Saturday, October 25, 2008

Zeke throws his daughter under the bus

It hasn't been a good last couple of years for Isiah Thomas. First there was the sexual harassment suit against him (where his then employer had to pay the complainant $11.6 million), then there was getting fired from his coaching gig. Now there's this:

"Authorities were called early Friday to Thomas’ Westchester County home, where police said a 47-year-old man was taken to the hospital and treated for an overdose of sleeping pills. Several media outlets reported that police confirmed it was Thomas who went to the hospital.

But reached on his cell phone Friday, the 47-year-old NBA great told the New York Post he had not been treated for a sleeping pill overdose, and that it was 17-year-old daughter Lauren who had a medical issue.

It “wasn’t an overdose,” he told the newspaper. “My daughter is very down right now. None of us are OK.”

“It wasn’t his daughter,” Harrison Police Chief David Hall told The Associated Press. “And why they’re throwing her under the bus is beyond my ability to understand.”

“My cops … know the difference between a 47-year-old black male and a young black female,” Hall said."

Now I am not necessarily a big believer in just believing the cops, and I haven't seen a picture of the daughter (could she possibly looks like a middle aged man), but I have to say I don't find it hard to believe that Zeke would try to have someone else take his heat for him.

Krugman cashes in

Perhaps taking his cue from Michael Phelps, Paul K has started turning his medal into endorsement cash. Kudos to you sir!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Robert Samuelson channels Chris Buckley

Or more specifically he channels Buckley's very funny novel Boomsday where young people push for the government to give tax incentives to induce aging baby boomers to "voluntarily transition" to the afterlife.

Here's RJS in full rant:

"What should you -- the young -- do? First, get angry -- at the media and think tanks for discussing this problem in misleading euphemisms (for instance, the problem is not an "entitlements crisis"; it's excessive benefits for the old); at the candidates for exploiting your innocence; and at yourself for your gullibility.

Next, start picketing AARP. It's the citadel of seniors' political power and the country's most powerful "special interest." It wields a virtual veto over roughly two-fifths of the federal budget. Your activist groups ought to be there every day with placards reading "Give Us Generational Justice" or "Get Off Our Backs." Ask direct questions of federal candidates about what benefits they'd cut, which they'd keep and why.

You need to appeal to the shame and guilt of older Americans by reminding them that their present self-absorption is not a victimless exercise. Only if older Americans act on their rhetorical pledges of worrying about their children will the political climate change. If you -- the young -- don't stand up for yourselves, believe me, your elders and your politicians won't."

But they still have a ways to go

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What kind of flower are you?

Why you're a gardenia of course! At least according to Steve Malkmus.

The Tao of Steph

"Get caught up in life!"

Perhaps stirred by getting his first pre-season start, sensei Starbury waxed eloquent on the court in the Knicks loss to Boston Tuesday night. Steph was Mr. Miyagi and Eddie House was Daniel Larusso.

Steph: "You're a bum"

House: "Don’t worry about me. You better worry about Ray Allen,”

Steph: “You’re nothing!" “You’re caught up in basketball. Get caught up in life.”


Hat tip to Ball Don't Lie

On pins and needles

French President Sarkozy apparently hasn't heard that all publicity is good publicity. He is threatening to sue a company selling a Sarkozy voodoo doll. Here's the story from the BBC:

"The doll comes with pins and a manual with instructions on how to put the evil eye on the president.

Users can stick the pins into choice quotes from Mr Sarkozy which are printed on the doll.

The quotes on the Sarkozy doll include "work more to earn more" and "get lost, jerk" - which he reportedly said to a bystander who refused to shake his hand at an event last year".

Good stuff, but possibly the best part of the article is the last sentence:

"Voodoo has become associated with zombies and sticking pins into dolls to curse an enemy, but practitioners say this misrepresents their religion".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hedging: yer doin' it wrong!

Companies throughout Latin America, but especially in Brazil and Mexico have collectively lost billions of dollars when their use of financial derivatives to bet against the US dollar turned out badly.

The WSJ has details:

"Throughout Latin America, companies are telling investors they have lost millions, in some cases billions, of dollars due to foreign- exchange gambles that, in some cases, had little to do with their core businesses.

For now, however, such losses appear to be most widespread in Brazil and Mexico. In Brazil, the growing list of blue-chip casualties includes paper-pulp giant Aracruz Celulose SA and industrial conglomerate Grupo Votorantim. In Mexico, trading in tortilla maker Gruma's stock was halted earlier this month after its potential losses mounted to $684 million.

The surprise disclosures have sent stock prices tumbling, and regulators in both countries are investigating whether companies adequately disclosed their trading risks to investors.

Some local reports have speculated that the damage in Brazil alone could exceed $30 billion and may affect two hundred companies.

The bad bets were made using currency derivatives -- contracts tied to the value of the U.S. dollar. Companies lost badly when the dollar shot up in value starting in early September as investors cashed out of investments in emerging markets, fleeing to safer havens. And as companies raced to close out their positions they forced local currencies to tumble still further."

At least one company started out correctly using futures to hedge their business exposure to exchange rate fluctuations but got tired of "losing money" that way and decided to go into the gambling business:"

"Executives at Comercial Mexicana, whose stores sell digital cameras, TVs and other imported products, had protected itself against exchange-rate fluctuations by buying up dollars on futures markets. But, in recent months, with the peso's continuing rise, that insurance proved costly.

So, starting during the summer, Comercial Mexicana's treasury department stopped buying dollars as insurance and instead began laying bets against the U.S. currency, according to people familiar with the matter.

The retailer, along with other companies, made the bets using currency contracts sold by big banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Barclays PLC, both of which declined to comment.

Under the deals, the banks offered financing and currency trades at favorable rates. But there was a hitch. If the U.S. dollar strengthened beyond a certain threshold, then the companies would have to sell dollars at a loss. In some cases, the contracts had triggers that doubled the number of dollars the companies owed.

Comercial Mexicana purchased the contracts from five different banks. At first, the deals were profit makers.

But when the company's finance chief, Francisco Martinez de la Vega, returned from a two-week European vacation on Oct. 1, he found a situation spiraling out of control.

By then, investors panicked over the widening financial crisis had begun pulling money out of Mexico and other emerging markets. Since Aug. 1, the peso has dropped 24% against the dollar, and in October careened through its biggest daily drops since a 1994 currency crisis.

Comercial Mexicana suddenly faced huge losses. Mr. de la Vega had to call in bankers from Credit Suisse over the weekend of Oct. 4 to help him analyze the situation. The total cost to close the position: $1.4 billion".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What do you do when a Moron calls you a moron?

Well if you're Tyler Cowen, you give him more airtime!

Ok people, here's the deal. The moron in question,one Greg Ransom, in a comment on a post of Tyler's writes:


You're a moron when it comes to the ABC theory. As Hayek explains the theory, massive new global wealth and a desire for additional risk IS ENOUGH IN ITSELF to create an ABC boom and bust cycle -- THAT IS HAYEK, as I explained to you 2 decades ago. You simply don't know your Hayek. Hayek's ABC theory is NOT dependent of central banks and central bank interest rate policies to function.

But I'm guessing you haven't read enough Hayek to know that.

OK, got that? Hayek don't need no stinkin' central bank in his business cycle theory. We clear? Good.

But then I go to Mr. Ransom's (i.e. the moron's) blog and find the following post:

"THE FED CAUSED THE CRISIS: Hayekian wisdom from the magnificent Anna Schwartz:

"If you investigate individually the manias that the market has so dubbed over the years, in every case, it was expansive monetary policy that generated the boom in an asset. The particular asset varied from one boom to another. But the basic underlying propagator was too-easy monetary policy and too-low interest rates that induced ordinary people to say, well, it's so cheap to acquire whatever is the object of desire in an asset boom, and go ahead and acquire that object. And then of course if monetary policy tightens, the boom collapses."
Be sure to read the whole thing."

Man, that's a real "what u talkin' about Willis" moment, innit? Central Banks aren't relevant to Hayek's ABC, but the thesis that "the Fed caused the crisis" is "Hayekian wisdom".

I guess that maybe explains why Tyler has published a book on Austrian business cycles while Mr. Ransom rages in all caps on other people's blogs.

Update: People, this just keeps getting better. Mr. Ransom is the first commenter on Tyler's post (the first link at the top of this post) and he says "I am really frustrated with the low level of debate". This from a fellow whose debating strategy can be summed up succinctly: ad hominem

(Of course I am doing the same here, but I freely admit to being delighted by the level of debate)

Joe Biden promises an "international crisis" if Obama is elected

I am not sure exactly what Joe was going for here, but it sure came out weird to say the least.

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe Reports: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., on Sunday guaranteed that if elected, Sen. Barack Obama., D-Ill., will be tested by an international crisis within his first six months in power and he will need supporters to stand by him as he makes tough, and possibly unpopular, decisions.

"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."


What makes Angus happy

Last week Lebron posted, asking his readers "what keeps you sane?" I make no claim of sanity but things that make me happy include speaking Spanish, good music and animals.

When I can get all three in a single package, well that makes me very, very happy.

Here are two examples, one pretty new and the other dating back from when Mrs. Angus and I lived in Chilangolandia:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Great moments in Scottish History

Ladies and gentleman, Andy Murray (the best looking Scot in history) beat Roger Federer on Saturday and Gilles Simon on Sunday to win the Master's Series event in Madrid. Murray has won 4 titles this year and will finish the year ranked #4 in the world. Too bad Robert Burns is dead.

Feast your eyes people:

They just don't get it

India's first (unmanned) moon mission is to lift off today. I am not making this up. People go and read "The White Tiger" and tell me if you think this is a smart use of funds for India.

Many Mexican teachers are on strike over an agreement between the government and their union to abolish the practice of buying one's job, requiring proof of literacy from all new teachers, and instituting remedial training for non literate current teachers.

Finally a bit closer to home, the totally irony-challenged President of the United States of America said this weekend: "It is essential that we preserve the foundations of Democratic capitalism, a commitment to free markets, free enterprise and free trade."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This Week in Piracy

From the AP:

"It's been a busy, profitable week for Somali pirates: They hijacked one South Korean bulk carrier Wednesday, released another South Korean cargo ship Thursday and let a hijacked Thai ship go Saturday after getting a ransom."

But that's not all folks:

"Nearly a dozen ships and over 200 crew remain in the hands of pirates, including the hijacked Ukrainian arms ship MV Faina, for which pirates have demanded an $8 million ransom.

U.S. warships are still surrounding the Faina to keep the pirates from unloading its cargo of battle tanks and heavy weapons."

Maybe it's a good time to take a long position in grappling hooks, peglegs, eyepatches and parrots?

Update: hmmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with the piracy uptick (hat tip to commentor SSFC)?