Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Ten Most Interesting or Perversely Damaged People of 2008

10. Eliot Spitzer. We didn’t catch Osama Bin Laden, but we caught Eliot Spitzer with a prostitute. This pleased me a lot, I have to admit. (Whenever we were watching the news, and a Spitzer-n-da-ho story would come up, my wife would look at me and mouth, "LO--REE--NA BOB--BITT!")

9. Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer. Two guys who did the Bigfoot hoax. Claimed they had DNA and everything. Sold to Tom Biscardi, but it was just a gorilla suit frozen in a block of ice. Biscardi must be one of those people who bought into Bernie Madoff’s investment schemes.

8. Dmitry Medvedev. Current President of Russia, clearly a puppet for Vladimir Putin (who looks better with their shirts off?). Medvedev just signed a new law that makes the NEXT Pres of Russia be able to serve a six year term, not a four term, and in fact next guy can serve TWO of them, 12 years. There is some chance that Medvedev will resign in the next six months. Something like that could never happen here…unless President’s daughter Caroline Kennedy is elected Senator from New York, a state where she has never lived, following President’s wife Hillary Clinton, in a state where SHE had never lived. Okay, never mind. Vlad, go ahead.

7. Harry Reid, Dem and Senate Maj Leader. Very nearly a veto proof majority, quite possibly with Stuart Smalley ("I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.) Now, this is not because Harry Reid is anything special; quite the contrary. But because of the events of 2008, Harry Reid is now the Majority Leader for a Senate with 59 Democrats.

6. Michael Phelps. Remarkable athlete, seemed able to do just well enough to win, even in races he should have lost. Born and raised in Baltimore, Phelps worked hard and made the best use of his very long arms and torso. Nearly $10 million in endorsement income already.

5. Rod Blagojevich (made Sarah Palin look positively level-headed and sane!)

4. Sarah Palin: Burst on the scene already a legend. (Tina Fey's spot on imitation was remarkable). The Wasilla whirlwind.

3. Bernie Madoff / Barney Frank. Madoff with $50 billion. We didn’t catch him, we did catch Eliot Spitzer….Barney: On-line rights (partnered with Ron Paul), free speech, medical marijuana.

2. Ron Paul / Joe the Plumber: Ron Paul ran for President as a Republican, and made quite a good showing. And the small government wing of the Republican party can sure use the support. Joe the Plumber? Plumbed the depths of “I hate everything,” by writing a fatuous tell-all book, Fighting for the American Dream. Said that he “Felt more dirty after the campaign,” because of the untruths and sheer contumacity of the McCainiacs. On the other hand, Joe the (not licensed) plumber did get Obama to say, “Things work better when we spread the wealth around.” This did reveal something about Obama that many suspected.

1. Barack Obama: One of the truly unique figures in American political history. So far, his economic team is great, his foreign policy team is great… But is he even interested in those things? Is the reason he picked good people is that he wants to work on....(pregnant pause)....OTHER THINGS?

You Can't Even Trust Entertainment Shows Anymore

This is rather upsetting.

The charge never actually got below 20%. Why would they lie like that?

Squeeze Play

A pretty tough old chick,

She grabbed her assailant by the....well.


The year in film

I saw 6 good new movies this year. They are:

Slumdog Millionare
Man on Wire
Dark Knight
Burn After Reading
The Visitor
Iron Man

Pretty eclectic group, all highly recommended. Slumdog Millionare is a tour de force home run for Danny Boyle.

I'll fill out my top 10 with four movies that I think I would have liked if I had been able to see them:

Frozen River
The Wrestler
Happy Go Lucky
Rachel Getting Married

Finally, here are two touted films where it's obvious from the trailers (which I've seen) that the movies will suck hideously:

Revolution Road
The Reader

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wow, speaking of Laziness.....

Roger Farmer writing December 30th 2008 in the FT:

"In classical economics, the prices of stocks are determined by fundamentals and the fundamentals of the economy are sound. The US had the same stock of factories and machines in August that it had in July and the US workforce has not been afflicted by a sudden attack of contagious laziness."

Franco Modigliani writing in the AER, March 1977:

"Sargent (1976) has attempted to remedy this fatal flaw by hypothesizing that the persistent and large fluctuations in unemployment reflect merely corresponding swings in the natural rate itself. In other words, what happened to the United States in the 1930's was a severe attack of contagious laziness!"

Ouch! Can't one of the all-time greats of Macro get any love in this day and age???

A Late Xmas present from Sam Presti

Ladies and gentlemen, the Nenad Krstic era has begun in OKC!!!

Be afraid Robert Swift. Be afraid Johan Petro. Be very very afraid.

Actually I thought Presti had signed Nenad Medic and I was thrilled beyond words.

Here's some Serbian eye candy, people:

Bigotry: yer doin' it wrong

What's so green about electric cars?

Doesn't almost 60% of electricity in the US come from coal fired plants? Isn't coal a pollutant? Isn't coal mining often inherently destructive to the environment? Are these snooty people in Prius' just deluding themselves?

Can anyone tell me why electric cars are so great? Why the gubmint is/has been subsidizing their purchase? Why our political class considers them part of a "sustainable" auto industry?

By the way, here at Chez Angus we take our 4 mile commute on Honda scooters when it's warm enough and dry enough and use a Mini Cooper when it's not (we also have a Honda Element for hauling Pluto around and for whenever we need to bring more than a briefcase with us).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Freddy The Ex-Parrot

This is actually kind of sad. Why in the world was the guy not allowed to make contact, for a bond of only $200?

There are many odd people in the world, people who are likely disrespectful to, and of, authority.

That doesn't mean the state gets to jail them electively.

The "pining for the fjords" reference is artful, and well known to the cognescenti:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some Recent Papers Of Interest

Banking Crises: An Equal Opportunity Menace

Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff
NBER Working Paper, December 2008

The historical frequency of banking crises is quite similar in high- and middle- to-low-income countries, with quantitative and qualitative parallels in both the run-ups and the aftermath. We establish these regularities using a unique dataset spanning from Denmark's financial panic during the Napoleonic War to the ongoing global financial crisis sparked by subprime mortgage defaults in the United States. Banking crises dramatically weaken fiscal positions in both groups, with government revenues invariably contracting, and fiscal expenditures often expanding sharply. Three years after a financial crisis central government debt increases, on average, by about 86 percent. Thus the fiscal burden of banking crisis extends far beyond the commonly cited cost of the bailouts. Our new dataset includes housing price data for emerging markets; these allow us to show that the real estate price cycles around banking crises are similar in duration and amplitude to those in advanced economies, with the busts averaging four to six years. Corroborating earlier work, we find that systemic banking crises are typically preceded by asset price bubbles, large capital inflows and credit booms, in rich and poor countries alike.


Ownership: Evolution and Regulation

Julian Franks, Colin Mayer & Stefano Rossi
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

This article is the first study of long-run evolution of investor protection and corporate ownership in the United Kingdom over the twentieth century. Formal investor protection emerged only in the second half of the century. We assess the influence of investor protection on ownership by comparing cross-sections of firms at different times in the century and the evolution of firms incorporating at different stages of the century. Investor protection had little impact on dispersion of ownership: even in the absence of investor protection, rates of dispersion of ownership were high, associated primarily with mergers. Preliminary evidence suggests that ownership dispersion in the United Kingdom relied more on informal relations of trust than on formal investor protection.


Product market deregulation and the US employment miracle

Monique Ebell & Christian Haefke
Review of Economic Dynamics, forthcoming

We consider the dynamic relationship between product market entry regulation and equilibrium unemployment. The main theoretical contribution is combining a job matching model with monopolistic competition in the goods market and individual bargaining. We calibrate the model to US data and perform a policy experiment to assess whether the decrease in trend unemployment during the 1980s and 1990s could be directly attributed to product market deregulation. Under our baseline calibration, our results suggest that a decrease of less than two-tenths of a percentage point of unemployment rates can be attributed to product market deregulation, a surprisingly small amount.

(Nod to KL)

Drunk Jeff Goldblum Videos

Drunk Jeff Goldblum videos.

Yes, they are slowed down to achieve this effect.

But the interview with Conan....I think he really WAS drunk.

"I like the peach....piiiieeeee."

(Nod to

Signs of the Apocalypse

The End Time: Star Wars the Musical.

For me, there need be no more Star Wars-themed musical entertainments after this ended the genre:

(Nod to Anonyman, who has watched the burning of Washington from up close)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

One Nights Stands in the TV World

Shows cancelled after one EPISODE. How bad would a show have to be to do that? And, if it was so bad, why did they show ONE EPISODE?

Not Work Safe. In fact, Not Home In a Locked Vault Safe

Fightman sent me this link some time ago, but it's so offensive I didn't post it.

Until now.

It's the most offensive video game "moments" of all time. And you think, "How bad can they be? They are VIDEO games!"

Answer: Really, really bad. The "game" at #1 is so bizarrely offensive that it is not worth looking at, and to be fair it is ONLY offensive; it's not even a real game, just somebody being an ass.

But the others? They are all more or less games that someone thought someone ELSE would enjoy.

And, apparently, I think that about YOU. So, enjoy. (Make sure you play the videos. Doesn't mean a thing without the videos. And once you get past the pure awfulness, it's hard to find the video in #6 anything but charming. Or maybe I'm just a connoiseur of good mincing....)

Faculty Evaluations

My least favorite time of the year: faculty evaluation time. Bunch of squirrels....I have to explain to each why ALL of us aren't getting raises.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reason TV Appearance

Thanks to Nick Gillespie, and Reason TV, for the shot at the BIG time.

(UPDATE: At the REASON.TV site, the first commenter says this: "Note: watching this video fulfills your yearly lump of coal quota." Nicely done: Brief, funny, insulting, accurate, and hits the xmas theme.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Gambling, Investment, and Bankruptcy

Gambling, Investment, and Bankruptcy: Add Adultry, and It Sounds Like a New Show on HBO....

D.J. Johnstone
Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, June 2007, Pages 121-127

There are many anecdotes likening the stockmarket to betting, often voiced from the perspective of an inexperienced investor or gambler to whom the risks seem much the same in either marketplace. A fundamental aspect of the stockmarket that separates it from all forms of gambling is that a naive investor who carries a well diversified portfolio, and holds it long enough, is bound to win (based on historical evidence at least). In gambling markets, an unsophisticated player is bound to lose, the more so the longer he plays. For well informed or otherwise sophisticated traders, the racetrack and stockmarket are effectively analogous, in that both present opportunities to take money off less well informed players, albeit not so much that they lose interest. The stockmarket does not offer the recreational attractions of the racetrack, and must therefore return profits to most or all investors, at least in the long run, if they are to stay in the game.


The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire

Walter Scheidel
Stanford Working Paper, November 2008

Different ways of estimating the Gross Domestic Product of the Roman Empire in the second century CE produce convergent results that point to total output and consumption equivalent to 50 million tons of wheat or close to 20 billion sesterces per year. It is estimated that elites (around 1.5 per cent of the imperial population) controlled approximately one-fifth of total income while middling households (perhaps 10 percent of the population) consumed another fifth. These findings shed new light on the scale of economic inequality and the distribution of demand in the Roman world.

Great Fortunes of the Gilded Age

Hugh Rockoff
NBER Working Paper, December 2008

This paper explores the origins of the great fortunes of the Gilded Age. It relies mainly on two lists of millionaires published in 1892 and 1902, similar to the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans. Manufacturing, as might be expected, was the most important source of Gilded Age fortunes. Many of the millionaires, moreover, won their fortunes by exploiting the latest technology: Alfred D. Chandler's "continuous-flow production." A more surprising finding is that wholesale and retail trade, real estate, and finance together produced more millionaires than
manufacturing. Real estate and finance, moreover, were by far the most important secondary and tertiary sources of Gilded Age fortunes: entrepreneurs started in many sectors, but then expanded their fortunes mainly through investments in real estate and financial assets. Inheritance was also important, especially in older regions.


Bankruptcy Law and Entrepreneurship

John Armour & Douglas Cumming
American Law and Economics Review, Fall 2008, Pages 303-350

Recent initiatives in a number of countries have sought to promote entrepreneurship through relaxing the legal consequences of personal bankruptcy. Whilst there is an intuitive link, relatively little attention has been paid to the question empirically, particularly in the international context. We investigate the relationship between bankruptcy laws and entrepreneurship using data on self-employment over 16 years (1990-2005) and fifteen countries in Europe and North America. We compile new indices reflecting how "forgiving" personal bankruptcy laws are. These measures vary over time and across the countries studied. We show that bankruptcy law has a statistically and economically significant effect on self-employment rates when controlling for GDP growth, MSCI stock returns, and a variety of other legal and economic factors.

(Nod to KL)

NBER Proves Astrology is Correct!

And you people LAUGHED at poor Nancy Reagan....

Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers

Kasey Buckles & Daniel Hungerman
NBER Working Paper, December 2008

Research has found that season of birth is associated with later health and professional outcomes; what drives this association remains unclear. In this paper we consider a new explanation: that children born at different times in the year are conceived by women with different socioeconomic characteristics. We document large seasonal changes in the characteristics of women giving birth throughout the year in the United States. Children born in the winter are disproportionally born to women who are more likely to be teenagers and less likely to be married or have a high school degree. We show that controls for family background characteristics can explain up to half of the relationship between season of birth and adult outcomes. We then discuss the implications of this result for using season of birth as an instrumental variable; our findings suggest that, though popular, season-of-birth instruments may produce inconsistent estimates. Finally, we find that some of the seasonality in maternal characteristics is due to summer weather differentially affecting fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

Faculty Prom

The Duke Faculty Prom this year was very nice.

Happy Holidays from Angus & Mungowitz

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All the news that fits our ideology

I am a bit mystified over the growing literature on "media bias", but KPC friend Jim Synder and his co-author Riccardo Puglisi have a new NBER working paper (ungated version here) which uses data on newspaper coverage of recent political scandals to show that it's the partisanship of the newspaper rather than the partisanship of the readers that drives which scandals are covered more intensively.

Here, let them tell you:

We analyze the coverage of U.S. political scandals by U.S. newspapers during the past decade. Using automatic keyword-based searches we collected data on 35 scandals and approximately 200 newspapers. We find that Democratic-leaning newspapers (i.e., those with a higher propensity to endorse Democratic candidates in elections) give relatively more coverage to scandals involving Republican politicians than scandals involving Democratic politicians, while Republican-leaning newspapers tend to do the opposite. This is true even when controlling for the average partisan leanings of readers.

So they are basically saying media bias is a supply side story, not a demand side story, which is lovely and believable, but to me the big question left hanging here is so what? Why should we care that media outlets have a political agenda?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Angus' music picks for 2008

The best two releases of the year hands down and by a country mile are:

"Street Horrsing" by F**k Buttons and "Nouns" by No Age. They are both just brilliant.

A Step below but still at least 7 kinds of awesome are:

"Rip it Off" by Times New Viking
"Motion to Rejoin" by Brightblack Morning Light
"Free Drugs" by Harlem

Also worthwhile are these releases by established groups that, while not up to their very best, are still excellent:

"The Devil, You & Me" by the Notwist
"Heretic Pride" by the Mountain Goats
"At Mount Zoomer" by Wolf Parade

Under the category of guilty pleasure comes:

"Youth Novels" by Lykki Li. This is just sensational pop music

Under the category of acquired taste:

"For Emma Forever Ago" by Bon Iver
"Love is Overtaking Me" by the late, great Arthur Russell

Ooops, I guess there are 11 items in my top 10!!

Finally under the heading "not if you were the last mp3 on earth" (i.e overrated trash):

TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes.

Yes, I said it and I meant it.

If it walks like a duck....

....and you are in an NBA arena, it must be LeBron James. Last night was the first time I'd seen him play in person (8th row, behind Thunder bench) and people, he really truly walks like a duck. Like a 6'8" version of Andre Agassi. It was fun watching him in pregame casual swishing 4 straight bombs from almost half court with basically just a flick of the wrist.

Mrs. Angus pointed out his duckwalk to me right away. Now I am trying to walk like that too!!

LBJ also treated us to some monster dunks, a couple of 3balls, and amazingly tough on ball defense against either Jeff Green or Kevin Durant.

Scottie Brooks, who has purchased some clothes that fit him (only appropriate for the winningest coach in Thunder history), needs to further work on his rotation (more Collison who was 5-5 with 6 boards and +5 in his 27 minutes), but has gotten the team to embrace the concept that Durant, Green and Westbrook need to be taking the bulk of the shots (they collectively were 23-48). However, the Thunder badly need another playa. Joe Smith 3-12 and -22. Earl Watson 2-5 and -17, Desmond Mason and Damien Wilkens both worked hard guarding LBJ, but they are both comically inept on the offensive end.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A little Christmas nepotism

My neighborhood has a "patron". This guy bought all the property and set up shop with the builder who did most of the original houses. The guy made his daughter the official "interior designer" (she lives in the development as does the patron and (in yet a third house) either his mother or mother in law).

The original builder is long gone and the new builder is the patron's son-in-law. Our HOA had a Christmas lighting contest with a cash prize for first and second place. Mrs. Angus and I have been joking to ourselves about how it's really only a contest for second as the patron will have first prize awarded to himself. At least we thought we were joking until this morning, walking Pluto, we saw the first place sign in the Patron's front yard.

It's like we are still living in Mexico, only without the food, art and history (to be fair without the traffic and crime either).

All Hail Scotty Brooks

Kudos, sir, you are now the winningest coach in OKC Thunder history.

Yes, the other shoe finally dropped and Scotty "why yes, this is my father's suit" Brooks has 2 W's, fully doubling the total of his predecessor.

The great part of this game was the ball was in the hands of Durant, Green and Westbrook down the stretch. They all made plays and they won a very tight game. No Damien Wilkens, no Desmond Mason, no Chris Wilcox. Durant Green & Westbrook are the future of this franchise and they should be in the fire as much as possible.

Kudos also to Nick Collison, my personal favorite Thunder for a gritty all around performance.

Here's some Scotty eye candy for y'all:

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life, Live

It appears that the actual script of "It's a Wonderful Life" is being reenacted.

Like all adaptations, it is disturbingly different from the original, though. (Think of Brecht's version of Antigone. Whoa....)

Mr. Potter, the guy who "made off" with all that cash. Well, it's Bernie "Madoff," of course.

Leaving LOTS of banks insolvent, just in time for the (Jewish, in this case) holidays.

The angel, Clarence? That's Barack Obama, I think. And that helps us transition to Obama's faith-based health care plan. The question is how they are going to get ALL Americans close enough to the Chosen One to touch the hem of his garment....

(Above: Obama Health Care System At Work)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Woo-Woo! Merry Christmas to me!

Mrs. Angus, doing her part to stimulate the economy, surprised me today with my Christmas present a week early. Feast your eyes people:

The Answer to Paint You Disagree with is "More Paint"

The UNC System convenes a panel of luminaries to debate whether the Free Speech tunnel does, or does not, mean "Free Speech."

From the N&O Story: The 11 members of a task force considering a hate crimes policy for the UNC system began their work Wednesday with a crash course in the First Amendment.

Among the lessons: The four N.C. State University students whose bigoted messages related to President-elect Barack Obama spurred the UNC system's introspection at least got the venue right for their invective.

"The free expression tunnel at N.C. State is the quintessential example of a designated public forum," First Amendment lawyer Hugh Stevens told the group Wednesday. "Whatever else they did, the students who posted these sentiments at least put them in the right place. If they had put them on some building on campus, they probably would have been charged with vandalism."

Wuhl....yes, of course. But what about the CONTENT of the speech? The kids would have been charged with vandalism if they had painted "Go Wolfpack!" or "Obama is the MAN!" on a school building. The question before the luminaries (and by that I mean little sacks full of sand with a candle in it to produce hot air but not much light) is whether Free Speech means you can write what you want.

Interesting solution to the problem in Charlottesvulle, VA, home of Mr. Jefferson's University and a whole passel of leftist enforcers of thought conformity. It is the "1st Amendment Monument," a big chalk monolith. (Some call it the "1st Amendment Memorial," to honor the death of that important provision of the Constitution, I should note).

The rule in Charlottesville is that you can write ANYTHING, and erase ANYTHING, on the monument. A kind of free speech wiki, caveman style. You can write, you can edit, you can dance around and yell stuff.

The best sentences I read this week

"I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury," Mamet told Daily Variety. "So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."

That's David Mamet skewering Jeremy Piven after Piven abruptly dropped out of a production of one of Mamet's plays.

Here is the full story.

John Staddon on Traffic Signs

My good friend, and Libertarian fellow traveller, John Staddon gives the straight dope on traffic signs in the U.S.

For the rest of the story, including a link to J-Stad's Atlantic Monthly article, "Distracting Ms. Daisy, check this out.

(Lagniappe: J-Stad on smoking....)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No Wonder They Don't Have Jobs

The following exchange occurred on "Poli Sci Jobs Rumors," the blog for people with much too much time on their hands. (And, yes, I read it once a week, just like I read the Sunday comics, and in fact for the same reason).

Here is the exchange, "Over qualified for work outside the Ivory Tower ", with a few posts deleted for length. ("OP" is original poster, btw)

Anon-ABD-2009 .edu verified member
Has anyone run into a brick wall when applying for jobs outside of academia? I have an MPA and one semester from a PhD, but over the last year I have been looking for work outside of academia to pay the bills and to see if I really will miss teaching. There have been over thirty jobs which I was a perfect fit, except that they wanted someone with just an MPA. I have had four interviews and they always ask “If you are getting a PhD, why are you applying for a city government job?” I explain that my focus is city government and how I have several years as a HR manager for a small Midwestern city. I never get a call back after the interview. Has anyone else run into this problem?

Anonymous Unregistered
one semester of a phd can easily be left off your resume. that's nothing compared to the six years/12 semesters the rest of us have done.

Anon-ABD-2009 .edu verified member
"one semester of a phd can easily be left off your resume. that's nothing compared to the six years/12 semesters the rest of us have done."
One semester? I believe I said I'm one semester from a PhD not one semester into a PhD program. And it is difficult to lie as several of the jobs are with the feds and I think they may do a through background check. Maybe not, who knows.

Anonymous Unregistered
No. You actually wrote: "I have an MPA and one semester from a PhD." I'd venture that most people would interpret that to mean you had completed one semester in a PhD program. That's how I read it, and apparently that's how the person 3 posts above read it too.

Anonymous Unregistered
Do you really have that much emotional investment in proving that the OP's ambiguity led to your misinterpretation? Don't you have a dissertation to write or something?

Anonymous Unregistered
If you've just been in your PhD program for one term, why not just leave it off your resume?

Anonymous Unregistered
Get it through your heads - this person is one semester AWAY from a Ph.D.

Anonymous Unregistered
It's laughable that this person would be unemployable after ONE SEMESTER in a Ph.D. program. Perhaps there are other reasons why s/he can't get a job.

Anonymous Unregistered
^ Yes probably s/he isn't a competent reader and is unable to assimilate basic information when it is presented clearly.

Anonymous Unregistered
The OP is unemployable because s/he can't write clearly. "One semester? I believe I said I'm one semester from a PhD not one semester into a PhD program."

Anonymous Unregistered
I think all the grading this week is making someone cranky! Geeeez!

Anonymous Unregistered
I am laughing, imagining the person who first misunderstood the OP going back and posting as other people misunderstanding the OP, to prove his/her point

Anonymous Unregistered
^^ Yes, but this is undoubtedly much more true for the poster with all but 1 semester remaining than for the poster who just completed his 1st semester of grad school.

Anonymous Unregistered
It's a bit arrogant to think you're over-qualified for a position after half a year of grad school.

Anonymous Unregistered
I don't see what the point is, if you've only had one semester from a Ph.D. program. Just drop out now. At least you haven't spent more than one in there.

Anonymous Unregistered
What's the big deal if you have only spent one semester in the PhD program?

My own view:

1. I read it as being "one semester from a PhD program," meaning the OP had finished one semester, not all but one. It is implausible for someone to have meant, "I am one semester from a PhD," since PhD are measured in completed theses (>=1 is the cutoff), not semesters.

2. Criticizing someone else's writing a blog post is a little silly. This is not formal writing, not by a long shot.

I am reminded of Bruce Springsteen's song when I read the above passage. Here is the money part of the lyric.

Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' in a ditch
Lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open down on Highway 31
As if he stood there long enough the dog'd get up and run
Struck me kinda funny, funny anyway
At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe

I guess the PSJR folks need a reason to believe, and that is apparently feeling good about themselves by making fun of others. And, since I am posting about it being silly, I must need that, too. So that makes me no different from these poke-a-dog-with-stick posters, now that I think on it. Maybe if we stand here long enough, that dog'd get up and run.

Al Copeland: Bad Shirts, Good Chicken, An Award

Al Copeland, of Popeyes, is true humanitarian, serving ALL the people....serving them chicken and good spicy taters. Too much salt, too much fat, but....A humanitarian.

As Jay argues persuasively

WTF? I mean, WTFingF? Vienna Metro Parking

I have several times in the past used the Metro at Vienna. It's the one furthest west, and the one that you need to take if you want to avoid the I-66 eastbound parking lot on a rainy morning. I have discussed before how mystifying it is to me that no one builds more parking, and charges for it.

Well....I got there Tuesday, at 9:15 am. Didn't find a space, drove around. Very nearly got hit, twice, by different people who were doing about 45 mph in the parking garage and making left turns without looking if someone was coming straight. One of them blew her horn at ME! (I made no gesture, or sound, other than a look of mild surprise, which I thought was an understated reaction, by the standards of the Angus / Mungowitz apoplexy-for-small-slights scale).

Parking appeared to be totally free. No parking attendants, the bars at the entrance and exit booths were raised. So, every space was full, in every lot and every garage.

Now, this makes no sense. Consider:

1. We subsidize the Metro already....a LOT. The argument for why parking should be subsidized is that "we" (really? no one asked me) "we" want people to use the Metro. (Me? I want them to walk...through the woods....and chiggers on their tingly parts)

2. Since it's free, people use it....too much. Charge something.

3. At a minimum, have some spaces, extra spaces, where you charge something. A LOT, if necessary, to make sure that there are SOME spaces available, for a high price. Who would be deterred by high prices? Those who could most easily find a ride, or take a bus. Who would use high-price parking spaces? Those who have the highest value of time, or the most urgent errand. Who would benefit? Well, imagine sorting people by their need to park. The last person who parked free on that day is likely nearly indifferent between parking and taking a bus. Having that person take the bus is a tiny cost. The next person who could have parked, at (say) $2/hour must really need to park, and ride. And the revenues of the system would go up, and the required subsidy (see above) would go down.

4. To be fair, there IS an alternative. you can park at the meters, outside. And, there were several meters available. Dozens, in fact. All you need is (I'm not making this up) $1 coins. Do you happen to have several of those? Like, six or eight, in your pocket? I sometimes get a $1 coin, and have 1 1$ coin, until I can foist it off on the next loser I buy something from. Now, lots of places (LOTS of places; that's a parking joke) have those stands where you put in your credit card, and pay, and get a receipt, and put it on your windshield. Even if you had to walk
50 yards to one of the machines, at least it is POSSIBLE to park there. The nominal price of these meters, as it stands, is $1 per hour. The actual price is effectively infinity, since NOBODY CARRIES F*****G 1$ coins.

So, I walked to the Metro station, bought my ticket with a $10, got 5 1$ coins in change from the machine, walked back to my spot, and put $5 worth of coins in the machine. I got back 5 hours and 45 minutes later, and there was a parking ticket disintegrating in the rain on my windshield. (There had been a 40 minute delay while something was cleared off the track, but I might have been late anyway. I hope they were clearing the remains of the guy who decided parking at Vienna should be free, and that he got hit while explaining some commuter why we need more subsidies, so parking can be free, so we get more riders, so we need more subsidies).

Two solutions, one from me, one from my lovely wife.

1. (mine) Lose the meters, which are electric and expensive. Install those machines that take credit cards. Charge $10/day, fixed rate, or $1.50 /hour.

2. (hers) there is plenty of free parking available, right out on I-66. You can leave your car there from 7:30 am til at least 10 am, and no one would notice, because there is no traffic movement. Sure, after 10 am you might get towed. But think how CONVENIENT it is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

but will the sea lions swim with you?

When Tyler went to the Galapagos, I asked him if he was going to swim with the sea lions and he paused, reflected, and said "It's not a question of if I will swim with the sea lions, it's a question of whether the sea lions will swim with me".

And lo, it's the same situation now in Berlin where up to 7000 "wild" pigs have apparently taken residence. The government's official position has shocking historical overtones: gun them down where they stand.

Here's an example:

"One pack (called a "sounder") of boars took to hanging out at a playground in Berlin's posh Dahlem district. The chief sow sunbathed on the warm tarmac of a main road, holding up traffic, while her striped sucklings played with children.

"If one piglet had squealed because a kid had held it wrongly, the sow would have attacked," says Mr. Ehlert. He had police cordon off the playground while hunters gunned down the entire sounder in front of shocked residents."

Nice work there Fritz. If something had happened that didn't, then something else would have happened that didn't so lets just save time and execute them. Booyah!!

However, Mr. Ehlert does back away from total porker-cide, if only for reasons of practicality:

"Hunters have shot over 500 boars in urban areas since April, but boar numbers keep rising. Up to 7,000 now live in the city, Mr. Ehlert estimates. "There is no way that hunting can get rid of them all," he says. "Ultimately we must learn to share the city with the swine."

I guess he better hope the pigs feel the same way!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The wit & wisdom of our worst president

  • "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" January 11, 2000
  • "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." Jan. 27, 2000
  • "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." Sept. 29, 2000
  • "They misunderestimated me." November 6, 2000
  • "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." Oct. 18, 2000
  • "I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." June 18, 2002
  • "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." Aug. 5, 2004
  • "The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear--I'm a commander guy." May 2, 2007
  • "There's an old saying in Tennessee--I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee--that says, fool me once, shame on--shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again." September 17, 2002
  • "I heard somebody say, 'Where's (Nelson) Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas." Sept. 20, 2007
  • "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter." July 10, 2008.His parting words to fellow G-8 leaders at a summit meeting.
  • "And they have no disregard for human life." July 15, 2008, speaking about Afghan fighters.
From Gene Stone's "The 12 Step Bush Recovery Program"

Bush is a four letter word

He's going to do it. Against the votes of the Republican congressional delegation, against a majority of the opinion of the public at large, against all economic logic (people even Joe Stiglitz says bankruptcy is the way to go for the beggy 3), W is gonna give the most undeserved christmas present ever. I can't wait to see the "tough conditions" that will be attached.

While I have already noted my sympathy and support for the beggy 3 work force, those management teams simply cannot get any more support or money. They have pissed away hundreds of billions of dollars of value.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about all this was Cheney's "Herbert Hoover time" remark. People, the Bush administration is way way way down looking up at Hoover in the presidential rankings.

Hoover didn't topple a foreign leader only to let the conquered country sink into years of violent anarchy. Hoover wasn't commander in chief of troops that heaped vile abuse on prisoners in the very prison where the previous leader committed some of his atrocities. Hoover didn't push for torture. Hoover didn't sign anything nearly as sickening as the Patriot Act. Hoover didn't kill SCHIP expansion on cost grounds only to throw $15 billion into a complete and total rathole the next year (I am not saying SCHIP is a good program, I am just saying it's way more worthy that a 15 billion sop to the beggy 3).

Has any alleged free market, small government, personal liberty person ever done more to hurt the causes of free markets, small government and personal liberty?

I truly think W is one of the very worst, if not the absolute worst, president of all time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Time I'm Walkin' to New Orleans

A note from a friend, after s/he read the hunting post:

For the last two months I've been tutoring a [history student]. Her class is up to the Civil War now, and we were discussing the Union's original plan to attack the South down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

"New Orleans is in the South?" she asked. "I didn't know that."

"Um, yeah," I said, showing her a map of the US. "See? All the way down there."

", like, that's where Katrina happened, right?"


She looked confused. "But didn't Katrina happen in Los Angeles?"

I stared at her.

"It wasn't in Los Angeles?"

" See, it came up through the Gulf like this, and Los Angeles is...all
the way over here."

" then why did everyone say it happened in New Orleans, LA?"

Luckily, though, I don't think she's the hunting type.

(with apologies to Fats)

Noonan on Blago

right here:

Rarely has there been such a case in which the sin is perfectly represented by the physical presence of the sinner. I had never seen him until the news this week, and there he was, a lipless, dull-featured, wig-wearing moron with a foul-mouthed harridan of a wife. (Oh, maybe it's not a wig, but I think Chicago should know everyone in New York thinks it is.) The minute I saw him I thought: That's exactly what a guy like that would look like! And then I thought: Oh, God bless him, because it's kind of a gift when things look as they are. Not all is shade and shadow, some things are hearteningly obvious. He really was abusive. He really was selfish. He really gives you something to react against, a sense of "That's what not to be."

amen, Peggy

Saturday, December 13, 2008

There will always be m**********rs

In case you missed it, as I did: John Stewart and John Oliver discuss the events in Mumbai. (Nod to CP, btw)

There are, as a matter of probabilities, essentially zero Muslims who are terrorists. Hundreds of millions of Muslims practice their religion peacefully. They may not endorse the actions of the U.S. (neither do I, btw), but they don't act violently or advocate violence.

But a disturbingly high proportion of terrorists invoke a bizarre version of Islam to justify being psychopaths.

Now, sure, Christians have done, and still do, the same thing. But if I ate a bug, would Marwan eat a bug, too, just to spite me? It's the non sequitur part that is som remarkable, and John Oliver points out: "We hate everything you stand for, and want to kill all your women and children. Join us."

I did have an interesting conversation, on the campaign trail, with a Muslim guy who is a prominent engineering prof at a local university. He cited the conversation between that nut woman and John McCain.

She said, "He's an Arab." McCain takes back the microphone, and so, "No, he's not. He's a decent man, a family man."

Now, I had to give McCain some credit for doing that. But I missed the point a little, as my engineering prof friend convinced me. The "He's not an Arab, he's a decent man" is in fact a problem.

The real answer is, "No, Obama is not an Arab. But what if he were? Arabs are decent people, family people..."

So, let's be careful to soft-peddle the "Islamic terrorist" thing. It's more like "Terrorists who are motivated by a distorted and illogical version of Islam."

Holly makes excellent barf!

fa la la la la, la la la LAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

This is just freaky

Has anyone ever seen Jeff Sachs and Blago in the same room at the same time??

Do you think Sachs has embarked on his mission of saving the world to atone for the deeds of his evil twin??

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Carolina Guy confirms his conversion

Carolina Guy, right after the fox urine incident is reported, also sends another link.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A community activist who ran for Congress from prison, where he had been sent for warning that a judge could be tortured by God, can post bond while he appeals his conviction, an appeals court has ruled.

After being convicted and sentenced to probation in 2007 for paying people to vote in a Benton Harbor recall election, Edward Pinkney wrote an article in a small Chicago newspaper saying the judge who handled the case could be punished by God with curses, fever and "extreme burning" unless he changed his ways.

Another judge considered the article a threat and sentenced Pinkney to three to 10 years in prison for violating his probation. Pinkney, who says he's a Baptist minister, and his attorneys say he was only paraphrasing some Bible verses from the book of Deuteronomy.

Carolina Guy's comment: "And this? No wonder there is overcrowding in the jails! Isn't Michigan broke? How much this this cost? I'm going back to bed for I get arrested."

My comment: Specific incitements to violence should be illegal. But inciting God to violence is okay, I think. Not likely to work, and if it does work then I think that it would prove that God found your cause worthy.

How did he get the fox to pee in a cup?

WILLMAR, Minn. — A 50-year-old man who told authorities he was fed up with teens toilet-papering his house decided to defend his property - with a squirt gun filled with fox urine. Now, Scott Wagar is in trouble with the law.

Wagar pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Kandiyohi County District Court to misdemeanor assault and other charges. He was released on personal recognizance.

According to police, Wagar was on his property Sept. 16 when he used night vision goggles to see 15-20 people running toward his place. He told police that he told them to leave, swore at them and sprayed them with the fox urine. He also allegedly struggled with one of the teens.

A phone message left at a home listing for a Scott Wagar was not immediately returned to The Associated Press.

(Nod to Carolina Guy, who notes, "He was arrested for this?? Where I grew up they might have been sprayed with a shotgun full of rocksalt!" Carolina Guy agrees that he is now a Libertarian)

Flying Heads and Weak Knees

I went to NC Hunter Safety School for ten hours this week, and took my exam last night. Managed to pass, and now am certified to be able to kill things safely.

One of the Game Officers used the breaks to tell some stories of Bart, the decoy deer. Bart is a decoy that the Game Officers in Granville County use to catch idiots.

They put Bart up by the side of road, in a field, not near a house. Firing from a road, and especially firing from a vehicle, and hunting after 1/2 hour past sunset....all illegal.

And yet folks see Bart and just go a little nuts. Two stories I remember:

1. Guy in an SUV, wife in passenger seat, baby asleep in car seat in the back. Sees Bart. Apparently very excited. Opens passenger window, reaches around for rifle (apparently in back seat). Leans across wife, props gun on passenger window. Shoots Bart twice. Baby starts screaming. Idiot shoots Bart twice more. Bart, being made of wood and foam, with a deer skin covering, does not fall.

Game Officers come out of ditch on all sides. Wife is slapping at the guy, who is actually trying to get off just one more shot.

Game Officers approach. Guy says, "But, you have to understand. I have never shot a deer before. This would be my first."

Game Officer: "Well, I guess this is your big night for firsts, then. Have you ever been handcuffed?"

2. Bart is just the latest in a long line of Barts. The previous version of Bart was mechanical, and actually moved its head up and down and could wag and lift its little white tail. But earlier Bart had been shot so many times that the gears in the head-moving mechanism were broken. About every ten minutes or so, the gears would catch, and Bart would throw his head. Not very far, mind you, about six inches up and two or three feet to the side; the head would land a little ways from the body. Not something you see very often in a deer in the wild.

Anyway, an idiot drove by one night. He slowed down, drove ahead two hundred yards, and then stopped, presumably to get the rifle out of the trunk and load it. Then back he comes, and parks. Gets out of the car. Jumps down in the ditch, 20 feet from where the Game Officers are hiding, comes up out of the ditch on the other side. Lines up, and gets ready to fire.

And then the gears catch and Bart's head flies off, landing three feet in front of him.

The idiot backpeddles, trips, and falls on his butt at the top of the ditch, slides down headfirst on his back. The gun goes off, but no one is hit.

The Game Officers get up, to try to prevent death-by-moron.


Mercifully, he was taken into custody. The officer claimed that he believed that not just deer, but also beer, may have been involved in this incident.

Now, I have no doubt that both these stories are in fact urban legends, repeated in the "I was there" fashion that improves their quality. But still, not bad as stories go. Thanks, Officer!

UPDATE: Frequent commenter and KPC pal Tom points out the following similar event. heehee....

A Moral Hazard Monster

People, please believe me when I say I feel bad for the employees of the Big 3. I have been a factory worker and a union member and I am not anti union. In my view the problems with the Big 3 are not mainly or even substantially due to the UAW.

Instead, I ascribe them to horrifically bad management and the history of government meddling / subsidy / intervention that apparently created a moral hazard monster.

It's probably good to remember that the vaunted $73 /hr labor cost of the Big three does not measure the wages and benefits of current workers.

However, I do not favor this bailout and I am happy it failed. I can also find ironic humor in statements like those made by the mayor of Lansing MI, Virgil Bernero:

"Due to this colossal failure by the U.S. Senate, now it's up to the president and the Treasury secretary.."

"Working Americans will appreciate the president stepping in — and pull us back from the precipice, pull us back from the economic cliff."

People, the big 3 auto industry and its political henchmen never believed the government would actually let them fail. That's moral hazard and that to me is a big part of the story of why these firms were run so incredibly and horribly into the ground.

They are not in this position because of the crisis so much as they are here because of 20+ years of bad behavior. For some simple evidence supporting this claim see this post. That is the real colossal failure and it was aided and abetted by the government but not in the way that mayor Bernero thinks.

All this said, I think there is a decent chance that the Bush administration WILL do something to bail out GM and Chrysler thus moving itself even further up (down??) the list of worst presidencies ever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why is it surprising that tax cuts have a bigger effect than spending increases in the real world?

Tax cuts put money into the hands of people who will spend or invest it on things that are economically valuable. The money goes into the market system directly or indirectly.

Spending increases divert money out of the market system and into the sausage factory. In this world, swimming pools and tennis centers are "infrastructure", companies that have been failing for 20+ years are given billions of dollars and a mandate to undertake even less profitable business plans, bridges are built "to nowhere". We're lucky if the "multiplier" on this crap is as big as 1.0.

People, our government produces mass quantities of a particular product: pork. And every time it increases output, the arteries of our economy get a little bit more fatty and clogged.

On average tax cuts free up more money to go toward more highly valued uses (at least if they reduce spending or are given to non-Ricardian agents).

If you are wondering what I am ranting about check out this, this, and this.

I guess I'd rather give my money to people who are going to use it to try to make more money (i.e. save/spend it in the market system) than give it to people who are going to use it to try and get re-elected.

Hat tip to Tyler for getting me wound up on this subject.

Will Makes a Sound Point

Will W thinks about l'affaire Blago.

And cites Ed L as the voice of reason here. (Ed the voice of reason? Just THAT fact frightens me a little).

Will does pose the interesting question: do we need BETTER government, or LESS government? And would less government always, be definition, be better? (For what it is worth, even I think the answer to the last question is "no.")

I do not advocate ZERO government. But I do think less government IS better government, on most grounds. Drugs, war, privacy, ag subsidies....Stop it.

But, it is fair to interpret my earlier screed as a call for no government, even though I would not defend that position. I'm not sure this is really a fight worth having, though. We don't generally ask "liberals" what their nirvana would look like. We are satisfied with a direction: more government, more redistribution. The "Libertarian Vice" only exists because people look at the reductio ad absurdum version, not the direction.

Anyway, Will is, as always, worth reading in full.

UPDATE: I have no idea what I was doing with the all-caps words above. Sorry. And, Will's use of the word, "Neener" made me spit coffee. Nicely done, lad.

Same song, second verse

Mrs. Angus & I ventured out to see the Thunder again. Last time they blew a 17 point lead and lost to Phoenix. This time they blew a 21 point lead and lost to the Grizz.

Some observations:

Thunder don't know how to use Durant. At this point, he's a catch and shoot guy and is good in transition. They keep running isolation plays and post ups for him. He is no good with his back to the basket. Since they have absolutely no inside presence (take THAT Chris Wilcox), they can't go inside out at all and it hurts them.

Thunder are hurting at point guard. Earl Watkins just cannot stop himself from driving the lane, jumping into the air and then trying to decide what to do with the ball. Russell Westbrook takes way too long to get the offense started and seems uncomfortable running the show.

OJ Mayo is GOOD. Mrs. Angus commented that he had a super smooth shot and that the ball always seemed like it was going to go in. He's not flashy but he is the real deal. I really like his game.

Mayo and Rudy Gay appear to hate each other. They were fussin' at each other during the game, after which Gay appeared unwilling to pass the ball to Mayo and we could see him grimacing and rolling his eyes when Mayo got the ball in the half court set.

Marc Iavaroni has a strange rotation. He played down the stretch (last 8 or 9 minutes) with one starter, Gay, in the lineup. Kyle Lowery started at the point but Mike Conley finished there and absolutely destroyed the Thunder in the fourth quarter, just like Steve Nash did in the forth quarter of the Phoenix loss.

It's gonna be a long year but we have tickets to see the Cavs, Jazz, Spurs, Lakers (twice) and Wizards, so that should be fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lets tell it like it is!

(click image to read the fine print)

Hat tip to Mark Perry!

In All His Glory

Lord above. The Blago, in all his glory. Nice comparison to Nixon. He's right, actually.

Here's my question: why would ANYONE think is unusual? This is not a pathology of government action. Blago is the ESSENCE of government action. This is how government "works." Corruption, payoffs, thuggery. As Edmund Burke put it:

"In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!"

And, as I put it:

Instead of teaching our children to be moral, and to care about social opprobrium, parents and schools abdicate their roles as shapers of minds and rely on the state to punish misbehavior after the fact. Children naturally conclude that if there is no punishment from the state, there must have been no misbehavior. But the state cannot fulfill this function, for reasons of simple competence and resource constraint. And the state would fail to carry out the function correctly, even if it were competent, because power corrupts and breeds malevolence. The abuse and the thing are the same. The conviction that we can harness Leviathan is the most dangerous conceit of our age.

I really think Blago sincerely believes he has done nothing wrong, except get caught. Voters don't care how bad politicians are. All voters care about is how much politicians promise. We get the government we deserve. (Except for Angus and me; we deserve much better government, because WE are the Cognescenti)

(Nod to EL)

Is Joe Dumars still a Genius?

With the Pistons, AI is shooting 39.5% averaging 17.6 points 5.6 assists and 3.7 turnovers and Detroit is, I believe, under .500 since the trade. Billups is shooting 43.6%, averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, and 1.7 turnovers and Denver is 12-5 with since the trade.


I know it's supposed to be all about getting cap room, but I just do not see LBJ in Motown, if there even still is a Motown in 2010.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Even More Blago!

complements of Ben Smith:

"The tapes reveal a two-term governor who no longer wants his job, badly wants cash and is determined to leverage a financial benefit out of his appointment powers.

He also appears to think little of the president-elect, whom he calls a "motherf***er" at one point.

“F**k him,” Blagjoveich says of Obama during a lengthy call with top aides and his wife recorded on November 10th, “For nothing? F**k him.”

In another section of the complaint, Blagojevich expresses exasperation that Obama and his team aren't willing to offer him an inducement in exchange for appointing an aide, apparently Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate.

Blagojevich "said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F**k them,'" says the complaint."

Not for nothing, right Lola?

Does This Mean I Don't Get the Senate Seat?

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was captured on tape saying that unless he received “something real good” for the appointment of a top adviser to Barack Obama to fill the president-elect’s Senate seat he would appoint himself, according to the criminal complaint.

"'Unless I get something real good [for Senate candidate 1], shit, I'll just
send myself, you know what I'm saying,' Blagojevich was taped saying on
November 3rd, the day before Election Day. Blagojevich added that the Senate
seat: 'is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for
nothing.'" [Politico]


WaPo story. Just read those quotes. A truly remarkable story. Even for Illinois, that guy is really something.

(Nod to KL)

Barbara Boxer breaks down the "Big 3" crisis

Right here:

“One of the reasons [automakers] are in trouble is they’re fighting us all the time,” Boxer told reporters Monday.

Yes Barbara, if everyone would just pay more attention to the US Senate we really wouldn't have any problems at all.

Australia gets ahead of the curve

People, this is just about the best idea I've seen in quite a while:

"CANBERRA (Reuters) – Politicians in Australia's most populous state could be breath-tested for alcohol before voting on laws after a series of late-night incidents that have embarrassed the center-left government."

Money quote:

"Honestly, if you are going to have breathalyzers for people driving cranes you should have breathalyzers for people writing laws,"

Monday, December 08, 2008

Credit Where Credit is Due

Two predictions on crude oil prices:

1. Me, September 2007, driving car pool to school for my son--"There is no fundamental reason why crude oil prices should be above $45/barrel. It makes no sense, given production costs and the difficulties of enforcing cartel discipline. Prices will come back down, mark my words."

2. Shawn Tully, of Fortune Magazine: "Why the Boom Will Eventually Bust."

The current price of crude oil: $43.40/barrel

The current credibility of those "peak oil" morons: Zero, same as always.

Garbage 1, Recycling 0

As discussed in my little essay at Lib Fund's "Econlib", problems can arise when one ignores markets and economics in a market economy.....

From the NYT:

The precipitous drop in prices for recyclables makes the stock market’s performance seem almost enviable.

On the West Coast, for example, mixed paper is selling for $20 to $25 a ton, down from $105 in October, according to Official Board Markets, a newsletter that tracks paper prices. And recyclers say tin is worth about $5 a ton, down from $327 earlier this year. There is greater domestic demand for glass, so its price has not fallen as much.

This is a cyclical industry that has seen price swings before. The scrap market in general is closely tied to economic conditions because demand for some recyclables tracks closely with markets for new products. Cardboard, for instance, turns into the boxes that package electronics, rubber goes to shoe soles, and metal is made into auto parts.

One reason prices slid so rapidly this time is that demand from China, the biggest export market for recyclables from the United States, quickly dried up as the global economy slowed. China’s influence is so great that in recent years recyclables have been worth much less in areas of the United States that lack easy access to ports that can ship there.

The downturn offers some insight into the forces behind the recycling boom of recent years. Environmentally conscious consumers have been able to pat themselves on the back and feel good about sorting their recycling and putting it on the curb. But most recycling programs have been driven as much by raw economics as by activism.

Cities and their contractors made recycling easy in part because there was money to be made. Businesses, too — like grocery chains and other retailers — have profited by recycling thousands of tons of materials like cardboard each month.

But the drop in prices has made the profits shrink, or even disappear, undermining one rationale for recycling programs and their costly infrastructure.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater)

A Pretty Cool Final Project

Here is the audio / powerpoint to a final project for an indep study a student did with me this semester.

Thanks and props to Kuppa-Mo, for doing a nice job on the project. Pretty good stuff there. It is 34 mins long, though.

(UPDATE: No link in original post. But, as Lola Grynovski would have said, "You not geet for free. You not geet for pennies. You PAY for good theengs. Not for PENNIES!" And at that point John Jarosz would sneak out the back way, rather than take her to the grocery)

Can't Get Enough of the Minsky Stuff

For those who want the entire history of Minsky Commentary on this blog....this will take you to the list of posts (including this one, which is confusing; just scroll down.

Experience Goods....or Bads?

False advertising and experience goods: The case of political services in
the U.S. Senate

Franklin Mixon, Rand Ressler & Troy Gibson
Public Choice, January 2009, Pages 83-95

This study uses the voter-shopping construct to analyze signaling of moderateness in the U.S. Senate. We compare legislator-provided signals (advertising) - such as membership in the U.S. Senate's Centrist Coalition - with actual voting histories in order to characterize these types of advertising cues as sincere or insincere. Following recent research indicating that moderate legislators receive greater financial support, we test whether or not Political Action Committees (PACs) are willing to support financially those who send false signals of moderateness. Our results show that the mean level of real PAC contributions garnered by non-moderate Democrats who send false signals exceeds that of the non-moderate Democrats who do not do so by $182,078. This figure is about 74% of mean level of real PAC contributions for those non-moderate Democrats who do not send false signals.

Minsky and me

Mungowitz and I were in grad school at Wash U during the Minsky era. I was doing a field in money so that meant I had to take Minksy's grad class. He was big in Europe, especially in Italy. The resident PhD students (myself included) were not real interested in his stuff, but people did come from all over the world to sit at his feet. These people came in two main flavors: Ones who wanted to talk about Pierro Sraffa (to this day I have no idea why) and those who felt they had found a way to "test" Minsky's hypothesis.

Minsky despised both of these groups of people. To him Sraffa was a worm (to this day I have no idea why), and there was no need to test his theory (alas to Minsky, his theory could explain any outcome, and was thus in reality untestable and more religious than scientific in its nature).

In his class, for some unknown reason, he tacitly appointed me to be his hitman. Some visitor would start talking away, getting more and more excited about his/her chance to impress the great man. Minsky would start slowly shaking his head, then start holding his head in his hands, then he'd extend an arm and slowly shake his finger at the visitor until they stopped (this could take quite a while at times). Then he'd point to me and I would sphincter the speaker, invoking some semi-relevant Minsky-ism I'd picked up over the years. Then Minsky would restore himself to his full height and carriage and beam approvingly my way.

There are, I believe, a small group of middle aged Italians who hate me to this day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Why an economist is unlikely to be President

Good article in the NY Times about the odd couple that is Barack and Larry.

Money quote:

But they are also an odd couple: the serene, slender politician who seems to win people over effortlessly and the impatient, acerbic bear of a man who seems to offend them just as easily.“Barack thinks with his mind open,” said Charles Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard. “Larry thinks with his mouth open.”

Boomer F. Sooner

62-21. Wow. 3 straight Big XII titles and quite likely another appearance in the national championship game. Stoops is clearly the best coach in the land from August - December. Let's see how he does in January, where he has been less than dominant.

Mrs Angus and I arrived here in the fall of '99, just like Stoops. We have been treated to a great run of very entertaining ball.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Getting ready for the deluge

Universal Grade Change Form

To: (professor/teacher/instructor)________________________


I think my grade in your course,_________________, should be changed from___to___for the following reasons:

  1. ____The persons who copied my paper made a higher grade than I did.
  2. ____The person whose paper I copied made a higher grade than I did.
  3. ____This course will lower my GPA and I won't get into:
    __Med School __Dental School __Chiropractic School
    __Acupuncture school __Grad School __Mickey Mouse Club
  4. ____I have to get an A in this course to balance the F in ___________.
  5. ____I'll lose my scholarship.
  6. ____I'm on a varsity sports team and my coach couldn't find a copy of your exam.
  7. ____I didn't come to class and the person whose notes I used did not cover the material asked for on the exam.
  8. ____I studied the basic principles but the exam wanted every little fact.
  9. ____I studied the facts and definitions but the exam asked about general principles.
  10. ____I understood the material; I just couldn't do the problems.
  11. ____I can work the problems, but your exam expected understanding.
  12. ____You are prejudiced against:
    __Males __Females __Protestants __Chicanos
    __Jews __Catholics __Muslims __People
    __Blacks __Whites __Minorities __Jocks
    __Students __Young people __Old people
  13. ____If I flunk out of school my father will disinherit me or at least cut my allowance.
  14. ____I was unable to do well in this course because of the following:
    __mono __acute alcoholism __drug addiction
    __VD __broken finger __pregnancy __fatherhood
    __I have allergic reaction to brain work __I am intellectually challenged.
  15. ____You told us to be creative but you didn't tell us exactly how you wanted that done.
  16. ____I was creative and you said I was just shooting the bull.
  17. ____The lectures were:
    • __too detailed to pick out important points
    • __not explained in sufficient detail
    • __too boring
    • __all jokes and no material
    • __too serious--not enough entertainment to keep me awake.
  18. ____All my other profs have agreed to raise my grades.
  19. ____I don't have a reason; I just want a higher grade.
  20. ____This course was:
    • __too early, I was not awake.
    • __too late, I was tired.
    • __at lunchtime, I was hungry.
  21. ____My (dog, cat, gerbil) (ate, wet on, threw up on) my (book, notes, term paper) for this course.

From Donald Simanek, hat tip to John Palmer.

And here I thought rock was the Devil's music

People, from beyond the grave, John Denver continues to stalk this planet wrecking mayhem:

"A gunman in Thailand shot-dead eight neighbours, including his brother-in-law, after tiring of their karaoke versions of popular songs, including John Denver’s Country Roads.

Weenus Chumkamnerd, 52, put his gun to the head of a respected female doctor and seven of her guests as they partied at her home in Songkhla Province, South Thailand....

A neighbour said that the karaoke group normally sang Thai pop and southern Thai ballads, but one particular western tune could be heard often - John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’.

Country Roads is a hugely popular song in south east Asia and the neighbour said the revellers had been singing it over and over again."

For more karaoke issues in Asia see here.

Hat tip to LeBron.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Okies got Wings!

Both Hanky and Panky

This is pretty bad stuff.

This is not the first time a Republican administration has tried to block the emergency withdrawal provisions; in the early 1980s, a federal judge rejected a challenge brought by Interior Secretary James G. Watt.

Asked why the new rule was necessary, Chris Paolino, another department spokesman, said that the law had been dormant since the early 1980s, but that “it has again come forward and that makes this an appropriate time to address this sticking point in our regulations.”

The Bush administration is not unique in seeking to put its stamp on rules in the final days of its term. The Clinton administration, for example, did, too.

This week another rule made it easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into streams and valleys.

Anonyman has the red ass, a little. From an email:

I know I've opined on the danger of ignoring democracy to pursue ideological goals. But with the recent actions in Canada, which essentially has established a dictatorship for the next 2 months, and our spending a few trillion in Iraq to teach them about how a democracy works, I think these pale in comparison to an federal agency actively rewriting rules so that Congress cannot conduct oversight claiming a procedural flaw in a law. I was bemoaning the state of Rs to a friend, who's a D, he thought it was hilarious and said I was the last republican standing. Too bad they broke both my knees on the way out.

The Juice is no longer on the loose

Not after a Big Gulp swiggin' Judge threw the book at him in his sentencing hearing today. He got 15 for kidnapping (parole eligible after 5 years) an open ended enhancement for using a gun (to be served consecutively) and another open ended consecutive sentence for burglary. I am not a lawyer, but it seems like about 10 years minimum for OJ.

I was shocked to see Ron Goldman's parents in the audience for the sentencing. Maybe that is why the Judge made a lengthy speech about how this sentence was exclusively for this case and had nothing to do with past history.

Canada is Closed; Citizens Feel Safer

Reminds me of the old, possibly apocryphal, story about the laconic border guard on the Canadian side. American tourist asks if they can get back across the border, even if it is after midnight. Border guard tells her, "Yes ma'am; Canada never closes."

Well, yes it does. If the Parliament were open, there would be a vote of no confidence. So....close the sucker. The Iraqis, and other people whom we tell so condescendingly that they should have "democracy"...they must be so PROUD right now.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Women Should be Tools of Change?

Will Wilkinson, as always, makes some very fine points.

TruthThroughAction is not content to communicate merely that Republicans are a disgusting caste apart, but suggests that men with the right politics deserve to be sexually rewarded, or should at least be encouraged to believe that, not only will they escape painful shunning for registering Republican (or Green or Liberartian), but that the chances are good that they will be sexually rewarded for registering, voting, being Democrat. Implicit in this message is that the bodies of faithful Democratic women are tools for securing the success of Democratic politicians and their clients. For what is the sexual life of a young woman if not a means to the greater glory of the Service Employees International Union? What is casual fornication if not a Duty to the Party.

Lagniappe: Why oh why is "Gordon Tullock Sucks" the most common search over on widget on the middle right?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Poor Mrs. Angus

According to the calculator at, here are my chances of becoming divorced:

People with similar backgrounds who are already divorced: 14%
People with similar backgrounds who will be divorced over the next five years: 2%

Looks like she is just plain stuck with me at least for another 5 years, I guess.

Hat tip to Justin Wolfers.

Phil Gramm Comes Up Big

Phil Gramm, in the NYT:

“Some people look at subprime lending and see evil. I look at subprime lending and I see the American dream in action,” he said. “My mother lived it as a result of a finance company making a mortgage loan that a bank would not make.”

Two differences, though:

1. Phil's mom actually tried to pay the thing back. No bailouts. If we get into the bailout business, why would ANYONE actually suck it up and pay back? Much easier to blame those "predatory" bastards whose money you borrowed, and wasted on a now worthless house.

2. More people seemed to understand that there is a positive relation between "risk" and "interest charges." Lending institutions have been under so much pressure to make loans (1) to people who can't afford to pay back, and (2) at rates that don't account for risk differences.

Now, was private greed complicit, or worse, in the subprime debacle? Sure. But you can't blame dogs for eating out of the garbage. FNMA and the rest of the clownish illiterate fellows who "manage" mortgages laid out a garbage buffet, all you can eat, free, come back for more.

(Nod to Neanderbill, who pays cash for everything)