Saturday, August 01, 2009

of the Vienna woofenpoops

The current picture below the KPC baby is the Angus family pet, Pluto. We kind of dote on him, so he has a lot of nicknames, but Mrs. Angus just came up with his latest and greatest one: Baron Pluto Von Woofenpoop!

Pluto is 10.5 years old, we got him the day we moved to Norman. He was the first dog we saw at the shelter and we snagged him forthwith.

East meets West

Some people shouldn't travel and some people shouldn't have guests:

"It is the sort of offer that most tourists would jump at: an all-expenses paid return visit to a dream destination, as amends for a sleight by an unscrupulous host.

But not Yasuyuki Yamada, who yesterday turned down an offer of a free holiday in Italy as guests of the country's government after he and his fiancee were presented with an enormous bill at a restaurant in Rome earlier this month.

Yamada, 35, thanked Italy's tourism minister, Michela Brambilla, for the offer but said the trip would be a "useless way to spend Italian taxpayers' money," according to the Ansa news agency.

The couple complained to the police after they were charged €700 – including €207 for a pasta dish and a €115 service charge – for lunch at Il Passetto, a 150-year-old restaurant that counts Grace Kelly, Leonardo DiCaprio and Harrison Ford among its regulars, according to Ansa.

The restaurant attempted to blame the couple, saying they had ordered the priciest items on the menu, including oysters and lobster.

Speaking from his home in Tsukuba, near Tokyo, Yamada said: "I offer my thanks, but I have no intention of accepting it, even if a formal invitation arrives."

The restaurant debacle aside, he said he and his fiancee had enjoyed a terrific holiday and planned to return to Italy, but at their own expense.

A few weeks earlier another Japanese couple had complained about Il Passetto after being given a bill for €352 for a modest meal that included a shared main course.

Health inspectors ordered the restaurant to close after Yamada's complaint but it is expected to reopen soon.

Italian authorities were stung into action amid evidence that their country is falling out of favour among Japan's free-spending tourists.

Many have been put off by reports of poor service and inflated prices. About 1 million Japanese are expected to visit Italy this year, less than half the 2.17 million recorded in 1997.In an open letter published last week, Brambilla apologised for the incidents and urged Japanese tourists to give her country a second chance."

Man oh man. What kind of A-hole charges hapless foreigners 700 euro for lunch? And then when caught blames the victim and leaves it to his government to try and make amends?

But at the same time, what kind of simpering sap PAYS the 700 euro lunch bill? Are you kidding me?

I couldn't decide if this was a "culture that is Italy" or "culture that is Japan" post so I simplified the title.

Hat tip to E.F. Hutton

Friday, July 31, 2009

The House Health Care Bill fully explained in a single picture

"Phone call for Nancy Pelosi!!"

Handicapping the field

Willem Buiter breaks down the plusses and minuses of three potential candidates to be the new Fed Chair:

"The race for the top job at the Fed thus far appears to have three runners: the incumbent, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, the current director of the NEC and Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco . Both Bernanke and Yellen are qualified for the job. Summers is not.

There are several reasons why Summers would be an inappropriate choice as chairman of the Fed. Let’s start with Fed-relevant knowledge and expertise. Summers is not a monetary economist or macroeconomist. He has never shown any serious interest in researching and understanding the workings of the kind of complex, interdependent dynamic systems that represent the environment a central bank operates in. He is the arch-typical quick and dirty partial equilibrium man, full of clever isolated micro-insights, but incapable of grasping the whole. His macroeconomics stalled at the Keynesian cross. As a monetary economist he has never seen a Federal Funds rate target so low he did not want it just a bit lower.....

Summers remains cognitively captured by old Wall Street and a prisoner of its culture and views....

Once the immediate crisis is over, the highest priority should be attached to designing and creating institutional arrangements and incentive structures that will minimize the likelihood and severity of future systemic crises. Summers has never shown any interest in creating institutions that enable policy makers (in the Fed, in the Treasury and in the regulatory agencies) to make credible, long-term commitments. He invariable favours opportunistic discretion over rule-bound flexibility. The last thing the US needs today is a chairman of the Fed with the long-term perspective and attention span of a fruit fly.

Janet Yellen is an outstanding monetary and macroeconomist. I have known this for a long time, because when I came to Yale as a PhD student in 1971, we all passed our Comprehensive Examinations (Comps) in macroeconomics thanks to the ‘Yellen notes’, the wonderful collection of ‘augmented’ lecture notes from James Tobin’s lectures, created by Janet Yellen as Tobin’s teaching assistant. She was a professor at Berkeley for many years, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1994 to 1997 and chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors from 1997 till 1999. Her abilities as a regulator and supervisor have not, as far as I know, been tested. These are, of course, at least as important for a chairman of the Fed as his or her command of the conventional monetary policy tools. Her ability to stand up to the populists in the Congress and the relentless lobbying efforts of Wall Street and the rest of the financial establishment are also unknown. But at least we can hope.

With Ben Bernanke we know what we would get. An eminent monetary economist with a pretty good record managing interest rates, quantitative easing and credit easing from the perspective of mitigating the immediate financial crisis and the contraction that followed it; a dreadful regulator/supervisor who ‘did not see it coming’ at all; a fully-signed up contributor to the biggest explosion of moral hazard in US financial history; and the man who allowed the Fed to be turned into an off-budget, off-balance sheet subsidiary of the US Treasury.

In the field of regulation and supervision, I prefer untried and untested to tried, tested and failed."

Holy Crap! "The attention span of a fruit fly?" That was a good 'un! Maybe President O should invite Willem and Larry over for some beers and sponsor a good old fashioned hug-it-out.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ending racism, one drink at a time

Wow, I didn't think that President O was really serious about his "lets talk about it over a few beers" offer to Gates & Crowley, but apparently that is actually happening today.

People, I am pretty sure that, over the course of history, beer has caused a lot more racial incidents than it has defused. I am also pretty sure that President O is not really a beer man.

As always, the Wall St. Journal gets right to the heart of the issue with a hard-hitting piece on what beers are going to be served. President O is opting for Bud Light (thus proving my conjecture from the previous paragraph).

The scandal here is that none of the beers being served are truly "American" (Anseuser Busch is now "foreign owned"):

"We would hope they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Bill Manley, a spokesman for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a California-based brewer that happens to be family-owned.

Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams, decried "the foreign domination of something so basic and important to our culture as beer."

Genesee Brewery, Rochester, N.Y., released a statement congratulating the president for having beer at the meeting but adding: "We just hope the next time the President has a beer, he chooses an American beer, made by American workers, and an American-owned brewery like Genesee."

Holy Crap!!

Goodbye to Erlangen

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Leaving Erlangen today, on the Odzucks' express. (It is not an express; Sebastian drives 140 km/hr on the Autobahn, in the far right lane. Ducks flash their beaks at us, and pass on the left, scornfully). But I am headed for Berlin, and am grateful for the chance to visit with Eva and Sebastian, and argue about the "American Dream" (our selected topic for car trip) today.

A final note about Erlangen: the weather. People have been saying that now that I am leaving, summer is finally here. Here is the forecast:

Thursday Partly Cloudy Rain
High: 22°C / 72°F. Winds: W 16-24 kph (10-15 mph)

Thursday Night Mostly Cloudy Rain
Low: 10°C / 50°F. Winds: Calm

Friday Overcast Rain
High: 21°C / 69°F. Winds: Calm

Friday Night Partly Cloudy Chance of Rain
Low: 11°C / 52°F. Winds: E 8 kph (5 mph)

Goodbye, Erlangen!
I'll miss the bread, the beer, and most of all the good friends. Even thinking of the friends I made here, and how much I will miss them, makes me start to cry a little bit. But the weather....I will NOT miss the weather.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I want you, 'cause I'm Mr. Wayne

So, fairly often you can watch a "Chart Show" on German TV.

They count down the best songs in some category.

They did one on "Disco Classics" music. The top 3?

3. Daddy Cool (1976)
2. What is Love? (1993)
1. Lady Bump (1975)

Then, as a lagniappe, a special performance of "Mr. Vain."

I had never heard of #3 or #1. And the "Mr. Vain" performance was explicitly "Mr. Wayne," so I didn't recognize it at first. Who is Mr. Wayne? Probably there is a whole series of these, including the Carly Simon hit, "You're So Wayne." On the other hand, Germans call the Mike Myers/Dana Carvey movie, "Vain's World," so go figure.

If you want to listen to "Lady Bump," I think this site is relatively free of adware. But the song involves screaming, wide open mouth screaming in every chorus. Amazing.

And here is a music video of "Daddy Cool," by Boney M. I have to admit, Daddy Cool is pretty catchy. But so is syphillis. You don't see that making top ten lists.

"What is Love?" I'll give you. It was irrestible, and you hate yourself for doing that head shake thing from SNL, but you can't help it. I don't know if "What is Love?" is top 5 without this video...but with the video, yes.

So, a question: Lady Bump? Really? #1 Dance Song of all time? I say no.

UPDATE: Martin questions whether the show is "German." I leave it to you to decide. Here is the show; now, click on "Disco Classics," and you will see the line-up, with "Daddy Cool" listed at the top, out of order.

A final note: It is sad to say I am leaving Erlangen this morning, early. But it is great to note that it is 6:30 in the morning, and I am in my office fussing with Martin about which 40 year old American disco songs Germans like (or hate, or have never heard.) Martin is my man. This is how it ought to be.

Rainy Day Vienna

Fortunately, even on rainy days, there are one or two things to do in Vienna.

We visited the Cafe Central; beautiful. (Not me, the Cafe Central).

Spent a lot of time, and yet not nearly enough time, at art museums. GameBill and I posed with Franz Josef (Berin....worship us, now)

We walked outside a bit, but it was rough. It was 12 degrees C, windy, and torrents of rain. We did visit the graveyard of dead umbrellas, turned inside out by the wind. And, as this picture was taken, otherwise gentle Claire was saying, "If you take my picture, I am GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS!" Turns out women don't like to have their pictures taken outside on rainy, windy days. Who knew?

Then, walked over by the University of Vienna (founded 1365). Really, really impressive. Lots of luminary busts. My two favorites were the two Karls, Popper....

And of course Carl Menger. I subjectively think he and I are marginally related.

The Rain in Vienna Falls Mainly on the Food

When I visited GameBill in Vienna, on the first night we feasted on pork. Schweizerhaus Stelze, in fact. Grilled pig leg. A big hit. To your arteries.

On the second day, it rained. But we feasted on Sacher Torte, and later a giant 2 meter long wurst at Centimeter, along of course with a maß bier. (Even I was full, after biting THAT big one.)

On the third day, it was beautiful, and we rode bikes, rented at these "Citybike" kiosks. We had a nice break for a bottle of Grüner Veltliner. (Note the label. I just can't IMAGINE where the whole "Bruno" stereotype comes from. Not that that is BAD thing, anyway. Vienna is just a free-thinking sort of place....)

Blame it on the National Health

In his vapid and wandering editorial, "Is There a Right to Health Care?", "Theodore Dalrymple" pens an amazing paragraph:

"Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so."

So, for no good reason, my boy throws an entire country under the bus! People, things are so bad in the UK that even the wretched GREEKS crawl back to their ancient hovels and witchdoctors rather than face the horror of the National Health.

I can't think of a more convincing way to argue that there is no such thing as a right to health care, can you?

The author makes another stab at the argument here:

"Whenever I deny the existence of a right to health care to a Briton who asserts it, he replies, “So you think it is all right for people to be left to die in the street?”

When I then ask my interlocutor whether he can think of any reason why people should not be left to die in the street, other than that they have a right to health care, he is generally reduced to silence. He cannot think of one."

So every single Brit gives exactly the same answer? And my oh my "Theodore", what a devastating reply you have. Except that IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE OR HAVE ANY RELEVANCE TO YOUR ALLEGED POINT!!

Let me put this in terms simple enough that even a pretentious British physician with a ridiculous pen name might be able to understand:

Anecdotes about failures (or successes) of socialize medicine can never prove anything, one way or the other, about the existence of a right to health care.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holy Crap! Pity my poor ears

This is so cool. Built to Spill and Dinosaur Jr. are on tour together and THEY ARE COMING TO OKC!

Wow! I'm in there like swimwear!

By the way Dinosaur Jr. has a new album out and it is really quite good. If you liked "Bug" or "Living All Over Me" (and who doesn't?), you will definitely like the new one.

They Both Got Their Irish Up....And it was the SAME IRISH

"Henry Louis Gates Jr., the black professor at the center of the racial story involving his arrest outside his Harvard house, has spoken proudly of his Irish roots. Bizarrely, he and the Cambridge, MA, officer who arrested him, James Crowley, both trace their ancestry back to the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages, a famous Irish chieftain." []

Interested in Niall?

"Ruthless" "Cunning" "Brilliant" "Prolific"....All these words are used when describing one of the first great High Kings of Ireland, Niall Noigíallach. Born around 342A.D., Niall was "the son of the Irish High King Eochaid Mugmedon and his second wife, Cairenn. Some wicked-stepmothering from Eochaid's first wife, Mongfind, led to Niall having to overcome his half-brothers - who bore the evocative names of Fergus, Ailill, Fiachrae and, er, Brian - in the battle to be their father's successor."

"The epithet "Nine Hostages" derives from Niall's habit of borrowing people from other kingdoms and refusing to give them back. Different accounts have them coming from a variety of places, but in the best-known version there is one each from the five provinces of Ireland, and one each from the Scots, Saxons, Britons and French. Legend has it that another famous hostage of Niall's was Succat - you'd know him as Saint Patrick.

"Irish sources describe Niall's successful raids on Britain and France, and he was probably involved in establishing a Gaelic kingdom in north Wales. At home, Niall consolidated power in the northern region of Ireland, creating the Uí Néill dynasty that would provide the High Kings of Ireland for centuries. As well as the O'Neills, the Scottish clans MacNeil and MacLachlan can also claim descent from Niall.

"Tradition has it that he died in 405 - though some historians argue for a later date - at sea in the Channel (or in France, or in the Alps, or possibly in Scotland). And despite his rampant and academically proven promiscuity, he was actually succeeded by one of the (presumably rare) young men in Ireland whom he hadn't sired himself - his nephew, Dathi."

You mean this guy Niall STOLE ST. PATRICK, and wouldn't give him back? Now THAT is cold.

(Nod to Kevin L, who only takes hostages when he has to. And he always gives them back)

This just in: Water is wet

Who would have thought so many idiots banded together could be wrong?

"State officials in Hawaii on Monday said they have once again checked and confirmed that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, and therefore meets a key constitutional requirement for being president.

They hoped to stem a recent surge in the number of inquiries about Obama's birthplace.

"I ... have seen the original vital records maintained on file by theHawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen," Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said in a brief statement. "I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago."

So-called "birthers" — who claim Obama is ineligible to be president because, they argue, he was actually born outside the United States — have grown more vocal recently on blogs and television news shows.

Fukino issued a similar press release Oct. 31, but was prompted to speak out again because of the renewed attention on Obama's beginnings. Hawaii's Health Department has been flooded in recent weeks with questions from individuals and several national TV news networks asking for proof that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii.

"They just keep asking over and over and over again," Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.

The Constitution states that a person must be a "natural-born citizen" to be eligible for the presidency. Birthers contend that Obama's birth certificate is a fake, and many say he was actually born in Kenya, his father's homeland. They've challenged his citizenship in court."

Granted that this whole flapdoodle is more about President O's ethnicity than his place of birth, it still provides an interesting challenge to those who unquestioningly revere our founding fathers and our constitution, viz. WTF is up with this "born in the USA" requirement to be president?

It makes no sense. If people wanted Neil Young to be prez and Neil would lower himself enough to accept, what possible relevance could his place of birth have on this contract?

Are we afraid that a foreign born president would immediately "sell us out" to his/her country of origin? Would Neil make us all start eating circles of ham and forcing us to call it bacon?

Our founding fathers had a lot on the ball, but this is one of the places where they screwed up.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Angus solves the world's problems, part I

The constitution of Honduras has a bullet proof no reelection clause.  Its president, Mel Zelaya, wanted to be re-elected, so he commenced trying to get around the obstacle. Honduras' Congress and Judiciary rejected Mel's moves, but Mel just kept on keeping on, and in the end, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant. 

The military, in executing that warrant, also decided to deport Mel, which I don't think was in the warrant, is itself unconstitutional, and basically turned the situation into a military coup (or at least a situation with severe coup-like symptoms).

Now, the question is, and has been for several weeks now, what to do? 

To me, this is easy. 

1. Mel agrees to drop any efforts to change the constitution / run a referendum and in return comes back to T-town and finishes out his term as president (the next election is November 29th for Pete's sake).

2. The military personnel who deported him are charged and tried for a mediumly serious crime but Mel pardons them if they are convicted.

3. If Mel reneges on any of this, the military can do what it do and the international community will stfu.

Thats it. Pan comido.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Culture that is Academia

All the way from Naples FL comes this heartwarming tale:

"The same FGCU associate professor suspended for touching a mannequin in a sexual manner has been fired for depositing university checks into his personal bank account.

David Lounsbury, 56, was terminated July 14 after an internal audit found he collected cash and checks worth $15,210.

Lounsbury is accused of asking students to issue checks directly to him, or pay in cash, instead of FGCU for an interview and interrogation course.

Auditors handed their investigation to the university police department, although no criminal charges have been filed.

The department did not return calls about the investigation.

On Thursday, FGCU assigned Lounsbury’s fall courses to other faculty members while stripping his biography from the criminal justice department’s Web site.

In documents obtained by The News-Press through a public-records request, Lounsbury argues he simply was expediting the reimbursement process for supplies he purchased for the criminal justice department, along with his share of fees due to come his way for teaching the class.

“The only one out any money, a small amount, is me, not the university,” Lounsbury wrote in a July 6 memo, dismissing the allegation as a “technical violation.”

Lounsbury, a former Army criminal investigator, initially was suspended with pay Nov. 4 after students reported he touched anatomically correct mannequins in a sexual manner during their death investigation class. FGCU changed his suspension to unpaid leave Jan. 26, but Toll [the provost] allowed him to return this August, instead of firing him, so Lounsbury could “contribute in a supportive way to our learning community.

WOW!! Suddenly I feel a lot better about myself. I have made students cry, made other faculty members yell at me after getting under their skin in a seminar or faculty meeting, posted insensitive remarks on a political science listserver, and take up to 3 months to write a referee report, but hey, I am practically in line for sainthood if this is any guide to what the rest of my colleagues are up to.

ummmm, gravy!!

I have been trying and trying to wrap my head around PK's blog post on why markets can't do health care. Tyler has already discussed some aspects of this in his very gentlemanly way, but I want to focus on something different. In the middle of the post, PK says:

"insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there’s a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need — not everyone agrees, but most do — this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities."

I really don't understand parts of this. Look beyond the emotionally loaded "deny claims" and "avoid coverage" phrases. How does denying coverage to high risk people use a lot of resources? Does the case for the government plan really turn on eliminating the insurance physical?

I also can't understand what "our fellow citizens should get the care we need" means. Should the "we" simply be a "they" or is it that everyone should get the same care I want for myself?

Then there is the claim that "private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities".

I assume this last bit refers to reviewing claims for their validity and screening applicants. Would a different approach not review claims for their validity? And if applicants are not screened and price discrimination based on risk is not employed, doesn't that simply mean that the low risk people will have to subsidize the high risk people?

Where is the free lunch here?

Are we really considering providing the same policy to everyone at the same "cost"? So a 45 year old overweight male smoker, drinker and couch potato "pays" the same price as a 30 year old female non-smoker, non-drinker yoga instructor? If so, then the scheme is just plain "stupid" (if I can be permitted an Obama quote here).

If rich people really have lower risks than poor people and the insurance is being funded through progressive taxation, then it's kind of a double whammy for them.

But maybe that's just gravy?

Jackie Robinson? Really?

This is a truly brilliant little piece, from the Daily Show.

It starts out lame enough, just give some dope a chance to make a fool of himself. He actually tries to trade mark the phrase "pull my finger." If anyone owns this phrase, it is Mr. Perko, my Scoutmaster from Windermere, Florida. It was certainly his favorite joke.

But....then.....the interview goes over into something else, pure comedy gold. The Jackie Robinson comparison, and the interviewer's response. I had to go outside for a few minutes.
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(Nod to Anonyman, who will let ANYONE pull his finger)