Saturday, December 29, 2007

A piece of history is ours!

Tom Terrific! The Patriots make history what might go down as one of the best games in the history of the game. Who better to summarize than Dan Shaughnessy?
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In a fitting finish to Boston's magical year in sports, the New England Patriots - Bill Belichick's History Boys - last night recovered from a 12-point, second-half deficit and defeated the New York Giants, 38-35, to complete the first 16-0 regular season in the history of the National Football League.

Tom Brady set the record for touchdown passes in a season (50), Randy Moss set the record for touchdown catches (23), and the Patriots set the season scoring record (589 points). New England needs another Super Bowl trophy to make its case as the best team in football history.

"To be able to win 'em all is great," conceded the ever-stoic Belichick. "I'm happy about it . . . That was a fun way to finish the season. It's really exciting to be part of this."

Few games are likely to match the drama that unfolded before 79,110 witnesses at the Meadowlands. Meaningless in the standings, a game with no bearing on playoff seeds or home-field advantage, the Patriots and Giants played four quarters of bone-crushing, foot-to-the-floor football.

The big play came with 11 minutes 6 seconds left, when Brady connected with a wide-open Moss on a 65-yard touchdown pass. The perfect parabola put the Patriots ahead for good, while simultaneously booting Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice from the record book. Significant records. Just like 16-0.
And the killer quip of course:
The Patriots and Giants traded touchdowns in the final five minutes, but when Mike Vrabel snagged the Giants' onside kick in the final minute, Mercury Morris and friends went to bed with without champagne.
Poor Mercury, would his 72 Dolphins had a chance against the 2007 Patriots?

North Dakota, a place to be?

Interesting fact of the day. North Dakota is on the move.
Learn why

Monday, December 24, 2007

RIP Oscar Peterson

A truly great musician. Oscar Peterson dead at the age of 82.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The eroding of the New Hampshire Advantage

Now how long before New Hampshire gets a broad-based income and/or sales tax?
DURHAM, N.H.—People who recently moved to New Hampshire and those who have turned 18 in the last five years make up nearly a quarter of the state's voting-age population, according to a demographic study released this week.
more stories like this

The report from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire found that at least 207,000 people moved to New Hampshire from other states between 2001 and 2006, and 188,000 left the state. The influx isn't a surprise given that nearly 57 percent of New Hampshire residents were born outside the state, but it could have implications for the upcoming Jan. 8 presidential primary, researchers said.

About 145,000 of the recent migrants to New Hampshire are of voting age, and an additional 86,000 residents reached voting age in the last five years, making for a significant turnover in the pool of potential voters. Those 232,000 residents are 23.5 percent of the voting age population.

During the same period, approximately 128,000 adults moved out of the state and 48,700 died, meaning 177,000 individuals of voting age who were in the state five years ago now are gone.

The report concludes that New Hampshire, with a population of 1.3 million, saw a net gain of 79,000 residents between 2000 and 2006, with most of the growth -- 51,000 residents -- coming through migration from other states. The largest source of migrants was the Boston area, with many also coming from other northeastern states. Researchers said the growth reflected two trends: the sprawl of the Boston metropolitan area into southern New Hampshire and the attractiveness of the lakes region.
My guess is that few of these new migrants are Free Staters.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a setup folks

To those who believe that the divine HRC is in trouble:Think again. This is artful spin. In the face of Obama momentum, Camp Hillary is quickly lowering expectations. The campers have history on their side. In the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic primary, the scandal-battered Man from Hope convinced everyone that he was a survivor on a mere second place finish. There's plenty of time for Obama untethered from his Oprah moment to demonstrate once again that he is rather green behind the ears. He will trip up again.

On the expectations game and HRC Seth Gitell and I agree.

Economists and their biases

It evolves to something like this: conservative or libertarian economists believe markets can do everything including the management of prisons; liberal economists believe that governments ought to intervene or initiate enterprises including the provision of "public" wi-fi services. Both views tend to be hyperbolic. At the extremities, both camps are dead wrong. The administration of justice (including rehabilitation) ought to be meted out by government. Government, on the other hand, has no business doing a lot of what it does and that includes that latest fad public wi-fi. Better to let private enterprise handle that one.

Harvard economics Professor Mankiw, always worth reading, has a good breakdown of the split between liberal and conservative economists.
In today's lecture, I have discussed a number of reasons that right-leaning and left-leaning economists differ in their policy views, even though they share an intellectual framework for analysis. Here is a summary.
* The right sees large deadweight losses associated with taxation and, therefore, is worried about the growth of government as a share in the economy. The left sees smaller elasticities of supply and demand and, therefore, is less worried about the distortionary effect of taxes.
* The right sees externalities as an occasional market failure that calls for government intervention, but sees this as relatively rare exception to the general rule that markets lead to efficient allocations. The left sees externalities as more pervasive.
* The right sees competition as a pervasive feature of the economy and market power as typically limited both in magnitude and duration. The left sees large corporations with substantial degrees of monopoly power that need to be checked by active antitrust policy.
* The right sees people as largely rational, doing the best the can given the constraints they face. The left sees people making systematic errors and believe that it is the government role’s to protect people from their own mistakes.
* The right sees government as a terribly inefficient mechanism for allocating resources, subject to special-interest politics at best and rampant corruption at worst. The left sees government as the main institution that can counterbalance the effects of the all-too-powerful marketplace.
* There is one last issue that divides the right and the left—perhaps the most important one. That concerns the issue of income distribution. Is the market-based distribution of income fair or unfair, and if unfair, what should the government do about it? That is such a big topic that I will devote the entire next lecture to it.
What a pleasure it must be to attend a lecture by Mankiw one of the best teachers there outside of Harvey Mansfield.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Huff 'n Puff, Ms. Hypocrite

You should know that when Arianna Huffington was a conservative in the 1990s, she had a mighty high opinion of herself. She may have changed sides politically but her self-importance hasn't changed at all. All attention must be toward her.
PAYING BLOGGERS is “not our financial model,” The Huffington Post’s co-founder, Ken Lerer, told USAToday. What a profitable business that must be.

The Huffington Post is a popular liberal blog site named for Arianna Huffington, a pundit and power broker in the celebrity-industrial complex. Huffington is also very smart. After all, she has 1,800 contributors typing their little fingers off for no money, while sending the site’s ad revenue and $10 million in funding into other pockets.

The concept is ingenious: Huffington gives her Hollywood pals a stage on which to strut their political opinions. (Few newspapers care what Alec Baldwin thinks about Iran.) The armies of ordinary scriveners are paid in trickle-down glamour. It’s Blogging with the Stars.

The Huffington Post is not exactly a charity. As Lerer said, “You can build a brand in a year or two — just look at MySpace and Facebook.” As we know, MySpace sold two years ago for $580 million and Microsoft recently bought a tiny piece of Facebook for $250 million.
Some business model.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There is no right to housing at a price to income ratio of 10 to 1

To: Bush, Paulson and everyone else catering to the people who made bad choices and the investors enabling them: Read Arnold Kling:
The concept of people owning homes worth ten times their income is a fantasy. Politicians may want to cater to that fantasy, but to do so harms more people than it helps. The people that it harms the most are those who want to buy homes that cost four to six times their incomes. They are the ones that would be best served by a real housing market, not a bogus one.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Definitely a must-see event

A packed audience at the Gavin School auditorium in Wakefield took in a wonderful holiday concert last Friday (December 7) by the Hanscom AFB-based Air Force Band of Liberty conducted by the very gifted 1st Lieutenant David A. Alpar. From the stately to the jazzy, this ensemble proved its worth. We're lucky to have such great musicians in our armed services. The band was excellent. Don't miss them next year.

How long will the music last for Mr. Mayweather?

Here is a man, even when his heart may be in the right place, doesn't think about the future. He's the welterweight champion of the world but what will happen years from now?
Most nights, Floyd Mayweather Jr. hits the red carpet with more diamonds than Lucy's sky.

In the city that's seen a galaxy of big spenders, the 30-year-old welterweight champ is the reigning king of flash and cash.

Name a nightclub or strip club and Mayweather has likely rained thick wads of $100 bills on the crowd, often $10,000 a night. That doesn't include the Cristal champagne he showers on his entourage and club patrons.

"I've seen him (make it rain) at least 20 times in the last couple years," said Branden Powers, marketing director for Forum Shops hotspot Poetry, formerly OPM, one of Mayweather's favorite haunts.

"Pound for pound, he's the best tipper," Powers said.

One lucky stripper got a $50,000 tip one night, according to my spies.

When Mayweather and his posse roll, each with a gold goblet on occasion, it's not unusual to see his mini-fleet made up of a Maybach, a Mercedes McLaren SLR and a Rolls Royce Phantom, each worth about $500,000.

Mayweather and British champ Ricky Hatton meet tonight in a battle of unbeatens at the MGM Grand.

With celebrities seemingly being targeted more often, including the recent home-invasion murder of Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins' young star, I asked Mayweather if he considered dialing back his ostentatious public persona.

"I think athletes are targeted, but sometimes you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

"That situation that happened happens every day around the world. It just happened to be a star athlete," added Mayweather, who was dripping in diamonds, including a studded religious cross as wide and as long as a hand.

"With me it's entertainment," Mayweather said Thursday night, after a red carpet appearance at Tabu Ultra Lounge at the MGM Grand for a Toys for Tots drive.

"We're in the entertainment capital of the world," Mayweather told me. "Why not bring something different to the sport? Flash and flair.

"When you watch Floyd Mayweather, you don't just see a guy who entertains -- a guy that's flamboyant -- but also a kid who has a heart and who gives back to the community, to kids who are less fortunate."

Powers said: "I've seen him buying out Nike Town, with 20 to 30 bags of shoes in tow."

Added Mayweather, "I'm just going to surround myself with the right people ... good, clean guys," he paused, "and security."

"He travels with more muscle than John Gotti did," Powers said.
I don't know the guy but he's a financial train wreck about to happen.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Where is the right wing artist?

Hayek was right you have to reach the intellectuals, the idea brokers, the artists if you want to change society in the direction of classical liberalism or libertarianism. The American conservative movement (of which both classical liberals and libertarians are conveniently aligned) apparently have given up on the push. But the fact is that critical consensus -- comfortable with its own assumptions and displaying a endless poverty of the imagination -- precludes the cultivation of "right wing" art. To her credit, the progressive writer Munira Mirza identifies the problem.
"Although the political compass is changing, so-called radical artists usually stick to what’s comfortable. It’s very easy to be anti-Bush these days, but try being anti-recycling. You’ll be branded a heretic and lose your friends in high places very quickly. Indeed, there is hardly any artistic critique or satire about environmentalism, even though the majority of people in surveys feel deeply ambivalent about being hectored about flying, carbon footprints and so on. Never mind Jerry Springer: The Opera, or even ‘Mohammed the Opera’ (if any artist would dare to do such a thing), Al Gore is practically crying out for his own musical! The artist Mark McGowan is one of the few artists who has managed to spoof environmentalism. He once tried to ‘raise awareness’ about pollution in Britain’s rivers by publicising the fact that he was going to dump a tonne of waste in the Thames. On another occasion, he announced he would leave a tap running in his London gallery to raise awareness of wasted water. On cue, green protesters arrived to try to turn it off. Why isn’t there more of this in our age of supposed irreverence and playful postmodernism?"
One reason may do with who controls the public and private funding that might be available for the right wing avant garde. Read the whole piece. It's done well.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Amazing idea, will it catch on?

A lot like razors and blades.
What can be made free? A better question is what can't be? My friend Shai Agassi, who until recently ran technology at SAP, got a load of press this week about his new venture, which aims to create the largest electric car company in the world. Details won't be announced until December, but the basic concept is that you'll pay for the electricity, not the car. Think razors and blades, or companies giving away free cellphones to lock you into a monthly contract of minutes.

He's got a blog, cheekily called The Long Tailpipe, and here's one mind-blowing fact from his most recent post on the effect of current oil prices:

The cost of the average used car in Europe is now cheaper than the cost of gasoline to drive it for a year.

That's why "free" cars make sense: because the purchase price is now a small fraction of their lifetime costs. Shai's company is taking a bigger view of the business they're in--rather than selling cars, they're selling personal transportation, and charging a rate proportional to use. When fuel seemed nearly free compared to price of the car, companies sold cars. Now cars seem nearly free compared to the cost of the fuel. Thus an opportunity for a car company that thinks different.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Who says taxes don't matter?

Denmark may be on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve.
COPENHAGEN: As a self-employed software engineer, Thomas Sorensen broadcasts his qualifications to potential employers across Europe and the Middle East. But to the ones in his native Denmark, he is simply unavailable.

Settled in Frankfurt, where he handles computer security for a major Swiss corporation, Sorensen, 34, has no plans to return to the days of paying sky-high Danish taxes. Still, an unknowing headhunter does occasionally pass his name to Danish companies.

"When I get an e-mail from them, I either respond negatively but politely," Sorensen said. "Or I don't respond at all."

Born and trained at Denmark's expense, but working - and paying lower taxes - elsewhere in Europe, Sorensen is the stuff of nightmares for Danish companies and politicians searching for solutions to an increasingly desperate labor shortage.

People like Sorensen, and there are many, epitomize the challenges facing the small Nordic country, long viewed across Europe as an example of how to keep an economy thriving and a society equal.

Young Danes, often schooled abroad and inevitably fluent in English, are primed to quit Denmark for greener pastures. One reason is the income tax rate, which can reach 63 percent.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

DeLong on Schumpeter

I probably don't share Brad DeLong's economics or political views, but his review of Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2007), by Thomas K. McCraw is excellent.

Depending on Congress to get it wrong on ethanol

Some day, someone is going to get rid of ethanol subsidies. In the meantime, we have to endure the special interests who've convinced a nation that this corn-based energy source holds the key for energy independence.
Biofuels are commercially questionable, do not materially advance energy independence, and may not even help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Naturally, Congress wants to mandate them. Why? Well, Iowa caucus voters win; Archer Daniels Midland wins; and special interest contributors to political campaigns win. Bioethanol is just a subsidy boondoggle masquerading as a solution to America's energy problems. But it does help get some politicians elected.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The great man in the race may not win

Hearing the debate on the radio last Wednesday, I thought McCain won on points going away. Yes John McCain breaks hearts and he drives the Republican "base" wild. But he is a rarity in American politics, because he is his own man. The NH Union Leader, one month before the New Hampshire presidential primary has endorsed McCain. The venerable clarion of New Hampshire conservatism could do far worse. It is said that the core constituency of the Republican party, the conservative-libertarian strain, dislikes McCain in part he is a creation of the media. But the party faithful ought to take a closer look, the media has a new sweetheart and has pretty much abandoned the senior senator from Arizona.
Too bad the media are a fickle crew, who this go-round are smitten with the cuddly conservative, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

It's more than a bit bizarre. When McCain called the Rev. Jerry Falwell an agent of "intolerance" in 2000, the media loved him. When McCain appeared next to Falwell at Liberty University last year, pundits labeled the event -- a savvy political move to reach out to Falwell's values voters -- a sellout to the religious right. So who's their new crush? An ordained Southern Baptist minister. Go figure.

GOP voters resented profligate spending under the now-dethroned Republican leadership in Congress. They should love McCain, who crusaded against earmarks and pork-barrel spending when it didn't win him many friends in power circles.

It would be a bad move

Business is business and emotions can't cloud Theo's judgement. But trading away Jacoby Ellsberry would be a mistake.
Report: Red Sox willing to part with Ellsbury
According to a report by ESPN's Buster Olney, the Red Sox have told the Twins they are now willing to include Jacoby Ellsbury in their offer to the Twins for Johan Santana. More from Olney: "But sources say the Red Sox have also told the Twins they will not trade left-handed pitcher Jon Lester and Ellsbury together in the package they are offering. The Yankees, meanwhile, have informed the Twins that they are going to pull their offer off the table soon -- perhaps by Tuesday at the latest -- unless they get an answer. The Yankees changed their offer on Friday, adding pitcher Phil Hughes after much internal debate, to go along with Melky Cabrera and a third prospect. The Yankees have told the Twins they will not give them one of their top prospects as the third player in their offer -- not pitchers Ian Kennedy or Alan Horne, or outfielder Austin Jackson, for example. It's possible that the Twins may find that the offers from Boston and the Yankees are not acceptable, and decide, ultimately, to keep Santana. But executives involved in the trade talks fully expect that the Twins will trade Santana, and that they will make a decision within the next 72 hours on what offer they prefer. If either the Yankees or the Red Sox were to pull out of negotiations, the Twins' leverage would be greatly diminished." From earlier on Sunday: The Yankees have added Phil Hughes, the most highly rated of their top young starting pitchers, to the package they are offering the Minnesota Twins in exchange for two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. New York also is offering to send the Twins center fielder Melky Cabrera and a third player, who would be a midlevel prospect, according to a baseball official who spoke to the Associated Press on Saturday on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing. New York won't include Joba Chamberlain and doesn't plan to include both Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Does this make them the frontrunners to land Santana? From the Globe's Gordon Edes: With the Yankees having elected to include Hughes, there were indications that the Twins were planning to give the Sox one more chance to include either center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury or pitcher Clay Buchholz in the package the Sox would be willing to exchange for Santana. To date, the Sox have been unwilling to do so, preferring to offer a package centered around lefthander Jon Lester, pitching prospect Justin Masterson, center fielder Coco Crisp, and perhaps pitching prospect Michael Bowden. Another serious bidder could emerge, perhaps the Seattle Mariners, who have such young players as outfielder Adam Jones, pitcher Brandon Morrow, and catcher Jeff Clements to offer. This situation should get interesting at the winter meetings, which begin officially Monday in Nashville. If the Sox do not land Santana, they are expected to explore whether they match up with Oakland on a deal for ace Dan Haren, who drew the starting assignment for the American League in the 2007 All-Star Game. ... More from Friday's Globe: It will take quite a bit to land Santana, in terms of prospects and the money that will be required to sign Santana to a new contract. He is signed through the 2008 season. It wasn't yet to that point, with a major league source indicating that Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, had not started negotiating with any team regarding a long-term deal, a necessity for any team surrendering the type of package the Twins are seeking. Once a trade is struck - whether the Red Sox are involved or not - the team seeking Santana would have 72 hours to negotiate with him on a pact that could be record-breaking, perhaps as high as six years and $150 million. The pitcher has a no-trade clause in his contract.