Friday, August 14, 2009

Careful with that club, St. Francis

Apparently, Australian police now arrest people for having steering wheel locks. It is true that "the club" looks like a gun, if you are an idiot. (PHOTO: Liam Kidston, Courier Mail)
It really is delightful, when you think about it. The reason people have steering wheel locks is that the police are completely incapable of protecting our property, and have no real interest in doing so. But when we try to protect ourselves, WE get arrested. The police spend more time trying to regulate guns of the law-abiding than the theft of criminals. I guess the law-abiding are easier to find, because we have addresses so we can have state-required IDs. Another story about the arrest and harrasment of the poor kid. Here is an excerpt:

When two senior police arrived in an unmarked vehicle the situation was quickly resolved and the handcuffs removed from Mr Hastings.

"As the officer walked away he said 'get a new steering wheel lock, it looks like a bloody gun'," he said.

"I was absolutely gobsmacked. I said 'are you serious? All that for a steering lock?'," he said.

Mr Hastings said the officer then replied he was "a lucky boy".

"He told me 'any other cop would have had you at gunpoint'."

The cop could be right, in fact. The kid was lucky he was only handcuffed. He should have been beaten, I suppose. It is more convenient for the police if you let people steal your car.

Which brings me to my main story. I saw this really cute wooden carved statue of St. Francis of Assisi, in Santa Fe. Now, notice that St. Francis is carrying a cross. EXCEPT that it is broken. So now it looks like a steering wheel lock. Which apparently looks like a gun, if you are a cop.

My prediction: St. Francis is going to be told that he, too, is lucky for only getting handcuffed and roughed up. An Australian policeman would have him at gun point.

The Whitest Man on Earth

I spent most of the last week in Santa Fe, NM. It is as fine a place, especially in August (a good time NOT to be in OK or NC) as there is. Got to see the oldest church in the U.S. (San Miguel, 1610. That's old).Could see the state capitol building out of my balcony, at the hotel.
Plus, the hotel had a nice crisp NYTimes and coffee every morning, right outside my door. Mornings were quite cool, in the desert, 50 or 55 F.

I also got to see a very fine fellow. In fact, he is the whitest guy in the world. I don't mean that he has light skin, though that is true. It's the whole package: the skin, the accent, the 6 foot 4 inch height and 6 foot 5 inch vertical reach, the wannabe "game worn" Rhodes College basketball shorts. I give you the product of Wonderbread and Hellman's: Art Carden.

Wir haben mehr zu bieten: Political Cleavage in Germany

So, we have Putin showing off his pecs, and now Merkel showing off hers.

I don't think Americans understand what European politics is really about. In the video, I like the part where the elderly woman says she doesn't like the cleavage show. Not because it is undignified, but because the women are too old.

(The title, "Wir haben mehr zu bieten", means "We have more to offer.")

Nod to RL, who has a lot to offer.

Presidents say the darndest things

While no one will ever match the Shrub's endless flow of unintentional comedy (at least I hope not), our current president can break out with some accidental comedy gold as well.

I can't believe I missed this when it first happened. Earlier this week President O refuted that the public option in health insurance would crowd out private plans BY CITING THE POST OFFICE!

Thank you for that Mr. President.

"He (Obama) also disputed the notion that adding a government-run insurance plan into a menu of options from which people could pick would drive private insurers out of business, in effect making the system single-payer by default.

As long as they have a good product and the government plan has to sustain itself through premiums and other non-tax revenue, private insurers should be able to compete with the government plan, Obama said.

"They do it all the time," he said. "UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. ... It's the Post Office that's always having problems.""

Of course, UPS and FedEx have crushed the post office in the areas where they are allowed to compete (I think FedEx planes even help deliver a big chunk of the USPS's overnight mail) and the Post Office hemorrhages money while operating as a first class mail monopolist subject to Congressional oversight.

If private insurance companies were allowed the flexibility that UPS and FedEx have to produce and price products and sell them across state lines and the public option had to stand on its own two feet I would predict exactly the same outcome in health insurance. But I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that type of playing field to emerge anytime soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Make the punishment fit the crime

Over at University Diaries, Margaret Soltan gives some great headlines for the Rick Pitino story:







KPC announces its first commercial product

While other bloggers have written books, we have found a much more lucrative way to cash in:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pags nails it

Camille Paglia writing in Salon nails the whole health care debacle:

"But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama's aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.

You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you're happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.

I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.

As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut, too much has been attempted all at once; focused, targeted initiatives would, instead, have won wide public support. How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves."

Amen, Sister


I have described "nachas" (NACK-hass) before. (And thanks to Craig Newmark, Russ Roberts, and Barry Weingast for explaining nuances of meaning).

Got some more nachas last Thursday night. YYM Brian pitching, semifinals of Raleigh city championship. We are 4 seed, playing might #1 seed.

He pitches very well: 6 innings, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 8 K, 4 BB, 1 HBP. Given the time limit, that is a complete game. Nachas.

But the real nachas come in the first inning. We face a touch pitcher, and have had trouble scoring runs. Brian bats third. The first two runners get on, so 1st and 2nd, no outs. Brian hits a line drive that short hops the 360 sign in left center. Both runs score. We win, 5-2.

He hits another long one, a triple, in the fifth inning.

Now, we lost the city finals, the following Monday. But I was in Santa Fe by then, and missed it. And that is the last baseball game Brian is likely ever to play, since his high school doesn't have a team, and he has aged out of city league play. (You have to be 17 on April 30. Brian will be 18 on April 13. So close.)

Still...Nachas to go, to last forever.

Financial Development uber alles?

In my 2007 JDE paper with Mrs. Angus, we documented that the only variables we could find who's temporal evolution was consistent with that of the world income distribution were measures of financial development and of research and development.

In a current project, my co-authors and I are finding that financial development is at least as important as any traditional factor of production in determining the production structure of an economy (no link yet due to picky co-authors! 8^) ).

And, in a current NBER working paper (ungated version here), Arellano, Bai and Zhang argue that financial development can explain a large amout of the variation in performances between firm of different sizes across countries. Here's their abstract:

"This paper studies the impact of cross-country variation in financial market development on firms' financing choices and growth rates using comprehensive firm-level datasets. We document that in less financially developed economies, small firms grow faster and have lower debt to asset ratios than large firms. We then develop a quantitative model where financial frictions drive firm growth and debt financing through the availability of credit and default risk. We parameterize the model to the firms' financial structure in the data and show that financial restrictions can account for the majority of the difference in growth rates between firms of different sizes across countries."

We are all Ross Levinians now!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Grand Game

Another episode of "The Grand Game." That's where we at KPC post an article, and invite our readers to suggest explanations.

Here is the article: (Lisa MacLeod's web site)

Excerpt: Lisa MacLeod is a young female politician who commutes to her job as a Progressive Conservative Member of the Provincial Parliament at Queen's Park from Ottawa and leaves her husband, Joe, and four-year-old daughter, Victoria, at home. Mr. Justice Douglas Cunningham of Ontario Superior Court said this is a big distraction for the 34-year-old woman and as a result he felt he could not accept her evidence as corroboration of the Crown's key witness in the recent high-profile, influence-peddling trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien.

NOw, then, what is the explanation? I'll take a shot, because I have a number of ideas.

a) ALL politicians cannot be trusted. Ms. McLeod, being an element of the set "all politicians," cannot be trusted. (actually, this may be a valid argument, now that I think of it).
b) Mandatory retirement for troglodyte judges may be a good thing.
c) Canadians who criticize the US for falling short of its ideals? You might want to think about the whole "glass houses" problem.
d) Ontario is like New Jersey, except in Ontario the judges don't need to be paid off. They enable corruption just because they are idiots.
e) Universal health care does not mean everyone is mentally healthy.
f) __________(your entry here! Just comment! It's FUN!)_________________

And here is Ms. MacLeod. Notice the little kid. This implies that Ms. MacLeod is not a reliable witness, because she has been seen with known childrn.

(Nod to RL)

Fail, thy name is Heagerty

Norman hits the big time!

One of our grad students found out about this and for some reason immediately thought of me.

A statue that depicts a nude, breastfeeding Angelina Jolie will soon make its debut in Oklahoma."The statue is a bronze statue of a nude Angelina Jolie in a sitting position, breastfeeding two babies in a football hold," said project coordinator Cory Allen.The statue was created by artist Daniel Edwards to mark World Breastfeeding Week. It's set to go on display at Norman's Mainsite Contemporary Art on Sept. 11."

Holy Crap!

This is just so awesome! Breastfeeding two babies in a football hold? What does that even mean? Well folks, I for one intend to find out.

Hey Daniel Edwards, what will you do for an encore?

"Edwards is working on an additional project with an Edmond artist to build a house they plan to call The Brangelina."


PS: extra bonus info. Apparently Brad Pitt is from Oklahoma. Wow!!

Hat tip to Bea!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Quote, Bad Quote

First the good. Lebron, describing Sicily, writes, "The young people look like they're from Rome, the old people look like they're from New Jersey."  

Now for the bad. Alex, describing charter cities writes, "we shouldn't think of what happened in 1997 as China taking over Hong Kong but rather as the final element of Hong Kong taking over China."

An open and shut case of from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

El Tritanicos

Y'all might not know this, but soccer is pretty popular in Mexico. The national team is called El Tri, which is short for Tricolores (from the three colors of the Mexican flag) and the title of this post is a mocking pun used in Mexico City to describe them when they are not doing well.

Which is now.

Qualifying is going on now for the 2010 World Cup. The top three teams from North and Central America will automatically qualify. The US is in second, Mexico is fourth having already lost to the US, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Wednesday, El Tri plays the US at home in the giant Azteca stadium. The US has never beaten Mexico in Mexico.

I guess it's fair to say this is a pretty big game. A fun article in the NY Times breaks down the Mexican psyche in these trying times.

I am going to predict a US victory!