Saturday, November 17, 2007


MIA collaborator Afrikan Boy tosses out this excellent remix of Soulja Boy. Very very nice!

Isiah Deathwatch Update

Earlier this week we reported on Isiah and the Knicks continued woes. Now Marbury has returned to the team and is playing despite the other players' unanimous vote to have him not return and play.

In his first game back, Starbury shot 4-12 with no rebounds and 4 assists in 33 minutes.

Currently the Knicks are 2-6, on a 5 game losing streak and the laughingstock of the L. According to Peter Vecsey, James Dolan has flown to the west coast and Zeke could be fired at any minute. Marbury of course can't be fired, only traded, bought out of his contract, or left on the court to continue to "lead" the Knicks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Roach Bot, Roach Bot, Whatcha Gonna Do? Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for YOU!?

Roach Bots ride.

(nod to MAG)

I DID! I DID! I DID Shoot Dat Puddy Tatt

"Jurors heard opening arguments on Tuesday in the trial of a bird-watching
enthusiast who fatally shot a cat that he said was stalking endangered
shorebirds. The defendant, James M. Stevenson, is the founder of the
Galveston Ornithological Society and leads bird-watching tours on this Gulf
Coast island 60 miles southeast of Houston. If convicted on animal cruelty
charges in the shooting last November, he faces up to two years in jail and
a $10,000 fine...In her opening statement, Paige L. Santell, a Galveston
County assistant district attorney, told the jury of eight women and four
men that Mr. Stevenson 'shot that animal in cold blood' and that the cat
died a slow and painful death 'gurgling on its own blood.'...Testimony
followed from police officers and the veterinarian who performed the autopsy
on Mama Cat, a white and gray tabby mix. The jurors were shown several
photographs of the bloodied cat, reminiscent of an episode of 'CSI:
Miami.'...The prosecution and defense wrangled repeatedly about whether
witnesses could accurately assess the cat's state of mind. 'He's not
qualified to know what the cat was feeling,' said Mr. Nelson, when a police
officer, John P. Bertolino Sr., testified that the cat was in terrible pain
when he arrived at the crime scene. The cat died en route to a Humane
Society facility."

Has it really come to this?

In today's WSJ, Robert Frank and his Wealth Report breaks down the water bills of rich people in Palm Beach FL. Really. Some dude has a 14 acre lot and used 21 million gallons last year while the average use for a single family home is 54,000 gallons per year. Don't he know there's a drought? The pig! The swine! The bastard!

Oh, but it turns out that (a) he's reduced his water use over last year by 4 million gallons, (b) is abiding by all the municipal rules governing water use, and (c) is paying a 30% surcharge on usage above 6000 gallons per month.

This is some top flight muckracking journalism here. Looking up rich people's water bills. Oh yeah, Jimmy Buffett got fined $100 for "unspecified water violations". String his sorry butt up.

I say let's appoint R. Frank water czar and have him personally allocate water to every person in the country. Say, should illegal aliens be allowed to drink any of our water at all? Mr. Frank??

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sermon on the (Food) Mount: The BeFATitudes

Could THIS:

Body Composition and Wages, Roy Wada & Erdal Tekin, NBER Working Paper, November 2007

This paper examines the effect of body composition on wages. We develop measures of body composition - body fat (BF) and fat-free mass (FFM) - using data on bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) that are available in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III and estimate wage models for respondents in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Our results indicate that increased body fat is unambiguously associated with decreased wages for both males and females. This result is in contrast to the mixed and sometimes inconsistent results from the previous research using body mass index (BMI). We also find new evidence indicating that a higher level of fat-free body mass is consistently associated with increased hourly wages. We present further evidence that these results are not the artifacts of unobserved heterogeneity. Our findings are robust to numerous specification checks and to a large number of alternative BIA prediction equations from which the body composition measures are derived. Our work addresses an important limitation of the current literature on the economics of obesity. Previous research relied on body weight or BMI for measuring obesity despite the growing agreement in the medical literature that they represent misleading measures of obesity because of their inability to distinguish between body fat and fat-free body mass. Body composition measures used in this paper represent significant improvements over the previously used measures because they allow for the effects of fat and fat free components of body composition to be separately identified. Our work also contributes to the growing literature on the role of non-cognitive characteristics on wage determination.

Be explained by THIS:

Personality traits and eating behavior in the obese: Poor self-control in
emotional and external eating but personality assets in restrained eating

Kristina Elfhag & Lesley Morey, Eating Behaviors, forthcoming

Personality traits can give a fuller understanding for eating behaviors in obesity. The objective was to describe eating behavior (Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire) in terms of the Big Five personality traits (NEO Personality Inventory - Revised) in obesity patients (n=442). Emotional eating was strongly positively associated to Neuroticism, in particular impulsiveness and depression, and further linked to lower Conscientiousness mainly seen in lower self-discipline, and lower Extraversion. External eating was likewise mainly associated to the facets impulsiveness and lower self-discipline. Restrained eating was on the other hand related to higher Conscientiousness, Extraversion and Openness, and lower Neuroticism. These results imply that poor self-control seen in impulsiveness and lower self-discipline was most important for eating due to negative emotions as well as in response to external food stimuli, suggesting that the inhibition of eating and difficulties to govern ones behavior are major aspects of these eating behaviors. Attempts to control food intake and body weight seen in restrained eating were associated with more character strengths and ambitions, and also a more outgoing personality style with more stable emotions.

(Nod to KL, who is always restrained, even if it costs him extra at the Mustang Ranch)

Karma comes a'calling!

The DC Judge who tried to collect $54 million in a dry cleaning dispute has been relieved of his position.


Hat Tip to Betsy

I eat Doritos 'cause they're good for the Environment

Did you know that Toyota has reduced the energy required to manufacture one of its vehicles by more than 24% in the last 5 years? Or that Frito-Lay has reduced its water use by 38 percent, natural gas by 27 percent and electricity by 21 percent since 1999 for a savings of $55 million a year in utility bills? Me neither. The best part of this info though is that I found it in the NY Times!

The article mainly discusses how Frito Lay is trying a test case of taking one of its chip plants "almost completely off the grid", via gray water recovery, solar power, and using left over chip sludge to create methane (though I'm pretty sure Mungowitz has already perfected and patented that process)!

But I am left wondering whether Toyota and Frito Lay are ahead of the curve and such large savings are still on the table for a lot of other companies (which would be good), or whether their cases are typical and there isn't much room left for energy efficiency gains while retaining the same basic infrastructures and production methods (which might be bad)?

Anybody know? Bueller?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

China is a lot poorer than we thought

So says Albert Kiedel of the Carnegie Endowment in the FT:

...The Asian Development Bank presented official survey results indicating China's economy is smaller and poorer than established estimates say. The announcement cited the first authoritative measure of China's size using purchasing power parity methods. The results tell us that when the World Bank announces its expected PPP data revisions later this year, China's economy will turn out to be 40 per cent smaller than previously stated......The number of people in China living below the World Bank's dollar-a-day poverty line is 300m - three times larger than currently estimated.

Why such a large revision in the estimates of China's economic condition? Until recently, China had never participated in the careful price surveys needed to convert accurately its gross domestic product into PPP dollars. The World Bank's estimates based on summary data from the late 1980s probably overstated China's PPP gross domestic product even then. Up to now, the bank has revised its estimate very little. In the meantime, China has repeatedly raised the prices of food, housing, healthcare and a range of other non-traded goods and services. These reforms should have lowered the PPP adjustment, but the bank left it basically unchanged.

These PPP adjustments affect poverty measures because the World Bank's dollar-a-day poverty line is a PPP dollar poverty line. Reducing PPP consumption estimates drops large numbers of additional households below the poverty line.

For China, the correction needs to be made back to the 1980s and 1990s, when instead of World Bank estimates of roughly 300m people below the dollar-a-day poverty line, the number was more likely more than 500m. China has made enormous strides in lifting its population out of poverty - but the task was perhaps more gargantuan than most people thought and progress has been overstated by bank estimates.

Hat Tip to Jonathan Dingell

Falling Star(bury)

This is a good one people. As you may remember, I predicted the Heat would go winless 'til D-Wade came back, but Sunday they beat the Knicks in the Ga-den 75-72 (no, the fourth quarter was not canceled).

Even Isiah realized that was unacceptable and he chose one Stephon Marbury Esq. to blame. By Tuesday, it was leaking to the NY papers that the Knickerbockers wanted to reduce Steph's role or better yet deal him (good luck with that given (a) his play and (b) his contract).

Then we get word that Starbury has left the team "with permission".

Then the rumor mill pipes up that he and Zeke threw down on the team's charter flight to Phoenix. The upshot is that Steph missed the Suns game and was fined 1/110 of his salary as per league rules (around $182,000).

Then Starbury is quoted as saying: "Isiah has to start me," Marbury fumed, according to the Daily New source. "I've got so much (stuff) on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can (get) me. But I'll (get) him first. You have no idea what I know."

So I guess that Steph's quotes are why there was a physical altercation and I also guess that what came out at Zeke's sexual harassment trial was only the tip of the proverbial iceburg.

There may be teams with worse records than the Knicks, but none in worse shape or with a dimmer future. One the one hand, it makes me sad 'cause I loved the Knicks when I was a little kid, especially Earl Monroe. On the other hand, Isiah is not exactly a sympathetic character, is he?

Looks like our pal Karma is making house calls.

Hat Tip to Mrs. Angus

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Never Too Late to Hate....WalMart!

Some schmendrick named "Munger" turns hater on Walmart.


Web site for the film.

Coffee Grrrrrlllll!

A story about discrimination.

Women get bad service at coffee shops.


And why doesn't competition yield coffee shops that provide better service?

(Nod to Anonyman, who if anything services women too quickly)

Japan is actually growing again

Japan is climbing out of the pit.

And "the pit" is where a 90%+ drop in real estate values will put you.

Does this sound like California, if you change a few words?

Prices were highest in Tokyo's Ginza district in 1989, with some fetching over US$1.5 million per square meter ($139,000 per square foot), and only slightly less in other areas of Tokyo. By 2004, prime "A" property in Tokyo's financial districts were less than 1/100th of their peak, and Tokyo's residential homes were 1/10th of their peak, but still managed to be listed as the most expensive real estate in the world. Some US$20 trillion (1999 dollars) was wiped out with the combined collapse of the real estate market and the Tokyo stock market. (WP)

Please Join my World Bank Re-Location Campaign!!

The managing operations director of the World Bank just flew in from Bhutan. He sez we all could learn a lot from and should even emulate Bhutan. Why is Bhutan so sexy? Well they don't want to talk about GNP but rather GNH (gross national happiness). AAARGH. Bhutan ranks very near the bottom of the HDI (human development index) which is an attempt at a not completely GDP based development metric (it uses GDP, Life expectancy and Literacy). Bhutan came in 135th in 2004.

So, the World Bank, failed promoter of development and progress, is now offering up Bhutan "one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world" as a model.


Poverty: if you can't beat it, endorse it!

People let's all get together and take up a collection and move them Bankocrats! From DC to Thimpu. I know that would increase our GNH!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Man, I wasted my High School Years!

At least compared to Jovana Sarver who made this cool video to one of my favorite Joanna Newsom songs while a high school student in Harrisburg PA.

This is real real good.

Are You a Dem, a Repub, or a Texan?

Are you a Democrat, Republican or Texan? Here is a little test that
will help you decide. The answer can be found by posing the following

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic Terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you. You are carrying a Glock cal 40, and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

Democrat's Answer:

Well, that's not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor! Or oppressed?
Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack? Could we run away?
What does my wife think? What about the kids? What does the law say about this situation?
Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?
Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
Should I call 9-1-1? Why is this street so deserted?
We need to raise taxes, have paint and weed day and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.

Republican's Answer:

Texan's Answer:

Click..... (Sounds of reloading)
Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips
or Hollow Points?
Son: Can I shoot the next one!
Wife: You Ain't Taking That To The Taxidermist!

(From the internet, many places)

Markets in Everything?

Ladies and Gentleman, without further ado I give you The Islamic Car!!!!

Malaysian automaker Proton plans to team up with companies in Iran and Turkey to produce "Islamic cars" for the global market, a news report said Sunday.

Proposed by Iran, the collaboration would include installing features in automobiles such as a compass to determine the direction of Mecca for prayers, and compartments for storing the Quran and headscarves, Proton's Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin told national news agency Bernama."What they (Iran) want to do is to call that an Islamic car," he was quoted as saying while on a visit in Iran. "The car will have all the Islamic features and should be meant for export purposes. We will identify a car that we can develop to be produced in Malaysia, Iran or Turkey."

So let me get this straight: a compass and a glove compartment makes it an Islamic Car? Holy Crap. My baptist grandad would be spinnin' in his grave if he knew that he drove Islamic cars for 40 years!! He even had an Islamic RV!

Real v. Nominal prices and "all time" records

It is commonly asserted that gold is at or near its previous all time high set in 1980. But lost in these statements is the fact that despite our lionization of P. Volcker and A. Greenspan, the general price level has risen a lot in the last 27 years. Any inter-temporal comparison thus needs to be done in real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) terms.

Melanie Burton provides such an accounting in today's WSJ (not the editorial page so it has > 50% chance of being factually accurate). The article is gated, but the free preview makes the point:

Gold made headlines last week by flirting with its 1980 peak price, but the precious metal remains far short of its inflation-adjusted record -- and probably won't see it soon.

On Friday, gold traded in the cash market at $831.50 a troy ounce, nearing the $850-an-ounce record that 27 years ago was briefly touched (too briefly to be captured by the monthly chart at right). Adjusted for inflation, the 1980 price translates to $2,250 now.

So we still have a little way to go

Serf 'n Turf

College football is big money. In 2005 the big boys generated 1.8 billion in revenues with several schools (Notre Dame, Texas, & Ohio State) racking up over 50 million each.

Other sports (non-revenue) are subsidized. Coaches make big money, school endowments swell. But the guys getting their heads bashed in all fall make nothing. Squadoosh!

I don't like it (even though my school is a football factory) and Michael Lewis (Moneyball author), doesn't like it either, as you can read here in his NY Times piece. Here's an excerpt:

College football’s best trick play is its pretense that it has nothing to do with money, that it’s simply an extension of the university’s mission to educate its students. Were the public to view college football as mainly a business, it might start asking questions. For instance: why are these enterprises that have nothing to do with education and everything to do with profits exempt from paying taxes? Or why don’t they pay their employees?

This is maybe the oddest aspect of the college football business. Everyone associated with it is getting rich except the people whose labor creates the value. At this moment there are thousands of big-time college football players, many of whom are black and poor. They perform for the intense pleasure of millions of rabid college football fans, many of whom are rich and white. The world’s most enthusiastic racially integrated marketplace is waiting to happen.

But between buyer and seller sits the National Collegiate Athletic Association, to ensure that the universities it polices keep all the money for themselves — to make sure that the rich white folk do not slip so much as a free chicken sandwich under the table to the poor black kids. The poor black kids put up with it because they find it all but impossible to pursue N.F.L. careers unless they play at least three years in college. Less than one percent actually sign professional football contracts and, of those, an infinitesimal fraction ever make serious money. But their hope is eternal, and their ignorance exploitable.

Put that way the arrangement sounds like simple theft; but up close, inside the university, it apparently feels like high principle. That principle, as stated by the N.C.A.A., is that college sports should never be commercialized. But it’s too late for that. College football already is commercialized, for everyone except the people who play it. Were they businesses, several dozen of America’s best-known universities would be snapped up by private equity tycoons, who would spin off just about everything but the football team. (The fraternities they might keep.)

The bottom line is this: Big time college athletes need to be paid. It's way, way, way, past time for that to happen

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What Were the Chances the South Would Win?

Victory or Repudiation? The Probability of the Southern Confederacy Winning
the Civil War

Marc Weidenmier & Kim Oosterlinck
NBER Working Paper, November 2007

Historians have long wondered whether the Southern Confederacy had a
realistic chance at winning the American Civil War. We provide some
quantitative evidence on this question by introducing a new methodology for
estimating the probability of winning a civil war or revolution based on
decisions in financial markets. Using a unique dataset of Confederate gold
bonds in Amsterdam, we apply this methodology to estimate the probability of
a Southern victory from the summer of 1863 until the end of the war. Our
results suggest that European investors gave the Confederacy approximately a
42 percent chance of victory prior to the battle of Gettysburg/Vicksburg.
News of the severity of the two rebel defeats led to a sell-off in
Confederate bonds. By the end of 1863, the probability of a Southern victory
fell to about 15 percent. Confederate victory prospects generally decreased
for the remainder of the war. The analysis also suggests that McClellan's
possible election as U.S. President on a peace party platform as well as
Confederate military victories in 1864 did little to reverse the market's
assessment that the South would probably lose the Civil War.

This use of financial markets data is far too rare in political science, and history.

The Old "Randomize Your Choices" Doge

Old doges can teach modern political scientists new tricks, according to a
paper by two computer scientists who analyzed the long and cumbersome - but
ultimately very effective - means by which the Venetian Republic elected its
sovereign-for-life. From 1268 to the fall of the republic, in 1797, Venice's
council of oligarchs took 10 rounds to choose each doge, with the first nine
rounds determining the electors for the next round and the final round
picking a winner. Five of the first eight rounds were decided not by
election but by the drawing of lots. This injection of randomness into the
process, the authors argue, conferred considerable advantages over
proportional-representation or simple-majority systems, and may explain the
republic's great durability. The element of uncertainty forced electors to
weigh minority opinions with special care; it also encouraged compromise and
guarded against corruption. Moreover, by accepting an arduous selection
process (which in the days before probability theory must have seemed highly
arbitrary), Venice's oligarchs demonstrated to the people their collective
commitment to the republic. [Atlantic Monthly]

The actual paper, which is quite interesting.

(Nod to KL)

Stupid Filter

The Filter Strikes Back.

Now, if they would just make a "stupid filter" for faculty meetings.

(Nod to KL)

The Great Debate

Over at MR, an ebullient Tyler reports that he and resident CATO pretty boy Will Wilkinson opened up a big can of whoopass on Jeff Sachs and Betsey Stevenson last night in NYC.

I don't doubt the outcome, but I must confess to not understanding the debate at all. The proposition in question was: "America is failing at the pursuit of happiness". I can understand debating whether Americans are ACHIEVING happiness, but I can't see how anyone might deny that we are PURSUING it with all our might.

I also can't accept the implicit notion that it's the government's responsibility to make people happy. Hey Congress: really want to make me happy?? DISBAND!

Finally (if anyone is still with me at this point in the proceedings), if you feel that maximizing human happiness is extremely important but you personally are failing at achieving happiness, let me inform you that Mrs. Angus and I are fiendishly effective at turning $$ into happiness.

As a public service, and taking a page from the brilliant Cat and Girl concept, send us your contribution and we will describe exactly what we did with the dough and how happy it made us.

Really. No need to thank us, we live to serve.