Saturday, October 13, 2007

And Sometimes a Cigar is NOT just a Cigar

Sim Jae-Duck, ex-mayor of Suweon and current member of the South Korean Parliment has built the pictured edifice (all 4500 square feet of it) to mark the launch of his new NGO, The World Toilet Association!

Sim's campaign began during his term as Suweon mayor from 1995 to 2002. His drive to transform toilets into "clean and beautiful resting places imbued with culture" earned him the nickname "Mayor Toilet".

Public restrooms in the city were jazzed up with paintings, fresh flowers or even small gardens. His achievements prompted Sim to launch the Korea Toilet Association in 1999, in time for South Korea's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup three years later.

A future project in his active mind is IT-based toilets, where people can check their health or surf the Internet.

"Toilets were once regarded as stinking and dirty places. Not any more. They must be treated as the sanctuary that protects human health," Sim said.

Perhaps it will not come as a big surprise to you that the punchline here is: Sim was BORN IN A BATHROOM!!!!

Sim Jae-Duck was born in a restroom and now he plans to live and die in one -- a 1.6 million dollar toilet-shaped house designed to promote his tireless campaign for cleaner loos worldwide.

Sim's birth in a restroom was in line with traditional beliefs.

"It was intentional. My mother followed advice from my grandmother that people born in restrooms will enjoy long lives," said the 74-year-old.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Madrazo Update (or Cover-up, yer doin' it Wrong)

KPC had earlier reported how Roberto Madrazo, in typical PRI dinosaur style, had scammed and cheated to "win" his 55 and over age group in the Berlin Marathon.

Now Madrazo says, he did not pretend to win but simply had quit the race due to injury and just went back to get his stuff. Hmmmmm.

Well, here are some pictures of him crossing the finish line:

His victory was widely reported in the Mexican Press and his denial of trying to claim the win was not forthcoming until after he was DQ'd from the race, which happened days after the event.

In other words, well, really there are no other words. He ran across the line celebrating and accepted the accolades for winning his age bracket. He seemingly had no problems with how the events unfolded until after he was DQ'd.

This is why I am such a huge fan of Ernesto Zedillo, the last PRI president. The PRI turned to him in desperation after their chosen candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assasinated, and apparently his lack of insider status helped enable him to inaugurate an independent electoral commission and oversee / allow a free / clean 2000 presidential election that was won by Vicente Fox thus ending the 70+ year hegemony of the PRI.

Now for Madrazo or any other PRI-ista to win the the presidency, they actually have to win a truly contested election (Madrazo finished a distant third in the 2006 election).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dismantling the Apparatus of the State

The Marxist Apartment.

"I brought up that I thought it was total bullshit that I'm, like, the only one who ever cooks around here, yet I have to do the dishes, too," said Foyle, unaware of just how much the apartment underscores the infeasibility of scientific socialism as outlined in Das Kapital. "So we decided that if I cook, someone else has to do the dishes. We were going to rotate bathroom-cleaning duty, but then Kirk kept skipping his week, so we had to give him the duty of taking out the garbage instead. But now he has a class on Tuesday nights, so we switched that with the mopping."

After weeks of complaining that he was the only one who knew how to clean "halfway decent," Foyle began scaling back his efforts, mirroring the sort of production problems experienced in the USSR and other Soviet bloc nations.

(Nod to WEE)

Ode to the US Congress

I hope that I shall never view a Senator in the airport loo

Ooops! Sorry about that. Actually I want to chat on the hypocrisy and sanctimony of the other broken branch, the House.

As we know, the House foreign affairs committee has voted to officially label the Turkish program of genocide against the Armenians as genocide.

Here's the reaction of the White House: While the House is debating the Ottoman Empire, they are not moving forward with appropriations bills," said Stanzel. "The House has not appointed conferees, they aren't coming to the table to discuss children's health care, and they haven't permanently closed the intelligence gap that will open up when the Protect America Act expires."

Here's the reaction of the Turks:

This is all well and good and great fun except (1) we supply our troops through Turkey and (2) what was that stuff again about glass houses and stones??

Here are three questions for the House:

What would you call what we did to the Native Americans here? (genocide?)

What did y'all do about a slightly more recent and massive episode in Rwanda (nothing?)

What are you doing about a current potential episode in Darfur? (see parentheses above)

To me it's kind of like letting the only country who's actually used a nuclear bomb on civilians be the arbiter of what countries can and cannot have nuclear bombs! What's that? Ooops!

Is this a great country or what?

Rolling Stone Gets it Right!!

Kudos to RS and Jeff Goodell for this article (intro posted below):

The great danger of confronting peak oil and global warming isn't that we will sit on our collective asses and do nothing while civilization collapses, but that we will plunge after "solutions" that will make our problems even worse. Like believing we can replace gasoline with ethanol, the much-hyped biofuel that we make from corn.
Ethanol, of course, is nothing new. American refiners will produce nearly 6 billion gallons of corn ethanol this year, mostly for use as a gasoline additive to make engines burn cleaner. But in June, the Senate all but announced that America's future is going to be powered by biofuels, mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. According to ethanol boosters, this is the beginning of a much larger revolution that could entirely replace our 21-million-barrel-a-day oil addiction. Midwest farmers will get rich, the air will be cleaner, the planet will be cooler, and, best of all, we can tell those greedy sheiks to f*** off. As the king of ethanol hype, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, put it recently, "Everything about ethanol is good, good, good."
This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.
So why bother? Because the whole point of corn ethanol is not to solve America's energy crisis, but to generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time. Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51 billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005 -- twice as much as wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is propped up by hefty subsidies, including a fifty-one-cent-per-gallon tax allowance for refiners. And a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon -- about half of ethanol's wholesale market price.

Rolling Stone: not so good on music but aces on political economy!!

hat tip to Mark Perry.

Cars are eating your food....

I can't tell if this is satirical, or simply insane, but in either case I like it very much.

Sure, it is confused, and illogical. But it amused me. And it will you, too.

Cars are eating your food. And "peak soil" is the problem.

Good Growth, Bad Growth, Ugly Growth

From our friends at FEASTA:

Greens have no need to be against growth. They just have to be against the main type of growth taking place at present. If firms can produce a greater value of goods and services without:

-reducing the number of people they employ
-cutting wages and other emplyee benefits
-increasing the amount of energy and raw materials they use
-needing more transport services
-shifting the distribution of income in favour of the better off
-releasing genetically-engineered organisms into the environment
-patenting life-forms
-using technologies that make work less interesting and fulfilling
-increasing the amount of waste that goes to landfill or into the environment
-driving smaller firms out of business or damaging local economies
-allowing chemicals which are not quickly and harmlessly broken down into safe and stable constituents to leave their factories.
-purchasing goods or services from parts of the world where prices are subsidised because environmental, social or working conditions are significantly inferior to those in the countries they are supplying
-increasing human, animal or plant exposure to nuclear and electro-magnetic radiation
-making production and supply systems less sustainable than they are already
-and several more conditions you'll be able to think of yourself!

...then the growth that results is fine. But if any of the above conditions cannot be met, and the damage done in consequence is not heavily outweighed by gains in other areas, their expansion proposals have to be trenchantly opposed.

The fact that so many conditions have to be satisfied before we can be reasonably sure that growth will turn out to be beneficial says a lot about why the process has been so damaging recently. As the old song says about a good man, good growth is hard to find.

Quite a list. If you can produce more without firing people? That shouldn't be too tough. If you can produce more without cutting wages? Again, that whole "labor supply curve has an upward slope" thing is bound to help here.

On the other hand....without using more transportation? I can produce more AIDs drugs, but if they have to be shipped to AIDs patients, fuggedabowdit. Let those lazy jerks hobble over to the factory themselves.

Amazing to me that comfortable middle class people are the ones worried about income distributions being distorted by growth. Poor people are too busy helping the world economy grow, by trying to make money and feed their families, to worry about that load of donkey wash.

So much of the Green economic program isn't a program at all. It's just institutionalized envy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tax that fella behind the tree!

Bush has been going around saying he wants/hopes that Congress "keeps taxes low". I know this is a cliche but: What U talkin' 'bout Dubya???

Not "don't raise taxes" but "keep taxes low". Now, I know we are most likely in for at least a two year orgy of tax and spend in 2009-10 and I guess I am just a redneck Okie but I feel compelled to say that TAXES ARE NOT LOW. Federal tax revenues are over 2.5 trillion for 2007. Then there are state and local taxes on top. In 2006 these added up to another 1.2 trillion or so. Mixing my years and adding that makes total taxes collected around 28% of GDP.

People, I just can't believe that 3.7 trillion in taxes isn't getting the job done, although that somehow seems to be almost everyone's view.

Just to put a figure out there, 10% for the Feds and 5% for state & local, that would be an OK level of taxes. That's 2 trillion dollars for them to play with.

Now 10% of GDP for everyone, Federal, State, and Local, that to me would be low taxes.

A Federal Government that sucks in almost 19% of GDP is not a starved beast.

If I voted, I would vote for whoever seemed most likely to lower my taxes. I actually hope one of the complete and total morons (and they are all thus) running for the Republican nomination somehow manages to win, just so I can keep some take home pay in my pocket and some choices about how/where to spend it.

Gridlock is the only friend in Washington that we've got!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cheating: Yer doin' it Wrong!!

This is a great story that encapsulates the problems of Mexico's long history of one party rule by the PRI. Roberto Madrazo, the PRI's candidate in the 2006 presidential election , ex-governor of Tabasco, ex-president of the Party, had apparently run, and won his age bracket, in the Berlin Marathon on September 30th. Photographs of him celebrating as he crossed the finish line made the front pages of Mexican newspapers.

Yesterday however, race officials disqualified Madrazo from the race
for apparently taking a short cut in the Sept. 30 race. An electronic tracking chip indicates he skipped two checkpoints and took only 21 minutes to cover a nine-mile section -- faster than any human can run. "Not even the world record holder can go that fast," race director Mark Milde said.

Madrazo can be seen grinning ear-to-ear and pumping his arms in the air as he crossed the finish line. The photograph made front pages in Mexico. But the picture raised suspicions because he wore a wind breaker, hat and long, skintight running pants -- unusually heavy clothing for a person who had just run 26.2 miles in 60-degree weather.

"It was so obvious to me: if you look at everyone else that's in the picture, everyone's wearing T-shirts and shorts, and the guy's got a jacket on and a hat or whatever," said New York-based marathon photographer Victor Sailer, who alerted race organizers to the possible fraud. "I looked at it and was like, wait a second."

The world record for 15 kilometers -- the distance Madrazo covered in 21 minutes -- is 41 minutes 29 seconds, by Felix Limo of Kenya.

Madrazo's office did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.

After I quit laughing I thought, Yep, that's the PRI in a nutshell. Dishonest, heavy-handed, and incompetent.

hat tip to Mrs. Angus!

separated at birth?

Hmmmmmm. I wonder who has Kerry's animation rights????

I'll Have What She's Having

Remember the line from "When Harry Met Sally," in the diner? Rob Reiner (the director) has his MOM (yes, his mom was in the movie, as true fans all know) say, "I'll have what she's having!" after the fake orgasm scene. terms of drugs: I'll have what Ellen Munger is having. And maybe some bacon, too. But I think the drugs are the key. Those must be excellent drugs.

On Appreciating Assets, and Depreciating Ass(ets)

From my friend ML, in PA, a most fine link.

The premise:

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

The response:

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a cr@ppy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.
For so many assets, it makes more sense to lease, instead of purchase. My wife always wants to buy a beach house, as an investment. Instead, we bought 35 acres of property south of Pittsboro, as a tree farm (better tax treatment, much better appreciation potential).

And, when we go to the beach, we rent this place: Costs at least $4million to buy, but we can rent it for a week or two in the off season and live like kings for a little while.

The point is that you can separate the investment, and consumption, functions. In sexual relations, better to date the bimbo, and marry the smart person (that goes for either sex, by the way: having smart children is an enormous advantage, and at some point you might want to have an actual conversation with your spouse).

If you can find someone smart AND pretty (and I have to say, Angus and I both got extremely lucky in this respect), so much the better. But date looks, and marry smarts.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Captain Morgan, meet Captain Fundman!!

In our "separated at birth" series, an obvious one.

Captain Morgan, compared to Fundman at his wedding

The Next Johnny Cash

People, Johnny Cash was AMAZING. He was the Head Hillbilly. His early stuff is incredible and his late work with Rick Rubin is classic America. He is sorely missed. When I reflect, as I often do, about whether anyone can ever fill his shoes, I think of John Doe (X, Knitters), Dave Alvin (Blasters), David Berman (Silver Jews), and Will Oldham all as worthy pretenders

However, I am here to tell you that I am now of the opinion that Bill Callahan, with his magnificent record "Woke up a Whale Heart", might become the new Johnny Cash. It's freakin' amazing. Right in the middle, the two songs back to back, "Sycamore" and "The Wheel" are incredible. I have listened to this record 7 or 8 times now and I get goose bumps and a lump in my throat every time on those two.

And from Wikipedia (so it's gotta be true!) I learned today that Callahan is dating and working with uber-pixie Joanna Newsome, who made one of 2006's best records "Ys". I guess that makes her the next June Carter (which is a big compliment)!!

Baby, It's Cold Out There!

I first read this, and assumed it was a parody. IS, but not an intentional one.

There was a power failure, and Dr. Roth sat and thought of how this temporary, storm-caused power failure give "some insight into some of the issues likely to confront us as peak oil and gas approach."

Russ and I took up this lunacy a bit on our podcast. So, that's all you really need to know: Peak oil--dumb concept. Sitting in four layers of clothing and thinking about peak oil while wearing a beanie--Pointless.

How Do You Bargain, When Your Bargaining Space is Empty?

Sacred bounds on rational resolution of violent political conflict

Jeremy Ginges, Scott Atran, Douglas Medin & Khalil Shikaki
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 18, 7357-7360

We report a series of experiments carried out with Palestinian and Israeli
participants showing that violent opposition to compromise over issues
considered sacred is (i) increased by offering material incentives to
compromise but (ii) decreased when the adversary makes symbolic compromises
over their own sacred values. These results demonstrate some of the unique
properties of reasoning and decision-making over sacred values. We show that
the use of material incentives to promote the peaceful resolution of
political and cultural conflicts may backfire when adversaries treat
contested issues as sacred values.

(Nod to KL)

BLS to Fed: Nevermind?

We learned last Friday that that the September jobs number is 110,000 and the dreaded August decline has been revised to an increase of 89,000. While super-bear Nouriel Roubini is not impressed, I think a lot of people are relieved.

I continue to wonder though if the Fed shouldn't be worried more about inflation than unemployment. For one thing, inflation is something they can actually control! For another, quoting from the BLS:

During the first eight months of 2007, the CPI-U rose at a 3.7 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). This compares with an increase of 2.5 percent for all of 2006. The larger advance thus far this year was due to larger increases in the energy and food indexes.

But of course that's not the Fed's preferred measure of "core inflation". No, but core inflation is kind of a weird concept. Here's Daniel Gross in Slate:

Imagine that a cardiologist told you that aside from the irregular heartbeat, the stratospheric cholesterol count, and a little blockage in your aorta, your core heart functions are just fine. That's precisely what the government's cardiologist—
Ben Bernanke—has just done.

People aren't really buying it though as Gross also reports that: Each month, the Conference Board asks consumers what they expect the rate of inflation will be for the next 12 months. The figure has been above 5 percent since April.

I wonder if they knew then what they know now, if the Fed would have made the same 50 basis point cut?


Globalisation and Inflation: New Cross-Country Evidence on the Global
Determinants of Domestic Inflation

Claudio Borio & Andrew Filardo
Bank for International Settlements Working Paper, September 2007

There has been mounting evidence that the inflation process has been
changing. Inflation is now much lower and much more stable around the globe.
And its sensitivity to measures of economic slack and increases in input
costs appears to have declined. Probably the most widely supported
explanation for this phenomenon is that monetary policy has been much more
effective. There is no doubt in our mind that this explanation goes a long
way towards explaining the better inflation performance we have observed. In
this paper, however, we begin to explore a complementary, rather than
alternative, explanation. We argue that prevailing models of inflation are
too country-centric, in the sense that they fail to take sufficient account
of the role of global factors in influencing the inflation process. The
relevance of a more globe-centric approach is likely to have increased as
the process of integration of the world economy has gathered momentum, a
process commonly referred to as globalisation. In a large cross-section of
countries, we find some rather striking prima facie evidence that this has
indeed been the case. In particular, proxies for global economic slack add
considerable explanatory power to traditional benchmark inflation rate
equations, even allowing for the influence of traditional indicators of
external influences on domestic inflation, such as import and oil prices.
Moreover, the role of such global factors has been growing over time,
especially since the 1990s. And in a number of cases, global factors appear
to have supplanted the role of domestic measures of economic slack.

It may be interesting to think about inflation in (some) other countries as being
externally caused.

But, in the U.S., KPC will continue to insist that inflation is always and everywhere caused by the fact that El Fed no tiene juevos.

(Nod to KL, as always)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Remember the Red River Valley

Friends, the 102nd Red River Shootout** is now history and, well, WE WON! Since Mrs. Angus and I arrived in Norman in August of 1999, OU has beaten Texas in 6 of their 9 meetings though Texas leads the series 57-40 (with 5 ties).

The game is a huge recruiting tool for OU as many, many, many of our players come from Texas. Only one OU starter, QB Sam Bradford is an Okie. At least one star Sooner, Malcolm Kelly, openly admits that OU's recent success against Texas caused him to spurn UT in favor of OU even though he is from Texas and his older brother played for Texas and Texas recruited him:

Kelly, who grew up going to games in Austin to watch his brother, Chris Smith, play for the Longhorns, said earlier this week the only reason he decided to cross the Red River was because the Sooners had won five straight before it was time for him to choose a college.

These kinds of Texans are pretty much the only ones welcome in Okieland.***

** in a David Foster Wallace moment, the series has been officially re-named "The AT&T Red River Rivalry". Holy Crap.

*** well, hard drinking Texans with deep pockets are welcome in our casinos too!

Weekend Music Update

Two of my favorite albums from last year were Band of Horses: Everything all the Time and Sunset Rubdown: Shut up I am dreaming. I actually think Sunset Rubdown might be my favorite band at this point in time. Anyway, the good news is that on Tuesday, both of these groups will be releasing new products: Random Spirit Lover from Sunset Rubdown (already reviewed here by Pitchfork), and Cease to Begin from Band of Horses.

If you don't have their debut albums, KPC highly recommends their aquisition. We are waiting for our pre-ordered copies of the new stuff to arrive. If you don't know Spencer Krug, we recommend his entire oeuvre (sweet rhyme!). He is in Wolf Parade and Swan Lake (a demented "supergroup" with Krug, Casey Mercer of Frog Eyes and Dan Bejar (btw, I am not making this up)) and those entities' outputs are also highly recommended.

On a sad note, did anyone see Iron and Wine on the Letterman Show Friday night? Holy Crap people, they looked and sounded like Stealers Wheel, or Brewer & Shipley. Sam Beam appears to have jumped the shark in a big way.