Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy July 4th from KPC!

Halfway: Tick, Tick!

The July 3-4 Money Grenade is halfway home!

We got 150 contributions yesterday, for just over $5,000. That's a huge help, folks; thanks!

But if you are so nerdy that you are reading this site on a HOLIDAY, fercrissakes, GET THE WORD OUT.

Today is the last day. Post the web site somewhere, and let people know.
http://www.munger08.com

Thanks!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A tribute to Yakov Smirnov



In America, people are suspicious of the food.
In Communist China, the food is suspicious of you!

(big ups to commenter Sudo on failblog.org)

The Grenade is Going Off!

We’re doing pretty well on the growth of the Grenade Brigade!

As of noon today:

–60 contributions
–nearly $2,600

If you haven’t given yet….please go to the web site, and click on donate!

Name that Team!!

So OKC has got another NBA franchise, this time (maybe) for keeps! We are pretty happy here at Chez Angus. The owners have even said they will start by offering season tickets to folks who had Hornets season tickets (i.e. me!). Some possible bad news though, is that given how much $$$ has been forked already in the process, these tickets may be a tad pricey (Maybe Mungowitz will share his mailing list with me and we can have an Angus season ticket money bomb???).

Among the various pounds of Okie flesh extracted in the settlement is that the name "SuperSonics" stays in Seattle. Whatever, dudes. But it raises a fun question; what to call the new team?

Boomers? Noodlers? Tribe? Tornadoes?

Any of these strike your fancy? Any alternative suggestions?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Uribe to Farc: "I'm in ur base, freein' the hostages!!"

Wow, wow wow! Huge ups to Uribe and the Colombian military for tricking the FARCsters and freeing Ingrid Betencourt, 3 Americans and 11 Colombians without firing a shot!!

From the AP:

military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas' supreme leader.

The hostages, who had been divided in three groups, were taken to a rendezvous where two disguised helicopters piloted by Colombian military agents were waiting. Betancourt said her hands and feet were bound, which she called "humiliating."

The pilots, she said, were posing as members of a relief organization, but "they were dressed like clowns," wearing Che Guevara shirts, so she assumed they were rebels.

But when they were airborne, she looked behind her and saw Cesar, who had treated her so cruelly for so many years, lying on the floor blindfolded.

"The chief of the operation said, `We're the national army. You're free,'" she said. "The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another. We couldn't believe it."

The operation, Santos said, "will go into history for its audacity and effectiveness."

"We wanted to have it happen as it did today," added armed forces chief Gen. Freddy Padilla. "Without a single shot. Without anyone wounded. Absolutely safe and sound, without a scratch."


This is huge, people. Now more than ever, I think Uribe's government can by and large eliminate the FARC!

First Lady Mary Easley Gets Big Pay Raise

WRAL has this story to tell:

First Lady Mary Easley said Wednesday that she wasn't bothered by criticism of a new contract she has with North Carolina State University that almost doubles her annual salary.

"Negative stories and exaggerations and partial stories go with the territory, and that's part of public life," she said in an interview with WRAL.

Easley has been an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer at N.C. State for the past three years, developing a speakers program and teaching a graduate course in public administration and courses in the Administrative Officers Management Program, which provides leadership training to law enforcement officers.

Her previous salary was $90,300 a year, but that increased Tuesday to $170,000 a year – an 88 percent increase – as part of a five-year contract.


Let's see....is this a negative story, an exaggeration, or a partial story?

1. Negative story: some attack on an action that misrepresents, or distorts.
2. Exaggeration: a claim that (for example) the salary is $170k, when in fact it is only $125k
3. Partial story: a claim that, while true, leaves out important relevant details.

Well, no details are supplied by the First Lady, so it can't be partial. No corrections are offered, so it can't be an exaggeration. I suppose it is a negative that the taxpayers of NC found out how much money Queen Mary is being paid.

But only from Queen Mary's perspective. From my perspective, it is NEWS.

And it is news because of this:

Gov. Mike Easley said Tuesday that high overseas travel bills are unfortunate but necessary if North Carolina wants to attract business, tourists and blockbuster art exhibits.
Easley's public comments were his first about the cost of trips he and his wife, Mary Easley, have taken. In April, the Easleys participated in a business-recruiting and tourism-promoting trip to Italy that cost more than $170,000. Last year, Mary Easley went to France with two others at a cost of more than $53,000. And in May, she went to Estonia and Russia with five others at a cost of more than $56,000.

Easley said high bills are unavoidable.

"It costs what it costs," Easley said. "I wish it didn't cost that much, but you know, let's be honest about it. A cheeseburger and onion rings is $60 over there. The dollar is very, very weak now. And that is why we were over there, in order to get those euros coming to the United States for tourism."


Um....what is the deal with all the $170,000's? If Mary Easley buys a car, does THAT cost $170,000, like her salary and her trip? Is this a favorite number/numerology thing? (Like Nancy Reagan, perhaps? Mary Easley thinks $170,000 is her lucky number?)

And, well...the mechanism escapes me. If I send my wife to Russia, and spend money taken at gunpoint from taxpayers, that means Euros come to the U.S.? And, not just the U.S., but to North Carolina?

That would be remarkable indeed. Since Russia is not part of the European Union, they would have to borrow Euros to send them over. Even if they enjoyed their lunches with Mary Easley a LOT, I don't think that would happen.

A Favor, Seriously. I Need Your Help!


Dear Friends:

As you know, I have been working to run for Governor of North Carolina, as a Libertarian, for the past two years. Well, we got the 105,000 signatures, and we got on the ballot.

But then things got…weird. I was invited to the final debate, in October, at Queens College in Charlotte. But then that debate got cancelled, and ANOTHER debate, only without the Libertarians in it, got scheduled instead.

The state of NC is really dragging its feet in getting out new forms, so Libertarians can register. The state Board of Elections will barely meet with us, and the county Boards of Elections won't accept checks for filing fees for our candidates. I put up more than $1,000 worth of yard signs, and the state took them all down, because (get this) there is "no election going on at this time"! Ouch.

The only thing that can change this is participation at the grassroots.

And the only kind of participation that matters is….small contributions, from lots of folks!

That's why we are running a small money bomb tomorrow. It's so small, it's really just a money grenade.

Won't you join the Munger "Grenade Brigade"? Here's what you do, ANYTIME ON JULY 3 or JULY 4. Yes, ANYTIME:

1. Go to http://www.munger08.com

2. Click on "contribute"

3. Give $25, or less (the amount doesn't matter as much as the fact you show your support for democracy and free choice in politics!)

That's it. That's all I need. Well, that and GET THE WORD OUT TO OTHER PEOPLE!

Please help! Even if you have already given, PLEASE just give something. It isn't the money, as much as it is the message that lots of folks care.

Mike Munger
http://www.munger08.com
munger4ncgov@gmail.com

A suitcase with legs

First Guido Wilson got caught hauling it to Argentina (see previous KPC coverage here and here). Then in Miami, some Venezuelans got caught on tape alternatively bribing and threatening Mr. Wilson to take responsibility for its contents. Now in the trial of Franklin Duran (the only threatener who didn't take a plea), Hugo Chavez has, for the first time, been directly linked to the case:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was personally involved in covering up his nation's role in an Argentine election scandal, according to an FBI statement by a Venezuelan witness who may testify at a criminal trial in Miami.ranklin Duran faces trial on U.S. charges he acted as an unregistered agent of Chavez's government. Duran conspired to silence a Florida businessman who toted $800,000 in a suitcase from Caracas to Buenos Aires, according to U.S. prosecutors. The Justice Department alleged the cash, seized Aug. 4, was intended for the campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was elected Argentina's president Oct. 28.

Duran, 40, was arrested Dec. 11 with two other Venezuelans, Carlos Kauffmann and Moises Maionica. Kauffmann and Maionica pleaded guilty and said in court that their country's intelligence agency, known as DISIP, played a central role in the cover-up of the payment.

In papers filed June 27, Duran said Kauffmann's FBI statement implicated Chavez. Kauffmann told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that ``Maionica told him and others that President Chavez was involved in the matter and had put DISIP Director Rangel Silva in charge, and that Rangel told him that President Chavez personally was involved in the matter,'' according to the motion in federal court in Miami.

Previous court filings didn't directly implicate Chavez in the case, known as the ``suitcase scandal'' in Argentina. U.S. prosecutors have filed court papers saying that DISIP and the office of Venezuela's vice president oversaw the plot.

While this is fun, I don't expect it to actually hurt Chavez at home in Venezuela. What amazes me a bit is how the Kirchners have so successfully dodged this bullet back in Argentina!



Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Obama was right about bitter white guys!

From the Telegraph:


Bill Clinton is so bitter about Barack Obama's victory over his wife Hillary that he has told friends the Democratic nominee will have to beg for his wholehearted support...The Telegraph has learned that the former president's rage is still so great that even loyal allies are shocked by his patronising attitude to Mr Obama, and believe that he risks damaging his own reputation by his intransigence. A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could "kiss my ass" in return for his support. The Democrat told the Telegraph: "He's been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn't. I've spoken to a couple of people who he's been in contact with and he is mad as hell."He's saying he's not going to reach out, that Obama has to come to him. One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support."You can't talk like that about Obama - he's the nominee of your party, not some house boy you can order around."Hillary's just getting on with it and so should Bill."

As a public service, KPC has decided to run a picture of Bill Clinton's ass, so BO can decide whether or not he wants to pucker up!

Holy Crap! Robert Shiller strikes again

In Sunday's NY Times, Shiller continues his streak of surrealistically bad editorials. This one advocates a second tax rebate because the effects of the first one are "not going to mean the difference between prosperity and recession", and a "dreaded serious recession still seems very much a possibility"

How does he know?


Consider the Fair simulation model (fairmodel.econ.yale.edu/main2.htm), a free Web site that embodies much of Keynes’s theory and is offered by Professor Ray C. Fair of Yale. With the “U.S. Model” on this site, I increased transfers from government to households (“TRGH”) by $100 billion in the second quarter of 2008. The results showed a $59 billion increase in 2008 gross domestic product. That is less than half of 1 percent of G.D.P.

The simulation also showed that this year’s rebates would have further repercussions in 2009, bolstering G.D.P. by $36 billion that year. After 2009, the effects of this stimulus will just sputter out.

All I can say is LOL! and WTF?? I too went to Fair's site this morning and found the following at the top of the page:

Latest Update: April 30, 2008: The US model has been updated through 2008:1. NO RECESSION PREDICTED---see Forecast Memo. The latest version of the multicountry model is the MCC model. See below.

People, I am not making this up. Plus in the FAQs about the model I found the following statement:

The United States model was developed by Ray Fair in 1974-1976, and it has been used since then for research, forecasting, policy analysis, and teaching. It has been available for use on personal computers since 1983 and was the first such model to be so.

Now I am not knocking Fair; he is upfront about what this thing is (i.e. a dinosaur). I am knocking Shiller for writing, and the editors of the Times for publishing, lazy crap like this.




Sunday, June 29, 2008

Actually, I no longer think this is very funny

Ryan Teague Beckwith, a fine guy who has treated the Libertarians perfectly fairly, is finding all this a little too funny, I think.

Check this.

Now, my response can be found here. And I'm not laughing. I am pretty angry. This is just not right.

UPDATE: Ryan noted I had misspelled his name. My apologies. I'm waiting for my apology from the state, for violating the stated will of more than 100,000 NC citizens for Libertarian registration to be an option.

Suing the Sun in Chicago

Email from Angry Sensible Man:

This is from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. What is this world coming to? Everyone needs a personal lawyer.

New Tune on Campus: Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and Bring My Lawyer

In Evanston, Ill., the great American pastime of baseball is being displaced by the threat of another popular American sport ? litigation.

Since 2000, Northwestern University has allowed children’s baseball teams from nearby communities to use its Rocky Miller Park for games.

But the university recently told the American Legion-sponsored baseball clubs in Evanston and Wilmette, Ill., that they were no longer welcome because the parents of a young pitcher were threatening a lawsuit, reports the Pioneer Local, a local newspaper.

The parents were concerned about the safety of the park because the sun shines into the eyes of the pitcher.

In a message to the ballclubs, Northwestern’s assistant athletics director of facilities, Scott Arey, wrote, “Unfortunately, Northwestern University is not able to do anything to mitigate the sun’s effect on the vision of the pitcher, so we have made the unfortunate decision that we can no longer safely host these games.” ?Eric Kelderman

Oh, The Places We Will Go!

Wow. Amazing. This guy thinks that all we need to do is study sociology, and the government will work better.

No.

All we need to do is study public choice, and STOP USING GOVERNMENT FOR THINGS IT CAN'T DO, like create "justice" in income. And government would work better.

Behavioral Decision Research, Legislation, and Society: Three Cases

Max Bazerman
Capitalism and Society, March 2007

"There is little doubt that the field of economics has had a much greater influence on government policy in Washington and in other world capitals than have the other social sciences (Bazerman and Malhotra, 2006). In terms of influence, the economists have won. Unfortunately, government policies have led to millions of jobs and tens of millions of retirement plans being lost to accounting scandals, the commercial extinction of the majority of the world's large fisheries, the needless deaths of thousands of Americans each year because of the stupidity of the U.S. organ donation system, and numerous other inefficiencies (Bazerman and Malhotra, 2006). Economic logic lies behind each of these disasters, without the input needed from other
informative social sciences. The stories in this article extend this argument to claim that the failure of courts and policymakers to be informed about other social sciences (in this case, behavioral decision research) leads to the corruption of policy-formulation process and low-quality outcomes for society. Creating wise policies in society requires us to incorporate a modern understanding of unconscious or unintentional processes in decision making. For far too long, the unconscious has been associated with psychological perspectives that have not stood up well to empirical testing (e.g., Freudian psychology). Currently, a very different approach to understanding the human mind has been developed by rigorous scientists, who
have confirmed the importance of unconscious or unintentional processes (Banaji et al., 2004). Leaders must consider how the institutions that they create affect both intentional and unintentional bases of misconduct.

Without such attention to these forces, it is far too easy to accept the institutions that drive unethical behavior despite the absence of what is traditionally viewed as an unethical act. When creating policy, we need to apply sound social science logic and use the best empirical data to assess what is likely to occur under different policies. Far too often, we accept the status quo (Baron, 1998), particularly if economic theory (lacking data) can show that it is feasible that the status quo is acceptable. In policy-making domains, this feasibility test should be replaced with the broader question of where the preponderance of the evidence lies.

Furthermore, this evidence should come from a variety of social sciences. We should give the current state of a policy issue far less weight, as it is clear that enormous inefficiencies exist in so many current policies (Bazerman et al., 2001; Baron). In each of the three stories in this paper, I believe that government decision-makers overweighed a simplistic version of economic theory. In the auditor story, the SEC misapplied the logic of cost-benefit analysis and failed to make the appropriate changes needed to create auditor independence. In the antitrust story, the pharmaceutical firms attempted to justify their behavior by showing that economic theory could be contorted to explain their deal in a manner that did not restrain trade. Finally, in the tobacco story, the prevailing belief in pure economic theory was used to mount a Daubert challenge to the use of behavioral decision research. Ample evidence suggests that economic theory plays a central role in the policy-formulation process. It is unfortunate that it does so to the exclusion of useful information from other social sciences.

Milton Friedman argued that unrealistic assumptions in economic theory do not matter as long as economic theory predicts behavior, and that economic theory does a pretty good job of predicting behavior (Friedman, 1953). The problem is that other social sciences have advanced to the extent that we now know of systematic patterns when we can adjust economic theory to make better predictions, yet decision-makers are not using this knowledge from other social sciences sufficiently. Economists too often counter that their theory has rigor (i.e., it is formalized) and explains all behavior, as compared to other social sciences that have diverse theories for different contexts (Ferraro et al., 2006). In the perceived battle between economics
and the other social sciences, it often appears that economics wins. Yet when harder physical scientists look at economics, they typically are deeply critical of the illogic of building formalizations on faulty assumptions (Beinhocker, 2006). The debate about the appropriateness of using different theories should depend on our purpose. If our goal is the scientific pursuit of a single theory to explain all human behavior, economic theory and evolutionary theory are doing pretty well. If our goal is to make specific predictions in specific contexts, we know of many contexts in which behavioral decision research and other social sciences regularly outperform
economic theory. And if we want to create optimal public policy, we clearly need to combine economic theory with useful insights from many other fields."


(Nod to KL, who already works better)

Bill Rhoden gets it badly wrong

with his fevered obeisance to to the bizarre god of a college education. He praises Joe Dumars to the skies for going back and getting his college degree last month and makes him into a role model for all the up and coming young'uns who don't care at all about college. This is strange in several ways. First Dumars went to college for 4 years. He could have graduated in that time. He didn't leave school early and presumably he didn't have too many credits to go for his degree. Second, Joe Dumars is one of the top 5 executives in all of sports. He didn't need a college degree to do his job better than almost anyone else. The true message of the Joe Dumars saga is "don't sweat getting a degree"!!! Third, Joe got his sheepskin via internet classes. I have to be brutally honest here: that is code for saying Joe didn't have to do much work or learn very much to get those credits. Sure there may be some exceptions but e-learning is an oxymoron on par with jumbo shrimp and military intelligence.

Rhoden then tries to apply his version of the lesson from Dumars to the young'uns:

In the N.B.A. draft on Thursday, college freshmen made up the first three picks for the first time. Five of the first seven players selected were freshmen, also a first.

The N.B.A. can spin that any way it pleases, but it exposes a disconnect. Most of these young players, forced to attend college because of the N.B.A.’s minimum age requirement (19) and its condition that eligible players be at least a year removed from high school, are not close to graduating and probably aren’t thinking about going back.

One year in college isn’t the answer either, and a growing number of people inside the lawyer-run N.B.A. know it.

They know, as Dumars came to understand, that it’s fine to have photo ops in which players read books to young people. But how can you preach the value of an education if you don’t value it enough to return to college to finish what you began?

Beginning immediately, scrupulous agents should insist that as a condition of taking them on as clients, athletes should be willing to take courses toward a degree within three years of signing their first contract.

Commissioner David Stern was ferocious in the pursuit of a minimum-age limit. If the N.B.A. really cares about the long-term welfare of its young incoming athletes, it will push for a rule that makes young players move without the ball toward a degree.

Call it the Dumars rule: better late than never at all.

He is actually calling for mandatory post-secondary continuing education for all non-degreed NBA players! Could there be a weirder and less necessary cause to get fired up about? And why? I guess so the league won't seem hypocritical when it runs pro education PSAs and to protect young players from exploitation?


To protect players, how about the NBA licensing agents, or having mandatory financial planning classes for rookies. In terms of the league currently being hypocritical in preaching education, has our public school system fallen so far that literacy requires a college degree? Really?