Saturday, December 12, 2009

England is SO SCREWED

Sorry to have been so obsessed about England lately.

But what a seriously messed up place.

Here is a guy who is being fined (a LOT) for....not producing enough garbage! I have blogged before about the government claiming to own your garbage,!

(Nod to Reason Daily Brickbats)

The Latest Insult

The latest insult on the interwebs, just in time for the holiday season!

The easy version: GIYF---"Google is your friend!"

The smackdown version: LMGTFY--- "Let me google that for you!"
fill in the search field in this URL:

Suppose someone in comments says, "Neil Young! Who is Neil Young?" You would say, condescendingly, "GIYF!" (In other words, the doofus should use Google, not use you as a research assistant.)

But you could also just give them," (TRY IT!)

The implied insult is even clearer, and LOTS more fun. Try it at Christmas parties. Family members LOVE being condescended to by a geek!

Sphinctered by the man

People, this is not what you want to encounter when you've gotten up at 7:00 am on Saturday to get some labwork done:

Obamacare! Come save me!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Town Called Sue: You Are Libel to Lose!

Amazing, again, how messed up England is. Interesting article with clear discussion of the problem of assignment of burden of proof.

English libel law is the opposite of America’s in many ways. In the United States, the plaintiff, or accuser, must prove that the statement in question was false; public officials must also prove that it was made maliciously, with “reckless disregard” for the truth.

In England (Scotland has its own system), the burden of proof rests on the defendant, whose statements are presumed false and who has to establish that they are true.

It is not only news organizations that are running afoul of the law. Environmentalists, anticorruption campaigners, medical researchers and soccer fans posting criticisms of their teams on blogs have all been sued or threatened with legal action in recent years.


What is Central Bank independence in a dollarized economy?

I must confess upfront that I find this story confusing. The president of Ecuador's allegedly independent Central Bank resigned under pressure yesterday because he didn't transfer a portion of the Central Bank's reserves to public sector banks quickly enough.

President Correa had ordered $2.4 billion to be transferred for use on spending programs to lower unemployment. The new Central Bank head is also the Economy Minister and a member of Correa's cabinet. 

At this point in the proceedings, one would usually be thinking, goodbye Central Bank independence, hello inflation.

But here is where it gets tricky. Ecuador is dollarized, right?  They don't have an exchange rate to defend. Does the Central Bank even need any international reserves? And how did it acquire them? Are these reserves somehow left over from the pre-dollarization days?

When Correa says "We are restructuring the Central Bank so that everyone understands that it has to follow the policies of our citizen's revolution" (todays WSJ p. A16), what does that mean? 

If a country is dollarized, do they even need a central bank, let alone an independent one? 

Isn't the Fed really Ecuador's central bank? 

OMG, is Correa restructuring the Fed? Is Chris Dodd Correa's puppet?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Duke Faculty Prom Tonight!

No, I'm not kidding. The faculty "dinner dance" (clearly a prom, with a band, and hot women like the LMM) goes down this evening.

Me? I'll be wearing the black tux.....

Clean shirt, new shoes
And I don't know where I am goin' to.
black tux, black tie,
I don't need a reason why.
They come runnin' just as fast as they can
Coz every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

Gold watch, diamond ring,
I ain't missin' not a single thing.
And cufflinks, stick pin,
When I step out I'm gonna do you in.
They come runnin' just as fast as they can
Coz every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

Top coat, top hat,
I don't worry coz my wallet's fat.
Black shades, white gloves,
Lookin' sharp and lookin' for love.
They come runnin' just as fast as they can
Coz every girl grazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

Raleigh Charter Rulz!

Both my sons went/are going to RCHS. (School site)

US News just came out with high school rankings
. RCHS is 24th nationally. And it is a charter school, like many of the schools in the ranking.

AND....admission is by lottery. AND the school is in downtown Raleigh.

Why is the minority enrollment so low? (It's not THAT low, it's 10%)
Remember, admission is by lottery, the school is in an urban area where the minority population is 25% or more, and the school has enormous value-added (class size 12, teachers with PhDs, etc).

Overall, NC does reasonably well.

Some people have called RCHS a "segregation academy." That doesn't make sense to me. Why don't more minorities apply? The lottery, after all, ensures that the proportion that apply will be the proportion accepted.

And your final score is Angels 55 - AGW 36

Here is the full scoreboard from Foreign Policy:

Percentage of Americans who believe in angels: 55

Percentage of Americans who believe in evolution: 39

Percentage of Americans who believe in anthropogenic global warming: 36

Percentage of Americans who believe in ghosts: 34

Percentage of Americans who believe in UFOs: 34

Go to the link for sources. We are a wild and wacky bunch, aren't we?

Hat tip to Gabriel M.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Feeling Good

The Tetris God: Job

The Bishop sends this link.... the God of Tetris. He is a vengeful and an arbitrary God. THIS is the real book of Job.

Mungowitz Joins the Angus Party; STILL Not a Republican

Full disclosure: Angus has never, ever been a Republican. Not even close, really.

Me? I was.

People ask me why I am not a Republican, and I stumble for an answer. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, the answer is so simple it's like the Charleston, it plumb evaded me.

I do have a pretty good answer, now. It was sent to me by Anonyman. But it was written by Andrew Sullivan, who has always been one of my favorite conservatives.

For these reasons, I found it intolerable after 2003 to support the movement that goes by the name "conservative" in America. I still do, even though I am much more of a limited government type than almost any Democrat and cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I'm not). My reasons were not dissimilar to Charles Johnson, who, like me, was horrified by 9/11, loathes Jihadism, and wants to defeat it as effectively as possible. And his little manifesto prompts me to write my own (the full version is in "The Conservative Soul"). Here goes:

I cannot support a movement that claims to believe in limited government but backed an unlimited domestic and foreign policy presidency that assumed illegal, extra-constitutional dictatorial powers until forced by the system to return to the rule of law.

I cannot support a movement that exploded spending and borrowing and blames its successor for the debt....

I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.

There's more. It's good. And he's right.

Shine on you crazy diamond

Did you guys catch Jared Diamond in Sunday's NY Times? Ouch.

He starts out with an ode to corporate environmental responsibility:

The embrace of environmental concerns by chief executives has accelerated recently for several reasons. Lower consumption of environmental resources saves money in the short run. Maintaining sustainable resource levels and not polluting saves money in the long run. And a clean image — one attained by, say, avoiding oil spills and other environmental disasters — reduces criticism from employees, consumers and government.

But somehow ends up in Thomas Friedman crazyland:

While the United States is dithering about long-distance energy transmission from our rural areas with the highest potential for wind energy generation to our urban areas with the highest need for energy, China is far ahead of us. It is developing ultra-high-voltage transmission lines from wind and solar generation sites in rural western China to cities in eastern China. If America doesn’t act to develop innovative energy technology, we will lose the green jobs competition not only to Finland and Germany (as we are now) but also to China.

Class, repeat after me:

(1). Green jobs are NOT a zero sum game where nations are competing for a fixed number of them.

(2). If China or Germany or anyone develops "innovative energy technology", that is NOT bad for us.  It is in fact *awesome* for us, as we can then adopt it and use it.

People, ideas are public goods. That is the whole basis of new growth theory. If China is now doing cutting edge R&D, that is an unmitigated blessing for everyone on the planet.


Suppose I go to a baseball game, with my teen-age son. I've just been to the bank, and the smallest bill I have is a $100.

I send my son up to get two hot dogs, some peanuts, and two diet sodas. I know that costs maybe $18.

He comes back with the stuff and sits down. I ask him for the change. He looks at me like I'm crazy. "That money is going to be spent on other things! That's leftover money!"

What would I do? I'd grab him by the belt, and shake the money out of his pockets! That's my money! I want my change back. I WANT MY CHANGE BACK!

That's what we should be telling President Obama about the TARP money. I WANT MY CHANGE BACK! Obama and his bunch of geniuses in Congress said they needed our money, that there would be a DISASTER unless we gave them a $1 Trillion bill. Maybe that was true, maybe it wasn't.

But we gave them the trillion dollar bill. AND THEY DIDN'T NEED IT ALL.

WE WANT OUR CHANGE BACK! It is outrageous that they are keeping the change, just so they can spend it on something else.

Tell the President: WE....WANT....OUR.....CHANGE...BACK! Apply the money back toward the deficit, don't treat it like a high school kid at a baseball game, on the equivalent of cotton candy and corn dogs.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Culture that is Germany VII

Or Saw -1?

Here it is, direct from der Spiegel:

Was it mass cannibalism, ritual slaughter or both? Archaeologists who unearthed the remains of 500 Stone Age corpses in the German town of Herxheim say the meat was cut off their bones as if they were livestock. One conclusion is that the people were eaten -- after volunteering to be sacrificed.


Drug war over: We win!!

hat tip to Art Carden!

Part of the VANGuard

This guy lived in a van, on the Duke campus.

Or so he says.

(Nod to Chelsea)

An Email Exchange

A delightful email exchange.


From: Simon Edhouse
Date: Tuesday 17 November 2009 11.07am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Logo Design

You just crossed the line. You have no idea about the potential this project has. The technology allows users to network peer to peer, add contacts, share information and is potentially worth many millions of dollars and your short sightedness just cost you any chance of being involved.

From: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday 17 November 2009 1.36pm
To: Simon Edhouse
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Logo Design

Dear Simon,

So you have invented Twitter. Congratulations. This is where that time machine would definitely have come in quite handy.

When I was about twelve, I read that time slows down when approaching the speed of light so I constructed a time machine by securing my father's portable generator to the back of my mini-bike with rope and attaching the drive belt to the back wheel. Unfortunately, instead of traveling through time and finding myself in the future, I traveled about fifty metres along the footpath at 200mph before finding myself in a bush. When asked by the nurse filling out the hospital accident report "Cause of accident?" I stated 'time travel attempt' but she wrote down 'stupidity'.

If I did have a working time machine, the first thing I would do is go back four days and tell myself to read the warning on the hair removal cream packaging where it recommends not using on sensitive areas. I would then travel several months back to warn myself against agreeing to do copious amounts of design work for an old man wielding the business plan equivalent of a retarded child poking itself in the eye with a spoon, before finally traveling back to 1982 and explaining to myself the long term photographic repercussions of going to the hairdresser and asking for a haircut exactly like Simon LeBon's the day before a large family gathering.

Regards, David.

(Nod to Prabhu)

Monday, December 07, 2009

The never ending temporary tax?

In 1993, my northern neighbors in OKC voted to add one cent to their sales tax to fund something called MAPS. This tax was sold as temporary and the revenues were used to (among other things) help get the Ford Center (where my beloved Thunder play) built. The tax expired in 2001, but was replaced by an equivalent tax to fund "MAPS for kids" which spent money on school renovations or new school construction. When that tax expired, an extension was sold the the OKC-ites to help get the Seattle Supersonics to come to OKC by funding renovations of the Ford Center.

Now THAT tax is set to expire and sure enough, voters are being asked tomorrow to approve yet another extension for "MAPS 3", which is supposed to last for 9 years, and to fund a laundry list of projects such as:

  • A new, approximately 70-acre central park linking the core of downtown with the Oklahoma River. The park would include a restaurant, lake, amphitheater, dog park, skating rink and other amenities. ($130 million)
  • A new rail-based streetcar system of 5 to 6 miles downtown, a downtown transit hub to link streetcar, commuter rail and bus systems, and possibly increased funding for the building of commuter rail lines. ($130 million)
  • A new downtown convention center on the south edge of downtown near the proposed park. ($280 million)
  • Sidewalks to be placed on major streets and near facilities used by the public throughout the city. ($10 million)
  • 57 miles of new public bicycling and walking trails throughout the City. ($40 million)
  • Improvements to the Oklahoma River, including a public whitewater kayaking facility and upgrades intended to achieve the finest rowing racecourse in the world. ($60 million)
  • State-of-the-art health and wellness aquatic centers throughout the city designed for senior citizens. ($50 million)
  • Improvements to the State Fair Park public buildings, meeting halls and exhibit spaces. ($60 million)
  • Contingency funds to cover unforeseen costs ($17 million)
While all of this stuff surely is awesome, (can you imagine how nice of trails those would be at a price tag of $701,754.39 per mile?) I wonder if my northern neighbors are getting tired of this 17 year long temporary tax? At least some folks are against it and they have put their case up on the interwebs here.

So maybe in a few years I can take a streetcar to the senior aquatic center and then walk a luxury trail down to the Oklahoma "river" to see some white water kayaking! And after that, who knows? Maybe MAPS 4 could build a ski resort in south OKC!

More reasons to not worry about the demise of newspapers

People, you don't need newspapers, you got KPC for FREE! But (as our beloved president loves to say) some would argue that newspapers serve an essential role in a democracy by influencing the electoral process.

Well, not so much, according to a new NBER working paper by Gentzkow, Shapiro, and Sinkinson (ungated version here):

We use new data on entries and exits of US daily newspapers from 1869 to 2004 to estimate effects on political participation, party vote shares, and electoral competitiveness. Our identification strategy exploits the precise timing of these events and allows for the possibility of confounding trends. We find that newspapers have a robust positive effect on political participation, with one additional newspaper increasing both presidential and congressional turnout by approximately 0.3 percentage points. Newspaper competition is not a key driver of turnout: our effect is driven mainly by the first newspaper in a market, and the effect of a second or third paper is significantly smaller. The effect on presidential turnout diminishes after the introduction of radio and television, while the estimated effect on congressional turnout remains similar up to recent years. We find no evidence that partisan newspapers affect party vote shares, with confidence intervals that rule out even moderate-sized effects. We find no clear evidence that newspapers systematically help or hurt incumbents.

So to sum up, newspapers don't affect the composition of the vote and since the introduction of radio and then television (i.e. for a long, long time) have only a very small influence on the size of the vote. 

Hey, but at least they do have Dilbert!


UNC's basketball team has been getting the "OH ver RAY ted" cheer from opponents pretty often this year, and has deserved it.

But...CDOs? Really
? That's bad.

(Nod to Reuters)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Wow! Great Britain is Messed Up!

two stories that caught my eye:

1. A guy found a "shorn-off" shotgun in his garden, with two live shells.
He goes to turn it over to the police. And is arrested. And was convicted. And will be sent to jail (!). For "possession of a fire arm"! The law is "strict liability." Just amazing. This man will go to jail for five years.

My gosh, even the Canadians think the Brits are a bunch of jack-booted thug boys.

Sentencing for the vicious criminal Paul Clarke will take place on December 11. And let me state some sympathy for the police, here. IT'S THE LAW that's stupid. How could you enforce a law where turning in a gun is a crime that carries a five year prison sentence?

2. A guy in Wales was cleaning up his yard. By law, the People's Democratic Republic of Wales has dictated that you MUST put yard waste in the special yard waste containers so that paid goons can suck down taxpayer money to go around and collect it for "composting."

So, our sturdy lad did as he was told
. But he also raked up some sticks and apples that had fallen from his apple tree. Apple tree is in the yard, and when it drops sticks, leaves, and apples that might well seem like yard waste.

The crew of cretinous sinecurists refused in horror to collect this dangerous waste, and slapped a "CONTAMINATED!" sign on the bin.

As for me, I'd say the Brits have gone ROUND the bin. One thing occurs to me: would it okay if the first guy had put the shorn-off shotgun in his yard waste? If he had, then the cops would have been forced to arrest the collectors, right? Zero tolerance on gun possession.

Does ICE stand for "Idiots Couldn't Explain"?

Hans Joachim Keil is a U.S. citizen. Demonstrably. He has a passport. He served in the U.S. Air Force.

But he was arrested in Branson, MO by the intrepid folks at ICE. They said he was using a false passport.

Okay, maybe. ICE was worried about human trafficking, and there was a Western Samoan dance troupe there. (Here is their web site. Some pretty studly guys. Tommy the Brit: You are welcome!) There was some kind of investigation. So it wasn't just made up.

Except....except that ICE held Keil for three months. Are our records so bad that it takes three months to check on a passport? (He wasn't in jail, but he couldn't leave Branson. Is that "trailer park arrest," like house arrest but Branson style?

Then, Kiel was released, having never been formally charged. He is now trying to sue the gubmint (here is the actual complaint, listing the facts and the allegation; good luck with that...)

He is (pauses) A. US. CITIZEN. ICE should not be able to harass him, not in any way. But they did. And they could do it to you. If you say, "But I'm a U.S. citizen!" they will simply question your passport.

Ugh. Here is a claim that there was some kind of problem with the application for the passport, in 1967. But then why release him, and say he IS a U.S. citizen? It's the 90 days thing that is strange.

In December 2008, a year ago, the US Attorney's office in Springfield, MO filed a motion essentially certifying (get this) that Kiel was and always had been a U.S. citizen! No, really.

Oh, and one more thing: Keil is the Western Samoa Ambassador to America. If he does NOT have a U.S. passport, then he has diplomatic immunity. He can be deported, but under no circumstances can he be detained.

Bottom line: there are only two possibilities...Keil has, or does not have, a valid U.S. passport. If he does, then he is a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and ICE can't touch him. If he does NOT, then he is a duly appointed ambassador of a foreign nation, on formal diplomatic business, and the ICE CAN'T TOUCH HIM.

The only thing I can think of is that Ambassador Kiel is a big d**khead, and the ICE is just harrassing him for bureaucratic recreation. But if the ICE can use "is a known d**khead" as an excuse to hold you for three months, then...well, Angus and I need to go into hiding!

(Nod: Reason Brickbats)