Saturday, March 06, 2010

Congress tries a hostile takeover of Obama Motors!

So the Obama administration takes over GM, hammering bondholders, handing over huge chunks of taxpayer money and more or less calling the shots in GMs restructuring.

GM decides to reduce the number of models it offers and close down a bunch of marginal dealerships (2000 or so).

Local dealerships support local congress people, and apparently many of these marginal dealerships want to stay in business with GM even though GM doesn't want to be in business with them.

Congress then passes a law requiring an appeals process for dealers who want to keep the family together.  

1100 dealers appealed!

GM has now decided to re-instate 600 or so of them on the grounds that it's less costly to put up with unprofitable dealerships than it is to fight Congress about closing them.

Meanwhile, the Obama management team for GM opposes the legislation and appeals process because (obviously) it is going to make it that much harder for GM to get a chance at someday being profitable.

So the executive branch tosses billions to bail out GM and the UAW and Congress then mandates that some of that money flow (indirectly) to unprofitable dealerships as well.


I feel like Casey Stengel wondering "can't anybody here play this game"?

Friday, March 05, 2010

She Wanted to Be "Ready" For the Visit

As authorities nationwide warn motorists of the dangers of driving while texting, Florida Keys law enforcement officers add a new caution: Don't try to shave your privates, either.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers say a two-vehicle crash Tuesday at Mile Marker 21 on Cudjoe Key was caused by a 37-year-old woman driver who was shaving her bikini area while her ex-husband took the wheel from the passenger seat.

"She said she was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be ready for the visit," Trooper Gary Dunick said.

The whole story is worth reading
. My home state....

There are many things I like about the story. But the best parts, for my money, are that she was getting her ex-husband to drive from the passenger seat. While she sat in the driver's seat (why?), shaving her tingly bits. To be "ready" for her boyfriend. With a suspended license. In an illegal car.

(Nod to LS)

Good news for people who love bad news

Yes, the economy lost more jobs last month, and yes the unemployment rate is still 9.7%, but in some sense this is what qualifies as "good news" these days. Job losses were predicted to be higher and the unemployment rate was predicted to rise, so this qualifies as a "better than expected" jobs report.

I continue to think that the economy is turning the corner and that we are more likely to get a faster than predicted recovery than we are to get a double dip recession.

I also think that the biggest threat to a robust recovery is not a lack of further government action, but rather the threat of further government action in the form of higher taxes on corporations and entrepreneurs. 

Must be the capitalism!

African Poverty is Falling...Much Faster than You Think!

Xavier Sala-i-Martin & Maxim Pinkovskiy
NBER Working Paper, February 2010

Abstract: The conventional wisdom that Africa is not reducing poverty is wrong. Using the methodology of Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin (2009), we estimate income distributions, poverty rates, and inequality and welfare indices for African countries for the period 1970-2006. We show that: (1) African poverty is falling and is falling rapidly; (2) if present trends continue, the poverty Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people with incomes less than one dollar a day will be achieved on time; (3) the growth spurt that began in 1995 decreased African income inequality instead of increasing it; (4) African poverty reduction is remarkably general: it cannot be explained by a large country, or even by a single set of countries possessing some beneficial geographical or historical characteristic. All classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history, experience reductions in poverty. In particular, poverty fell for both landlocked as well as coastal countries; for mineral-rich as well as mineral-poor countries; for countries with favorable or with unfavorable agriculture; for countries regardless of colonial origin; and for countries with below- or above-median slave exports per capita during the African slave trade.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Not Funny

Striking a little too close to home....

How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?

No Way to Go

Man electrocuted urinating on live 2400V power line.

That's "no way to go."

Owie owie owie.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Marking down the mark up

Potentially very cool new NBER working paper by Cúrdia and Reiss (ungated version here) argues that once you allow the exogenous shocks in DSGE models to be correlated, fluctuations in the mark up become less important in explaining business cycles.  

Here, let them tell it:

The dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models that are used to study business cycles typically assume that exogenous disturbances are independent autoregressions of order one. This paper relaxes this tight and arbitrary restriction, by allowing for disturbances that have a rich contemporaneous and dynamic correlation structure. Our first contribution is a new Bayesian econometric method that uses conjugate conditionals to make the estimation of DSGE models with correlated disturbances feasible and quick. Our second contribution is a re-examination of U.S. business cycles. We find that allowing for correlated disturbances resolves some conflicts between estimates from DSGE models and those from vector autoregressions, and that a key missing ingredient in the models is countercyclical fiscal policy. According to our estimates, government spending and technology disturbances play a larger role in the business cycle than previously ascribed, while changes in markups are less important.

Well done sirs. Kudos!

Mankiw's Theorem

Greg M asserts, without proof, the following claim:

Feckless > Counterproductive

I think that he is right, though. The proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

(Nod to the Bishop)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Another Earthquake in Chile

Huge Aftershocks in Chile

Tsunami warnings....

The secret to true happiness

Mungowitz's shocking secret revealed!

People, legal newsline has broken this story wide open. I just can't believe it, but there it is in black and white.

When Mungo and I were in grad school together, I was always tagging along behind him as he worked the system, made friends, charmed the professors, and pretty much got whatever he wanted (I was basically a spiky simmering ball of resentment and sarcasm the whole time).

But apparently I actually did A LOT BETTER than he at Wash U, as the story makes clear:

"Munger earned his master's degree in economics at Washington University in St. Louis and worked as a staff economist at the Federal Trade Commission. A Libertarian who received 3 percent of the 2008 vote for governor, Munger is also the head of the political science department at Duke."

I was somehow under the impression that both of us got our PhDs from good old don't wash me, Wash U.

Mungo, you got some 'splainin' to do!

ps. maybe Avanash K. Dixit retroactively revoked your doctorate?


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Barney Frank and Andrew Cuomo.... Great Americans

Article in LegalNewsLine

I doubt I'll be getting any xmas cards from Barney or Andy.

Texas Gov Campaign

(Nod to Chateau)

Immanentize the Eschaton? No, But Days Are Shorter

The end of days?

No, but days are shorter now.

The Grand Game, Handgun Edition

This editorial is remarkably confused, even for the New York Times, which is way out front on muddling.

As far as I can tell, the structure of the "argument" is this:

1. DC v. Heller was wrongly decided, and 2nd Amendment should not apply to states or cities. Only the federal government, and DC, are prevented by banning guns outright.

2. All of the Bill of Rights should apply to states and cities.

3. There is a Constitutional right for some people to be able to prevent other people from exercising Constitutional rights. In particular, the last sentence says: "There is another right, however, that should not get lost: the right of people, through their elected representatives, to adopt carefully drawn laws that protect them against other people’s guns."

Now, #2 directly contradicts #1. And #3...WTF? There ARE laws, against assault with a gun, murder with a gun, robbery with a gun, that sort of thing. No one is saying that we should get rid of laws that punish misuse of guns.

For those so impressed with laws, let me ask this: Why don't those laws "protect us against other people's guns?" Doesn't that mean that the police CANNOT PROTECT US! If the police can't protect us, then shouldn't we be able to protect ourselves, in our own homes, with legally purchased firearms? And wasn't just that the basis of the Heller decision in the first place? I'm SO confused.

The NYTimes has discovered a new constitutional principle: "selective incorpodumbassicity." This means that the stupidity of some voters is incorporated, using a fabricated interpretation of the 14th Amendment, to rewrite the 2nd Amendment so that legitimate gun ownership, by responsible law-abiding citizens, is treated exactly the same way as if you robbed a bank.

Please discuss, in comments.

(Nod to The Chelsea)

Getaway Car

Another big police chase on I-40 this morning in Raleigh.

The guy was sure he could escape the cops. I'm guessing that drugs were involved, since.... well, look at the car:The PERFECT getaway car! No one will ever notice me in this baby. It's like camouflage.... if you were driving through a giant herd of flamingos.

Nancy Pelosi, meet Robin Hanson!

"Nice to meet you madam Speaker. By the way, have you seen this?"

"Please take it easy Madam Speaker, if your head explodes, you will be a poor candidate for cryogenic preservation."

Radio from yesterday

If you want to hear part of one of the radio interviews from yesterday, go here and click on the blue "listen" link. (It appears you need Silverlight, so Tom Howe will likely refuse...damned Microsoft!)

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Piece of Terrifying History

The venue where I gave my talk today in Wheeling (thanks, Erik R! You are the BEST!) turns out to have been home to an actual famous speech, almost exactly 60 years ago.

The text of the speech, given by Senator "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy, can be found here. In that speech, the Senator claimed to have a list of 57 proven Communists in the US State Department, waving some blank papers as if that were the "list." That was Feb 9, 1950.

I feel...weird. I was there, on that podium. And from the sounds of the heating unit, it is original also.

(UPDATE: In this article from the Wheeling Intelligencer, it seems that the speech was given at the Hotel McLure, down the street, though MacCarthy did work on the speech at the Fort Henry Club. This book says that, too, on p. 182....)

Sam Presti apparently knows more about basketball than I do

I know, I know it's hard to believe. But I think it's true.

Presti picked Russell Westbrook very high in the draft and projected him to be a point guard. Throughout Russ's rookie season, I would occasionally gripe about his (a) taking too many shots and (b) not taking care of the ball.

But wow, look at him now. He should be the Western Conference player of the month for February.

Over 11 games, he has averaged 18.8 points on 46% shooting, 6.6 rebounds, 10 assists and only 2.3 turnovers while playing about 36 minutes.

That is big time point guarding my friends.

Refugees Flee Tyranny of German Consensus

Interesting story in Times.... German family was granted amnesty in the US to escape state schools.


Among European countries, Germany is nearly alone in requiring, and enforcing, attendance of children at an officially recognized school. The school can be private or religious, but it must be a school. Exceptions can be made for health reasons but not for principled objections.

But the Romeikes, who are devout Christians, said they wanted their children to learn in a different environment. Mr. Romeike (pronounced ro-MY-kuh), 38, a soft-spoken piano teacher whose young children greet strangers at the front door with a startlingly grown-up politeness, said the unruly behavior of students that was allowed by many teachers had kept his children from learning. The stories in German readers, in which devils, witches and disobedient children are often portrayed as heroes, set bad examples, he said.

“I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible,” he said, but “part of education should be character-building.”

In Germany, he said, home-schoolers are seen as “fundamentalist religious nuts who don’t want their children to get to know what is going on in the world, who want to protect them from everything.”

“In fact,” he said, sitting on his sofa as his three older children wrote in workbooks at the dining table, “I want my children to learn the truth and to learn about what’s going on in the world so that they can deal with it.”

The reasoning behind the German law, cited by officials and in court cases, is to foster social integration, ensure exposure to people from different backgrounds and prevent what some call “parallel societies.”

“We have had this legal basis ever since the state was founded,” said Thomas Hilsenbeck, a spokesman for the Ministry for Culture, Youth and Sport in the Romeikes’ state, Baden-Württemberg. “This is broadly accepted among the general public.”

The family has been here for some time, having left Germany in 2008. But it was not until Jan. 26 that a federal immigration judge in Memphis granted them political asylum, ruling that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned.

In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.

The soulless, sheep-like docility of Germans is remarkable. I heard that "broadly accepted among the general public" explanation over and over again, in a very condescending tone. Look, suppose we were talking about slavery, or genocide. The fact that is "broadly accepted" among those who favor tyranny is irrelevant. The fact that one of the tyrants would even say it is remarkable.

Now, I am NOT comparing public schools to slavery or genocide. My point is that "broadly accepted" is irrelevant to "right thing to do." Broadly accepted can't be the standard, in a civilized nation, of the set of the things citizens can be forced to do at gunpoint.

The YYM spent some time at German schools, and saw both chaos and teacher indifference up close. Sure, those things happen in the US also, quite possibly worse. But why would have to send your child there to be bored and corrupted by state-sponsored indoctrination?

Here's my question: will we need a new "German Wall," to prevent freedom-loving Germans from trying to flee the "tyranny of broadly accepted," and escape to the US?

(Nod to Anonyman)

UPDATE: One of KPC's smart and attractive readers, in comments, toward the Volokh Conspiracy's excoriation of the judge. And rightly so. While I agree that the decision of the judge is a bit silly, so are our immigration laws. Stupid law requires silly judges. And stupid law comes first, and is causal.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Almost Heaven...

Giving talk tomorrow at West Liberty University, near Wheeling, WV. More than a little cold here.

Blurb: here...

And the accommodations at the Oglebay are pleasant...

News Tip

How interesting. Restaurant refuses to serve customer because customer does not tip.

1. If a tip is required, is it a tip?
2. Can restaurants refuse to serve someone, based on the refusal to pay a voluntary gratuity? After all, the restaurant could add 18% to its price, and give the extra money to the servers/table chef (it's one of those "Japanese Steakhouse" places with a mostly Latino staff).
3. Isn't a petition, and public scorning, the right thing for the customer to do, if she disagrees.

1. No.
2. Yes, but then I think a private restaurant can refuse to serve anyone, at any time, for any reason. What part of "private" don't you understand?
3. Yes.

(Nod to Anonyman, who even tips at Locopop, because he is washed in the milk of human kindness, even though that took a LOT of milk)

Can you hear me now?

Hat tip to GW

Pay the Pfand, Lower Crime Rates!

Externalities from Recycling Laws: Evidence from Crime Rates

Bevin Ashenmiller
American Law and Economics Review, forthcoming

Abstract: This paper tests whether laws that encourage bottle recycling and also increase the labor incomes of low-wage workers have the additional effect of reducing petty crime rates. A simple choice theory model of crime participation and labor supply suggests that low-wage workers may substitute time and effort away from illegal activity to legal and remunerative recycling activity. Between 1973 and 2001, eleven states and one city enacted bottle recycling laws, and this paper exploits the variation in the year of implementation of the bottle laws to measure and test for any reduction in crime rates. The results show that city-level petty crime rates in bottle law states are on average 11% lower than city-level petty crime rates in non-bottle law states. Although the primary positive benefits of recycling income go to low-income individuals, the unexpected secondary benefit of lower crime rates affects both high- and low-income individuals.

It is important to allow everyone to share the religious experience of recycling. Except during "quiet time."

(Nod to Kevin L)

Nolan Chart, Conservatives, Vegans, and Cheeseburgers

Angry Alex, on the Nolan Chart:

It says I'm a Libertarian. *Stands up in a room full of people and says 'My name is Alex and I'm a Libertarian and a recovering NeoCon.' I then duck a bottle chucked at me by Mike Huckabee.

Listening to Mike Huckabee preach the merits of conservatism is like hearing someone preach the virtues of a vegetarian diet while stuffing down a bacon double cheeseburger. Just sayin'