Friday, July 31, 2009

wedding dance

RB found this here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

conservatives in the ny 23rd congressional district

According to a newspaper article, NYS Conservative Party will not give its line to Republican Scozzafavo in the expected upcoming special election.

It might have something to do with Scazzafavo's 2008 voting record in the NYS Assembly. She is not only pro-abortion and pro-gay-marriage, but garnered a measly Conservative Party rating of 15. By this, she is not only the most liberal Republican in the Assembly, but is more liberal than the average member of the Assembly which is firmly in the control of Democrats.

Today I also received a mailing slamming State Senator Aubertine, a Democrat, which was sent out by the National Republican Congressional Committee. (I guess they hadn't heard that Aubertine isn't running for Congress.) Earlier this summer they had phone recordings going out attacking Aubertine.

Too bad Mr. Aubertine is not going to make a run. In the evenly divided NYS Senate he had a Conservative Party rating of 50 for 2008. This makes him the most conservative member from any party in the state senate, save four (4) members who each had a slightly higher conservative rating of 55.

Monday, July 27, 2009

merle hazard: bailout

I found the following on a number of blogs:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

africa: anything new in 70 years?

Not much, at least not according to William Easterly's blog, Aid Watch, where I found the following:

Is African poverty caused by lack of the necessary technical knowledge applied to disease, nutrition, clean water, and agriculture? Reading many discussions, like that of the recent food security initiative, or the UN Millennium Project (UNMP) on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, would make you think so. Would it change your mind if that technical knowledge already existed and there were attempts to apply it as long ago as 1938? The following table compares the technical recommendations from a prominent and exhaustive survey of African problems headed by Lord Hailey in 1938 to those of the UNMP in 2005.

I don't know way there is such a long gap but please scroll down to the table.

African Problem to be AddressedAfrican Research Survey, 1938UN Millennium Project, 2005
Malaria“mosquito bed-nets …malaria control by the spraying of native huts with a preparation of pyrethrum”“insecticide-treated nets…. insecticides for indoor residual spraying …{with} pyrethroids”
Nutrition“…the African suffers from deficiency of Vitamin A”“Malnutrition {is also} caused by inadequate intake of … vitamin A”
Soil fertility“methods of improving soil fertility {such as} green manuring” “using green manure to improve soil fertility”
Soil erosion“increasing absorption and reducing runoff on cultivated land {through} the use of terraces” “Contour terraces, necessary on sloping lands… when furnished with grasses and trees…{to avoid} soil erosion”
Land tenure “… legal security against attack or disturbance can most effectively be guaranteed by registration” “security in private property and tenure rights … registration of property”
Clean drinking water sinking boreholes “Increase the share of boreholes”

A longer version of this table and the citations for the quotes appear in my recent article “Can the West Save Africa?” in the Journal of Economic Literature.)

Enthusiasts for technology fixes for poverty concentrate almost exclusively on the science and the technical design -- this is a characteristic fault of poverty solvers from Silicon Valley, the Gates Foundation, doctors, and natural scientists.

All of the above seem to forget that technology does not implement itself. Technical knowledge needs people to implement it – people who have the right incentives to solve all of the glitches and unexpected problems that happen when you apply a new technology, people who make sure that all the right inputs get to the right places at the right time, and local people who are motivated to use the new technology. The field that addresses all these incentives is called economics.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

an interesting way to save darfur

Show you really care by buying a Save Dafur thong!

I wonder if Mia Farrow has one?


california and the nick leeson school of finance

California's CalPERS is the largest public pension fund in the USA with just under $200 billion in assets. They are down about 30% from their peak and want to get back up in a hurry. This is from the financial blog Calculated Risk:

Double Up to Catch Up!

From the NY Times: California Pension Fund Hopes Riskier Bets Will Restore Its Health (ht several)
[Joseph A. Dear, the fund’s new head of investments] wants to embrace some potentially high-risk investments in hopes of higher returns. He aims to pour billions more into beaten-down private equity and hedge funds. Junk bonds and California real estate also ride high on his list. And then there are timber, commodities and infrastructure.

That’s right, he wants to load up on many of the very assets that have been responsible for the fund’s recent plunge.

The post title is an old gambling saying. Actually now is probably a better time to buy some of these assets than a few years ago.

This is a classic application of the Nick Leeson theory of finance. Who is Nick Leeson? A seemingly inconsequential trader in the Singapore office of Barings Bank. Barings was the Queen's Bank, it began in 1765 and was Britain's largest investment bank until 1995. In 1995 Mr. Leeson suffered some trading losses so he made even riskier trades to try to make it up. He lost another $1.4 billion and Barings went belly up.

The managers of CalPERS have a lost of lost pension money that needs to be made up. Maybe it will turn out better for California's state employees and retirees than it did for the stockholders of Barings.

Friday, July 24, 2009

outsourcing guilt

Yesterday I stopped at the SLU Library on my way home and picked up a couple of new books from the "browsing section." I've already finished off one, Jan Wong's A Comrade Lost and Found. It is an autobiographical tale of her search a couple of years ago for a long-lost acquaintance from university days. Days in the early 70's when Canadian Wong was one of the first foreign students at Beijing University. Days in the middle of the ten-year reign of terror known as the Cultural Revolution.

Now a journalist, Wong was then a young "Maoist wannabe" and Marxist True Believer who voluntarily ratted on a bright young Chinese student for expressing a desire to go to America. This women disappeared soon after. Under a burden of guilt, the fifty-ish Wong returns to Beijing for a month-long, quixotic quest to discover what happened to one of the Cultural Revolution's millions of victims, in a country with a collective amnesia of, and missing records from, that decade.

I recommend the book, an entertainingly fast read, a combination guide to present-day Beijing and a detective story of tracking down a long-lost woman thirty years after the fact in a country of over a billion people.

Against all odds, Ms. Wong finds the woman, hears her story of suffering internal exile and punishment as well as of her story of eventual financial and social success in modern China.

Wong of course apologized for ratting her out. It eased her guilt a bit to be forgiven by the victim as well as to learn her part in the downfall was actually relatively minor.

The book ends with a sense of closure, even on a note of redemption. However, there is also a sense of incompleteness. Ms. Wong knows that all she did, and all she received in terms of forgiveness, was not enough. She and everyone did all they could, but it was not enough to undo all the wrong she committed as a young woman.

The book ends with its own sort of collective amnesia. Like the Chinese who try to forget, ignore, and be silent about Cultural Revolution because it was so terrible and because so many victims also victimized others that there is nothing that can be done now, Wong wants to think that since there is nothing more that can be done about what she did, things must be passingly okay.

I don't think she really believes it though.

She is right. It is not good enough. There is nothing she herself can do to make it good enough. No one can doubt her sincere desire to make things right. No amount of human effort can make things right.

There is only one source of complete redemption, only one source of complete and total forgiveness for what she did. Ms. Wong, as do the rest of us, needs to outsource her redemption. We all need to accept what Jesus Christ did on the cross: His payment, His redemption, His forgiveness.

Anything else is ultimately phony. Deep down inside, we all know but try to forget that our best is just not good enough. We tend not to recognize the truth of the situation because we can't handle the truth. Any other way that tries to bypass the truth of Jesus is incomplete, unsatisfying, and ultimately dishonest.

We have a great God who is not only able to redeem the guilty, but is desirous to redeem the guilty who are completely undeserving of redemption.

That my friend is grace. That my friend is the love that surpasses all understanding.

Be blessed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

two sets of 19 laws (38 total!)



1. Law of Mechanical Repair - After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to use the bathroom.

2. Law of Gravity - Any tool, nut, bolt, or screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

3. Law of Probability - The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

4. Law of Random Numbers - If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

5. Law of the Alibi - If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the very next morning you will have a flat tire.

6. Variation Law - If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time).

7. Law of the Bath - When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

8. Law of Close Encounters - The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

9. Law of the Result - When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

10. Law of Biomechanics - The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

11. Law of the Theater and Hockey Arena - At any event, the people whose seats are farthest from the aisle arrive last, and they are the ones who will leave their seats several times to go for food, drink, or the bathroom and who leave
early before the end of the performance or the game is over. Those in the aisle seats come early, never move once, have long gangly legs or big bellies, and stay to the bitter end of the performance and beyond. The aisle people also are very surly folk.

12. The Starbucks Law - As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something that will last until the coffee is cold.

13. Murphy's Law of Lockers - If there are only two people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

14. Law of Physical Surfaces - The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor covering are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the

15. Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.

16. Brown's Law of Physical Appearance - If the clothes fit, they're ugly.

17. Oliver's Law of Public Speaking - A closed mouth gathers no feet.

18. Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy - As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it.

19. Doctors' Law - If you don't feel well and make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better. Don't make an appointment and you'll stay sick.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

out of africa

I arrived home on Sunday after leaving NNY on the 3rd. At YOW there was a security guard training a black lab to sniff luggage. The dog couldn't have been much more than 6 mo. old. He was doing well and very enthusiastic for about ten minutes. Then I noticed the lab grabbing the leash, jumping, and wanting to play tug of war. I figured if a professional trainer had these problems with his dog then I shouldn't feel too bad about my big guy.

Speaking of which, our six-month-old Koufax looked obviously bigger than when I left. Monday we walked him down to the local feed store to have him weighed on a grain scale. He came in at 80 pounds. That is roughly a weight gain of a pound every two days. Looking at his feet, he obviously still has a ways to go.

The rest of Monday I spent going through local newspapers, Wall Street Journals, and magazines which had accumulated in my absence. Tuesday was devoted to going though a little less than 400 emails, plus blogs, plus Facebook. That was an entire workday, after which my brain was fried and useless for anything other than watching the entire first season of Spaced. Today is doing odds and ends in my office.

In my reading of blogs I discovered that at least one person does not completely share my enthusiasm for hanging out with Koufax. Strange. Very strange.

Koufax spends mornings with me in my office, napping at my feet. Yes, I can get work done as long as I do not get up from my chair. However, I must first invest time in tossing a well-chewed tennis ball (sans cover) down the hall for him until he is thoroughly worn out.

I also need to limit my morning intake of coffee and juices. If I get up, he gets up. While I may be relieved, he is refreshed and ready to play.

Isn't this sort of like having kids, only more trouble?

Be blessed!

Friday, July 3, 2009


Monday. Koufax was 6-months old and weighed 70 pounds. RB took him over to the best baseball field in NNY (i.e., at SLU) and let him sit on the pitchers mound. However, he preferred the dugout since it was out of the sun. Bench warmer? No, bench cooler.

Tuesday. Offspring #3 was dog sitting and brought her charge over to see Koufax. The poor little thing was smaller than Koufax's head and her paw was about the size of one of his back molars. The big guy was ready to play but she didn't really want to.

Wednesday. RB officially became Chairman of the Department of Economics at SLU. It is a one-year sentence with no possibility of parole.

Thursday. RB bought stuff in a store! He does this only if a local store is going out of business and having big discounts. After all, he is a fiscal conservative.

Friday. Offspring #4 and his father became members of the St. Lawrence County Conservative Party Committee in the morning while in the afternoon RB should be heading to Ottawa to start off a trip to Kenya with other SLU African Studies faculty for a two-week visit. Work! Work! Work!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

conservatives in the 23rd

The Conservative Party is a minor party in NYS and does not attract too much media attention. After all, its enrollment is quite small. In NYS elections politicians want as many lines on the ballot as possible. So what is special about the Conservative Party? Smart politicians especially desire its endorsement because they know the party's importance outsizes its enrollment and is more than just having another ballot line.

The Conservative Party line usually draws 10% of the votes in a North Country election. In a close race, the Conservative line can make the difference in who wins.

If you haven't heard, the North Country's Congressman John McHugh (R-C) has been nominated by Obama for Secretary of the Army. This is good news for Ft. Drum. Bad news for the Republicans. Why? I'll get to that later.

I went to a county Conservative Party meeting Tuesday night. There were four candidates interested in a possible run for (i.e., lusting after and desperately wanting) the 23rd Congressional District seat. If there is a special election, it will be a BIG deal with national attention and national money.

The meeting was very depressing.

Republications in Albany will choose who runs on their line. The leading Republican candidate is a flaming liberal. Tuesday she spoke passionately for same sex marriages and is extremely pro-choice. Nothing she said was remotely either socially or fiscally conservative; at least nothing that any North Country liberal Democrat holding office would have said. (She only has R-C after her name because that's what you have to do to win in her district.)

The two candidates who actually were conservative Republicans were not Republican insiders so they have absolutely no chance.

A moderate, pro-choice Republican assemblyman, a real insider, was there and he looked interesting. However, he just lost a special election for the NYS Senate in a heavily Republican district so he is very unlikely to be picked.

Obama won the 23rd with 52% of the vote despite Republicans having a large enrollment advantage over the Democrats. State Senator Aubertine (D) also won his North Country district despite the enrollment disadvantage. The 23rd is in play.

After the next census, New York will lose a congressional district in 2012. The district lost will be the 23rd unless two things both happen. (Even then, it is still iffy.) First, the 23rd is held by a Republican and second, the NY State Senate reverts to Republican control. After the last census, New York also lost a congressional district. McHugh faced easy re-election and used his campaign funds to help friends in Albany. The 23rd was kept.

That is why making McHugh Secretary of the Army will be a bad thing for Republicans and Conservatives.