Wednesday, December 30, 2009

big guy's big day

This picture was taken last week. Notice the jingle bells on Koufax's collar?

Yesterday, December 29th, was Koufax's first birthday. Sue's uncle and I walked him down to the feed store, Wight & Patterson, to have him weighed: he came in at only 105 pounds. That is a five-pound gain over two months. Before that he regularly gained ten pounds a month.

Earlier this week at dinner I asked people what was their favorite day of 2009. Mine was the day we brought Koufax home.

What's next? A colleague of mine insists that Koufax is Jewish. Since Koufax is now one-year old, and therefore officially a dog and no longer a puppy, we are planning his Bark Mitzvah.

Anybody know where we can get a doggie yarmulke?

Be blessed!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

where's the donkey doo-doo?

This might not be much of a news flash, but today is Christmas Eve. This season is a special time of decorating the house, big meals, candy and cookies, family gatherings, evergreens all decked out, presents for loved ones, and sometimes, for those you barely know.

What does this have to do with the Christmas Story (not the '83 movie but the original in Luke Chapter 2)? If you think about it, not much at all.

A poor, pregnant, teenage girl about to give birth arrives in a city where there is no room at any of the inns. (As my pastor once mentioned, if she wasn't so poor, someone probably would have found a room for her.) They let her and her husband stay in the stable. If the inns are full, wouldn't you think the stables would be full as well? Picture this scared teenage girl having a baby in a barn full of work animals, very smelly work animals. The place reeked of animal sweat, feces, and urine.

Not much in decorations. I guess to be more authentic we ought to hang dried donkey doo-doo from our Christmas trees.

Where was the family? Was Joseph the only one from his family who had to report to Bethlehem for the census? Where was every one else? Where were all the sisters, cousins, and aunts to help out with the birth? Was there really no one who would help? Maybe this young couple had been ostracized? After all, Mary was that girl. You know, the one who was engaged to Joseph, then went off to the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and three months later came back pregnant. To top it off, Joseph went ahead and married her anyway!

Maybe a midwife came to help, but it is not mentioned. No one in the City of David seemed to notice that the King was born in that crowded, filthy, stinking stable. Wrapped in rags, maybe the baby was laid in a manger because it was the cleanest place; it had the only fresh hay.

Besides the angels, who was going to worship the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords? No wise men of the East yet. They came some time later. God had to outsource the worship to some shepherds outside of the city, out in the countryside. They were already awake. After being frightened by the angels, the adrenaline rush wouldn't allow them to go to sleep. So they went to worship the Christ. Earning their income by living among smelly sheep, these guys probably didn't mind the barn situation.

So if you are spending this Christmas without family, maybe alone, maybe in unpleasant circumstances, you are the one having a more authentic Christmas. God is with you; you can worship the Christ; no one else may even notice or care.

I will enjoy this Christmas season. I will worship Christ, but let's face it: this will be despite all the trappings of the holiday, not because of it.

Despite all the talk of keeping Christ in Christmas, the rest of us may just be having a Happy Holiday masquerading as a Merry Christmas.

Be blessed!

Monday, December 21, 2009

the worst day of the year

It started out great with men's meeting at 7 a.m. and I was at the Watertown Malls on west Arsenal Street by 9:30. I started off easy with Petco. This is to shopping what stretching is to tennis. Then I went across to the BIG MALL. Wandering around stores, my legs and feet became sore from all the walking, my eyesight was blurry. I ultimately realized I was at the end of the mall. (Trust me, don't expect a light there.) To my shock I found myself looking to buy clothes for my wife in Gander Mountain. I forced myself to stagger out of there and immediately went into the nearby Best Buy. I looked at computers until my mind started to clear.

I had spent the entire day shopping and I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.

I looked at my watch. It was almost 11 a.m.

The car was parked at the other end of the mall. Walking back through that mall was for me like a naked albino with no water walking across the Sahara on a sunny August afternoon.

But I had no choice. I had to do it. I did buy something on the way back. I don't remember what I bought or what I paid. It's in the trunk of the car. I think.

I bought coffee and went across Arsenal to visit some other big box stores. I bought a few more things just to avoid the embarrassment of not having anything to show for my trip.

I don't understand how women can do this, let alone enjoy it.

Be blessed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

this 'end of the world' video would be good even without zombies

However, every good end of the world video should have zombies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

what english sounds like to foreigners

About This Video: An Italian singer wrote this song with gibberish to sound like English. If you've ever wondered what other people think Americans sound like, this is it.

[ht him]

Monday, December 14, 2009

a quiet conversation

This was taken last weekend.

emerging from the ashes

Massena UCC.
Our department secretary is the pastor:

Emerging From The Ashes

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

so quit whining about taxes already

Tax Burdens, Around the World

Think you pay a lot of taxes in the United States? Try moving to Denmark.

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development today released new data on tax burdens in its 30 member countries. Across the organization, over all tax revenue totaled an estimated 35.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2008, down half a percentage point from 2007. The organization expects that tax burdens will fall further in 2009.

Denmark had the highest total tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P., at 48.3 percent, followed by Sweden at 47.1 percent. Turkey and Mexico had the smallest tax burdens, at 23.5 percent and 21.1 percent.

In the United States, tax revenues represented 26.9 percent of total output last year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1 toyota = 30 vacations

economics at its most basic [ht: them]

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Has this ever happened to you? It can be a scary thing. What would you do in a situation like this? Think about it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

conservative lightbulb jokes

Q: How many Obama voters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. Hoping that it would change is quite enough.

Q: How many autoworkers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 17 at GM, Ford and Chrysler; 1 at Honda, Hyundai and Toyota.

Q: How many Chicago pols does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: F--- you, what am I gettin' outta this?

Q: How many Democrats does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: It's burnt out on the Republican side, so we're not changing it.

Q: How many MSM journalists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: No need, Obama is the Light.

Q: How many Congresspersons does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, but they'll allocate a few billion to achieve change under the Obama Stimulus Bill.

Q: How many Daily Kos bloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: It was Bush's fault the bulb burned out; it'll get fixed by itself when he leaves office.

Q: How many Minnesota Canvassing Board members does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Depends. They'll only change it if it looks like a vote for Coleman.

Q: How many Oprah Winfrey fans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The bulb's not so light these days.

Q: How many Cubans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: There have been no lightbulbs since the USSR collapsed.

Q: How many North Koreans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: What's a lightbulb?

Q: How many Hollywood celebrities does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Six to make movies about evil lightbulb companies, twelve to lecture about the unequal distribution of light on late night talk shows and nine to get caught with drugs hidden in cartons of lightbulbs.

Q: How many Obama appointees does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: His team is currently in the process of finding someone from the Clinton Administration who knows how.

Q: How many Caroline Kennedys does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: She's never thought about it but now that you mention it, she'd love for someone to change it for her.

Q: How many President Elect Obamas does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The bulb is a lot more burnt out than we thought. Clearly, the bulb has deteriorated. It might not be changed as quickly as we would like.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

cruel to momma or cruel to babies? your call....

A very interesting post on the pros and cons of farrowing crates for pigs. They are considered inhumane in the popular press but then there is another side to the argument which you don't see. See Crate Expectations.

who pays the highest effective tax rates? the poor of course!

The Dead Zone: The Implicit Marginal Tax Rate - Clifford F. Thies - Mises Institute

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

gimme that ol' time recess'n

The artist has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard. [ht: him]

wronging rights: outsourcing that is very cool and helps the extremely poor

From wronging rights:

So This Seems Pretty Cool:
iPhone App to Train Refugees to Do Outsourced Tech Jobs
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Samasource, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that "leverages technology to create jobs for the next billion," has partnered with CARE International on an innovative project that combines job training with job access for refugees in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp.

CARE has equipped two technology centers in the camp with broadband links, computers, and other infrastructure. They've selected a small group of refugees who will be trained in "marketable computer and research skills," and partnered with outsourcing organizations to provide jobs. For now, that will be Dolores Labs, which "takes short simple tasks such as translation, transcription, or content moderation and serves them to workers in real-time, creating an on-demand, 24/7 workforce."

Samasource has also developed an iPhone app, Give Work, which allows fancy people with fancy phones to help with the refugee workers' training. As far as I can tell from their website, it works like this: the refugee trainee is given an "outsourced" task, such as checking the copyright restrictions on an internet-sourced photograph. The same task goes out on the Give Work network, where several iPhone users can also select it, and do the task themselves, creating a kind of crowdsourced accuracy measure of the task's "right" answer. The refugee trainee's results are compared to the crowdsourced answers. Once the refugee has developed a consistent track record of correct answers, he or she will graduate to paid outsourced jobs.

A few reasons why I think this is cool:

1. It's not a "traditional craft." Seriously, I have had it up to here with the idea that making baskets/beads/carvings/blankets/weavings is the way out of poverty for people in the developing world. The weird Noble-Savage overtones leave a bad taste in my mouth. So does the emphasis on work for poor people that is aesthetically pleasing to the wealthy. It's all a bit Marie-Antoinette's-shepherdesses for me.
2. It's a skill with positive externalities. I don't know how long this project or its jobs will last, but the skills this will give refugees will continue to have value even if the specific jobs evolve over time. The technical stuff will be good, but I think that the experience with Western consumer culture will be even better. The training program will expose the refugees to the way the iPhonerati approach and solve problems, which should make them more able to participate in the outsourced service economy in other ways as well. That's a tremendously valuable skill set, one I'd take over basket-weaving any day.
3. It's cheap in the right ways. For all that the iPhone thing is a little bit gimmicky, it's a great use of technology. Getting free feedback from lots of people will not only save the cost of hiring trainers, it will also provide better quality feedback than one or two people could.
4. It's about jobs, in refugee camps. Among the many, many, many things that I think are terrible about the "herd them into camps and leave them there forever" model of refugee-hosting, walling refugees off from legitimate jobs is one of the worst. So any program that takes the international job market directly into a refugee camp is on my good list until further notice.

I don't have an iPhone, so I can't try this app out for myself. Do any intrepid readers want to take Give Work for a spin and report back?

Follow-up post here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

more than a slum...a home

A photo essay in Foreign Policy. [ht him]

Saturday, November 7, 2009

my 10-month-old puppy -- all 100 pounds of him

The above was taken today just after Koufax's weigh-in at the feed store. The following was taken four weeks ago.

the 'benefit' of somalia's pirates

By Channel 4 News [Updated 25 October 2009]

The increasing levels of piracy off the coast of Somalia have caused an unexpected spin-off, raising the levels of fish in the sea.

Fisherman in Kenya have reported bumper catches of shark and shellfish because commercial fishing boats from China and Japan have been scared away.

Now the fishermen are able to catch up to £200 worth of fish per day in an area where the average daily earnings are less than £5.

The massive factory trawlers which used to drain their fish stocks have been scared away and that means there is a huge bounty for local fishermen as well as helping to restore the health of the marine eco-system.

[ht them]

Friday, November 6, 2009

economists on jeopardy

This is so sad....

[ht him]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

why dogs don't like halloween

This is a great link:

FW: Why Dogs Don't Like Halloween - Urlesque

Too many pictures to post here, so please click the link above.

economic systems explained

This list has been around forever
-- with maybe a couple of new ones

FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

PURE SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all of the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

BUREAUCRATIC SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and put them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs as the regulations say you need.

FASCISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them and sells you the milk.

PURE COMMUNISM: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

RUSSIAN COMMUNISM: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

CAMBODIAN COMMUNISM: You have two cows. The government takes both of them and shoots you.

DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

BUREAUCRACY: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

PURE ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to take the cows and kill you.

LIBERTARIAN/ANARCHO-CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

VIRTUAL ECONOMY: You have two avatars. You screw up and one is destroyed. You are the government. You hit reset button.

(Original source unknown . . . this version expanded by SJ. Last one by RB)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

i'm voting hoffman but like scozzafava

The race in NYS’s 23rd CD is getting a bit nasty. Outsiders really do not understand this race. The media pundits really are quite silly.

Why did the GOP nominate Dede Scozzafava, a liberal, to run? Was this Big-Tent Republicanism?

Nah, don’t be silly. Dede got the nomination because it was her turn.

She’d been in the NYS Assembly a while and she had seniority among North Country politicians. She was the popular mayor of a small town and ran unopposed for the Assembly. Her husband is a union official so she’d have union support. This is a very conservative district with a big Republican edge in voter registrations. She was viewed as a shoo-in against any Democrat.

There was no strategy considering ideology. That is giving the GOP leadership far too much credit. It was her turn if she wanted it. That is the way they do things around here. That is all there was to it.

Everybody likes her. She is very upfront and candid about her liberal views. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about her as a person. Some have tried to make a big deal about her involvement with a troubled business started by her brother. Of course, she supported him. Hey, he’s her brother!

A reporter from DC’s Weekly Standard gave her a hard time so they called the cops. Hey, the guy was obnoxious. That may be ok downstate but up here, reporter or no reporter, he was being a jerk. Actually, he’s lucky they called the cops. The alternative would be for Dede to take him out behind the building and teach him some manners. Instead, she took pity on the chump.

Remember: Dede is from Gouverneur. So the guy got off easy. Real easy.

Then along came Doug Hoffman, a political newcomer. He had no chance for the Republican nomination. It had nothing to do with ideology or positions on the issues. No one paid any serious attention to him.

It wasn’t his turn.

The Conservative Party nominated Doug. A lot of money came in, voters have found they have a choice to vote for a conservative in New York’s most conservative district. Now he will beat Dede in the election.

Doug Hoffman might even win the whole thing.

This is not too complicated. If the national media and their pundits want to over analyze this race, that is their right.

It is all rather silly though.

Be blessed!

this happens every day in hepburn hall

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

take back the party

Doug Hoffman on Doug Hoffman in today's New York Post:

The 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York is locked in an election battle that echoes far beyond Watertown. When the local Republican party nominated Assembly member Dede Scozzafava, some conservatives balked, objecting that her positions (on gay marriage, abortion and spending) are too liberal. Local businessman Doug Hoffman decided to run as the Conservative Party candidate to oppose both the Democrat, Bill Owens, and Scozzafava in the November election. Hoffman tells The Post why the Republican Party needs to return to its base.

At this time, three months ago, I was wrestling with a decision. A decision as to whether or not to run in a special election to fill the seat vacated by the new secretary of the Army, John McHugh. If you had told me 90 days later I would be penning an op-ed piece for the New York Post, I would have laughed in disbelief. I would have laughed even louder had you told me that I would be receiving endorsement and support from political leaders like Fred Thompson, former Majority Leader Dick Armey, or Sarah Palin. Or appearing on broadcast media with national audiences, as their hosts peppered me with questions about the future of the GOP and our nation.

You see I’m not a professional politician; I’ve never sought elected office. I grew up poor in Saranac Lake, in the heart of the Adirondacks. My siblings and I were raised in a single-parent household by our mother. We worked to help her pay the mortgage. But, like so many others in this great land, I worked hard, got a good education, did a six-year stint in the military, married, landed a good job with a “big eight” accounting firm and started living the American dream.

It’s funny what can happen in America, when you are able to dream and have the courage to follow your dreams. At 27 I was hired as controller of the organizing committee for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Three years later I bought the accounting firm that employed my mother. Now I have six offices spread across the northern reaches of New York and a dozen other small businesses in the Adirondacks that employ my wife, children and hopefully someday, my grandchildren. I am living the American Dream.

The reason I’m running for office is to ensure that others share the same opportunities.

Sadly, that dream is quickly becoming a nightmare. Unemployment grows, our economy is in crisis, and our elected officials seem out of touch with reality. Government in Albany is a disgrace; it’s the most dysfunctional in the nation. New York has six statewide elected officials, only two of them have been elected by the people. Three of the remaining four hold office as a result of the scandals, sexual and financial, that forced a governor and a comptroller to resign.

It’s just as bad in Washington. The Obama administration suffers from the illusion that the way you solve problems, both social and economic, is to throw money at them.In the meantime, Congress fiddles while our economy burns. They lack common sense.

They don’t seem to get it that increased spending leads to higher taxes and fuels a projected $9 trillion deficit. That earmarks and pork-barrel spending might be beneficial to their political careers, but are devastating to the taxpayers who foot the bill. They are oblivious to the fact that tort reform, cutting of waste, and the introduction of free-market solutions are the ways to lower the cost of health care. That Obama-care will only lead us down the slippery slope to socialized medicine.

They are addicted to spending. When they run low on funds they simply create a new tax or raise an old one.

Taxes, the deficit, red tape and regulation are breaking the back of the nation, mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.

Americans have had enough and are vocalizing their anger in town hall meetings and on the streets of Washington. They are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore!

That’s why I am running. I am one of them!

Freedom is what Americans want. Economic freedom to reap the rewards of the free enterprise system, personal freedom from the intrusion of big government in our lives, freedom from the nanny state that is being forced upon us.

I’m a lifelong Republican running as the nominee of the New York State Conservative Party. I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the party left me. The GOP bosses in New York and Washington felt the candidate needed to be as liberal as possible. They picked a professional politician, with a voting record more liberal than 46 Democrats in the New York state legislature. They threw principles out the window. Their candidate has voted for increased spending, higher taxes, gay marriage and abortion. She supports “Card Check” (EFCA) and is supported by trial lawyers, gay activists and Big Labor. In 2008 she ran on the line of the radical left Working Families Party, ACORN’s political party in New York.

The battle I wage is not a lonely one. Like-minded citizens in the district, the state and the nation have joined me in this fight.

It is a battle that has been joined by current and former elected Republican officials, conservative activists and members of the ever-growing Tea Party and 9/12 movements. And if the GOP picks liberal candidates for the midterm congressional elections next year, they may find that there are a lot more people out there like me who won’t go along. We are not going to win by becoming more like the Democrats. We’re going to win by standing up for our beliefs.

It’s principle over party.

It’s a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. It’s a fight for fiscal responsibility and the return of common sense to those who govern us.

This is a fight for our children’s future. It’s a fight for America.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

indian firms shift focus to the poor -

Please read the article but also check out the interactive graphics tab.
Indian Firms Shift Focus to the Poor -

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

willie gone wild reminder

The American Shakespeare Center on tour will be performing the
following plays in Eben Holden Center

Monday, October 26, ROMEO AND JULIET, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 27, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 28, THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 29th - No Performances

Friday, October 30, ROMEO AND JULIET, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, October 30, THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE, Midnight

Saturday, October 31, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, November 1, Children's Matinee ROMEO AND JULIET, 1:30 p.m.

Tickets now on sale at the Brewer Bookstore
the Sullivan Student Center
Ticket price: $5.00 each

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

knowledge you can live without

Nokia products say "Made in China" on the back. Chinese-made Nokia-knockoffs say "Made in Finland"
[ht Tyler Cowen].

Odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot? You are 21 times more likely to be attacked by a shark during the next year than playing the lottery one time and winning.

Like low taxes? Federal government revenues, as a share of GDP, are at the lowest level since 1950 [ht them].

Nothing like a good recession to get the government off our backs.

Someday this knowledge may be important: I realized a couple of weeks ago that zombies cannot whistle.

RB: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ny's 23rd cd: let's go with plan c

Today's front page of the Wall Street Journal had an article featuring New York's 23rd Congressional District race. The only Congressional race to be decided this November 3rd.

The Republican party is spending a quarter of a million dollars for ads labeling Democrat candidate Bill Owens as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's "gift" to upstate New York.

The problem is that Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava is upstate New York's gift to Nancy Pelosi.

Scozzafava's votes in the NYS Assembly earned her a Conservative Party rating of only 15, the most liberal rating of any Assembly Republican -- even more liberal than the average Assembly Democrat in a very liberal state. She supports gay marriage, is very pro-abortion, and supported the Pelosi-Obama fiscal stimulus package. (To her credit, Scozzafava has always been quite open about her views.) She never voted against a Democrat-designed NYS budget until this year. That was only after she started running for Congress.

So the Republicans nominated their most liberal state legislator to run for Congress in New York's most conservative district.

For voters in the 23rd who do not want a Pelosi supporter representing them in Congress, there is a third option, Plan C: Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Some claim a third party candidate can't win and could spoil Scozzafava's chances -- as if that is really much of a downside risk.

The photo I found above happens to have the candidates in my order of my preference: Conservative Doug Hoffman, Democrat Bill Owens, and Republican Dede Scozzafava.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

obama shocked not to get nobel in economics

From: MarketWatch First Take

Oct. 12, 2009, 8:47 a.m. EDT

Obama fails to win Nobel prize in economics
Commentary: Michael Moore, Timothy Geithner also passed over

By MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- In a decision as shocking as Friday's surprise peace prize win, President Obama failed to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Monday.

While few observers think Obama has done anything for world peace in the nearly nine months he's been in office, the same clearly can't be said for economics.

The president has worked tirelessly since even before his inauguration to wrest control of the U.S. economy from failed free markets, and the evil CEOs who profit from them, and to turn it over to wise, fair and benevolent bureaucrats.

From his $787 billion stimulus package, to the cap-and-trade bill, to the seizures of General Motors and Chrysler, to the undead health-care "reform" act, Obama has dominated the U.S., and therefore the global, economy as few figures have in recent years.

Yet the Nobel panel chose instead to award the prize to two obscure academics -- Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson -- one noted for her work on managing collective resources, and the other for his work on transaction costs.

Other surprise losers include celebrity noneconomist and filmmaker Michael Moore; U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and Larry Summers, head of the U.S. national economic council.

It is unclear whether the president will now refuse his peace prize in protest against the obvious slight to his real achievements this year.

-- Tom Bemis, assistant managing editor

nobel update

A non-technical explanation of Ostrom's and Williamson's scholarly work.

nobel in economics -- a surprise but deserved

Elinor Ostrom (her bio) and Oliver Williamson (his bio) shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics. This is a bit of a surprise since both were 50-1 long shots. Actually I was not at all surprised at Williamson getting it but I never really thought of Ostrom as being in the running. Her sharing the prize with Williamson really was a bit of a shocker since I never really saw their work as being connected.

Elinor and her husband Vincent, both political scientists, were early leaders in the development of Public Choice, an interdisciplinary field that looks at non-market decision making. It basically takes the methods of economics and applies them to the topics of political science. (BTW, I studied at Public Choice Center, then at Virginia Tech. Two of the founders of Public Choice, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, were on my dissertation committee. Buchanan won the 1986 Nobel Prize for pioneering Public Choice.)

What is probably my best publication, an article on the Maasai, was built upon a number of Elinor Ostrom's works from the late 1980's and early 1990's concerning the tragedy of the commons.

From this morning's

Ostrom, Williamson Win Nobel Prize for Economics

Two American economists, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson, who study the way decisions are made outside the markets on which many other economists focus, were awarded the Nobel Prize in economics Monday.

Ms. Ostrom, who teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ill., is the first woman to win the prize, which, before Monday, had been awarded to 62 men since it was launched in 1969 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Swedish bank. The judges cited "her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons," the way in which natural resources are managed as shared resources. It is an area of research that she said was relevant to questions surrounding global warming, and suggests that decisions by individuals can help solve the problem even as governments work to reach an international agreement.

Ms. Ostrom "challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized," the Nobel judges said. "Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, [Ms.] Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes."

Ms. Ostrom, who was interviewed by phone during the announcement press conference in Stockholm, described the prize as "an immense surprise," and said, "I'm still a little bit in shock."

Her Ph.D. is in political science, but she said she considers herself a political economist.

Mr. Williamson, who is at the University of California at Berkeley, was cited for "for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm" -- the reason some economic decisions are made at arm's length in markets and others are made inside a corporation.

"The drawback of markets is that they often entail haggling and disagreement," the judges said. "The drawback of firms is that authority, which mitigates contention, can be abused. Competitive markets work relatively well because buyers and sellers can turn to other trading partners in case of dissent. But when market competition is limited, firms are better suited for conflict resolution than markets. A key prediction of [Mr.] Williamson's theory, which has also been supported empirically, is therefore that the propensity of economic agents to conduct their transactions inside the boundaries of a firm increases along with the relationship-specific features of their assets."

The economics prize is the only one of the six Nobel prizes not created in Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel's 1896 will, and is officially known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

The two economists will share a 10 million kronor prize (about $1.4 million). Ms. Ostrom said she hopes to devote the proceeds to supporting research and graduate students.

OCTOBER 12, 2009, 8:20 A.M. ET

why rb studies development economics

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

odds for monday's nobel in economics

Monday, October 12th is not only Columbus Day for Americans and Thanksgiving Day for Canadians, but more importantly for economists, Monday is the day they announce the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics. Here are the betting odds courtesy of Ladbrokes (BTW, Romer is my pick):

Eugene Fama 2/1
Paul Romer 4/1
Ernst Fehr 6/1
Kenneth R. French 6/1
William Nordhaus 6/1
Robert Barro 7/1
Bengt R Holmstrom 8/1
Matthew J Rabin 8/1
Jean Tirole 9/1
Martin Weitzman 9/1
Robert Schiller 9/1
Chris Pissarides 10/1
Dale T Mortensen 10/1
Xavier Sala-i-Martin 10/1
Avinash Dixit 14/1
Jagdish N. Bhagwati 14/1
William Baumol 16/1
Gene M Grossman 20/1
Martin S. Feldstein 20/1
Oliver Hart 20/1
Andrei Shoeiser 25/1
Christopher Sims 25/1
Lars P. Hansen 25/1
Nancy Stokey 25/1
Peter A Diamond 25/1
Thomas J. Sargent 25/1
Dale Jorgenson 33/1
Paul Milgrom 33/1
Elhanan Helpman 50/1
Ellinor Ostrom 50/1
Gordon Brown 50/1
Karl-Goran Maler 50/1
Oliver Williamson 50/1
Robert B Wilson 50/1

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

willie gone wild with the lights on

Tickets for the American Shakespeare Center's

Rough, Rude and Boisterous Tour

are currently on sale at SLU's Brewer Bookstore and
the Information Desk in the Sullivan Student Center
Ticket price: $5:00 each
Performance venue: Eben Holden Center

Schedule of Performances

Monday, October 26, ROMEO AND JULIET, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, October 27, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 28, THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE, 7:30 p.m.
No performance on Thursday, the 29th
Friday, October 30, ROMEO AND JULIET, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 30, THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE, Midnight
Saturday, October 31, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 1, ROMEO AND JULIET, 1:30 p.m. (children's matinee)

too busy to be original: everything is wonderful

Everything is Wonderful

My face in the mirror
Isn't wrinkled or drawn.
My house isn't dirty,
The cobwebs are gone.

My garden looks lovely
And so does my lawn.
I think I might never
Put my glasses back on.

(ht: gcfl)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

i love being a tenured professor

Sent to me by Offspring #1. You may want to click on image to see a larger version.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

read the gospels: jc is not pc

By John MacArthur in The Washington Post (HT to him):

Let's be brutally honest: most of Jesus' teaching is completely out of sync with the mores that dominate our culture.

I'm talking, of course, about the Jesus we encounter in Scripture, not the always-gentle, never-stern, ├╝ber-lenient coloring-book character who exists only in the popular imagination. The real Jesus was no domesticated clergyman with a starched collar and genteel manners; he was a bold, uncompromising Prophet who regularly challenged the canons of political correctness.

Consider the account of Jesus' public ministry given in the New Testament. The first word of his first sermon was "Repent!"--a theme that was no more welcome and no less strident-sounding than it is today. The first act of his public ministry touched off a small riot. He made a whip of cords and chased money-changers and animal merchants off the Temple grounds. That initiated a three-year-long conflict with society's most distinguished religious leaders. They ultimately handed him over to Roman authorities for crucifixion while crowds of lay people cheered them on.

Jesus was pointedly, deliberately, and dogmatically counter-cultural in almost every way. No wonder the religious and academic aristocracy of his generation were so hostile to him.

Would Jesus receive a warmer welcome from world religious leaders, the media elite, or the political gentry today? Anyone who has seriously considered the New Testament knows very well that he would not. Our culture is devoted to pluralism and tolerance; contemptuous of all absolute or exclusive truth-claims; convinced that self-love is the greatest love of all; satisfied that most people are fundamentally good; and desperately wanting to believe that each of us is endowed with a spark of divinity.

Against such a culture Jesus' message strikes every discordant note.

Check the biblical record. Jesus' words were full of hard demands and stern warnings. He said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" (Luke 9:23-25). "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).

At one point an unthinkable Roman atrocity took the lives of many Galilean pilgrims who had come to worship in Jerusalem. Pilate, the Roman governor, ordered his men to murder some worshipers and then mingled their blood with the sacrifices they were offering. While the city was still reeling from that awful disaster, a tower fell in the nearby district of Siloam and instantly snuffed out eighteen more lives.

Asked about these back-to-back tragedies, Jesus said, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2-5).

Ignoring the normal rules of taste, tact, and diplomacy, Jesus in effect declared that all his listeners were sinners in need of redemption. Then, as now, that message was virtually guaranteed to offend many--perhaps most--of Jesus' audience.

Those with no sense of personal guilt--including the vast majority of religious leaders--were of course immediately offended. They were convinced they were good enough to merit God's favor. Who was this man to summon them to repentance? They turned away in angry unbelief.

The only ones not offended were those who already sensed their guilt and were crushed under the weight of its burden. Unhindered by indignation or self-righteousness, they could hear the hope implicit in Jesus' words. For them, the repeated phrase "unless you repent" pointed the way to redemption.

Elsewhere, Jesus made the promise of life and forgiveness explicit: "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24). "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).

That, of course, is the glorious message of the gospel, just as potent and just as relevant today as it was then. But the promise is for those who are weary of sin; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6); those who come to Christ with repentant heartsCnot those who are convinced they are fundamentally good.

Proud people, including lots of religious people who call themselves Christians, don't really believe Christ's message at all. He said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Mark 2:17).

So what would Jesus say to a pluralistic, tolerant, self-indulgent society like ours? I'm convinced his approach today would be the very same strategy we see in the New Testament. To smug, self-satisfied, arrogant sinners (including multitudes on church rolls) his words would sound harsh, shocking, provocative. But to "the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3)--those who are exhausted and spent by the ravages of sin; desperate for forgiveness and without any hope of atoning for their own sin--Jesus' call to repentant faith remains the very gateway to eternal life.

This is a particularly hard message in cultures like ours that elevate self-love, self-esteem, or self-righteousness, but Jesus was absolutely clear, and these words do still speak to us: "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of 7,000-member Grace Community Church in Southern California, is a best-selling author of more than 200 books and study guides. His new book is "The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

new tool for helicopter parents

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

The Helicopter Parents Are Hovering on Facebook

David Rivera recently had someone "unfriend" him on Facebook: His own child. » Full Story on Wall Street Journal

Then I saw this video this morning:

Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

this shows why social security is in trouble

This animated chart shows the change in the age distribution of the U.S. between 1950 and 2050:

Found here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

hopeful signs for u.s. jobs

That was the headline of a front-page article about July's unemployment rate in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Not only is this inference not derivable from the evidence, but only serves as another sad indicator that the quality of our leading financial paper has been slipping since News Corp bought it.

The "decline" of the 9.4% unemployment rate in July from the 9.5% rate in June is not statistically significant. The unemployment data is based on a survey. Like any survey there is always a chance that those surveyed may not identically represent the whole population. For example, remember all those public opinion polls before the last election? They often mentioned a margin of error like plus or minus 5 points. The unemployment data has a margin of error but due to the large number surveyed, it is only 1/10 of 1%.

Does that mean unemployment was about the same? Most of the timeit would, but not last month.

Jobs losses in July were 247,000. Just less than a quarter of a million fewer people employed is not good news.

Mathematically, how can the unemployment rate go down, even if it was not a statistically significant change, if there are a lot more people losing jobs?

The rate is merely is a percentage of the unemployed divided by the labor force. Unfortunately both of these, the numerator and the denominator, can change from month to month. To be unemployed one must not have not worked but actively sought employment. No job, not looking? Then not counted in the labor force. In July there were a lot of job loses but there were also 422,000 who dropped out of the labor force. That is, they were out of a job but not actively seeking employment.

The unemployment rate is inherently a less-than-useful gauge of changes in the unemployment situation. Funny things can happen to a ratio when both the numerator and denominator change at the same time. That is what happened in July. This kind of quirk in the unemployment rate happens infrequently, but is not a rare event.

Bottom line: When a quarter of a million jobs are lost in one month this is not good news.

Although journalists may be very good writers, and write with seeming confidence, please do not assume they know what they are writing about.

Be blessed.

NOTE: You can check out the employment/unemployment stats by going here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

where, not how, to get p.o.'d about the rain forest

Posted on Freakonomics:

According to the Brazilian environmental organization SOS Mata Atlantica, a household that flushes its toilet one less time per day saves more than 1,100 gallons of water per year. So the organization has launched a TV ad campaign encouraging Brazilians to avoid a flush by peeing in the shower. The ad shows cartoons of everyone — from aliens to King Kong — urinating in the shower and ends with the slogan: “Pee in the shower! Save the Atlantic rainforest!”

Here's the TV ad (rated PG-13 for poor taste in Portuguese):

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the economics of marriage in iraq

From AP - Muhanad Talib, a Sunni Muslim, married his Shiite bride because she was a "suitable woman" for him. It also didn't hurt that their vows made them eligible for a $2,000 payout from the government.

Talib and his wife are among more than 1,700 newlywed couples who have accepted cash from a government program that encourages Sunnis and Shiites to tie the knot. The government has held 15 mass weddings for inter-sect couples from all over Iraq, with the most recent taking place last month at a club in western Baghdad once used by Saddam Hussein's army. » Full Story on Yahoo! News

"It's encouraging that according to the AP story such marriages are on the rise and the money seems to be treated more like a bonus than a compensating differential for risk" (Alex Tabarrok).

Another way to look at this cash payout is that it is a sort of Pigouvian subsidy (a.k.a., a negative Pigouvian tax) needed to overcome the reduced number of mixed marriages caused by the inefficient lack of government protection.

Be blessed!

BONUS: Oxymoron of the Day: A sentimental economist.

Monday, August 3, 2009

tax burden of top 1% now exceeds that of bottom 95%

From the Tax Foundation's Tax Policy Blog:

Newly released data from the IRS clearly debunks the conventional Beltway rhetoric that the "rich" are not paying their fair share of taxes.

Indeed, the IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act.

Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. In 2007, the bottom 95 percent paid 39.4 percent of the income tax burden. This is down from the 58 percent of the total income tax burden they paid twenty years ago.

To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.

Some in Washington say the tax system is still not progressive enough. However, the recent IRS data bolsters the findings of an OECD study released last year showing that the U.S.—not France or Sweden—has the most progressive income tax system among OECD nations. We rely more heavily on the top 10 percent of taxpayers than does any nation and our poor people have the lowest tax burden of those in any nation.

We are definitely overdue for some honesty in the debate over the progressivity of the nation's tax burden before lawmakers enact any new taxes to pay for expanded health care. [Found here.]

There's lots a data to dig into here if you are one of those weird people that actually enjoys fact-based policy discussions.

I gotta admit it, I love this stuff. I love to dig into the numbers and finding out that while the top 1% of taxpayers pay about 40% of taxes, the top 1/10th of 1% pay about half of that. BTW, to make the top 1/10th of 1% in 2007 you had to earn over 2.16 million. To be in the top 1% took an income level of at least 410,000. If you earned over $33,000 you were in the top 50% (Table 7).

The federal income tax is progressive in that higher income groups pay a larger proportion of income taxes. In 2007 the top 1% earned 22.8% of income but paid 40.4% of all income taxes. The bottom 50% had 12.3% of total income but paid less than 3% of all income taxes (Tables 5 & 6).

Be blessed!

P.S. The higher share of taxes paid by the rich is the result of both higher tax rates and changes in the distribution of income.