Saturday, February 05, 2011

Mubarak Out?

Members of leadership of Egypt's ruling party, including President Hosni Mubarak, submit resignations, state TV reports. CNN


UPDATE: No, CNN message was cryptic, at least to me. It just said "resigned," not "resigned as head of party." HN remaining as Prez, resigning as head of party. Laughable.

Fubarak's new Cabinet: A Photo Essay

Friday, February 04, 2011

Is this anyway to WTF?

It depends. If WTF means "win the future", then no. But if it has its more traditional meaning, then yes!

People, after all the speechifying, name calling, accusations, and general boo-sheet, the Obama administration has again declined to name China a currency manipulator!

Now personally, I don't think having a fixed exchange rate is currency manipulation, nor do I understand what makes us judge and jury on these issues, but my God, these guys really really really give new meaning to the phrase "cheap talk".

Dear Feds: if you are not going to do anything about it, then please just STFU!

No Quixotes! Munger v. Google Rejected by NC Supreme Court

Damn! Munger v. Google has such a nice ring to it. But it was rejected by the NC Supreme Court.

Sure, it was actually "Munger, et al. v. State of North Carolina." But it was Google that took all that cash and built a "server farm." (That's basically an insulated warehouse with some extra HVAC, btw)

We had brought suit, and I was lead lead plaintiff. (Robert Orr did all the work, of course. I was just eye candy. Or maybe BOB was Quixote, and I was Sancho Panza. That's more like it.)

But the NC Supreme Court today smashed all my dreams. Went so far as to say that the very idea of reviewing the review of the appeals decision was "improvidently granted." Oh, that hurts. Improvidently granted? "Sorry, nothing to see here folks. Just an everyday violation of the NC Constitution. Move along, citizens, move along. Because there is NO STANDING! NO STANDING."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Not Making This Up: Activist Accused of Being Too Smart

I would have thought the oppressive apparatus of the state could no longer surprise me with its never-ending creativity. But...I am surprised, by this.

The NC DOT did an engineering study of a local road widening project, and concluded that no new signals were required at two intersections. A citizen, David Cox, had the gall to disagree. He did some research, and put the research in the form of an organized argument.

The state could have responded by ignoring the request. Or the state could have pointed out the errors in the study. (I myself have no position on the merits; haven't studied it, don't know the issues).

But the state engineer instead threatened the citizen with legal action... for... being smart! They investigated, saying Cox was "practicing engineering without a license." Yes, really. The state DOT head engineer, Kevin Lacy, did not dispute the facts, the analysis, or the conclusions of the report. All he did was try to get the report dismissed because it was "engineering quality work." Read that again: the citizen made a petition to government for redress of a grievance, and the state wants to prosecute the citizen because the quality of the analysis is too high. (If the petition, redress, etc. thing sounds familiar that's because it is a right guaranteed in the 1st Amendment).

Now, the citizen had NEVER claimed to be an engineer, and had simply signed his name to the report. And he had organized the report in a way that made sense to him, presenting information that he thought was important for the question of whether the intersections needed traffic signals.

The cool thing is that the state is going to say, "We never ACTUALLY brought charges!" Just like the Mafia thugs say, "Nice restaurant. It wud be a shame if sumpin wud to happen to it, like youknowafireorsumpin, capisce?" The fact is that the state can exert an enormously chilling effect simply by suggesting that citizens should be investigated.

But the idea that a citizen can be investigated for being smart and making an effective counter-argument.... wow, I did not expect the state to be willing to be that thuggish.

Finally, I should note that this may all be self-serving for the KPC staff. Because if being really smart, persuasive, and disagreeable is a crime now...well, Angus and I should just assume the position.

Grand Game: Government Investment Edition

It's been a while, for the Grand Game. That's where I put up a link, and you bright and good-looking KPC readers look for unintentional hilarity. Today's edition: Government investment in science!

I'll go first! My favorite part is where the government shill "proves" that these are worthwhile investments....

Success is probably 10 to 20 years away, said Arun Mujamdar, director of the program, which is called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

But the private investment is “a good sign, an endorsement of some sort,” he said. “The best thing the government can do is to catalyze investment.”

While 31 projects have not yet attracted outside help, all are continuing, according to the department. Josh Lerner, a professor at the Harvard Business School and an expert on venture capital, said he would have been surprised if most of the projects had attracted private financing quickly.

If all the projects had quickly drawn private money, it would have suggested that the projects would have happened without government intervention, Mr. Lerner said.

With a track record of six of 37 being picked up, “it’s hard not to feel it’s a reasonable indicator that they’re doing something right,” he said.

So, to cut to the chase, there are three possible outcomes:

1. These are silly wasteful boondoggles. Nonetheless, private capital might be attracted because the research is backed up with huge artificial subsidies, as is the case with ethanol. The only reason ethanol is a fuel additive is that we spend $1.50 per gallon in subsidies. Still, it's true you can "profit" in this industry, because govt policy is distorting price.

2. These are good projects, but would have been invested in by private capital, precisely because they are good projects.

3. These are good projects, but because of imperfect capital markets or basic public goods problems in research no private firm would have invested in them.

I say they are mostly #1. Sure, by dumb luck some of them would have been useful anyway, but then they are category #2.

Note the genius move of the description in the article: We know that some are not #1, because a few have attracted some private investment. And we know that the rest are not #2 because...MOST OF THEM HAVE NO PRIVATE INVESTEMENT!

He actually claims "If all the projects had quickly drawn private money, it would have suggested that the projects would have happened without government intervention."

Brilliant. The lack of private investment PROVES that the public investment is justified, and in fact foresighted and even visionary. Unfortunately, nowhere is it explained why the fact that there is no private investment doesn't imply that these are blue sky bullshit pork projects.

Now, your turn, folks!

(nod to Anonyman)

Two Catholic Jokes

Apropos of pretty much nothing, two Catholic jokes:

There once was a religious young woman who went to Confession. Upon entering the confessional, she said, 'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.'
The priest said, 'Confess your sins and be forgiven.'

The young woman said, 'Last night my boyfriend made wild passionate love to me seven times.'

The priest thought long and hard and then said, 'Squeeze seven lemons into a glass and then drink the juice.'

The young woman asked, 'Will this cleanse me of my sins?'

The priest said, 'No, but it will wipe that big grin off of your face.'

Muldoon lived alone in the Irish countryside with only a pet dog for company.. One day the dog died, and Muldoon went to the parish priest and asked, 'Father, me dog is dead... Could ya' be saying' a mass for the poor madadh?'

Father Patrick sniffed, 'I'm afraid not; we cannoa be havin' sairvices for animals in the chairch.... But there's a pack o' Baptists down the lane, un there's no tellin' what strange things they believe. Maybe they'll honor yer poor creature.'

Muldoon said, 'Aye, that's a good idear. I'll go right away Father. Do ya' think 5,000 punt is a big enough donation?'

Father Patrick exclaimed, 'Sweet Mahry, Mother of Chay-sus! Why din' ya tell me the blessed dog wahr Catholic?

(nod to the LMM)

Is the economy (finally) picking up steam?

I'm going to answer this question with a firm "I think so"!

The PMI manufacturing index for January came in very strong (good analysis of how strong is here).

Even though the fourth quarter growth estimate was an unspectacular 3.2%, real final sales last quarter grew by over 7%.

The stock market had its best January in over decade.

The ADP jobs report from yesterday came in at 187,000 new private, non-farm jobs.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Women Are Better

Women are better at financial planning than men.


Dan was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business. When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a wife with which to share his life and his new fortune.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away.'I may look like just an ordinary man,' he said to her, but in just a few years, my father will die, and I'll inherit $650 million.'

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card and three days later, she became his stepmother.

(Nod to the LMM. Unfortunately, that disproves the thesis. I married WAY better than she did)

All Hail Robert Kagan

This to me, really nails it:

"There’s no way for us to go through the long evolution of history without allowing Islamists to participate in democratic society."

“What are we going to do — support dictators for the rest of eternity because we don’t want Islamists taking their share of some political system in the Middle East? We’ve got to put our money where our mouth is."

“Obviously, Islam needs to make its peace with modernity and democracy. But the only way this is going to happen is when people speaking for Islam take part in the system."

Some Links!

I'm from your government lottery monopoly, and I'm here to be an idiot. Plus, the guy who discovered this goes all Canadian on us. Nice! (Nod to @mbellemare )

Zero tolerance laws are intolerable. (Nod to Anonyman)

Only those of us who have no interests are pure... (Nod to K-Wine)

Danny Drez drops some truth bombs... (Nod to K-Wine, who is en fuego)

Prof. Barnett, on the Vinson ruling on O-Care

A battle for the scientific soul of anthropology. Me, I suspect the forces of post-modern superstition and anti-science are too deeply entrenched. It's not like they can get jobs in English departments anymore. Those Cult Ant doofuses are stuck for the duration.


The Wisdom of Kobe Bean Bryant

Referring to his teammate Pau Gasol:

"Even when he was in Memphis and he was the go-to guy, he was always very nice. Very white swan. I need him to be black swan."

Not sure if this is a Nassim Taleb reference or a Darren Aranofsky reference, but well done KBB!!

serial double dippers

Ah Peru, is there anything you won't do? Fresh on the heels electing Alan Garcia (perhaps the worst ex-president who got to return to his country ever!) in 2005, comes word that the front-runner in this year's presidential election is Alejandro Toledo??

The latest poll results have Toledo leading the field at 30.7%. Yes, this is the same Toledo who left office in 05 with a single digit approval rating despite solid economic growth rates.

The Peruvians are a wily bunch though. If Toledo falters (and how can he not?), they still have Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-strongman Alberto in the race, currently polling at 20.3%, waiting in the wings.

talk like a Egyptian

Via Salon, here's a truly excellent post about how NOT to talk about events in Egypt.

My favorite faux pas: "I loved Sadat".

(Sadat WAS Mubarek with a worse hairdo)

Relatedly, Bill Easterly describes the double standard for democracy that seems to be operating.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Thomas Friedman gives us his philosophy of life

He sums it up for you at the very end and it's well worth watching the whole thing!

A Texan in Paris

The ambulatory ICU

Fantastic article in the New Yorker about applying crime mapping and policing the "hot spots" to medical care. In a lot of situations, a small fraction of the relevant population is responsible for an outsized fraction of medical costs (this is NOT including catastrophic events like organ transplants). The article outlines some currently small programs where lavishing attention and money on these "hot spots" increases the quality of care and produces better outcomes while actually saving money. It's long, but it's a fascinating article.

Note that Megan McArdle is not a believer.

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.