Saturday, September 01, 2007

Three birds with one Stone

In a great post, Marc Hodak manages to take down the silliness of our financial press, the triviality of Dubya's plan to help borrowers and the perils of investing your ever falling dollar in a managed stock fund with high fees. Kudos to you, Sir. Well done.

my favorite line? after quoting one of the "experts" quoted in the financial press, Squire Hodak sez: Dear readers, you should know that this speaker hasn't said a g**d**n thing. The only sentence here that isn't fluff is the one contending that the Fed will correct the market--and that one is flat out wrong.

Andy Roddick is more like me than I thought

Ok people insert your favorite loser joke here and then go on to read the posting!!

6'-9" John Isner who only got into the Open on a wildcard has won two rounds and now faces Roger Federer this afternoon. There is an incredible, yankee-jingo buzz about Isner's chances in this match and as the legendary "future of american tennis".

When asked about the matchup, Roddick summarized it succintly and accurately:

"Isner's going to be very tall," he said, "and Roger's going to be very good."


South Korea is more like the US than I thought

They even have prominent resume fakers!

Of all the recent revelations of résumé fraud here, the one involving a prominent Buddhist monk was perhaps the most shocking to a nation that values academic credentials almost as much as it does honesty.

The monk, the Venerable Jigwang, had transformed a temple in an affluent district of Seoul from a struggling collection of seven souls in 1984 to more than 250,000 members today, partly on the basis of his prestigious degree from Seoul National University, the country’s top academic institution.

“People swarmed in because they heard that a monk who had gone to a distinguished university was teaching the scriptures in English,” the Venerable Jigwang said at a confessional news conference on Aug. 18. “I think that the Seoul National University title more or less helped in propagation.”

Alas, he had no such title, and in that he was not alone.

After a news agency reported in July that an important art historian had faked her credentials, a nationwide wave of allegations and confessions followed that has so far swept up a movie director, a renowned architect, the head of a performing arts center, a popular comic book writer, a celebrity chef, actors and actresses, a former TV news anchor and now the Venerable Jigwang.

South Korea has been shaken as one prominent person after another has been exposed as having exaggerated, or fabricated, academic accomplishments.

The exposés have prompted prosecutors, the police, the Education Ministry and regional education authorities to announce plans to combat academic record fraud. Legislators have introduced a bill calling for a verification system.

I would like to take this opportunity to state once more for the record that, despite all appearances, and the University's claims to the contrary notwithstanding, Mungowitz and I really truly did graduate from Wash U.!!!

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!