Saturday, April 19, 2008

NBA preview

The unholy grind that is the first round of the NBA playoffs starts today. At least we are lucky enough to have 3 pretty fun matchups this time.

(1) Cavs v. Wiz: Cleveland has knocked Washington out the last two years. But that hasn't stopped some Wizzers from trash talking Cleveland and LeBron (for example DeShawn Stevenson called LeBron overrated), which prompted Charles Barkley to say that "I think the Washington Wizards have got to be the dumbest team in the history of civilization,"

While it's tough to beat a team three times in a row in a 7 game series, I am going with Cavs in 6.


(2) Spurs - Suns: I can't really be very objective here. I despise Bruce Bowen's thuggish ways and think that Phoenix got robbed last year when they were the team who suffered after Horry mugged Nash. Take that and add my favorite player ever, the big Cactus, into the mix and I am totally in the tank for the Suns. It's pretty much for this eventuality that the Suns acquired Shaq, and I think it will pay off.

Suns in 6.

(3) Hornets - Mavs: This series is interesting because the Hornets are playoff untested and the Mavs have a lot of playoff experience (albeit experience losing in the clutch). The Hornets are a fun team, substantially the same roster we enjoyed watching last year here in OKC, but with more experience, and much better health. For Dallas, Mark Cuban's experiment of matching a prima donna control freak coach with a prima donna control freak point guard has not worked out too well yet.

Hornets in 7.

Friday, April 18, 2008

28-2, baby!!!!

Got to be real nice to Mrs. Angus now, 'cause the NBA owners just voted overwhemingly (28-2) to approve the relocation of the Sonics to OKC! The owners who voted now were Mark Cuban (who owns the team closest to OKC) and Paul Allen (a Pacific Northwest icon).

Speeches at LPNC Convention.....

Two snippets, one each of Bob Barr and Mike Gravel, speaking at LPNC. video video

The funniest sentences I've read this week

"I don't know about you, but show me a starlet without panties getting out of a car, and suddenly the world seems like a better place. Show me 'Knight Rider' drunk on the floor eating a hamburger, and I won't ask why my kid has no health insurance. Let's stop burdening people with facts."


An excerpt from Tim Robbins' keynote speech at the National Association of Broadcasters meetings.

Been Away, Haven't Seen You for a While, How've You Been?

(Sorry about the Dave Mason title; I'm in a hurry).

Was gone all this week, leaving again for DC for IHS Career Development. I'll get to see that cute Dave Schmidtz, though, so it's all worth it.

Tuesday: Gave talk at Bowling Green State U, in Ohio, at Social Philosophy. Wonderful folks. Saw Larry White, who was kind enough to comment.

Wednesday night: Back in NC, went to Winston-Salem, did four different gigs on WXII. Will try to post links soon. Strange questions from listeners, and I got in trouble for being insensitive. Makes sense, though: I AM insensitive.

Thursday: Drove to Cullowhee, and Western Carolina to give a talk and go out to lunch. Trying to establish a "Munger for Gov" organization out there. I think it worked; I have a campus rep, and a vice rep. Great kids. Drove out to Murphy. Wow.

More soon, when I get to DC. Have to give my main talk tonight. May have time to post tomorrow.

Get South Africa OUT of the Zimbabwe affair!

Here's another one the Bush administration is getting wrong. Both Shrub and Condi have called for more action by Zimbabwe's neighbors. But Zimbabwe's main neighbor, South Africa is nothing more than a Mugabe sock puppet. SA president Thabo Mbeki has consistently enabled Mugabe's tactics even saying at one point that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.

Now the Mbeki government has allowed a Chinese arms shipment bound for Zimbabwe to dock at the South African port of Durban:

The South African newspaper Beeld said a copy of the ship’s cargo documentation showed it was carrying almost 3m rounds of ammunition suitable for AK-47 assault rifles. There were also reports that the shipment contained mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenade equipment.

Police confirmed that the shipment included arms, sparking an outcry and demands from the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, for it to be impounded. The discovery comes at a sensitive time for South Africa’s government as it faces international criticism of its “quiet diplomacy” towards Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president.

Wow. It had been reported that SA would block this trans-shipment. However:

Themba Maseko, the South African government’s chief spokesman, said the authorities could not prevent the shipment reaching its destination. Mr Maseko said South Africa had to be seen to be “treading very carefully” in its relations with Zimbabwe, given its role as chief mediator between the MDC and Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

And of course by "treading very carefully" he means "ensuring Mugabe stays in power"!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Earth to Cato and the WSJ: Read it and Weep!!



Click on pic to better read the sweet free market slogan on this genuine Starbucks gift card!!

Obama-ectomy

Larry Bartels gives Barack a clinic in "political sociology" in today's NYTimes

He summarizes the ideas behind Barack's bitter clingers thesis and then says:

This is a remarkably detailed and vivid account of the political sociology of the American electorate. What is even more remarkable is that it is wrong on virtually every count.

He goes on to create two groups of people, those with family incomes less than 60k, no college degree and live in rural areas (comprising about 18% of the population). These are Obama's bitter clingers. He also defines their opposites: incomes more than 60k, college degree, live in cities) which compose about 11% of the population. Bartels then argues that it's actually the elite group which "clings" to social issues much more strongly than the folks Barack was dissing.

Do small-town, working-class voters cast ballots on the basis of social issues? Yes, but less than other voters do. Among these voters, those who are anti-abortion were only 6 percentage points more likely than those who favor abortion rights to vote for President Bush in 2004. The corresponding difference for the rest of the electorate was 27 points, and for cosmopolitan voters it was a remarkable 58 points. Similarly, the votes cast by the cosmopolitan crowd in 2004 were much more likely to reflect voters’ positions on gun control and gay marriage.

Small-town, working-class voters were also less likely to connect religion and politics. Support for President Bush was only 5 percentage points higher among the 39 percent of small-town voters who said they attended religious services every week or almost every week than among those who seldom or never attended religious services. The corresponding difference among cosmopolitan voters (34 percent of whom said they attended religious services regularly) was 29 percentage points.

It is true that American voters attach significantly more weight to social issues than they did 20 years ago. It is also true that church attendance has become a stronger predictor of voting behavior. But both of those changes are concentrated primarily among people who are affluent and well educated, not among the working class.

Nicely done sir, kudos!

No hay monos en la costa?

Maybe not for long in Costa Rica according to the Christian Science Monitor:

In the past decade, construction of hotels, second homes, and condominiums has surged in coastal regions, taking advantage of a vacuum in planning and enforcement. The total land area that has been developed grew 600 percent in that time, according to a government report.

As a result, the biodiversity that has long lured visitors is disappearing, say scientists. Monkey and turtle populations are plummeting, and infrastructure is strained to a near breaking point.

Costa Rica's highly regarded, nonpartisan State of the Nation report aired the country's dirty laundry last November, alarming both the press and the public.

Statistics revealed that 97 percent of Costa Rica's sewage flows untreated into rivers, streams, or the ocean, and that more than 300,000 tons of garbage was left uncollected on streets in 2006. And a flurry of illegal well-drilling is running aquifers dry, ironic in a country where as much as 20 feet of rain falls annually.

Despite the chaos, less than a quarter of coastal towns have zoning plans to balance tourism development with natural resources and government services such as sewage treatment and public water supply.

Monkey populations, symbols of the rain forest and a charismatic tourist attraction, declined an estimated 50 percent in little more than a decade, according to a recent report by a team of wildlife scientists.


Even given these developments, Costa Rica is still a very cool place:

Costa Rica remains decades ahead of its neighbors. More than 26 percent of its national territory is under protected status, 80 percent of its energy is produced from renewable resources such as wind and hydropower, and the country is growing more trees than it cuts down – an anomaly in widely poor Central America.

Costa Rica's natural resources are equally impressive, with its 11,450 species of plants, 67,000 species of insects, 850 species of birds, and the highest density of plants, animals, and ecosystems of any country in the Americas.

Ms. Angus and I have visited the Osa peninsula twice and had a great time on each occasion.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

They could have been classics

On the real clear politics website this afternoon I saw three article titles that cried out for one word texts. Alas, it was not to be as verbal inflation rules the day. Anyway here they are along with my version of the correct full text for the article.

Is Berlusconi the Savior That Italy Needs?

NO!

Has Gay Marriage Been a Mistake for Canada?

NO!

We Are All Global Alarmists Now?

NO!

Johannesburg Bleg

A first ever KPC bleg! wow.

Mrs. Angus and I will be in Johburg for one day resting up from our flight there from OKC (via ATL) on our way to Madagascar. Any suggestions for a good hotel not too far from the airport and something to do for a half day or so in the town would be greatly appreciated. We have been to Blyde river canyon and Kruger and don't have time to really travel outside the immediate J-burg area this time around.

BTW, for the semi-adventurous traveller, I'd highly recommend South Africa as a destination.

Been down so long it looks like up to me

I just read through an interesting new NBER working paper (ungated version here), "Training Disadvantaged Youth in Latin America: Evidence from a Randomized Trial". Here is the abstract:

Youth unemployment in Latin America is exceptionally high, as much as 50% among the poor. Vocational training may be the best chance to help unemployed young people at the bottom of the income distribution. This paper evaluates the impact of a randomized training program for disadvantaged youth introduced in Colombia in 2005 on the employment and earnings of trainees. This is one of a couple of randomized training trials conducted in developing countries and, thus, offers a unique opportunity to examine the causal impact of training in a developing country context. We use originally collected data on individuals randomly offered and not offered training. We find that the program raises earnings and employment for both men and women, with larger effects on women. Women offered training earn about 18% more than those not offered training, while men offered training earn about 8% more than men not offered training. Much of the earnings increases for both men and women are related to increased employment in formal sector jobs following training. The benefits of training are greater when individuals spend more time doing on-the-job training, while hours of training in the classroom have no impact on the returns to training. Cost-benefit analysis of these results suggests that the program generates a large net gain, especially for women.


The training was 3 months in a classroom and then 3 months "on the job". While these effects seemed small and discouraging to me, they are much larger and stronger than the effects found in randomized trials done in rich countries;

These results stand in strong contrast to most of the results obtained in developed countries and, in particular, in the U.S. (see, e.g., Heckman and Krueger, 2003; Burghardt and Schochet, 2001; Heckman, LaLonde and Smith, 1999). In these countries the effects are often small, if at all positive, and it is often unclear whether from they are worth implementing from a cost-benefit perspective.

Also interesting is that the larger effect for women has also been found in evaluating non-randomized programs in developing countries.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

By George, I think he's got it.

There is an interesting blog called Oil Wars that I have criticized in the past for getting things wrong about development. But now I gotta give credit, because they are getting it right on Venezuela's nationalization program (all the interesting formatting is in the original post):

"But what is important to note is what Venezuela will NOT get through any of these nationalizations; new steel mills or cement factories or new telephone systems – those already existed and simply changed hands. There won’t be any new jobs as all the jobs working for those firms already existed. There won’t be any new economic output as the goods and services produced after nationalization were already being produced before it.

In sum, the only benefit that Venezuela gets from nationalizing these companies is it now controls their profits and it only even gets that if it ensures the companies are well run and remain profitable.

Now let’s turn to an alternative use of that money. Instead of buying existing steel mills or cement factories suppose the government built new ones.

By contrast if the government built a new steel mill with the same $2 billion it would create thousands of NEW jobs, it would generate NEW economic activity, it would generate NEW tax revenue and, if the company is run well, it would even get NEW profits.

In summary, if the Venezuelan government uses its oil revenues to purchase an existing company its Venezuela’s only gain is whatever the profits of that company are. But if it instead uses those resources to build NEW industries it gets far more as much new wealth is created, economic output increases, and the standard of living of Venezuelan’s increases. This is not to even count other tangential benefits that may accrue such as increasing the skill level of your work force, obtaining new technologies, reducing the economies dependence on oil, etc.

It is more than clear that from an economic point of view it would be better not to nationalize Sidor and the other companies and instead invest the money in building up new industries. These nationalizations are therefore a misguided and a wrong policy for Venezuela to be pursuing.

The fact that the Venezuelan government is pursuing this type of policy is evidence that it is fighting the wrong battles. Yes, Venezuelan’s are generally underpaid and have a low standard of living.

The reason for that, however, is not that they are exploited by foreign companies who take vast sums of wealth out of the country. The principle reason is that the country is underdeveloped and simply doesn’t generate enough wealth for Venezuelans to live well, even if all of that wealth remains in the country. Hence, the central issue facing Venezuela isn’t how to distribute the countries economic output more equitably (though that too can be worked on in various ways) but how to INCREASE its economic output.

Putting this in terms that would be familiar to Marxists, Venezuela’s problem isn’t who OWNS the means of production; it is that it doesn’t have ENOUGH means of production."

Awesome!! If this guy gets it right, how can anyone NOT?? Phone call for Hugo Chavez on line 7!!

Places I would go live if they tripled my salary

Tyler, in his post about how (not?) to build a great university, said he wouldn't move to Saudi Arabia or Japan for triple his current salary. Me neither, but here are some places where I would go:

Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal.

Lol, you guys can start lobbying people there and / or taking up a collection!!

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

There are some very confused people in NY as this story shows:

NY suburb: Gere fence too high

Richard Gere, like Martha Stewart before him, is running into some zoning hurdles as he tries to put his imprint on the wealthy New York suburb of Bedford.The 58-year-old actor and a partner have opened a cafe and bakery and have plans for a luxury inn and fine restaurant. But their new 180-foot-long cedar fence may not pass muster, building inspector Richard Megna said Monday. Bedford's rules call for a fence no higher than 4 feet along the street side of a property, he said, and Gere's is 5 feet tall.


Are you freakin' kidding me?? People, this is clearly a "that tiger wall is too LOW" situation here. When it comes to Richard Gere, I'd say 18 feet is the minimum safe wall height!!


Will Boliva split apart?

Here at KPC we have been following the dual saga of Evo Morales' attempts to pass a new consititution in Bolivia that re-distributes political power and several of the richer individual states making plans to hold autonomy referenda (see here for a story and other links).

The Miami Herald ran a story yesterday about how this situation is still unresolved and a cause for concern.

A major diplomatic effort is underway to ease tensions in Bolivia, where planned autonomy referendums by rich, renegade provinces have stoked fears of political strife. Dante Caputo, the head of the political unit of the Organization of American States, is to meet on Monday with the governors of five provinces that have challenged Bolivia's left-wing President Evo Morales' push to pass a draft constitution. The text gives indigenous peoples more power and the state greater control of the economy, deepening regional and ethnic rifts in the Andean country. This has produced an unprecedented international reaction, with the foreign ministers of Brazil and Argentina visiting the country in recent days and on Friday the European Union and 16 more countries offering to mediate, underscoring international concerns over the direction of the poor, landlocked nation, which sits on some of South America's largest natural-gas reserves and is a major producer of cocaine.

The state of Santa Cruz has an autonomy referendum scheduled for May 4th, two others on June 1, and a fourth on June 22.

The article ends on a cautionary note:

Economic woes are adding to the tensions. Inflation has been creeping up in Bolivia and natural-gas output has been slipping since Morales nationalized the industry in 2006. Bolivia is a major natural-gas supplier to Argentina and Brazil.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Libertarian Surge: Where There's A Will.....

George Will's column in Newsweek, about the Libertarian Party:

It has recruited 600 down-ballot candidates around the nation (including Michael Munger, chairman of the political-science department at Duke, who is running for governor of North Carolina) and expects to have 1,500 by Election Day.

George called me last week, and we got to talk for a second. He wanted to make sure I was really running, since it is "irrational."

I pointed out that, as a Cubs fan, George Will is just as irrational as a Libertarian, and maybe more so. He acknowledged that there is some truth in that.

ATSRTWT: A Libertarian Surge?

(Nod to Tim G, who has his own surge)

Roddick to France: "Forget" about it!

Or in pictures, too much of this:


created this:


Story here. Next up for the US team is Spain in the semi finals.

Bittergate II

I second Angus' motion.

An excerpt from an article in TIME this week, with a little Munger quote:

"Mistakes become "gaffes" when they play to an underlying stereotype," said Michael Munger, a polticial science professor at Duke University in North Carolina, which is scheduled to hold its primary May 6. "If Bill Clinton had said this thing about some white people being bitter and using guns, it would have been fine, since he grew up a poor white guy. But the Obama stereotype is a wealthy ivy-league elitist. He's a little too well-spoken; his suits are a little too expensive. From him, the comment comes off as condescending."

But if Clinton, and McCain for that matter, are going to use these comments to cast Obama as an arrogant elitist, they better be prepared to deal with the blowback. As Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant and Obama supporter, put it in an email exchange with TIME, "Hillary Clinton calls Barack Obama elitist? Really? Hillary Clinton was a corporate lawyer who sat on the Wal Mart board before becoming First Lady and is now worth over $100 million. Barack Obama is the child of a single mother raised in part by his grandparents who went to school on a scholarship and was a community organizer making $12,000 a year before becoming a law professor, lawyer and state senator. Five years ago he was still paying off student loans. It's a bogus charge."


Let me see if I understand: this would also have been condescending if Hillary had said it. Two things. (1) Yes, that's right. (2) But Hillary DIDN'T say it.

ATSRTWT

Grasping at straws

For the sake of argument, let's grant Obama's point that people cling to religion out of bitterness and desperation. I then wonder, who would/should you rather put your faith in to make your life better? God and your fellow congregants, or Barack / Hillary and big government? Which belief would actually be more "deluded"?

Bittergate
(as Tyler is calling it) is lights out for me as far as Obama as something special is concerned. At this point, besides the fact that he can't bowl, what is the difference between him and HRC?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Goob!

I am so tired.

But.....I am now the official candidate for Governor of NC for the LPNC.

The convention was wonderful, really interesting.

More soon....

Your Latin America Roundup

1. Venezuela: the girl can't help it! Hugo, the serial nationalizer has done it again. On top of his recent announcement of nationalization of the cement industry, he is now going to nationalize the main steel producer in the country, which is an Argentine firm. These nationalizations are well beyond screwing with the USA as now firms of neutral (Mexico) and allied (Argentina) countries are being targeted. Predictably but sadly, these action are touted as the way to reduce shortages and lower prices domestically.

2. Ecuador: Standin' on shaky ground. President Correa's campaign to bring the military under his control has hit a very rough patch.

3. Cuba: Be it ever so humble. "Thousands of Cubans will be able to get title to state-owned homes under regulations published Friday, a step that could lay the groundwork for broader housing reform. The measure was the first legal decree formally published since Raúl Castro succeeded his brother Fidel as president in February. It came a day after state television said the government would also do away with wage limits, allowing state employees to earn as much they can as an incentive to productivity. The housing decree spells out rules to let Cubans renting from their state employers keep their apartment or house after leaving their jobs. They could gain title and even pass it on to their children or other relatives. Those who could take advantage of the new law include military families, sugar workers, construction workers, teachers and doctors."

Wow that sounds cool. Any fine print??

By law, Cubans still are not permitted to sell their homes to anyone but the government, though they may swap housing with government approval — a process that can take years.

ouch!

4. Mexico: Little by little. President Calderon has introduced legislation that shine a little light into the black hole that is PEMEX. "But the limited measures effectively ended any expectation that Mexico would soon take steps to open important parts of its energy industry. With one of the world’s most protected energy sectors, Mexico is the third most important supplier of crude oil to the United States. But production by the state-run oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, has fallen more than 10 percent since reaching a peak in 2004. Crude oil exports, too, have begun to slide. Pemex has failed to invest enough in exploration or refining, and pipelines and storage facilities have deteriorated. Mexico now imports 40 percent of its gasoline. Analysts predicted that the proposed legislation would do little to change all that. “They are maybe taking 50 tiny steps in the right direction,” said David Shields, an analyst based here who writes extensively on Pemex. “That’s better than nothing, but it’s not much better than nothing.”