Friday, November 30, 2012

Here's looking at you, Katz

In the summer of 1938 a New York City schoolteacher, Murray Burnett, and his wife, Joan Alison, made a trip to Vienna to visit relatives.  It was just after the Anschluss and the Nazi's were now in charge. Little is known of the couple's experiences there.

On their return trip to America they stopped on the French Riviera where they frequented a bar (Cafe Americain) that featured a black American jazz pianist who played the hit tune As Time Goes By.

Out of this trip a play was produced, Everybody Comes to Rick's, which told a story of a jaded American saloonkeeper who eventually ends up helping an anti-Nazi Czech journalist escape the clutches of the Nazi's in Free French Casablanca in 1941.  The Czech, Victor Laszlo, flees with the woman Rick loves, an American named Lois.

The play was not staged until 1991, in London, and closed after a short run.  However, the playwrights sold the rights to it to Warner Bros. pictures, and Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch revised it--among other things the love interest of Rick became a Norwegian named Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman--for a film released at the end of 1942.

It won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay in 1943. It also beat out another film nominated that year that featured a crusading anti-Nazi, Watch on the Rhine.  A screenplay that had been adapted by Dashiell Hammett from a Broadway play written by his love interest, Lillian Hellman.

Therein lies a most interesting non-coincidence.  One that HSIB readers will hear more of.

Today is your birthday!

Yesterday really, but since you rejected your gifts, what matter;

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 called for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state. It was approved on November 29, 1947 with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions and one absent ....
The resolution was accepted by the Jews in Palestine, yet rejected by the Arabs in Palestine and the Arab states.
And, it's try, try again;
Euphoric Palestinians erupted in cheers, honked car horns and chanted "God is great" after the United Nations endorsed an independent state of Palestine, giving sweeping international backing to their demands for sovereignty over lands Israel occupied in 1967.
All of which could have been avoided by the mere acceptance of Israel's right to exist according to the 1947 UN resolution.  Ye who do not learn from history....

The French have a word for it

Obamanism.  Et c'est doux;
The French politician who said Indian steel company ArcelorMittal should leave the country has told CNBC that his government is only acting like U.S. President Barack Obama.
Il est Arnaud Montebourg and he's the very model of a modern Minister of Industry;
Montebourg told CNBC after a meeting with trade unions in Paris: “Barack Obama's nationalized. The Germans are nationalizing. All countries are nationalizing. I've also noticed the British nationalized 6 banks.”
“It's a very good sign to send out (to investors). Nationalizing is a very modern step to take. Especially when you not only nationalize losses but profits as well, when you make public/private partnerships. This is our strategy.
“The strategy we're putting forward is extremely modern and adapted to the current times of crisis. It's a way of making the economy work in the interests of industry, more than just helping the financial sector,” he added.

Bali High

A new record for Seattle's footloose congressman;

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott apparently set a record for congressional travel with his roughly $21,000 privately-funded trip to Bali earlier this month.
According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, the Seattle liberal’s visit to Indonesia appears to be the costliest trip taken by a member of Congress since rules on privately-sponsored trips were tightened in 2007.
Costs for McDermott’s aide, Jessica Lee, for the weeklong trip totaled nearly $24,000. All expenses were covered by Chemonics International, which contracts with the federal government on global development projects.
McDermott is known for his congressional wanderlust. He has taken 26 trips in the past six years, 12 of them to Belgium, Rwanda, Japan and other international destinations. 
Indonesia has recently made it difficult for Washington state apples to be imported into that country, so the man has his bases covered.  He's serving his constituents!

Miss the muggers?

In New York City, they are missing.  So are the shooters and stabbers.  Makes one wonder what Lenny Briscoe would make of all this niceness;

For more than 36 hours in New York City, no-one was shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed. The crime freeze began after 22:25 on Sunday, when a man was shot in the head, and continued until another man was shot at 11:20 on Tuesday.
Though the break in violent crime marked the first time in recent memory such an event had occurred, the figure doesn't surprise criminologists.
"I'm surprised it's just the first day this has happened," says Alfred Blumstein, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Considering, says Blumstein, that there were only 472 homicides in New York last year, with this year on track for even fewer, the odds of a violent-crime free day are favourable.
So, whassup with that?  Smarter cops, apparently;
Thanks in part to Comstat, a sophisticated statistics tool, New York police were better able to identify crime patterns and violent "hotspots" in the 1990s.
From there, top brass in the police force were able to meet together to develop a more consistent battle plan against the city's crime.
"It was much more of an attempt at being more sophisticated at policing than had typically been the case," says Blumstein.
These strategies included increased police presence, busting of outdoor drug peddling, and more controversial methods like "stop-and-frisk" where young men in high-crime areas are stopped and patted down for illegal weapons and drugs. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Their Fair Share

Obama supporters at Costco, know when the getting is good;

Costco will spend $3 billion to pay a special dividend of $7 a share next month ahead of higher tax rates that may kick in come January.
The Issaquah-based company joins a growing number of U.S. companies, from Wynn Resorts to Tyson Foods, that are announcing special dividends at four times the pace of last year ahead of pending tax increases in 2013. The rate on dividends, which was reduced to 15 percent during the George W. Bush administration, is set to go up as President Obama and Congress work to draw more revenue from top earners.
Some of whom were generous supporters of Democrats, and are going to avoid those new higher rates;

Among the biggest beneficiaries of Costco’s special dividend will be co-founders Jim Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman, and Chief Executive Officer Craig Jelinek.
Sinegal, who retired as Costco’s CEO at the end of 2011 but remains on the board, and various related entities together own more than 2 million Costco shares, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). His payout from the special dividend will be about $14.4 million.
Brotman, Costco’s chairman, and various family members and related entities together own 734,834 shares, making the special dividend worth $5.1 million to him. Jelinek owns 197,142 shares and will receive $1.4 million.
No reason to go over the fiscal cliff in a barrel, if you can avoid it. 

Get out the garlic and the cross

In Serbia they don't mess with Sava;

Sales of garlic are booming in western Serbia today after the local council issued a public health warning that a vampire was on the loose.
The official announcement came after an old ruined mill said to once have been the home of the country's most famous vampire collapsed.
Sava Savanovic was believed to have lived in the shack on the Rogacica river in Zarozje village in the municipality of Bajina Basta. 
It is said he drank the blood of anybody that came to mill their grain.
A local family had purchased the property and was using it to attract paying tourists (daylight hours only).  Now that it has collapsed though;
Local mayor Miodrag Vujetic admitted: 'People are worried, everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people. We are all frightened.'

You oughta be in pictures

And, if you're driving near a school in Seattle, you probably are;

Mayor Mike McGinn said he expected traffic cameras near four Seattle schools to catch a lot of speeding drivers when the devices went live Nov. 1.
But almost 6,000 in less than a month?
"We were surprised," McGinn said.
....If drivers keep exceeding the speed limit in the numbers they did in November, the city of Seattle could collect between $2 million and $4 million in ticket revenue a year, McGinn said.
Which might be one of the reasons for the plethora of candidates emerging to challenge McGinn in next year's mayoral election.  Seattle voters love their eccentrics...until they get elected and the consequences hit them.

Less about more

Scientists are having to reevaluate their thoughts about what they can't even see;
Until now, the galaxy with the largest known fraction of its mass in its central black hole (11 per cent) was the small galaxy NGC4486B19. Here we report observations of the stellar kinematics of NGC1277, which is a compact, lenticular galaxy with a mass of 1.2×1011 solar masses. From the data, we determine that the mass of the central black hole is 1.7×1010 solar masses, or 59 per cent of its bulge mass.
Which is Nature's way of saying, back to the drawing board (if we could see a black hole, which we can't, because they're too dense for any light to escape), because we're off by a factor of about 5.

Developing.  Meanwhile, back to the 'economics isn't a real science' debate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Cathedral of Golf

Has ruled that it would be profane to allow anyone an advantage on a 20 foot putt;

Golf's governing bodies, worried that players will turn to long putters as an advantage instead of a last resort, proposed a new rule Wednesday that would ban the putting stroke used by three of the last five major champions.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association said the rule would not outlaw belly putter or broom-handle putters, only the way they are currently used. The proposed rule would make it illegal for golfers to anchor the club while making a stroke and not take effect until 2016.
However, those 360 yard drives made possible by over sized, titanium headed, graphite shafted drivers...that's perfectly consistent with the royal and ancient 600 year old tradition.

Besides, there's a lot more money in selling those clubs than in putters.

Hardy perennial

If it's Wednesday, it must be...time for a gas price spike investigation;

Six Democratic senators representing states along the Pacific Coast asked the Justice Department on Tuesday to investigate the role of oil refineries in gas spikes that occurred in May and October even as crude-oil prices were declining.
Gas prices jumped last month in California to more than $5 a gallon. Analysts said a web of refinery problems were to blame.
But the senators say a review of California refinery-emissions data revealed inconsistencies between the time refineries were actually producing petroleum products and when maintenance shutdowns were publicly reported. They said misleading reports of shutdowns could create a perceived shortage of gasoline.
Or, maybe they should catch up on their reading.  It's only been 236 years since The Wealth of Nations explained how prices change due to supply and demand.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Move over Chuck Noll

Four times a champion, Northwestern rules the Fed Challenge again;
Northwestern University won the ninth annual national finals of the College Fed Challenge on Tuesday, a competition that encourages students to learn about the U.S. economy, monetary policymaking, and the role of the Federal Reserve System. The team, from Evanston, Ill., represented the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and included Geoffrey Bery, Nikhil Byanna, David Chen, Jonathan Cohen, Eric Zhang, and faculty adviser Mark Witte.
Prof Witte is also Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to HSIB.

Auction it, Sam

As time goes by, pianos used in famous movies rise in value (or so it is hoped by an owner of such);

The piano used for the song "As Times Goes By" in the classic 1942 film "Casablanca" is getting another turn at fame.
The instrument is going up for sale at Sotheby's in New York on Dec. 14, and the auction house estimates it'll fetch up to $1.2 million.
It's being offered by a Japanese collector on the film's 70th anniversary.
The collector purchased the movie prop at a Sotheby's auction in 1988 for $154,000.
Ironic, in that the movie was part of probably the most successful anti-capitalist, pro-communist propaganda offensive in history.  The story in Casablanca, of a Czech anti-Nazi organizer attempting to elude Hitler's minions during the early days of WWII, was inspired by the legend (self-perpetuated) of Otto Katz, a Stalinist agent who was well known to the script writers Julius and Philip Epstein, and Howard Koch--who won Academy Awards for their work.

Katz, and as his wife Ilse, were part of German Communist Willi Muenzenberg's worldwide efforts to instill the attitude in western intellectuals that it was the mark of nature's noblemen to be favorably disposed toward the Soviet Union.  As well, that to oppose Communism or Stalin, was the mark of a stupid, venal, atavistic person.

At which, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  The Katz legend was also perpetuated in the same year by the film Watch on the Rhine, based on the Broadway play by Katz's friend Lillian Hellman. Dashiell Hammett writing most of the screenplay for that film.  Needless to say, both Hellman and Hammett--themselves their own inspiration for Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man fame--were either Communists or sympathetic to it.

Both Muenzenberg and Katz eventually met their just deserts thanks to the ruthlessness of their common master, Joseph Stalin.  The former's body was discovered in rural France in late 1940, murdered either by agents of Stalin or his ally Hitler.  Katz lived until 1952, when, after a show trial in Prague of Jewish communists, he was hanged.

But their anti-capitalist mentality survives.

Alligators that did hiss

No need for Sherlock Holmes in Olympia, WA where;
...two detectives were called to the house in the 12100 block of Champion Drive Southwest around 8:45 p.m. on the report of a shooting. Investigators were greeted by a 41-year-old man who lives at the home. The man said he had opened fire in self-defense after someone tried to run him over outside his home, Elwin said.
But investigators believe the man had actually shot at a car that had pulled up outside the home in an ambush-style attack, Elwin said.  A 30-year-old man later showed up at Providence St. Peter Hospital, in Olympia, to be treated for a gunshot wound to the arm and a bullet grazing injury to his back.
While inside the home, investigators found a floor to ceiling brass pole and talked to an exotic dancer, Elwin said. When detectives tried to walk into another room they were met by two five-foot long alligators hissing at them from the floor.
“They were there for protection for the marijuana grow area. They were just crawling around on the floor,” Elwin said. The detectives immediately shut the door.
Book 'em, Dano.

Milking it for all it isn't worth

In Europe the dairy farmers are revolting...again.  No one should be surprised that it's because politics is in the way of markets functioning for the benefit of consumers of milk;

Angry farmers protesting at falling dairy prices in the EU have sprayed fresh milk at the European Parliament and riot police in Brussels.
Thousands of dairy farmers, accompanied by hundreds of tractors, descended on the Belgian capital on Monday for two days of demonstrations.
Disruption has continued, with EU officials hindered from reaching their offices by tractors blocking roads.
Farmers want an increase of up to 25% in their prices to cover costs.
Doesn't every businessman want to sell at prices that cover costs?  Those who find they can't, in the normal course of things, go out of business and find something else to do.  Not the noble husbandman, though.  Since his prices are determined by politicians who don't want to ever deliver bad news to someone who has a vote to cast, it makes sense to attempt to intimidate those politicians with whatever political means are at his disposal. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why can't an Obama be more like a Vlad?

Pravda columnist Xavier Lerma ain't just whistlin' Russki;

The Communists have won in America with Obama but failed miserably in Russia with Zyuganov who only received 17% of the vote. Vladimir Putin was re-elected as President keeping the NWO order out of Russia while America continues to repeat the Soviet mistake.
After Obama was elected in his first term as president the then Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January of 2009. Ignored by the West as usual, Putin gave insightful and helpful advice to help the world economy and saying the world should avoid the Soviet mistake.
Recently, Obama has been re-elected for a 2nd term by an illiterate society and he is ready to continue his lies of less taxes while he raises them.
Lerma thinks of Putin as the Reagan of the Steppes, citing this translation of Putin's 2009 Davos speech as evidence;
...we are reducing taxes on production, investing money in the economy. We are optimizing state expenses.
The second possible mistake would be excessive interference into the economic life of the country and the absolute faith into the all-mightiness of the state.
There are no grounds to suggest that by putting the responsibility over to the state, one can achieve better results.
Unreasonable expansion of the budget deficit, accumulation of the national debt - are as destructive as an adventurous stock market game.
During the time of the Soviet Union the role of the state in economy was made absolute, which eventually lead to the total non-competitiveness of the economy. That lesson cost us very dearly. I am sure no one would want history to repeat itself." 
Who says there's no Izvestia in Pravda.

Pas du troupeau d'esprits indépendants

The little First Lady from Paris France is a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, for some; '[Carla] Bruni, no stranger to speaking her mind, also called feminism outdated - a view seemingly at odds with her image as an independent woman....'

Yeah, let's not get uppity, lady.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Street cred...but, tasteful

According to Christine Haughney of the NY Times, doing the time made Martha hip, but not richer.

While some Martha Stewart fans abandoned their magazine subscriptions and Stewart's high-thread-count sheets after she went to prison for her 2004 conviction for lying to federal investigators about a stock sale, this new generation of fans said her prison time only gives her more street credibility.
"She's such a Suzy homemaker and also did some time in the joint," said Luis Illades, an owner of Urban Rustic, where some of Stewart's store-bought decorations appeared. "That has helped cement her iconic image. Before, she was someone your mother would follow."
Crystal Sloane, 29, who grew up on a dairy farm outside Saratoga Springs, N.Y., reading her mother's issues of Martha Stewart Living, has begun her own business called "Vintage by Crystal," designing miniature animals that Stewart eventually featured on "The Martha Stewart Show."
"She's like the Jesus of the craft world," she said. "Not that I like criminals, but I heard that she just took some bad advice. Anybody can make mistakes."
But the new demo isn't paying off, as the chick is downsizing (as well as downscaling).

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said it would cut back two of its four magazines and lay off about 70 employees, or 12 percent of the nearly 600-person company.
This year, the company cut $12.5 million in broadcasting costs by not renewing its daily programming deal with the Hallmark Channel, breaking its lease on its television-production studio and ending its live audience for "The Martha Stewart Show."
David Bank, an equity-research analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said the company must figure out how to sell to the trendy, not just inspire them.
"The real opportunity is, 'Will they go to Macy's or J.C. Penney and buy her bedsheets and her flatware? You've got to use flatware, even in Williamsburg [Brooklyn]. That's where the money is really made," Bank said. "Who cares if she's popular if you can't monetize it?" 
And she has her limits; 
I'm not a big fan of tattoos," she said. "I don't think they have to go quite that far. They could put embroidery on their jacket. They could silk-screen a T-shirt."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blood Rosewood

Establish property lives.  When everyone owns a valuable thing, effectively no one owns it, and then some will fight over it.  An easy way to eliminate that problem is sell the ownership rights and let the legitimate buyer enforce his own rights.

A Thai force dubbed the "Rambo Army" couldn't stop the gangs, armed with battlefield weaponry, as they scoured the forests. Neither could a brave activist, gunned down when he came to investigate. Nor, apparently, can governments across Southeast Asia.
The root of the conflicts and bloodshed? Rosewood.
The richly hued, brownish hardwood is being illegally ripped from Southeast Asian forests, then smuggled by sea and air to be turned into Chinese furniture that can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of it also ends up in the finest American guitars, or as billiard cues.
The felling, almost all of it illegal, has increased dramatically in recent years and driven the region's rosewood to the brink of extinction.
Save the rosewood forests!  Sell them to the highest bidder.

Lessons in transportation economics

From the Seattle Times. First, what floats the boat;
...a classic old Washington state ferry has sold at auction for just 40 percent of market value.
The 48-car Rhododendron was sold this week via a state-sanctioned auction website for $300,000 to an entity named “Kingstontown.” KOMO-TV reports the market value had been placed at $750,000.

The market value is what something brings on the market. That is, it is the sale price.  No one places the market value--though many are called to estimate it, few choose to bid.  The reason the market value emerged as it did is contained in the story itself;
The Rhododendron was purchased by the state in 1952 ....the interior is in generally good condition after some restoration. However, state Rep. Judy Clibborn, who chairs the state House Transportation Committee, says the ferry would have been too expensive to restore to service.
So, the best alternative use turns out to be worth...what it brought at auction...for whatever purpose the buyer has in mind.
Then, we have a hidden externality of some not so closely watched trains;
While Sound Transit and Bellevue were negotiating an agreement on a future light-rail route, the transit agency didn't mention for several months that it was thinking about building a large maintenance and storage yard in the city.
That has angered City Council members, who learned only after signing an agreement last year that Sound Transit was studying Bellevue sites for a 20-acre-plus, $225 million rail yard.
....The 20- to 25-acre facility would be used to store, clean and maintain 80 train cars nightly, operators would report there for work, and offices would house dispatchers and other workers. Sound Transit's current maintenance yard — too small to handle a much larger fleet — is in Seattle's Sodo area.
Bellevue, east across Lake Washington from Seattle, was the most prominent suburb  to emerge in the area, post WWII, thanks to the widespread ownership of the automobile (and one of the infamous pontoon bridges the Pacific Northwest likes to build).

Autos have their externalities too, but they are easily handled by a Pigouvian tax (on their fuels, at the pump).  Public transit, not so much.  It consumes tax revenue rather than generates it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

This is going well

Chalk up another dubious victory for Obamalomacy;

CAIRO — Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi expanded his authority Thursday in a startling power grab that weakens the courts and frees him from judicial oversight amid deepening political intrigue in the Arab world's most populous nation.
....Thursday's move effectively makes Morsi, who already holds executive and legislative powers, the ultimate force in a country that has no Parliament and has yet to draft a new constitution.
Or, perhaps it should redound to the credit of Sec'y of State Clinton, who will be retiring soon to begin to plot her path to the Presidency in 2016.  At any rate, we've swapped a strongman well disposed to the United States, and willing to live peacefully next door to our ally Israel, for;

Many Egyptians say Morsi and the [Muslim] Brotherhood are out to monopolize the country just as Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party did. The difference is that Morsi is advancing an Islamist agenda in a bid to reshape Egypt and lift it to a leading voice in a changing Arab world.
The military, for decades the country's most revered institution, has not intervened since Morsi's purge in August. But the wider feeling, especially among activists, is that the promise of last year's uprising has left Egypt not with a model democracy but with another strongman. 
Four more years! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wrong again, Confectionary Breath

Somehow an Ed McMahonism seems appropriate when talking of yesterday's snack foods;
Interviews with more than a dozen [Hostess] workers showed there was little sign of regret from employees who voted for the strike. They said they would rather lose their jobs than put up with lower wages and poorer benefits.
If it's lower wages and benefits they want to avoid, ultimately they will want to avoid employment in a unionized bakery;
Unlike some non-unionized rivals, the maker of Wonder Bread and Drake's cakes had to navigate more than 300 labor contracts, with terms that often strained efficiency and competitiveness, Hostess officials have said. In some extreme cases, contract provisions required different products to be delivered on different trucks even when headed to the same place.
Their own union's contract provisions hindered productivity improvements needed to fund high wages and benefits.  Now those provisions have cost them everything. 

(Thanks to Saturos at The Money Illusion for alerting us to this Business Insider piece)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jesuitical is as Fordham does

The good Father who runs Fordham University is sooooooo very opposed to calling people names.  Unless it's a 95 lb. blonde wanting to speak to his students (and teach them something they might not get in the classroom);
To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of theCollege Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement.There are many people who can speak to the conservative point ofview with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not amongthem. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative-moreheat than light-and her message is aimed squarely at the darkerside of our nature.

As members of a Jesuit institution, we are called upon to deal withone another with civility and compassion, not to sling mud andimpugn the motives of those with whom we disagree or to engage inracial or social stereotyping. 
 Got that?  The Republicans are immature.  Ann Coulter lacks integrity, and is hateful.  She is from the dark side (does a Jesuit really want to go there?).

Not much chance of anyone improving their self-awareness by attending Fordham, we think.

We'd rather change the subject, if you don't mind

From, 'Are you now, or have you ever been a Communist?' busy inserting propaganda into movie scripts to the advantage of Joseph Stalin (by many counts the world's #1 mass murderer) to something else;

Such as, is the House Committee on Un-American Activities nice?  Because, to answer 'no' to the original question would have been perjury, 65 years ago this week. As they all pretty clearly recognized judging by their evasiveness in the above 1950 propaganda piece.

If you do feel sorry for them, ponder the fate of the man who originally put them up to their nefarious deeds; Otto Katz.  For his faithful service for 25 years, to Stalin, he was put on 'trial' in his native Czechoslovakia in 1952 and hanged.  That was a mere two years after the propaganda piece above was filmed.

One Hollywood Communist, Howard Koch, used Katz as his model for the character Viktor Lazlo (Ilsa's noble husband) in Casablanca.  Unlike Lazlo, the real Katz was murdered by his own side, not Nazis.  Lillian Hellman also modeled a Nazi-fighting hero on Katz in her Watch on the Rhine.

Unfortunately for The Ten (minus one), Edward Dmytryk later admitted to doing just what the House Committee suspected.  He even complained that his Communist friends made his life hell, as he had to re-write the movie scripts he was directing every night to take out the propaganda he thought ruined his work.

Not that anyone would know that by the paeans to the martyrs of Hollywood.

Student atholete

He may not know much about math, but he knows what he likes;

[Grinnell's Jack] Taylor, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore from Black River Falls, Wis., made 27 of 71 three-point attempts, was 52 of 108 overall from the field and added seven free throws on 10 attempts in 36 minutes.
"It felt like anything I tossed up was going in," Taylor told The Associated Press.
And we wonder how NBA players like Scottie Pippen lost all their millions. 

No, no. I'm the other guy.

Now they tell us, they really didn't want Obama to win after all, they supported Romney all along;

Costco Wholesale CEO Craig Jelinek told President Obama over the weekend that he supports efforts to compromise with Congress before the end of the year in a way that avoids tax increases on the middle class.
With more than 115,000 U.S. workers and small-business customers employing thousands of workers who have “borne the brunt of the recession,” Jelinek said in a rare Costco news release that he told the president it would be “a particular burden on those working families to face higher income taxes.”
But what about all the wonderful things Obama has promised to do for the working families?  Why shouldn't they have to pay for it.  They pay for it in France and most European countries, where the share of tax revenues from the highest income earners is lower than in the USA.

Oh...they're Jelinek's customers.  Comprende.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cue the wailing and gnashing

It's yet another opportunity for self-congratulation for Hollywood, as the 65th anniversary of the first congressional hearings on the Communist penetration of Hollywood by agents of Joseph Stalin nears.

All the usual suspects are rounded up by The Hollywood Reporter for our admiration; Dalton Trumbo, Howard Koch, Walter Bernstein, John Howard Lawson....

Also as usual, the fact that these people were almost all Communists (or sympathetic) who were in fact busy inserting pro-Stalin propaganda into movie scripts, to advance the interests of the Soviet Union, is glossed over.

Nor is the name of the Red Millionaire, Willi Muenzenberg, nor his agent Otto Katz mentioned.  I.e. the brains behind the scheme to subtly propagandize the American movie going public into overlooking Stalin's depredations.

Just the ever present indignation of the movie elite at the fact that some people fought back.  In this case the founder of The Hollywood Reporter, William Wilkerson whose son is now apologizing for his father's efforts to expose some exceptionally nasty people (who themselves had their own blacklist of non-Communist script writers they kept from working).

The aforementioned Lawson being the most notoriously vicious of those Communists.  And it shows in his memoir Film in the Battle of Ideas from 1953, in which he writes (during the Korean War!);
The Soviet Union emerged from the war [WWII] steeled and strengthened in the anti-fascist struggle, dedicating its vast resources to peaceful reconstruction and the cultural enrichment of its people. In China and the Eastern Democracies of Europe, people's governments undertook the task of building free societies, free from private exploitation, devoted to rational progress and human rights.
Of course they had to surround those people with barbed wire, land mines, machine gun towers and guard dogs to keep them in those 'free societies'.  Can't imagine anyone objecting to a guy like John Howard Lawson having a free hand to create movie scripts.

Meet New Socialist Man

In a neighborhood near you;


But at least one who understands incentives.  As Sonny Bono told Chris Matthews on Hardball shortly before being killed in a skiing accident, it would be better if there were more people like him (Bono) in congress, because he understands that there are people who will game any system.  Something that the current crop of legislative professionals doesn't get.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bring it on

Georgetown's Brad Jensen says, the USA should find infrastructure needs overseas, and offer to fill them as international trade theory says; that's where our comparative advantage lies.

The USA has a large business services sector--things like software, financial and legal, engineering and consulting--and is exporting from that sector.  Developing countries that are now getting richer, especially through manufacturing, will be needing that expertise in the future.

Business services are larger than manufacturing in the USA, and pay better.  So, trade negotiators should be leaning on developing countries that have restrictive trade practices to liberalize.  Further, other developed countries, such as Western Europe, are in the same boat and should be natural allies in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
Much of the spending for infrastructure in the coming boom is likely to be controlled or financed, at least in part, by governments -- national, regional, and local. Those governments are sure to be subject to political pressure to favour domestic producers when granting. This makes guaranteeing equal treatment in government procurement a crucial issue for foreign service providers.
Jensen cautions that;
The WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement was negotiated with the intention of reducing preferences to domestic firms in public procurement and opening public works spending to international trade. Its coverage was extended tenfold in the subsequent Uruguay Round, but this large sum obscures the fact that to date only a relative handful of countries have signed the agreement, virtually all of them in the developed world. In particular, none of the large developing countries expected to account for the bulk of infrastructure spending in coming decades, that is, Brazil, China, India, and Russia, are participants in the agreement.
Hmmm.  Where is Barack Obama right about now.

No Twinkies, those Swedes

The Hostess(es) will straighten up and fly right thanks to economic reality being accepted by unions;

The troubled Scandinavian airline SAS has said it has reached a deal with trade unions needed to avoid bankruptcy, following all-night talks.
The airline said on Monday afternoon it had reached agreement with the one remaining union that had held out.
SAS wants to cut 6,000 jobs.
Agreement with seven of the unions had been reached by early morning on Monday, with the Danish cabin crew union the only remaining obstacle.
"I am very happy that we managed to get a deal," said Helge Thuesen, the union's chairman. "We have stretched ourselves very, very far to reach out to SAS."
It was either that or SAS would liquidate.  The Swedish unions simply accepted that fact. 

The prophet and the mountain

The New York Times (in the person of Ethan Todras-Whitehill) will go to it...because it's there.  Like Oakland, there's no there there.  But the view hasn't changed;
I passed through a stand of fir and out onto the bare ridge, and there it was: the squat white structure where Jack Kerouac spent 63 days as a fire lookout in the summer of 1956. I had assumed that the Desolation Peak lookout would be empty, a silent monument to the Voice of the Beat Generation.
That's in the north Cascades range in the state of Washington, and the beauty is incomparable.  Even worth what one has to do to enjoy it; 'a 3,500-foot climb carrying all the water you will need for the next day (not to mention camping gear).'  

Which makes it irrelevant that 'typewriter' Jack (Truman Capote's derisive comment about the Beatnik Bible On the Road) was ever there.  Even Todras-Whitehall seems to sorta know that;

I had imagined this night as my last chance to "get" the Beat writer. But in reality, I was already a Kerouac convert. Not to his writing — the guy needed an editor after Desolation Peak possibly more than he needed a bath — but to the story of his life, as recounted in Dennis McNally's biography and other places. It reads like a classical tragedy, or at least a high-minded Hollywood screenplay: a sensitive young man seeks truth in order to change his world; he doesn't find that truth, not in any real, sustained way, but his quest makes him famous and inspires a generation to follow in his footsteps, even as he cannot cope with his fame and drinks himself to death.
'A generation' that includes only a handful of people who knew who Kerouac was, and fewer who've ever read his work.  Not so few though, that the 'newspaper of record' won't indulge them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our young rocket men can shoot down their...

As in the Battle of Britain 70 years ago, a good defense in the skies overhead can beat an offensive force;

In a psychological boost for the Israelis, a sophisticated Israeli rocket-defense system known as "Iron Dome" knocked down one of the rockets headed toward Tel Aviv, eliciting cheers from relieved residents huddled in fear after air raid sirens sounded in the city.
....Israel says the Iron Dome system has shot down some 250 incoming rockets, most of them in southern Israel near Gaza.
 What is more of a mystery is why hundreds of millions of Arabs surrounding the tiny sliver of land that is Israel, with only a few million residents inhabitants, can't just get on with their lives, but persist in their self-destructive warfare.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Le micro est la macro

According to Julian diGiovanni (IMF), Andrei Levchenko (Michigan), and Isabelle Mejean (Ecole Polytechnique), everything is connected...more so now than ever.  That is, if there are shocks to large firms, that are interconnected, that contributes to macro level volatility.  At least that is their conclusion from a study of the French economy;
...firm-specific idiosyncratic volatility does not average out because of the presence of very large firms. We refer to this as the ‘granularity’ hypothesis. The second – from Acemoglu et al. (2012) – is that idiosyncratic shocks contribute to aggregate fluctuations because input-output linkages generate comovement between firms. We refer to this as the “linkages” hypothesis.
Some spiffy graphs in their paper show;
... direct corroboration in the data for the mechanisms behind both the ‘granularity’ and the ‘linkages’ hypotheses. Sectors that are populated by firms that are more interconnected with the rest of the economy; and more concentrated contribute a disproportionate share of aggregate volatility relative to what we would expect in a ‘symmetric’ economy.
Their coup de grâce;
Trade integration has the potential to make the largest firms even larger (di Giovanni and Levchenko, 2012). Likewise, consolidation across industries -- for instance via mergers and acquisitions -- also leads to a fatter tail in the firm-size distribution. These two structural changes amplify granular fluctuations, making business cycles more sensitive to individual firms’ shocks. At the same time, the boundaries of the firm are changing and production processes are becoming more fragmented. Some activities that used to be internal to the firm are now outsourced. This fragmentation takes place both within and across borders, and within and across sectors, adding further scope for shocks to individual firms to propagate throughout the economy as well as across countries.
We are not alone.

From Seuss to nördar

In Sweden, not exactly revenge, but they're looking for a little R E S P E C T;
Self-dubbed nerds are disappointed with the 'outdated' definition in the Svenska Akademiens Ordlista (SAOL) - the Swedish Academy's official dictionary.
The current meaning in SAOL states that a nerd is a 'simple-minded and laughable person'.
What would any self-respecting Dr. Seuss character--the first use of the word dates to Theodor Seuss Geisel's If I Ran the Zoo in 1950--do, but start a petition;
Since the petition launched, SAOL has said that they will consider changing the definition - which has been present in the dictionary since 2005.
Don't mess with these guys!

Let them not eat cake

At least First Lady Michelle Obama should rejoice, as White Bread America won't be kicked around anymore;
Hostess Brands Inc., which makes Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and other snacks, filed a motion Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking permission to shutter its operations. The move comes after the company said striking workers across the country crippled its ability to maintain production.
The first domino of the second Obama era falls;
Hostess has said the company is unprofitable under its current cost structure, in large part because of its union wages and pension costs.
[CEO Greg] Rayburn said that sales volumes had been flat to slightly down leading up the bankruptcy filing. In a statement on the company website, he said all employees will eventually lose their jobs, "some sooner than others."
"Unfortunately, because we are in bankruptcy, there are severe limits on the assistance the (company) can offer you [Hostess employees] at this time," Rayburn wrote.
The liquidation hearing will go before a bankruptcy judge Monday afternoon. Rayburn said he's confident the judge will approve the motion.
"There's no other alternative," he said.