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.