Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This is NOT the best of all possible worlds

When I was a lad, I was taken to church a fair amount. Didn't have much choice in the matter. But holy crap people, this here just isn't right.

Every 10 years or so a bunch of Nepalese sadists pick a baby (from 2-4 years old) girl to be a "living goddess". Among the trials the successful candidate must endure is spending:

"a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear".

Congratulations little toddler, you survived. Now here's your prize:

"Having passed all the tests, the child will stay in almost complete isolation at the temple, and will be allowed to return to her family only at the onset of menstruation when a new goddess will be named to replace her."

Plus it turns out that this is a "gift" that just keeps on giving:

"Nepalese folklore holds that men who marry a former kumari will die young, and so many girls remain unmarried and face a life of hardship."

In all seriousness, what the hell is wrong with these people??

Where have you gone Connie Mack?

I don't really follow baseball that much. Way back in grad school we used to go to Cardinal games in St. Louis during the summer where bleacher seats were a couple bucks and the Cards were dominant and that was fun. This year, just for the soap opera-ness of it all, I'd like to see a Dodgers - Red Sox series with Manny hitting around 10 dingers to win it.

One thing I do know about baseball though is that managers are dumb. Take Terry Francona last night. His starter pitches 7 stellar shutout innings but he takes him out to start the 8th to bring in a guy that is just not as good (but is left-handed). This guy (Okajima?) gives up a 2 out walk and then in comes a skinny guy with weird socks who gives up another walk, a wild pitch, and then a 2 out game tying single. This kid had pitched 3 1/3 innings in this series and given up 4 hits and 2 walks up to this point.

Lucky for the Sox that the Angels manager helped bail them out with a "suicide squeeze" play later in the game. Hey Mike Scioscia, why do you think they call it what they call it?

People, what exactly is the externality / market failure that lets baseball managers be so very very bad?

As promised, from beyond the grave, special guest blogger Dear Abby!

Dear Abby:

I don't know what to do. Mungowitz says he loves me, but he never writes, he never calls, he never sends me flowers. I am typing my fingers to the bone, but he doesn't seem to appreciate me.

Signed Bewildered.

"Bewildered, Bewildered you have no complaint. You are what you are and you ain't what you ain't. So listen up mister and listen up good. Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood."

Signed, Dear Abby

Monday, October 06, 2008

Guest Blogger: Larry King

You know who would make a good president? Ben Roethlisberger. Is it just me or is Barack Obama putting on weight? I think Hank Paulson is doing a bang up job at Treasury, just look how the stock market is responding to the passage of his plan! The Oklahoma City Thunder is a franchise name for the ages. Isn't it impressive how everyone in the Congress is working together to solve our problems?

Mungowitz, you better get busy or tomorrow's guest blogger will be Dear Abby!!!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

On the bright side, at least he's not plagiarizing

In the midst of financial crisis frenzy, I missed this awesome story. Joe Biden said on TV that

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"

Of course, the market crashed in 1929, and FDR took office in January of 1933 and there wasn't any such thing as television then.

Maybe Joe can start claiming that he invented television.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Clear as Mudd

People are panicking and not getting their stories straight. Take Daniel H. Mudd, former CEO of Fannie Mae (I am not making this name up) for example. Here's his quote:

Almost no one expected what was coming. It’s not fair to blame us for not predicting the unthinkable.— Daniel H. Mudd, former chief executive, Fannie Mae.

and here's a paragraph from the NY Times story where the above quote was the lead:

"So Mr. Mudd made a fateful choice. Disregarding warnings from his managers that lenders were making too many loans that would never be repaid, he steered Fannie into more treacherous corners of the mortgage market, according to executives."

Oh my.

Here's another good one also from the above article:

"When the mortgage giant Fannie Mae recruited Daniel H. Mudd, he told a friend he wanted to work for an altruistic business."

and later in the same article:

"Mr. Mudd collected more than $10 million in his first four years at Fannie."

Why do I feel like J. Fred Muggs would have probably done a better job??

The best paragraphs I read this morning

or: Bill Easterly knocks it out of the park.

"Development economics still bears the scars of the Depression. A prominent World Bank Growth Commission concluded in May that "fast, sustained growth does not happen spontaneously. It requires a long-term commitment by a country's political leaders," and "each country has specific characteristics and historical experiences that must be reflected" in the leaders' "growth strategy." Some at the U.N. still recommend the discredited Big Push strategy of state-planned investment.

How much poverty has endured because individual entrepreneurs were shunned in favor of the likes of the $5 billion state-owned Ajaokuta Steel Mill in Nigeria, which never produced a bar of steel? Or because African governments spend their time preparing World Bank-required national Poverty Reduction Strategy Reports instead of freeing space for innovators?

We will never know. But we do know that the free market has a long-run track record of creating prosperity -- even with the occasional crash. The Depression's deceptive intellectual legacy is that development flows from all-knowing states rather than creative individuals. Here's hoping that the backlash to today's crash will not spawn another round of bad economics for the poor."

Can I get a Amen?

My faith in Congress is renewed

As a semi-professional cynic, I was happy, but stunned to see the House rise up and vote down the Paulson plan. Could it really be that they were looking out for the country?

However, we now know that they didn't defeat the Paulson plan the first time because it was bad, they defeated it because it was not bad enough! All it took was another 400+ pages of text and $150 billion of pork for pretty much the same bailout to sail through.

Tax breaks for producing wooden arrows? Really? That should start short term business lending flowing, no?

Anyway, I just want to thank the US Congress for not requiring me to change any of my deeply held views about it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

bailout views, and blues

Two quick shots, on the bailout...er...rescue.

First in the Charlotte Observer (and a lagniappe)

Then on the CBS station here in Raleigh

If Hank Paulson were a tiger cub

Is it better to take the wrong medicine than to take nothing at all?

When Mrs. Angus and I have to give pills to Mr. Pluto, we wrap them in cream cheese and toss them up in the air. He leaps up and grabs them and down the hatch they go. Our political elites must have been watching as the Hank n' Ben rescue plan, rejected once by the House has now been wrapped in $150 billion of lard and tossed back out for the House to swallow.

As many distinguished economists have pointed out, this plan (eloquently described by John Cochrane as the mother of all bailouts) simply does not address the core problems (lack of capital in some banks and lack of short term lending) in any kind of direct or efficient way. In my view, it aims to address bank capital problems indirectly by bailing out investors.

I think the crisis is real and something will have to be done. I also think in some sense the whole process of this legislation's (non) progress has contributed mightily to the uncertainty and downswing in the markets. Passing the bill might at least remove that source of uncertainty and maybe even raise confidence a bit. It also seems clear that, to Hank n' Ben, this is the only option. None of the other approaches suggested for re-capitalization appear to be on the table.

The above paragraph notwithstanding, I am still against the bill and hope it does not pass. I think the piecemeal approach we've used so far can continue to work for long enough that a more sensible re-capitalization scheme can be implemented. I do understand though Krugman's point that time is running out and maybe we need to do this plan to buy enough time to get a better plan (as bizarre and expensive as that sounds).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Retail politics comes to Chez Angus

Last night around 5:00 our doorbell rings. I go to answer and low and behold it's Wallace Collins at the door wearing a Wallace Collins shirt and carrying Wallace Collins campaign materials.

WC: "Hello, I'm Wallace Collins" (sticking out his hand for a shaking).

Me: (shaking said hand vigorously) "Yes sir, you sure are".

WC: (getting together a package of stuff from me) "I am running for re-....."

Me (interupting) "I should tell you sir that I am not a registered voter"

WC: "Would you like to become one right now?"

Me: "No sir, it's not by accident or laziness or anything, I just don't vote."

WC: ??????????????

Me: "Look at it this way, I definitely won't be voting against you".

WC: (very pleased with this spin) Well, OK then, have a good day.

Me: "Good luck with your campaign sir".

(ps. if you haven't clicked on the link in the first line of this post, let me assure you it's well worth doing so)

Proof that we need the bailout

People, I've been ranting against the Hank n' Ben bailout, cheering on the House for rejecting it, advocating a continuation of the case by case piecemeal approach.

I was wrong.

This morning new data has come to light and I've had to change my position to "Please save us Hank n' Ben!!"

A date with Maria Sharapova was auctioned off and the winning bid was $10,000. I am not making this up. We have a serious crisis situation people, right here right now. It's panic time.

Does this remind anyone else of a great episode of Arrested Development, or is it just me?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Student: Win, Teacher: Fail

In no way is #2 a Fail for the test taker. I would give full credit for noob as the opposite of pro, but deduct heavily for live as the opposite of death, ding for spelling on #3 and indecisiveness on #5. Maybe homeschooling is not such a bad idea after all.