Wednesday, April 30, 2014

If We Could Be As Good as Our Dogs Think We Are

The link was botched on this story (#16) from yesterday.

So, here it is.  Guy was tired.  Dog was ready to protect him.

Things Italian Moms Say, Parts II and III

I, myself, have heard, "Hey, get a mopina and clean that up!" more than a few times.  (As always, the "a" at the end, like ricotta, pronounced "rigot" in Southern Italiy/Sicily, is dropped:  mopeen).

(Some other interesting background.  For example, I have heard the phrase "chigoots" or something like that.  It turns out that is "che cazzo vuoi," which in Southern Italy/Sicily slang is shortened to "chigoots" because the c becomes a g, or almost a g.  It means, literally, "What the penis do you want?"  but colloquially can be used in many contexts, such as "What are you doing?  You are an idiot! Get away from me!"  Now THAT is a phrase that will come in handy, people.)

With hugs to Jenn Merolla.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Psycho-Separatist Performance Art

With gratitude to Chris Lawrence....

A simulated takeover, by a guy who must have been pretty brave, but turned out not to be brave, because there is no actual security.  In fact, when there IS security, they just give up their armored vehicles if someone looks at them mean.

You have to like:
1.  The "honor system" checkpoints, just on the one main road
2.  The lady who gives directions to the target
3.  The polite policeman who explains "It is not allowed."
4.  The frightened policemen who say, "We have pistols."
5.  The "Fight Club" as idiot juveniles reference, just for Scott de Marchi
6.  The ribbons.  They put ribbons on the antenna, fercrissakes.

Once you have read the piece, you can follow the video:

Problems....with Jeggings

NSFW.  Aggressively, exuberantly NSFW.

But pretty funny.

Link 3

Nod to Angry Alex. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Don't worry so much about banks....Or worry more, or something.

2.  For the LMM:  Foot surgery.  We may not have come that far from this.

3.  Love, and marriage.  Because they may not be the same thing. A follow-up on the first story...

4.  More people should do this.... I like the new Delta video, I have to admit.  There are several allusions in it to previous videos, but even if you just lived through the '80s you'll laugh.

5.  Stop asking her when she is having a baby. I'm getting a little sick of this whining thing, like it's just so hard to decide.  Decide.  And then STFU.  Of course, she is quite right be chapped when people rudely ask her about it.  But it sounds like the reason she is mad is that she just doesn't want to have to decide.  That is NOT right.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Deerfield Swat

As far as I can tell, everyone in Deerfield Beach, FL is from NY or Canada.  Of course you only HEAR the New Yorkers, because they are so loud, and distinctively incapable of speaking grammatical English.

Still, the point is that there is not really much danger here.  It is about as whitebread a place as there can be (some of the whitebread is unleavened, but still, this is not a dangerous place).

So...why in the world do they have this thing?

The answer, of course, is because they can-can-can.  I like the "Tonka" truck sticker on the hood.

Then, check out this "pursuit" vehicle.

Note the "confiscated" sticker.  They are actually proud that they stole it.  Impressive!  Photo credits:  The LMM.

Deerfield Beach

An "urban legend" is when there is this "fact" which, on examination, turns out not really to have a source.  People who at first assert the "fact" with great confidence, as if they themselves saw, experienced, or heard the thing, quickly back off, and admit it was a FOAF, or a cousin's friend's hairdresser.

So, hearing we were visiting Deerfield Beach, three people told us to check out a GREAT restaurant, The Whale's Rib.  On the menu, on the website, and pretty much everywhere there is a flat surface, TWR reminds you that Guy Fieri visited for "Triple D."

And the reviews are pretty good, overall.

Stil, when pressed, our recommenders backed off a bit.  "Well, I'm not saying it's great.  But other people like it.  People...I....know.....from somewhere, I'm not really sure."

So, we tried it.  Got there a little later than we intended, and there was a long line.  (Violating one of Tyler's key rules, about lines....Plus some more rules, if you want)  Still, we thought we would wait.  Even though, as Tyler said, "Places with lines can be quite good.  But when they fall, they fall hard."

Some actual facts, as opposed to "facts".

1.  We were told the wait would be 30 minutes.  The actual wait was 50 minutes, and the reason was that "We had to seat a party of 25 ahead of you."  Did you, now?  It was just a fib.

2.  They have stone crab on the menu.  That's the reason I went.  I really like fresh stone crab.  But the waitress said that there was no stone crab.  Even though the menu said they DO have stone crab, until May 15.  This was April 26, mind you.  The reason was that "All we have is frozen, and we don't serve frozen fish!"  Don't you, now?  It was just a fib.

3.  So I ordered the oysters Rockefeller.  $12 for six anemic oysters that had been allowed to get cold.  Tiny little useless lumps.  Given that oysters Rockeller stays hot for a really long time, it required a bit of effort to leave these on the counter instead of serving them.

Okay, three strikes.  However.....

4.  I also ordered the rock shrimp.  The rock shrimp were room remperature, and the drawn butter was room temperature.  But the rock shrimp were so rockin' wonderful it really didn't matter.  Top five seafood dish, all time, even with the problems.  I mean, seriously, fantastic.  Just wonderful. Perfectly cooked.

5.  The LMM had blackened tilapia.  It was also just warmer than room temp, but it was very tasty.  In fact, very VERY tasty according to the LMM.

6.  They serve water, if you ask for it, in a medium size plastic pitcher with a straw.  I suggest that this innovation is AMAZING.  You don't have to keep asking for water, and the ice actually melts so that they are not constantly pouring 2 tablespoons of water on top of pure ice.

Overall, and given that it was Saturday night in a tourist area, I'd say this is a "B."  Not very good, but probably pretty much what it aspires to be.  And my understanding from a FOAF is that the grilled or fried mahi is worth the trip  also.  It's a "fact."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Frequent Fed Failure Foolishness

If you start with the conviction that the Fed can perfectly control the real economy, then any protracted slump is, ipso facto, a Fed failure.

Hence we see blogposts like "This one figure shows why Fed policy failed".

Here's the figure in question:

The blogpost argues (awesomely I might add) that the graph shows failure in two ways. First because the increase in the Fed balance sheet was "temporary".

Now people, let me point out that it is April of 2014. So all the unshaded part of the graph is in the future! And as you can see, the latest projection of when the Fed's balance sheet returns to its pre-crisis trend is in 2021. And it's quite likely that future projections (if anyone is so nuts as to continue to make them) will push this date further into the future.

So the idea that a graph of things that have not happened can show the Fed failed is pretty weak sauce.

And, even if it does go down like that, we are still talking 14 years of super-sized balance sheets as too short a time to get people to "rebalance their portfolios"

The second reason the graph shows failure is because the asset purchases were so large! (I am not making this up).

The blogpost argues that in lieu of actual policy, the Fed should have just credibly committed to policy actions if needed and this would have raised velocity making the required purchases much smaller or even not needed at all:

"Had the Fed credibly committed from the start there never would have been the need for all the subsequent LSAPs."

But of course we know from econ 101 that the Fed cannot credibly commit! To anything, least of all to letting inflation run above its own desired level in order to top up nominal GDP from its recessionary shortfall.

People, repeat after me:

1. Not all recessions are prima facie evidence of Fed policy failures.

2. Not all Fed predictions / projections actually come to pass.

3. When you hear some one telling you all the Fed needs to do is "credibly commit", RUN!

Great Northern Jerky Contest

So, there is a contest to see who can make the best beef jerky.  It's not a cook-off, it's....well, you see.

Some commentary.

Thanks to M. Kaan.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Honey Badger Stoffel

Stoffel can't stop, 'cause he won't stop.  At this point, I think he is not going to stop.

Video (I like the way it starts:  "After Stoffel's severe mauling by the lions...."):

Nod to Amy WL


If the Beatles were still together, they might sing, "Happiness is a 3D printed gun."  Or they might not.

But Cody Wilson has some interesting ideas.  It's not clear that the state can control the things it wants to control.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Two elderly women fly for the first time, ever.  Cute.

2.  On the other hand, this woman...well.  See for yourself.  Or, maybe don't.  DECIDEDLY NSFW,  and an image that you will want very much to unsee.  But it is in keeping with the "women and airplanes" theme.  Amazing that US Airways did that.  WARNING:  Don't look at this, unless you are the sort of person who reads KPC regularly.  This is not a nice thing to look at.

3.  A college degree can still be worth quite a lot.  HOWEVER (Protip):  It helps if you take actual classes, and have an actual major.  If not, you might be a barrista.

4.  Howard Coble has retired.  But he is still WAY more badass than your sorry excuse for a member of Congress.

5.  One word:  en-dog-en-ous.  Children who are doing really well in school, and on tests, don't need their parents to get involved.  Parents worry when little Johnny is doing poorly.  So, bad scores cause parental involvement.  When you ask if parental involvement causes improved test scores, you'll find a (spurious) negative correlation.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Watch Your Cash

So, I needed some cash when I was in Bratislava.  I spent nearly 10 minutes trying to get cash from this ATM.

But then the bellhop told me it was NOT an ATM, but a parking validation machine.  I suppose the coin slot should have been a tip-off...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Winnie the Pooh, First Day on the Job. Also LAST Day...

This young woman did not really think through the way the Winnie the Pooh costume was supposed to look.  She likely meant well, but....Well, see for yourself.

Need to be more careful about putting the pants on.  If you put them on backwards, you'll scare the children, and amuse me.   And William H, who was amused enough to send it in.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The wiliest tools of the Devil"

 "Easter Eggs are one of the wiliest tools of the Devil," ~Dr. Daniel Cameroon


So, shut up about "markets" already.  The key is voluntary private cooperation, and society.  We can do this...

My new piece in The Freeman.

Angus Can Weld....

Angus is an experience welder.  He could probably stitch you up one of these, if you have a hankerin' for one.  It's going to handle your downspout.

Membership Has Its Privileges....And Costs

For Members Only: Ingroup Punishment of Fairness Norm Violations in the Ultimatum Game 

Saaid Mendoza, Sean Lane & David Amodio 
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming 

Abstract: Although group membership has many privileges, members are expected to reciprocate those privileges. We tested whether in-group members would be punished more harshly than out-group members for marginal fairness norm violations within ultimatum game bargaining interactions. Participants considered monetary splits (of US$20) from in-group and out-group proposers, which ranged in proportion. Accepting an offer yielded the proposed payout; rejecting it caused each player to earn nothing - a punishment of the proposer at a personal cost. Participants exacted stricter costly punishment on racial in-group than out-group members for marginally unfair offers (Study 1), an effect that was replicated with college group membership and magnified among strong in-group identifiers (Study 2). Importantly, ultimatum game decisions were driven by fairness perceptions rather than proposer evaluations (Study 3), suggesting our effects reflected norm enforcement and not esteem preservation. These findings illuminate a previously unexplored process for maintaining group-based norms that may promote in-group favoritism. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


How mighty is Dan Benjamin?  Very, very mighty.

Going All Boudreaux: Rose's Edition

So, this screed was published in the Chapel Hill News.  The Raleigh News and Observer was so taken by its forceful logic and persuasive evidence that it was reprinted there.

The whole thing is excellent.  But this part was particularly excellent, I thought:

Roses is owned by Art Pope, a man whose politics I vehemently oppose....Roses is the only store of its kind within walking distance of the neighborhoods that surround University Mall. Many of these are among the poorest in Chapel Hill...Art Pope was essentially using his customers’ money against them. And because of their limited mobility and the lack of other nearby options, there wasn’t much they could do about it. While the demise of such predatory practices are to be cheered in the long run, it’s tough to sell that point to folks who’ll find themselves without a place to buy clothes and other household necessities once Roses closes. 

...Were they being exploited? Absolutely. But that doesn’t get make things any easier for them in the short run now that Roses is leaving. Of course, I believe that systems of commerce need to be established that prohibit the creation of an underclass that at once produces and consumes low-cost goods for the benefit of the upperclass. 

So, to be clear, people are being exploited by having a store that is conveniently located, has good quality, and low prices.  He wants new "systems of commerce," because this whole convenient/good/ cheap model is exploitative.  It's the system of commerce, itself, that creates an underclass.

Now, I shouldn't be so hard on him, perhaps, because he's a journalism major, and so has never taken any actual college classes.

Still, I had to go all Boudreaux.  Here is the letter to the editor I sent to the N&O, which they printed today:

I felt conflicted reading Henry Gargan's POV piece ("As Roses closes…", April 13). Some folks are so ignorant of markets that they think selling quality products at low prices in convenient stores such as Rose's is "exploitative." Having Mr. Gargan argue this point, and having the N&O give it prominent space, makes for a useful reading for my economics classes. That made me happy. 

Still, it's upsetting to see Mr. Gargan exploiting his privileged position. UNC is protected from any kind of competition, and takes its budget from public taxes. Mr. Gargan pays, at most, a fraction of the cost of mislearning economics; he is essentially using taxpayers' money against them. And because the state uses taxes to subsidize leftist think tanks like the Journalism School, there isn't much those of us who care about education can do about it. 

The big picture is that Mr. Gargan will never have to face any of the costs of his exploitative misuse of tax funds for personal gain. But the little picture, the one solace in all this, is that I can now use this bizarrely misinformed view of commerce as a teaching tool. 

Michael Munger, Professor 
Duke University

One clarification:  I was trying to parody both the argument and the steps in the argument in Mr. Gargan's original piece.  I do not, in fact, think that the UNC Journalism School should be prevented from teaching whatever ideologically biased material appeals to them, any more than I think Mr. Pope should be prevented from exercising his rights to use his support for causes he believes in.  So the "subsidize left-wing think tanks" is a parody; I don't think the Journalism School is a left-wing think tank.  It's just a bunch of folks doing the best they can, given their beliefs, with the very limited intellectual resources at their disposal.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Federal Lands

The reason we have this problem is that so much of the West is owned by "us," or "the U.S.," or something.  You may not have known that, but it matters a lot for context.  Check out this map:

Click for an even more federally-owned image.

Now, there is a genuine kerfuffle about land rights.  Not ownership, exactly, but the right to use the land for cattle grazing.  Adverse possession, Lockean combining my labor (or cattle) with the land, and so on.  There's this.  And then this

These people are crazy, right?  Why don't they graze their cattle on private land, and stop whining?  Check out Nevada, folks.  In the map above.  There is no private land.

Have we reached a cow tipping point?  What is going to happen?  My answer:  sell it, sell most of it.  My friend Holly Fretwell at PERC wrote about this back in 2003.  Fifteen years ago, Terry, Vernon, and Emily worked on this.  It's not like we didn't know.  Sell it.  SELL IT!  More recently, Holly is still trying to get someone to listen.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guess who wasn't an economics major?

In the ongoing battle over monetary compensation for student athletes, perhaps no voice is more stridently ignorant than that of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby:

"I came up as a wrestler and I can tell you I worked just as hard as any football player in the country, as any basketball player, in fact I would say I worked harder than those guys,"

"The fact is we have student-athletes in all sorts of sports that, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay football players and not pay gymnasts just because the football player has the blessing of an adoring public. That's the only difference. There are a lot of student athletes that are worthy."

Well maybe he did take a class in Marxian econ and fell in love with the labor theory of value!

Of course a simple glance at the real world (as opposed to wherever the hell Bowlsby lives) refutes his thesis.

Just change the context and see if you buy it: "you cannot pay movie stars more than teachers just because the movie star has an adoring public. Teachers work harder than those guys".


Look people, the hard truth is that football and basketball players have been cross-subsidizing tennis players, swimmers, rowers, golfers, you name it, for a very long time. Now that the handwriting is on the wall for that (to me at least) blatantly unfair system, there are going to be big adjustments.

No more cross country air travel for the golf / tennis / field hockey teams. Heck maybe even no more scholarships for them either.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Amster, Amster, Dam, Dam, Dam

So, when you enter Europa via CDG, from the US at least, and you remain in the international transit part of the airport, the passport check is...well, there isn't one.  At all.  I had thought this was fairly typical (except in the U.S., of course, where we try to maximize hassles for travellers).

I thought little of the fact that the "passport control" on my entry into Prague, from CDG, was  also desultory.  The guy was waving US passports through like it was rush hour and he was a traffic cop.  Didn't scan my passport, didn't even open it.

Today, I tried to leave.  Got a car from Bratislava to Wien, and then flew Wien to Amsterdam.  And tried to cross through passport control, leaving the Schengen area to go to a connecting flight to the non-Schengen area.  The Dutch passport guy, leaved through my passport, and announces, as if it were a movie, "Sir, you are in Europe illegally!

And suddenly there were four men with guns, all around me." The guns weren't drawn, but there were guns, in an airport.  They "suggested" that I take a walk with them.

It seems that I must have entered the "country" (the EU, it turned out, which is no country) illegally, because, according to the remarkably self-important Dutch police, "No country ever allows anyone without stamping their passports."  (This is not only mistaken, but absurd.  Nobody stamps passports...The comments here claim that it's never a problem.  Of course, they are wrong, but it was a problem for me!)

I was ushered into a room to talk to a man who did NOT have a gun, and (thank goodness) was endowed both with excellent English and wisdom.

I said that it was hardly my fault that France doesn't check passports, and that Czech Republic doesn't stamp them.  There is no way I could have gotten a stamp in Paris, which is where he claimed I should have been checked, because they didn't even operate a passport control station inside the international transit area.

The gentleman smiled ruefully, and said, "That's quite true.  And yet that is also what someone would say if they really were in the EU illegally, now, isn't it?  If we simply believed people about when they entered and exited, the whole process could be done on the honor system.  We have to try to enforce the law."
I had to admit this was actually true, from his perspective.  And of course he had no way of knowing if I was telling the truth, because there was no stamp.

He asked if I had my tickets still from the journey into the EU.  Fortunately, I did.  He looked at them, and said, "Now I doubt you just forged these, so you must be telling the truth." And did a carefully placed, handwritten "correction"entry stamp proving I had entered the EU.

And then added an equally careful exit stamp allowing me to leave.

I have to ask:  while it's true that could not have forged tickets RIGHT THEN, it would be easy to forge tickets before the fact.  He didn't check the bar code, didn't make a copy, didn't do anything to verify that the tickets were legit.

Does this happen often?  Thoughts?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Entrepreneurial Virtues: My Lecture In Bratislava

Here is the video of my speech last night at CEQLS, in Bratislava.  I had to speak rather slowly because it was being simultaneously translated into Slovakian.  So it's a little frustrating to listen to, because there are lots of pauses.

But it was  a fun talk to give, and a great audience!  Thanks to Dr. Peter Gonda and the M.R. Stefanik Conservative Institute for doing such a wonderful job of sponsoring it!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Westerly, RI:  Where there is always action around the Brazen Hen.   (It's on Canal Street, the busy hub of Westerlyness, close to Toscano's Men's Shop if you want to rent a tux before trying to kill somebody).  Much to enjoy here.  The guy is 24 and has "an extensive criminal record."  He assaulted a funeral direct and violated his parole before assaulting a romantic rival using his mother's Kia Optima.  And the headline makes it sound like the hit-and-run took place IN court.  How he got his mother's Kia Optima into court I'll never know.

2.  Brain teasers trigger alarms of Venezuelan government.  Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves...

3.  If Marlon Brando weren't dead, was short, and had a band, it might look something like this.

4.  If you are the sort of guy who even NOTICES "toe cleavage," then you are likely to want to pay more attention to a lady's toes than most ladies will feel comfortable with.   Like this guy.  A little toe-sucking can be fine, of course, but never on the first date.  (UPDATE:  It was an April Fool's joke...But since I am in Bratislava, Slovakia now, I just left it..)

5.  "Neglect, carefully cultivated."  That sounds like my physical fitness regimen!


Saturday, April 05, 2014

This week's sign of the apocalypse

Holy crap people. George Bush is an excellent artist.


Those are amazing and there are more here.

He's already better than Lucian Freud and that's saying something.

People, if crap like this can happen, why do we even have art schools at all?

The snake eating its own tail?

The symbol of the snake eating its own tail is ancient.  The idea of this kind of circle is appealing, because it is so paradoxical.

So...Obamacare imposed a new tax.  But then panicked, because the tax would have to be paid, and if someone has to pay something they can't claim that their chosen role as Santa is viable.  Santa claims he doesn't like naughty kids, but in fact even the naughty kids want to keep stackin' that paper.

So, the plan is to pay the tax that is being charged to finance Obamacare.  But then who will pay the tax that will be used to finance the subsidies that go to pay the tax that was supposed to finance Obamacare?  Ummmmm.......tail.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Putting The Neo Into Neo-Mercantilist

There is an enormous difference between

(a) the US should spend billions (as it has) to achieve energy independence as an end in itself, and
(b) the US should develop resources, if they are cheap and don't produce too many externalities, and have energy independence be a (mildly happy) consequence.

  This author doesn't really see that distinction, it appears. 

There is just no reason why anyone should strive for independence, if that requires this kind of neo-mercantilist nonsense.

Don't get me wrong:  it would be great to have a significant new industry in the U.S., and a decline in the price of energy.  All good for growth.  But not because having a trade deficit has been "sucking the blood out" of our economy.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Celestial Clock at Municipal House

A video of the Celestial Clock at the Municipal House here in Prague.  You can't really see it here, but there is a skeleton ("Death") striking the time on the right, underneath the dancing Saints.  Dancing Saints and Death keeping the time...nice.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Bring all my mules up here and kick 'em one time! (far east edition)

Is this the latest K-POP boy band sensation? Are all Yakuza congenitally incontinent? Are they so chickensh*t that they don't get tatoos on the parts underneath the diaper? Is that the Iron Chef in the middle? What in the sam hill do they got on their feets?

I think that should just about cover it here in "Today in WTF".