Thursday, June 18, 2009

An American Summertime

The first best friend is the most memorable. Everything about being "best friends" is new. It's a lot of responsibility for a six year old. "You mean I'm the best friend??" you say to yourself. "I have to be the BEST?" Talk about pressure. 

I remember my first (non-dog) best friend. His name was David. We were best friends from such a young age that neither of us remember our first encounter. So we did what any reasonable 6 year olds would do: we made up a lie. We convinced ourselves that we met in the hospital just after being born. The way we figured it, if we didn't remember meeting each other, we must have met at a very young age. And when you are six, a "very young age" is, well, birth. And it sure felt like we knew each other from birth. During our summers, we were one in the same. Swim team, day camp, McDonalds, Power Wheels. You name it, we did it together.

I never had an older brother, so I adopted David's old brother. We looked up to Adam like you wouldn't believe. And all of Adam's friends. They listened to Color Me Badd, so we listened to Color Me Badd. They liked Kris Kross, so I (obviously) was Kris and David was Kross. Every summer, life was perfect. I could count on David and I being inseparable. We'd talk about our girlfriends; we'd share Cinnamon Rolls and Wild Thang Burritos; and sometimes we'd talk about Cinnmon Rolls and Wild Thangs while sharing girlfriends. These were the summers I knew for ten years. Mornings we would dread that first jump into the chilly pool, the sun still hiding behind the Sandias. An hour later, we would hop out of the pool and crowd together under the hot water spouting out the shower head. Our first couple years, the shower conversation was focused on boogers and day camp. As we got older, it was girls and the freedom of summer. Clockwork. It was dependable and it was what I knew.


I just found out that David committed suicide. He was 24. We fell out of touch as we became older. The excitement of high school became too much for our summertime friendship. Nobody knows how to cope with growing up, so David and I started to grow apart. High school and college came and went, but my memory of Dave always remained the same. In my eyes, he was the 7 year old who could be tickled by the wind; or maybe the 12 year old breaststroking fiend; or maybe the 15 year old Casanova. No matter which memory I choose, David encapsulates the innocence of my childhood. He is my Rosebud. When my children ask me to describe my youth, I'll describe it as "David Strickman". He's become an adjective in my life. The innocence and purity of an American summertime. 

I knew Dave when our biggest worries were getting caught sneaking out of the pool 30 minutes before the end of practice. Apparently his worries grew bigger, and I just wish he would have called me as they ballooned, so we could take each other back to those summers when our problems weren't so big. I love you David. I hope to see you again someday.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oh bother, seriously bad math plagues our nation.

So, I'm eating lunch and watching ESPN's Linda Cohn interview Jamal Mashburn. She's asks him, "Who do you think wins Game 5 of the NBA finals?" Jamal answers that he believes the Magic will pull it out and send it back to L.A. Ms. Cohn responds with a graphic showing America's feeling about the outcome of the series. The graph reads:

Lakers in 5: 48%
Lakers in 6: 40%
Lakers in 7: 10%
Magic in 7: 2%

She then says, "Well Jamal, America disagrees with you! The majority think the Lakers will win in 5!" What's wrong with this picture? (Also, I've noticed this math deficiency has shown itself with ESPN more than once)

Insight from Arnold

The traditional paradigm has this strange dichotomy, in which market behavior is rational and self-interested but policymaker behavior is perfectly altruistic. These idealized constructs are very limiting. Note that the Left tends to complain about the limitations of the rational model of the market actor, while the Right tends to complain about the altruistic model of the policymaker.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This pisses me off...

From the Washington Post
Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a key figure in the health debate, has publicly lectured Elmendorf, saying he has a moral duty to be "creative" and deliver the favorable budget estimates "we have to have" to win broad support.
Absolutely unbelievable. Unless the Wash Post is inappropriately splicing his quote, Baucus needs to resign. He's a raving loony. Elmendorf (Head of the CBO) has ZERO moral duty to be creative. In fact, his job description requires that he not be creative:
The Director of CBO oversees the agency's work in providing objective, insightful, timely, and clearly presented information about budgetary and economic issues.
"Objective". His post was established in order to give unbiased economic analysis of projected programs and budgetary outlooks. Baucus has lost it. As they say nowadays: FML. FMFL. 

Oh Politics....

This is from Greg Mankiw.

The bill would give the federal government power over local building codes. It requires that by 2012 codes must require that new buildings be 30 percent more efficient than they would have been under current regulations. By 2016, that figure rises to 50 percent, with increases scheduled for years after that....

According to the bill's advocates, America's buildings account for perhaps 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions, and technology is available for builders to meet the targets in ways that are economical for building owners. Much of the problem is old buildings that waste huge amounts of energy, which wouldn't necessarily be touched by the new code. But it would be good if builders met these efficiency goals with new construction.

First of all, the bill is 900 words. The stimulus bill out of Congress was 1,000+ pages. How the hell is anybody supposed follow along with either of these. More importantly, I'm sure people are dedicated to the cause of Global Warming and such, and I respect their passion. But if you don't realize that this bill is a ruse for shoveling money to certain constituencies, I think you need to look a little deeper. It may not be "pork", but I'm pretty sure every piece of regulation in these is the result of lobbying to the max. 

More specifically, this "Greening of America's Buildings" is more focused on 'jump-starting the job sector' than any "green concerns". Deceptive. Politics makes me sick and it's good to see Arnold really pouncing on this recently. Here, here, and here. (oh, and here).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Remember this guy?

Matthew Lesko, the crazy guy that wears the Question Mark suit and sells books about how to take advantage of government programs? I always saw him on Saturday/Sunday morning commercials. Well, now he's back with a great video about the bailouts. I can't think of a better spokesman to poke fun at this debacle. (HT: CafeHayek)

We've turned into a nation of whiners

Read this riveting piece by Tom Brokaw commemorating the heroes of D-Day. It paints a drastic contrast between the 'American Man' and our nation today. My favorite quote:
A poor Kansas farm boy who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Normandy ... lit up when he described the breakfasts during basic training. "Every kind of cereal you could imagine!" he said. "And pancakes and bacon and eggs."
Don't let anybody fool you with their nostalgia for the 'good ole days' when income distribution was more 'fair' (Paulie Krugman). While income distribution was perhaps more even (mathematically speaking), the rising tide has lifted all boats. If you've been reading my blog, you know that, IMHO, one of the leading causes of our current mess is the wuss-ification of America and a generation of adults that knew only good times and had expectations that they were entitled to no form of economic pain. Mutliple Re-fi's, using your home as an ATM; spending more than you take in; etc... I'm not saying that those expectations were idiotic, b/c those adults were just living off a lifetime of experiences that taught them it was okay. To find the silver lining, I'm hoping this depression we are entering will teach my generation the power of living within our means. I know over the course of the last year, I've learned the true power of the dollar. I've been poor as dirt recently and it's a lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The experiences of the first 23 years of my life taught me little about how money is earned, but the last year and a half has been quite educational. For the sake of our future prosperity, I hope others are learning similar lessons.

The wuss-ification of our nation must stop. Life is a beautiful process but much of that beauty is found in the relative difficulties in our individual lives. The darkness in life, makes the light that much more cherished. Children need to be taught how to cope with the inequalities of life. A motto I was entrenched with early in life is that, 'Life isn't fair'. Today there seems to be a rising tide of 'When life isn't fair, go cry about it to somebody and we can fix this problem'. By doing this, we are crippling children from a young age instead of helping them build some emotional muscle. The following two videos are disturbing:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shorting the Market

Equities have been way too high recently. Their recent climb is unsustainable. Talk all you want about the Obama confidence factor and the programs he has initiated. The underlying facts remain unchanged. Our financial institutions are hiding guhgillions of dollars of bad debt on their BSs and either they take the hit soon, or the government continues to backdoor bail them out and Treasuries climb higher and higher as people worry about inflation and sovereign solvency. One of these two factor is coming in to play SOON. I'd be heavily short the market over the next 3 months and long mattress manufacturers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Biggest Philosophical Struggle as a Libertarian - 六四

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. When I was in 4th grade (1992) we were assigned a project in which we were to make a travel brochure for a particular country. I chose China. This was pre-internet days, so research consisted of encyclopedias and parents' memories. I was young and my memory is hazy, but I do remember encountering some strange story about the famous Tian An Men Square; something about violence and protests. In my brochure, I remember reporting that Tiananmen translated to 'Gate of Heavenly Peace'. I remember sharing that it was the largest public space in the world. I remember being so young that my parents thought it was not necessary to include anything about the violence that had taken place a few years earlier. Children shouldn't be burdened with those realities of the world.

The consequences of that night have lingered for the last 20 years. At some time shortly following the demonstrations, the Chinese leadership made a commitment to One-Party Rule and suppression of civil liberties, while freeing up economic activity and fueling the greatest exodus from poverty that has happened in the history of mankind. In essence, the government said, "We will not give you democracy, but we will make you rich". And, as a libertarian, this is the concept with which I struggle most. China's growth has been imperfect, but it has been overwhelming. "让一部分人先富起来". Let some people get rich first. That's what Deng Xiaoping said. The rising tide of prosperity will lift all boats. And it's true. The poorest of China's poor are unbelievably poor. But they are still significantly better off than 20 years ago. I read an interesting book comparing the paths of Russia versus China in their exit from communism. Russia pursued a path of democracy first, economic freedoms second. Russia's democracy today is in shambles and so is their economy. China pursued a path of economic freedom first, democracy later. And while democracy is nonexistent, their economy is written about fawningly daily. So while I wish China were a free country (and I know that someday it will be), I almost have to respect the contradiction it presents to my personal philosophies.

Since Blogger is blocked in China right now, none of my friends there can access this post. For some, it's part of the sacrifice you make when you move to an authoritarian country. But not all of my friends moved to China; some were born there. For them, they are denied access to the flavors of life by the Great Chinese Firewall. They are denied access to differing opinions, certain movies, art and music. And conversely, they are not allowed to share their unique flavor with the world either. Those of us outside of China are denied exposure to a vast array of amazing peoples because the government decides so. And I find that unfortunate.

I'm not even close to being done hashing out this philosophical struggle. This post hasn't clearly shaped either side of my conflict, but nonetheless, I wanted to express some thoughts on today's significance. The rest of the day will be filled with links to words, videos and sounds surrounding 6/4. There are ugly sides to everyone's history. This is one of China's. Hopefully they can grow up and deal with it someday soon.

More outsourcing

If you're in the mood to read a rant, he's your rant...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Not the way it works....

Today's New York Times Editorial:
He should make clear that the overarching objectives are to create a profitable company that makes cars that people want to buy, and that are more fuel-efficient.
Listen NYT, your economic skills have never been stellar. So it's not like you let me down. But I'm telling you, you can EITHER make cars that people want to buy and hope they are more fuel-efficient OR you can make cars more fuel-efficient and hope people want to buy them. But you can't dictate doing both. You may get lucky and both happen, but you cannot dictate it so. This GM situation is a complete debacle and is only going to get worse. I've put off blogging about it because the possibilities for terribleness taking place are endless. Protectionism? Unwillingness to close politically favored dealerships? Unwillingness to close plants for political implications? Ford having to compete with the government?

The NYT's needs to realize: to create a profitable company, make cars that people want to buy at prices they want to pay. GM specialized in this for decades, they became terrible at it and have failed. Now you think you can step in and do a better job simply because it can't be that difficult to manage a car company. You're right. It couldn't possibly be difficult to analyze consumer wants, coordinate purchasing with manufacturing with distribution with sales with service, decide pay structure, designate R&D projects and advertise...while staying politically neutral. You're experience as government bureaucrats have given you all the skills sets necessary to successfully run an automotive behemoth.

We're screwed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Line of the Day

Where that becomes troublesome, however, is the moment when government comes to be seen as the sole source of security. What we, the public, need to understand is that the best guarantor of security is not government. It's economic growth. While we want to believe otherwise, the cold fact is that government can't guarantee economic permanency. Nobody, and nothing, can.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'll be your first taker

From the NY Times:
Mr. CLINTON: When anybody asks me [whether the fact that the Clinton administration did nothing to stop the 1990s stock bubble is the main reason to be skeptical it would have done much to stop the housing bubble], ... I look at them and ask them, “Do you think this would have happened if we had been there? Look me in the face and say yes.” I haven’t found any takers yet.
I was youngish during his presidency and, in retrospect, I think he did a decent job (solely on the basis that he miraculously managed to balance the budget (how absurd does that prospect sound nowadays!!!)). But I'd be willing to look him in the face and say "YES!". If anything, Clinton exacerbated the problem with his housing initiatives and he would have been equally influenced by big banks, economic advisors, and rating agencies. Ex post it's always easy to prevent things. In fact, if Clinton thought the Bush policies were THAT bad, he should have either publicly sounded the alarm, or put down a big bet that would make millions/billions and then given that money away to the poor that he so desperately wants to help. I'm not trying to bash Clinton here, but I certainly don't think he would have done jack-poop to prevent this from happening.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Line of the Day

From Charles Platt (HT: Russ@CafeHayek):

If you want people to be wealthier, they have to create additional wealth.

And more:

To my mind, the real scandal is not that a large corporation doesn't pay people more. The scandal is that so many people have so little economic value.

I'm up in the Mountains of New Mexico for a few more days. Regular blogging will resume shortly.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A example of trade

People often complain that the "rich are getting richer". And yes, this is in fact true. It is very true. (Remember to focus on longer trends. In the last 1 year, the rich have probably gotten quite a bit poorer (as have the rest of us); however, in the last 100 years, the rich have gotten quite a bit richer.) Unfortunately, many people stop their thought process at this simple observation. There seems to be an assumption that "the rich have gotten richer AT THE EXPENSE of the poor". This is quite false. Remember, the economic pie is not baked a fixed size. When I get a bigger piece of the pie, you do not necessary get a smaller piece. Alex Tabarrok explained this quite eloquently in his TED speech. I'm paraphrasing, but Tabarrok recounts a story by Thomas Jefferson talking about having a candle that is lit. And when others come to us needing light, they can dip their candle into ours and they gain light and we are not darkened. Tabarrok has an addendum, though. He says, when others light their candle at ours, there's twice as much light available for everyone (end paraphrasing). So you see, the pie actually gets bigger.

But how can that be? We have the same amount of "stuff" on earth. God didn't come down yesterday and give us an addition 1 billion pounds of ore or gold or air or water because He noticed we were short. Yet somehow, we have more than we did previously. Way more. Way way more! It actually very beautiful how that economic pie gets bigger. First, an abstract example, then a concrete one:

1) You have an Xbox and I have a cure for diabetes. You are happiness neutral. I am happiness neutral. If we were to set up an equation for our economic pie, it would read: 1 Xbox + 1 cure for diabetes + happiness neutrality (0). Let's add to this scenario. I love playing video games, but have no money. You have diabetes but have no money. So, we trade. The new equation would still contain only 1 Xbox and only 1 cure for diabetes, but the happiness coefficient would grow. Not only is there more happiness, but the Xbox now inherently is worth more and (more importantly) so is the diabetes cure. The two of us have rearranged our resources to better fulfill our needs. To each of us, our slice gets bigger.

2) A concrete example: Just last month, my roommate and I were looking to clear up some room in our apartment. We decided to sell his cabinet. Our bottom price was 'come pick it up and you can have it for free'. We didn't advertise this price. We advertised $50. A buyer contacted us, offering the $50. When he came to pick up the cabinet, he had three $20 bills. I had no change. I told him that $40 was fine, don't worry about the difference. As we loaded the cabinet into his car, in a moment of honesty he bluntly said, "ya know, this is a nice cabinet, I would have gladly paid $60 or even $75 for it." Again, let's look at the math. My roommate and I would have gladly given the cabinet away for free. So, we netted an extra $40 utility. This buyer would have gladly paid $75 for the cabinet. His extra netted utility was $35. Both parties were completely justified in thinking the other a sucker. But through this trade, $75 of utility was created (our $40 + his $35).

Watch the Tabarrok TED talk. It's really cool. Remember, when trade isn't coercive and both parties are voluntarily taking part in the exchange, the economic pie gets larger.

Link Edition from New Mexico

I'm back in New Mexico for a few weeks getting doctor work done and working for my dad at his apple ranch. So the blogging will continue to be a little light until I return to the East Coast on May 20th. I'll mostly be passing along links with little if any commentary. Sorry about that. Here's a few to keep you busy:

Have fun.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm Doling Out Free Information Today

This blog is coming to you today from the Portofino Hotel in Orlando, Florida. I'll post some pictures and some thoughts later, but until then, I'm offering a rude awakening to some people.

WSJ Opinion. Arthur Brooks. Here's the quote:
They are fighting a culture war of attrition with economic tools
Here's the free info: "They" are going to lose that war. As the TickerGuy is fond of saying, you can't fight the math. The rest of the article is equally impressive.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Thanks for your support; now screw you you fat ugly pig!"

Don't get me wrong, I loooooove politicians. They are always so true to their principles and never, ever, ever, ever do anything to compromise their integrity. (I think you get the point.)

Ok, politicians are idiots on both sides of the aisle. But I like having Specter as a Republican, because the more split the Congress, the less they are able to accomplish, i.e. the less they are able to F-up. But wow, Specter will do anything to salvage his career. Read this gem:
“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate -- not prepared to have that record decided by that jury, the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate,” Specter said. 
Do I need to explain to Specter that his '29-year record' was allowed to take place because of the largesse of the voting public, specifically the Republican party. I realize the GOP has fallen outta touch with the general public over the last few years, but to insinuate that the 'jury' that has allowed you to be in office for 29 years owes you a favor is completely backwards. Politicians are amazing. They may be snakes, but they are amazing snakes.

Maybe 'S.P.E.C.T.R.E. 2012' would be an appropriate campaign slogan.

Schooling the Public

New York Times. Column on education. A few of my thoughts:
Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide (emphasis mine)
I'd like to see the 'but' changed to an 'and'. Is that not what we want as a society? Minorities scores increased? Great! White kids (majorities??) scores increased? Equally great. Why is it a bad thing that the white kids had improved scores as did the minority students? Had the minority students' scores improved and the white kids' scores worsened, would the NY Times be celebrating this fact? I find the connotations of this sentence troubling. I know the point of No Child Left Behind is to close the gap, but I don't think we want that gap to be closed at the expense of one group versus the other.
The results point to the long-term crisis in many of the nation’s high schools, and could lead to proposals for more federal attention to them in the rewrite of the No Child law
Let me get this straight. The results of a federal public schooling program have been lackluster and disappointing, so the answer is for proposals to do more? I personally would love to see more responsibility to be delegated to the states and cities. I'm also of the flavor that advocates giving vouchers to parents and letting them decide where to send their kids. I think this is the most disgusting position the Democrats maintain. If we were serious about helping improve the prospects of general elementary education, we be open to radical reformation of the system. Innovative, entrepreneurial and varied. Hopefully Obama is as brilliant of a politician as some claim him to be. I'm praying that he's keeping the Teachers Union on his side to get re-elected in '12, then saying 'Screw You and your monopolization of the system and abject failure under that monopoly; I'm going to truly help our school system by doing some crazy shit with Arne Duncan'.

I've rambled and gotten off topic. I'm done.

I come from El barrio...

For that matter, the entire state of New Mexico could use a little more sunshine disinfectant.
Yup. After Bill Richardson's failed attempt at Secretary of State and then his 'boo-hoo' 'for the good of the country I'm removing myself from consideration for the Secretary of Commerce' pay-for-play bungling, the (my) state's AG is now getting some well deserved spotlight. Now, let me be clear: It's New Mexico. Just like the Oakland Raiders, we do things our own way. It's the Wild Wild West. So this shouldn't really surprise anybody inside of the glorious 505. That being god is our government corrupt. My only hope is that Iceman takes to the skies and cleans up our Mig problem.

Hey Gary King - snnnnnfff - you stink:

Two Videos Getting You Up To Speed

The first is Janet Tavakoli giving an enlightened overview of what has been happening. If you're not skeptical about crony capitalism, this video should do the trick to convert you. HT: The TickerGuy

The second is Charlie Rose interviewing Stiglitz, Ross Sorkin, Ackman, and Kelly. This video focuses more on what has been going on the last two months. As usual, Charlie Rose is great.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NBA Playoffs Update

It's been a wild first couple of days in the NBA playoffs. After watching a few games, here's where I stand:


I still think the Lakers will sweep the Jazz. I still think the Hornets will beat the Nuggets. I still think the Rockets will beat the Blazers. I still think the Spurs will beat the Mavs.


I still think the Cavs will sweep the Pistons. I still think the Celts will beat the Bulls. I still think the Magic will struggle to beat the 6er's in 7. I still think the Heat will beat the Hawks.

Thank you for your concern, but as you can see, I still think I am perfectly prescient in my plausible predictions.

SIDENOTE: If you are not doing Streak for the Cash on ESPN, you should be. If you are doing the Streak, you probably picked the Lakers to win last night. If you had a Streak of 5+ going in to that game, I laugh at you. Especially if I told you to pick the Jazz before the tipoff.

NOTES on the NFL Draft: I've forsaken most offseason activities for all sports b/c I find myself too busy with "in-season" sports to worry about "off-season" sports. That being said, I know you are clamoring for my take on the upcoming NFL draft. I'm going to take a few minutes to address the needs of some of the more interesting teams.

Let's start with the Seahawks: After an abysmal season last year, the Hawks get the benefit of a high draft pick. I have a big problem with drafting skill players at the top of the draft. It usually engenders the player with a sense of entitlement despite accomplishing little more than having their named called on national TV while looking dorky holding up a jersey next to the Comish. There seems to be twice as many highly touted busts as big stars. Likewise, it seems as if many of the best players in the league today were picked in the later rounds. Look at last years two Superbowl QBs. Roethlisberger was the 11 pick in the draft (1st round, but not top 10) and Warner has a story familiar to us all (grocery boy turned QB). It will be tempting for the Hawks to grab Mark Sanchez if he's still on the board (which he will be unless a team trades up). Sanchez can come in, sit behing Baldback for a few years then step in to the starting job. How's that working out for another USC grad Leinart in 'Zona? Sanchez might be a great QB, but I'd rather get an experienced QB through free-agency or a trade (in a few years in Seattle's case). I don't care who they pick, but they should get one of the many OTs talked about and have a great QB protector for years to come. Either way, the Hawks will be fighting for a wildcard pick while going against the 49ers in division.

The 49ers: After 2 or 3 disappointing seasons as the 'hot pick' that stayed cold, the 9ers are primed to follow up their solid finish under new coach Mike Singletary atop the NFC West and are quite likely to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It's almost unfair that they also get the #10 pick in the draft. I expect the team to come out of the gates slowly, 3-3, but by then Goodell will have reinstated Mr. Michael Vick.  Vick will sign with a fatherly figure like Singletary and Vick will make a stupid mistake in his first game. The Niners will lose that game, Vick will be put in Singletary's doghouse; but after that, the 9ers will finish 9-0 (12-4 overall) with Vick throwing bones to Crabtree (the 9ers pick this year). You heard it here first.

The Cowboys: I know the Boys don't have a first round pick, but they don't need one. After being liberated by letting go of Owens and moving into their new awesome stadium, the Cowboys are gearing up for a really exciting season. Last year was a disappointment, but Jerry Jones has made sure the ship is sailing straight this offseason and there are high hopes in Dallas. That's too bad. After the Mavs impending collapse to the Ginolbi-less Spurs, the Cowboys season will be an even bigger letdown. Despite being led by the wickedly smart Jason Garrett on offense, the Boys will give up an average of 29.2 points per game this year. The new stadium is nice, but just like my mother lied to me as a child, "It's the inside that counts." Well, in this case, the inside is a giant piece of poop that will rot for 17 weeks from August to 2010.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lure your audience with a catchy first line!!

I think the NY Times is doing it wrong:
 Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 high school junior whom some consider the best American big man since Greg Oden, says he will be taking a new path to the N.B.A. He has left San Diego High School and said this week that he would skip his senior year to play professionally in Europe.
You mean this Greg Oden? 


BPGTOPF                                                                                                        PPG



I know Greg is just a quasi-rookie, but you're trying to promote your article by saying this kid is the next best thing since Greg Oden? 21 minutes a game? 8 points and 7 rebounds for a big man? I like Greg Oden and hope his career takes off, but from what we've seen so far, I sure how this Tyler kid projects better than what we've had from Oden up until now.

NY Times should stick to the arts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Economics Quiz

From the NY Times. When taking the quiz, make sure you are taking it with a Keynesian perspective. If you don't know what that means, take the quiz anyways and see how you do. Then, if you are feeling brave, post your score in my comments section!

I was 16/18 with one of those just being a total brain fart.

Link of the Day

Mario Rizzo's post at ThinkMarkets is stellar. Be sure to read some of the comments.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Explicit Negative Rates from the Fed?

When I first started getting into Econ sometime last year, I thought those calling for the abolishment of the Fed where a little bit loony. As with any notion that is originally found extreme I thought it implausible and dangerous. I've come around. Having a central bank that is able to manipulate the interest rates of a whole economy is in fact the implausible and dangerous action. That being said, I don't foresee the termination of the Fed as anything that will happen in the near future. Now that you know where I stand on the issue, let's look at Greg Mankiw's upcoming letter in the New York Times:
Suppose that, looking ahead, the Fed commits itself to producing significant inflation. In this case, while nominal interest rates could remain at zero, real interest rates — interest rates measured in purchasing power — could become negative. If people were confident that they could repay their zero-interest loans in devalued dollars, they would have significant incentive to borrow and spend.
Normally I would talk about the lunacy of this proposal as if fits in my ideal society, but we don't live in my ideal society. My society wouldn't have a central bank. Given the fact that we do have a central bank, and looking at the proposed policies, arguing for an explicit negative rate from the Fed almost seems like the least of all evils. (I'd still argue that the best action would be to give the people a set of guidelines that won't be changed and tell people to deal with it, instead of changing policies willy-nilly and promoting confusion). I have seen and read commentary arguing that the Fed funds rate is effectually already negative, but for the Fed to be explicit in their pursuit of rampant inflation (by acting with the Treasury) as a means to produce negative interest rates would be troubling. The power to even theoretically pursue such a policy is troubling. Imagine being a responsible long-term lender and you have entered into contracts over the last few years with a nominal interest rate of 5%. Each lender has a responsibility then to also adjust that nominal rate so that it reflects the effects of inflation. Without a central bank, lenders are directly responsible for their own analysis of the perceived underlying inflation or deflation in the economy. But with the Fed present, lenders need to somehow factor in the potential manipulation of a currency by central bankers that are nominated by the Administration. While many efforts have been made to minimize conflicts of interest between Fed members and the Administrations nominating them, and while I'll assume that Fed members act in the best interests of society, there is bound to be some influence put upon a Fed so focused in DC. To ask lenders to take losses on responsible loans is another bailout for those who overextended themselves during the last decade.

Now, it could be argued that a bailout to the borrowers will at least allow them to pay back some of their debt instead of simply defaulting on it and going into bankruptcy. But for Mankiw to still be talking about 'aggregates' as if that all-encompassing-word could ever possibly hope to reflect the underlying complexities of society, is in my opinion misguided. He may think that this proposal is the best one on the table, or he may be proposing what he thinks has the best chance of actually passing through Congress/the Obamadministration. Nonetheless, the more the government stays out of the way and the sooner it let's entrepreneurs step in and assess the situation the better off we will all be. Instead, the government seems set on trumpeting its own importance and trying to clean up the mess that its myriad of follies helped create. I'm by no means trying to oversimplify the situation and simply blame everything on the big, bad government. Private actors were an integral part of this collapse, but the government has done its best to make sure these private actors don't pay the price for their mistakes.

I've gotten a little off topic, but the points remains the same. Promoting more government intervention may be the proposal to actually get serious consideration, but it promotes using the very institutions that manipulate reality in hope of keeping the curtain pulled over the imbecile wizard.

If the NBA playoffs aren't your cup of tea....

....maybe DonkeyBall is.
If the game is simple, playing is not. The sport turns on the donkeys’ stubborn nature, a quality that is encouraged by the referees. Some are trained to buck or to duck their necks — sending the players sliding to the floor — and referees reward the mischief with carrots. Other donkeys plant themselves under the hoop, providing players with a reliable scoring opportunity.

A Soothing Voice

There is a certain level of calmness to the way in which Tyler Cowen speaks. The combination of his intonation and pacing, supported by a sound level of self-doubt and logic, makes for a really enjoyable listening session. Over the course of the last week I've listened to his bloggingheads session with Will Wilkinson, and two of his podcasts a Econtalk (Monetary Policy and his Econ book). Here's a sample of Tyler talking about blogging and entrepreneurship. The sound of his voice is strangely calming to me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Breaking down the NBA Playoffs

I love the NBA playoffs. 40 games in 40 nights on TNT is awesome. Every year there is some series that surprises everyone (think Hawks/Celtics last year). Some team inevitably gets hot and seemingly can't lose (Lakers rolling through the epic WC of last year). Every round has a matchup that is so even they could play best of 77 and it would be won 39-38 (Houston/Utah last year). There's the older team knowing that this year is likely their last with the current nucleus (Detroit last year). It's great and this year will surely feature the same awesomeness. I'm giddy (even though KG going down has momentarily faded that giddiness). Let's break each matchup and then I'll throw out some preposterous predictions:


(1) Cavs vs (8) Pistons

What was one of the marquee matchups the last few years in the Eastern Conference has been demoted to what should be a first round laugher. The Pistons were going to struggle some this year and it would've been a surprise for them to challenge for the EC, but I didn't expect them to be 8 seed material. Who knew that Chauncey was that valuable to the team, and who knew Iverson was going to struggle THIS much with the Pistons. Lebron gives everyone trouble, but he has been the bane of the Pistons' playoff existence the last few years.

Lebron is on a mission, this team has playoff experience. Cavs in 4.

(2) Boston vs (7) Chicago

I'm not even going to mention KG during this breakdown. KG was really overrated for this team and they won't miss KG at all. KG didn't bring anything to the table for the Celts and they won't miss KG at all. Ok, I failed. But Chicago is young; they were a promising team a few years ago, the up-and-coming team of the EC, but that went down in epic flames. Seriously, Deng, Wallace, Williams, Heinrich, Gordon. They were supposed to be good. That was a few years ago, and while D. Rose has been great this year, I think people have written the Celts off, but they won't let that happen. I actually see the Celts having an easy time with the Bulls.

KG's injury sucks, but I think the Celts have a surprise in them. Celts in 6.

(3) Orlando vs (6) Philly

Orlando is going to struggle. They've been playing terribly of late and I think they are assumed to be the only challengers left to the Cavs, and I don't like that combination. I can see them subconciously getting ahead of themselves and worrying too much about how they are going to handle the Cavs while overlooking their first two rounds. Well, after they lose Game 1, they'll be in for a struggle. That's right, I'm calling this series as the surprise battle that nobody saw coming. The point of this playoffs breakdown is not to be accurate but to make outlandish predictions. Responsible journalism gets thrown out the door when talking about sports (unlike my completely professional job while covering all other subjects). Philly is not a good team, but I want them to be good for a few games. Orlando seriously outmatches the 6'ers and I can barely even remember the name of the 6'ers coach, but I gots a feeling about this one.

Orlando in a 7 game battle.

(4) Atlanta vs (5) Dwyane Wade

Atlanta shot outta the gates this season, settled into the 4 slot and just kind consistently rode that wave to the seasons end. Miami's 2-12 players are nothing amazing (yet) but I like Spoelstra walking the sidelines and Wade doing insane '06 theatrics. I have a feeling this will be a popular upset pick (which bothers me), b/c I think the Hawks are really good. If I was being responsible, I'd pick them to win this series and then give the Cavs one hell of a battle. But I'm an idiot and I want to see Wade and Lebron battle in round 2. So, selfishly, I'm picking the Heat. I just want you to be warned, I'm probably wrong. The Hawks are a fun team to like when they are the 7 or 8 seed. There is something unlikable about them in Round 1 as the 4 seed. They become likable again if they play the Cavs in Round 2. Write that down.

Wade in 6

More worthless predictions: Cavs and Celts advancing to ECF. Shockingly, I have the Cavs going to the finals.


(1) Lakers vs (8) Utah

I think Carlos Boozer hates his life. As a Duke fan, I really liked him in college. As a person, I really found him despicable for screwing the Cavs like he did 3/4 years back. I can never really be a fan of his after that sleaze move he pulled. He had a verbal agreement with the Cavs, they left him not under contract for like an hour, and he jumped ship. Yeah, it's tough to pass up a few million and the opportunity to be the Alpha-Dog; and the Cavs GM was an idiot for even letting that situation be possible, but still, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm going to hold that against him until he saves the life of some kid or something. Also, as much as Chris Paul is admired and as awesome as his game is, I can't let go of the fact that he punched Julius Hodges in the balls during the ACC tournament a few years ago. That's just low; that's something a soccer player would do. You play the game, and you get every legal advantage you can get. You do not punch a guy in the balls. Let me repeat that: YOU DO NOT PUNCH A GUY IN THE BALLS. I hold those two events against those two players.

I digress. The Lakers are good. And if they can find a way to work around Bynum; they will be great. They can go big; they can go small; they can go deep; they can go Kobe. The have Phil doing crazy Asian stuff on the bench. They've got Mental Jack courtside hollering at officials. They can't be beat. This whole Kobe/Lebron factor reminds me of Obi-Won Kenobi and Darth Vader in Star Wars IV: A New Hope when Obi-Won and Darth are about to do battle:
Darth Vader: He is here.
Governor Tarkin: Obi-Wan Kenobi? What makes you think so?
Darth Vader: A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master.
Governor Tarkin: Surely he must be dead by now.
Darth Vader: Don't underestimate the Force.
Governor Tarkin: The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that's left of their religion.
[answering a comm signal]
Governor Tarkin: Yes?
Voice over comm: We have an emergency alert in detention block AA-23.
Governor Tarkin: The Princess? Put all sections on alert.
Darth Vader: Obi-wan *is* here. The Force is with him.
Governor Tarkin: If you're right, he must not be allowed to escape.
Darth Vader: Escape is not his plan. I must face him, alone.
The 'I must face him alone' part is exactly what is going on between Kobe and Lebron right now; I'm just not sure who is Darth Vader and who is Obi-Won (ignore the fact that Kobe raped a girl. Ok cheap joke, Kobe if you're reading this blog, I was joking). I see them both just blitzing through their conferences. More on Obi-Won/Vader later...

Lakers in 4

(2) Denver vs (7) New Orleans

I was talking to my amigo yesterday and asked him the question, "Is Denver secretly good? Is there something I'm missing here?" The WC has been awesome the last few years. They've come back to earth a little this year, but I am flabbergasted at the fact that Denver is the number 2 seed. Chauncey obviously has done a lot for them as far as leadership goes, so I struggle to write them off, b/c he's got huge playoff testicles (not nearly as big as Sam Cassell's though). But I could swear that NO is way better than Denver. NO was great last year. They were the number 2 seed and took the Spurs to 7 games and looked like they were going to be a dominant force this year. 5 games separated the two teams this year; which is negligible. The teams split the season series. I think the 2 seed through 7 seeds are pretty much equal and any three teams could advance to round two.

I don't think Denver can get out of Round 1. I'd like to see them never get out of the first round for some reason. Hornets in 7 winning a road game for the series.

(4) Portland vs. (5) Houston

Another great matchup. Of course the 4/5's usually are, but Portland has been the semi-surprise/non-suprise of the year. It was surprising to see them in the top 9 of the WC for the first 1/3 of the season, but when you thought about it and accepted the fact that they have a great nucleus, it ceased to be a surprise and now they seem like a mainstay. Houston had the T-Mac debacle turn out to be a blessing in disguise. They've been better without him. I also think we forget how good Ron Artest really is. He's a GREAT on the ball defender, gets it done offensively and is a totally repressed nutjob. This works in his favor. Have you seen "I Love you Man"? Ron Artest reminds me of Jason Segel's character when a stranger confronts him about not picking up after his dogshit. Jason Segel responds by just walking up to the stranger in a confrontational manner and making really loud/crazy noices in the strangers face. I feel like RonRon could do that at any minute and that scares his opponents; except he's not going to do that because he's found his 'Happy Place' (sorry, two movies references in one sentence). I also like the prospect of Houston never making it out of the first round with this team, but now that T-Mac is on the sidelines, I think it would be great for them to make a playoff run with him being a non-factor. It would belittle T-Mac for handling his injury this year like a D-Bag.

Houston in an exciting 6.

Ok, finally:
(3) The Spurs vs. (6) The Mavs

This battle usually takes place later in the playoffs, but with the Mavs struggling to find their groove until the last two weeks of the season, it's a first round Texas Two Step instead of a WCF Two-step. No big deal. Going to college in San Antonio, I know first hand how much these two teams hate each other (or at least the fan bases). The Mavs are the hottest team in the league right now, and the Spurs are coming off news of Ginobli being done for the year and Timmy D's health less than stellar. Tony Parker has shown me that there are admirable Frenchy's out there and Greg Pop will come up with a great gameplan. Throw in Mason and Finley hitting shots and they will be a tough game for anybody. The Mavs though are playing great basketball. As soon as they realized they would be the 8 seed at least, it loosened up their playing style and they've been able to beat some really good teams down the stretch. The teams split the season series and this is that one series where the teams could play a billion times and it would split 50/50 (ingoring the fact that the Spurs would fade because of a lack of depth/age). My favorite part about the Mavs this year is that it will convince Mark Cuban that maybe this nucleus could actually still win a championship, so instead of blowing the team up (like he should have done after '06's fail) he might try and add pieces again and watch them putter to 6/7/8 seeds for another two years. Then Dirk will be done and the Mavs will have to retool from scratch. I think the Spurs will win because I have little faith in Rick Carlisle. It's gonna be great though.

Spurs in 7

Ludicrous predictions: Lakers and SPURS going to WCF. Spurs will be the surprise team going that far. I think the Lakers will lose 1 game in the WC. It's going to be memorable.

I hate picking the Cavs and Lakers to go to the finals, b/c that's what everybody is picking. But I'm not going to pick against the grain just to do it. That's stupid. The Lakers and Cavs are simply the cream of the crop in their respective conferences. Obi-Won and Vader. I think Lebron is going to do ridiculous things throughout the playoffs and leave his stamp on the game. In fact, he's been doing that all season. His team is quite mediocre relative to their record and 9ppg advantage over opponents (100ppg scored vs. 91ppg against). The Cavs are unstopable. So I'm picking the Lakers. I love Kobe, but he is the perfect Vader. And that's the thing, Vader beats Obi-Won in their Death Star battle. But Lebron is going to leave his stamp on the game, just like Old Ben Kenobi. Lebron is going to influence this story for years to come and go down in history as a better player than Kobe. But Kobe gets this one to cement his status.

Lakers win the championship in 7 as the Cavs can't protect the home-court they famously defended all year. Remember, it was the Lakers that were the only team to beat the Cavs on their home court this year (excluding the meaningless last game of the year vs. the 76ers). Watch this championship go down as one of the top-5 finishes to an NBA season.

The Model Essay

I don't agree with this article, but I think it perfectly captures one major side of the debate. I'll be sure to comment about it and reference it in blog posts to come. A sample: 
Three broad steps must be taken to remake this failed, unstable model: one, regulating global finance; two, correcting global economic, social and environmental imbalances; and three, devising ways to make sure economic progress is aligned with social needs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maybe the Bulls knew something we didn't

The Chicago Bulls laid an egg last night against the Toronto Raptors....or so I thought. With a win, the Bulls would have secured the 6th playoff spot in the East and would face the battle-UNtested Orlando Magic. Instead, the Bulls played terribly and ended up in the 7th spot, set to face the defending champ Boston Celtics.

I thought the Bulls really screwed the pooch last night, but it turns out, maybe they knew something we didn't:
Kevin Garnett isn't ready to start the playoffs, and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Thursday that there's a strong possibility that he will miss the entire postseason.
 Hmmmm, that changes things.