Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More good economic news (no wonder the mkt is tanking!)

Specifically, labor productivity grew by 4.9% in the 3rd quarter.

The Labor Department reported that productivity -- the amount of output per hour of work -- jumped at an annual rate of 4.9 percent in the July-September quarter. That was double the 2.2 percent rise in the second quarter and represented the fastest surge in worker efficiency since 2003.At the same time, wage pressures eased with unit labor costs dropping at an annual rate of 0.2 percent, the best showing in more than a year.

Both outcomes were far better than had been expected and should relieve some of the concerns that a remarkable surge in productivity that began in the mid-1990s was in danger of being reversed.

The slight drop in wage pressures was especially welcome after hefty increases over the past four quarters. Rising wages are good for workers but if they are not accompanied by strong productivity gains, they raise concerns among Fed policymakers about inflation.

The 0.2 percent decline in unit labor costs in the third quarter followed a 2.2 percent increase in labor costs in the second quarter and even bigger jumps of 5.2 percent in the first quarter and 10.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

The article even gives its own punchline!!

Wall Street was not impressed with the big rise in productivity and slowdown in wage pressures, preferring to worry about the weakness of the dollar against other currencies. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 240 points in afternoon trading.

Is Hugo Chavez really helping Venezuela's Poor?

Here is an affirmative answer from the fascinating blog Oilwars

Here is a negative answer from an ex-pat Venezuelan economist

One thing that's indisputable is that Hugo is greatly helping the self esteem of American celebrities as Anne Appelbaum writes over at Slate.

Should U Drink the Celtic Koolaid?

Not yet.

Yes, Boston is 2-0 and Kevin Garnett looks younger and happier. He is taking and making about the same amount of shots as last year but his rebounding and assists are way up. Paul Pierce is taking and making about the same amount of shots as last year.

But so far it's Ray Allen who is sacrificing, getting only 13 shots per game in over 43 minutes per game, compared to 21 shots per game in 40 minutes per game last year. His scoring hasn't dropped too much yet though because he's made over 60% of his shots so far (Pierce is not exactly lighting it up at 39% from the floor).

I am not sure how Ray and Paul can co-exist, and I am not sure how the Celts are gonna take care of the ball. They are averaging 20 assists to 16 turnovers and their point guard, who I take to be Rajon Rondo, is averaging 2.5 turnovers to 2 assists in 30 minutes per game.

yuck. By contrast, in 3 games the Pistons are averaging 22 assists to 12 turnovers and Chauncey has 7.7 apg to 2.3 turnovers per game. If the Celts had CP3 at the point, i'd say "drink up" but they don't, don't, don't.

PS. How is this setup better for KG to win "his" title than back 03-04 when he had Spree and Sammy in Minnesota? Is it just 'cause that was the West and this is the East? I do not think Boston will be fondling the Larry O'Brien this summer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Leon Spinks in a Rap Song!

I really like Lupe Fiasco. My favorite song of his right now is "dumb it down". I am only putting a link to the video rather than embedding it so that you can read the following before viewing: This is a rap video. It has many bad words in it (not from Lupe, but from his discontented Greek Chorus). That said, it's very very good.

You have been warned. Here is the link

Don't you wish they would clean up pop music??

Well wishes do come true!

One Solution to Rent-Seeking Games is to...STOP PLAYING!!!!

"Some stopped at the barricades to snap images of the picketers but were
waved along by police officers. 'They're writers. Couldn't they come up with
anything better than 'On strike?'' asked one officer, gesturing to the
signs...Some industry executives even believe a strike, although potentially
damaging to the business, could carry some side benefits. If a strike were
to extend into February, it would disrupt the TV pilot season, the
three-month period when studios make dozens of new shows as part of an
expensive annual competition to win a coveted spot on the prime-time
schedule of the five broadcast networks. The television companies
collectively spend more than $400 million a year on development and pilot
costs even though only a fraction of these shows achieve long-term financial
success. TV executives have long complained that the frenetic competition
for actors, directors and sound stages doesn’t translate into higher-quality
television, just higher costs...So for some TV executives, blowing up pilot
season is not such a bad idea." (LATimes)

"They're writers. Couldn't they come with anything better than "on strike"?" I enjoyed that. Apparently the cop is considering going scab, and crossing the line. That's funnier than a lot of what the writers have been putting out.

The Unskilled are also Unaware

"Why the unskilled are unaware: Further explorations of (absent) self-insight
among the incompetent"

Joyce Ehrlinger, Kerri Johnson, Matthew Banner, David Dunning & Justin
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

People are typically overly optimistic when evaluating the quality of their performance on social and intellectual tasks. In particular, poor performers grossly overestimate their performances because their incompetence deprives them of the skills needed to recognize their deficits. Five studies demonstrated that poor performers lack insight into their shortcomings even in real world settings and when given incentives to be accurate. An additional meta-analysis showed that it was lack of insight into their own errors (and not mistaken assessments of their peers) that led to overly optimistic estimates among poor performers. Along the way, these studies ruled out recent alternative accounts that have been proposed to explain why
poor performers hold such positive impressions of their performance.

Hmmmm....I'm really good at Putt-Putt golf. Just ask Angus.

(Nod to KL, who knows what he's good at)

"Chee-KAH-go boy" makes good

Agustin Carstens, Mexico's Finance Minister, is a busy man these days. Last week he spent the first part trying to calm markets that revised inflation figures were nothing to worry about. The second half of the week he spent assisting his boss, President Felipe Calderon, tackle the aftermath of the floods that hit Tabasco state and caused more than $500 million in damages to local agriculture....

Like many other influential policymakers in Latin America the past decade, Carstens is a "Chicago boy." He earned his M.A. and Ph.D in economics from the University of Chicago. In fact, he managed to get his PhD in 1985, only two years after getting his M.A. "That must be the fastest Ph.D on record," Alberto Ibarguen, a former publisher of The Miami Herald said when introducing Carstens to the Inter-American Dialogue dinner last week.


Actually, Angus did that, too. He finished his PhD two years after his MA, at Wash U.

Since this is apparently an important qualification, I nominate Angus for Finance Minister of Bolivia. You heard it here first.

"I have set several world records in that bathtub"...And other stories

Snake-sitting man.

White Castle latkes.

"You found it!" Mold....

Animal experimentation, OK style: Elephant on acid

Centrist Civilian wins Guatemalan Presidency

While pre-election polls pointed to a dead heat between the candidates, textile magnate Alvaro Colom defeated General Otto Perez Molina to win the presidential election in Guatemala.

According to Reuters: voters with bad memories of atrocities under military rule rejected Perez Molina's plans to send more soldiers onto the streets, boost the use of capital punishment and emergency powers to fight crime. Perez Molina conceded defeat.

"It is a 'no' to Guatemala's tragic history," Colom, 56, said when asked if the vote was a rejection of the country's military past.

Politics is not a spectator sport in Guatemala: The election campaign was marred by violence, with more than 50 political party activists or candidates for Congress or local elections killed. Colom's party was hardest hit with almost 20 party members murdered since last year.

For further analysis of the election look here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I'm Ready for my Closeup, Mr. Demille!

Marc Andreessen is not impressed by how the media moguls are handling their writers. He asks, in part, WWWDD? (what would Walt Disney Do??).

Gas Prices got U down? Consider moving to Venezeula...

......where gasoline retails at the pump for around $0.07 per gallon!

Tyler recently noted that price controls were making a big time comeback. In the comments, I noted that he and others he cited had left Venezuela out of the list of controllers. Serendipitously, the NY Times Sunday mag contains a long piece about oil and Venezuela. Some highlights:

Pdvsa is also subsidizing Venezuela’s domestic oil consumption. Cheap oil for Venezuelans is nothing new; when President Pérez tried to raise gasoline prices in 1989, the riots nearly toppled him. The Venezuelans feel it is their oil; why should they have to pay for it? But the subsidies are much deeper and the quantities greater today. A gallon of gasoline costs 6.3 cents at the pump at the unofficial exchange rate. And Venezuela is now gorging on gas. Venezuela will add 450,000 new cars this year — about four times the number of four years ago. Six Hummer dealerships are set to open early next year.....

Inflation is officially at 16 percent but is most likely higher, according to Orlando Ochoa, the economist, who is usually critical of Chávez. He says that in the basket of goods and services used to measure inflation, just under half the items are sold at government-controlled prices. Many goods simply can’t be bought at those prices, and consumers must pay double the price in a street market. Or the goods can’t be found at all, their producers forced out of business by price controls. Beans and sugar were hard to find cheaply when I visited Caracas in September; fresh milk and eggs hard to find at all. Recently, people had to line up for five hours to get a liter of milk. One proposal in Chávez’s constitutional referendum could increase inflation much further by abolishing the autonomy of the Central Bank and giving the president power over Venezuela’s international reserves. The proposal would also essentially allow Chávez to print money.

The major threat to the economy comes from the exchange rate. Oil caused the bolívar to be overvalued. Farms and factories are in trouble. They can’t export and must compete at home with products imported at the official exchange rate, which is now about a third of the market rate. And so the country is awash in artificially cheap imported products, from basic foodstuffs, like Brazilian cooking oil, to fancy cars. “Our productive capacity is too weak to create jobs,” Petkoff says. “But we consume like a rich country.”

The disparity between the official exchange rate (2,150 bolívars to the dollar) and the black-market rate (6,200 bolívars at press time) has created a new class known as the Boliburgesía. Bankers, traders, anyone who works in finance or commerce, can get very rich manipulating the exchange rates. Buy all the imported whiskey and Hummers you want, is the message. Live a life of wild excess. Just don’t try to produce anything.

Hmm..... maybe paying $2.85 a gallon ain't so bad after all.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Wrong, in so many ways.....

An email from a friend, with some commentary below....

Read this question, come up with an answer, and then scroll down to the bottom for the result. This is not a trick question. It is as it reads.

No one I know has been right.

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing. She believed him to be her dream guy so much, that she fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister.

Question: What is her motive for killing her sister?

[Give this some thought before you answer, see answer below]

(Play the Jeopardy music here)


She was hoping the guy would appear at the funeral again. If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American Psychologist used to test if one has the same mentality as a killer.

Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly.

If you didn't answer the question correctly, good for you.

If you got the answer correct, please let me know so I can take you off my email list...

Interesting that these things become internet cascades. As Snopes notes, this one is not even very plausible.

Yet, three people have sent it to me.

Delete it, please, don't forward it.

Masks: How much stripping do you really want to see?

As the dialogue went:

EVEY: Is that why you're wearing a mask?

V: We all wear masks. Life creates
them and forces us to find the one
that fits. Do you know what day it is?

A video, about...stripping off masks.

Vote: For Betsy!

I should note an ACTUAL deserving blog.

Please vote for Betsy......

You can vote for EconTalk while you are at it, but by all means vote for Betsy.

Vote Early, Vote Often!

Fight the power! An extremely close race, between Econtalk (that's the angel), and "The Glenn and Helen Show" (that would be Satan).

You can vote once every 24 hours, from EVERY IP ADDRESS you have available.

It's close and we need your help.

Voting takes about 5 seconds, or less. Please! VOTE!

Nachas: Fall Baseball 2007 version

I learned a new word last fall, "nachas", from my friend at Newmark's Door.

Of course, I already knew what nachas FELT like, as most parents do.

This fall, same baseball league:

Semifinal game, city tournament, Raleigh v. Wake Forest, scheduled starter couldn't make it, late and a bit sick. My son Brian pitched.

He threw a complete game (7 inn) shutout, against a good team. Pitching line:

IP 7
R 0
ER 0
H 3
K 15(!)
W 5

They won, 3-0.

His only problem was the fourth, where leadoff guy gets on on an error, Brian walked the next two. But then he struck out two, and caught a fly ball to get out of the jam.

Complete games are extremely rare, even though "CG" is only 7 innings. Kids just lose concentration. I think it helped him that he scattered 3 hits and 5 walks, because it kept him just on the edge.

But in the 6th, he struck out 4 guys (on PB allowed the runner to get on, a curve int he dirt). And in the 7th he struck out two more, on 8 pitches.

Then we went to Taco Bell. I had Nachas Grandes.

Final game, city tournament, 15-17 year old league: tomorrow night, Monday. Will advise.

Baseball: Yer doin' it wrong (special Japanese Edition)

The "world series of Japan" just ended with the Chunichi Dragons defeating the defending champ Nippon Ham Fighters 4 games to 1.

Daisuke Yamai was the game 5 starter for Chunichi, and he did a little thing we like to call PITCHING 8 PERFECT INNINGS!! Yes my friends, 24 Ham Fighters up and 24 Ham Fighters down. In the 57 years of the Japan Series, there had never been a perfect game. In all the history of the US world series there has only been one perfect game (Don Larson y'all!).

Well there still has not been a perfect game in the Japan Series because the Dragons manager TOOK DICE Y OUT AND BROUGHT IN A RELIEVER TO PITCH THE 9th!!!!!!

I am not making this up. They were up 3 games to 1. The guy needed three more outs for immortality. And the manager gave the ball to someone else (who retired the side in order, but multi-pitcher perfect games aren't real perfect games).

I've used BDM's forecasting model to scientifically determine the chances that this could happen in the United States. Answer: 0.00%. Squadoosh. The pitcher has to get a chance to finish the perfect game.

Talk about inscrutable. wow.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Necessity is the mother of invention!

Twins invent wedgie-proof underwear

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Wedgie-proof underwear earned 8-year-old twin boys a spot Friday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Using rigged boxers and fabric fasteners to hold together some seams, Jared and Justin Serovich came up with the "Rip Away 1000.""When the person tries to grab you — like the bully or the person tries to give you a wedgie — they just rip away," Justin explained Thursday by phone from Los Angeles, where the TV segment was taped Wednesday.

The third graders from Gables Elementary School began brainstorming one day after they were horsing around, giving each other the treatment. Their mother's partner sarcastically said someone ought to invent wedgie-proof underwear, the family said.

The project got the boys to the finals of a central Ohio invention competition earlier this year, followed by the television appearance.

Aid: yer doin' it wrong (special french edition)

African Orphans Weren’t, U.N. Says

Virtually all of the children a French aid group tried to fly out of Chad last week had been living with family members in villages and were not orphans of the Darfur conflict, as the group claimed, the United Nations said Thursday.

That finding was based on interviews conducted with some of the 103 children as the government and aid groups try to figure out where they came from and how to reunite them with their families. The plane carrying the children was stopped moments before it was scheduled to take off from Abéché, a small, dust-choked city that is the base of operations for dozens of aid groups working in eastern Chad.

“These were not orphans in the desert,” said Annette Rehrl, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency. “They were living with their families.”

A French aid organization, Zoé’s Ark, had claimed that the children were sick, hungry and abandoned, and had raised money from European families to rescue the children and place them temporarily in French homes. But checkups showed the children to be in good condition, Ms. Rehrl said.

“In the context of Chad these are healthy, well-fed children,” she said.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Life takes a turn for the better in Oklahomee!!

SuperSonics new owner Clay Bennett wants to move team to Oklahoma City. He's even filed him some papers, real official like with the NBA office to that effect. The Angii ponied for season tickets during the Hornets run here and will gladly do so again for the OKC Durants if and when they arrive. Godspeed Clay!!

Do not adjust your monitor

This is a BRAND NEW video from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Makes me remember listening to soul music on the little am radio hidden under my pillow in bed at night growing up in the suburbs of Detroit. Very cool. Listen for the Hammond B-3.

Now the market will REALLY tank!

The October jobs number has arrived and it's a good'un. 166,000 net new jobs, more than twice the consensus forecast number of 80,000. So Monday, growth comes in at 3.9% (and well above expectations) and another rate cut is tossed to the Wall St. beasties. Tuesday the market tanks.

Now this.

I don't think my pension funds can stand much more good news.

Morning sports roundup

1. Minor League Team offers A-Rod a contract. Haters point out that he's never won an International League title either!

2. Swiss Miss tests positive for blow at Wimby and then announces her retirement. so THAT's why she lost in straights to Laura Granville!

3. Pacman seeks time off for good behavior, after all, he hasn't been arrested or caught makin' it rain since getting suspended.

4. The Ricky Davis Era has officially begun in Miami. God help us all (Davis 19 shots, Shaq 6).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

But what have you done for us LATELY???

Dow drops more than 360 on fears interest rate cuts will end

So let me get this straight. One day after finding out that current growth is a robust 3.9% AND getting a second rate cut, the sky is now falling because the FOMC hinted that their might not be any MORE rate cuts? It's like dealing with a spoiled child!

"Wall Street is in love with the idea of a rate cut, and realized that the Fed said inflation is still a concern — that lowered the chances of a cut in December," said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist with Schaeffer's Investment Research. "We're now feeling the pain now that investors have slept on it, and figured out what they said."


T2's Last Video

T2: I'm not sure why I like this.

Apologies if YOU don't. You are probably right.


Dude of a thousand meanings....

The New Nostradamus

I give you, without commentary....BDM.

If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don’t, he’ll claim that mathematics can tell you the future. In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”

Ahoy Mateys!

Judging from the attire of the horde of rugrats that extorted treats from me last night, Pirates are super popular these days, but no more so than in Somalia! Earlier Mungowitz posted about how some markets are working in Somalia despite its lack of a functioning government so here's an example from statist Angus about one "market" that isn't.

U.S. Navy helps ship battle pirates off Somalia

What an awesome headline!! Here is the full story.

Selected quotes: A U.S. Navy spokeswoman said piracy was a scourge in Somalia's waters, and American ships were available to intercede.

An international watchdog reported this month that pirate attacks worldwide jumped 14% in the first nine months of 2007, with the biggest increases in the poorly policed waters of Somalia and Nigeria. Reported attacks in Somali waters rose to 26, up from eight a year earlier, the London-based International Maritime Bureau said through its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Interestingly this rise in piracy corresponds with the ouster of a form of private government and its replacement with, well, nothing!

Somalia has had 16 years of violence and anarchy, and is now led by a government battling to establish authority even in the capital. Its coasts are virtually unpoliced.

Piracy off Somalia increased this year after Ethiopian forces backing Somali government troops ousted an Islamic militia in December, said Mwangura.

During the six months that the Council of Islamic Courts ruled most of southern Somalia, where Somali pirates are based, piracy abated, Mwangura said.

At one point, the Islamic group said it was sending scores of fighters to crack down on pirates there. Islamic fighters even stormed a hijacked, UAE-registered ship and recaptured it after a gunbattle in which pirates — but no crewmembers — were reportedly wounded.

If there was such a thing, how would you like to work for a Somali travel agency? Here's a possible advertising pitch: Visit Somalia: maybe an Islamic Militia will protect you!