Or is the current system, where discretion of the customer at the end improves service throughout, the best?

Consider this.

Or, this. Craig Newmark says, "that uncertainty—that freedom to exercise discretion, to leave as little or as much as you wish—is why tipping has flourished as a social institution. (In the same spirit, Americans prefer giving charity privately rather than through their government.) Diners—eighty per cent of whom say that they prefer tipping to a set service charge—like the power that the ability to tip gives them. Waiters like tipping because it gives them the chance to distinguish themselves from the crowd and to score an occasional windfall. Tipping, curiously, has gone from being the antithesis of individualism to its apotheosis." Or is it, as a commenter on Craig's post notes, really just a tax issue?

Freedom? Freedom! Freedom....

Ms. Kay Hymowitz delivers certain opinions regarding libertarianism.

Two excerpts:
More than perhaps any other American political group, libertarians have suffered the blows of caricature. For many people, the term evokes an image of a scraggly misfit living in the woods with his gun collection, a few marijuana plants, some dogeared Ayn Rand titles, and a battered pickup truck plastered with bumper stickers reading "Taxes = Theft" and "FDR Was A Pinko."

The stereotype is not entirely unfair. Even some of those who proudly call themselves libertarians recognize that their philosophy of personal freedom and minimal government can be a powerful magnet for the unhinged. Nor has recent political history done much to rehabilitate libertarianism's image as an outlier.


and

Libertarians come in many flavors, of course, but they share certain enthusiasms beyond free-market economics. They are often great consumers of science fiction, with an avid interest in space travel. And they have an almost unlimited enthusiasm for biotechnology, especially for advances that might allow us to manipulate our natures and extend our lives. Taken together, these elements constitute what might be called the libertarian dream--the dream of shaping your own meaning, liberated from family, from the past, from tradition, from biology, and perhaps even from the earth itself.

Such utopian ambitions are difficult to satisfy or even contain in the mundane world of American politics. For some time to come, they are likely to make libertarianism the natural home of assorted cranks and crazies, and thus to continue to provide fodder for its at least partly deserved caricature.


Angus and I are both libertarians, after a fashion. But our views have roots rather different from those described in the books Ms. Hymowitz reviews.

We don't trust people.

We actually pretty much don't even LIKE other people, with a few temporary exceptions. (This includes each other, but I have to admit he has cause. He has CAUSE, I'm sayin'.)

Both of us worked in the private sector. Angus ended up being a union steward (yes, he did!), just because he wouldn't back down to the dickhead foreman on the welding crew. (Yes, imagine that: Angus with a blow torch. And this was before he achieved his current, heavily muscled physique!).

And I...well, I worked a bunch of different places, and have little love for the hierarchy and repression of the industrial workplace.

Most jobs suck. Most corporations are rapacious, and most foremen are dickheads.

But you can leave a job. You can't leave a city / county / state / nation, at least not without paying your "fair share" of taxes. ("What do I owe you?" "Well, what have you got?")

Angus and I aren't utopian libertarians. (And I think the Bishop is with us on this). Things can be really bad in the private sector. But they are rarely SO bad that attempted meddling by bed-wetting, tree-hugging do gooders can't make things much, much worse.

So, Kay Hymowitz is wrong. We are not trying to be liberated "from the earth itself." We would be satisfied just to be sure we are free from Kay Hymowitz.

(Nod to C-Greg)

This is the mess that the Fed hath made....

.....let us rejoice and ask them to fix it??

One big reason why we are in the mess we are in today is that the Fed kept short term interest rates too low for too long compared to the benchmark that many policymakers pay homage to, namely the Taylor Rule.

The classic version of the Taylor Rule takes the inflation target to be 2%, the long term real interest rate to be 2% and calls for raising rates when inflation is above 2% and when output is above potential. From 2001 through 2005 the Taylor Rule called for an average Fed Funds rate of 4.92% (I used actual inflation not core inflation and measured potential output using the Hodrick Prescott filter to generate these numbers), while the actual rate averaged 2.9%. The graph below shows the quarter to quarter details.


So during Greenspan's last five years, the Fed Funds rate was on average two full percentage points below the benchmark, and the benchmark takes economic conditions into account!!!

Ironically, everyone is clamoring for the same organization to rescue them using the same tactic that helped to create the original problem: lowering rates.

A Utilitarian Rationale for "Social Insurance"?

My good friend Price Fishback has an interesting paper:

Striking at the Roots of Crime: The Impact of Social Welfare Spending on
Crime During the Great Depression

Ryan Johnson, Shawn Kantor & Price Fishback
NBER Working Paper, January 2007
(slightly older, free version)

Abstract:
The Great Depression of the 1930s led to dire circumstances for a large
share of American households. Contemporaries worried that a number of these
households would commit property crimes in their efforts to survive the hard
times. The Roosevelt administration suggested that their unprecedented and
massive relief efforts struck at the roots of crime by providing subsistence
income to needy families. After constructing a panel data set for 83 large
American cities for the years 1930 through 1940, we estimated the impact of
relief spending by all levels of government on crime rates. The analysis
suggests that relief spending during the 1930s lowered property crime in a
statistically and economically significant way. A lower bound ordinary least
squares estimate suggests that a 10 percent increase in per capita relief
spending during the Great Depression lowered property crime rates by close
to 1 percent. After controlling for potential endogeneity using an
instrumental variables approach, the estimates suggest that a 10 percent
increase in per capita relief spending lowered crime rates by roughly 5.6 to
10 percent at the margin. More generally, our results indicate that social
insurance, which tends to be understudied in economic analyses of crime,
should be more explicitly and more carefully incorporated into the analysis
of temporal and spatial variations in criminal activity.


(Nod to KL, who would still commit crimes no matter HOW much the government offered to pay him. It's the thrill, you see)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Terrorism: yer doin' it Wrong!

Islamic militants claim foiled attack This from the AP not the Onion, I promise!

BERLIN - An Islamic militant group designated as a terror organization by the U.S. claimed responsibility for foiled bombings that targeted the American air base at Ramstein, as well as U.S. and Uzbek consulates in Germany, the government said Tuesday.

The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for police and internal security, said the Islamic Jihad Union made the announcement on the Internet and that government computer experts viewed it as genuine. Three men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of planning massive bombings against U.S. and other facilities in Germany.

"In an Internet appearance, the Islamic Jihad Union has taken responsibility for the foiled attacks in Germany and addresses the arrests of Sept. 4, 2007," the ministry statement said. "The attacks planned according to this for the end of 2007 were directed against the U.S. air base at Ramstein as well as U.S. and Uzbek consular facilities in Germany."

Uh, hi, we're the Islamic Jihad Union. Y'know those dudes that got arrested in Germany, the ones who didn't hurt anyone or blow up anything. The ones who didn't notice when the cops swapped out their explosive materials for dirt? Yeah, that was us. Ready to give up your wicked western ways NOW? No? Dam! Kthxybai!

All bad news, All the time

US exports are at an all time high and grew 2.7% last month. It was robust export growth that largely caused the recent upward revision of the second quarter GDP number. This is good economic news, but it gets buried in trade deficit hysteria.

Even though the headline is "Trade Deficit Declines Slightly" the story goes negative real fast. We are told by an "expert" that the number will probably be revised upward, we are told our "deficit with China" is at its "second all time highest" level, and we are treated to expert analysis by thug-o-conomist James Hoffa:

"Americans realize that our bloated trade deficit erodes our standard of living," said Teamsters President James Hoffa, whose union is leading a fight to overturn a Bush administration decision last week that opens up the nation's southern border to Mexican trucks.

With a little Mexico bashing thrown in, por gusto.

The 9th paragraph mentions the export record and the 11th paragraph points out its economic importance but again in the most negative way possible:

The boom in exports is helping cushion the U.S. economy from the adverse effects of the worst downturn in housing in 16 years and a serious credit crunch stemming from growing losses in subprime mortgages. Without continued export gains, some analysts worry that the country could be pushed into a recession.

If exports are so important to our economic growth (and they are), wouldn't it seem like a bad time to start up new protectionist measure and invite backlash/reciprocity?

Citizen Self-Arrest Form

An alert, but anonymous, reader sends in a delightful revelation!

The University of Oklahoma (The Angusian crib!) has a helpful website designed to make it easier for people to get to know police on the "beat." I have always thought "beat cops" was redundant, but that is their metaphor.

Still talking may not be enough: What if you need actually to ARREST yourself? As the site notes, it would save tax dollars.

Well, the OU information people are up to the job: Here is your citizen's self-arrest form. Ideally, you would put on handcuffs, on yourself, and wait for a big sweaty campus policeman to come "beat" you with a nightstick. In New Orleans, that will cost you an extra $100, but in Norman, you can get it for FREE.

That is one progressive place!

(Also, check this picture of the "chief": note the halo effect, a kind of medieval saint thing).














(Yes, I understand this may precipitate attacks on Durham. But these days, that is almost too easy)

More BANG, No Buck

The "Band Automatic Name Generator" (click here, then reload the page to get different names) is rather amusing.

In a few minutes, I got:

1. Splashing Regulators (with WHAT? Ick.)
2. Adequate Hot Buttered Parson (Larry Craig's band)
3. Replacing Data (not John's band. Repeat: NOT John's band. Right, Steve?)
4. Florida Chaos (Al Gore's band)
5. Green Constant (The LVMI Band. Though, just "The Rothbards" is a pretty good band name)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Guitar Hiro!

A new air guitar champ is crowned.

The story gives an enigmatic reference to another contestant, tho:

The talent on display was variable at best. The surprise of the qualifying round was Oulu native Hilkka "Gore Kitty" Suvanto, who has twice before scored the lowest points ever in that round but now achieved a perfect six from many of the judges.

"Gore Kitty"? From the lowest points total ever to perfect 6's? In AIR GUITAR? Does it matter that the contest had Finnish judges? I think a scandal lurks.

I had to know more. And, more I found, here. Gore Kitty is Finnish. I don't know why, but that kills me. A Finnish air guitar hero.

You might as well....JUMP!

Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks

Michael Bar-Eli, Ofer Azar, Ilana Ritov, Yael Keidar-Levin & Galit Schein
Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In soccer penalty kicks, goalkeepers choose their action before they can
clearly observe the kick direction. An analysis of 286 penalty kicks in top
leagues and championships worldwide shows that given the probability
distribution of kick direction, the optimal strategy for goalkeepers is to
stay in the goal's center. Goalkeepers, however, almost always jump right or
left. We propose the following explanation for this behavior: because the
norm is to jump, norm theory (Kahneman, D., & Miller, D. T. (1986). Norm
theory: Comparing reality to its alternatives. Psychological Review, 93,
136-153.) implies that a goal scored yields worse feelings for the
goalkeeper following inaction (staying in the center) than following action
(jumping), leading to a bias for action. The omission bias, a bias in favor
of inaction, is reversed here because the norm here is reversed - to act
rather than to choose inaction. The claim that jumping is the norm is
supported by a second study, a survey conducted with 32 top professional
goalkeepers. The seemingly biased decision making is particularly striking
since the goalkeepers have huge incentives to make correct decisions, and it
is a decision they encounter frequently. Finally, we discuss several
implications of the action/omission bias for economics and management.


Disturbing. You hire a new CEO, or a new Dean for that matter, and they have to....go out and change something! Doesn't matter if it works pretty well already, the "goal" (soccer joke) is take action. That way, no one can say, "You didn't even do anything!"

The problem is that many times nothing is the best thing to do. Just stand there in the center, and try to reach out and block things that come right at you.

(Nod to KL, who is on a roll)

Costly Signals, and the Paradox of Rationality: Smiles Edition

Marc Mehu, Karl Grammer & Robin Dunbar
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
One of the proposed functions of human smiling is to advertise cooperative
dispositions and thereby increase the likelihood that a social partner would
invest resources in a relationship. In particular, smiles involving an
emotional component would be honest signals of altruistic dispositions
because they are not easy to produce voluntarily. In this study, 60 people
were covertly filmed while interacting with a friend in two conditions:
control and sharing. Smiles were classified into Duchenne (spontaneous) and
non-Duchenne smiles. Participants also completed a series of questionnaires,
including the Altruism Scale and a self-report questionnaire of emotional
state. Interestingly, Duchenne smiles were displayed at higher rates in the
sharing situation as opposed to the control situation, whereas non-Duchenne
smiles were unaffected by the type of interaction. Furthermore, Duchenne
smiles in the sharing interaction were positively affected by a measure of
altruism. Self-reported emotional states did not vary between conditions and
were poorly related to smiling. This study shows that the Duchenne smile is
relevant to situations that involve the sharing of material resources
because it would reliably advertise altruistic intentions. The Duchenne
smile could therefore be an important signal in the formation and
maintenance of cooperative relationships.


A number of people have claimed that the reason humans got big brains was the advantages conferred in terms of detecting dissembling.

So....a big fake smile does you no good.

But a big real smile means you are altruistic, and (paradoxically) people are more willing to give YOU stuff.

That means you should learn how to smile in a way people can't detect as fake.

But that means that other people want to be able to detect tiny cues, and body language, that mean you are faking.

Angus and I solve this problem by never smiling. Nobody can call US fakers.
Grrrrrr......

(Nod to KL, who never fakes it, either)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

You Aren't Going to the BIG House....

...You are going to the GREEN house! An article on Norway's innovative "World's First Ecological Prison." Read the article, and I'll share some thoughts in a moment.....

Prisons probably aren't the first buildings that spring to mind when you think about green design and architecture. Yet one small island in Norway is set to change that perception with the recent introduction of the "world's first ecological prison" — a facility powered by solar energy that will put its inmates to work coordinating daily operations, such as recycling and food production, and learning their part to protect the environment.

Norwegian authorities hope to thus instill a sense of responsibility in their inmates and to better prepare them for an eco-conscious life once they leave the prison. The facility, which is located on Bastoey Island (about 46 mi south of Oslo), houses 115 inmates. Justice Minister Knut Storberget explained that "from a social and economic perspective, this is cheapest for society," adding that it only made sense for a prison already renowned for its pleasant living conditions — resembling a summer camp more than a conventional prison with activities like tennis, horse riding and swimming — to go that extra step to rehabilitate its inmates.

Running costs at the Bastoey facility are lower than at most traditional prisons — which often require more officers to supervise the inmates. The prison produces its own high-quality organic food with the help of grants from several environmental organizations, and it is surrounded by beaches and verdant fields. Its solar panels cut its electricity needs by close to 70%.

The inmates have few complaints: "We are given full freedom within a limited area," said Erik, a hobby carpenter who helped put up the solar panels. Another inmate stated that, "This is like a holiday camp compared to a closed facility." It hardly even seems like a prison to us anymore.


All right. Here goes. (AHEM).

1. ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDIN' ME? Tennis, horseback riding, and swimming? Beaches and verdant fields?
2. Getting grants from environmental organziations does NOT cut costs. It simply transfers costs from taxpayers to morons. I approve, mind you (think of the harm those bed-wetters could have done with those grants!), but let's not imagine that this is a solution for reducing costs at NC or OK.
3. Solar panels? SOLAR PANELS? Do you see a problem with that? Norway doesn't need air conditioning, for the most part. (weather data for Norway). So, when the sun is up for 15 or more hours a day, in the summer.....no HVAC is used. In Norway, in the winter, it is COLD. COLD and DARK. cold AND dark. Do you see where I am going with this? Solar panels? I choked when I read it.

If you cherry pick the best behaved inmates, put them in a resort area without charging yourself the opportunity cost of the real estate, or the capital costs of the incredibly expensive solar panels, and then take some of your operating costs out of grants given to you by dim bulbs (probably flourescent!), then: Yes, it will appear you are running a low cost prison. Now please shut up.

To Be A Football Hero.....

"To the consternation of local leftists, Berkeley, the campus and the
community alike, is in the grip of pigskin fever...Instead of smelly hippies
and fulminating Marxists, images of celebrating frat boys, cute and sexy
cheerleaders, and heroic athletes dominate media mentions of Berkeley."
[Lifson, American Thinker]

(nod to KL)

Talkin' Weed with the NY Times

According to the NY Times, a plant called jatropha is being hailed by scientists and policy makers as a potentially ideal source of biofuel, a plant that can grow in marginal soil or beside food crops, that does not require a lot of fertilizer and yields many times as much biofuel per acre planted as corn and many other potential biofuels.

As luck would have it, this plant is already being massively grown in Mali, one of the poorest nations on earth, on marginal quality land. And a Dutch entrepreneur, Hugo Verkuijl, has started a company with the backing of investors and assistance from the Dutch government, to produce biodiesel from jatropha seeds.

Mr. Verkuijl, 39, an economist who has worked for nonprofit groups, is part of a new breed of entrepreneurs who are marrying the traditional aims of aid groups working in Africa with a capitalist ethos they hope will bring longevity to their efforts.

“An aid project will live or die by its funders,” Mr. Verkuijl said, but “a business has momentum and a motive to keep going, even if its founders move on.”

Well said and well done Mr. Verkuijl, kudos to you. Sounds like a great project

However gentle readers, this being in the NY Times, you must be waiting for the other shoe to drop and here it goes:

Even if jatropha proves a success in Mali, it is still not without risks. If farmers come to see it as more valuable than food crops, they could cripple the country’s food production.

This is why I blog, people, this is the good stuff. What in the world could Lydia Polgreen mean by the above quote? If jatropha is less valuable than food crops, then the farmers won't drop food crops. If jatropha is only more valuable than food crops with some kind of production subsidy then there may be temporary trouble when/if the subsidy stops.

But in general Lydia, if farmers can earn more by planting jatropha than subsistence farming, BY ALL MEANS THEY SHOULD DO SO!! They will get this stuff economists call "money" and they can use it in "trade" to acquire food, clothes, subscriptions to the Times, you name it. If the jatropha is indeed more valuable they can buy all the crops they would have grown and have money left over.

But maybe, just to be sure, we should have the government of Mali, or better yet the UN set quotas for the production of all crops and commodities in Mali.





A Modest Proposal for a new KPC Logo: