Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hair Harvest: Part I (The Horror)

My wife had cancer in 2004. Five operations of varying severity. (Up to and including "severe"). She is fine now, thanks. Or, as fine as any cancer survivor can be.

In the wake of this horror, I resolved to embark on a path that might create
some small humor, but also be a symbolic homage to Donna's struggle. We
saw a lot of women with no hair, as they went through chemo and radiation.

I resolved to grow my hair out, and donate it to "Locks of Love." That organization creates
hairpieces for children whose hair follicles are severely damaged by chemical
treatments for disease, or by some disease itself.

So, to all of you who have wondered about, or openly mocked, my hair....that's why
I grew it out.

Anyway, it was finally long enough to harvest. I am going to post, over the next three days, installments that show the process of harvesting. Several of the photos are, I am sad to say, hilarious. But while you are laughing at me, laugh with me a little also. And let's try to find a cure for cancer in our own lifetimes, before those lifetimes are cut short. Breast cancer, in particular (and that is what my wife had) is an epidemic.

Now, let's have some fun....Installment I: The Horror

My hair had at this point been washed, and is being dried. You can get an idea of how long and curly it is.

After the drier...well, pictures are worth 1,000 words. Also worth hiding from the children.

Then I had to wait for a while. Racquel was busy. Sitting there, I made the day of several dozen women who walked by. They tried not to burst out laughing. Very few were successful. The reactions ranged from titters (most) to one rather large woman who had to lean over with her hands on her knees and whoop with laughter for several seconds. "Meat Loaf!" she wheezed. "You look just like Meat Loaf!" Thank you, ma'am, thank you.

Then, into the chair. Racquel began the ironing and straightening process. Flock of Seagulls, you got nothing on me.

Tomorrow: Installment II: Pigtails (Yes, pigtails)

How the Internet has made our Lives better



Friday, December 21, 2007

Fractions are Hard

At least for Janet Hook of the LA Times: She finds "ambivalence" in the facts that 1 in 3 Americans would deny social services to illegals, while on the other hand 60% favor a path to citizenship for illegals.


66% not in favor of denying social services is evidence of anti-immigrant sentiment while 60% favoring a path to citizenship is evidence of pro-immigrant sentiment??

Besides finding this ambivalent, she refers to the two factoids as "crosscurrents".

I think we need a Federal "no reporter left behind" bill that pays for mandatory 4th grade math education and then implements a competency test that you must pass before getting a byline.

Venn Diagrams are Fun!

At least in the hands of Jessica Hagy:

Who's the craziest of them all??

Despite Tyler's recent posts about Ron Paul (here and here) and mine about Huckabee (here and here), it's actually Mitt Romney who is the craziest person in race for the torture party's presidential nomination (again John McCain is honorably excepted from this characterization).

Why you ask? Is it the Mormonism? The plastic hair? His first name?

No, it's because (a) Tom Tancredo endorsed him, and (b) he accepted the endorsement.

"Tancredo and Romney met for about an hour today prior to the announcements, Tancredo said. He opted to support Romney after he was reassured that he had clarified his position on immigration.

Tancredo has questioned Romney’s sincerity on the issue in the past, but said Thursday he’s convinced Romney would secure the border, prosecute employers of illegal immigrants, and make those who are here illegally return to their native countries."

The abject spineless flip flopping and pandering of Romney (and Giuliani) is just despicable and sickening to behold.

Squirrelly is as Squirrelly does

Last night I saw a bizzarre headline on Yahoo News (shocking, eh?):

Squirrels Use Snakeskins to Mask Scent from Predators

Immediately I pictured squirrels killing and skinning snakes and then wearing the skins on their bodies like so many rodentian Xipe Totecs, but it's not like that. Instead:

ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent, a team at the University of California Davis reported.

"They're turning the tables on the snake," Donald Owings, a professor of psychology who helped lead the research, said in a statement.

This, however, led me to further questions, like (1) How does smelling like a snake deter snakes? Wouldn't it attract them?

And (2) why would a professor of psychology be studying ground squirrel behavior?

Well (1) still has me stumped, but it turns out that (2) is a no-brainer. It's because ground squirrels are publishing gold! Owings has published over 30 papers on ground squirrel behavior. You can see for yourselves here.

If there is any justice in the world, the Swedes will create a Nobel for squirrelology and Owings will be the first recipient. He is the Milton Friedman of the California ground Squirrel.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Small Kings: The Thing Itself

A story sweeping the internet, about the Icelandic woman who was mistreated by TSA and DHS. "What bad people!" is the conclusion we are supposed to draw.

I beg to disagree. This is not an anomaly. These are not bad people, no worse at least than your average worker in other fields.

The problem is the reliance on force and bureaucracy.

Do me a favor, please. Read this. Really, read it and let me know where I have got it wrong.

The problem is not the people. The THING! The thing itself is the abuse. Changing the people won't help.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater, who genuinely believes that good people would change things)

Whack Job Alert!!!

Just when D. Broder says it couldn't get much weirder, it gets weirder.

Check this.

A claim that the Greens MUST be mooncows, to out mooncow (or moonbat, in this case) the Dems. Not easy. The list of "accomplishments" is a nice touch.

Must inequality be a "perma-problem"?

Over at MR, Alex has produced an interesting analysis with a bottom line claim that of current Federal Spending 63 cents on the dollar is a transfer down from the rich to the poor. This by way of refuting the claim that while the rich pay for most of government, they also receive most of the benefits. The majority of the comments feature people squirming to still make a case that more redistribution is feasible and desirable, which leads me to the following thoughts.

Above some threshold, should inequality matter for public policy? Suppose everyone had good educational opportunities for their children, affordable health care, a car, affordable safe shelter, cable TV, and a retirement plan. Would it or should it matter if some people had a heck of a lot more? Or is inequality a political perma-problem, i.e. merely a convenient / immutable rationale for bigger government?

If we decide that we are not at that threshold (or that it does not exist), is simple re-distribution the best way to reduce inequality (considering that there might be other policy goals in play)? In other words, doesn't it make more sense to use policy to help provide the skills and tools needed to raise incomes organically rather than to simply transfer incomes ex-post? If we agree on this, is it always or mostly the case that higher taxes are the way to improve opportunity equality?

Think of schooling, probably the single biggest opportunity inequality in our country. Is more government spending the answer?

I am all about equality of opportunity. If we could achieve that, then any inequality of outcomes would not bother me at all.

What is really sad is that we could satisfy almost everyone here. The combination of our defense budget, farm programs, and congressional earmarks cut by 2/3 would allow of a heck of a lot of policy space for both smaller government and reduction of opportunity inequality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm not sure this follows....

Electoral design and voter welfare from the US Senate: Evidence from a
dynamic selection model

Gautam Gowrisankaran, Matthew Mitchell & Andrea Moro
Review of Economic Dynamics, January 2008, Pages 1-17

Since 1914, the US Senate has been elected and incumbent senators allowed to
run for reelection without limit. This differs from several other elected
offices in the US, which impose term limits on incumbents. Term limits may
harm the electorate if tenure is beneficial or if they force high quality
candidates to retire but may also benefit the electorate if they cause
higher quality candidates to run. We investigate how changes in electoral
design affect voter utility by specifying and structurally estimating a
dynamic model of voter decisions. We find that tenure effects for the US
Senate are negative or small and that incumbents face weaker challengers
than candidates running for open seats. Because of this, term limits can
significantly increase voter welfare.

The welfare effects of term limits are more complex than this, for starters. But I'm not sure that this argument is right even on its own terms.

Bush's Xmas Gift to Latin America Revealed

We have just learned that the White House has sent the following holiday gift to the heads of state of all Latin American nations:

Hat tip to Thomas Thompson

Update: I hear Barak Obama got Hillary the same present!

Guido Wilson: The Bagman who keeps on Giving

So, this is good, people. Unca Sam now has implementing the Monroe Doctrine down to a sweet science. He has yankee hatas the Kirchners and Hugo on the run.

To recap. In August Venezuelan Guido Wilson is detained in Argentina with 800 large in his briefcase. The Kirchners protested a bit too much (then President Nestor said "my hands are clean", which being translated means "my hands are dirty" (this system works for Roger Clemons quotes too by the way)), and complained to Venezuela, but the trail seemed to go cold.

Fast forward to last week when US Federal agents arrest 4 Venezuelans for harassing and threatening Guido (who has a home in Miami, of course). Now President Christina Kirchner proclaims "this is a garbage operation" and Hugo weighed in yesterday that it was "a big lie". Translation? Anyone? How about "Holy Crap! Pwned by Unca Sam!! Again!!"

Now it turns out that Guido has been cooperating with the Feds for a while and they have Chavez's boys on tape offering among other things 2 million for Guido to keep his mouth shut. You can read about it here in the NY Times. According to US Attorney Thomas Mulvihill:

"after Mr. Wilson was caught in Buenos Aires he began to talk to F.B.I. agents about the suspected agents of the Venezuelan government. At least seven meetings took place between Mr. Wilson and the five individuals cited in the complaint between August and early December, the prosecutor said.

The F.B.I. set up video and audio surveillance to document meetings where the defendants sought to pressure Mr. Wilson into keeping quiet, in one case making a threat against his family and in another offering him financial backing from Petróleos de Venezuela, Venezuela’s national oil company, according to prosecutors.

At one point, two of the co-defendants offered Mr. Wilson $2 million to buy his silence, Mr. Mulvihill said."

Andres Oppenheimer has a nice column on the case and the Kirchners in the Miami Herald, written before the latest news about the bribes and videos came to light.

I am so loving this. I just want to know one thing. Where was Thoma Mulvihill in 1961 when we really really needed him?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Paul Krugman makes....sense?

Paul Krugman goes all Public Choice on us.

...there are large differences among the candidates in their beliefs about what it will take to turn a progressive agenda into reality...And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve...Do Obama supporters who celebrate his hoped-for ability to bring us together realize that 'us' includes the insurance and drug lobbies?...Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world. Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate. There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now...And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide...

But the news media recoil from populist appeals...Let’s be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public. And nothing Mr. Obama has said suggests that he appreciates the bitterness of the battles he will have to fight if he does become president, and tries to get anything done." [Krugman, NYT op-ed]

The fact that Krugman inexplicably APPROVES of the populist crap doesn't make him
any less right about Obama's naivete.

Does the Fact that China is Poorer than we thought mean their Currency is Less Undervalued than we thought??


(hey we're economists. what did you expect, a straight answer?)

KPC earlier reported that the Asian Development Bank had done a full PPP price level and income study and found China's GDP to be about 40% lower than World Bank Figures.

In an excellent post over at Econobrowser, Menzie Chinn explains where this figure comes from and shows that using this new income data seriously weakens the case that the Chinese currency is undervalued relative to the dollar.

FInd the Mistake: Fair Trade Bananas

You know those cartoons where you are supposed to find the mistakes?

One could apply the same approach to this "white paper" on fair trade
bananas. Wow. Find the mistakes.

The Indiana University Study Tips

I'm in Bloomington, Indiana, visiting my ailing stepmother.

Went out for some dinner last night, and read the student newspaper. Excerpts/tips from an article on "Finals Produce Stress."

1. "...students say they would love to get an early start on their heavy workload....
'I’d like to study early, but I don’t always do,' [Sarah] Burstein said."

TIP 1: The key to studying earlier is to avoid waiting until it is late. There is only do, or do not. No try.

2. "Usually, an early start on studying keeps her from being overwhelmed with material before finals week arrives, [Burstein] said.

'The key,” she said, “is actually going to class.'”

TIP 2: I don't really have anything to add to that. The key is, in fact, actually going to class. Young Sarah is clearly a good adviser.

3. "The decision to “cram” for a test can sometimes lead to numerous all-nighters filled with massive amounts of caffeine. Junior Jessica Tubbs said she usually takes the route of cramming for tests instead of getting an early start on her workload.

'I haven’t even started studying,” Tubbs said. “I plan to study for finals in the order that I take them. You kind of get the hang of how you need to study as an upper-classman.'”

TIP 3: Now, this tip does require more experience; you'd have to be an upper-class student, with years of finals under your belt, to see this. So, the tip is this: if you haven't studied at all, and your finals are not all scheduled for the same time, then you should study for your finals in the order that they are scheduled. In particular, it is rarely useful to study for a final after you have taken it.

(Please note that in order to KNOW when your finals are scheduled, you probably already had to act on TIP 2, and go to class at least a couple of times to get the syllabus).

The article is full of stuff like this. I really can't do it justice.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why Kim Deal is the real deal!

Kim Deal, of Pixies fame, is putting out a new album this spring with the Breeders after a 5 year absence. This is great news as the previous Breeders albums, Title TK, The Last Splash, and Pod are excellent and still often played favorites of mine.

In this interview with Pitchfork, Kim gives some insight in that great Breeders sound:

"there's an actual band, and I own actual instruments, and actual tubes have to be replaced, and people actually have to fly in, and they have lives, and you have to go over the song-- because remember, this is tape. It's not like, "'s the idea of the chorus. We're going to use the Pretenders drums from the first record, 'cause they sound so good," you know? That's not how we do it. Jose [Medeles], the drummer, has to fly in, and we actually have to write a song from beginning to end that sounds cool. And if it doesn't sound cool at this part, it's not like we can just go, "Yeah, let's rearrange that in ProTools," you know? It's just a totally different way of thinking.

I'm not the quickest, most prolific writer either. I would never pretend to be. I don't think prolific-ness is equal to quality at all. I would rather have one song that people actually like than 15 songs that they can barely stand. But that's just me."

Tube amps? No ProTools? Analog tape? Wow! Wow! Wow!

Quality over Quantity? Double Wow Wow Wow.

You go Kim!

(here is a link to a song from the new record)

Turns out restaurants are the least of his problems

"Everyone with a theology degree take a step forward. Not so fast there Huckabee...."

Of all the weird things to misrepresent, having a theology degree has to be right up there, doesn't it? Nonetheless, it is being alleged that Huckabee has done exactly that (see stories here and here).

Looks like we may have a Venerable Jigwang situation brewing up here in the USA!

Well played Unca Sam! Tweaking two birds with one warrant.

As you may remember, last August, a Venezuelan national was stopped entering Argentina with around $800,000 in cash in his briefcase. Our report at the time is here. Speculation was that the money was for the Kirchner election fund but Guido Wilson, the bag man, stayed mum and the whole affair sadly died out.

Until Wednesday when the US arrested 4 men in Miami (where Guido Wilson also owns a home and lives part time) for coercing Sr. Wilson into saying that the money was his and not from the Venezuelan government.

From the WaPo article:

The four suspects are accused of having traveled to Florida, where Antonini owns a home, to pressure him to conceal the truth about the cash, according to court documents. Two of the men -- Carlos Kauffmann and Moisés Maionica -- allegedly told Antonini that Argentine and Venezuelan authorities would pursue him if he denied that the funds were his but that he would be protected if he remained quiet.

"Carlos Kauffmann advised Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson that the consequences of Antonini's future actions might put the life of Antonini's children at risk," said the criminal complaint, which was prepared by the FBI. Referring to Venezuela's state oil company, it said, "Moises Maionica advised Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson that PDVSA would pay for all the expenses and financial penalties that Antonini might incur as a result of the seizure of the $800,000."

The four men have been charged with being unregistered foreign agents in the United States. Two of them, including Maionica, have denied the charges, according to the Associated Press. The others have asked for court-appointed attorneys.

So we can tweak La Penguina and Hurricane Hugo with one swell foop. I say kudos to the Justice Dept. Well done indeed.**

Finally, just for the ladies, here's a pic of Guido Wilson, international man of mystery:

** One thing that truly troubles me though, in fact it troubles me before I say or do anything these days, leaving me almost paralyzed with angst, and that is WWJICTOMP!!!***

***What Would John In Carolina Think of MY Post??

Sunday, December 16, 2007

John in Carolina Gets the Last Word

And you can find that last word HERE.

One excerpt (taken out of context, of course):

I’ve re-read your Chronicle letter, my comment on its thread, and our subsequent posts and comments concerning them and issues related to them.

I affirm everything I said. I’m satisfied with “my case” and how I presented it. I don’t doubt you feel similarly about your part of our "conversation."

I disagree with some of your comments, including some of your characterizations of what I’ve said, what the evening was like and what you say are the conditions which obtain for discourse at Duke and other universities you call “elite.”

His comments have been very useful. My triumphalism was overdrawn. Goes to show that one can always win if the standards for winning are dumbed down far enough.

Perhaps the most telling comment was actually a comment, but it captured the sense of the John's overall argument very well, also. Ralph Phelan, in commenting on one of John's posts, said, about my crowing about Duke: "We aren't Columbia yet, but give us time!" That's both funny and on point. Being better than Columbia on free speech grounds is nothing to be proud of.

I learned a lot from the exchange, and thank John for his work on this, when he has been very busy with other things. Getting to know John, and for that matter Ralph Phelan, a bit has been one unexpected benefit to this discussion.

A wonderful Christmas to all those who emailed, or commented, on this matter!

Yes there are two Americas (and one of them eats real bad)

Or, The best sentence I read today, from the NY Times magazine profile of Mike Huckabee:

"I met Huckabee for lunch at an Olive Garden restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. (I had offered to take him anywhere he wanted and then vetoed his first choice, T.G.I. Friday's.)"

Now I know he's lost 100 pounds and may have food issues, but anywhere you want to go in Manhattan for free and those are your top two choices?

Maybe he thinks the Olive Garden is an homage to the Mount of Olives? or the Garden of Gethsemane?

Something For the Haterade Set

For all of you out there sipping your first Haterade-and-Gin of the day, trying to think what you can say about Duke the coming week....consider this. FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

That's green, folks. There aren't many GREEN schools. Duke is one of them.

Enjoy that Haterade. MMMMMMMmmmmmm, Haterade.

The point? You don't need to spend all that time doing arcane research on evil profs who aren't even at Duke any more. (Houston Baker went to Vanderbilt, and Grant Farred went to Cornell. But I hear about them at least once a week.)

Instead, the trolls of the world can redirect their manic energies toward a real battle, where a school near you has been shown by FIRE to have real speech codes, a real problem with repression.

I hope you get to see the new movie, Indoctrinate U. It has interviews with many of the most physically attractive professors in America.

Angus's Question: I second!

Angus raises some questions.

This question seems pretty simple to me, which probably means I don't have a good handle on the problem.

But the question is not: "Can/Should the Fed try to improve the balance sheets of for-profit financial institutions through reducing key bellwether rates, and through open market operations?"

If forced to answer that question, I would "no" to the shouldn't part, because I would answer "no" the can part: The problem is solvency, not liquidity. (Yes, I know Krugman makes this argument, that's why I think I must be wrong!). The Fed can't solve that problem.

There is a useful question, though, and that is the one Angus raised. And that question is: "Should the Fed accomodate large changes in relative prices (energy, some food) by translating actual real price change into inflation through an expansive monetary policy?"

That is the question actually presented to the Fed, and to the policy community. And that's the question I would like to hear answers to. Me? I vote, "No."

Note that I am NOT saying that the Fed should allow, or foster, DEFLATION if it comes to that. But we are a very long way from deflation. I wouldn't accomodate a deflation, either.

Obama Round-Up

I have consistently said that Hillary can't lose, assuming best play.

Either I may be wrong, or the "best play" assumption is being violated by
the soulless androids that work for Ms. Clinton.

"When Obama speaks before a crowd, he can be more inspirational than
Clinton. Yet, with his relative inexperience, it's hard to feel as confident
he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead." [Des Moines
Register editorial

"Before leaving Iowa for the weekend, Mrs. Clinton forcefully, if obliquely,
pressed the case that she was not only more experienced than Mr. Obama, but
better able to take on what is sure to be an aggressive campaign by the
Republican nominee. 'I've been vetted,' Mrs. Clinton, of New York, told
reporters on Friday. 'I've been tested. There are no surprises.'" [NYT]

"One staunch Clinton backer, a former elected official in the state, felt
alarm on visiting Obama's headquarters in Manchester to pick up tickets for
a friend for Oprah Winfrey's appearance with Obama last weekend and seeing
how much 'buzz' there was there. 'I'm nervous. Obama's campaign feels like
Jack Kennedy's. They seem so excited,' said the supporter, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity because the campaign had not authorized the comments.
'When I call Hillary's headquarters, there's no electricity. It's scary.'

" my estimation, it's not a close call: Obama is a far more impressive
(even if more inexperienced) political talent...His call to turn the page on
the politics of the past has resonance, in part because he seems to fit the
message so well. Obama comes across as likeable, civil, grounded, and not
reflexively Ali against Foreman, Obama seems to me to have
the right style in this match-up. Right now, Obama is riding a wave that I
don't think will recede." [Peter Wehner, head of strategy at the White House until 2007]

(nod to KL)