Saturday, February 02, 2008

Warmoak T sends a note, regarding this story.


Economists are asking the wrong question, Mr. Bloom said at the panel. They assume that “everything is subject to market pricing unless proven otherwise.”

“The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people,” he said. “They work in a different moral universe. The burden of proof is on someone who wants to include” a transaction in the marketplace. (Mr. Roth, who acknowledges that “economists see very few tradeoffs as completely taboo,” did not take the criticism personally.)

The theologian Michael Novak, who is also a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, similarly argued that “not all ethical principles fit under economic reasoning,” adding, “the resistance to money is very old and very deep.”

T points out that "An e-mail supposedly clarified Dr. Bloom's position:"

Just to clarify, my remark about evil economists was a joke. This was obvious at the conference itself, though unfortunately not from the NYTimes article.

Well. Here are my thoughts:

The desire to commit rape is also very old and very deep. But it is morally repugnant, and modern society has managed to force men to suppress this desire, partly through socialization and partly through the threat of punishment as a deterrent. Now, most of us agree that rape is a truly terrible crime.

Envy is also an ancient impulse, "very old and very deep." And it is not nearly as awful as the desire commit rape. But it is still bad. Why do government institutions, and psycho-babble "scholars," get to raise the morally repugnant impulse of envy to the status of a virtue? Society will only progress if we begin to treat envy, and the desire to control other peoples' property and bodies, the way we have already ostracized baser impulses.

Some other thoughts here.

(A caveat, to the hysteria-and-anxiety-professionals out there: The impulse to rape is morally more repugnant than the impulse to act on envy. They are similar in kind, but much different in the degree to which they invade one's person and one's dignity. Although, the forcible theft of property and livelihood based on "fairness", the brittle mask envy wears in the moral universe, can come close to rape in its effects. But, yes, rape is worse. My point is only that the fact that an impulse is "very old and very deep" doesn't make it right: rape is old and deep. It's wrong. Distrust of money, based on envy and superstition, is old and deep. It's wrong, too).

Alternative Alternative Music

The official Indie buzz is huge for NY's Vampire Weekend. Their first album is out and highly rated by Pitchfork. I have to say that they just don't do it for me, people. Their sound is tinny and forced. They seemed, planned, artificial, inauthentic. It seems like they are basically just "havin' a laugh".

Even the rave Pitchfork review describes them as "nothing but clean-cut pop and preppy new wave, tucked-in shirts and English-lit courses."


Let me suggest two alternatives to the alternative plat du jour.

1. Tokyo Police Club. They too have a new album but to me a way more indie vibe and sound. I really like these guys.

2. Times New Viking. Now these guys are indie as F***!! Hot Fuzz would be a good way to describe their sound. Highly distorted and highly recommended.

Friday, February 01, 2008

He remembers every kiss*

Magic Johnson sez the Knicks will make the playoffs:

They're going to make the playoffs and be a tough seven or eight seed," he said. "They're settling into their roles. There's no way I don't see them not getting in as the seven or eight seed, especially in the East."

The article points out that the Knicks are "only" 5 games out of the 8th and final slot right now, but somehow neglects to inform us that they are in 14th place (out of 15) with 6 teams between them and the promised land.

This bit of foolishness brings to my mind the immortal words of Jim Mora Sr.: "Playoffs?? Playoffs?? Are you kidding me?? Playoffs??"

*I have searched and searched but cannot find any video of Zeke and Magic's magic moment before the start of the 1988 NBA finals. Can anyone help me out?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Munger appointed to "Truth Squad;" Mayor Ness is an Idiot!

So, a gleeful reader sends this eclipping:

Sen. Barack Obama’s Minnesota campaign Tuesday announced the creation of a Minnesota Truth Squad, whose purpose will be to combat misleading information about the Democratic presidential candidate in the lead-up to next week’s “Super Tuesday” caucus night.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness and Sally Munger, daughter-in-law to the late state legislator Willard Munger, were announced as members of the state’s squad.

Ness took some criticism when it was announced that he was the co-chairman of Obama’s Minnesota campaign, with some questioning whether it would divert too much attention from his new role as mayor. He said Tuesday that he has worked 12- to 16-hour days as mayor while spending “maybe a grand total of an hour to an hour and a half” on the Obama campaign, and being a member of the truth squad should take only a few minutes out of the week.

“It’s my understanding that if a situation arose where we had an issue come up that I would have a perspective to share, that it would be a call to make,” he said.

Now, that is kind of funny: A Munger on Obama's "truth squad."
But the real bonus is the statement of the mayor there at the end. Let's parse it:
"It’s my understanding that if a situation arose where we had an issue come up that I would have a perspective to share, that it would be a call to make."

That is nearly perfect iambic pentameter, folks!

It's MY underSTANDing that
IF a SITuAtion aROSE
where WE had an ISsue come UP
that *I* would HAVE a perSPECTive to SHARE
that it WOULD be a CALL to MAKE.

(okay, needs more feet to be pentameter. But he was going for it, by golly!)

It just sings. It doesn't mean a damned thing, but it sings. Mayor Ness, you are my hero. You exhibit glibNESS, smoothNESS, and poeticNESS. The very epitome of mayorNESS, I would say!

I Kid Thee Not....

An actual letter, from the actual Deadly Toxin, at the actual UT-Austin, where I used to teach. If you don't believe it, check it.

An inconvenience to inattentive students

In the midst of all the political drama, entertainment tragedy and sports triumphs that permeate our senses, I have a small yet important request: Please place the crossword puzzle next to the Sudoku again! I find it difficult to slyly switch back and forth between them during the occasional class when my professor just can't keep my attention. This isn't to disrespect the professor. I enjoy my classes, but sometimes I just need a little break so I can focus my attention even more. I understand the demands of advertising can hinder proper placement of such puzzles, but I think I speak for much of the student body who enjoys such puzzles when I say, "Please, please bring it back." Thank you, Daily Texan, for keeping our distracted minds occupied.

Alyssa Hudson
English and government senior

A government major! Oh, the memories.

(Nod to the lovely and talented Ms. Barthelemy, who knows what she is talking about!)

Law Suit Coolness!

Wow! I'm surprised.

We won, or at least didn't lose. I was an expert witness in a case, where the ACLU and the Libs and the Greens are suing the state of NC to get the ballot access law changed. for yourself!

I have just been doing some research myself, and have supervised a dissertation, that shows that:

A. Easing ballot access makes the state-sponsored parties more accountable, and more responsive, to the citizens of the state. In particular, the Democrats are more liberal in states with better ballot access. It doesn't matter if a party actually enters on the left (Greens, for example). Just the THREAT of entry is enough to make the Dem candidates move left.

B. Better ballot access also seems to reduce corruption. Number of arrests, amount of money stolen, etc., all down if it is easier to get on the ballot.

(Nod to Anonyman, who was worried I might need a hug)

If Hugo Chavez was on Facebook it might look something like....


"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" (or Pretty in Pink)

Tiger Woods beware: Its the dawning of the age of.... well, this guy!

(and, no we didn't photoshop that photo)

Britain's Ian Poulter has, despite no PGA tour victories ever, announced that this year "Only I can challenge Tiger's supremacy"

Go on sir!

"Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger."

The Englishman, asked by the magazine to predict the winner of the first major of the season at the U.S. Masters in April, replied: "Put Tiger down for that one".

For the year's second major at the U.S. Open, he said: "You can put me down for that one".

Besides dissing all other pro golfers including the 21 others with higher world rankings than himself, Ian took a special shot at Ole Lefty (Phil Mickelson):

"Tiger is one in 10 million. "He is extraordinary. If you look at the rankings he is almost two and a half times better than the guy in second place."

Nicely done sir, Kudos to you.

UPDATE: Now, probably after seeing this blogpost, Mr. Poulter is (like Charles Barkely in his "autobiography"), claiming that he's been misunderstood, "The whole answer to the question has been taken out of context," he said.

Kudos hereby retracted sir for not having the onions to stick with what you said and take the heat.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Them Hornets are for Real!!

From our seats in the Ford center last season you could kind of see this coming. The OKC/NOLA Hornets were a good young team on the rise that got decimated by their big 4 missing a collective 126 games between them (Chris Paul (missed 18 games), David West (missed 30 games), Peja Stojakovic missed (69 games), Tyson Chandler (missed 9 games)). Even so they almost made the playoffs despite putting a pretty offensively challenged team on the court down the stretch. Chris Paul was GOOD and Tyson Chandler was scoring as well as rebounding.

Now, sadly for us, the Hornets are gone, but they are healthy and kicking butt in the NBA's tough Western Conference. Just a bit past the halfway point of the season, they are the biggest positive story in the Association, leading the West with a 32-12 record.

CP3 is averaging 20.6 points, 10.7 assists, 2.7 steals and only 2.6 turnovers per game. These are phenomenal numbers. For comparison, two time MVP Steve Nash's stats are 17.4 points, 11.9 assists, 0.7 steals and 3.7 turnovers.

David West puts up 19.5 points and 9.3 boards per game which is about the same as Kevin Garnett's numbers with the Celtics. Chandler is averaging 12 points and 12 boards per game and Peja is shooting over 45% from the three point line.

I know it's just the regular season, their bench is an issue, and the road to the finals goes through San Antonio and all that crap, but man the Hornets are doing great. I miss them a lot.

American Art

One of our (me and Mrs. Angus) favorite artists is Joe Ramiro Garcia. It's hard to describe exactly why I love his stuff so much. The appropriated images, the color combos, it's like Warhol mashed up with Hodgkin (with a lil bit of early Jasper Johns tossed in). Anyway, here is one of his pieces that currently hangs on the walls of Chez Angus:

And here is one that currently resides in the Pan American Gallery in Dallas that has been seductively calling to me for a spell now. Maybe when we get our stimulus!

Another Fed Cut??

I am fairly stunned by the prospect of another Fed rate cut only a week after the 75 basis point bombshell Ben already dropped between meetings.

As I've said here before, the situation still seems more like a crisis of confidence in financial markets than a down on the ground real economic recession. That is to say, the Fed should be focussed on its lender of last resort role for banks (which it has been doing with its auctions of reserves) and not its recession fighter role.

It's not just foaming at the mouth nut-jobs who feel the Fed is now more or less targeting the stock market, Here's Willem Buiter from the LSE writing in the FT:

It is now clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the Fed wants to prevent sudden sharp drops in the stock market. It has not, however, drawn the logical conclusion from this endogenous widening of its mandate. So instead of pussyfooting around with 75 basis point cuts in the target for the Federal Funds rate, I propose that the Fed put its money where its heart is by engaging in outright open market purchases of US stocks and shares.


Even though the initial estimate of 4th quarter GDP growth is a puny 0.6%, December durable goods orders were robustly up, Unemployment is still under control, new jobless claims are still under control. I continue to believe that inflation is a potentially serious problem that the Fed is exacerbating. Since August of 2007 the Fed Funds rate has been lowered from 5.25 to 3.5 and allegedly will go to 3.00 later today. At the same time CPI inflation has risen from around 2.5% to over 4%.

Even the Fed's own weird PCE (personal consumption expenditures) inflation minus everything that's going up measure is rising and it's being reported that the Fed may deliberately set real interest rates negative using even that measure of inflation. Just to be clear, this has already happened using regular data, the point is that soon the Fed will have to admit that they have pushed real rates negative even using their contrived "preferred" inflation measure.

Many people believe a major contributing cause to the financial problems we face was the Fed under Greenspan keeping rates too low for too long. Now we are going to fix or limit the effect of those problems by again creating negative real interest rates. Hmmmmmmm......

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One man's nightmare is another man's Dream

Well not exactly dream per se, but in US politics I root for gridlock, and given the likely continuation of Democratic party majorities in the Congress, that means I need a Republican party candidate to win the White House. My wallet fears an all Democratic government and I have gotten a good whiff of the stink produced by our recent all Republican government. Bad ideas abound on both sides, so give me the status quo please!!

Now, Frank Rich of the NYTimes outlines how just such an appalling (to him) scenario could occurr: Hillary vs. McCain, or as Frank so charmingly puts it "Billary" vs. McCain.

The Republicans need to nominate a candidate that non-core Republicans might also vote for. McCain is that guy I think. Plus, any blah feelings about him from the base would be more than overcome by its rabid Clinton hatred. The risk would be some sort of third party run by Huckabee or Paul that would be the right's equivalent of Ralph Nadar's electoral adventures.

I'm not sure which part of this nightmare/dream scenario is less likely, each leg seems about 50/50 to me at this point. Hillary still leads in a lot of Supertuesday states (though pollsters have not been kicking butt so far this cycle) but the Clintons are getting eviscerated in the press (See Chris Hitchens' eloquent piece here, E.J. Dionne's here) and Obama got Teddy now!

If I can't have Kucinich - Paul, give me Billary - McCain and please universe, let McCain win!

Are there lessons for free banking in the Second Life Fiasco?

In the virtual world Second Life, they had a version of free banking. People could open banks, take deposits and pay interest and compete for deposits with other virtual banks. Linden Labs, the "game's" creator, took a Laissez-Faire no regulation attitude.

Apparently many of these banks collapsed after offering extremely high interest rates (over a 40% annual rate) to attract deposits, using the funds for speculative virtual investments and going broke leaving depositors holding the proverbial bag. In other words, fraud!

Some stories are here, here, and here.

Supposedly one bank's collapse produced over $500,000 in real money losses to its depositors.

Now I don't know much about virtual worlds or free banking theory, but this can't be good, right? Maybe at least it would make a good test question on Bryan Caplan's monetary theory midterm? Can these virtual worlds help us learn anything about real economies?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Duke Performance Art

I had a big day, on the pompous ass prof. front. A play, in two acts.

ACT I: Young female grad student comes into the Perk (coffee shop), announces she has had the hiccups for 90 minutes and can't shake them. I am sitting with a group of five or six other poli sci grad students.

Me: "Have you heard about the new political theory requirement? Every political science grad student has to take a course on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant."

Hiccup Student: "WAH! WHAAAAAAAH!?"

Me: "Just kidding. But it cured your hiccups, right?"

Student: "....omigod....that was terrifying. But yes, it did! My hiccups are gone. Thanks!"

ACT II: I am lecturing in the course John Aldrich and I are co-teaching. Student in front row (in FRONT ROW!) is holding up newspaper in front of his face. People behind him crane around to try to see. This is not the first five minutes of class. THis is 45 minutes in. The kid just got bored.

Me: "You know, I have to give credit where it is due. Most people, if they are going to disrespect the prof, and read the paper, would do it in the back. I guess I should be impressed, though: This gentleman cares so little what I think that he opens the paper up right here in front. Let's give him a hand, folks!"

(The class gives an enthusiastic hand for this show of juevos. But juevos boy himself turns a deep purple - red, for about 30 seconds).

Battle of the Recession Graphs!

According to my former student, friend and co-author Mark Perry (and endorsed by N. Gregory Mankiw), The job market is strongly signaling that we are not yet close to a recession.

Here's Mark's graph:

On the side of gloom and doom comes Floyd Norris of the NY Times arguing that the job market shows we are likely already in a recession.

Here's his graph:

Looking at the NY Times graph, it's pretty clear the prediction rests on joblessness continuing to rise strongly. The implication seems to be that hitting 13% means the rise to 30% and above is pretty much inevitable. Looking at Mark's, it's pretty clear that the prediction rests on January's new jobless claims being a good predictor of Feburary's March's and April's. I'd hate to think we were one bad month away from a recession!

Which graph do you like best? and why?

Everybody is finally equal

Somewhere (perhaps on Titan?) Kurt Vonnegut is looking down on the Democratic Presidential nomination race and smiling. Given all the problems Hillary's been having with a dodgy, white haired, scandal plagued, ladies man at the front of her campaign, the universe has acted to even up the score by giving the surging Barack Obama pretty much the exact same handicap.

Sorry Barack, but fair is fair.

No-no, Wojo!

I am gonna go a little FJM here. Yahoo sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski sez Kobe Bryant is the choice so far for this year's NBA MVP, basically because it's his turn:

"Most Valuable Player: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Sometimes, there are superstars due to win the Most Valuable Player Award. It is the year owed them. No one wants to hear this, but it’s true. Once Shaquille O’Neal left, Bryant was considered an unworthy candidate because the Lakers were still losing.

Well, they’re winning again now. Until Andrew Bynum went down, they were on the brink of the Western Conference’s best record.

Sorry, but just because the Boston Celtics have the NBA’s best record, it doesn’t make them its best team. They play in the Eastern Conference. What KG has done with Boston has been impressive – even inspirational – but it isn’t on a level plane with Bryant transforming the Lakers back into Western Conference contenders. Early in the season, it looked like LeBron James. Before he’s done, James will win four or five MVPs. But unless the Lakers collapse, I’ll make the Cleveland Cavaliers star wait a little longer.

To think that Garnett could have two MVP trophies before Bryant gets his first is unfair. To become an MVP, people told Kobe to win without Shaq. He’s doing it. This time, it’s his trophy."

People this is whack. Lebron James has NO ONE ELSE ON HIS TEAM. NO ONE!! When Lebron hurt his hand and sat out 5 games, the Cavs lost all 5. After a very slow start, they've won 10 of 12 so far in January.

Plus LeBron has beaten the Lakers twice this year already (including yesterday on national TV) outdueling Kobe both times (and the Cavs have won 5 straight against the Lakers over the last 2+ years).

Overall, LeBron is averaging 29.7 points on 48.2% shooting with 7.6 boards and 7.4 assists per game while Kobe is averaging 27.7 on 44.9% shooting with 6.1 boards and 5.1 assists per game.

No one is more valuable to their team that Lebron is to his, so if that's the definition, he's the mvp. His stats are better than Kobe's and he's outplayed Kobe twice head to head in games his team also won, so if it's who's having the best season, the answer is still Lebron.

The argument that someone is "owed" an MVP is ludicrous.

By the way, KG is averaging 19 points (on 55% shooting) and 9.9 boards. I don't see him in the MVP conversation. I don't even expect to see him in the NBA finals.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hair Yesterday, Gone To Raleigh

Bayou Jack and Dutch Boy visited the Mungowitz homestead, and high school stories were told. Dutch Boy is actually considering moving, with his wife and fam, from the Nederlands to the Triangle! That would be great.

We had a great time. And, this picture was shared:

Wow. Nice haircuts, guys. I believe the year was 1976, if you hadn't guessed.

"Gangstaas! What's up?"

As you probably can tell from the title of this post, I took Mungowitz's advice and finally saw Superbad. I didn't like "The 40 Year Old Virgin" at all (just wasn't funny), so I'd been boycotting Judd Apatow films, but man, Mungo was so right on this one.

Mrs. Angus and I laughed pretty much continually through the movie.

I am seriously considering changing my blog name from Angus to McLovin, but I don't think I'm good lookin' enough to pull it off.

That guy totally made the movie.

Butt Whoopings

1. Obama 55, Clinton 27. Truly an epic butt-whooping.

2. After three rounds of the Buick Open, Tiger is 18 under (and 8 strokes in the lead), while his nemesis Rory is 14 shots behind.

3. Heat 98 - Pacers 96 (to snap a 15 game losing streak by what has suddenly become the worst team in the Association).

4. Unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over world #2 Rafa Nadal 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, in the semis of the Australian Open.

5. Related to #1, Edwards pulled in around 18% in SC. What do you call someone who gets their butt whipped by someone who got their butt whipped? KPC friend Steven Taylor suggests toast as the appropriate signifier!