Friday, August 31, 2007

The King James Version

The FIBA tournament of the Americas is almost over out in Vegas. Team USA is undefeated so far, having routed all opponents and seems in good shape to qualify for the 08 Olympics. Yeah, that's how far the mighty have fallen, we have to qual-e-fy to even get into the Olympics now, como si fueramos Lichtenstein!

Anyway, much credit has been given Jerry Colangelo for rescuing USA Basketball by ensuring continuity and choosing a well balanced team with "role players". I disagree. In terms of continuity, there are only 3-4 players on this roster that were also on the roster for the previous world championship team, and while there are role players on the roster (Micheal Redd?), they pretty much stink.

Team USA is LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Carmelo Anthony. Maybe Coach K should get some credit for getting them to share the ball, but those three should get the credit (or blame) for what is going down in Vegas and what will happen in Beijing.

Wednesday night vs. Uruguay Lebron scored 26 points on 11-11 shooting in 14 minutes of pt. Game over. As of last night's game vs. Argentina (USA won 91-76), James was shooting an "almost comical 79.7 percent (47-of-59). He is 14-of-20 from 3-point range, a 70 percent mark that also leads the event."

Kobe scored 27 against Argentina and Carmelo had been the scoring leader before these last two games.

This is the same old superstar driven Team USA (thank goodness). Credit should go to three young superstars who have decided to cooperate for a common goal and not to old white guys in suits!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

News Flash: Fredrich Von Hayek caused Minnesota Bridge Collapse!!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg!! You can look it up right here!

Inspectors in the United States have discovered that 77,000 road bridges are in the same perilous state as the one which collapsed into the Mississippi. Two years after Hurricane Katrina struck, 120,000 people from New Orleans are still living in trailer homes and temporary lodgings. As runaway climate change approaches, governments refuse to take the necessary action. Booming inequality threatens to create the most divided societies the world has seen since before the first world war. Now a financial crisis caused by unregulated lending could turf hundreds of thousands out of their homes and trigger a cascade of economic troubles.

These problems appear unrelated, but they all have something in common. They arise in large part from a meeting that took place 60 years ago in a Swiss spa resort. It laid the foundations for a philosophy of government that is responsible for many, perhaps most, of our contemporary crises.

When the Mont Pelerin Society first met, in 1947, its political project did not have a name. But it knew where it was going. The society's founder, Friedrich von Hayek, remarked that the battle for ideas would take at least a generation to win, but he knew that his intellectual army would attract powerful backers. Its philosophy, which later came to be known as neoliberalism, accorded with the interests of the ultra-rich, so the ultra-rich would pay for it.

According to his profile, George Monbiot, the intrepid author of this scoop, is a best selling author, environmentalist, philosopher, and screenwriter, so this pretty much has to be true, doesn't it?

Good news for people who love bad news?

The good news? As KPC reported earlier would probably be the case, the second quarter growth number was revised upward today from 3.4% to 4.0%.

Of course no one in the news media likes good news so immediately after reporting the number the AP opines: But the growth spurt could be short-lived. There are concerns that the recent turmoil in financial markets, a result of a spreading credit crisis, could seriously dampen economic activity in the second half of this year.

GDP growth may have slowed to just above 2 percent in the current quarter and many analysts believe growth will slow even further in the final three months of this year as the full impact of the recent market turmoil is felt.

The worry is that the roller coaster ride in stocks and spreading credit problems will shake consumer and business confidence and cause cutbacks in spending and hiring plans.

Translation: Don't worry, we will be miserable enough very soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Putin; Scourge of the Oligarch

Grabby Vladdy is at it again. After allegedly being "hounded out of business" and forced to sell his $6 billion oil firm Russnet to a Putin Pal, Mikhail S. Gutseriev went public with a letter published on his company website and in a Russian business newspaper. Yesterday the other shoe dropped as an arrest warrant for "tax evasion and fraud" was issued against Gutseriev.

Can you say Yukos Redux?

From a different, restricted Times Select article comes the following money quote:

''As everybody in the world knows, you don't fight city hall, and in Russia you don't fight the Kremlin,'' Chris Weafer, the chief analyst at Alfa Bank, said in a telephone interview. ''When the Kremlin comes calling and says 'we want to buy your business,' the only talk is about price and terms.''

What do you say guys, Can we get Putin to replace Alberto Gonzalez? CEOs beware!

To those who wonder why Michael Vick is in so much "Trouble"

Maybe this story will clear things up:

Leona Helmsley's dog will continue to live an opulent life, and then be buried alongside her in a mausoleum. But two of Helmsley's grandchildren got nothing from the late luxury hotelier and real estate billionaire's estate.Helmsley left her beloved white Maltese, named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund, according to her will, which was made public Tuesday in surrogate court.

She also left millions for her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was named to care for Trouble in her absence, as well as two of four grandchildren from her late son Jay Panzirer -- so long as they visit their father's grave site once each calendar year.

Otherwise, she wrote, neither will get a penny of the $5 million she left for each.

Helmsley left nothing to two of Jay Panzirer's other children -- Craig and Meegan Panzirer -- for "reasons that are known to them," she wrote.

But no one made out better than Trouble, who once appeared in ads for the Helmsley Hotels, and lived up to her name by biting a housekeeper.

"I direct that when my dog, Trouble, dies, her remains shall be buried next to my remains in the Helmsley mausoleum," Helmsley wrote in her will.

The mausoleum, she ordered, must be "washed or steam-cleaned at least once a year." She left behind $3 million for the upkeep of her final resting place in Westchester County, where she is buried with her husband, Harry Helmsley.

She also left her chauffeur, Nicholas Celea, $100,000.

Hugo Update

One of Robin's students told her that in Venezuela there are billboards up announcing a forthcoming new currency, the "new bolivar" and that some denominations thereof will bear Hugo's likeness. I could confirm the new currency part here (coming in early 2008!), but not the "Hugo on the cover" part, though given his marathon TV and radio shows, it certainly seems plausible.

It's the old Latin American Classic Currency Caper, knock a few zeros off the end (only three in this case), rename it, and hope inflation will somehow go away. From the above link:

Justifying the measure, Chavez argued that the country's strong economic growth of recent years, which has been fueled by high oil prices, has made Venezuela "a world economic power," and that it was psychologically damaging for $1 to be worth so many bolivars.

The new currency would simplify transactions, improve efficiency, generate confidence and rein in inflation, he said.

The official exchange rate for the bolivar now is around 2100 to the dollar (but on the street, the market price is more like 4000 to the dollar).

Hugo: to know him is to love him

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hurricane Hugo

Hugo Chavez is a busy man. Between having (a) suitcases of cash sent to Argentina, (b) cans of anti-Garcia tuna sent to Peru, (c) his country's clocks set 30 minutes faster and (d) rifles brought in from Russia, he hasn't been able to keep his Bolivarian Revolution on its original timetable.

So, he is trying to get the constitution changed to allow his re-election, not just for one more term but indefinitely! Fair enough I say. After all, Bolivarian Revolutions are not built in a day.

But it turns out that Chavez at the same time had just recently ruled out a similar change for governors and mayors, on the grounds that they might become corrupt in power.


When asked about the apparent disconnect Hugo first went into an anti-european rant (the questioner was from the UK) but then pointed out that he needed to be able to run again because Venezuela's socialist revolution was like an unfinished painting and he was the artist. Giving the brush to someone else was risky, "because they could have another vision, start to alter the contours of the painting". Other officials were not responsible for the big picture and so did not need to run again and again, he said, looking at a row of governors and mayors. "Nothing personal." They smiled wanly and applauded.

I bet they stood and applauded.

hat tip to boz

Eating Ethically

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex seems to equate Micheal Vick's heinous acts of hanging, drowning, and electrocuting dogs that apparently didn't have the affinity for fighting another dog to the death that Mr. Vick required with eating a hamburger.

On the one hand, the comparison seems specious in that we do not condone cow fighting to the death or cow torture; indeed those would be prosecutable offenses as well. I am pretty sure that bullfighting (at least to the death) is not legal in the USA. The distinction is clear, at least in theory. Perhaps a better analogy to Vick's acts would be with hunting and fishing, where with few exceptions, animals are killed for sport and often suffer grievously. Catch and release fishing is nothing more that fish torture.

However, on the other hand, many legal commercial practices in slaughterhouses are egregiously cruel and inhumane. The production of foie gras and veal in my opinion pass far over the line of what can be allowed to be done to animals for human enjoyment. Even everyday fare is often raised and slaughtered callously. Sections of Temple Grandin's excellent book describing current practices filled me with despair.

I was a vegetarian for over a decade, but have been eating meat occasionally for the past 10 years now. In our family, when we do eat meat, we make every effort to purchase organically grown, free range, grass fed, humanely slaughtered meat, but its hard to be consistent and I often feel like a hypocrite.

Farm Sanctuary is an excellent organization that promotes humane practices and I recommend checking them out if you have interest in this issue. Also The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, is another excellent book on the topic of ethical food.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It ain't the's the emotion....

The Bishop sends an email, regarding our earlier discussion of marriage:

Continuing your post re marriage--I am reading Ridley's Origins of Virtue and came across this on p. 92:

Living as he does in a pair-bond, the man can share all his meat with his wife who can share all her vegetables with him. Both are better off. The division of labor is born; each half of the trading pair is better off than it would be onits own. The woman can gather enough roots, berries, fruits, and nuts for two while the man catches a pig or a rabbit that gives the stew a rich mix of proteins and vitamins.

He continues on p. 93:

When did male hunting change from being just a seduction device to being part of a deal with one wife? In effect, there came a moment when men gathered meat not just to seduce more women but to feed their own children.

And, fathers love their own children, so they get oxytocin treats from watching the kids eat the meat.

So, as usual: It ain't the meat, it's the emotion. But it starts with the meat exchange. The emotion comes AFTER the division of labor.

Oh, Bama!

I learned over the weekend that Barak Obama is both totally ready to be President and also completely unqualified for the job (I should say that I haven't seen a candidate this year who I would classify as "qualified", by which I mean "rationally processes information and does not deliberately and habitually lie in public")

Here is my evidence:

While many consumer goods are being made in countries like China, Obama said that the United States needs to make sure that it is in a position to manufacture its most essential products.

"It's one thing if China is producing our Barbie dolls, it's another thing if China is producing our silicon chips," Obama said. "We have to have some sense strategically of what are those things that are vital to our national interests and national security. Those need to be manufactured here."

News flash: Barak Obama is just another typical pandering politician.

Are you freakin' kidding me? The old national security argument for protectionism? Trotted out for no particular reason and in response to no particular demand for protection by domestic chip manufacturers that I am aware of? Just a knee-jerk innate reflex.

On to the facts. (1) I am pretty sure China is actually a net importer of silicon chips. As of 2004 at least, they imported upwards of 80% of the chips used in the country, though their production capacity is growing rapidly.

(2) Silicon chips are made all over the world; it's hard to imaging a scenario where we would be hostages to Chinese chip makers.

(3) Is China our enemy? Do we expect them to refuse to export to us and start bombing us anytime soon? Aren't they content with bombing us with Barbie dolls and hoarding T-bills?

(4) As evidenced by the incredibly fast growth of the Chinese chip manufacturing sector, its pretty easy to build up a domestic chip industry. If all the countries housing chip manufacturers declared war on us at once, we could get a sector up and running pretty quickly.

Will we ever again have a president in this country who both rationally processes information and doesn't habitually and deliberately lie in public?

I fear that we will not.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fundman Gets Married

Fundman got married! To a girl and everything. A pretty, and smart girl. No,
I can't explain it either. The demand side makes perfect sense;
the supply side? I dunno.

Anyway, the stars really came together. Because NEANDERBILL WAS
THERE, TOO! Neanderbill flew with us on the plane to Fundman's home
town, and provided considerable entertainement.

First, Neanderbill was sleepy. He had apparently not gotten his
full night's sleep. In the Raleigh airport, he fell fast asleep with his feet up on a chair, blocking an aisle. Now, the "grown up napping trifecta" is:
1. mouth wide open
2. loud snoring
3. visible drooling

But Neanderbill had his head tilted way back. This caused his mouth to fall open in a wonderfully amusing way (everyone at the gate enjoyed it!), but he only got partial snoring credit (just sporadic snorts). And the head tilted back meant no drooling at all. A disappointment.

Anyway, after we got to F's HT, we had some adventures (on which, more soon!). Went to the wedding, very nice. Came home, and we all had some nappies. I got this photo of Neanderbill fully stretched out, using a book for a blanket:

The nap must have worked, because after we woke him up he was soon observed out on dance floor, shaking his remarkably bony moneymaker.

(And, for the sake of propriety, I should note that this is a purely paternal/platonic sort of dance, with a young woman who is an ex-PhD-student. Neanderbill is an INTENSELY moral fellow. Always moral, always on purose; usually amusing, sometimes on purpose.)

And, in interests of fairness, here is Ms. Mungowitz and me. Yes, I'm wearing a tie (that's good; it's a formal wedding). Yes, I'm wearing it like a samurai scarf (not so good).

And...finally: Fundman himself, in two shot. Congratulations, and enjoy Italy, you two!

Monkey Business

This is a little hard to believe....

But it was on the Beeb, so it must be true.

(Nod to Dr. Stormslayer)

primary primer

The only thing worse than our presidential general election process is our presidential primary process.

1. It gives goofy, weird, states too much influence. I love New Hampshire-ites with their "Live Free or Die" and all that, but I am not sure they should be so important in national politics.

2. It is creating a "race to January" where states are moving up their primaries in order to try to gain said influence. It is possible the nominations will be effectively set by February 5th this time around. I need Dennis Kucinich around longer than that!

Why not a single national primary in the spring? That way everybody matters and there is no way to game the dates.

Do candidates really want to spend untold hours in Iowa getting prodded and poked (Barak Obama said on the Daily Show that Iowa voters like to "kick the tires" and "look under the hood" of the candidates)? Does John McCain relish going to Bob Jones University and licking some fundamentalist boots?

What would be lost? Perhaps the chance for a relatively unknown candidate to work the existing system well and gain momentum? No more Howard Deans? Is that a bad thing?

The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in Mexico now uses a national primary to select their candidate. The Socialist Party in France also used a national primary to select Segolene Royal. Do our erudite readers know of other examples?

Those who know me know that I have never voted in a national election and never will, but hey, a good idea is a good idea, no?

Angus at the Hinky Mart

Albertson's has declared defeat in Oklahoma at the hands (in Norman at least) of two Walmart Supercenters, so now I grocery shop at Homeland! I am checking out yesterday and the girl is getting more and more agitated by my product choices (no Miss, that's not Spinach, its Swiss Chard). She holds up my cheese choice and asks me: "How do you get goat cheese?"

Several thoughts run through my mind: Pray earnestly in your car for a miracle before entering the store? Go to the cheese cooler and pick one out? But I settled on "Well you pretend you are making cow's cheese only you use a goat".

Her response: "So goats give milk?" (I am not making this up).

Me: "yes, they sure do. They are mammals".

Her: ?????????

Me: "All mammals give milk (that's true innit?), the trick is to get them to give it when they don't have babies. We use cows and goats, but people also make cheese from sheep's milk. In some places people drink and use Yak milk and Camel milk."

Her: "Have you ever drank goat's milk?"

Me: "Yep"

Her: "YUCK!!!!!!!!!!"

Me thinking to myself: Hey, cool. I can blog this!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What to do with your spare time

Summer is about over so your kids are going back to school leaving you with peace and quiet, or if you are a student, classes have started so you need something to occupy your time during the long boring lectures! Here are some quick KPC recommendations

(A) Read these books (now in paperback!!):

1. "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk. I was very favorably impressed and surprised. Its a real novel with a real and compelling story, not just an extended political statement. To my mind it is more accessible and tells a much better story than did "My name is Red". Highly recommended

2. "Stuart: A Life Backward" by Alexander Masters. I bought this on a lark off a Border's display and quickly became engrossed in the story. Stuart's own personality and actions (it's a biography of a homeless person in Cambridge England) more than overshadows Master's lack of literary chops. When the author gets out of the way and lets Stuart do all the work the book really really shines.

(B) Listen to this new music:

1."Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"by Spoon. Britt Daniels has refined his sound down to the minimum at this point. He gets more out of less than anyone around these days and to me Spoon is the quintessential American Rock Band at this point. Their whole catalog is highly recommended. Listen chronologically and hear Daniels figure it out. It's like going chronologically through a book of Mondrian or Rothko pictures. Here is a review from Pitchfork.

2. The Stage Names by Okkervil River. This recording goes the other way from Spoon. Will Shef is completely over the top here. Grandiose and elegant. I am very impressed by the quality of lyrics and the way a variety of styles of individual songs combine to make a coherent, moving, whole. Here is Pitchfork's take.

US Open Picks

Ok, my handicapping of Wimbledon wasn't the greatest. I took a Williams to win on the women's side and took the field against Federer on the mens's. Venus hoisted the big plate, but fastidious Roger won his fifth straight Wimbledon title.

For the US Open, which starts Monday, I'm sticking with my "Williams" pick on the women's side, even though Venus seems a tad overconfident and Serena has been frustrating tournament directors all summer by pulling out of events. My backup pick if the Williamses flame out is Ana Ivanovic.

On the men's side, it's just stupid not to pick Federer, but I can't do it, so I'll take the field again. I am rooting for Nadal or Djokovic to win.

PS. Here is Serena's latest commercial , this one is for HP and it's pretty cool.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The rain in Spain....

Or reverse brain drain?

A study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that more than one million potential immigrants, including scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers, are competing for 120,000 permanent US resident visas each year

The total number of applicants and their family members waiting for permanent residence in the United States in 2006 was estimated at 1,055,084. Additionally, there were some 126,421 residents abroad waiting for visas, making a worldwide total of 1,181,505.

I have two responses to this story:

(1) Is this the "line" the illegals are supposed to get in "like everybody else"?

(2) So our country's immigration policy is to tacitly allow large scale unskilled labor in while tightly controlling the influx of skilled labor?

It keeps getting harder for me to say this but, Is this a great country or what?

Stupid is as stupid does

For those worried that continued or increased immigration will destroy our pristine genius level gene pool, let me assure you that that horse has already left the barn. Incontrovertible proof can be found here (its 4+ minutes but well worth watching).

Wow. We have met the enemy and he is us!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mystery solved....

So, here's the solution to the mystery of the broken window. The things I know are in roman type. The things I suspect are in italics.

1. My wife and I went to a play. My son Kevin decides he is interested in having some foods he hasn't had before. He goes to Lowe's foods, a grocery we don't frequent, and buys fancy Spanish olives, a can of coconut chunks, and some cucumbers.

2. He gets home, and opens the olives. Has some. He chops some, first with a small knife, and then with a large cleaver. He makes samurai noises as he chops: "HIIIII-YAHHHH!" "WHAAAAAAA-HOWWW-AAH!" Olive offal flies, but he cleans it up.

3. The cucumbers. He chops the cucumbers with the cleaver; quite satisfying. Then he remembers we have a 30 inch machete in the garage. He gets the machete, and goes outside. He chops off the head of a cucumber. By this time he has switched to pirate noises: "GAR! Avast, there, ye cuke-lubber! Ye won't again see the light o'day!" Comes back in the house, another cucumber gets the plank.

4. He looks at the can of coconuts. He looks at the machete. He tastes the coconut, decides he doesn't like it. He looks at the machete, again. Now, the canned coconut is in a can much like a half-pint paint can: very sturdy. But the machete is nearly 3 feet long, and pretty sharp.

5. He goes outside, places the can of coconut on the ground, and winds up.

6. Making a loud samurai sound (back to samurai: "AH-HOOO-WHAAAH-HAI!"), he takes a full right-handed baseball swing at the can. The machete cuts the can slightly, and dents it a little more. A small amount of liquid, and a few pieces of chopped coconut, spill out in a splash pattern.

7. But mostly, the machete launches the can like a well-hit baseball. It strikes the window hard, still rising. The sharp edge of the can cuts a chip into the wood.
A fair amount of the liquid, and the cubed coconut, spill out of the can onto the deck.

8. Kevin picks up the can, looks at the glass and thinks, "Oh, no!", and puts the can down deep in the garbage. He goes up to bed. He leaves the glass on the deck, and in the window frame. He doesn't clean up the coconut. He pretends to be asleep.

An addendum: Kevin asked me, "Why are you embarrassing me like this?"

My answer: Next time, Kev-o, pick up the glass. And clean up the coconut. If *I* clean it, I blog it.

DIRTY DAVEY: Where do you want your mug sent? The baseball-like action wins you the prize....

Get into your music (and burn down your garage?)

This is a pretty cool video about Ruben's tubes, which I didn't know about at all. I thought I was retro by having and using an old Tektronix analog oscilloscope but evidently, that ain't nothing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Old Yeller Dog Food

Kroger introduces "Old Yeller" brand chunk dog food.

From the release:

“The movie is a timeless classic that transcends generations, and we believe this brand will appeal not only to original fans, but to the millions of Americans who share the same kind of special bond with their beloved dogs,” said Barry Vance, Kroger senior corporate category manager.

“Bringing Disney’s Old Yeller brand to a trusted retailer like Kroger was a natural fit,” said Christopher King, category director, Disney Consumer Products FMCG. “Disney’s Old Yeller dog food is for those dogs that are part of the family.”

MacMan, who is usually the nicest and most sensitive guy on earth, has the following suggestions for tag lines for ads:

Your dog will be rabid for Kroger's Old Yeller!

Kroger's Old Yeller: Before you shoot him.

If your dog could talk, he'd ask for Kroger's Old Yeller as his last
meal. Make it his next.

That's sick, MacMan. Good job!

A Pretty Good Point....

This seems like a pretty good complaint to me.

(Nod to MacMan, who always has good complaints)

Selena, We hardly Know ye....

Angus raises a pretty good point. Strange to imagine that Michael Vick's friends are all the bad guys. Maybe, I don't know what happened, but quite a leap of faith.

Regardless of how that shakes out, the irony is that Selena "Lacrosse Witch Hunt" Roberts was one of the first, and shrillest, to advocate that the Duke lacrosse players rat out their compatriots. Why did she shriek such invective about the necessity for lacrosse players to rat out their boys, and yet hate on Vick's "associates"?

As Angus notes, this would "only make sense if [they were] innocent."

Of course, the lacrosse players WERE innocent, and so Selena's incredibly scathing critique was wholly misplaced. Nothing happened, and so it is hardly surprising the lacrosse players did not rat out their friends. (Excellent background here)

Further, the lacrosse captains, and the attorneys of the accused, offered to cooperate, but were told by Mike Nifong that he was not interested in their statement.

So, Selena (1) got the facts wrong, since the lacrosse guys DID cooperate, and (2) got the advice wrong, since it is hard to imagine ratting out your friends WHEN THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!

On Michael Vick: I don't know if he did anything or not. But if his friends want to talk to the police, I would have thought Selena would approve, given her advice to the lacrosse players. Or maybe Selena just has different standards for different (shall we say) situations.

PS: I should note that I talked to Selena Roberts for a story some years ago. And this was really quite a good, and fair story. She caught an inconsistency, and pointed it out, against political stereotype. I wonder, as Angus does, what has happened to change her.

A two parts!

A mystery will be posed today, and solved tomorrow.

My wife and I get home, after having gone to see a play.

On driving up, we see in the driveway...a rather large end of cucumber, fresh, wasn't there when we left three hours earlier.

On the counter inside: An empty olive jar (expensive olives), and lots of cucumber pieces here and there. Another large cucumber end over by the fireplace. One son is gone to the lake for two nights, and so can't be implicated. Other son, Kevin....asleep, or pretending to be.

I get up in the morning, get my tea and the Sunday paper, and go out to back deck to read and watch the hummingbirds (we have a dozen or more hummingbirds that fight for sugar water supremacy from our feeders. extremely entertaining)

When I open the back door, I am met with this scene: broken window, glass everywhere, and two strange puddles, with what appears to be chopped onions or some other small white cubes of foodstuff in the puddles.

I try to piece this together. Out in the middle of the deck, there is this puddle:

I have drawn lines to help you see the splash pattern, and a circle to call attention to the white foodstuff cubes.

Now, there is also the broken window, which in terms of direction lies exactly at the midpoint of the splash pattern in the previous photo. Some[thing] bounced, or was launched, from the splash in the previous photo. And it was launched with such velocity that it not only broke the window, but also carved out a fresh gouge 1/2" into the wood window frame (circled). Had this object, whatever it was, not hit the wood it would clearly have gone through the next window as well. It had to be heavy, have a sharp edge, and be travelling fast.

Now, beneath the window there was another puddle. No splash pattern, just a puddle. Same white foodstuff cubes. Looks like this:

So, here's my question, for all you "Children of the Cheese": WTF? What happened here? A slushy ice ball from the neighbors house, bounced once and hit the window? An alien invasion?

The answer: tomorrow here at KPC. Commenter who comes closest to the correct answer (and my judgement on that is FINAL, btw) gets a free "Munger 4 NC Gov" stainless steel coffee mug! mailed to the address they provide.

(A note: my son Kevin has not told me the answer, so I don't know either. And I am very interested to find out, so that I can kill him)

This has got to stop

Over the past year, I have seen Selena Roberts of the NY times sports section go from a feisty, funny writer to an over the edge shrill caricature. Her latest piece, an apology for Michael Vick, has pushed me over the edge.

She actually portrays Vick as a victim of his posse!

"The first to fail Vick was Davon Boddie, a cousin and personal chef."

"The first to flip on Vick was Tony Taylor, a fast friend from Newport News, Va., with an arrest record for drug trafficking and a traffic record for reckless driving."

"The latest to betray Vick is Quanis L. Phillips, a friend since middle school."

"Group dynamics can collapse under pressure. Vick has been abandoned, left to contemplate a plea deal that could imprison him and ruin his N.F.L. career. He is stunned, those in his camp say. Snitching is a street sin, isn’t it?"

I guess I have to say the obvious. Hey Selena: Micheal Vick isn't in the position he is in because he was betrayed by his crew. He is in the position he is in because apparently he repeatedly and heinously broke the law and acted despicably. The only was he's been betrayed is if he is innocent.

I'm surprised Roberts didn't write that the dogs had it coming for betraying Vick by not being good enough killers. Maybe she can cameo (a la Melo) in the next stop snitchin' video.

Giving credit where credit is due

I never thought I'd be saying this but I gotta give it up for my man Lester Thurow!! Really!! The erstwhile merchant of American doom nicely debunks the China Monster here.

He points out that the reported double digit aggregate economic growth rates coming out of China conflict with some disaggregate reports from the same sources and conflict strongly with the historical relationship we have observed between electricity consumption and growth. He puts China's actual growth at somewhere between 4.5% and 6%.

So China is still a long way off from catching the US in total size of the economy, more than 100 years according to Lester, and they are an order of magnitude further away from catching up in per-capita terms.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Practice makes perfect!!

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo sports gives some backhanded praise to the Oklahoma football program for how they handed their 7th (not a misprint) and most recent conviction for violating NCAA rules:

First some trash talkin':

Hey, what do you expect from a program whose "Sooners" nickname honors people who prematurely seized (stole) land back in 1889 and whose interlocking OU logo kind of looks like a pair of handcuffs?
(lol, we are guilty on both counts!)

he then goes on to give credit to current coach and state-wide god, Bob Stoops for his handling of the latest affair:

On the back end, though, Oklahoma, led by its coach, Bob Stoops, actually conducted a real investigation, made quick, tough self-punishing decisions and in the process showed how to do things right when things inevitably go wrong.

but Wetzel just can't help hisself (Barry Switzerism), its just too funny:

While praising a coach and a repeat, repeat offender program for how it dealt with a scandal is a bit absurd – after all 1) how about not having a scandal in the first place? and 2) since they've had plenty of practice isn't it about time they did it right – in reality the way OU dealt with this was, sadly, by NCAA standards, somewhat remarkable.

Hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right??

KPC, advisor to the stars!

Recently KPC reported that the frequent debating schedule was seen by some as detrimental to non-front running candidates. Apparently Barak Obama was listening as his campaign manager announced that the Senator would be cutting back on his debating. Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, we simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5 states, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates. Ultimately, the one group left out of the current schedule is the voters and they are the ones who ask the toughest questions and most deserve to have those questions answered face to face.

Therefore, after this week, we will only be attending the five DNC debates through the sanctioning period of December 10, Univision, and the two Iowa debates previously mentioned. Candidate forums - where candidates appear sequentially will be considered, but we are unlikely to accept many of these. Instead, Barack will spend his time answering questions directly from voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and elsewhere. We simply cannot continue to hopscotch from forum to forum and run a campaign true to the bottom up movement for change that propelled Barack into this race.

Smart move?

Hat tip to Matt Yglesias

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Weekend Sports Roundup

1. Interesting Profile of Serena Williams, aptly titled "Dangerous when Interested". Sadly after winning the Australian and making a run at Wimbledon, Serena is on the default train yet again.

2. Pitcher Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks is up to 42 consecutive scoreless innings, but still needs two more complete game shutouts to catch Orel Hirsheiser.

3. Maybe they mean he can shoot the two OR the three?? The AP says, "Versatile Carmelo Anthony emerges as star for the U.S." God help us. Old "stop snitchin' ", sucker punching 'Melo can shoot, that is for sure, but versatile?? The only evidence given is that he averaged 3.7 rebounds a game in last years world championships, which is fairly underwhelming.

4. Marco Materazzi finally reveals what he said to made Zinidine Zidane go medieval and lose the world cup for France

5. Finally and sadly, is there a bigger scumbag on the planet than Michael Vick?

Friday, August 17, 2007

16 tons was the tip of the iceburg**

Over at Real Clear Politics, Steven Stark interestingly writes that "The Debates are Killing Edwards and Obama".

exposure in these forums institutionalizes the leads of front-runners in the polls. That is one reason why, in this era of frequent primary debates, early front-runners tend to do better than they did from 1960 through 1988. The candidates in the back of the pack, of course, flock to the debates for the prime-time exposure and the chance to stand toe-to-toe against the leader. But that's not the kind of equal time these challengers need.

If, say, Edwards or Obama could debate Hillary one-on-one, things might be different. But when they share the stage with a full array of challengers, they fade into the woodwork -- at least as far as the press is concerned. Debates become a matter of the front-runner in the polls vs. the pack, which is the main reason the press inevitably crowns Hillary or Rudy Giuliani the winner of almost every encounter, even when their performances hardly warrant it.

Moreover, in a crowded field, if the challengers attempt to criticize the front-runner, they come off looking negative, and a third candidate benefits from the attack. The debates effectively insulate the front-runners from criticism, cementing their lead.

Interesting and quite possibly true, but for me the best part is how Stark gives yet another reason to love Dennis Kucinich:

the dynamics of the 2007 Democratic debates are destroying the campaigns of the major challengers. Take Edwards. His calling card is that he's the candidate of real change, and he's backed that up by taking stands on issues such as NAFTA, which separate him from the mainstream.

But every time Edwards goes to his left, Dennis Kucinich -- who has no chance to be president and therefore can take any stand he pleases with impunity -- goes further left. This has the effect of making Edwards look like just another timid moderate, which is hardly what he is.

I agree with Stark that Edwards is not a timid moderate, but I bet that we would agree to disagree on what we think Edwards in fact is.

In any event: Go Dennis, get busy, it's your birthday, uh-huh!!

** Check out Dennis singing the Big Bill Bronzy classic here (this is well worth watching!!).

Hey! I resemble that remark

So the Oracle of Starbucks can divine your personality from your drink order. I like to have a tall cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. Sounds good, no? Well..........

Behold the Oracle's wisdom:

Personality type: High Maintenance

You pride yourself on being assertive and direct; everyone else thinks you're bossy and arrogant. You're constantly running your mouth about topics that only you would find interesting. Your capacity for wasting other people's time is limitless. Your friends find you intolerable, that's why they're plotting to kill you. Also drinks: Water. Bottled, chilled, with four ice cubes, a twist of lemon, in a crystal glass. Can also be found at: Trendy martini bars

Mungowitz likes venti sized day old cold coffee, which, according to the oracle (and I am not making this up), makes him an "Ass-Clown" who also drinks Zima and frequents Karaoke bars!

Geeze Louise, that thing is 2 for 2!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's Not a Black Swan; It's a Friggin' Zebra!

Wow. I must quote at length:

"'Wednesday is the type of day people will remember in quant-land for a very long time,' Matthew Rothman, head of quantitative equity strategies for Lehman Brothers told the Wall Street Journal last week. 'Events that models only predicted would happen once in 10,000 years happened every day for three days.' Strangely, these same models failed to predict the once-in-10,000-year events that roiled the markets in 1997, 1998, 2001, and 2002...Several money managers blamed their temporary problems on investors' irrational collective behavior. 'Investor fear has overtaken reason and has induced a period in which most securities have simply ceased to trade,' said Sentinel Management, which sought to halt redemptions of some of its funds this week. And such conditions make it 'virtually impossible to properly price securities or to trade them.' Goldman Sachs CFO David Viniar noted that the firm's decision to inject $2 billion into its ailing Global Equity Opportunities fund 'reflects our collective belief that the value of this fund is suffering from a market dislocation that does not reflect the fundamental value of the fund's positions.' In other words, the losses shown by these funds isn't the fault of the managers, it's the fault of a market that just won't value assets properly. Ironically, you never hear fund managers say that their gains have been unwarrantedly large due to the market's failure to reflect stocks' fundamental value...'We have been caught in what appears to be a large wave of de-leveraging on the part of quantitative long/short hedge funds,' James Simons of Renaissance Technologies said in a letter to investors last week, which sought to explain losses in his highly regarded hedge fund. He also noted that the methodology used by his fund was 'undoubtedly shared by a number of long/short hedge funds.' Goldman Sachs similarly blamed other funds' behavior for its own losses. Of course, the premise of high-end money management is that you don't simply mimic the same investment strategy of 30 other hedge funds. That's why Simons was paid $1.7 billion in 2006."

(KL comes through again. Nice one this time. Very cool.)

Marriage, and the Theory of the Firm

I have never understood people who don't get married. (My boy Frank got me thinking about this, by the way)

To me, it just seems like a tautological application of the Theory of the Firm, transactions cost edition.

Securing sex with someone who knows what you like, and looks good enough to make you like it, arranging for distribution of effort in household services, care of children....There are so many things that are costly and aggravating to try to secure on the spot market, every day.

This raises the question of the size of the firm, of course. Coase's principle is that at the margin the firm will expand until the marginal transaction is more expensive to arrange inside the firm than through a market. I have one wife; my wife has one husband. One could imagine other arrangements (that's mighty bigamy!), but look at the transactions costs encountered by Cedric the Entertainer.

There have been times my wife and I considered dissolving this firm, but not seriously. We have been married 21 years, and have negotiated arrangements on nearly every margin that have essentially zero transactions costs. We don't have arguments, because we both know how it would end up. (Sometimes I would win, sometimes she would, but we know the moves and the result, so we don't start).

Are there hold-up problems? Are there times she looks at other men and thinks, "MMM, he looks yummy!" You bet. But the expected costs of cheating involve some chance of forfeiting extremely large benefits that extend far into the future.

I do nearly all the cooking, and have always been able to spend a lot of time with the children. I drive car pool, and often go to school functions. I do these things partly out of love for the children, but also because in exchange I receive extremely high quality services of many kinds.

My wife is an attorney for the Federal government, and in addition manages the logistics of the household with remarkable skill and efficiency. She does all the finances, runs the calendar, does all the paperwork for schools, takes care of medical appointments, and files all insurance and other clerical work. She does all the shopping, and cleans the house. She is extraordinarily physically attractive (in my view), and is interesting to talk to on almost any subject.

Divorce, or an "open relationship," would be tremendously costly. (Yes, she's a lawyer, so it would be expensive in terms of money, but that's not what I mean.) I couldn't possibly work through the hold-up and monitoring costs of contracting for household cleaning, managing books, doing taxes.

Marriage has been analyzed through a theory of the firm, or contracting, perspective. (Becker, Gary S. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1991; Becker, G. S. (1973). “A Theory of Marriage: Part I.” Journal of Political Economy 81(4): 813-46; Becker, G. S. (1974). “A Theory of Marriage: Part II.” Journal of Political Economy 82(2, Part II): S11-S26.

So why pretend economists are too stupid to know the theory of the firm?

Consider this paragraph, which Frank highlighted in his post:

He is no less willing to explain the motivations of the novel's academics, who he maintains are "shameless exaggerations of campus types" (though anyone who has spent time on campus recently might find them surprisingly realistic). There is, for instance, the economics professor in an "open" relationship with his wife who "is not even sure there is a rational case to be made for traditional marriage any more." Mr. Carter, who in his life as a Christian intellectual would have no trouble mounting a spirited defense of such old-fashioned arrangements, tells me: "It's not that by his own lights he's amoral. It's that he would find most of what others would call immorality to be inefficient interference with the pursuit of happiness." (from WSJ interview with Stephen Carter)

Morals are names for equilibria of games we don't understand very well. And they are unstable equilibria; cheating kills them. But cooperations is a Nash equilibrium in many repeated games, including PDs. Marriage is just a kind of cooperation.

The Art of Teaching

I'll be on the statewide NPR show, "The State of Things," today noon - 1 pm. Title of today's show is "The Art of Teaching."

It's 91.5 FM if you live in the Triangle.

But the easiest way for the interested to listen would be online. If you
can use Window Media, that would be right here.

The host is Frank Stasio, who is one of the most fair-minded people I have ever met. It's a good show, usually. And if the other guests are good enough to carry me, today's show will be no exception.

Thus Spake Mungowitz

The Mungowitz said: If you want to help poor people in other countries, then cut U.S. barriers to buying their stuff. And stop giving them "free" stuff that we buy up as surplus (i.e., politically motivated subsidies) from farmers or clothing manufacturers. All that does is bankrupt the small businesses in developing nations that are trying to supply the domestic market.

and verily his voice was heard:

CARE Turns Down Federal Funds for Food Aid

CARE, one of the world’s biggest charities, is walking away from some $45 million a year in federal financing, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.

CARE’s decision is focused on the practice of selling tons of often heavily subsidized American farm products in African countries that in some cases, it says, compete with the crops of struggling local farmers.

The charity says it will phase out its use of the practice by 2009. But it has already deeply divided the world of food aid and has spurred growing criticism of the practice as Congress considers a new farm bill.

“If someone wants to help you, they shouldn’t do it by destroying the very thing that they’re trying to promote,” said George Odo, a CARE official who grew disillusioned with the practice while supervising the sale of American wheat and vegetable oil in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

Now if he would only tell Robin to buy me an IPhone!!!!!

There's a new Republican candidate.......

....... and his name is Judge Manoel Maximiano Junqueira Filho!

A Brazilian footballer improbably named "Richarlyson" -- whose father played professionally and whose brother played in Portugal and is now with Brazil's Cruzeiro -- filed a criminal complaint for slander against Palmeiras club director Jose Cyrillo Junior for insinuating that he (Richarlyson) was gay.

Judge Filho stoked the dispute by dismissing Richarlyson's claim and issuing a ruling that suggested he leave the game if he were gay. If he weren't, the judge said, Richarlyson was obliged to defend himself on the same TV program.

"Not that a homosexual can't play soccer," Filho wrote. "He can, but he must form his own team and federation, setting up matches with those who want to play against him."

The judge concluded it is not "reasonable to accept homosexuals in Brazilian soccer because it would hurt the uniformity present" in team sport. Soccer, the judge said, is a "virile game" but "not homosexual," and allowing gays could lead to affirmative action for the sport requiring quotas of gays.

The ruling prompted the government body that oversees judicial ethics in Brazil to demand an explanation from the judge, who has until Friday to respond.

This guy would have KILLED at the Iowa Straw Poll!

I'd Like to See the Test....

From the Newspaper of Record:

The Department of Education translates student scores on the test, known as
the National Assessment of Educational Progress, into three achievement
levels: advanced, proficient and basic. On the economics test, 42 percent of
12th graders performed at or above the proficient level, and 79 percent
performed at or above the basic level. An economics course is required for
graduation in only about one-third of the states. 'The numbers here are
pretty good, really,' said Darvin M. Winick, the chairman of the bipartisan
body set up by Congress to oversee the test. 'Given the number of students
who finish high school with a limited vocabulary, not reading well and weak
in math, the results may be as good or better than we should expect.' In
contrast, only 13 percent of 12th grade students performed at or above
proficient, and only 47 percent performed at or above the basic level on the
national assessment test in history that was administered last year. On a
similar test in science in 2005, only 54 percent of 12th grade students
performed at or above the basic level, and just 18 percent at or above

The full report is here.

The questions are not bad, I have to admit. Some samples:

Question 1: Which of the following is a policy tool of the Federal Reserve?
A. Raising or lowering income taxes
B. Increasing or decreasing unemployment benefits
C. Buying or selling government securities
D. Increasing or decreasing government spending

Question 3: Two countries are currently trading with each other. The countries agree to remove all trade restrictions on products traded between them. Which of the following is most likely to decrease?
A. The variety of goods available
B. The prices of imported goods
C. The quality of goods available
D. The amount of imported goods

Question 4: Which of the following has been most important in reducing poverty over time?
A. Taxes
B. Economic growth
C. International trade
D. Government regulations

Question 5: What happens to most of the money deposited in checking accounts at a
commercial bank?
A. It is used to pay the bank’s expenses.
B. It is loaned to other bank customers.
C. It is kept in the bank’s vault until depositors withdraw the funds.
D. It is paid to owners of the bank as return on their investment.

Now, *I* think the answers are: 1. C 3. B 4. B 5. B
Remarkably, the test makers agree.

Only about a fifth of the students taking the test got #1 correct. The others were
all slightly over 1/2 putting the correct answer.

I tried to think how Lou Dobbs would do on this test. Not very well, was my conclusion. But then he doesn't pretend to know anything about economics.

Then I tried to think how many Duke students would get #1 correct. Less than half, is my guess. I wonder if Duke students watch Lou Dobbs? Lord, I hope not.

(nod to KL, who knows economics, but refuses to believe it)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Meanwhile back in the real economy.....

From todays WSJ: "Narrower June Trade Gap Suggests 4% GDP Surge"

The June trade deficit was 1.7% smaller than May's, even though it was expected to rise. This new information means that the 3.4% second quarter growth rate is going to actually be higher, probably a bit above 4%, and forecasts of the third quarter growth rate will likely be raised a bit as well.

A couple other points here. (1) Exports grew faster than imports, so the decreased deficit was not just coming from reduced US demand, (2) this occurred even as oil prices continued to rise (and thus raise the nominal value of imports.

On the inflation front, the CPI rose by 0.1% in July ("core" inflation by 0.2%), so far for the year, core inflation is running at a 2.3% rate.

No wonder he didn't check it!

From the NY Times a tale of mice and men:

Venezuelan businessman, Guido Antonini Wilson, 46, was stopped with a suitcase stuffed with cash by an airport customs official after arriving in Buenos Aires from Caracas on a plane chartered by the Argentine government’s national energy company.

The plane also carried four executives from Venezuela’s state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, and three Argentine government officials. The money’s source, and for whom or what it was intended, is still under investigation. But within days, (President) Kirchner dismissed Claudio Uberti, the Argentine official who had offered Mr. Antonini Wilson a seat on the plane. He also demanded answers from the government of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. “I am not covering up anything,” Mr. Kirchner said at a public event last week, according to news reports. “My hands are clean."

In a news conference late last week, María Luz Rivas Diez, the Argentine attorney general, said Mr. Antonini Wilson had made 12 trips to Argentina in the past year, some for less than a day.
She told a Buenos Aires radio station over the weekend that she could not rule out money-laundering as a possible motivation, nor filing charges against Mr. Antonini Wilson, who had been allowed to leave Argentina and whose whereabouts were unknown.

This is interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, there is a Presidential election in Argentina at the end of October and Mrs. Kirchner is running. Though she is the clear front runner, this incident along with a recent oil pipeline kickback scandal, the discovery of $64000 in small bills hidden in the bathroom of the Economics Minister, and an investigation into charges that the regime has systematically underreported inflation, has dented the Kirchnerian reputation. Luckily for them, several of the competing candidates are economists and thus completely unable to exploit the situation. as the Time puts it: Yet so far, the fragmented opposition has been unable to seize on the crises for much political gain. The hapless response has become the butt of jokes in local papers, with the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación last week calling the suitcase incident “an impeccable opposition marketing operation that only lacked a candidate capable of taking advantage of it.”

Secondly, this incident may prove to be a roadblock in the ever closer Venezuela-Argentina relationship. Chavez has recently re-financed a chunk of Argentine debt and signed agreements to provide natural gas to Argentina. The mighty have clearly fallen but Argentines can't be happy with this new dependence on Venezuela, and according to todays WSJ (editorial page so take it for what its worth) "The suspicion is that the cash was intended to play a role in October's presidential election" . Kirchner has, via his chief of staff, called on Chavez (who referred to the incident as a "US plot") to apologize. In response Roberto Hernández, vice president of Venezuela’s lower house, said President Chávez “doesn’t have to say sorry” to anyone.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Plze, Plze, Plze!!!!!

Sonics minority owner says team could move to Oklahoma City

cusoon, kthxbye!!

we all live in a yellow submarine, right?

One of my favorite NY Times writers, John Tierney, informs me that the odds are "maybe better than even" that I (and you too) am living in a computer simulation. Tierney finds this oddly comforting:

It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude.

Then there is this:

Maybe, as suggested by Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University, you should try to be as interesting as possible, on the theory that the designer is more likely to keep you around for the next simulation.

I would like to go on record thanking my programmer for sending me to Tanzania and Rwanda this summer and I urge her to consider a trip to Madagascar, where I am certain to do some fascinating stuff, before terminating my program.

Sticks and Stones

Lou Dobbs called my friend, ex-student, and uber-blogger Alex Tabarrok a "complete idiot" last night on his (Lou's) show. Check out the video here. Dobbs also referred to the 500 economists who signed a letter in favor of increased immigration as "jackasses".

In his big finish, Lou said the economists problem was they had forgotten about the "free enterprise" that made this country great and worshiped nefarious "free markets" instead.

Is this a great country or what?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Growth is Good For Poor People

It's easy to make fun of the World Bank. I do it often.

But, there are some branches, and some people, who work really well there.

I came across this report. And, I have to say: Pretty nice.

Critics of market economies in general, and globalization in particular, contend that they have unleashed forces leading to large and pervasive increases in inequality within countries. In a recent paper we examine household survey evidence from 80 countries over the past four decades and find that this is simply not so 1. When inequality is on the rise, poor households benefit less from economic growth than wealthier ones. In fact, average incomes of the poorest fifth of society rise proportionally with per capita income, indicating that inequality does not systematically increase with growth. Since few countries show significant trends in income inequality, on average economic growth has been the main driving force of poverty reduction in developing countries. A good example in the 1990s is Vietnam, which experienced rapid per capita GDP growth of 6 percent per year with no significant change in the distribution of income. This distributionally-neutral growth led to tremendous improvements in the material well-being of poor Vietnamese.

Of course there are deviations from this general relationship between growth in average incomes and growth in incomes of the poorest fifth of the population. Our research suggests that popular explanations for these deviations are not supported by evidence. In particular, a) the relationship between growth and incomes of the poor does not differ between periods of crisis and periods of normal growth; b) growth�s impact on the poorest quintile has not weakened in recent decades as globalization has become more pronounced; c) growth spurred by an open trade regime or other growth-enhancing policies such as good rule of law and macro stability does not in general have adverse effects on poor households. In fact such policies, on average, benefit poor households as much as the typical household, and some policies, notably stabilizing from high inflation, disproportionately benefit the poor.

Clearly, growth-enhancing policies such as sound rule of law, macro stability, and openness to trade are not all that is needed to improve the lives of the poor. But to the extent that such policies underpin growth they are a critical component of poverty reduction. Anyone who cares about the well-being of the poor should therefore support developing countries as they participate more in international trade and put in place a healthy environment for economic growth.

If you want to help poor people in other countries, then cut U.S. barriers to buying their stuff. And stop giving them "free" stuff that we buy up as surplus (i.e., politically motivated subsidies) from farmers or clothing manufacturers. All that does is bankrupt the small businesses in developing nations that are trying to supply the domestic market.

Is moral hazard real?

After the Fed's "liquidity injection" last Friday the calls for a rate cut are deafening, with predictions that it will happen even before the next scheduled Board of Governors meeting in September.

Comparisons abound to 1998 when in the wake of the Russian default and the Long Term Capital meltdown, Alan Greenspan lowered rates by 750 basis points and created the famous Greenspan put, which leads me (finally) to my point and my question.

Wouldn't public perception of the existence of the Greenspan put have created moral hazard? Wouldn't the idea that in a crisis the Fed will float away problems encourage people to invest heavily in junk bonds and securitized sub-prime mortages? In other words, doesn't the bailout of 1998 have at least something to do with the current crisis?

People have invested so heavily in highly risky assets that the spread between them and treasuries had become vanishingly thin. People seemed to be chasing yield without regard to risk, and now they are paying the price.

Is another bailout the right answer? In the colorful idiom of central banking, Should "Helicopter Ben" exercise the "Greenspan Put", or is moral hazard a serious enough problem that we should stop creating it regardless of the short term discomfort?

Mirror Mirror......

In the light of Tiger's PGA victory and Roger's Masters series defeat at the hands of Novak Djokavich, KPC asks: Who is the greatest, Federer or Woods?

Here is the tale of the tape:

Federer: 26 years old, 11 majors (with one left to go this year, the US open, where he is the defending champ). Number one since February 2004. Looking to break the all time record in his sport of major wins in his sport held by Pete Sampras at 15. 49 Career titles. Has never won the French Open

Woods: 31 years old, 13 majors. Number one since July 2005 (and several times before that). Looking to break the all time record of major wins in his sport held by Jack Nicklaus at 18. 60 Career titles. Has won all four of the major tournaments at least once.

I personally got Eldrick. 31 is younger in golf years than 26 is in tennis years (think about it relative to the ages where people's performance starts to fall off in the two sports) and Federer has Nadal (who is younger) breathing down his neck having beaten him in the last three French opens (including the last two finals) and Rafa took Fed to a 5th set in the Wimbledon final this year on Roger's favorite surface.

So Eldrick has more time and less of a nemesis, but the factor in Fed's favor is that, other things equal, IT IS SO MUCH HARDER TO WIN A GOLF TOURNAMENT THAN A TENNIS TOURNAMENT. In tennis, you gotta beat 7 people to win a major. In golf, you gotta beat everybody in the field. That is a big big difference.

Bottom line for me: I think Fed will tie Sampras at best, while Woods will go north of 20 majors.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

But the Heat will STILL sleep with the fishes!

Shaquile O'Neal on Penny, Kobe, & D-Wade: the sidekicks (March 2005).

The difference between those three is The Godfather trilogy. One is Fredo, who was never ready to have it handed over to him. One is Sonny, who will do whatever it takes to be the man, and one is Michael, who, if you watch the trilogy, the Godfather hands it over to Michael. So I have no problem handing it over to Dwyane. I would love to see the ball in my hands, but I'm not the best player or shooter on this team. I don't mind handing it over to Michael Dwyane Corleone.

Friday August 10th: Penny Hardaway signs with the Heat.

Next to come will surely be the news that Nick Nolte will coach the heat!

Or at least that Nike will bring back Chris Rock at his very finest!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Vote Swapping

A piece from yesterday's Sun-Sentinel, in the sunniest part of sunny Florida.

In which I say:

In the Electoral College where we choose presidents, only some states are "in play," or close enough to make votes matter a lot. If a state is in play, the system punishes people who vote for anyone outside the two "major" parties. The reason is that in most states the Electoral College is "winner-take-all," which means if you get the most popular votes, even less than a majority, you get all the electoral votes.

So a few votes can swing the entire outcome. Those 537 Republican votes in 2000 in Florida meant George W. Bush was credited with all 25 electoral votes and Al Gore got nothing. But there were 97,488 votes for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000. That's not much, compared to the 2.9 million Bush and Gore collected.

But 97,488 is a lot more than the final margin of 537, and many of those Nader voters would have picked Gore over Bush.

So, Naderites "cost Gore the election" in Florida. And there have been other elections where independents changed the outcome. In 1992, Ross Perot got 19 percent of the popular vote, affecting the outcome in 15 or more states and possibly swinging the election to Bill Clinton.

What are voters to do? Suppose you love Indira, the independent candidate, but feel strongly that Rex the Republican would be better than Del the Democrat. You want Indira to have more votes nationally (she needs 5 percent to qualify for public funding of her next campaign). But you don't want to risk having Del beat Rex in your home state.

In the brightest red and darkest blue states the outcome won't be close, and you can vote your heart. In close states, though, you want to devise a "swap," so the candidate you like best gets an increased vote total nationally, but the candidate you like second still beats the candidate you hate.

So a Florida or Ohio voter might agree to vote for Rex, even though they like Indira best. A North Carolina or California voter who favors Rex might agree, in exchange, to vote for Indira.

There were several websites set up to accomplish these sorts of swaps. In 2000, there were and In 2004, we saw There are others, and likely will be more.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Don't Tell My Wife....

As for mungowitz.....

You Are 91% Feminist

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).

You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.

further proof that I AM indeed a 'Girly Man'

You Are 80% Feminist

You are certainly a feminist - whether you know it or not.

You believe in gender equality, at least most of the time. You also believe there are a few exceptions.

Try it for yourself here

Redefining Success

I know that if you fail 65% of the time you will make it to Cooperstown if you are a batter, but how does one define success when it comes to investment projects?

Well for the IFC (International Finance Corporation) the "private sector financing arm" of the World Bank, its apparently 50% or better. The NY times reports that "World Bank Agency finds its Africa Projects are lagging" with an African "success" rate of only 49% compared to the apparently acceptable 60% success rate in the rest of the world over the past decade.

The IFC has "invested" $4.6 billion in Africa over the last 15 years.

In a great CYA attempt , Toshiya Masuoka, the corporation’s director for strategy, noted in an interview that the evaluation focused on projects that were started five or more years ago and said that the corporation had in recent years given a higher priority to Africa and had clearly signaled to its staff that Africa postings were a good route to career advancement.

“It doesn’t reflect what’s been going on in the past couple of years,” he said. “And there we have a dramatic difference in what we’re doing in Africa.” Mr. Masuoka said better economic growth in Africa had presented the corporation with new opportunities. “The atmosphere is changing,” he said.

So in other words, there is another set of unreported, uncollected, statistics that would show everything is great. Ignore the report and trust me!

I personally find it amazing that the 60% rate in the rest of the world is apparently A-OK with the IFC. If 40% of your projects lose money does that really make you a good manager? Would your board and shareholders be keeping you, or would you be golden parachuting your way to an early retirement?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

So THAT'S how he did it

No one can believe that Robin (a) actually married me and (b) after 13 years is still married to me. But now thanks to Yahoo News and top quality British research we know the secret: 'Girly Men' Best for Love!!!

Yea Baby!

Hello Kitty! And, This is NOT the Onion

I wunta believed it.

But, it is right there in "All the news that's fit to print, and some stuff we made up about Duke's lacrosse team that has no basis in fact."

Check this, in the NYTimes:

BANGKOK, Aug. 7 — It is the pink armband of shame for wayward police officers, as cute as can be with a Hello Kitty face and a pair of linked hearts.

No matter how many ribbons for valor a Thai officer may wear, if he parks in the wrong place, or shows up late for work, or is seen dropping a bit of litter on the sidewalk, he can be ordered to wear the insignia.

“Simple warnings no longer work,” said Pongpat Chayaphan, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, who instituted the new humiliation this week.

“This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor,” he said. “Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps.”

Ten of the armbands have been prepared, but so far none have actually been issued, according to an officer who declined to give his name while discussing this sensitive topic.

“After this policy came out, the police are scared,” the officer said. “It will be very embarrassing to walk around with Hello Kitty on your arm.” It is a step down from the Crime Suppression Division’s official motto: “When you have no one to turn to, come to us.”

Not sure this is a good idea. Take a cop who is a bad cop, and make him wear "Hello, Kitty." Sounds like some kids are going to get shot for "resisting arrest."

Price Gouging

JQP on price-gouging. A subject I have whinged about before.

as a thought experiment, try to imagine any exchange in the form of barter that can be seen as anticompetitive. i wasn't able to, but i'm sure that bartering a ton of turnips for life-saving diabetes drugs would surely raise some hackles.

Interesting point. Usually, the person with the money is seen as having the upper hand. Developers, middlemen, etc. The person with the merchandise usually is the person we pity. So are anti-gouging laws supposed to protect sellers from immoral behavior, or to protect buyers from getting things they want, need, and are willing to pay for.

'Cause those are the only two possibilities....

Kids Really DO Prefer Cheese!

On the other hand, what did YOUR kids learn today?

Korean kids learned about economics.....with cheesy computer games.

The country's economy notably ranks among the highest worldwide with per capita income on its way to reach over $30,000. Strengthening the economy means stability and prosperity. The government and industry did not emphasize this enough until now when the nation fears being sandwiched between fast-rising China and highly-advanced Japan in Northeast Asia.

...However, children have often shun learning about money and savings at schools with thick textbooks and supplementary kits that contain lots of hard jargon to understand...

So organizations such as the Financial Quotient Counsel and the Economic Education Center at the Bank of Korea (BOK) are utilizing multimedia technologies to lure kids into learning about economics and finance.

Cho Deok-keun of the central bank's learning center for kids said showing flash animations and digital videos has proven to be very effective in making children feel that learning about spending and investing can be ``fun and entertaining.''

``Getting them involved through interactive media with teachers is the way to go especially in this digital age,'' said Cho. ``This helps them get more attached to the subject and eager to learn more.''

...For example, the center offers a racing game that is similar to playing the famous online game ``Kart Rider.'' But to boost the players' speed while on the racetracks, kids have to answer questions about supply and demand.

Another popular game by the BOK's education center lets kids become a world adventurer on a mission to experience the wonders of banking systems between nations.


World adventurers, indeed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The other shoe....

From the BBC: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has confirmed that he will try to change the law to allow him to remain in power indefinitely.

Just like Cardoso (Brazil), Fujimori (Peru) and Menem (Argentina) before him, Hugo has decided he's just too important to leave. Something tells me though that he will be around a lot longer than his Latin American constitution changing predecessors.

Oh and one more thing, is anyone besides me surprised that Putin hasn't done this?

Tasty Mashup

How about 1 part Jamaican dub and 1 part Sufi Qawwali?

More specifically, the sublime Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn posthumously remixed over dub beats from producer Gaudi entitled Dub Qawwali. You can read about this "collaboration" here (as always, please don't ask me how I know about this link!).
Nusrat doesn't really need any remixing to keep my attention though. If you are not familiar with his music, I'd suggest the two CD set Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party: The Supreme Collection, Volume One as a good starting point.