Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war

Two thirds of my hoped for trifecta are in the books. Mike Nifong is not the DA of Durham County and he is disbarred!! Now for the civil suit.

Things are looking good. As he left the courtroom, Reade Seligmann's lawyer said, "I don't think any of us are done with Mr. Nifong yet".


This week's sign of the apocalypse

The week that was

Besides bringing you cutting edge LOLcats, KPC wants to keep our readers informed about developments on issues we've previously posted so....

1. Nifong to world : "I Suck"!! Earlier this week we posted that Nifong was appearing before a disciplinary committee hearing that could lead to his disbarment. Yesterday he gave a tear-stained mea culpa and resigned as Durham county prosecutor. So far so good, but I'm still rooting for disbarment and then a civil suit against him.

2. Confessions of a Double Murderer it is!! In the case we reported on earlier this week, a judge has awarded Ron Goldman's family the rights to OJ aborted book. Sweet!

3. Delayed reaction. We profiled allegedly plucky French tennis pro Marc Giquel who took a fast serve to the harbles and then after an icing returned to the court and won his match. However, the next day he quit after losing the first set of his quarterfinal match to Finnish hearthrob Jarkko Nieminen.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dumbest Sentence I've read in a long while

From yesterday's Financial Times: Being a developing country used to be easy.

This is by Alan Beatie. He continues:

You followed leaders - Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea - up a well-trodden ladder from agriculture through manufacturing to services. Starting with tilling the soil, you moved on to turning out T-shirts, then toys, then tractors, then television sets, and ended up trading Treasuries.

The gist of this foolishness is that China is screwing up that EZ ladder to success everybody had enjoyed previously.

I guess the first question to ask is who exactly followed those leaders up that well trodden ladder to a financial services economy before China and India got on? Anybody from Sub Saharan Africa? Anybody from Latin America? Anybody besides the cited leaders??

In one sense being a developing country is easy, its actually doing some developing (ie catching up to the leaders) that is so hard, has been hard in the past and is still hard today.

We didn't call Beattie's leaders the Asian Miracle countries because they did something easy.

The second question to ask is whether those cited leaders made it all the way to the top as Beattie implies. Well according to the Penn World Tables, Taiwan is stalled out at around 55% of US per capita income ( 54.25% in 2004), and Korea is still grinding away, but is only up to around 50% of US income. So even the few miracle countries that have substantially improved relative to the US still have a very long way to go.

By the way, China is at 14.6% of US per capita income in 2004 and India at around 9%. Despite their recent gains, they are very very poor countries.

The third question to ask is, even if China and India are making it harder for other countries to catch up, if we had to pick to incredibly poor countries to start growing rapidly, wouldn't we pick China and India, simply based on their huge populations? Thats a lot better than having the Gambia and Boliva win the growth takeoff lottery, isn't it?

My last question is directly to Alan Beattie: What you talking 'bout Willis??

A Radical Proposal for Reducing the Trade Deficit

In case you haven't noticed, the US is running a large trade deficit. Oh, and a lot of people are upset about it too. Anyway, what often goes unmentioned in all the anti-China, anti-trade rhetoric is that (A) the US imports a lot of oil, and (B) the price of oil has gone through the roof lately.

So, if the trade deficit is such a bad thing, and oil imports are a major cause of the deficit, then given that our two largest sources of imported oil are Canada and Mexico (I am not making this up: check it out here), and since we have allegedly not been averse to going to war over oil, I humbly propose that we consider annexing our immediate neighbors to the north and south.

Hey, I just solved the immigration problem too, didn't I?? Sweet!!!

"New Balls, Please"!!

As the tennis circuit turns toward the super-short grass court season, serve speeds pick up and bad bounces multiply. Just ask French pro Marc Giquel (below right in the photo), who took a 129 mph shot in the shorts from Benjamin Becker at the Wimbledon warm-up tourney in Germany yesterday.


Although I must say that speaking strictly for myself, I'd rather be Giquel than the anonymous tour trainer shown icing down Giquel's privates in the photo.

Oh, and Giquel eventually returned to the court and won the match!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hate the Game, not the Playa!!

Economics demi-god Steve Levitt is playing at the WSOP (world series of poker):

but KPC has discovered what Steve doesn't want anyone to know, exactly who it was that knocked him out of the tourney:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

2 Scotsmen, 1 Penny

So Mungowitz tells these better than me, but I got a story for y'all. We decided to buy a digital SLR, specifically a Nikon D200. But they are expensive and the Angus family is CHEAP!! So we searched the internet and found a deal priced about 30% lower than anything else from a joint called Express Cameras. I placed my order online. 5 hours later I got a phone call from Adam at Express Cameras. They are so sorry but they don't take Amex anymore, the website is being changed as we speak so could he get another card number, oh and by the way, did I know the stock battery was no good and I should get a better one for $279 and the camera doesn't come with a charger so I'll need that too (another $150).

God help me people, I went along with that. I'll never be allowed to wear a kilt again, but I said, "OK Adam, thanks".

Adam, feeling like he's hooked the fish of the century then tells me, oh and the memory card you have chosen is very slow, you will have to wait 5-10 seconds between pictures. You should get a fast card for another $350, also did you know the lenses you are getting aren't for digital cameras? they won't allow you to use any of the features of your camera. we can sell you better ones for another $400.

At this point my genetic heritage kicked in and saved me, "Adam, I think this is a pretty bad case of bait and switch my friend and I am going to have to cancel the entire order"

On a dime, Adam turns ugly: What is wrong with you, are you retarded? I am trying to give you a great deal and you act like this? You can't cancel the order now, its too late.

Me: pretty sure I can and just did.

Adam: you will have to pay a cancellation fee of $389

Me: don't think so.

Adam: I am going to send this straight to a collection agency and ruin your credit rating, that is a promise.

Me: been there done that (some nasty business with my ill-spent student loans, don't ask), chaucito my friend.

So back to the internet and I find this great site, where he breaks things down for me about Adam and his ilk:

They prey on innocents and try to sell you pieces that come included with your camera, like the charger, for hundreds of dollars extra. They also try to switch you to high-profit-margin off-brand lenses like Sigma that they've deliberately overpriced, hoping you didn't research them.

And indeed, my battery was fine, the charger is included in the camera price, my lenses were Nikon and work perfectly with the digital camera and a fast memory card costs $60 at Circuit City.

Looking around some more, I found these customer ratings of Express Camera (which somehow are orthogonal to the testimonials prominently displayed on their website) and also their rapsheet with the NJ BBB (292 complaints in the last 36 months).

So innocent Angus hauled his butt to Circuit City and got exactly what he wanted (for less than he'd left things with Adam) with NO INTEREST PAYMENTS UNTIL 2009. Sweet!!! I could be dead by then (especially if Adam catches up with me).

Now it all makes sense!!!

hat tip to LolPresident.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Long Arm of the law

1. Down goes Nifong? The notorious Duke Lacrosse prosecutor is now appearing before a disciplinary commission facing possible disbarment. I was living in Durham during the year of the Nifong and in my view, this guy deserves to catch it really really hard. K C Johnson has much more.

2. Some said it was murder, but it was sewer-cide. Now the Jamaican police are saying that Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer, found dead in his hotel in a pile of vomit and poop and blood, wasn't murdered after all but died instead of "natural causes". I'll say this: if that's true I hope I do NOT die of natural causes.

3. "Who Romeo? Yeah I used to have a thing with him?" A Judge in Atlanta ordered Genarlo Wilson released with 8 years to go on his mandatory minimum 10 year sentence for having "consensual" oral sex with a 15 year old girl (when he himself was 17). The judge also ruled that Wilson would not have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The state Attorney General says the judge has overstepped his bounds, and plans to appeal the decision; meanwhile he's keeping Genarlo in jail. I'm conflicted on this one people. The state legislature has since amended the law under which Wilson was convicted to make his act a misdemeanor so maybe he should get out. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter has been lobbying for Wilson's release, so he should probably stay in!

4.What's in a name? Ron Goldman's family is suing to take over the rights to OJ's "If I did it", rename it "Confessions of a Double Murderer" and sell the book to help collect part of the $33.5 million judgement they won against OJ. Perhaps not surprisingly, OJ and his family are not cooperating.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Be Careful What You Ask For ('cause you just might get it)

In 1986, California enacted Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. While not as famous as Alex's friend Dog, the act has produced what Adam Liptak of the NY Times calls Environmental Bounty Hunters. Citizens can file suit against offending firms and keep 25% of the penalties imposed and lawyers for said citizens get their fees paid as well!

Liptak describes one man, lawyer Clifford Chanler as "the State's leading bounty hunter".

"In the past seven years, Mr. Chanler has sent over 600 notices and filed more than 200 lawsuits on behalf of a few clients, none of whom even claimed to have been injured, and collected $15 million in settlements in return.

Over coffee the other day, Mr. Chanler said he did not much care for the term bounty hunter.

“I prefer to use the phrase of ‘citizen enforcer,’ ” he said. “But I don’t shy away from the fact that there is a civil bounty incentive structure built into the statute.”"

So far so good right? But the plot thickens. Ex-governor moonbeam and current attorney general Jerry Brown wants Chanler and others to cut it out because "it does not appear to be in the public interest"

Oooh, good one Jerry, that will work for sure. Ask a lawyer to stop doing something thats both lucrative and completely legal because it does not appear to be in the public interest? Sure, no problem.......

If anything, Mr. Chanler appears quite ready to broaden the scope of his duties:

“Civil enforcement should not be left to public officials,” he said, “because of the influence of money on politics and just the resource level available to the government.”

Amen, Clifford, amen!!

Wake up and smell the Tacos

The Seattle Weekly runs a great column called "Ask a Mexican" written by Gustavo Arellano with this identifying graphic:

a helpful glossary is also provided.

Oops they did it again!

The NY Times is nothing if not consistently humorous. Consider this passage from David Leonhart's article on Larry Summers:

since 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. Over the same span, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points. It’s as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent.

as we pro-immigration types like to say, vamos por partes.

1. The quote considers pretax incomes and the top 1% pay a lot of taxes. For example, in 2004, the top 1 percent of taxpayers (AGI over $328,049) paid 36.9 percent of all federal income taxes (see link). So there is a fair amount of redistribution to consider.

2. The quote deals in shares, not levels. This is not a zero sum game. It it possible for everyone to increase their incomes at the same time, and indeed this is the case. The rich are getting relatively richer but the "poor" (the bottom 80% is pretty broad) are getting richer too. In no way does the cited statistic make a case that the gains of the rich come at the expense of the poor.

3. The $7,000 a year check thing makes absolutely no sense. Where does the number come from? top 1% share rises 7% in 27 years (an average of about .27%/year) and every one in the bottom 80% is correspondingly out $7,000 per year?

Update: the redoubtable Brendan Nyhan sheds some light on the mysterious $7,000 here. I tried to email Leonhart as well, but apparently is not his correct address.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ivory Tower of Babel

So immigration reform is on life support in the US Congress. According to the NY Times it was killed by this couple:

Meanwhile, the NY Times Magazine profiles economist Lant Pritchett, who advocates huge increases in guest workers from the poorest countries to the rich ones.

Immigration seems to be the hottest of hot button issues in the blogosphere. Economists advocating increased immigration often are taunted with phrases like "but here in the real world" and others quite a bit less polite. Yet economics is an incredibly globalized profession.

In my department, in the southwest of the USA, we have professors from Argentina, Turkey, China (3), India, and Greece (2) out of 18 total positions (along with a visitor from Peru).

At Harvard, the first six names on the economics faculty directory are Aghion (France), Alesina (Italy), Ambrus (Hungary), Antras (Spain), Ardagna (Italy), and Amendariz (Mexico).

The journals in which we seek to publish receive articles from economists around the world.

Maybe one of the reasons economists by and large favor globalization and are relaxed about immigration is that we have been living it for quite a while now. Or maybe we really are just the clueless, sheltered, pointy-headed freaks we are accused of being.


The EU comes up a lot in conversations these days.

For example, I was just at a conference of young law and poli sci profs, discussing public choice.

At dinner, one young woman told a story of some friends of hers. Her friends had decided they needed fresh ingredients for a dish they were making. So, she said, "They went to a farm, and got permission from the farmer to milk his goats themselves."

"Wow....", young man across the table says.

"What do you mean?" young woman asks.

Young man: "Two women, milking goats....that's kind of hot!"

Young woman: "EEeee-uuUUUU!"

If you hang out with sophisticated folks, international affairs come up pretty often.