Saturday, March 21, 2009

Email from a new friend.....

Hello Mr. Munger,

I hear you every now and then on 680 AM and usually just turn it off after a few seconds. Why Bill has you on I have no idea.

Each time I hear news of the nation and of the state it is bad. Every since the election it gets worse and worse. Obama is dead set to ruin all this nation is
about. As for NC, we would have had a chance with McCory. NC really had a chance at getting a conservative in as govenor. Who did we GET. In my opinion we got Perdue because you were so vain as to run when you knew you would never get enough votes to WIN. So we all have to suffer because you took the votes away from McCory that would have made the outcome different. All people like you are about is themselves. This election it was so close and conservatives were so close to make a difference from all the deceit we had with Easley. The lottery money that was to be JUST FOR EDUCATION and now 88 million in going into the general fund. There is no point in listing everything. You are just like Ross Perot. Maybe that is mis. spelled. Just because you think you have the qualifications and ability doesn't mean it should override the risk that you caused us all by running for the office. Maybe you were really out to support Perdue and that's why you ruined it for the conservatives and our state. I really think you just wanted to hear yourself talk and you know because you could run for the office you did. Knowing you would not win and knowing it would cost McCory and the tax payers, but you did it anyway. Hope it cost you in some way that none of us will ever know, because you cost us all the next four years.

Laura Tucker

Dear Laura, my new BFF:

FIRST: Exit polls show that I took LOTS more votes from Perdue than Mccrory. As PPP puts it:

One other interesting finding from our analysis. We pointed out several times last fall that our data showed Michael Munger was pulling more votes from Perdue than McCrory, contrary to the conventional wisdom that Libertarians take from Republican candidates. The county where he ended up doing best? Deep blue Orange, where he pulled 5% of the vote.

I have actually talked to Pat McCrory about this, and he agrees it's true. Had I not run, Bev would have won by more. (Notice that ALL of those words were one syllable; I'm hoping you can actually understand them...). The reason is all the straight party ticket Dem voters. Pat actually won on election day, by quite a bit. But Bev won the early voters, the ones who just showed up to vote for Obama.

SECOND: Bev beat Pat by more than the TOTAL votes that I got, as you can see here.

Bev beat pat by 145,000 votes. I only got a total of 121,000 votes.

That is, if every one (EVERY. ONE.) of the people who voted for me had instead voted for Pat, he still would have lost. And the fact is that MOST of votes came from Perdue. There is no way you can seriously believe I cost Pat the election. It's not even close. No question: most of my votes came from Dems. More than 60% of my voters also voted for Obama.

I'm afraid you are overestimating my impact. To the extent that that is a compliment, I do thank you. But I'm afraid the compliment is undeserved. Still, I do appreciate your kindness in seeking me out this way. Let's talk again soon!


weekend roundup

People, I do not enjoy college basketball (mostly because the level of play is so incredibly bad), but I am mesmerized by the Mungowitz - Obama Bracket Shootout described in the post below this one.

Go Mungo!!!

While we wait to see what happens in round two, I suggest checking out a couple websites.

1. the blog of the TOTUS (teleprompter of the United States). Yes Obama's ubiquitous teleprompter now has it's own blog (hat tip to Peggy Noonan's WSJ column this morning).

2. F my life. English language spinoff of the French Vie de Merde. Sample entry:

Today, my boyfriend told me he couldn't hang out with me because he felt really sick. I went to his house anyway to surprise him with homemade soup. I walk in to his room only to find him hooking up with my sister. She can't drive, our mom drove her there.

F my life indeed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Giant Sucking Sound

If you go over to your window....

...and open it just a little.....'ll hear a giant sucking sound outside.

That's my bracket.

West Virginia, Ohio State, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Clemson: I hate you all.

UPDATE: Overall, I went 22-10 in the first round. Apocalyptic, but better than Pres. "Baracket" Obama's 19-13. (The Prez's actual updated Baracket is here).

And, the damage is not bad so far. 14 of my Sweet 16 are still alive, and everyone in my Elite 8 is still good to go. (My bracket, if you want to see it)


CBO throws BHO under BUS

From the AP wire:

WASHINGTON – Despite new estimates that say President Barack Obama's budget would generate unsustainable large deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year, the White House insisted Friday that the flood of red ink won't swamp its costly agenda.

The Congressional Budget Office figures released Friday predict Obama's budget will produce $9.3 trillion worth of red ink over 2010-2019. That's $2.3 trillion worse than the administration predicted in its budget just last month.

Worst of all, CBO says the deficit under Obama's policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.

The latest figures throw a major monkey wrench into efforts to enact Obama's budget, which promises universal health care for all and higher spending for domestic programs like education and research into renewable energy.

People, I am rooting for the money wrench.

Remembering William Mitchell

The Mayor sends an email, from an old student of William Mitchell.

He didn't like dumb questions in class. He expected you to know the basics and more of economic theory and such.

For the PS457 mentioned above, the grade that arrived on the report card just had to be wrong, so I wrote a letter to Prof. Mitchell and asked him to review it. Very shortly after I received the reply which I saved and include with the following email (scanned). It was high praise to get a B+ in his class!

I received an A- in "Interest Groups" (PS476) but a C+ in "Inequality and Public Policy" (PS472).

Many years later I worked in Hollywood at Imaginary Forces. IF did the titles for the "Band of Brothers" HBO series. I was part of that design team and wrote Prof. Mitchell and asked him for some creative consulting. He was very pleased to chime in with information on WWII troops, uniforms, gear, etc, and he sent some very cool historical items for us to work with. He said he was very sorry to say that he couldn't send his original WWII uniform to us, it was just too precious to him! It blew us all away when we realized he'd kept it all those years.

Lastly, I recall a local newspaper ad that featured Dr. Mitchell in a Mercedes-Benz ad (for a local MB dealer). It quoted him as saying he loved the best things in life, like a Mercedes--and also how women liked HIM in his Benz! The ad literally quoted him on that and it was sheer brilliance! There he was, standing tall and proud like the paratrooper he was, next to a silver Benz, saying how he loved his fast German cars and lady admirers. He may have fought the Germans, but he had no problem with their cars after the war!

What a guy--there weren't many like him and damned if students who avoided his classes didn't miss out on a helluva unique brand of political science education at U of Oregon.

Yes, that's right. If you are interested in the problem of training elite troops, take a look at a book that Bill Mitchell edited: The Making of A Paratrooper


Very nice. First cutting across conventions, and then jumping outside the conventions.

Nod to ML

Bread and Circuses

So the House has passed its 90% surtax bill and the "world's greatest deliberative body" will now take up its 70% surtax bill. No one seems too concerned about any consequences.

Like losing a constitutional challenge, or (hard as it may be to fathom) losing their last vestiges of seriousness and credibility, or actually undermining the original bailouts that they authorized.

From the WSJ (front page, not editorial page):

"In both the House and Senate bills, companies could escape the tax by repaying enough government aid. Some Wall Street firms have formally applied to repay the government ahead of schedule, and the new tax is spurring talk among others. But regulators have been leery of allowing firms to repay, in part because it could complicate efforts to promote stability in the financial system."

This post has further discussion of the counter-productivity of what is going on.

Congress had an opportunity to block pre-existing bonus payments when they passed the stimulus bill. Apparently the adminstration asked them not to and the conference committee (specifically Chis Dodd) took the language out.

Are they really going to now pass a crazy tax law like this? Wasn't the Senate created to stop legislation being enacted in response to the whims/passions of the people? And the best they can do is cut the rate to 70%? Oh, yeah and make weird pseudo death threats?

It seems like we have stopped walking and started jogging towards banana republic status.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This is just too good to be true

From the FT:

"Fannie Mae, the US mortgage financier taken over by the government in September, is planning to pay executive retention bonuses of as much as $611,000 (£428,000) this year in spite of multi-billion dollar losses at the company.

Freddie Mac also has a retention bonus scheme for its executives, but has not yet provided the details of its plans. Freddie is due to disclose the amounts to be paid to its top executives by the end of April, according to a spokesperson for the company."

So, are Fan and Fred just 100% tone deaf and askin' for a beatdown? Or are retention bonuses for employees in money losing companies that take gubmint $$ ok as long as they are the right kind of employees?

Is this a great country or what?

Perhaps I was intemperate....

The Duke Chronicle is running a series of articles this week on grade inflation.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 An excerpt:

Dr. Nancy Major, associate professor of radiology and evolutionary anthropology, agrees that if there are many students who merit high marks, they should be rewarded accordingly. Major, who has been teaching undergraduates since 2004, said she gives mostly A's, an occasional B and does not recall ever having given a C.

"I teach a very different kind of class," she said. "On the first day I tell everyone what's expected of them to tell them how to get a decent grade in the class. And for me a decent grade in the class is an A."

Well, I got all hepped up, and wrote a letter to the Editor of the Chronicle. Here it is:

Dear Editor:

The news is filled with outrage about AIG, and other Wall Street companies. Seems that they paid out large bonuses, to everyone. Think about it: even though these people did terrible work, and lost billions, they still get bonuses, because they worked hard, or at least they came to work.

I bet a lot of faculty tut-tutted about AIG over their morning New York Times, Starbucks, and double-fiber bran muffin. Then you went to your office and graded a midterm where the low overall grade was an A-. You poor little students. It doesn't matter that your work was appalling. You tried hard. You should still get a high grade.

On the first day of class this semester, I had a waiting list of ten for a large class. I announced in class that I would be giving real grades. "At least ten percent of you will get Cs; maybe more," I told the assembled throng. The next day, the waiting list was 11, and no one had dropped.

The fact is that if you teach a real course, with real content, you can give real grades. If you don't, then you can't. And if you don't give real grades, then you are the cause behind the new AIG mindset: I showed up. Give me my bonus.

In retrospect, I could have been more circumspect.

From the Mouths of Babes....

Kevin L sends a little note his daughter wrote, after receiving a crisp new dollar under her pillow, from the tooth fairy. An excellent question. Now let's pose the same question to Tim Geithner.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Never underestimate our government

its capacity for hypocrisy and bogosity is simply unparalleled. After all the bitching and whining and soapboxing about the outrage of the AIG bonuses, it turns out that Senator Chris Dodd (D -Conn and friend of Angelo) wrote language in the stimulus bill that specifically allows the AIG bonuses to be paid out. Here, let Politico tell it:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) looks like he may be facing a fresh political firestorm.

Dodd just admitted on CNN that he inserted a loophole in the stimulus legislation that allowed million-dollar bonuses to insurance giant AIG to go forward – after previously denying any involvement in writing the controversial provision. .

“We wrote the language in the bill, the deal with bonuses, golden parachutes, excessive executive compensation that was adopted unanimously by the United States Senate in the stimulus bill,” Dodd told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this afternoon.

“But for that language, there would have been no language to deal with this at all.”

Dodd had previously said that he played no role in writing the controversial language, and was not a part of the conference committee that inserted the language in the bill. As late as today, Dodd’s spokeswoman denied the senator’s involvement.

Oh yeah, he lied about it for days before coming clean. Of course the AIG employees who served their time in order to collect their contracted payments will continue to get pilloried, while this bum will probably survive unscathed just like he did the mortgage fiasco.

People, I think we are getting close to the horse here.

misdirected outrage

I am enjoying the torrent of outrage and vituperation over the AIG bonuses. Yes there should be outrage, but not at AIG. Like Chris Rock said about Manticore: "that tiger didn't go crazy, that tiger went TIGER".

Same here. Roy got mauled because an idiot got in a cage with a tiger. We are in the situation we are in because incompetent government bureaucrats got into a deal with a tiger.

They (said bureaucrats) either didn't think to ask, "hey are you planning any inconvenient bonus payments?" or they didn't care. Geithner must go.

Many people have said if the Gov. can force the UAW to renegotiate contracts, why not the same for the AIG bonuses? Well it seems like the difference is ex-ante vs. ex-post. Ex-ante, sure, you can put any conditions you want on aid and the other party can take it or leave it. Ex-post, not so much.

Of course, in true "lady who swallowed a fly" fashion, we are going to follow this government screw up with more hasty ill-conceived government actions to "fix" the problem. Wake me up when the get to the horse.

Wednesday poetry corner (ironic edition)

The way our government (pre and post elections) is handling the current economic situation put me in mind of a song we used to sing on the long hellish bus ride to church camp in the cursed summers of my youth:

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I dunno why she swallowed that fly,
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly -
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd, to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly -
Perhaps she'll die

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.
Imagine that, she swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die

There was an old lady who swallowed a dog.
What a hog! To swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat...
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a goat.
Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog ...
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don't know how she swallowed a cow!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat...
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog...
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat...
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse -
She's dead, of course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

F**K the Pope

With all due apologies to NWA, I have been yelling this around the house most of the day and decided to get it off my chest.

The pontiff, setting off to Cameroon, says that rather than helping fight AIDS, condom use actually "increases the problem".

What else can you say to such mind boggling arrogance and stupidity?

Sound and Strong are not synonyms

Obama White House: Sound and Strong are not synonyms. That does make some sense, I suppose. But the press secretary wants us to believe they are ANTONYMS. That's a little harder to swallow.

Yes, that is really their position. Pretty remarkable. From Weekly Standard Blog.

(Nod to DM)

Reactions and Commentary from the Rifleman

Old KPC friend the Rifleman reacts to media coverage:

"I have CNN on in the background--Anderson Cooper is doing a financial crisis episode (big surprise). THe guest? Dr.Phil. WTF?"

WTF, indeed. Larry Summers has decided that he wants to be Dr. Phil, so you might as well invite the real deal.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Location Theory

Click on image for a larger version. More here.

C'mon Frenchie, get it straight

So I'm reading this post in the FT and it says:

"An example from football, provided by James Montier of Société Générale, tells the story. When a goalkeeper tries to save a penalty, he almost invariably dives either to the right or the left. He will stay in the centre only 6.3 per cent of the time.

However, the penalty taker is just as likely (28.7 per cent of the time) to blast the ball straight in front of him as to hit it to the right or left. Thus goalkeepers, to play the percentages, should stay where they are about a third of the time. They would make more saves. Why don’t they? Because it is more embarrassing to stand there and watch the ball hit the back of the net than to do something (such as dive to the right) and watch the ball hit the back of the net. The results are the same but those who tried to be active feel happier. "

So I say to myself, "I remember that my boys Levitt and Groseclose have a paper on this and that's not how I remember the story". Then I google them and find this:

"There is one big deviation that we see between what players actually do and what the theory predicts: kickers kick the ball right down the middle much less than they should. Or put another way, in practice, kicking it down the middle scores at a higher rate than kicking it either to the left or right (at least in our data set).

Why? If you kick it right down the middle and you don’t score, it is damn embarrassing. So even though the middle is a great play statistically, kickers don’t choose it very often. There are some things that are even more important than winning, like not looking like a fool."

So my question is this: is it plagiarism if you get the story wrong??

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pat Rafter and CGI perfectly summarize Lleyton Hewitt

Pillow Talk

Mrs. A: What's the name of that show again?

Me: Eastbound & Down

Mrs. A: That's a weird name, hard to remember

Me: Not if you've seen Smoky & the Bandit, "Eastbound & Down, loaded up and trucking, we're gonna do what they say can't be done" (yes I was singing this part. Pluto got up and went to lay down in the hallway).

Mrs. A: I never saw that movie. Wasn't the Bandit a chimp or something?

Me: uh, well, the Bandit was Burt Reynolds.

Mrs. A: So yes, then!

Which made me remember exactly why I'd married her lo these 14 years ago!

I offered that she might be thinking of "Every which way but loose" where Clint Eastwood drove around with Clyde the orangutan, but she said she was thinking of a TV show, then I came up with "BJ and the Bear" but I couldn't remember whether it had an ape or a monkey or even which title character was the simian.

Just Plain Strange

This is just plain strange. That's all I've got. No commentary.