Monday, January 31, 2011


For you podcastrians out there....part I of a four-series on grad school and finding a job.

KOSMOS--Podcast I: Munger on "Writing a Disseration and Setting a Research Agenda."

The Girl Store

Wow. Disturbing. The Girl Store.

Some comment. ("Heart rendering"? They want to boil the fat and connective tissue out of it?)
And this is just creepy.

So....good thing, bad thing?


Ignoring Costs and Benefits

"Even when agencies find that the cost of a given regulation does exceed the benefit, political considerations often keep the rules on the books. In 2007, Congress passed a law, named in honor of a 2-year-old child crushed as his father backed down the driveway, that effectively required the installation of rear-view video cameras in cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, charged with writing the new rules, found that the technology would save lives but — assuming a human life was worth about $6.1 million, a figure used by the agency for its calculations — that the cost would exceed the benefits by more than $1 billion. Nonetheless, the agency proposed the requirement, noting that it was responding to the will of Congress and that 'there is a special solicitude for protection of children.' Under the rule, automakers will be required to start installing cameras by 2014." [NYT]

"Long ago, cost-benefit analysis was a rallying cry for conservatives. It was brought to government by none other than Ronald Reagan, in Executive Order 12291 of 1981...Outraged liberals charged that cost-benefit analysis was a pretext to stifle regulation, and that it was arbitrary because of the difficulty of attaching dollar values to lives, environmental goods, and other regulatory benefits. Conservatives replied that cost-benefit analysis blocks bad regulations: Why would one support a regulation that produces higher costs than benefits?...The debate continued in this vein for decades, but over time, positions shifted. Some liberals came to see cost-benefit analysis as a good-government tool that promotes transparency and accountability, while some conservatives began to wonder whether it confers legitimacy on the New Deal state...[A]cademic research has shown that many of the cost-benefit analyses issued under all administrations were shoddy; in fact, there is little evidence that the introduction of cost-benefit analysis has improved the quality of regulations. The reason is that courts do not usually force agencies to comply with cost-benefit analyses, so unless the president steps in, the agency can do what it wants." [Eric Posner, TNR]

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

If the NY Times and the New Republic both think Pres. Obama's signature reform program is balloon's probably balloon juice!

178 things you probably don't want to do

But now, in Cuba, you can now apply for a license to be allowed to do them. Here are a few of my favorites, indicating that maybe there is not a lot of production of new goods in Cuba:

6. Door-to-door knife and scissors sharpener
21. Operator of Children's Fun Wagon Pulled by Pony or Goat
22. Buyer and Seller of Records (LPs, 45's, CDs)
23. Used Book Seller
24. Builder/Seller/Installer of Radio and TV Antennas
25. Craftsman/Seller/Repairman of Wicker Furniture
36. Door-to-Door Non-Alcoholic Beverage Seller
37. Home or Street Based Seller/Preparer of Non-Alcoholic Beverages
39. Charcoal Preparer/Seller
46. Electric Motor Rewiring (wraps new wire around bobbin on burned motors)
49. Button Coverer (Wraps buttons in cloth for upholstery and cocktail dresses popular in the 50's
and 60's)
62. Spark Plug Cleaner and Tester
107. Watch Repair
108. Leather Repair
109. Jewelry Repair
110. Bedframe Repair
111. Automobile Battery Repair
112. Bicycle Repair
113. Costume Jewelry Repair
114. Fence and Walkway Repair
115. Stove/Range Repair
116. Mattress Repair
117. Small Household Goods Repair
118. Office Equipment Repair
119. Electronic Equipment Repair
120. Mechanical and Combustion Equipment Repair
121. Eyeglass Repair
122. Sewing Machine Repair
123. Saddle and Harness Repair
124. Umbrella and Parasol Repair
125. Disposable Lighter Repair and Refill
127. Doll and Toy Repair

The most amazing to me is #125: Disposable lighter repair & refill? That is no way to win the future, Fidel.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Such a deal!

I am not sure in how many other NBA cities you'd see this (from today's game vs. Heat):

When I die, I'll be Sooner dead!

Green Non-jobs

Wow. Either we have different definitions of "success," or our Prez just doesn't even care about actual facts. Check this:

WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Obama called Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wisconsin an example of how America can win the future by being the best place on Earth to do business. Orion was able to open with the help of small business loans and incentives that are creating demand for clean energy technologies. By sparking innovation and spurring new products and technologies, America will unleash the talent and ingenuity of American workers and businesses, which will lead to new, good jobs.

As Doug North would say, "BUHH-uht..." (he says it with two syllables, really he does). The "but" in this case is more like a "but, but, but,"

Orion Energy is well on its way to bankruptcy. It produces no products that anyone wants to buy. It's a boondoggle. Here's a 4 year stock price chart on AMEX for you: The Obama Admin has a two part test for "succes":

1. Are you receiving money taken at gunpoint from taxpayers, and using it for some purpose that makes lefties happy? Most important, is this something that has no actual market, in the market?

2. Did you spend the money? All of it?

If you can answer "yes" to both sets of are a SUCCESS! So we'll give you more money.

Archimides is reported to have said, "Give me a large enough lever, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I will move the whole world!"

Obama says, "Give me enough deficit-financed subsidies, and a second term, and I will employ the whole world in failing to produce products that no one wanted to buy in the first place."

Nod to the Blonde

D. Kucinich: Poster Boy for Tort Reform

Congressman Kucinich appears to be trying to prove we need tort reform.

Unless of course this is an ironic attempt to call attention to the problem of nonsensical, frivolous suits.

I think not. But here is a pic of a nonsensical, frivolous suit, worn with a pretty bad tie.

"Pharaoh out of Egypt"

This is my favorite bit out of Egypt so far:

In surreal scenes, soldiers from Mubarak's army stood by tanks covered in anti-Mubarak graffiti: "Down with Mubarak. Down with the despot. Down with the traitor. Pharaoh out of Egypt."

Asked how they could let protesters scrawl anti-Mubarak slogans on their vehicles, one soldier said: "These are written by the people, it's the views of the peopl

Egypt is a military dictatorship, propped up by the United States and has been for over 50 years. The key here is not whether Mubarak stays or goes (pero, que se vaya ya!) but whether or not Egypt will cease being a military dictatorship, and I guess what that would mean for its relations with us.

I am not a scholar of the Middle East, but the people out on the streets don't seem to be Islamicists to me. They seem like they want what most people want; jobs, opportunity, a less corrupt government. I don't see reporting that they are chanting "death to Israel" or asking to have a theocracy.

In other words, while I regret the looting and loss of life, the events in Egypt seem unmitigatedly good. Perhaps the military will actually relinquish a chunk of it's power over everyday life. It happened in Brazil, Chile, & Uruguay; maybe it can happen in North Africa too.

and that's the reason I'm a Bullets fan!

Hat tip to Zach M.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

From a Friend

From a friend with contacts in Egypt....

Well, the writing is on the wall it seems. I could be wrong, but appears Mubarak is done. His sons have left the country and Omar Suleiman has been sworn as the first vice president Egypt has had in 30 years. I expect an announcement of power transfer reasonably soon. Judging by the tweet streams, appears most people there believe the military has pushed Mubarak into this. Something has to happen soon, as police and internal security are abandoning posts to join in semi-organized looting. Several police stations have come under direct attack by armed protesters. The declared 4pm curfew seems to have been largely ignored, most recent reliable est I've seen is over 50k still in streets in Cairo. Cairo is 7 hrs ahead of US eastern time.

Suleiman would be a very acceptable replacement to Israel & the West. Whether he'll be acceptable to the Egyptian people is another question. He has been the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (EGIS) since 1993. Prior to that he was director of military intelligence. He is considered a relatively liberal Muslim, strongly opposed to radical Islam. He was the mastermind behind the fragmentation of Islamist groups who led the uprising against the state in the 1990s. He's been a key behind the scenes player in the Israeli/Hamas/PA/Egypt/US back-and-forth, and appears to be trusted [in a relative sense] by the current Israeli govt. He's been more public in direct diplomacy between Israel and Egypt. As Egypt's intelligence chief, Suleiman has been in charge of the country's most important political security files, the ultimate insider. He is 75.

Aviation chief Ahmed Mohamed Shafik, until a few hrs ago widely considered the front runner to replace Mubarak, has been appointed Prime Minister.

NOT clear that being in Egypt means one knows more than the rest of us, of course. But there it is, for what it's worth...

She Ran Over...Herself

Her car runneth over.....

People in Washington are NUTS

(Nod to Raoul)

Good Sense

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t China and Iran really far away? I realize that both pose a potential threat to American security. But don’t they also pose a threat to lots of other countries that are actually in their neighborhoods? So, if we appoint ourselves world police, and foot the bill for a correspondingly gargantuan arsenal, aren’t we suckers? You might reply that our disproportionate role in policing reflects the fact that these nations threaten the United States disproportionately. On Iran’s vitriol list, the United States ranks high. And Chinese leaders direct more coded warnings toward America than toward, say, Brazil. But this logic is circular. A big reason that some nations view us so warily is that we assume the role of global cop — or, as they see it, of global bully.

...By declaring ourselves global cop, we direct so much of the world’s lethal animus toward us that increasingly it does seem to make sense to take the lead in policing the world. So we dig ourselves into an ever deeper hole with a policy that, in a perverse and ultimately catastrophic way, renders itself ever more plausible.

... People who, like me, raise questions about the value of global military engagement are sometimes called 'isolationists.' But that term rightly applies only to people who don’t realize that there are threats to our security out there. If you perceive the threats but realize that they’re collective action problems, you realize that we do have to be involved in their solution.
[Robert Wright, NYT op-ed]

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize incarceration watch

1. Currently incarcerated:

LIU XIAOBO China 2010


2. Out for now but inevitably will be re-incarcerated soon

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, Burma 1991

3. Should be thrown in the slammer ASAP and the key conveniently misplaced


Death is not all it's cracked up to be

Wow! Turns out that Hamlet was wrong; death is no sure inoculation against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

For example, you might get snorted up some punk's nose! (what was up with those guys, had they never seen cocaine before?)

Or maybe your body might get snatched out of the grave after 16 months and held for ransom! (would someone really pay ransom for a corpse? Even in Italy?)

Or you might be able to "enjoy" post mortem sex! (I guess it's the ultimate "break-up sex")

In Socialist Sweden, Piano Plays YOU!

Maybe Cass Sunstein can make the cap & trade bill look like a jack-in-the-box??

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Congrats to Timur Kuran

Nice article in The Economist about Timur Kuran's new book.

Timur may be the single nicest economist* I have ever met. Duke is lucky to have him.

(*Yes, nicer than Angus. Sure, that's hard to believe, but I'm just sayin'...)


I had heard about this history before, but this article is just heart-breaking.

Some elaboration, and interesting comments, from '03.

Tempting to say this is a parable of government incompetence. But it's unfair to call MILITARY incompetence "government." All military procurement, everywhere, is aggressively snafu-ed and always will be.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater)

El Mercurio: Fue un discurso 'de postre'

My amiga linda Carolina gives me a chance to talk about the SOTU in El Mercurio.

And she quoted me accurately, because I did say "Fue un discurso 'de postre': dulce cuando lo estás comiendo, pero después te sientes con sueño y algo lento y te preguntas qué había en él", añadió.

That is, "It was a dessert speech: sweet while you eating it, but afterwards you feel all sleepy and sluggish, and wonder what was in it."

Putting the P back in PhD

Pelsmin sends this link. Prof tinkles on colleague's door.

Here's perP. Website not updated since 9-06. Perhaps he should note that his research interests now include canP-Completeness.

Umm, your pessimistic forecast is way too optomistic

and just plain wrong!

There's an awesome AP article this morning with the headline "Social Security Fund Now Seen To Be Empty by 2037"

People, I've got news for the AP: That sumbich is empty now!

Ahorita mismo!

Every penny of payroll tax revenue is spent to help cover current general expenditures. We can't even really say which general expenditures because money is fungible.

Payroll tax revenue is not being saved or invested.

If payroll tax revenue was really in a "lockbox", then it wouldn't count in figuring out the current deficit would it? Well it certainly is counted as general revenue when the government calculates its deficit.

Your payroll taxes do NOT fund your personal social security retirement benefits. Future social security benefits are unfunded liabilities of the federal government, payable out of future tax revenues.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let's put the future behind us

One day later and confirmation arrives that the economic illiteracy on display at SOTU was not a just a mirage or bad dream.

Here are some money quotes from today:

The president said Wednesday that while China invested in clean energy technologies, "we fell down on the job. We weren't moving as fast as we should have."

"We're going to need to go all in. We're going to need to get serious about winning the future,"

People, this is just plain nuts!

China subsidizing investments in clean energy technology is VERY VERY GOOD for us. If they make a breakthrough, what, they won't sell the product to us? Really?

Is it surprising to anyone that Jeffrey Immelt, Obama's new "jobs czar" runs a company that makes wind turbines?

"We're going to need to get serious about winning the future" is the stupidest thing I've heard a president say since "Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."

America is not going to recover its greatness by pissing money away on choo-choos and windmills.

Assorted Links

Winter: Not right for America! (Nod to the Blonde)

News coverage of Wake County school board called "too balanced." Funny, my own recollection is that S. Colbert was pretty unbalanced (as is his right, of course; far be it from me to criticize a lack of balance, especially when it is quite funny)

Hand Grenades From TSA Blog: Not the Onion (I think?) (Nod to Angry Alex)

Socialized seamen then....Obamacare now? (Nod to MAG)

Students socialize rather than study
. Next: Sun rises in East!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nice Letter

Nice letter from UCONN alum, breaking off relations.

My favorite part: the "Personal and Confidential" thing at the top. If you cut off ties, bail on your skybox, and renege on contribution pledges, then tell me why oh why would you expect them to keep the letter confidential. Here's the first page. What an asshat.

Makes me think of "LIFE OF BRIAN": You are only making things worse for yourself.

Worse? How can they get any worse? Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah! Now read your letter in the PAPER, pumpkin! How do ya like me NOW?

(Nod to UCONN prof friend, who will remain anonymous)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Everybody's got something to hide (except Idaho)

Here's a fun map showing one bad thing that every state is best at (clic the pic for a more glorious image):

except of course Idaho's badge of shame, "weakest government influence", sounds like a badge of honor to me!

Hat Tip to Keith G.

All Hail Rashard Mendenhall!

What better way to celebrate going to the super bowl with a rapist for a QB than enthusiastically humping him on the last play of the game?

I have been a Steelers fan since the Steel Curtain 1970s with Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, et. al, but I am pretty conflicted about rooting for them this year.

I did really enjoy Rashard gettin' busy though!

Politician, heal thyself

Big Government has a weird, love/hate relationship with Big Pharma.

On the one hand, the FDA drags its feet and makes the drug approval process expensive and interminable, while the costs of prescription medicines were constantly targeted in the Health Insurance Extension & Expansion debates.

On the other hand, Big G is so concerned about the lack of new drugs, that they are setting up a "a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines."

We are told that:

"The new effort comes as many large drug makers, unable to find enough new drugs, are paring back research. Promising discoveries in illnesses like depression and Parkinson’s that once would have led to clinical trials are instead going unexplored because companies have neither the will nor the resources to undertake the effort."

Ummm, this is willfully obtuse, even for the NY Times.

Isn't it more likely that Big Pharma is doing a cost benefit analysis and sees the costs going up and the benefits going down?

Isn't it likely that Big Government has caused a substantial part of the problem they are now looking to solve?

Of course a billion dollars is chump change in the prescription drug R&D market but never fear:

The initial financing of the government’s new drug center is relatively small....but officials hope that the prospect of finding new drugs will lure Congress into increasing the center’s financing well beyond $1 billion.

I can tell you one thing, people. I'd like to get some of whatever drugs were behind this great idea.

Women: Can't Live With 'em, Can't Live Without a Welfare State

Women Prefer Larger Governments: Growth, Structural Transformation, and
Government Size

Tiago Cavalcanti & José Tavares
Economic Inquiry, January 2011, Pages 155–171

Abstract: The increase in income per capita is accompanied, in virtually all countries, by two changes in economic structure: the increase in the share of government spending in gross domestic product (GDP), and the increase in female labor force participation. We argue that these two changes are causally related. We develop a growth model based on Galor and Weil (1996) where female participation in market activities, fertility, and government size, in addition to consumption and saving, is endogenously determined. Rising incomes lead to a rise in female labor force participation as the opportunity cost of staying at home and caring for the children increases. In our model, higher government spending decreases the cost of performing household chores, including, but not limited to, child rearing and child
care, as in Rosen (1996). We also use a wide cross-section of data for developed and developing countries and show that higher market participation by women is positively and robustly associated with government size. We then investigate the causal link between participation and government size using a novel unique data set that allows the use of the relative price of productive home appliances as an instrumental variable. We find strong evidence of a causal link between female market participation and government size. This effect is robust to the country sample, time period, and a set of controls in the spirit of Rodrik (1998).


Historical Trust Levels Predict the Current Size of the Welfare State

Andreas Bergh & Christian Bjørnskov
Kyklos, February 2011, Pages 1–19

Abstract: Despite the fact that large welfare states are vulnerable to free-riding,
the idea that universal welfare states lead to higher trust levels in the population has received some attention and support among political scientists recently. This paper argues that the opposite direction of causality is more plausible, i.e. that populations with higher trust levels are more prone to creating and successfully maintaining universal welfare states with high levels of taxation where publicly financed social insurance schemes. The hypothesis is tested using instrumental variable techniques to infer variations in trust levels that pre-date current welfare states, and then using the variation in historical trust levels to explain the current size and design of the welfare state, and finally comparing the explanatory power of trust to other potential explanatory factors such as left-right
ideology and economic openness. To infer variation about historical trust levels, we use three instruments, all used previously in the trust literature: the grammatical rule allowing pronoun-drop, average temperature in the coldest month and a dummy for constitutional monarchies. Using cross-sectional data for 77 countries, we show that these instruments are valid and that countries with higher historical trust levels have significantly higher public expenditure as a share of GDP and also have more
regulatory freedom. This finding is robust to controlling for several other potential explanations of welfare state size.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public Choice readings revisited

Recently, LeBron gave his reading list for Public Choice

I'd like to chip in with a Public Choice reading list for people who don't want to be bored to death!!

These three will teach you everything you need to know and keep you entertained and turning the pages. You'll learn PC by accident!

1. "Catch-22", Joseph Heller

2. "Parliament of Whores", P.J. O'Roarke

3. "Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations", Paul Blustein

On a more academic note, Olson's "Rise and Decline" just gets too much wrong to recommend it; I'd pick "Logic of Collective Action" instead, along with "An Economic Theory of Democracy", "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States", "The Calculus of Consent" (though this book is *very* uneven), and "The Theory of Committees & Elections" (Scots wha hae and all that).

When it comes to textbooks, Mungo and the late Mel Hinich cooked up a great one with "Analytical Politics".

I think the way for people to learn about a subject is to read entertaining works that illustrate the subject in action rather than to bang their heads on encyclopedic reference works.

I learned a lot about the sub-prime crisis from reading "The Big Short" just by accident while being absorbed in a terrific story.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

China Has Problems

In 1990, I interviewed for a job at A. Tuck Business School, Dartmouth College. At lunch, someone brought up the need for business schools in the U.S. to adopt Japanese methods and teaching techniques.

Ever adept at making people like me, I snorted. "Japan is a giant economic bubble," I said. "And the only way that they have growth is by implicitly taxing their consumers with protectionism and diverting private saving into public investment. We ought to look at what Japan is doing, both publicly and privately, and do the exact OPPOSITE. Their growth is fake, and their business methods are short-sighted." (To be fair, I had gotten this view from my mentor Murray Weidenbaum; it was not original)

The reaction from the Tuckwads: Crickets. Utter disbelief. Would have been much better if I had loudly farted and then said, "Middle C! I usually can't hit that note!"

Finally, the Ass. Dean said, "(ahem). Dr. Munger, that would be a rather controversial opinion in these halls. We are trying to learn more about Japanese methods. I'm not sure you are really well versed in the latest research." (He was a Brit; just imagine the condescension ladled on to these words.)

No, I didn't get the job. But here is the growth path of Japan's economy:
Hey, Dean, you mother Tucker, bite me! I hope you lost your 180 thread count bespoke button-down shirt, you idiot!

All that is prologue (and yes I have been badly wrong on a dozen things in the meantime). Anyway, here is my current view:

China's growth is fake. Not as fake as Japan's, because the China doesn't have a zombie financial sector. That's because they have ZERO financial sector, at least in the sense of being able to generate liquidity on a consistent scale. And the threat of nationalization rules out private offerings of publicly traded stock.

It is true that they are producing mountains of stuff. But what they are doing is taking all private saving and expropriating it, converting it into capital for more semi-state-owned factories.

The problem is that there are three reasons wages can go up. (Real Wages are shooting up, over much of China, by the way. Perhaps an index number problem, since an increase from near zero is a big percentage, but still.).

Wage Increase Reason 1: Production process becomes more capital intensive.
Wage Increase Reason 2: Skills and human capital of workers increase
Wage Increase Reason 3: Unions such as UAW or SEIU steal higher wages, driving employment offshore, and devestating the economy. Minimum wage laws work, too, though they mostly harm the poor and economically marginal.

Now, the US chose #3 in northern states ranging from Mass to Mich, and everything in between. And now those states look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. So, that is a bad idea.

I had been under the impression that China was struggling along under Reason #1. But this study suggests Reason #2 is bigger than I would have thought. Interesting.

"The Contribution of Human Capital to China's Economic Growth," John Whalley & Xiliang Zhao, NBER Working Paper, December 2010

Abstract: This paper develops a human capital measure in the sense of Schultz (1960) and then reevaluates the contribution of human capital to China's economic growth. The results indicate that human capital plays a much more important role in China's economic growth than available literature suggests, 38.1% of economic growth over 1978-2008, and even higher for 1999-2008. In addition, because human capital formation accelerated following the major educational expansion increases after 1999 (college enrollment in China increased nearly fivefold between 1997 and 2007) while growth rates of GDP are little changed over the period after 1999, total factor productivity increases fall if human capital is used in growth accounting as we suggest. TFP, by our calculations, contributes 16.92% of growth between 1978 and 2008, but this contribution is -7.03% between 1999 and 2008. Negative TFP growth along with the high contribution of physical and human capital to economic growth seem to suggest that there have been decreased in the efficiency of inputs usage in China or worsened misallocation of physical and human capital in recent years. These results underscore the importance of efficient use of human capital, as well as the volume of human capital creation, in China's growth strategy.
(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

The point is that China is going to run up against a captial constraint, and may (this is delightful) actually follow the Marxist predictions about industrial capitalism. Marx didn't understand capital, but neither do our Chinese friends. Unless the Chinese can get huge amounts of liquidity to feed the need for physical investment, wages from increased human capital are going to start to squeeze them really bad. And there may actually be the worker's revolt that Marx predicted for Western Europe. Except it will happen in a communist country, precisely because it is not capitalist enough to have common stock offerings.

Sticking a Fork in the National Libertarian Party

As some of you people may remember, I was scornful of the LP's choice of Bob Barr as their presidential candidate in 2008.

Now comes the delicious word that Bob (still rockin' a porn stash for the ages) is in Haiti, REPRESENTING BABY DOC DUVALIER!!

Yes that's right, the Libertarian presidential candidate is helping out a notoriously corrupt and brutal ex-dictator.

I do not think that the party will soon recover from the complete and total sellout of libertarian principles that Barr's nomination represented. This is just icing on an ugly, ugly cake.

LP members: Check out this load of crap from your candidate:

Barr "will be representing" Duvalier "in bringing his message of hope to the world," the former Republican congressman's website says.

"I also am reminded of others who have risen from the ashes," Barr told reporters Friday. "The city of Atlanta is the Phoenix city. The people of Haiti, likewise, will rise from the problems created by last year's earthquake and emerge stronger and better than before. That I know is Mr. Duvalier's deep wish and something that he knows in his heart."

1. Baby Doc was a 15 year slow motion earthquake for the people of Haiti.

2. Baby Doc can't know anything in his heart because he does not HAVE a heart

3. If one finds themselves within 10 feet of Baby Doc, the only appropriate course of action would be to try and inflict as much physical damage on him as possible as opposed to the heinous butt kissing of Bob Barr.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to live

(clic the pic for a more glorious image)

Look out Tyler, in Zimbabwe, Zombies have voting rights!

Yesterday, in a classic blog post, when asked to choose an anti-zombie weapon, Tyler chose "the rule of law" (second choice was "anti-zombie constitutional amendment"!!!!).

Grim news for him comes today from Zimbabwe where it is reported that "nearly 1/3 of Zimbabwe's voters are already dead" (this of course explains why Mugabe is still in power after 275 years, he's a Zombie)!!

So under PR, they'd be in a coalition government controlling several ministries!

Plus, during elections, they can eat the brains of non-Zombie voters while waiting to exercise their franchise.

How's that rule of law gonna save you Tyler, when Zombies vote?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Darwin Award, Honorable Mention (No Fatalities)

They were pouring gas directly into the carburetor.

From a bucket.

As they drove.

I'm almost sure these people must be kin to me, somehow.

The woman said she and her two friends had bought gas at a Factoria gas station, but were having trouble keeping the van running. She said they didn't have a gas can, so they filled an open bucket with two gallons of gas and put it in the van.
The engine cowling -- a piece of metal that covered the engine and which was located between the two front seats of the van -- had been removed, the woman said. The passengers used a water bottle to transfer gas from the bucket directly into the carburetor in order to keep the engine running.

(Nod to the Blonde, who assures nobody in MO acts like this. Perhaps because they don't actually have cars...)

UPDATE: KPC friend Andy Rutten emails a report I had missed:
"It's very rare that a car explodes, there's got to be a reason," said Bellevue police spokeswoman Officer Carla Iafrate.
Now THAT is police work, right there.

snorkeling & photography bleg

Over spring break, Mrs. Angus and I are going to a marine sanctuary off the coast of the Dominican Republic to do this for a week (clic the pic for a more glorious image):

We are good swimmers and have snorkeled before, but here are some things I don't know anything about:

good quality fins and masks
underwater photography

Any advice on any of these topics would be appreciated.

BTW, we've never lived on a boat for a week before either.

how not to multi-task

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Movin' on up!

One of my favorite bands, Times New Viking, have a new album coming out on Merge records in April. Here's a video for one of the songs on the album. It's much calmer and quieter than what I expected, but I still really like it:

Tweet of the day

From Andy Borowitz:

"It must be weird for Hu Jintao to meet a Nobel Peace Prize winner who's not in prison"

and I say it's alright

People, this is so freakin' bad, even for the low standards of economic analysis of the NY Times.

In a recent article bemoaning the move of a solar panel plant from Massachusetts to China resides the following paragraph:

"Beyond the issues of trade and jobs, solar power experts see broader implications. They say that after many years of relying on unstable governments in the Middle East for oil, the United States now looks likely to rely on China to tap energy from the sun."

Alex has already mocked this brilliantly ("China monopolizes the sun!!"), but I gotta say a bit more.

First, the analogy is whack. The sun is (at least not yet) in Chinese possession. The analogy would work if we'd been buying oil rigs from the middle east and are replacing that now with buying solar panels from China.

Second, autarky is BAD, people, not good. A world where we are self sufficient for everything is a world quite a bit worse than the one we currently inhabit. There is nothing inherently "wrong" with importing oil; the problem is the effect using oil has on the environment, which is unchanged by where the oil comes from.

Third, China obviously has a comparative advantage on the US in low level manufacturing. Assembling solar panels is not a natural fit for the US in the global economy.

As Mungowitz has been saying, there isn't going to be a "green jobs machine" in the US, unless we are going to *massively* subsidize each job.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Told You So, I Did

Now even the NYT admits that the idea of subsidizing "green jobs" isn't working, and can't work.

I did say this, myself.

(To be fair, that's not the NYT, really. That's Ed Glaeser. He's really really smart. Not sure how the NYT made the mistake of letting him write for them.)

(Nod to Anonyman, who has a green thumb)

Spain is so screwed!

Great chart from the Angry Bear Blog on the evolution of labor costs in the EU (clic the pic for a more glorious image):

The orange line that inexorably rises? Spain.

The green line on the bottom that ends up almost 30% below Spain? Germany.

Chances of Spain reversing this without years of economic and social pain given their membership in the Euro? Zero.

Facts Don't Matter

To the food nannies, actual facts are irrelevant.

Jacob Grier cites some of these facts.

I myself was so discombobulated I went all Boudreaux on the New and Observer, for this story.

Food Trucks Create Jobs

Interesting new business.

(Nod to Anonyman, who is going to stick with his LocoPops, thankyouverymuch)

Monday, January 17, 2011

So Close, and Yet....

Matt Yglesias comes tantalizingly close to making sense for some of these, and then flitters away like a butterfly.

His list of "Things I Support for Policy"

— More redistribution of money from the top to the bottom.
— A less paternalistic welfare state that puts more money directly in the hands of the recipients of social services.

If these were taken as a couplet, I could sort of go along. The first by itself is nonsense; it's not wrong, it's impossible. But if we were to take all the money now spent on welfare and social services for the poor, and split it 80% to the poor, 20% tax rebates for the rest of us, AND PUT ALL THE 80% INTO A NEGATIVE INCOME TAX...then W. Pareto would smile. This is pretty much the argument I make in a paper forthcoming in Basic Income Studies. The point being we don't need more redistribution from top to bottom. What we need to do is make sure some of it actually makes it to the bottom, by preventing Robin Hood's Merry Men in Washington from drinking it all up and spending it on hookers.

— Macroeconomic stabilization policy that seriously aims for full employment.
— Curb the regulatory privileges of incumbent landowners.

I literally have no idea what the first one means. And the second one is clear, but terrifying. Good God, man, have you no shame? Have you no shame, sir? "Curb regulatory privileges" is just a straightforward taking, only without all that expensive (but Constitutionally-mandated) compensation.

— Roll back subsidies implicit in our current automobile/housing-oriented industrial policy.
— Break the licensing cartels that deny opportunity to the unskilled.

Jeez. Wot hoppint? These not only make sense, they are essential pieces of the libertarian economic program. And they are both well and precisely stated. I find it surprising that Matt Y actually believes the second. *I* certainly think the second is a huge problem, Matt: much proper respect and love. This is good work, here.

— Much greater equalization of opportunities in K-12 education.

Put "public" and I'm with you. I don't see a reason to cap how good private schools can be (necessary to "equalize"), but I don't see why there should be such enormous disparities in public education, even in the same state. Of course, the way to do this is vouchers and charter schools. It would be fast and effective. Not sure Matt would go that far, though, 'cause he believes in government PROVISION of education, where I would go no further than government FUNDING of education, and even there I have some worries.

— Reduction of the rents assembled by privileged intellectual property owners.

Sure, yes. Don't feed the trolls. Patents and copyrights need reformed.

— Throughout the public sector, concerted reform aimed at ensuring public services are public services and not jobs programs.

Holy smokes! Not sure how this squares with the "full employment" thing, but if this be reform, give me more of it! In fact, the more I read this one the happier it makes me. Focusing on public service means you might be able to judge if it is a public good, and if it is worth something. Focusing on "jobs" means that evaluations go like this: (1) Do you have a budget? Yes. GOOD! (2) Did you spend it? Yes. VERY GOOD! Evaluation: Excellent program.

— Taxation of polluters (and resource-extractors more generally) rather than current de facto subsidization of resource extraction

Absolutely. AB. SO. LUTE. LY. Stop feeding the oil pigs, the coal pigs who rip the tops off mountains, stop subsidizing extraction with foreign wars that waste our young people and our taxes. If oil and coal were charged out at anything like their true prices, we would not need to subsidize "green" alternatives. Gas would (and should be) $5 a gallon, and coal would be expensive enough that we would find other ways to generate power. Instead, just as Matt Y says, we subsidize the pigs, and then we subsidize the "alternative" fuels. Since all we have to do is STOP spending tax money on coal, oil, ethanol, and so on, this should be doable. Sure, energy prices would go up, but they should go up. And if we had an effective basic income scheme, poor people could still afford the energy.

Overall: well done. Very solid on the list; counting 1/2 's I would say I am with him on 6 of these. I'm pretty confident that there are zero Republicans politicians that would get a 6/10 from me. So, Matt Yglesias for President!

Riding the Sex Doll

A river mishap in Oz.

Insert your own joke here. (well, write in your own joke, then)

(Nod to the Blonde)

Green Jobs: They Don't Exist

Delicious. Rich. I told you so. (etc)

We gave Evergreen Solar millions and millions of dollars, nearly $50 million, to subsidize production of solar energy panels.

But they closed shop and moved to China.

Now the U.S. is mad at China...FOR SUBSIDIZING PRODUCTION OF SOLAR ENERGY PANELS! ("The cops finally busted Madame Marie, for telling fortunes better than they do...")

Look, if the only way you can make money is to pay more than 100% of the purchase price in subsidies, you don't want to be in that business.

(Nod to Anonyman)

MLK day 2.0

Great tweet this morning from novelist Rafael Yglesias:

"The assassination of MLK Jr. was the most devastating of the 60s. We lost a leader who was that rare man of grace: a merciful revolutionary."

I can surely add this too; MLK Jr. was one hell of a preacher!


Gosh, when did the observance of MLK day become a religious obligation? Gov of Maine suggests NAACP can give him a nice nether kiss. A petty, silly squabble. No doubt the Gov. will next say, "You know, I have a lot of black friends!" Still, the NAACP folks in Maine (a large group? probably not...there are only 16k black folks in the state of Maine, total) are pretty insistent: Gov MUST observe MLK day. Strange.

For my own part, that would be easy, because I am a fan of MLK day. I am not a fan of the parasites such as Jesse Jackson who have come to make a lavish living trading on their associations with Dr. King. The whole "Rent a Riot" business, and "Give me money or I'll call you a racist" extortion racket is actually an affront to the memory of the man. If the NAACP wants to go after someone who is shaming Dr. King, they should try to distinguish between Dr. King and Kingists (something like admiring Marx, but laughing at Marxists).

So, on this MLK day, let me suggest "The Letter From A Birmingham Jail." An excerpt:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

ATSRTWT, it's worth it. It's hard to read without getting tears in your eyes, in fact. The simple dignity of the claim, and of the

This is the statement Dr. King was responding to..."Statement by Alabama Clergymen." The money quote:

Just as we formerly pointed out that "hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions," we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

An interesting echo, down through the years. The clergymen thought non-violent actions and speech that might incite bad people to violence are immoral. Dr. King didn't think so.* To a reflective MLK holiday...

(*No, I won't try to connect this to the criticism after the Arizona shooting; you can do that yourself).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ain't gonna bump no more....

Delta taking bump bids.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

I, Toaster

Interesting. A modern and video-ed update of "I, Pencil," though that is not what the author was thinking, I expect.

(Nod to JakeRuss)

He's Baa-ack

As amazing as this sounds, apparently Baby Doc is back in Haiti!

I guess this guy was raised by Amy Chua

"I literally cannot imagine a more market-based, private-sector system for universal health insurance than the one that the Democrats implemented last fall."

--M.S., Democracy in America Blog, The Economist

(W.W. at the same blog, tries to help this individual out)

Augustine lives!

In today's NY Times, Christy Romer opines on "What Obama Should Say about the Deficit". Her idea is along the lines of "Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet".

Here's the exact quote:

"He should make clear that the issue is spending and taxes over the coming decades, not spending in 2011"

Wow, "the coming decades". So spending will become an issue in 2021? Good to know.

I actually hope Obama does NOT follow her advice, as the current pool of Republican candidates is so mutant that I am hoping President O can get hisself re-elected.

Telling America that spending won't be an issue for the rest of his first term and all of his second term is not a path to electoral success.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rising Real Wages and the Spread of Opulence

Prof. G. Kennedy gives, as always, a learned and nuanced description of the problem.

I always come back to these two pictures shown in this post. Which one has higher wages, do you expect? And which one produces cheaper products? Since opulence, by definition, is higher wages and cheaper products, we're done here.

Civic Literacy Quiz

The ISI "Civic Literacy Quiz": Since many of our elected officials apparently think the Constitution is not really something they need to know.

I got a 97%, and the one question I missed, I missed on purpose.

Go ahead and take it if you want. Spoilers below...

Are you done?

Okay, here's the question I "missed"

33) If taxes equal government spending, then:
A. government debt is zero
B. printing money no longer causes inflation
C. government is not helping anybody
D. tax per person equals government spending per person
E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

Clearly, they want you to say "D". But A is a better answer. If there is no deficit, there is no borrowing. If over N years there is no borrowing, then there is no debt. So, "A" is the better answer.

"D" is correct only the following silly sense: Since Tax Rev = Gov Spending,
it must be true that (Tax Rev / Population) = (Gov Spending / Population). But there is no reason to believe that taxes paid match up with benefits received FOR EACH PERSON. Only in the aggregate would this be true. In fact, there is no reason to believe that taxes paid = gov spending for ANY individual citizen. It's just not a very good question.

UPDATE: From comments...listen, folks, it does NOT say this year. Not this month, not this century. It says FOREVER. The budget has always been balanced, and it always will be. Sure, if it said, "in a given year," fair enough. It does NOT say that. There is no debt in the world of that question. I agree that if it said, "in the past year" or "in a given fiscal year" it would be okay. But it doesn't.

Furthermore, it is NOT TRUE that the taxes a person pays are the same as spending on that person. So answer "D" is actually wrong. Those of you defending this question wallow in lameness.

Texas, California, and P-Kroog

Angry Alex sends the link for this joke, and commentary from P-Kroog, falsely comparing TX with CA.

Reminds me of this joke, which I heard in Idaho. You should know, if you don't already, that thousands of Californians have moved to Idaho, largely to avoid the stupid government in CA. Of course, those Californians bring "stupid" with them; unfortunately, it's contagious.

Four women in a car. Front seat, woman from Kentucky, woman from North Carolina. Back seat, woman from Idaho, woman from California.

Woman from Kentucky looks down at her drink. "I'm from Kentucky. I'm really tired of bourbon; we have SO much bourbon. It's just obnoxious and useless. Enough is enough!" And she throws the bourbon out the window.

Woman from NC is driving, looks down at cigarettes. "I'm from North Carolina. Tobacco everywhere, people smoking. Tobacco is just obnoxious and useless; enough is enough!" And she throws the pack of cigarettes out the window.

Woman from Idaho looks around, reaches across and opens the other door....and kicks out the woman from California.

There are a lot of locational preferences that I understand. But California.... I just don't get it. You people who claim to like it: STAY. HOME.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Friday, January 14, 2011

mean-variance domination

Kevin Durant has repealed the laws of finance and CBS sports can prove it!

There's supposed to be a trade off between average return and variance where you get a higher return by bearing more risk. Yet, of all the leading scorers in the NBA (and he is THE leading scorer) Durant has the lowest variance of points per game.

Here's the picture (click the pic for a more glorious image):

Michael Beasley, call your office!

Game of the year so far

Amazing NBA game in the OKC last night. Thunder led wire to wire and beat Orlando 125-124. Durant won it at the end by absolutely abusing Turkoglu, who he outscored 36-7. Howard had 39 points and 18 boards and the Magic shot 14-28 on threes, but all in vain.

Besides the game itself, two things stood out. First Stan Van Gundy is an absolute jerk. He is down on everyone and everything all the time. I think he will lose that team.

Second, Dwight Howard absolutely does not give a F**K about his chosen profession. He's talking to the crowd, clowning around with the ball, yakking to his opponents, and just acting like a goofball while his team is losing. He has to be so incredibly frustrating to coach.

I guess he and Stanvan deserve each other.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

They should have stuck with import substitution

From Argentina (one of my very favorite countries) comes a great story on how tax collectors are innovating to find unreported income.

Briefly, they are counting the number of imported breast implants to get an idea of the income of plastic surgeons. They claim that given the number of these imports, there is at least $10 million of unpaid taxes floating around the industry.

People, these poor surgeons are just the latest victims of globalization!

My favorite short poems about prison

Prison Ball

They don't negotiate if you are held
Hostage. Don't attempt to take a charge.
If you find a point guard who'll pass the rock,
Help him escape. Let him fastbreak at large.

-Sherman Alexie

Christmas in Prison

It was Christmas in prison
and the food was real good.
We had turkey and pistols
carved out of wood.

-John Prine

If I wasn't already married......

This one would be a keeper!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Men Are Evil

I took my younger son skating a few years ago. Went to the men's room. As I was coming out, a woman with a very angry face and holding a young boy's hand shouted at me, "What were you doing in there?"

Stunned, I mumbled that I was using the bathroom. She kept yelling, "You aren't supposed to. It's against the rules!"

Turns out the skating rink wouldn't allow men to go to the men's room alone. You were supposed to go with your son. (What if you had a daughter, you ask? You were supposed to tell a clerk, who would stand guard. What if you were there by yourself? Not allowed; you could only go to the rink if you were accompanying a child).

WTF? What is this? WSJ article gives some perspective.

In this forum, notice that no one worries about men who have daughters, only strange men who are pedophiles. Yet nearly ALL actual sexual abuse of children is the fault of family members. (And don't get me wrong, it's not like most men abuse their daughters, either. Extremely rare)

Women are very strange. They have plenty of good reasons to dislike men. Why are they making up absurd new reasons?

Consider the following comment, from this forum:

Well, I am a mom of two boys 8 and 5. I won't let them go to the mens bathroom alone any where unless their dad is with them. I think people just don't trust older men alone. I don't. Those are the one's that you always hear taking a little boy or something and leaving with them. And they are in the bathroom alone...and then I send my kids in there. I'm afraid they may be checking my kid out lol. idk, it's always been an issue for me. I was touched when I was little by my own grandfather. My grandfather was a well respected man in the community, he was asked to play pro golf after winning state championship in Texas, he was the manager over half of the Exxon plant in Texas. So this is why I wouldn't even trust a well respected man with a child. Maybe I am a bit over protective but if I can save my kids that kind of stress I have done my job. Until they are old enough to say no and fight a grown up, I will be that way. You really have to think about what could go on if you send a kid in a bathroom alone. You don't know who is in there. You don't know who they are or where they have been or if they have done something or are looking for someone. My kids do play outside and do kid stuff but when we are in public it's very different. Hope this helps some and may help you understand more what some people may feel about their kids. Boys and girls both. It's a crazy world so be careful. Now, yes she could have put her grandson in the stall that wasn't a changing stall in the bathroom but I'm sure that this may be why she had him with her.

I'm amazed. "You always hear"? In fact, you almost NEVER hear of this. It never happens, statistically, not compared to the frequency of abuse by familty members. She documents that in her own case the abuse was her grandfather, a family member. And concludes that ALL men want to abuse children. Ma'am, I'm sorry you were abused. But you are a dangerous lunatic.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Heavy Legal Ordnance Used For Oppressive Ordinance: Street Vendors Must DIE!

KPC friend Sara Burrows has a nice piece on the increasing official harrassment of street vendors in Raleigh.

Brick and mortar restaurants are thinking about this wrong, because they can. They are like the idiot record companies, who assume that all music downloaded at a zero price would have been purchased at full price (price elasticity = 0, in other words).

I'm sure street vendor food is SOME kind of substitute for restaurant food, but not dollar for dollar, and not meal for meal. When my friend Jay Hamilton sneaks a Pauly Dog, he is not doing it INSTEAD of a restaurant meal. He is having a hot dog on the run.*

More on street vendor harrassment below. Remember, the state is simply acting here as the enforcement arm of anti-competitive business interests. The interests of consumers count bupkis, bagel, nada.

Raleigh is actually far behind Durham in this respect, which is remarkable. But then the New York Times did recently list Durham as one of the top unexpectedly cool places to eat and to visit (check #35...). Raleigh, listen up! Good restaurants and good food trucks are NOT substitutes, but rather are complements....If you want to be the sort of place where people go to eat, you need more stuff to eat. Stop protecting all those suckwad Applebees and Bob Evans in Raleigh from Tony's Tacos!

(*Jay is running, not the hot dog).

If at first you don't succeed....

People, I'm still unhappy about the colonialist fabulism of Bret Stephens in yesterday's WSJ.

Besides the points I already discussed, Stephens claims that unless "the west" is willing to recolonize, it should be obliged to stop pretending that it cares about problematic countries.

I would make a different case: Unless "the west" is willing to undertake a significant increase in legal immigration and/or reduction in barriers to imported goods, it should be obliged to stop pretending that it cares about the people living in problematic countries.

At least allowing greater immigration and lowering trade barriers are things a western country could actually do, and we know they would provide incredible help.

Suppose that Canada announced it was going to make Ivory Coast a colony. What would happen? How would that work out for our northern neighbor?

Sadly it probably wouldn't be much less controversial (at least inside Canada) than an announcement that Canada was going to materially increase it's allowed immigration from sub-Saharan Africa.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Duke v. MD--YYM is there!

Cliff Tucker tries to inbound the ball. But C-Crazies put that bad hoodoo on him.

The YYM is circled. Exciting. Duke uses non-price rationing to allocate game tickets. They are all "free" to students, but you have to wait in line. Maryland game usually a tough ticket to get, since U of Maryland is basically an urban pentitentiary with chalkboards and we HATES them. But this game was on January 9th before classes started and the YYM only had to wait about six hours in line to get into a position where he could fling that hoodoo.

Grow up and mow up

Here's a great video for a song off Danielson's upcoming album. The song is "Grow up". He is wearing some totally badass shoes in the video. Do you think they are John Fluevogs?

Heartbreaking Grace and Tremendous Courage

This totally made me tear up. What a great guy.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Dancing on the Ceiling

The Jacket appears on Parker-Spitzer, does a good job.

Then presumably he put on the hard hat and tool belt, and went to his night job in a Village People tribute band.

(Nod to Angry Alex, who is clearly just jealous. But then, so am I)

D-Zet's Review

D-Zet reviews vol 5 in the Seldon Series.



In a stunningly ignorant article in today's WSJ, Bret Stephens calls for the re-colonization of selected countries:

"some new version of colonialism may be the best thing that could happen to at least some countries in the post-colonial world"

He's not totally specific; he names Haiti, Ivory Coast & Sudan, but also says "Post-colonial Africa has seen the future. As often as not it looks like Zimbabwe".


Then there's this:

"The colonialists of yore may often have been bigots, but they were also, just as often, doers. Their colonies were better places than the shipwrecked countries that we have today".

Holy Crap.

First, sub-Saharan Africa is actually improving on governance on the whole, not digressing. Second, colonialism helped create the conditions that plague the region like artificial borders, ginned up ethnic rivalries, diminished local capacities and so on. Third, "sure they were bigots, but they got things done"? Really? We are going to use "the trains ran on time" as a serious argument?

Finally, as to the colonies being "better places" than their current independent counterparts, I have to ask, better for who? Has Bret ever read about the colonial experience of the Congo? Has he ever heard of apartheid?

This guy should be fired, ASAP.

Monopoly My Foot

The other shoe drops...

...on the Brannock Device

(Nod to the EYM)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ice Storm

We are getting a fo-sho, straight from Oklahomo, oh-no ice storm here in Raleigh.

To paraphrase Joe Schultz: s*&t-f%$k.

Feeling Old

Not even 30 years old...and antiques?

Jefferson v. Adams Attack Ads


Deerhoof vs. Evil is coming out soon. Here's a video of a song from it:

From this small sample, it seems like they've been drinking the Spencer Krug koolaid; the song reminds me of "Paper Lace" by Swan Lake. Very melodic for Deerhoof.

Grandpa Toots

Mr. Tooty was being extra weird last night. Had to take a photo:

I didn't even know the iPhone 4 had a flash until last night!!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Bring Back the Toasters

KPC friend Amar Bhide has an interesting piece in the F-Times

True Grit: Bold Talk From a One-Eyed Fat Man

So, the LMM and I tried leaving the house. She drove to the movie theater near our house, and we saw "True Grit."

From now on, I want everyone to call me "Brewster Rugburn." I have the eye patch and everything.

(BTW: If I took off the eye patch, you could see my eye. But my eye, alas, could not see you. Unless you were a large very bright light.)

Wrath of Khan

Bob Frank takes the death of Al Kahn as an occasion to launch into bizarre attacks on macro theory and airline deregulation.


Apparently Al once said "if you can't explain what you are doing in plain English, you're probably doing something wrong", which I guess means the general theory of relativity is pure bullcrap.

Bob riffs off this to "If you can’t describe what your model says in plain English without provoking derisive laughter, it probably doesn’t say anything of value”, and says Macroeconomists should take heed.


I must say though, that I've never thought it was hard to say what DSGE models were saying in plain English without getting laughs. I did find it so hard to say what textbook Keynesian models were doing with a straight face that I had to quit teaching intermediate macro.

Bob then returns to his main theme, an appreciation of all things Kahn:

"Many disgruntled air travelers remember him unfavorably as the chief architect of commercial airline industry deregulation. But as he was quick to remind critics, planes now fly with many fewer empty seats than they used to, resulting in much lower average fares, after adjusting for the sharp increases in operating costs that have occurred in the interim."


Um, I'm pretty sure there was a lot more to airline deregulation than decreasing the number of empty seats on flights. There was entry, there were new routes, there was the opening of air travel to the middle class. In short the industry was transformed in a way that massively benefitted consumers.

I'm not sure why Bob is so conflicted that here in his homage to Al, he feels the need to take shots at Al's crowning achievement.

Bob then ends with a heartwarming story about how kind and beloved Al was:

"A story circulating at the time described an English professor’s complaint to him about the high salaries of economics professors. “Perhaps you should consider starting an English consulting firm,” he is said to have responded."

If I didn't know better, I'd think Bob didn't actually like Al very much.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mother Superior jumped the gun

Wow. Huge article in today's WSJ by Yale Law professor Amy Chua (of World on Fire "fame") called, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior". Should have been titled "I am a raging, abusive, racist, a-hole".

It's terrific to read the whole thing. You think it can't get any worse and then it does.

Here's a lovely vignette involving her masochistic husband, Jed and daughter Lulu, that followed Lulu's inability to play a certain piece of music on the piano:

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn't even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn't think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn't do the technique—perhaps she didn't have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

"You just don't believe in her," I accused.

"That's ridiculous," Jed said scornfully. "Of course I do."

"Sophia could play the piece when she was this age."

"But Lulu and Sophia are different people," Jed pointed out.

"Oh no, not this," I said, rolling my eyes. "Everyone is special in their special own way," I mimicked sarcastically. "Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don't worry, you don't have to lift a finger. I'm willing to put in as long as it takes, and I'm happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games."

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom.

Holy Crap!