Archive for March 2007

Title IX For Government Pay

The British government has apparently adopted something like Title IX for government pay, and just as Title IX predictably caused many mens sports to be canceled,  the results are about what you would predict (via overlawyered):

Hundreds of thousands of men working in the the public sector are facing
salary cuts of up to £15,000 a year as equal pay agreements take effect, The
Times
has learnt.

Compensation claims for up to 1.5 million workers could cost the taxpayer more
than £10 billion and mean that male staff lose up to 40 per cent of their
salary.

LOL - who would have thought that the government would make everything equal by tearing down the top rather than building up the bottom?  Uh, well I did, just three posts ago.  I would love to see the list of what jobs were deemed "equivalent" by the "experts".   I wouldn't even know how to start such an analysis if someone paid me to do it, except maybe just to go find the market pay rate for each job.  But of course the market is excluded as a determinant of value by folks who write these laws, even though we use it for determining the value of, well, everything.  Even when the government tries to set values (e.g. by fixing prices), a black market always emerges trading at a more rational market price.

Prediction: the next story we see will be about "labor shortages" and the government having difficulty trying to hire certain positions.

Economic Illiteracy

Yet another weird SF fan points out this example of dueling Luddites.  Here is a particularly nice example:

My favorite definition of local comes from Columbia's Gussow, a
reporter for Time in the 1950s who went on to become a local-eating
pioneer. For 25 years, Gussow has lectured on the environmental (and
culinary) disadvantages of relying on a global food supply. Her most
oft-quoted statistic is that shipping a strawberry from California to
New York requires 435 calories of fossil fuel but provides the eater
with only 5 calories of nutrition. In her memoir, Gussow offers this
rather poetic meaning of local: "Within a day's leisurely drive of our
homes. [This] distance is entirely arbitrary. But then, so was the
decision made by others long ago that we ought to have produce from all
around the world."

It is hard to even begin with statement.  First, I am not sure anyone since Ghandi has really challenged the notion of division of labor, which in fact is what Gussow is lamenting.  Second, it would be interesting to ask Gussow what residents of Chad should do for locally-grown food.  Third, the last sentence is great, in that it works from the Dr. Evil Cabal theory of capitalism, positing that current trade patterns are based on "decisions made by others long ago."  And all these complaints don't even tought the silliness of somehow comparing food calories with calories of work from fossil fuels (unless Gussow is drinking Sterno at night, which might explain a lot). 

What About Productivity?

I try to avoid local news like the plague, but I did accidentally overhear this story on the local news here:

"There is a teacher shortage, what can be done?"

I will ignore the fact that the first half of this statement goes entirely unproven, and in fact no evidence that classes are not being taught is offered.  My question today is this:  Whenever the question of "teacher shortages" is discussed, why is only the salary portion of the equation ever put forward?  Why doesn't anyone ever put forward the solution "increase their productivity?"

Why the Health Care Issue is Different

I was sitting here today, and was trying to discern why the government-run health care issue made me more nervous than other government welfare programs.  I get ticked off, for example, about the horrendous rates of return (think negative interest rates) paid out by Social Security on what are nominally our retirement account premiums.  But I don't get nervous.  Why?

I think because unlike other welfare proposals that [just] cost us a ridiculous amount of money, the current plans for providing universal health care imply that my personal health care and health care options will get much worse.  When government provided housing, my housing did not get worse.  When government provided a ripoff retirement plan, my personal non-government retirement savings did not take a hit.  In all these cases, we paid out tons of money to provide some terrible base-level services for the poor and the true-government-believers in the middle class, but my options did not get worse.

However, in the case of health care, most proposals on the table will very likely result not only in much higher taxes, but also in my personal health care options getting worse.  The government will not want to provide multiple levels of service, and can't afford anything beyond "crappy", so as a result we will all end up with crappy service (Insert Rush song "trees" here).  A lot of crap is written about how great all these other socialized medicine services are, but thousands of people travel from other countries to have medical procedures in the states, and about zero travel the other way.  More on the topic of closing coverage gaps at the price of making your own personal care worse here.  More on why these gaps are not as large as advertised here.

Update:  Quick proof -- My chosen health plan is now illegal in Massachussetts

Where's Coyote?

Answer: Skiing in Utah (heh heh).  Yesterday and today we had two of the most beautiful ski days of all time, with shirtsleeve temperatures on a still thick base. 

I did not blog last night because I was so tired and sore all I could do is roll out of the hot tub and into bed.  I am in better shape tonight, so I may get a chance to catch up.  I have not read the news for two days, so I have obviously missed some critical political events, as days 490 and 491 before the presidential election are always key turning points.

Insurance Bleg

We are considering switching our Blue Cross / Blue Shield individual health coverage to a higher deductible policy from Assurant.  Anyone have any experience with these guys, positive or negative?

Politically Correct Medicine

I am always floored by the number of progressives who embrace all kinds of wacky non-scientific health theories.  These are the same folks who criticize creationists as being anti-scientific.  I am not a creationist, but I might be able to embrace it faster than I could, say, the insanity that is homeopathic medicine**. 

Unfortunately, these are the same folks who will likely make up the backbone of the socialized medicine bureaucracy when and if the US finally decides to hand health care over to a consortium of the Post Office and Walther Reed.  So here is a preview of what we will get:

Tom and Donna (not their real names) are professional
shamen. They teach classes in shamanism at a "foundation", where you
can learn "soul retrieval healing", help the dead "continue their
journey into the Hereafter", and investigate "the Fairy Kingdom". These
soul retrievers and Fairy Kingdom investigators also work for the NHS "”
where, according to Tom's foundation profile, they "use complementary
therapies to help those with mental health difficulties". Shaman
therapies are not the only unorthodox treatments for which the NHS will
gladly pay.

Taxpayers are also subsidising Emotional
Freedom Technique (EFT) "therapy", in which, according to one NHS
trust, "subtle energies" are reordered via "tapping with the fingertips
to stimulate certain meridian energy points while the client is "˜tuned
in' to the problem". "¦If EFT doesn't do the job, an NHS foot massage
might help. Reflexologists believe that each part of the foot maps to a
different organ, and that massaging a particular point can treat that
organ. Medical doctors think it's absurd. "¦Most depressing of all for
the rational taxpayer is the NHS Directory for Alternative and
Complementary Medicine, which aims to promote "dowsers", "flower
therapists" and "crystal healers". We've just learnt that some
hospitals are removing every third light bulb to save money, and that
nurses are being paid half the minimum wage "” or being asked to work
for nothing "” at others. That's how bad the financial crisis has
become. Meanwhile, the National Health Service is employing shaman
fairy enthusiasts as psychological counsellors, enthusiastically
providing treatments invented by "an ordained minister and a personal
performance coach" who thinks tapping your body can cure diabetes,
promoting dowsers and crystal healers and spending vast amounts on
therapies that can't be scientifically supported.

Just as with the Walther Reed mess, the left wants to write off this stuff as just bad management, as an exception.  But unfortunately, this is the rule for government management.  It always goes bad.  Mismatched incentives + lack of individual choice + strong unionized bureaucracy most concerned with its own job security + impossibly complex information flows = mess.  Always.  I get very tired of the excuse, as I wrote here, that "if only we were in charge, everything would work great." 

Throughout these years, libertarians like myself argued that there
were at least three problems with all of this technocratic statism:

  • You can't make better decisions for other people, even if you
    are smarter, because every person has different wants, needs, values,
    etc., and thus make trade-offs differently.  Tedy Bruschi of the
    Patriots is willing to take post-stroke risks by playing pro football again I would never take, but that doesn't mean its a incorrect decision for him.
  • Technocratic idealists ALWAYS lose control of the game.  It may
    feel good at first when the trains start running on time, but the
    technocrats are soon swept away by the thugs, and the patina of
    idealism is swept away, and only fascism is left.  Interestingly, the
    technocrats always cry "our only mistake was letting those other guys
    take control".  No, the mistake was accepting the right to use force on
    another man.  Everything after that was inevitable.

Everyone has had a turn running the place (except libertarians, I might observe) and everyone has screwed things up.

** I am amazed I have not posted a rant on homeopathic medicine, but searching through my archives, I don't find anything.  If you don't know, here is the fast answer why homeopathy is silly.  Advocates of homeopathy argue that they can make certain substances more effective by diluting them, and the more they dilute them, the more effective they are.  Go to one of their web sites, and you will see dilution rations that translate into having less than one molecule of the active ingredient in a mass of water the volume of all the world's oceans.  Advocates argue that even though the molecules are gone, some sort of resonance remains.  Uhh, right.

Lèse majesté: When Politicians Throw A Hissy Fit

I am late in linking this, but it is an amazing story of what happens when we give politicians power over our lives.  The story is about Trent Lott's silly vendetta against State Farm insurance, which all started when State Farm took the ridiculous step of not paying off on flood damage to Trent Lott's home after Katrina just because ... yes, this is going to sound like a really weak excuse ... the policy did not cover flood damage.  Can you imagine?  Of course, it is clear that Lott knew this in advance, since he had sought out and obtained a separate flood insurance policy.  But still.  Don't they understand lèse majesté?

The Mississippian was "infuriated" by the insurance industry's
refusal to shell out for certain Katrina claims, most notably his own.
So Mr. Lott is spearheading a ferocious campaign of political revenge
that would make even Henry Waxman envious"”replete with investigations,
voracious trial lawyers, ambitious state attorneys general and threats
of punitive federal legislation. And like most personal grievances that
get morphed into policy battles, it's ending badly for consumers.

Mr.
Lott's beachfront property in Pascagoula"”one of three homes he
owned"”was swept away entirely by Hurricane Katrina's waters. Like many
Gulf Coast residents, Mr. Lott was soon reminded by his insurer, State
Farm, that his policy only covered wind damage"”not flood damage. The
senator surely knew that, which is why he'd also purchased federal
flood insurance. According to his flood policy that was in effect when
Katrina hit, he was covered up to $350,000 in flood damages, and he
presumably collected in full....

For his part, Mr. Lott has been busy cranking up the pressure in
Washington. Not that he didn't give fair warning. In July of last year,
he placed a call to Chuck Chamness, the CEO of the National Association
of Mutual Insurance Companies, to let the industry know what was
coming. Mr. Chamness later sent a letter to Mr. Lott, summing up the
call. The key passage: "Your comment that you will dedicate your next
term of office to 'bringing down State Farm and the industry' through
all means available to you, including legislation designed to harm the
property/casualty insurance industry, was very unsettling, to say the
least."

One addition to this story which I think occurred after it was written:  State Farm, for obvious reasons, decided they were going to exit the property insurance business in Mississippi.  The Mississippi legislature, in an act right out of Atlas Shrugged, is considering legislation designed to prevent them from exiting the business.  Judge Smales (of Caddyshack fame) summarized the situation for State Farm:  "You'll have nothing and like it."

Where is Cinderella?

Incredibly, out of 32 initial NCAA championship games, there were only two real upsets (I don't count 9 beating 8 as a real upset).  Maybe my memory is faulty, but that seems like a really low number by historical standards.   Conventional wisdom would hold that we should probably see more rather than less upsets, as early flight to the NBA of the top players has tended to level the playing field out.

Coyote Warned You

Who would have ever predicted this...

BARNET, VT. -- Sara Demetry thought she had found a way to atone for her personal contribution to global warming.

The
psychotherapist clicked on a website that helped her calculate how much
heat-trapping carbon dioxide she and her fiance emitted each year,
mostly by driving and heating their home. Then she paid $150 to e-BlueHorizons.com, a company that promises to offset emissions.

But Demetry's
money did not make as much difference as she thought it would. While
half of it went to plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide, the other half
went to a Bethlehem, N.H., facility that destroys methane -- a gas that
contributes to global warming. The facility has been operating since
2001 -- years before the company began selling offsets -- and Demetry's money did not lead the company to destroy any more methane than it would have anyway.

Well, I predicted it:

I don't have any inside information on TerraPass, the company made
famous by providing the $399.75 certificates that offset all your
emissions for a year.  I do know that the numbers don't seem to add up,
as I wrote here and Protein Wisdom similarly wrote here.

However, I thought about their business model some (since I have been on a role with new business models) and it strikes me that it is brilliant.  Because I am almost positive that they are (legally) reselling the same carbon credits at least three times!...

  1. Their energy projects produce electricity, which they sell to
    consumers.  Since the
    electricity is often expensive, they sell it as "CO2-free"
    electricity.  This is possible in some sates -- for example in Texas,
    where Whole Foods made headlines by buying only CO2-free power.  So the
    carbon offset is in the bundle that they sell to
    electricity customers.  That is sale number one. 
  2. The company most assuredly seeks out and gets
    government subsidies.  These subsidies are based on the power being
    "CO2-free".  This is sale number two, in exchange for subsidies. 
  3. They still have to finance the initial construction of the plant, though.  Regular heartless
    investors require a, you know, return on capital.  So Terrapass
    finances their projects in part by selling these little certificates that you
    saw at the Oscars.  This is a way of financing their plants from people
    to whom they don't have to pay dividends or interest "”just the feel-good
    sense of abatement.  This is the third sale of the carbon credits.

My guess is that the majority of carbon offsets sold are for projects that would have gone ahead anyway, without the purchase of the offset (for example, planting trees or building power plants).  In this case, e-BlueHorizons is doing #3 after the plant was commissioned.   Caveat Emptor.  HT: Maggie's Farm

I Love Hearing This From An Athlete

Apparently the media tried to make a controversy out of Curt Schilling's announcement he would enter free agency at the end of the year.  This is part of his response, from his blog (emphasis added):

Now we fast forward a bit and we have what appears to be
"˜controversy' because the Red Sox do not extend my contract when alls
said and done, and I am going to file for free agency at years end.
Again contrary to "˜expert' opinions and views this was never a "˜gun to
the head' situation, the Sox knew this and I knew it. It really was
very simple for both sides. We spoke at length, Theo, Mr. Henry, Mr
Werner and I all spoke at some point and at no time, and let me
reiterate that, at NO time, were there ever any hard feelings, ill
will, or loud exchanges.

The Red Sox owe me nothing. They've paid me over 40 million dollars
for what amounts to two seasons worth of starts. They didn't ask for a
refund in "˜05 when I couldn't get my mother out, and on top of that
they've been respectful of my family at every turn.

I wanted to remain in Boston to finish my career, I made that clear
to them. They made it clear to me that if it wasn't for the money this
would be a done deal. I get that, it's not hard to understand. If I was
to sign a 4 million dollar deal I'd be signed already. The 13 million
we had talked about was money they were looking at as "˜available', so
this had changed their plans if they were to sign me.

Summarizing The Brackets

Here is the pick distributions for out 91 brackets.  The number to the right of the schools name is the number of players who picked that team to win that round/game:

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6
Midwest
1 Florida 91
16 Jackson State 0
1 Florida 88
8 Arizona 2
9 Purdue 1
16 Jackson State 0
1 Florida 76
4 Maryland 12
5 Butler 3
13 Davidson 0
12 Old Dominion 0
9 Purdue 0
16 Jackson State 0
8 Arizona 0
1 Florida 52
2 Wisconsin 20
3 Oregon 12
4 Maryland 6
6 Notre Dame 1
7 UNLV 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
13 Davidson 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
9 Purdue 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
11 Winthrop 0
1 Florida 29
1 Kansas 21
2 UCLA 20
2 Wisconsin 9
6 Duke 3
3 Oregon 3
3 Pittsburgh 3
4 Maryland 2
7 Indiana 1
12 Illinois 0
4 S. Illinois 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
11 VCU 0
15 Weber St. 0
10 Gonzaga 0
14 Wright State 0
9 Villanova 0
13 Holy Cross 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
9 Purdue 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
13 Davidson 0
6 Notre Dame 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
7 UNLV 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
11 Winthrop 0
8 Kentucky 0
1 Florida 17
1 Ohio St. 16
1 North Carolina 11
2 Georgetown 9
1 Kansas 8
2 Wisconsin 7
2 UCLA 6
3 Texas A&M 6
2 Memphis 5
3 Pittsburgh 2
4 Texas 2
3 Oregon 1
6 Louisville 1
7 Boston College 0
12 Arkansas 0
10 Texas Tech 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
11 George Wash. 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
3 Washington St 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
8 BYU 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
11 Stanford 0
7 Nevada 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
13 Albany, NY 0
4 Virginia 0
5 USC 0
16 CentralConnct 0
9 Xavier 0
5 Tennessee 0
12 Long Beach St 0
15 Belmont 0
15 Weber St. 0
11 Winthrop 0
6 Notre Dame 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
7 UNLV 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
13 Davidson 0
4 Maryland 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
9 Purdue 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
8 Kentucky 0
7 Indiana 0
14 Wright State 0
10 Gonzaga 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
8 Marquette 0
11 VCU 0
6 Duke 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
9 Villanova 0
12 Illinois 0
4 S. Illinois 0
13 Holy Cross 0
9 Michigan St. 0
8 Arizona 49
9 Purdue 42
5 Butler 55
12 Old Dominion 36
4 Maryland 59
5 Butler 21
12 Old Dominion 7
13 Davidson 4
4 Maryland 78
13 Davidson 13
6 Notre Dame 49
11 Winthrop 42
3 Oregon 62
6 Notre Dame 15
11 Winthrop 13
14 Miami Ohio 1
2 Wisconsin 40
3 Oregon 38
6 Notre Dame 6
7 UNLV 3
10 Georgia Tech 2
11 Winthrop 1
15 Tex A&M CC 1
14 Miami Ohio 0
3 Oregon 87
14 Miami Ohio 4
10 Georgia Tech 54
7 UNLV 37
2 Wisconsin 75
7 UNLV 9
10 Georgia Tech 6
15 Tex A&M CC 1
2 Wisconsin 90
15 Tex A&M CC 1
West
1 Kansas 91
16 PlayinWinner 0
1 Kansas 82
9 Villanova 8
8 Kentucky 1
16 PlayinWinner 0
1 Kansas 70
4 S. Illinois 10
5 Virginia Tech 5
9 Villanova 4
8 Kentucky 1
12 Illinois 1
13 Holy Cross 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
2 UCLA 40
1 Kansas 32
3 Pittsburgh 10
6 Duke 3
4 S. Illinois 3
7 Indiana 1
12 Illinois 1
9 Villanova 1
15 Weber St. 0
10 Gonzaga 0
14 Wright State 0
13 Holy Cross 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
8 Kentucky 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
11 VCU 0
9 Villanova 64
8 Kentucky 27
5 Virginia Tech 69
12 Illinois 22
4 S. Illinois 46
5 Virginia Tech 34
12 Illinois 9
13 Holy Cross 2
4 S. Illinois 78
13 Holy Cross 13
6 Duke 60
11 VCU 31
3 Pittsburgh 57
6 Duke 25
11 VCU 7
14 Wright State 2
2 UCLA 59
3 Pittsburgh 19
6 Duke 6
7 Indiana 4
10 Gonzaga 2
11 VCU 1
15 Weber St. 0
14 Wright State 0
3 Pittsburgh 83
14 Wright State 8
10 Gonzaga 56
7 Indiana 35
2 UCLA 81
7 Indiana 6
10 Gonzaga 4
15 Weber St. 0
2 UCLA 90
15 Weber St. 1
East
1 North Carolina 91
16 E. Kentucky 0
1 North Carolina 84
9 Michigan St. 6
8 Marquette 1
16 E. Kentucky 0
1 North Carolina 44
4 Texas 42
5 USC 4
8 Marquette 1
13 New Mexico St. 0
9 Michigan St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
12 Arkansas 0
2 Georgetown 38
1 North Carolina 25
4 Texas 17
3 Washington St 6
7 Boston College 2
5 USC 1
10 Texas Tech 1
8 Marquette 1
14 Oral Roberts 0
15 Belmont 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
9 Michigan St. 0
12 Arkansas 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
11 George Wash. 0
1 Ohio St. 25
2 Georgetown 22
1 North Carolina 14
3 Texas A&M 13
4 Texas 8
2 Memphis 5
3 Washington St 2
6 Louisville 1
8 Marquette 1
4 Virginia 0
12 Long Beach St 0
5 Tennessee 0
11 Stanford 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
7 Nevada 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
9 Xavier 0
13 Albany, NY 0
15 Belmont 0
12 Arkansas 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
5 USC 0
9 Michigan St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
11 George Wash. 0
16 CentralConnct 0
10 Texas Tech 0
7 Boston College 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
8 BYU 0
9 Michigan St. 52
8 Marquette 39
5 USC 57
12 Arkansas 34
4 Texas 70
5 USC 14
12 Arkansas 5
13 New Mexico St. 2
4 Texas 86
13 New Mexico St. 5
6 Vanderbilt 55
11 George Wash. 36
3 Washington St 44
6 Vanderbilt 27
11 George Wash. 11
14 Oral Roberts 9
2 Georgetown 69
3 Washington St 15
10 Texas Tech 4
7 Boston College 3
15 Belmont 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
11 George Wash. 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
3 Washington St 67
14 Oral Roberts 24
10 Texas Tech 49
7 Boston College 42
2 Georgetown 80
10 Texas Tech 6
7 Boston College 5
15 Belmont 0
2 Georgetown 90
15 Belmont 1
South
1 Ohio St. 91
16 CentralConnct 0
1 Ohio St. 90
9 Xavier 1
16 CentralConnct 0
8 BYU 0
1 Ohio St. 79
5 Tennessee 6
4 Virginia 5
9 Xavier 1
13 Albany, NY 0
16 CentralConnct 0
12 Long Beach St 0
8 BYU 0
1 Ohio St. 41
3 Texas A&M 27
2 Memphis 15
6 Louisville 4
5 Tennessee 2
4 Virginia 1
9 Xavier 1
7 Nevada 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
13 Albany, NY 0
16 CentralConnct 0
8 BYU 0
12 Long Beach St 0
11 Stanford 0
9 Xavier 63
8 BYU 28
5 Tennessee 68
12 Long Beach St 23
5 Tennessee 42
4 Virginia 39
12 Long Beach St 7
13 Albany, NY 3
4 Virginia 76
13 Albany, NY 15
6 Louisville 64
11 Stanford 27
3 Texas A&M 61
6 Louisville 24
11 Stanford 4
14 Pennsylvania 2
3 Texas A&M 45
2 Memphis 27
6 Louisville 14
11 Stanford 2
7 Nevada 2
10 Creighton 1
15 North Texas 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
3 Texas A&M 85
14 Pennsylvania 6
10 Creighton 46
7 Nevada 45
2 Memphis 68
7 Nevada 15
10 Creighton 8
15 North Texas 0
2 Memphis 89
15 North Texas 2

Let the Madness Begin

We had 91 brackets submitted this year for our NCAA bracket challenge, which is great!  Let the fun begin.

PS:  Based on past history, my current rank (in a 91-way tie for first) is probably the last time I will be front.

Annual NCAA Bracket Challenge

Note: This post sticky through 3/16.  Look below for newest posts.

We had a blast with it last year, so back by popular demand is the annual Coyote Blog
NCAA Bracket Challenge
.  Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed
out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don't have an
office pool to join or who just can't get enough of turning in
brackets, this pool is offered as my public service. 

Last year we had over fifty entries, and we expect more this year.  Everyone is welcome, so send the link to friends as well.  There is no charge to join in and
I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in
(name, email, password only) and no spam.  The only thing I ask is
that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and
board chat fairly clean.

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  1 points
Round 2:  2
Round 3:  4
Round 4:  6
Round 5:  8
Round 6:  10

Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie,
the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus
points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's
seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!

Bracket entry appears to be open.  Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 15th at 11:30am EDT.  Be sure to get your brackets in early.

Update: I have managed a lot of bracket pools over the years, with a lot of tools.  I would not hesitate to recommend Pickhoops.com.  Least intrusive, cheap, good tools, easy to use.

Gotta Have This

Necessity is the mother of invention.  And who can think of an indignity humans suffer that is worse than having to get up from the couch to get a beer?  Via Market Power, the beer-launching refrigerator.  See the video here.

Pi Day and Unsuspected Talents

Apparently yesterday was Pi day (3/14) and my son's class had a contest to recite pi to the most digits.  I presumed that my son didn't really participate, but then he serenaded me in the car with the first 70 or so digits that he apparently already knew by heart.  Unfortunately, he lost to someone who knew 105.  The really geeky part was that I was kind of jealous.

Postscript:
But I do know the motto on a Budweiser can by heart:  This is the famous Budweiser beer.  We know of no other brand produced by any other brewer that costs so much to brew and age.  Our exclusive beechwood aging produces a taste, a smoothness, and a drinkability you will find in not other beer at any price.

I Must Not Understand This Term

A while back, I mentioned that the police had, for the first time in my life, actually pursued and caught someone who had stolen my or my company's property.  The county has a process of notifying victims of progress in this case, and to this end I received a copy of their plea agreement.  They plead guilty to 2nd degree burglary, which the letter says is a "non-dangerous, non-repetitive 3rd degree felony".  However, I must not understand the word "non-repetitive" since the guilty parties plead guilty to five counts of this non-repetitive crime!

You Gotta Love Snobs

And there is no better place to find them than in the NY Times:

So there are these two muffins baking in an oven. One of them yells, "Wow, it's hot in here!"And the other muffin replies: "Holy cow! A talking muffin!"

Did that alleged joke make you laugh? I would guess (and hope) not.

Well, I laughed, and I was alone in the room.  I am fine if you don't think it is funny, so to guess that I did not find it funny is fine, but to hope so?

Makes Sense to Me

I have always thought the logic of shareholder law suits were crazy to start with, and even crazier given that shareholder suits over loss of stock value tend to result in ... declining stock value.

I have never been able to justify most lawsuits by shareholders
against companies in which they own shares.  Any successful verdict
would effectively come out of the pockets of the company's owners who
are.. the shareholders.  So in effect, shareholders are suing
themselves, and, win or lose, they as a group end up with less than if
the suit had never been started, since a good chunk of the payout goes
to the lawyers.  The only way these suits make financial sense (except
to the lawyers, like Bill Lerach) is if only a small subset of the
shareholders participate, and then these are just vehicles for
transferring money from half the shareholders to the other half, or in
other words from one wronged party that does not engage in litigation
to another wronged party who are aggressively litigious.  Is there
really justice here?

OK, you could argue that many of these shareholders are not suing
themselves, because they are past shareholders that dumped their stock
at a loss.  But given these facts, these suits are even less fair.  If
these suits are often made by past shareholders who held stock at the
time certain wrongs were committed, they are paid by current and future
shareholders, who may well have not even owned the company at the time
of the abuses, and may in fact be participating in cleaning the company
up.  So their argument is that because the company was run unethically
when I owned it, I am going to sue the people who bought it from me and
cleaned it up for my damages?  Though it never happens, the more fair
approach would be for current shareholders to sue past shareholders for
the mess they left.

Tom Kirkendall quotes a related notion from the Economist:

This suggests to The Economist the need for a new Apple rule
to guide prosecutors"”at least in cases, such as backdating, where the
main supposed victim is a company's shareholders. Our rule: if a
criminal prosecution is likely to hurt a company's share price, then
don't prosecute.

Are we serious? Well, we think it's worth a discussion . . .
Cost-benefit analysis is largely absent from America's approach to
regulating business wrongdoing, not only in criminal prosecutions, and
that is probably one of the main reasons why America's capital markets
are indeed losing their competitive edge. At the very least,
encouraging the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange
Commission to employ a few less lawyers and a few more economists would
be a step in the right direction.

Do I Really Have To Listen to This

I'm am currently listening to a ski resort guy talking about climate.  I can feel his pain, as spring temperatures have certainly warmed in the mountains of California, hurting the ski industry.  Whether that is from CO2, cyclical variations, or changing output from the sun is a complicated question.  I read a lot about climate, and try to be thoughtful about it.  But, do I really have to be lectured to by someone who is lamenting CO2 emissions that are destroying the ozone layer?

My "Rights" Seem Pretty Pitiful

Well, we libertarians must be losing the battle, if these are all the rights I have left as a taxpayer:

Today at 10am the Republican Study Committee will
introduce a Tax Payers Bill of Rights with the aim of getting
bi-partisan support for the principles of such a bill of rights and
incorporating them in future legislation. The principles are:

1 Taxpayers have a right to have a federal government that does not grow beyond their ability to pay for it.
2 Taxpayers have a right to receive back each dollar that they entrust to the government for their retirement.
3 Taxpayers have a right to expect the government to balance the budget without having their taxes raised.
4 Taxpayers have a right to a simple, fair tax code that they can understand.

This is pretty thin soup, particularly from the party that once hailed itself as the party of small government.  I can't really disagree any of this stuff, but it really constitutes a low bar, and it is even scarier that this will probably be controversial.  In particular, #2 is a joke.  Getting all your principal back from forty year old retirement investments basically means that all your retirement income was invested by the government at a 0% rate of return.  Unfortunately, as I ran the numbers a while back, a 0% rate of return would actually be an improvement for Social Security.

This is really, really pathetic.

One Day Left to Enter NCAA Bracket Challenge

It's fun.  It's free.  It's really easy (and the registration is unintrusive).

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  1 points
Round 2:  2
Round 3:  4
Round 4:  6
Round 5:  8
Round 6:  10

Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie,
the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus
points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's
seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!

Online bracket entry closes
Thursday, March 15th at 11:30am EDT.  Be sure to get your brackets in
early.

A Letter From Arizona

Dear Rest-of-the-Country:

    How are all those VCR clocks?  Got them set back an hour yet?

Sincerely,
Arizona

Government as a Barrier to... Everything

I have had experience on several occasions attempting to bring private solutions (at no cost to the city government) to certain municipal problems.  The general approach to such offers, which seems to be similar in every city I have lived in, is to get together a meeting of every single government authority that could possibly have some tangential jurisdiction over the particular problem (e.g, city, county, state, highways, parks, water, environment, etc. etc.).  In this meeting, the discussion goes around the table, with every single participant adding another reason why the proposal is a problem and/or another roadblock or required approval.  This is not an exaggeration - I can't remember one person in such a meeting try to fix a problem or make something happen.  Everyone in government has an incentive system, it seems, that revolves around avoiding risk and preventing change. 

That is why I know that this story is typical of government, not an aberration:

LSU hospital officials began planning for a temporary network of
neighborhood clinics in early November 2005, barely two months after
Hurricane Katrina knocked Charity Hospital out of commission and threw
health-care services for many of the city's uninsured into disarray.

Eight months later, in late June and early July, FEMA delivered the
trailers to New Orleans, with the $761,000 bill picked up by the
federal government.

It wasn't until last week that the New Orleans City Council agreed
to temporarily waive the city's zoning code to allow the trailers to be
located at six schools around the city -- three on the east bank and
three in Algiers -- for two years.

In between fell more than 100 meetings and dozens of e-mails about
the issue involving LSU executives and officials at the city, state and
federal levels. And the journey is not over. The zoning waivers still
need approval from Mayor Ray Nagin, which cannot occur until next week
at the earliest, as well as permits from the city that could take up to
six months to acquire.

24 Season 3 Update

The second 12 hours were a LOT better.