Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wow! The weekend is off to a great start

Bye-bye PJ. Don't let the door hit you and all that!

"After losing 12 of 13 games to start the season, P.J. Carlesimo has been fired as Oklahoma City Thunder coach, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Assistant Scott Brooks will take over as the interim coach beginning with Saturday night’s game against the Hornets in New Orleans.

The final indignity for Carlesimo was a mortifying 105-80 loss to the Hornets on Friday night in Oklahoma City. General manager Sam Presti informed Carlesimo of the decision before the team boarded the flight to Louisiana.

Before the feeble start to this season, Carlesimo was 20-62 a season ago in Seattle. As the assistant GM in San Antonio, Presti had worked with Carlesimo, an aide on Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff. Presti and owner Clay Bennett considered firing him over the summer, but allowed Carlesimo a chance to salvage a second chance. With a roster gutted of veterans, this was a difficult job from the start."

PJ just couldn't settle on a lineup, be consistent with a rotation or with minutes, or even seem to understand what parts of games were critical.

People, he seemed to have fallen in love with Damian Wilkens! He either had an insane offense or had no ability to get people to do what he wanted, or didn't realize that Kevin Durant should be the showcase player. As for frying pan - fire considerations, when you are down this low, any variance has to be appreciated I think.

It's Saturday and I'm..

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Grand Game: Most appalling comment

It's been a while since we played the "grand game," where KPC readers are cordially invited to find the most asinine component of a post on another blog, and quote it for fun and for cash. Well, for fun.

Here's the post, by old friend Nick Gillespie, ex-editor of Reason mag, and now head of Reason-TV.

Two initial things:

1. You canNOT list Nick's suggestion that I run for Prez as the most asinine part of the post. Self-consciously absurd passages are called "irony," and are not eligible for GG entries. Only absurdities that are intended seriously make it past our strict panel of judges. Nick is clearly having a little fun. But the commenters are not big on fun. They are your data; find the maximum.

2. In this same vein, Tannim's comment (November 21, 2008, 12:28pm) does NOT qualify for the GG. It is funny, but intentionally so:

Talk to your proctologist about your lobotomy; it's overdue.

Now, THAT is intellectual discourse.

Go to it....

Neanderbill's Performance Art: Lucas was wrong....

So, you should understand about Neanderbill.

He is 6'8" tall (really, he is), and 180 pounds if he had a big breakfast. Ichabod Crane, except taller.

One windy day, I pull into the parking garage (we carpool, Neanderbill and I), and when I open the door about 6 or 8 one dollar bills on the floor (change from a carwash) blow out Neanderbill's door, and go flying toward the wall.

Neanderbill, wearing a trench coat that flies out behind him like a cape, goes running after the bills, flapping his enormous long arms.

And bellowing, in his basso profundo voice, "Lucas was WRONG! Lucas was WRONG!"

He stomped on the bills, one by one, and returned them. But I basically didn't recover the whole day.

The long slide

There's a very nice piece in the WSJ today titled, "The Automakers are Already Bankrupt".

It mentions that a "Detroit radio talk-show host asked whether Michigan, as well as the car companies, should get assistance. The state is being hit by an economic hurricane, he said, just as New Orleans was hit by a natural hurricane."

People, the big three have been in decline for a loooong time. Check these graphs from Mark Perry:

The "big" three have been hit by bad management, short sighted unions and bizarre federal regulations since the 1970s (at the least).

Because you asked.....

A number of people have asked where the "Where's the Cheddar?" baby came from.

There WAS a website called "Crazy Mean Baby (dot net)", but it has been taken down.

There IS, however, a video, with the original picture at the beginning.

Crazy Mean Baby is obviously a busy little fellow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In the Future, Everyone Will Be Bankrupt for 15 Minutes

Interesting article, from 1999, from the Philadelphia Fed.


Historically, financial markets have displayed a tendency to overreact to a deterioration in business conditions. During a downturn, it’s normal practice for financial intermediaries to raise their credit standards and for risk-averse investors to shift out of stocks and bonds into cash and government securities. These actions reduce the amount of credit extended to the private nonfinancial sector and raise interest rates charged on loans. Usually, the cutback in credit does not lead to widespread financial distress, although some firms (and households) go bankrupt. But if the cutback is severe, many firms may fail. Widespread business failures, in turn, may cause the failure of financial intermediaries and lead to further cutbacks in credit and more bankruptcies.

This self-propelled cycle of credit cutbacks and bankruptcies leads to a financial crisis that results in low output, high unemployment, and very low investment.
Why a business downturn becomes a fullblown financial crisis is not fully understood,
but investor pessimism plays an important role. If enough people think that a usiness contraction is about to degenerate into a financial crisis and act accordingly, the crisis will, in fact, materialize: investors, fearing a financial crisis, may withdraw so much cash from banks and other depository institutions that they may force even sound financial institutions to run out of cash and fail.

Furthermore, an economy that suffers one financial crisis becomes prone to suffering
more crises because investors begin to view every downturn with alarm, and their pessimism and fear cause downturns to degenerate into crises more often.

And, the article gives a pretty good review of TFP, which Angus invoked, and Tyler lauded, earlier.

A better kind of ad

I like it. A better kind of ad.

Nod to Anti-Climacus.

"It's not your money!"

Holy cow, Congressman Knollenberg, whose money is it? And, you are a REPUBLICAN, right? I guess it's YOUR money, Mr. Knollenberg? (You only have to watch 30 seconds of this, to get the idea)

Thanks to my man Steve Newton.

Al-Qaeda: Obama is just the HNIC

As reported on BBC: No. 2 Al Qaeda guy calls BHO a "abeed al-beit," or house slave, though that was apparently translated as "house negro" in the English subtitles that AQ so helpfully provides for its non-Arabic fans. I think he meant "HNIC," however, since BHO is now more or less "IC."

Now, that would be some hatin'. Idiomatic, culturally fluent hatin'. Look, Ayman, spend the money, and get a real translator.

But...seriously...what possible benefit do they expect from this? Is Al-Qaeda trying to court the American religious right, as Dinesh D'Souza seems to have proposed they do?

Georgia Senate Run-off: Dec 2

Three Senate races yet to be decided, though it looks like Alaska will be Democrat, Minnesota will be SNAFU-ed, and Georgia is having a special election.

On Georgia, which will elect again on December 2: My colleague David Rohde and I had an interview with the Christian Science Monitor.

Quadruplet Sons of Mothers of Different Ages.....Generations! (Revised)

This is really something. (ADDED LATER: The fact is that there are four generations of the same gene pool, I think)

First, the KPC Baby:

Second, my colleague Alex Downes, an International Relations specialist at Duke.

Third, Christoph Gutentag, Director of Admissions, Duke University.

Finally, Grandpa himself:

I'm just sayin'.

No Punch Line Required

from WAPO:

the chief executives of the Big Three automakers opted to fly their company jets to the capital for their hearings this week before the Senate and House -- an ill-timed display of corporate excess for a trio of executives begging for an additional $25 billion from the public trough this week.

"There's a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands," Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.) advised the pampered executives at a hearing yesterday. "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo. . . . I mean, couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here?"

Make a Little Difference My Big Ol' Butt

Oh, please.

Quite amusing, if it weren't so idiotic.

"A basket of fruit flown in from oversees emits more CO2 than an average family uses for cooking in six months."

Um...what? We have an electric stove. And we don't cook fruit, anyway. And it takes more fertilizer and energy to grow local than to ship apples in from Chile. How do I know this, know this for SURE? It's because apples from Chile are cheaper.

Next problem.

(Nod to EconTalk Fan)

UNC's New "Summer Abroad" Program

Gosh, when I was an undergrad, I always wanted to study abroad. But I could never find a broad who would let me. (baDOOMching)

Anyway, the University of North Carolina sends its undergrads to the far corners of the globe, in search of the exotic and the strange.

But they have just started a new summer study abroad program, one that might make the heart of even the boldest adventurer quail in fear.

UNC is sending its "study abroad" students to.....Oklahoma.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Harvard: Yer Doin' It WRONG!

Wow. Having a big endowment means never having to say you're sorry. Right? Just kidding, fellas!

From Slate, courtesy of Old Prez Guy.

...Every quarter, Harvard Management Company files a 13-F form with the Securities and Exchange Commission, indicating a portion of its holdings in publicly traded securities—stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds. The 13-F is a snapshot and is not fully representative of Harvard's overall holdings. But the chunk of the portfolio revealed in the most recent 13-F looks like it was chosen by someone who watched a few episodes of CNBC's Squawk Box and heard that the hot new investments were emerging markets, commodities, and private equity.

The 13-F shows Harvard with some 231 positions worth nearly $2.9 billion! , highly concentrated in popped macroeconomic bubble plays.

Heh...heh-heh...heh. He said "Squawk Box."

What kind of bloggers are we?

According to Typealyzer, we are Mechanics (for a point of contrast, N.G. Mankiw is rated a Scientist). Here's the details:

ISTP - The Mechanics

"The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts."
"The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters."

I am not sure who between Mungowitz or I "often avoid inter-personal conflicts", and we most certainly are not cop or fireman material, but all in all, pretty accurate. The closest I come to risk is playing poker and traveling to semi-exotic places (Madagascar, Cambodia, Borneo, Rwanda, Tunisia, Oklahoma...).

Guess what? Paul Samuelson hates me

From the German magazine Spiegel:

Libertarians are not just bad emotional cripples. They are also bad advice givers. I refer of course to the views of both Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. The “serfdom” they warn against is not that of Genghis Khan or Lenin-Stalin-Mao or Hitler-Mussolini. Rather, they warn against the centrist states of the modern world. Think only of Switzerland, Britain, the US, the Scandinavian countries, and the Pacific Rim. Why do citizenries there report high indexes of “happiness” and enjoy broad freedoms of speech and belief?

Don't hold back Paul. Let it out, bro.

using markets is not the same thing as unregulated capitalism so beloved by libertarians. Such systems cannot regulate themselves, either micro-economically or macro-economically. Wherever tried they systematically breed intolerable inequalities. And instead of such inequality being the necessary price to encourage dynamic progress via technological and managerial innovations, it instead breeds dysfunctional shortfalls in what economists call "total factor productivity."

Huh? Did anybody get that? Bueller?


If what we've seen in the US the last 15 years is "unregulated capitalism", libertarians DON'T love it.

And how in the world does inequality "breed disfunctional shortfalls" in TFP?

May I take this opportunity to remind everyone that measured TFP is a residual that is correlated with a lot of stuff that technological progress shouldn't be correlated with?

Guess I won't be getting invited to his 100th birthday party.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If only GM made cars like this

Pretty sweet eh? Here is a background piece.

Talk JLF Yesterday.....

I gave a talk at JLF yesterday.

They were kind enough to post the video.

The first video is short, and actually rather amusing.

Stickin' it to the man: Ecuadorian edition

This is a double dip stickin', the mark of a consummate pro. Stick #1: Rafa Correa is signalling another Ecuadorian default on its public debt, delaying an interest payment and hinting that they may declare the debt to be illegal (so awesome!!) and default.

But the true genius is stick #2: Rafa is also going to take a bite out of his sugar daddy Hugo:

Ecuador President Rafael Correa's looming default on $510 million of bonds may hurt his biggest ally, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, more than anyone else.

Ecuador, hamstrung by a tumble in oil, its biggest export, said last week it will use a 30-day grace period to decide whether to make a $30 million interest payment that came due Nov. 15. Chavez's government owns structured notes tied to Ecuador's bonds that would force Venezuela to pay $400 million if Correa doesn't make the payment, according to estimates by Barclays Capital Inc.

Venezuela's potential losses may strain relations between two presidents who meet every three months and espouse the same socialist themes.

Wow! So Venezuela has been somehow insuring Ecuador's debt?

Here is the scoop on Correa:

Correa, an economist who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been threatening since the 2006 campaign to halt payments on debt he calls ``illegitimate.''.

``If there's a sufficient basis to say we can't pay this illegitimate debt, that's what we'll do,'' Correa said in his radio address, according to a statement posted on the government's Web site. ``That the bonds fall and the country risk rises doesn't hold the least interest for us. Here we'll act for the country and the common good.''

I have a good friend and colleague who also got his PhD from Illinois. He is going to be really sick of me ribbing him about the program there.

Oh and by the way, Ecuador really is broke:

Ecuador's finances have come under strain as oil, which accounts for 60 percent of the country's exports, has plunged 62 percent from a record high in July to $55.59 a barrel.

Ecuador needs an oil price of $95 to cover all the spending in its budget and a price of $76 to avoid depleting its $6.3 billion of foreign reserves, according to Barclays. The South American country last defaulted less than a decade ago, halting payments on $6.5 billion of bonds in 1999.

Hat tip to Boz

Monday, November 17, 2008

All hail A-Poo!

Albert Pujols wins his second NL MVP award. A-poo, you are 7 kinds of awesome. Congrats from all your fans at KPC!

Clueless People: Alliterative edition

Tyler (who is definitely NOT clueless) quotes our clueless subject of the day, Bruce Bartlett, as follows:

"I think it would be a terrible mistake to simply write a check to the auto industry without demanding major, major restructuring of its labor contracts. Without that the money will simply go down a rat hole and the automakers will just be back again in a year or two asking for more money. Obama has a strong hand to play here and I hope he uses his leverage. With bankruptcy as the only alternative to federal aid, he can drive a very hard bargain with the auto workers. If he caves and just writes a blank check, everyone will know he can be rolled and he will pay a heavy political price for it. If Obama shows toughness on this issue, I think it will pay enormous dividends for him down the road. "

Um, Obama bash the unions in his first major act as president? Really Bruce? You think that's a winner for him? Really?

Yes he has "leverage" and yes he will use it, but sadly, he will use it to mandate vague and useless "green jobs" and alternative technology initiatives (I say useless because he'd be mandating this for companies that can't create conventional jobs or master existing technologies).

If we are going to do anything here, I'd say just give a lump sum payment to the workers and let nature take its course with respect to the corporate structures.

I don't think it's the union that put Detroit in their current predicament. It did not help, that's for sure but the union does not design and market the product nor undertake investments or make acquisitions.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rain....Rain....Fall Down, Don't Go Boom

Saturday morning, 5 am: I get up, drag myself downstairs. Drive to the Hardees in Pittsboro, get coffee.

Drive the rest of the way out to the Munger ranch. As has been mentioned before, this is where Mungers go to get away.

Met GameBill and Justin, already there, sitting in their car in the rain. GameBill is the lead hunter. Draws up a plan where we will walk slowly, and then spread out on the big stump pile and....wait for four hours.

In the rain. And strong winds.

But the rain clears up after about an hour. I move up the stump pile, and lose my balance. I have chambered a round on the Mauser K-98 8mm I am using today, because it takes too long to crank the bolt if I see a deer, and I can do it much more quietly if I do it slowly. Catch my balance by stepping on a big stump....which suddenly rolls over and moves at least three feet.

I fall head first down the stump pile, and the Mauser slips off my shoulder, where I had been carrying it by the strap. The gun was made in 1944, has Wehrmacht markings, and all matching numbers, so it is a cool old rifle. But it does NOT have a safety. In 1944, the Germans were worried about Russians, not safeties.

So, I'm lying in the mud and brambles, face down in the hole vacated by the big stump, and the Mauser is skittering downhill fast, across a bunch of sticks and branches, any one of which could catch the trigger. The headline flashes across my mind: "Another idiot dies in completely avoidable hunting accident; Darwin award almost certain."

Nothing happens, though, other than me tearing up my hands on the brambles. I am coughing, though, and it is so still out here that even a small cough carries a long way. And deer ears are sharp.

So, I walk the edge of the road back toward the north, about 1/2 mile up and back (the property is pretty big, 35 acres, so still Munger land.)

Then, I put together the deer stand, a ladder/tree arrangement, getting only small amounts of blood on the wrenches. Around 11, I go back down and sit on the stump pile, knowing that GameBill is back in the woods, trying to spook the deerfolk.

I see something bright orange walking out of the woods, and I manage not to shoot at it. (I'm not that good a shot, so it's probably safe, anyway.) GameBill notes, "I didn't see [anything]," or something like that.

GameBill and Justin spread 40 pounds of corn on the field, and I finish the tree stand. Then we carry the thing down to the chosen tree, and set it up. 15 feet is actually quite high when your butt is 15 feet in the air, and the wind is really blowing. But GameBill checks it out.

Then we go to the S&T Soda shop, back in town, about 10 miles away. Very fine sandwich/burger place, but the reason to go is the ice cream and shakes, and to talk to Amanda, the nicest girl in the world.

Then, I went home, and Bill and Justin headed back to property.

And waited another four hours of fruitlessness. Took turns sitting in the deer stand, and...well, I'll let GameBill tell it. From his email, at 5:05am Sunday, after a sleepless night.

Well, I was sure your decision to leave early today was the right one. I sat in the new tree stand for two hours after lunch and didn't see a single thing. Then Justin sat in the tree stand with no luck, and I went over to the same spot you stood in this morning.

At sundown I still hadn't seen a thing. Then, with about 10 minutes of light left I heard a noise, looked up, and saw two deer charging right for me. I could tell one had a rack. The other ran ahead of him and came within about 8 feet of where I was standing (the very same spot you were in this morning). After hesitating a moment trying to figure out which to shoot, I picked out the far one in my scope and took two shots at him while he was running. He went down. Big deer! Picture attached.

It was almost a perfect ending to the day, except that I drove the car across the field to make it easier to pick up the deer, and when I tried to go back the car wouldn't move. The ground was so soft that the wheels sank a few inches down and just started spinning. After about 3 hours of trying everything we finally made it out. I left four divots that I'll tidy up next time I'm out there.

Also, when I walked back to check if I had left anything at the site, I put out two deer in the flat right below the field. Then I saw the eyes of a third over by your tree stand. So there are definitely deer around there. And the corn should increase traffic.

We were too late to take the deer to a butcher/processor, so I spent about 4 hours butchering him myself tonight. Let me know what kind of venison you'd like.

I asked for one of the backstraps. And, yes, I'm going to serve it to company.

Well done, GameBill! I think I count 9 or 10 points in that picture. Way to perservere. And, getting stuck and THEN butchering your own deer at 3 in the morning is the sort of thing that made America great. Great, I tell you.

MVP watch: early edition

Kobe: 44.9% FG, 82.5% FT, 5.1 boards, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 24.8 ppg

Lebron: 50.0% FG, 77.0% FT, 8.0 boards, 7.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 29.8 ppg

Pierce: 41.0% FG, 82.2% FT, 7.4 boards, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 21.0 ppg

Team records, Boston: 9-2, Cleveland: 8-2, Lakers: 7-1. All three are in first place in their division.

It's an LBJ cakewalk, people.

Now THAT'S Pimpin'!

Lil Wesley K Clark has hit a new and vile low in the big 3 bailout debate. That's right people, it's a matter of national security!

"AMERICA’S automobile industry is in desperate trouble. Financial instability, the credit squeeze and closed capital markets are hurting domestic automakers, while decades of competition from foreign producers have eroded market share and consumer loyalty. Some economists question the wisdom of Washington’s intervening to help the Big Three, arguing that the automakers should pay the price for their own mistakes or that the market will correct itself. But we must act: aiding the American automobile industry is not only an economic imperative, but also a national security imperative."

Ah yes, the lovely national security argument for economic distortion and protectionism. The last refuge, as they say.

As always, it's hard to know where to begin. First off, Ford and GM do not comprise "America's automobile industry". Second, if there was no GM, would it be impossible to use Toyota or Honda in the US to provide military vehicles? Plenty of countries IMPORT military equipment, don't they? Third, not bailing out the big 3 does not necessarily mean they will cease to exist (though that outcome is possible).

I'll say this for Wes, he is a grimly determined and wildly entertaining fleshmonger. After a bunch of paragraphs that pretty much say nothing he concludes with:

"This should be no giveaway. Instead, it is a historic opportunity to get it right in Detroit for the good of the country. But Americans must bear in mind that any federal assistance plan would not be just an economic measure. This is, fundamentally, about national security."

How can the NY Times print this moronic drivel?