Sunday, December 19, 2010

My 2010 Xmas Poem

Here it is, finally. The reason I started this blog in the first place.

A WIKILEAKY XMAS, as told by Julian Assange

Twas the night before xmas, and I wasn't speaking
I was hiding out after a big year of leaking
Off in the wilderness where I'd not be seen
I was deep in thought before my laptop screen
Through secret data I looked with great zeal
To decide what covert info I next would reveal
because the world is a dangerous place
even moreso now, cuz of my Wiki space.

I was about to expose a new government whore
When came a loud knocking on my front door
And before I could answer this annoying din
There was a loud crash as it was kicked in
Darkening my doorway there stood such a sight
that like any brave hero I tried to take flight
But I couldn't run as the portal was blocked
by an angry fat man who appeared to be crocked,
with a mangled white beard, and round nose of red,
and a dirty old stocking cap stuck on his head,
and black boots, and a gut that was quite porcine,
and a snarl on his face that looked really mean.

I realized this fatso who'd invaded my shelter
Was none other than Santa, with his blood all aswelter
He'd come,no doubt, seeking revenge for my role
in exposing conditions up at the North Pole

“You putz” he screamed, as he grabbed at my hair
“Looks like you ruined everyone's xmas this year
Now the kids who've been good will get no new toys
since you spilled that my elves are Vietnamese boys
who made toys for tots with stuff that was toxic
and you squealed all about how my reindeer got sick
When they ate food I gave them made from downer cattle.
Do you think ruining xmas is an important battle?

“Sorry there fat boy, but its candor that matters”
I said as he ripped my shirt into tatters
“I just publish the truth and let people decide
Everyone needs to know what others might hide”

Santa raised his fat hand, and with surprising grace,
let it come crashing into my face
“You revealed that my sled has GPS
And with Sirius Radio it also is blessed
And is driven by an engine that's truly high tech
And that my beard is not real but glued to my neck
Cuz the rest of the year I'm a Goldman Sachs banker.
Now all the world thinks that Santa's a wanker!
And you have ruined xmas for everyone.
He reached in his pocket “Now where is that gun”

I pleaded for mercy but he wouldn't listen
As the sweat on his beard started to glisten
The gun, luckily, he was unable to find
For Santa was clearly out of his mind
But instead in the pocket of his big red pants were
a bottle of booze and a huge reindeer antler
And as he took a swig from the bottle of rum
He shoved that big antler right up my bum
“There's your xmas present, I hope you enjoy it
The perfect xmas gift for those who'd destroy it”
He hocked up a loogey which in my face he spat
And then in a flash he was gone, just like that.

Well I've learned one lesson from leaking the truths
that canceled the xmas of so many youths
Santa's a bad ass, that I will say
I would way rather piss off the CIA!

Another uplifting Xmas story. Hope your cockles are appropriately warmed, because everyone loves a hot cockle. And thanks to Suzanne Vennino for suggesting the topic.

May you have a Merry Whatever and a Happy The Other Thing.

Actual Good News!

Kudos to the Senate for finally doing what judges were about to do anyway. Doing away with the foolish and unfair DADT policy is a great step forward in civil rights. Now, we need to also give gay people the right to marry. Until all Americans are guaranteed the same rights, we shouldn't dare brag about being a free country.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mystery sculptor strikes again.

I swear I will have the poem up by Saturday, but meanwhile, a different kind of Santa has left another mystery sculpture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I wish I'd thought of this....

What a great practical joke! A woman wakes up in the middle of the night to find a 15 foot sculpture with lights occupying the middle of her lawn. No clues as to how it got there. If this is someone's idea of a prank, they should win an award. Read about it in the Boulder Daily Camera.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Important Xmas Info!!!!!!

Still looking for just the right Xmas gift for Sarah Palin? Wouldn't a camouflage toilet seat be perfect for her? This is just one of the wonderful gift suggestions you can find in Dave Barry's 2010 Guide to Holiday Gifts, which is clearly the second greatest Xmas tradition ever (Getting drunk and eating steak on a stick for dinner at Friday's on Xmas Eve is tops!).

But what if it turns out that the pillow tie Dave suggests is not the right gift for your narcoleptic history teacher? Ooops! Now there is a dead weight loss. So you need to read this detailed academic study by Yale economist Joel Waldfogel that estimates the annual dead weight loss from bad gifts at between $4 and $14 billion. Merry effing Xmas from another Dismal Scientist.

Yes, I post this stuff every year, but where would we be without tradition!

Monday, December 6, 2010


I will be writing my annual xmas poem next week, IF I can find a topic. Right now I am drawing a blank. Any suggestions via the comments below would be appreciated!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finally an athlete BLAMES God!

As a long suffering Buffalo Bills fan, the fact that Bills receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a game winning touchdown pass in overtime last Sunday barely qualifies as news. Another Bills screw-up! But, thanks to Johnson's twitter, quoted below, we now know who is to blame, perhaps for all the Bills failures, and our 50 years of pain.


It has long been a source of annoyance to me to see an athlete praising God when he wins, thanking God for giving him the talent to win the game. If there actually were a God, the rest of us should not be worshiping him, but asking him why he hates most of us, and loves the Heisman Trophy winner so much.

And until now, you never see a guy from the losing team say "God really screwed us today." or "God must just love the Patriots more than the Buffalo Bills". So, I find Johnson's rant against the imaginary invisible man in the sky quite refreshing. Hopefully, we will see more of this. Why would you worship a guy who gave someone else way more than he gave you? You would have to be an idiot!

I have always subscribed to the idea that "A good athlete always blames his equipment". Well, now let's just change that to "A good athlete always blames his deity". And be sure and ask your religious adviser who God likes this weekend, before you call your bookie!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Definition of "Chuztpah"

Thanks to my many Jewish friends in college, and since college, I have become familiar with a lot of Yiddish words. I love these words for a few reasons. They are fun to say, particularly in a comic sense, because you can really chew on them. Just try and say "putz" without laughing. And, some Yiddish words are just better at defining what you mean. For instance, I can't think of a better word than "schlepp" for what is describes.

One of those great words is "chutzpah", which can best be defined as nerviness. But you don't have to look it up in the dictionary, because Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and his agent are the embodiment of the concept. The 36 year old Jeter, who hit .270 last year, wants a 4 to 5 year contract at $23 million per year, according to this story in today's NY Times. That's right, $23 mil a year for hitting .270, and having perhaps the least range of any shortstop in the American League.

Now Jeter has been a great player for the Yankees over the years, and the positive face of the team during his career there. His importance to the team over that time explains why the Yankees offered him $15M a year for 3 years, despite his age and decline. What makes this crazy is that he is bargaining with only one team, and has no leverage whatsoever. If he doesn't sign with the Yankees, a player of his age and skill would be lucky to latch on with someone for one year at about 1 to 2 million.

I imagine that Jeter is counting on Yankees fans, who love him dearly, to pressure the team into keeping their favorite player at any cost. And, the Yankees are the only team that could even afford the mistake of paying Jeter $15 million. But really, $23M? The Yankees have a lot of Jewish fans so I'm guessing the word "chutzpah" is getting thrown around a lot among them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another Big Company With Head Up Butt

Yesterday, after watching the mediocre comedy Due Date at the local Century Theater, which is one big company deaf to local tastes, I went into Borders Book Store to look around for a few minutes. This is in Boulder, CO. Not one of the outlying towns, Boulder. The People's Republic of Boulder. A town so smart and educated that 84% of us voted to oust Bush in 2004.

And what greeted me when I walked in the door? A display table proudly promoting the new books by George W. Bush, which for some reason is not called "How I Fucked Up the World", and Sarah Palin, whose book ought to be called "Just Because I Don't Know Shit Doesn't Mean I Can't Tell Everyone What to Do".

Malaria is more popular in Boulder than either of these two people, yet Borders was proudly displaying their books out front. After I stopped laughing, I went over to the counter and asked the staff "You guys know you are in Boulder, right? What's with the Bush/Palin display?". As I expected, it was a dictate from corporate. IN fact, they said they had been shipped a huge pile of the both books that they had no chance of selling. Great work Corporate! In a politically polarized country, you greet locals with the 2 books most likely to send them shopping somewhere else. Was there no room on the table for Glenn Beck's book?

This is a really bad example of management from above. I am sure that those 2 books are selling well in certain parts of the country, but how stupid can you be, to make a decision like that for every store. Wouldn't it make more sense to trust your local management to put out something more enticing to local consumers, which in this case would include a bowl of fresh excrement.

Borders is owned by K-Mart. Might want to short that stock!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time s HAVE changed for the better!

Just the other day, I was talking about discrimination with one of my classes. One of the good things about kids today is that, for the most part, they are much more color blind than we are. They don't think having a black president is a big deal, and seem surprised when I tell them I was not convinced Obama would win until Fox News pronounced him the winner in 2008.

A lot of people, Tea Partiers in the lead, seem to believe there was some magical time when this country was much better off than it is today. Like when there was no income tax 100 years ago, and no Federal reserve. But ask yourself if you would rather be rich 100 years ago or middle class now, and you will see how silly that idea is. Of course, if you were not rich back then, life pretty much sucked for you. And if you were not white it was hell.

Although it sometimes seems we are getting dumber, we can at least claim to be smarter about some things. So, in contrast to the often dismal rants I put on this blog, today I GIVE YOU THIS LINK, with hilarious ads from the past that will make you cringe, but also realize some things are much better today.

Fixing the Budget Only Requires Guts!

Want to fix the Federal Budget? Sure you say you do, but do you have the guts? Probably, unless you are a politician.

There have been 2 proposals on how to cut cure the long-term budget cancer that we are facing, to keep us from becoming Greece in 10 years. Two bi-partisan committees came up with very doable proposals. They were do sensible that politicians in both parties quickly said there is no way.

How hard is this? Well, if you have the guts, not that hard. But, as an excellent article in today's Economix blog at the NY Times points out, our politicians claim to be deficit hawks, but when it come to actually making the tough decisions needed to get the job done, they turn into chickens. Don't expect the worthless scum in Congress to do anything sensible.

OH, and while I'm at it, kudos to the Tea Party crowd for getting the GOP Senators to pledge not to put earmarks in the budget. No one will stick to the pledge, but it will just show what hypocrites they are.

So, how do we fix the budget? Well, you can figure that out yourself. The NY Times put up the Budget Puzzle last week. I balanced it in about 3 minutes. Or, you can play Budget Hero (see link on the right). All it takes in the balls!

I'd be interested in comments from any readers who take the challenge.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Costco Comes Through!

Costco gave me $25 because they tried to kill my ex-girlfriend!

I guess that needs some explanation. Back in the mid-90's I dated a woman named Nancy for a few months. Not very serious, and we grew bored with each other, had an amicable split, and have remained friendly since. When we were going out, she was a single mom, and her ex was not always coming through with the child support, making her life difficult. So, I gave her the second membership card that Costco (I think it still might have been Price Club) gives you, a good deed that cost me nothing.

A few years later Nancy married a guy named Tony, who also has kids. They continued using the Costco card from me, which made sense since it was free and I had completely forgotten about it.

Maybe 8 years ago Costco came out with the Executive Membership, which, along with other small benefits, gives you 2% back on all purchases. When they tried to upsell me to this, I said there was no way I spent enough for it to make sense. But when the lady looked, she said I had spent something like $3000 the previous year. I had forgotten that Nancy, now in a family of 5 or 6, was using the other card. So I took the Executive membership, and now get 2% karma payback for a good deed done long ago. Whenever I see Nancy and Tony around town I suggest they need new tires and a big screen TV.

What does this have to do with poison?

Sunday night I got home and my neighbor had left a post-it on my door to call right away. He tells me that Costco had come to my house because I had bought some gouda cheese that day, and it had salmonella, and they wanted to take it back before I ate it and died. But I had not been to Costco that day, so I concluded it had to be Nancy.

I did not have her number, did not know Tony's last name, and wasn't even sure if she'd changed her's when they married. But, I found her in the phone book and called. She said Tony had eaten some cheese while watching football, but she thought it was not the gouda. Disaster averted.

The next morning, Costco calls and I tell them I got the message and Nancy has the cheese and knows not to eat it. He says he wants to bring a $25 gift card over for my trouble, and that he would also like to give one to Nancy, so I give him her number when he arrives.

The message in this is that Costco handled this as well as any company I have ever heard of with this type of problem. Coming to my house to get the cheese when they are concerned! Wow! Giving me a gift card just because they bugged me a bit? Very classy. Too many companies try to shun any responsibility in a case like this. They went out and fixed it as fast as they could. Think I will continue to shop there? I sure will, although maybe I won't be buying any gouda cheese there for while.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Did you know....

....that the Houston Stadium Authority, or whatever it's called, owes $32 million on the Astrodome, opened in 1965? And did you know that the initial debt on the building was $27 million? Amazing!

I have a great story to tell about Costco, but I'm tired so you'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deficit Reduction: As If!

The President's Debt Commission released it's plan for reducing the deficit and the national debt yesterday. It has offended people on both the right and left, all of whom want to stick to their dogma instead of deal with real solutions to real problems. If you have the time, you can read the whole thing HERE.

The report would slay a whole barnyard full of sacred cows, which is what has everyone pissed off. It is obvious that Congress is too gutless, stupid and in the pocket of special interests to ever enact this plan, so why bother talking about it? Well, it is a demonstration of the type of measures that need to be taken if we are going to get serious about dealing with our present deficits, and our more frightening future debts if we don't fix health care, including medicare and medicaid, and social security and quit wasting money on crap that only makes our economy weaker like farm subsidies, and silly tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction.

If you want to find out if someone, like a politician, is serious about taking on this problem, ask them if they are willing to do ALL (not just the ones that fit their partisan dogma) of the following:
1) Cut military spending, social security, medicare, farm subsidies
2) Make dramatic changes to our health care system the will bring costs under control, even if it means doctors and health insurers make less money
3)Eliminate industry specific tax breaks, including mortgage deductions
4)Reform our tax code, and raise taxes if necessary
5) Eliminate laws against gambling, prostitution and drugs that are unsuccessful, and waste taxpayer dollars on enforcement, when legalization would instead add tax revenue.

I am sure no matter who you are, you probably said "no" to something on the above list. And that's the problem. We add up all the "no's" and we do nothing, and the problem gets worse every year.


Don't believe me? Then play the very realistic BUDGET HERO and try to fix the budget while keeping your cows sacred (If you are a Macro Eco student of mine, this will be your homework soon). You might want to put away the sharp objects first.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sarah Palin For Fed Chairman,(or is it Fed Mama Grizzly?)

It appears that Economists the world over have been wasting their time spending years studying monetary policy, writing papers, learning from history, and all the other silly time wasting things those damn, smartypants elites do. All you need to be qualified to run the Federal Reserve is a degree and communications,a tiara from winning the Miss Wasila pageant, a brain the size of a pumpkin seed and a contract with Fox News. Stupid PhD's!

In case you missed it, America's #1 Idiot Bitch (Sorry Michelle Bachman and Ann Coulter, but keep trying!) is now taking on Ben Bernanke over the Fed's plans to buy $600B in government securities as a way to stimulate the economy. As former mayor of Wasila she is certainly far more qualified than a jagoff like Ben Bernanke to make this decision, what with him only having been an Eco prof at Princeton and one of the world's leading experts on The Great Depression.

For those of you who have neither a beauty crown or a PhD in The Dismal Science, here is the deal. With the economy still in the dumps, unemployment at 9.6%, and no more fiscal stimulus likely to happen, the Fed is trying to expand lending by putting more money into the system. Bernanke would probably tell you that inflation remains very low, with deflation still a threat, so the risk of this action causing an inflation problem is low. People who oppose the idea, think it will cause inflation, and will not stimulate the economy.

The truth is, this action is very unlikely to not stimulate the economy AND cause inflation. Inflation can be caused by 2 things: increase in demand for goods and services, and increase in the money supply. In our current near-depression economy, the demand for goods and services is low. Bernanke hopes that more cheap money in the system will cause banks to loan more to businesses and individuals who will buy more. If this works, then inflation could happen, and the Fed would then have to take steps to slow this by decreasing the money supply and raising interest rates. So, we get inflation if it works.

If, as some people believe, people are just not ready to start buying again, no matter how much money there is available, then the money will just sit in banks reserves, causing no inflation. So, no economic recovery, no inflation.

Ben Bernanke believes 2 things about the great depression: That it was caused by the destruction of the financial system and price deflation, and he has, since the shit hit the A/C 2 years ago, pulled out all the stops to make sure these things don't happen again. In fact, as I told one of my students yesterday, Bernanke fears deflation even more than he fears beard mites. The Feds job description is to maintain high employment and low inflation. Right now we have high unemployment and near deflation, so he is doing what his job calls for him to do.

There, you now know more about monetary policy than a degree from the best communications school (which is not the U. of Idaho, where Palin got hers) will get you.

So, is Silly Sarah's opposition just a new far-right talking point? I don't watch Fox News, so I guess it might be something all the PhD's in lying on Fox are talking about, when they aren't spreading lies about the cost of Obama's trip abroad. Or, is it part of the GOP plan to keep the economy in recession for another 2 years so they can blame it on Obama, get and idiot like Palin elected, and REALLY ruin this country by finishing their plan to turn back the clock about 110 years on all progress we've made?

OH, speaking of good schools for the study of Communications, certainly Syracuse University would be among the contenders for that title. And I imagine the folks there are very happy about the recent election, since it means that an orange man (though not an Orangeman) will be Speaker of the House.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Random thoughts rattling in my head

Just a couple of things on my mind while wondering how the very moral Republican Party has to spend billions on ads that spread lies in order to win elections:

1) Saw a great show last night by an all women sketch comedy group called Broad Comedy, which is led by Katie Goodman, the daughter of NY Times columnist Ellen Goodman. It was a fundraiser for the Boulder Women's Health Center that I was invited to by Kip's best friend. I was expecting an evening of man-bashing, but instead was treated to a clever evening of sketches and song parodies, much like the shows in which I performed in the early 90's (except for the all-woman part). If they come to your town, check them out.

2) John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have been acting all week like they have been elected King. McConnell is particularly hilarious in that he seems to think he now runs the Senate, which is still majority Dems. These assholes are going to do a lot of Obama's re-election campaign work for them, as they overplay their hands a la Newt in the 90's. Read the exit polls fellas! America doesn't like you either.

3) Want to hear an intelligent discussion of Economics by two guys who disagree in general about free markets, but do so in an intelligent respectful way? Probably not, otherwise Fox News wouldn't be so popular. But if you actually want to learn something, go to Econ Talk and listen to host Ross Roberts, a professor at George Mason and a student of the Chicago school of unfettered free markets, which history has pretty much discredited, interview Australian economist John Quiggan, who has written a book called "Zombie Economics", which attempts to point out how some economic policies have been proven wrong, yet still bumble around. Many of his "Zombies" are the ideas Roberts still holds dear. So, of course their discussion devolves into shouting and name-calling, right? No, it goes just the other way, as they rationally discuss their differences and each tries to understand the other.

4) One of the basic principles of economics is that people face trade-offs. So, last night when a woman was talking about her very sick dogs who had eaten an entire bag of cocoa, I had this thought. A dog can lick his own junk, but eating chocolate can kill him. Now THAT is a trade-off!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Americans lack memories and understanding

The GOP has a 15 point edge over Dems in a poll taken over the weekend, on a national level. These are the same guys who led us into near depression, who let the banks create the bubble that burst and popped our economy, who started and did not finish 2 wars that have cost us about $1 trillion and thousands of lives. Does no one remember that?

America is angry, things are not going well, and the GOP has done a great job of selling Americans the completely wrong idea that is it the stimulus package and the health care bill that caused it all. Tea Partiers, may of whom never paid any attention before, are the most misled.

Here is a quick list of things that America in general seems to believe that is just plain wrong:

1) The Stimulus didn't work and was wasteful. Economists who have studies it say it did work, and that unemployment would have been far worse without it. While is certainly could have been designed far better, it was the right thing to do at the time. Yet people seem to be stupid enough to believe that it was supposed to get us back to 2006 overnight, after a free fall in the economy. If we had done nothing, the unemployment rate would be in double digits now, and kids would have very few teachers to complain about this Fall.

2) Democrats wasted tax money bailing out the banks. There are 2 things wrong with this one. It was Bush still in office when TARP was passed, although the Dems mostly supported this. More dangerous is the lack of understanding on how important the financial system is to our economy, and how letting it collapse in the 1930's caused the Depression the be so Great. Again, it could have been done better, and the people who caused the mess managed to bribe both parties enough to get off way to easily. But to have done nothing, which appears to be what the Tea-for-Brains bunch would have done, would have led to disaster. And notice it has cost far less than the $700B put at risk.

When the new Team Ignorance GOP gets to DC next year, look for things to get far worse. More pollution, less education, more God, less science, less rationality, more control of the country by big business. It is very hard for me to feel good about the future of this country.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Update on scumbag ad

Channel 9 in Denver pulled the ad I raged about on Sunday, calling it "false". The Denver post also called it "a whopper". The question is how does this crap even get on the air to begin with. Should TV stations be responsible for checking to see if the claims in ads they run are true?

The fact that this ad was pulled does not change the fact that the slimebuckets who produced it need to be kneed in the nutsack.

Please Read Tom Friedman

If I had the time and the talent, I would write like Tom Friedman, instead of spewing the barely coherent rants I post here. So, PLEASE READ TOM FRIEDMAN'S COLUMN TODAY, and make everyone you know read it too. Busy week. That's all for now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A New Low in Political Advertising

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I saw the ad you can watch below, run against Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who represents a suburban Denver district in which I do not vote. It claims he voted convicted rapist to get Viagra paid for by the health care law. It is run by a group of scumbags who call themselves American Action Network, headed by former Senator Norm Coleman, and apparently is being run against Dems around the country.

There is no provision in the health care law. Tom Coburn introduces an amendment to the health care bill to say that no convict can get Viagra as a ploy to send the bill back to committee, and to give his slimy cohorts the opportunity to spread this nonsense. Read about it HERE.

Anybody who would run an ad like this deserves to be stripped naked and dragged behind a Prius for about 10 miles. Here are the board members of this organization of shitbags. If you see one of them, at the very least, kick them in the nuts!
Board Members of the American Action Network

Fred Malek, Chairman, Network Board, and Chairman, Thayer Capital Partners

Senator Norm Coleman, CEO, American Action Network and Forum

Senator George Allen, President, George Allen Strategies, LLC.

Isaac Applbaum, founding General Partner, Opus Capital

Maria Cino, Vice President of Government Affairs, Pfizer Inc.

Dylan Glenn, Senior Vice President, Guggenheim Advisors

Ambassador Boyden Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union

B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., Founder and Senior Vice President of American Commercial Equities Inc.

Ken Langone, Founder and Chairman, Invemed Associates LLC

Senator Mel Martinez, Chairman of Florida, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, JPMorgan Chase

Congressman Jim Nussle, President and CEO, The Nussle Group

Congressman Tom Reynolds, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor, Nixon Peabody

Professor Gregory Slayton, Adjunct Professor, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

Congressman Vin Weber, Managing Partner, Clark and Weinstock

Lyrics to the "Dick Van Dyke Show" Song and other stuff

The Dick Van Dyke Show is one of the greatest shows in TV history. Great scripts and great comic actors, including my hero Maury Amsterdam as wise-cracking Buddy Sorrel. If you are anywhere close to my age or older, you know the opening theme song, even to the "whoops" noise where Dick trips over (or, later, avoids) the ottoman. Well, Dick himself was the guest this week on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on NPR, and dropped a bombshell: There are lyrics to that song. Then he sang them. An awesome radio moment. You can hear it HERE.

Fox has to be really excited about the Texas Rangers playing the Giants in the World Series. No reason for them to settle their dispute with Cablevision, because no one in NY will be watching the series anyway. (As you are probably aware, a series that does not include the Yankees does not matter!). Earlier in the season I had bemoaned the fact that all games shown nationally had to have the Yankees, Bosox or Mets involved, and that most of the country was not getting to see players who play in smaller markets outside the eastern time zone. Great move guys.

Oh, and remember this coming election day, that the Tea Party's response to the financial collapse would have been to do nothing. Like Herbert Hoover did. Which led to 25% unemployment. Apparently the only history these morons know is that there were Founding Fathers, and they believed everything that Glenn Beck said they did, despite what real historians say.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ken Buck: Complete Bullshit Artist!

Ken Buck, a tea-bagger running for US Senate here in Colorado, was on the radio today in a lengthy interview. In the ads he is running he claims his opponent, Sen. Bennett, helped "nationalize" health care. So, we know right from the start he is a liar. Health care has not been "nationalized", and only an idiot would say that outloud (to find these idiots, turn on Fox News!).

In the interview though, he actually supported most of the health care bill. Asked about some of the major provisions, Buck said he supports the changes that make it illegal for your health insurer to drop your coverage when you get sick, or deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. He did say he opposed the rule allowing people to stay on their parents policy up to age 26 (I might actually agree with him on that one.....GROW UP KIDS!).

Of course, the thing that the tea-for-brains bunch opposes most about Obamacare is the supposedly unconstitutional mandate that everyone have health insurance, which Buck referred to as government overstepping it's authority. But here is where Buck proves he is a bullshitter of no higher moral standing than any of those political insiders the teabags are so angry about. Asked what he would do instead, he says there needs to be some sort of "carrot and stick" approach to get everyone to buy coverage. The "carrot" would be some sort of incentive like making health insurance payments tax-deductable for those of us who buy are own (a very good and fair idea), but also a "stick", as in some sort of punishment for not doing it. Hmmmmm, isn't that the same then as mandating everyone get covered, if you are somehow going to punish those who don't.

So, in conclusion, Tea-bullshitter Ken Buck wants to repeal Obamacare, but he supports most of the stuff that is in it! And this asshole is ahead in the polls! Coloradans, if you vote for this scumbag, you deserve to have your health care revoked, as you clearly would have to be suffering from a pre-existing mental illness.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some good places for political info

Just want to point out a couple of good site for rational people to follow election information.

As the political lying gets more intense, (and I have nearly had to turn off the baseball playoffs because of the insulting ads that run between innings) it is good to have a place to go to check the facts, or lack thereof, with which you are bombarded. A great place to go is They don't appear to have the staff to cover every pack of lies you see on TV, but they are non-partisan and very fair in their approach. They even do a weekly check of the bullshit that politicians say on the Sunday morning TV show.

And, if wonder who is going to win an election, a good place to go is Nate Silver's 538 blog, hosted by the NY Times. He can best be described as a "poll consolidater", taking all the poll data collected by the various polling services and using it to predict the liklihood of possible outcomes. His theory is that using the numbers from a bunch of polls yeilds more numbers than any individual pollster, and thus more accurate results. Good Theory. Oh, and he started his statistics career as a baseball stats geek (I hope he saw The Simpsons last week!).

Finally, for those of you who only want news that tells you what you want to hear, I stole this quote from Barry Ritholtz's blog today.

"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence." -Bertrand Russell

Monday, October 18, 2010

Great Questions asked. Will they be answered?

Greg Mankiw, a Harvard Economics professor who is author of the best selling Intro to Eco text books in the country, worked as an economic adviser to w when his tax cuts were passed. Last week, he wrote and op-ed piece in the NY Times where he claimed higher taxes would cause people to work less. You can read his article HERE.

Barry Ritholtz is the author of "Bailout Nation" and the blog "The Big Picture" (by the way, this blog has links to both Mankiw's and Ritholtz's blogs on the right). He is great at picking apart philosophical bullshit, so he posts a list of 10 questions for Dr. Mankiw on his blog. You can read his list HERE.

The debate about taxes rages on, with very little data to support any conclusion. Yet, you can watch morons like Larry Kudlow on CNBC who are sure we need to cut taxes. I find the idea that slightly higher tax rates cause people to work less, or innovate less, as pretty unlikely. Clearly, if tax rates were 80%, it would deter people from working hard to make more. But I have yet to see any evidence that people were less entreprenurial in the 90's when rates where higher, than in the 2000's. In fact, we saw a surge of innovation and the founding of a great many substantial businesses. Why did the founders of Google bother if they had to pay an extra 4% in income tax? And why found their company in California, where taxes are fairly high for the rich? Maybe there are other factors?

The best question Rigtholtz asks is this:

Which decade did you work more — the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s? How much of your work decisions were driven by marginal tax rates?

David Leonhart of the NY Times adds a question of his own, which I often try to ask conservatives ( and never get an answer!).

I’ll add one more: Bill Clinton and Congress raised taxes in 1993. Mr. Bush and Congress cut them in 2001 and 2003. Economic growth was much stronger after the Clinton tax increases than after the Bush tax cuts. Indeed, average annual economic growth from 2001 to 2007, even before the Great Recession, was slower than in any decade since World War II.

Why didn’t the Bush tax cuts do a better job of luring people into the work force, inspiring them to start successful new businesses and lifting economic growth?

What does all this prove about the location of an optimal tax rate? Not a goddamn thing! But it does prove that anyone who is sure that taxes are too high or too low is completely full of shit!

Let's keep an eye out for Dr. Mankiw's answers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dilemma: Evil Empire v Man Who Destroyed America

This is the worst baseball decision since the Yankees-Mets World Series (which is the only Series in my lifetime I did not watch!). Do I root for the evil Yankees, a team I have proudly hated my entire life (Buffalonians of the 90's will remember by dramatic reading of the classic poem "Steinbrenner Sucks") or the Rangers, a team once owned by, and still the favorite team of the George W. Bush, whose evil 8 years in the Oval Office will take this country a generation to overcome? Yech! Any suggestions are welcome.

Whatever happens in the next 2 series, you can be sure I will be behind the National League champ in the series.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I don't want to vote!

I have voted every year since I was 18. I even vote in the odd numbered years, when it is all local. Of course here in Colorado you have to, because the ballot is always full of crazy measures that have to be defeated (this year the wingnuts have put 3 things on the ballot that would destroy the state's ability to function). But, I the more advertising I watch, the less I want to vote for anyone.

The name calling, lies, half-truths and distortions in political advertising are criminal. But their not against the law. How can we allow this? Wheaties can't claim that they can cure cancer, but I can run for office and run ads saying my opponent caused it. What kind of supposedly moral society would choose it's leaders this way? And how can I expect anything but corruption from someone who would blatantly lie to get elected.

And we can thanks the Supreme Court for the worst offenders. Their decision earlier this year that said banning corporate campaign ads, or even requiring people running ads to be identified should entitle the 5 conservative justices who voted for it for a daily hard kick in the nads. Funny how allowing corporations to buy elections made conservatives realize that Americans have a right to free speech. And how does limiting ads keep anyone from speaking? Meanwhile, I am bombarded between every half-inning of the baseball playoffs with an ad run by one of Scumbag Karl Rove's attacks on Senator Bennett, in which not a single thing said is true. NOT A SINGLE FUCKING THING!!!!

I am far more pissed than the Tea Partiers. They are pissed, but at the wrong people for the wrong reasons. And the candidates they support are doing the same kind of lying, which should make you wonder how they are going to bring any increase in integrity to public office. I am pissed that important issues are being ignored, voters are being treated like idiots (and, I guess, voting that way), and none of the important problems in this country have any chance of being fixed before Bart Simpson graduates from college.

And will someone please tell me how the GOP will cut taxes and balance the budget while not cutting military spending, Medicare and Social Security, because the number just don't make a shred of sense!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simpsons v Sabremetrics

If you love baseball then, like me, you may have been watching the game last night and missed this great episode of TV's most intelligent show. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baseball action: 14 minutes

A few months back I wrote about a NY Times study of how much playing time actual takes place during an NFL game. The total was a bit over 10 minutes. Today, the same guys did the same thing for baseball, and determined that the ball is in play 14minutes. Either way, you get a lot of time to read during the course of a game.

The story, which I have not linked to because the Journal has a pay wall, also discusses the percentage of time that the game is on TV that is taken up by play, as well as by other shots. It seems the biggest chunk is "players standing around".

The data came from only watching 2 games on TV, so is not accurate, but feels about right. Of course, if they were watching the Yankees, they would have to add time for "players refusing to get into the batters box". You East coast fans will want to move out here to Colorado as those Yankees playoff games stretch over 4 hours while Derek Jeter adjusts his gloves and cup.

I will repeat a stat that I have written about before, and you can bemoan as you watch the 4 hour baseball playoff games. The greatest game in baseball history, game 7 of the 1960 World Series that ended with Bill Mazaroski's home run to give the Pirates a 10-9 victory over the forces of evil, lasted 2 hours, 28 minutes.

Happy Hockey Season

In the world of retail clothing, there are 2 seasons, Fall and Spring. In my world there are also 2 seasons, baseball and hockey. The symmetry is perfect. The baseball playoffs begin when the hockey season begins, and the hockey playoffs start when baseball does. Brilliant. Makes you almost believe there is a god.

Best of all, the Buffalo Sabres have dumped the awful sweaters they've been wearing for 14 years and returned to the classic buffalo and crossed swords design. And may other NHL teams have done the same.

Happy hockey season. Oh, and let's all root for the Reds to win the world series.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And these guys want to "fix" our economy.

The GOP program is clear. Low taxes and more religion will lead to prosperity. So why then are the highest levels of poverty in the country in the south, where they are working that program? See picture, which is from the census department and I lifted from the NY Times Economix blog.

Tom Friedman on the "Tea Kettle Movement"

Not much time to write lately, sorry.

The other day I was explaining to my class how the Tea Party movement is mostly based on ignorance, and that if they were in charge of the country we would be heading into Great Depression II. But Thomas Friedman has a great take on it in his NY Times column today. Here is a quote that sums it all up:

The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalized bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis.

These guys won't solve anything. In fact, it appears they think America was a better country 100 years ago. It wasn't. Workers had no rights, monopolists ruled the business world, the poor stayed poor and the rich stayed rich. OH, and the tax burden sat mostly on the poor. Great plan Tea Party.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More on the War on Drugs

I have written many times about the utter stupidity of our War on Drugs. It starts with the very idea of declaring war on an unspecified group of inanimate objects, the waste of money and human capital involved, and the violation it causes into the rights of individuals.

A few years back, Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs. Instead of a rise in drug use, there was a decline across the board, as well as a lower instance of AIDS in drug users. This news is based on a study conducted by the the Cato Institute. You can read the story about it in Time HERE.

Perhaps some day the old politicians who still think being "tough on drugs" is the only way to get elected will take their heads out of their asses.....or, at least die (apparently politicians never get so old they need to retire!). Meanwhile, our wasteful and destructive "war" continues.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Freakonomics, The Movie

I am not making this up: "Freakonics the Movie" is opening this week. And in keeping with their idea of capturing real data to figure out how people will behave, they are having screenings around the country at which you pay what you are willing to pay to see it. Great will get them publicity, and yield some data.

I won't be able to make it to the screening in Denver tonight, but you can be sure I will be seeing it soon, as we must vote with our dollars for more economics movies. If this succeeds, perhaps Hollywood will pay some attention to the brilliantly funny romantic comedy screenplay I have written called "The Ticklish Economist".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Politicians and the Economy

When it comes to the economy, the President is like the quarterback of a football team: He gets too much credit when things go well, too much blame when things go badly (you may notice the Buffalo Bills, who have an offensive line that is a complete joke, have decided to change starting QB's next week!). Every President in the 20th century who did not get re-elected had a recession to blame for it.....or, got blamed for a recession (or, in Hoover's case, depression).

Republicans are now putting the blame for our current stagnant economy on Obama, who entered office 15 months into the worst recession since WWII. Obama wants to blame Bush, of course. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan proudly took credit for strong economic growth that occurred during their time in office, ignoring the incredible technological advances that had much more to do with it.

The fact is, there is no magic joy stick in the Oval Office that the Prez. uses to drive the economy. There is really very little he can do in the short term. In fact, he needs the help of Congress to do as little as Obama was able to do, which was the stimulus, which, by the way, did not fail. Had we listened to the GOP, things would be much worse, which is what they wanted so that they could blame Obama for an even worse economy.

Always remember, politicians care first and foremost about getting and keeping power, and helping the people who put them there once they get it. The Tea Party's anger at insiders is deserved. It is too bad they have taken the road of promoting ignorance over reason and good policy, and will make things even worse if they get their knuckleheads elected. The GOP is glad to use their ignorant rage to get back in power, where we can expect more of the same crap we got in the first 6 years of the 21st Century. That will fix everything!

I was motivated to write about this by THIS STORY from the Economix blog of the NY times, discussing how economic events that politicians have no control over effect elections. Remember, if you are unemployed, or you don't have as much money as you want, it is always the fault of someone else!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What was wrong with my high school?

We all know that in every high school, the jocks are big dumb jerks who stuff the wimpy smart kids in their lockers or stuff their heads in the toilet. It must be true in every high school, because it happens in every movie and TV show.

So what went wrong at Clarence Central High School in the early 70's? The best athlete in the history of my school was Mark Murphy, about whom you can read THIS STORY FROM TODAY'S BUFFALO NEWS. Murph was the classic 3 sport star, all Western New York in football, basketball and baseball. He went on to play 8 years in the NFL.

The story was sent to me by my friend Budd Bailey, who, by tradition, should have been the guy getting shoved in the locker. In high school Budd was a math wiz and wrote for the school paper, a brainy, skinny kid with coke bottle glasses. One of Budd's good friends was a guy named Phil, who is about 5 feet tall and dressed like he was 40 when he was 16. In Hollywood, Murph would have been stuffing Budd in his locker with one hand while giving Phil a wedgie with the other.

But that didn't happen. In fact, Murph was, and still is, friends with Budd and Phil. In fact he was friends with most of the smart kids, me included, even though he was a year ahead of me in school. And the best athlete in my class, Kevin "Ace" Chase, was the same way. But there is an easy explanation for this: they were also good students, and so where in the same advanced classes as the people that show biz would have them harassing. But is wasn't just Murph and Ace. In fact, I don't recall any bullying done in my high school by the athletes. Nor, where the athletes in my school particularly dumb.

So, what went wrong at my school? In fact, I should probably have been one of the guys stuffed in his locker too. I played sports but I sucked, and I was a real wise-ass. But the worst thing any big jock every did to me was when Chris Bailey (no relation to Budd), a lineman in football and heavyweight wrestler, picked me up a foot in the air by my underpants. But that can hardly be called bullying, as I had done something to him to deserve it, and he wanted to make the point that I should not repeat my activity. Point taken.

Maybe it was because John Hughes hadn't made any movies yet, so nobody in my school knew how we were supposed to behave. Or, maybe it's just that a lot of schools are like this, but Murph, Budd and Phil all being friends would make for a crappy movie. But I can tell you one thing for sure: don't throw calcium at Chris Bailey's feet to watch it fizz while he is showering!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A few things on my mind.

FIRE: The fire near Boulder is almost completely contained, and some people are now allowed back to their homes, if they are fortunate enough to still have one. Last count was 169 destroyed by the fire, but it is likely that number may not yet be 100% accurate. My friends who live in the area have yet to be able to go home, at least as far as I know, and as of Friday did not expect it until some time this week. They have been told that their house is fine, but the fire was close enough to melt their greenhouse and torch their wood pile, both right near the house.

There is a great story in the Boulder Daily Camera (who knew they still employ reporters?) about what made the fire so destructive. It was not a huge wild fire compared to others that have happened here in Colorado in terms of area burned, but the most destructive in terms of homes destroyed. Turns out the mountains right outside Boulder are some of the most densely build forest area in the country. With downtown Boulder situated right at the foot of the mountains, you can live 5 miles up in the woods, and still be only a few minutes from town. Pretty cool, until fire time. Also, of course, a century of fire mitigation has kept forests around the country from burning as nature intended, and they now are more densely treed and full of low lying fuel.

Oh, and today when I went for my bike ride this morning, I saw a plume of smoke from directly north of town. I rode up a hill where I could see the growing smoke was coming from about 20 miles north of Boulder. I hear on the news right now that it has burned 600 acres, and people are being evacuated.

We need rain, and in true wacky Boulder fashion, some folks did a rain dance on the Pearl St. Mall on Friday night.

WHAT AILS AMERICA: If you read this blog often, you know I am a big fan of Thomas Friedman, the NY Times Columnist and author. He is the anti-Glenn Beck. Instead of appealing to emotion and ignorance, he uses logic and real thought to talk about the world. So, while idiots like Beck and Palin are sure that if we just pray and keep saying what a great country we are, everything will be fine, Friedman talks to smart people who are actually analyzing our problems. He'll never get his own talk show, because he is not screaming crazy. But PLEASE READ HIS COLUMN TODAY!. It is brilliant and frightening in its accuracy. His main point: we suffer from a loss of values like hard work and sacrifice, and expect our leaders to give us something for nothing.

Meanwhile, the political season is upon us, and the ignorant just can't understand why Obama hasn't just fixed the economy. As if any President has that short term power.

ROCKIES: On a more fun note, I went to the Rockies game last night. Not a great game, but during the game Kip asked me if Jason
Giambi wasn't once a Yankee, and if that meant I still hate him. I explained he was our guy now, so we will forgive his transgression of signing with the devil. As I am writing this, Giambi just hit a walk-off HR to give the Rox their 10th straight win. I love that guy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More on Getting Burned, but not by forest fire

Economists who study sports facilities pretty much agree that publicly funded stadiums are a bad deal for taxpayers. Politicians and team owners disagree, and people are suckers for bullshit, so these things keep getting built.

So, I'm sure my dad will enjoy this article about the fact that New Jersey taxpayers still owe a bunch of money on now torn down Giants Stadium. My friend Art, whose business depends on taxpayer naivete probably won't. Here's a key quote:

With more than four decades of evidence to back them up, economists almost uniformly agree that publicly financed stadiums rarely pay for themselves. The notable successes like Camden Yards in Baltimore often involve dedicated taxes or large infusions of private money. Even then, using one tax to finance a stadium can often steer spending away from other, perhaps worthier, projects.

More About the Fire

Above are some pictures sent to me by my friend David, who lives in the white house you can see in the first picture (you can click on them for better view). Fortunately for my friends, their house is still standing, as is the Gold Hill Inn and Blue Bird Lodge, the historic structures in downtown Gold Hill where we perform our murder mysteries.

The fire rages on, the bombers fly overhead every few minutes, and the air smells a bit smokey. Best news is no injuries have yet occurred.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fire Over the Hill

In the 17 years I've lived in Boulder, there have been quite a few wild fires in Colorado that received national attention. I often get emails from friends and relatives wondering of those fires are any where near me, and fortunately the answer has mostly been "no". About 8 years ago there was a small fire on the other side of the mountains from me that blew smoke into my house for several days. And early last year there was a brush fire on the north side of Boulder (I live on the south) whose flames I could easily see from my neighborhood.

Yesterday I was driving home from running some errands about 11am when I noticed a large plume of smoke coming from what appeared to be the mountains just west of downtown Boulder. As the day went on, the plume got bigger, until it was visible from all over the Denver metro area. Fortunately for my neighborhood, the wind was blowing the smoke north of us, but Kip was swimming on the north side of town, and had ashes falling on her in the pool around noon. Latest reports this morning are that 3500 acres have burned. Last night, I could see the flames from my neighborhood, and the area had an orange smokey glow over it. And the wind changed, so I awoke in middle of the night smelling smoke.

This fire poses no threat to my home, but it does to some friends of mine. The little town of Gold Hill, where I perform in murder mysteries during the summer and fall, is right in the middle of the area evacuated by the fire. And my friends Dave and Maggie who run the company that puts on the murders live in the town, and have been evacuated. Maggie said the fire was on the ridge near their house when they left, and they seem to believe their house will not be there when they go back.

It makes you think. If you had about a half hour to grab stuff from your house and run, what would you take? And what would you do if it is gone? I'm hoping this is a question my friends won't have to answer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our Upside-Down Food Policy

I have written about this before, but THIS DENVER POST STORY motivated me to write again about our crazy food policy. In a nutshell, we have subsidies for foods that are bad for us, but not the ones we should be eating. Simple economics tells us we should be doing exactly the opposite. If something is bad, you should tax the hell out of it (not make it illegal, which, as we have seen from our drug policy, is also expensive and stupid). And if we want more of something, we should subsidize it, as we do with education.

So, we grow lots of corn, and eat lots of beef and pork fed with the corn. And we sweeten our food with corn, instead of sugar, because we subsidize the corn, and have quotas on sugar imports, making corn syrup cheaper than sugar. Not that sugar is any better for you, but it is all so insane. We should be taxing pork and using the money to subsidize broccoli and melons.

How crazy is our policy. Well, you need only look at the picture on this post to see. Our money goes in exactly the wrong direction to what we should eat.

Why aren't the Tea Partiers angry about this?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

For-Profit Colleges Deserve a Butt-kicking!

The Obama administration has started to come down on a horrible scam perpetrated on people trying to better themselves: the slimy collection of for-profit universities that fill daytime TV with their ads. These schools enlist anyone, promise great jobs after graduation, keep the kids in school as long as possible while they collect federal subsidies, charge outrageous tuition while providing an almost worthless education, and leave their students deeply in debt. For instance, an associates degree at a for-profit school would cost about 10 times the cost of earning it at a community college, and the credits would not likely transfer to a decent 4 year college.

I am no expert on these schools, but I did teach 2 courses at ITT-Tecj a few years ago. I quit for 3 reasons: They made me wear a tie, they paid shit, and I felt like part of a scam by working there. The students I taught were attempting to get bachelors degrees, but were far too stupid to earn a degree of any kind at any decent school. I passes most of them because I felt sorry for the way they were being ripped off by ITT and told that their degree would be of value in future employment. The text book I used was a piece of crap, pre-packaged for the class and sold only via ITT. The course was badly designed. And, there were myriad rules for faculty to follow, all of them designed to make sure that ITT kept its acreditation, which, for good reason, was always in danger of going away.

I will say the people who worked at the Denver ITT seemed to be decent people, at least the faculty. However, there were constant emails about keeping retention up.....seemed to be all the dean cared about. In fact, the people I was teaching were not learning anything, were not capable or interested in learning anything, and should have been told to leave and save their money.

In contrast, by the way, Front Range Community College, where I have taught for 8 years, has low costs, people who look out for the students best interests, and the credits earned are automatically transferable to CU or most other schools. And they let me teach in shorts and sneakers!

Kudos to Obama for clamping down on this scam.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Maybe we are getting less stupid! Or maybe not.

As more and more people start to realize the stupidity of the war on drugs, and states begin to pass more sensible marijuana laws, it sometimes gives me hope that maybe we are not the nation of idiots I sometimes think I live in. That usually lasts until I read the next report on what the Republicans in Congress are doing, or watch the Daily Show to see what the morons on Fox News are all lathered up about now.

Well, here is today's bit of good news. According to the NY Times and a CNN poll, a slight majority of Americans now think gays should be allowed to marry. Interestingly, the story says that in 1996, when the idiotic "Defense of Marriage" act was passed, only 26% of Americans favored gays getting married. Today, the number is somewhere around half, depending on which poll you like.

What happened? I have a grim theory that it is generational. The kids I teach today all have gay friends, and see gays as people who may be different, but are not much bothered by them. In 1996 they were little kids, too young to get polled. Meanwhile, in those 14 years a bunch of older people, far more likely to object to gay rights, have died. So, it is probably not so much that individuals have changed their minds, but that the people who came of age in that time, replacing the deceased, had different values and life experiences.

Now, if I can just teach those youngsters a bit about Economics!

On the other hand, it appears our technology is making us dumber, as this story about idiots in our National Parks points out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Brush with Bobby Thompson

Even the most casual sports fan has heard of Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" in 1951 to win the National League pennant for the Giants over the Dodgers. I will ignore the New York-centric idea that so much more has been made of that home run than Bill Mazaroski's World Series homer to beat the Yankees in 1960, probably the greatest moment in the history of sports as, not only was it a homer that won game seven of the series, but THE YANKEES LOST!! (I guess I didn't really ignore it, did I. Pisses me off!)

Bobby Thomson died yesterday, which seems like good reason to tell my sort-of brush with the man who provided this great sports memory. I have played golf in a foursome with Bobby Thomson's old golf clubs.

Huh? Well, when I was in grad school in Michigan, a friend of mine there, Chuck Mitchell, was married to Bobby Thomson's lovely daughter, whose name escapes me. And Bobby had given Chuck his old golf clubs. And Chuck and I played golf together a few times. I am horrible at keeping in touch with people, and thus have no idea where Chuck and wife are today.

I wish I could report there was something magical about Bobby Thomson's old golf clubs, that merely by touching them I was able to shoot holes-in-one. But, they were just old golf clubs. Which makes this a pretty lame story, I guess.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Just Got Taller and Thinner!

Wonder why I call this blog The Tall Thin Guy? Years ago, a conservative friend was arguing the point that Fox News is fair and balanced, as their motto says. My response was that he must then also believe I am tall and thin (I am 5'6", about 188). After that I realized that by consistently misrepresenting themselves, Fox had managed to convince a decent number of people that they are fair and balanced, despite the fact that anyone with half a brain can see they are doing the PR work of the GOP 24/7. So, I decided to call myself tall than thin, figuring some people would believe that as well.

In case you are still under the mistaken notion that Fox even makes any effort to be fair and balanced (and Glenn Beck is more that politically unbalanced!), then it might be difficult to explain the $1million donation that News Corp, Fox's parent, just made to the GOP. You can read about it HERE.

I think I feel a growth spurt coming on!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are the Climate Change Deniers Still Yaking?

If you are a Fox News watcher, you are probably now convinced that climate changed does not exist, which was proved by the fact that it was cold last winter, and that a few scientists sent some snarky emails to each other. That passes for science among the ignorant. Remember, a lot of these people also deny the facts of evolution.

Meanwhile, look at the weather going on around the world. Russia is aflame with fires caused by a heat wave never seen there before. Pakistan is under water. The facts are that extreme weather events are happening more frequently, just as the climate scientists models have predicted.

Looked on with the same un-scientific eye that the nutjob morons did the winter snows, the summer in Russia would be proof that global warming is going to kill us all soon, and reason to panic. In fact, both the winter cold and the Russian heat are just points of data to be entered into models with all much other data to determine what really is happening. To say a specific day proves or disproves a theory is like saying that Peyton Manning, after throwing his next interception, is a bad quarterback. Or, that because I parred a few holes in my first round of golf in 2 years, I am a good golfer. In both cases, a look at all the data would prove both those conclusions wrong.

What do scientists think of this summer of extremes? Read this NY Times story to find out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Congress Ought to Be Doing

As the election nears, the amount of non-sensical lying and pandering to the worst instincts of voters will make intelligent people want to puke. Here in Colorado, the GOP dove completely out of reach of their rockers by nomination Teabagger candidates for both Governor and Senate, and, although they are unlikely to win the general election, it is likely that we will see more ignorant Sarah Palin clones in DC and statehouses.

As far at the economy goes, the conservatives bluster is that the deficit is too big, unless of course it is caused by more tax cuts. At this time in history, they are mostly wrong. Economists have shown that the stimulus and actions of the FED saved us, so far, from falling into a second Great Depression. And as for tax cuts, while in the short term they make sense in as part of a second round of stimulus, in the long run we will have to both cut spending and raise taxes to keep from being Greece in 10 years.

So, here is MY PLAN as to what Congress should be doing. It makes sense, so you can be sure little of it will happen.
1) A new stimulus plan is needed with more spending on infrastructure projects, as well as aid to the states to keep our education system from crumbling. This type of spending will help us both long and short term, much like the WPA projects still in use from the 30's do today.
2) Allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, but extend them for 3 years for everyone else.
3) Get to work on fixing the long term economics problems we face by making serious and expansive changes to health care, social security and medicare. This is a far bigger problem than the current deficits being run to stimulate the economy, which make sense right now. What does not make sense is legacy programs whose current deficit is estimated at over $50 Trillion. Seriously tackling these tough programs, which Congress is about as likely to do as they are to turn down campaign contributions, would signify to markets that we are serious about the long term. This would give those who we need to buy government bonds to finance our deficit more comfort that they are not investing in the next Greece, and keep interest rates from rising.
4) Hey, while I'm in this fantasy world, how about legalizing drugs, prostitution, an gambling so we can stop wasting resources trying to tell people how to run their lives. Then, tax them so the addicts pay for their own treatment.

I believe the first 2 items on my list will happen to some extent. 3 and 4 are the ones that would really contribute to long term fiscal sanity. But since voters live in the short term, you can forget about Congress dealing with them.

Enjoy your election season. I'm going to only watch TV via Hulu so I don't have to watch the scumbag political ads!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saving $ on Text Books

Test books prices are generally outrageous, which bothers me. I know that some students and parents of students read this, so you might want to check out THIS STORY from the NY Times on how you might save some money.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Greenspan Want Tax Increase!

Shocking! Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman and near libertarian, now not only wants banks to be more strictly regulated, but wants the Bush tax cuts to expire. Like many economists, he is concerned about the long term problems caused by our giant deficits, which, any same person can see, will require both higher taxes and cutting back on government programs.

Read the whole story HERE.

Also, I have added a new link under Fun Economics Blogs. It is the Planet Money blog from NPR. Good stuff. They do very interesting podcasts on Tue and Fri.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Good News and Good News of a completely different sort!

First the BIG good news: Federal Judge Walker has ruled California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional because it discriminates against a specific class of people, and therefore violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. This is what I've said all along. If the law allows a man to marry a woman but not a woman to marry a woman, than it is not a "fair" law. You could not deny a woman any other right that a man has, or vice versa.

The argument that gay marriage somehow diminishes the heterosexual kind is so ridiculous I can't imagine anyone actually making it. Equally noxious is the idea that since it was voted on, it is OK do deny people equal rights. If the state of California had voted to deny the rights of black people to marry, would that be constitutional? Of course not.

This case will go to the Supreme Court, where there are already 4 votes against it by the backward idiots Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. These 4 guys seem to only believe the constitution meant that rights belonged to corporations, not individuals, unless of course guns were involved. Hopefully the other 5 justices will see how silly this issue is.

The other good news is mostly for us here in Colorado. It was announced yesterday that a week-long professional bike race will take place next year here in the Centennial State. This state is a perfect place for a grueling bike race, and if sponsorship holds up could become a big deal. However, the impending legal action against Lance Armstrong, who had a lot to do with this happening, could kill it real fast. If Lance goes down as a PED user, no sponsor in the US is going to touch the sport.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This Should Be Front Page News

It sucked that the country had to bailout the banks, and that we had to spend money to stimulate the economy. But anyone who is not a complete idiot (Tea Partiers!) knows it was necessary to avoid another Great Depression.

Don't believe me. Well, some real economists did the work. Read about it in a THIS NY TIMES STORY.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Trip to Walmart, and Why You Should Emtpy Your 401K

My cell phone stopped working yesterday. It got wet when Kip and I got rained on during an otherwise excellent hike in Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday, and just stopped working correctly.

Being a cheapskate, I have a pre-paid cell phone. Before you snicker, realize that I pay $100 per year for my cell phone service, get and make all the calls I feel the need to, and send text messages. No hidden charges or other crap. $100 a year!

So, I went to Walmart to buy a new T-Mobile phone to put my sim card in. Now, living here in Boulder, a trip to Walmart is a big deal. We don't have one here in the People's Republic. Many Boulderites have decided that the Walmart is the root of all evil, and blocked an effort to build one about 10 years ago. In fact, the only thing I think I am less likely to see in my lifetime than a Walmart is a stature of George W. Bush.

I had to go 10 miles to Lafayette to visit a Walmart so I haven't been in one in years. Let me just say, there are a couple nice things about Walmart. First, I felt so thin!!! Everyone here in Boulder is young and skinny. At Walmart, the folks make me look studly. Gotta like that! Also, the have everything. Not only did I get the phone I needed, but I picked up some veggies, milk, and razor blades.

Speaking of things that are everywhere in America but Boulder, we also have very few Christians here. Well, at least not the kind who believe the whack-jobs who preach on TV. So, I had to find the truth about the date of Jesus' return in the Colorado Springs Gazette, because "The Springs", as we call it, is crawling with right-wing Christian whackos.

Well, the date, at least according to THIS STORY is May 21 next year, which will set off Armageddon and the Rapture and the end of the world. So, we only have a bit more than 9 months to empty our retirement accounts and have some fun, before those of us who don't believe the right crazy shit will be sent to hell. Might as well have had a good time before we go! So, don't just sit there reading this, start emptying that IRA and planning a party.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yes, the Democrats suck, but the alternative is even worse!

Having the Democrats in charge of Congress and the White House has not done much to fix what's wrong with this country. In part, this is because the Dems are no where near as united in their policy goals as the GOP was when they spent 6 years destroying the country while they were in power. And, in part, is because the Dems also harbor some policy beliefs that are as stupid as the GOP's. And of course, just like the GOP, they are all politicians, dedicated to saying or doing anything to get re-elected while catering to the special interests who line their pockets.

(Interesting aside: In the test books I use, written by N. Gregory Mankiw, there are many homework questions that involve analyzing a quotation by a politician. In all of these questions, the politician, no matter who he is, or what party he represents, has said something that is completely wrong in terms of it's understanding of Economics!)

So yes, the Democrats are horrible at running the country. But remember this: The GOP is much, much worse. The Democrats have not started a war. They have not set out to deregulate everything so that Americans are less safe. They have at least done something about our fucked-up health care situation, although nowhere near enough. But remember, the GOP was fine with our overpriced, unfair, ineffective system as it was.

If you want a reminder how bad the Bush years were, and those are still the policies that the GOP wants to enact, then read THIS COLUMN BY NOBEL WINNING ECONOMIST PAUL KRUGMAN!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Predictions I made coming true.

Back in the middle of the last decade of the 20th century, when the internet was first becoming important, I postulated to a friend that books in print would soon become a thing of the past. I suggested soon they would be downloadable, that we would soon be reading books on our computers, saving the cost of printing and shipping. The friend I was having this conversation with responded that it would take too long to download a book, it would take up a lot of space on a hard drive, and who would want to sit in front of their computer and read.

At the time I had to concede that he was right. Certainly neither of us envisioned at the time developments like the Kindle and high speed internet service (back then I believe I had a 1200 baud modem on my computer). Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that is now selling more ebooks than hardcover books. Certainly, my prediction has far from come true, some 15 years later, but we are a lot closer to it than I would ever have imagined we would be after my theory was so completely shot to pieces back in the mid-90's. Meanwhile, has made a business by selling audio books for download to listen to on your mp3 player. No doubt, the "book" as we grew up with it is definitely under threat, and not just from the fact that too many people are now too stupid to bother reading one.

Okay, so that prediction of mine didn't completely come true, but I got some of it right. Another prediction that I made about that the existence of the sports bar would cause men to evolve several new, independent sets of eyes, so that they can watch all the football games at once while still being able to locate their cheeseburger and beer. It was believed that humans had actually stopped evolving long ago (at least long ago by human standards). But the New York Times today reports that scientists have found evidence of evolution in our species over the past several thousand years. No doubt, by the year 2525, if man is still alive, he will be able to watch the entire NFL schedule at once, maybe even while paying attention to the sermon on his megachurch TV station (One would hope we would evolve enough intelligence to not be that gullible in 2525, but the future in the film "Idiocracy" looks more likely.

Make sure you keep reading this space to catch all my brilliant visions into the future!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

BP, Black Swans, and Nuclear Energy

The Gulf oil spill is a black swan, not because swans have become covered with oil, but because it is something that happened which, until it did, seemed so unlikely. At least it seemed that way to most of us. Had we known how reckless and irresponsible BP management was, we might have thought differently.

In fact, the BP's management treated the odds of failure in each portion of their drilling as so remote that they consistently took the least expensive, least safe option in drilling their well. The problem with this is that if you have a choice between a method with a 5% likelihood of failure, and a 1% chance, it may seem far more cost effective to go with 5%, since removing all risk of failure in anything can be very expensive. But when you are doing this on choice after choice in something as complex as deep water drilling, where failure of any function can be catastrophic, you keep adding to the odds of the type of disaster that happened. Simple math: if you have one thing that can cause a disaster with the odds being 5%, it is not the same as having 2 things, each of which can cause a disaster and has odds of failure of 5%. In the second instance, the odds are now close to 10%.

If you look at the information that has come out about how BP treated risk management, they seem to have not understood this.

Now, let's talk about nuclear energy. As we look for ways to create more electricity while reducing carbon emissions, nuclear energy had to enter the conversation. It is a very clean way to produce energy, at least as far as climate change causing carbon emissions are concerned. However, in order for nuclear energy to be safe, it requires responsible risk management, as a BP-like failure at a nuclear plant could be far more of a disaster, ala Chernobyl. That would mean, if we were to choose to build more nuclear power plants, we would have to have extremely effective safety regulation by the government.

Now, assume we have a bunch of nuclear power plants, run by big energy companies friendly with a corrupt administration who hates government regulation, like the one we just had in Washington. Of course, we don't have to worry because the free market will ensure that the companies running the plants will make sure to do it safely, not in a way where incentives cause managers to cut corners to increase their bonuses, right? That's what the Bushies thought would happen on Wall St., and in our food supply, and in the "awl bidness", as they would pronounce it. (By the way, I am quite disappointed in the Obama administration for not un-doing every Bush policy, top to bottom, on day 1!)

See the problem. If we had a large nuclear power industry with a Bush-like administration, it wouldn't before we'd have the nuclear disaster in this country that we are so afraid that terrorists might create.

Which brings me to a funny thing about the conservatives: they were willing to trash the constitution to make the likelihood of another terrorist attack zero, but not even willing to do the jobs they were legally required to do to protect citizens from disasters caused by a reckless private sector.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How scary is this?

Sorry, haven't written much here lately. It's summer, and my brain is not on serious stuff. But you can enjoy this insane video encouraging Glenn Beck to run for President.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm going with the octopus

First let me ask this question: With the World Cup final game taking place on Sunday, baseball in mid-season, and the Tour de France going on, why is does ESPN think that the only sports story in the world is who Lebron James wants to play for? The reason to care is to know what NBA team to root against next year, as another spoiled millionaire abandons his home town.

As for the World Cup final, well, who what sporting event would be complete without some crazy predictions. Your choice for the world cup is the German octopus, or the parakeet in Singapore. Both animals analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each teams players and coaches. The octopus is going with Spain, the parakeet Holland.

I am going with the octopus. Spain looked pretty impressive against an excellent German team the other day, while the Netherlands, despite the score, had their hands full with Uraguay. And these guys have already shown they know how to win a big tournament, the Euro championship in 2008. Also, the fact that so many of the Spanish team play together at Barcelona year round (please, somebody, get La Liga back on the Dish network!) makes me think they go home with the hardware.

I just ask one thing from this game: a goal in regulation time. Please, no more penalty kicks to decide the winner!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Some Football Economics

I have written in the past about Economics and American football (to recap: football coaches are a bunch of frightened little girls in tutus afraid to take a sensible risk) but today there is a story in the Economix blog of the NY Times about eco and what we should call football. Enjoy it while you watch what I expect will be a great match-up between Espana and Germany, a re-match of the 2008 European Cup final. Read it HERE.

The winner gets to play the Dutch, who are from Holland and live in the Netherlands (anyone who knows the history of why we have so many names for these people please comment!, and will have their work cut out for them against a very talented team. If you have stopped paying attention to the Cup because the US is out, you are missing out on a some great football.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo

Okay, so I'm ignorant. I don't spend enough time keeping up on modern fiction. When I saw a book, and now a movie called "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo", I just put "girl" and "dragon" together and assumed that it was a chick fantasy thing about a girl and a dragon.

Wow, was I wrong. The film, in Swedish with English subtitles, is playing here in Boulder, and is certainly the best film I've seen in a while. Suspense, mystery, a story that leads everywhere. There is a lot going on here, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. A bit long at about 2 1/2 hours, but you don't notice because so much is happening.

Stieg Larson has written 3 books with the main character, and it appears the other 2 are also being made into films. I haven't read the books, and likely won't be able to, but if you have, let us know if they are as good as or better than the movie.

Either way, check it out!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Little World Cup Humor

Believe it of not, there are funny things about the World Cup that have nothing to do with the fact that the games are being officiated by the 3 Stooges, The Marx Brothers, and Beevis and Butthead.

First, thanks to Fiona, who has regained control of her email account, for THIS hilarious story about increased condom sales in S. Korea after their team wins.

And thanks to Dave Barry for the quote below about the behavior of the French team.
So despite the bad call, there is hope for the U.S. team. This is more than you can say for the French team, which -- I am not making this up -- went on strike. Yes! They went on strike during the World Cup. This has to be one of the most spectacular exhibitions of Frenchness in the history of Frenchitude.

Getting the occasional Dave Barry column in your local paper is the only reason I can imagine anyone would live in Miami! You can read the rest of the column HERE.

Oh, and speaking of Korea, North Korea hired Chinese actors to go to their team's games and cheer for them. Not sure why, since no one in N. Korea has been allowed to watch the games, until Dear Leader approves of the results. I wonder if in North Korea the winner of the Cup will be North Korea.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Banjo Billy v Man v Food

Not long ago I told you that the Banjo Billy Bus would be on the Travel channel show "Man v Food". Well, the bus never made it on the show. But, they did put a segment on their web site about the bus. You can watch it HERE

Football in the USA, and why Guiseppe Rossi screwed up!

Back in the 70's some folks were sure that football (again, until the World Cup ends, I will refer to the world's most popular sport by its correct name) was about to explode in popularity. And in the 80's. And after the US hosted the World Cup in 94. And after the success of the US in the 2002 World Cup. And we still haven't heard the boom. But there have been a series of small pops, and this World Cup is another step as football establishes itself as a viable sport here.

While an explosion has not taken place, a slow evolution has. Clearly, football is in no danger in the US of overtaking American football or basketball in popularity. But it doesn't have to. If you look at the changes that have taken place over the years, it has all been good. The MLS is now 15 years old, and continues to expand. Ratings for this World Cup have been huge, and ESPN is happy to show all the games, not just the US. Americans have packed bar around the country to cheer on their lads, and even sportswriting fossils like Woody Paige have been forced to watch.

Will this all cause the explosion that's been expected for 40 years? Probably not, for several reasons. First, even if the World Cup games have caused you to take a new interest in football, you may not have access to the quality stuff you are now watching. MLS is truly a minor league, and other than Landon Donovan, who appears happy to be a shark in a pond full of flounder, you won't see most of the US guys you cheered on the past 2 weeks. Good players play in England, Spain, Italy and Germany. OK players play in other countries in Europe. The guys in MLS are either lacking in real talent, talented players near the end of their careers who thought it would be fun to live in the US like Beckham and Freddie Lundberg (and, rumor has it, one of my all time favorites Thierry Henri, who is rumored to be on his way to the Red Bulls), or, a few talented young guys who are hoping to get a chance in Europe (Jonathon Bornstein may be packing his bags soon after his strong play this week).

Second, even if we did have the best player here in the US, a regular season match would not match the intensity of the World Cup. We see this with hockey as well. Everyone wanted to watch the Olympic final against Canada. But if you turned on the and NHL game the following week, a league that does have the world's best players, well, it just didn't seem to matter.

Here's the good news about soccer in the US. The idiots who said it is boring were proven wrong. People cared and learned the names of some of the players. The US team continues to get better, and the pool of talent deepens. We are in no danger of winning the World Cup soon, but we can now play with anyone, and only a well constructed but unfinished chances yesterday keep us from advancing. And good athletes in the US for whom soccer would be their best sport are playing the game, instead of more popular sports for which they are less suited. And, Guiseppe Rossi has been shown to be a fool!

Who is Guiseppe Rossi? He is a very talented 23 year old who was born in New Jersey to Italian immigrant parents, which gave him the choice to play his international football for either country. He chose Italy, whose coach decided to take a bunch of old guys to South Africa and leave Rossi behind. Had he chosen correctly, he would have been teaming up with Landon Donovan to terrorize defenses in the World Cup. Instead he was left off a team that plays dinosaur football.

Enjoy the rest of the Cup.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

US is #1 in Health Care.....for cost and bad results!

Just as I was celebrating the fact that Italy, the guys who make soccer boring, was vanquished from the World Cup, I find this bit of news to bring me back to earth. If you don't think we need to drastically re-think our health care system, take you head from your butt and read the chart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fiona's Email Has Been Stolen

I am writing this for 2 reasons: 1) Because Fiona, who is currently teaching in South Korea reads this blog and I know no other way than email to contact her and 2) to warn everyone about this type of scam.

I received the following email from Fiona's email account yesterday morning:
'm sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it's because of the situation of things right now, i'm stuck in Cardiff Wales, United Kingdom right now. I came down here on vacation, i was robbed, worse of it is that bags, cash and cards and my cell phone was stolen at GUN POINT, it's such a crazy experience for me, i need help in sorting out the hotel bills, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is i still have my passport but don't have enough money to pay the hotel bills and get back home, please i need you to loan me some money, will refund you as soon as i'm back home, i promise.


It was early in the morning, and I thought she was in trouble, even though it did seem like that language and grammar in the email were unlikely for a librarian who values the English language. The idea that she was in Wales was not farfetched, as she is an English citizen. I responded "how would that work".

Shortly after that, having biked to school and given it some thought, it occurred to me that this is likely a scam. But, it was signed with her name, so clearly not your typical junk email.

I got a reply asking me to wire $2500 to an address in Wales, which I later googled and turned out to be the Cardiff courthouse. At this time I responded that I wanted to confirm it was her, and asked a question that she would know the answer to, but no stranger could. I have not heard back. (Fiona, if you are reading this, it had to do with your least favorite character of mine!) If it was really her and she was in trouble, I certainly wanted to help.

In the meantime, now getting pretty sure that this was not a real request, I checked her twitter account, which did not mention any vacation. I also emailed her sister, who, I was sure, would be helping her out if she were really in trouble. Helen responded that is was a scam, but that she was slightly fooled for a bit as well.

What is scary is that someone has been able to use her account, and knows her name. I am concerned for Fiona as to what else they might know about her.

Oh, and Fiona, if you have to change your email account as a result of this, please let me know the new address.