Archive for September, 2007

Interesting Definitions From The Wikipedia II

Yes, It’s a sequel, another bunch of scary definitions from the Wiki in no particular order.

Moral Hazard

“Moral hazard refers to the prospect that a party insulated from risk (such as through insurance) will be less concerned about the negative consequences of the risk than they otherwise might be; for example, an individual with insurance against automobile theft may be less vigilant about locking the car[1] even though locking the car is a simple risk reduction strategy. Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution in a transaction does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency or incentive to act less carefully than would otherwise be the case, leaving another party in the transaction to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.”
“Logrolling (or horse trading in British English) is a colorful phrase used to describe trading of votes by legislative members to obtain passage of actions of interest to each legislative member. The term is also used for similar activities in academics, notably the “cross quoting” of papers in order to drive up reference counts”
“In economics, crowding out theoretically occurs when the government expands its borrowing to finance increased expenditure, or cuts taxes (i.e. is engaged in deficit spending), crowding out private sector investment by way of higher interest rates. To the extent that there is controversy in modern Macroeconomics on the subject, it is because of disagreements about how financial markets would react to more government borrowing.
If increased borrowing leads to higher interest rates by creating a greater demand for money and loanable funds and hence a higher “price” (ceteris paribus), the private sector, which is sensitive to interest rates will likely reduce investment due to a lower rate of return. This is the investment that is crowded out. The weakening of fixed investment and other interest-sensitive expenditure counteracts to varying extents the expansionary effect of government deficits. More importantly, a fall in fixed investment by business can hurt long-term economic growth of the supply side, i.e., the growth of potential output.”
Pork Barrel Spending
“Pork barrel politics refers to government spending that is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes. The term is thought to have originated on Southern United States plantations, where slaves were allocated the unwanted remainder of slaughtered pigs, or the “pork barrel.” Typically it involves funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers. Public works projects and agricultural subsidies are the most commonly cited examples, but they do not exhaust the possibilities. Pork barrel spending is often allocated through last-minute additions to appropriation bills. A politician who supplies his or her constituents with considerable funding is said to be “bringing home the bacon.”

Interesting Definitions From The Wikipedia

I guess, I have a reputation as kind of being a cut and paste creep by now, willing to just steel any stuff I can to win an argument. With that in mind, here are a few definitions from the Wikipedia that should be studied and memorized by people living in Pittsburgh.

Iron Triangle

In United States politics, “iron triangle” is a term used by political scientists to describe the policy-making relationship between the legislature, the bureaucracy, and interest groups. On the Federal level, the phrase refers to the United States Congress — in particular, the congressional committees responsible for oversight of specific industries — along with the Federal agencies (often independent agencies) responsible for regulation of those industries, and the industries and their trade associations. One of the earliest formulations of the “iron triangle” concept was by political scientist Grant McConnell, in Private Power and American Democracy (1966).

Corporate Welfare

Corporate welfare is a pejorative describing a government’s bestowal of money grants, tax breaks, or other special favorable treatment on corporations. The term was coined by Ralph Nader in 1956.[1][2] “Corporate welfare” creates a satirical association between corporate subsidies and welfare payments to the poor, and implies that corporations are much less needy of such treatment than the poor.

Public Choice Theory

Public choice theory attempts to look at governments from the perspective of the bureaucrats and politicians who compose them, and makes the assumption that they act based on Budget-maximizing model in a self-interested way for the purpose of maximizing their own economic benefits (e.g. their personal wealth). The theory aims to apply economic analysis (usually decision theory and game theory) to the political decision-making process in order to reveal certain systematic trends towards inefficient government policies. There are also Austrian variants of public choice theory (suggested by Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, and Boettke) in which it is assumed that bureaucrats and politicians are benevolent but have access to limited information. The assumption that such benevolent political agents possess limited information for making decisions often results in conclusions similar to those generated separately by means of the rational self-interest assumptions.


“In public choice theory and political science, capture is said to occur when bureaucrats or politicians, who are supposed be acting in the public interest, end up acting systematically to favor particular vested interests. The theory of capture is associated with the Nobel laureate economist George Stigler, one of its main developers.Public choice theory holds that capture is inevitable, because vested interests have a concentrated financial stake in the outcomes of political decisions, thus ensuring that they will find means–direct or indirect–to capture decision makers.”

Regulatory Capture

“Regulatory capture is a phenomenon in which a government regulatory agency which is supposed to be acting in the public interest becomes dominated by the vested interests of the existing incumbents in the industry that it oversees.”

Government Failure

Government failure (or non-market failure) is the public sector analogy to market failure and occurs when a government intervention causes a more inefficient allocation of goods and resources than would occur without that intervention. Just as with market failures, there are many different kinds of government failures. However, while market failure has been widely studied, government failure has only recently come into common usage as the lenses of Public choice theory and New Institutional Economics (NIE) or Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) have begun to explore the problems. Just as a market failure is not a failure to bring a particular or favored solution into existence at desired prices, but is rather a problem which prevents the market from operating efficiently, a government failure is not a failure of the government to bring about a particular solution, but is rather a systemic problem which prevents an efficient government solution to a problem. The problem to be solved need not be a market failure; many solutions potentially solvable by government means are preferred to viable market solutions by subsets of voters.

Bishops gone wild

The old joke is that the two biggest religions in Pittsburgh are Catholicism and Lapsed Catholicism. That is a pretty severe exaggeration, but you would never know that from the news coverage here, which never met a story about Catholics it didn’t like. Thus, all the stories about yesterday’s installation of a new bishop, seen here delivering his famous “seven words you can’t say in seminary” bit.

New Bishop David Zubik wants Catholics to “be excited about our faith, and how we live it.” Traditionally Catholics are excited about faith in the same way that Americans are excited about soccer: we pretend when the kids are young, but once the brats are off to college we get to relax and care about what really matters, the Steelers. The only difference is that when Americans age and begin to feel the cold breath of death on the backs of their necks, few turn to David Beckham (some Brits do).

Meanwhile Pittsburgh’s Episcopalian Bishop Robert Duncan, seen here hating fags, was busy making our fair city look bad by starting his own church dedicated to being Episcopalians who hate fags. Post-Gazette:

Bishop Duncan said that forming a separate North American church structure for conservatives is “necessary because of the drift of the church in the West.”

“We’re in a time of reformation,” he said.

The partnership will include the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a network of Episcopal parishes that have split from the U.S. denomination and have aligned with Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, an outspoken critic of Episcopal acceptance of gay relationships.

The original Reformation was about personal closeness to your deity and the proper relationship of spirituality to secular concerns, with Protestant reformers asking hard questions about how to best serve Christianity’s promise of universal love. Catholic traditionalists responded by digging in their heels and hewing closely to doctrine.

Sadly, Bishop Duncan probably thinks that he is the Martin Luther in this new “reformation” rather than the Grand Inquisitor.

Perhaps we could “deposit” it in the trashcan?

From a Post-Gazette editorial on a misguided recycling/deposit law that was never in danger of passing in the state legislature:

While freshman state Rep. Lisa Bennington, D-Morningside, deserves credit for trying creatively with HB 1839 to fund the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, this flawed proposal should be canned if not bottled up.

Only one awful pun per sentence, please. For instance: “:Not a prayer: Religion can’t justify harmful acts under the law,” the hilarious headline to an editorial about the rape of a 14-year old girl. Now that is a good use of meaningless reflexive wordplay.

Have you ever played miniature golf. . . indoors. . . in the dark. . . surrounded by monsters?

So a billboard for this company, represented here by their spokesgargoyle, asks me as I drive to work every day. I can confidently answer: No, I have never done that. Their website promises:

Yes, there are monsters of all kinds (from Monster’s Inc. kind of Monsters to the traditional freaky ones!), but it’s not so scary that small children and meek adults would not want to come..and NO, they do not jump out at you.

There is a section of their website for frequently asked questions. Bizarrely not answered: Why in the world would anyone want to play miniature golf in the dark surrounded by monsters? My guess is traditional miniature golf, in which you can see the ball, the hole, and the ground in between, is no longer challenging enough for true minigolf fans.

Advice for the Pittsburgh single

It’s that magical time of year when a magazine for businesspeople decides to tell us how good or bad our love lives are. As always happens when some national medium rates Pittsburgh as less-than-perfect, there has been a great hue and cry about our low ranking. I can state from personal experience as an average-looking guy that the singles scene in Pittsburgh is actually quite good — IF you stop, think about what you’re trying to do, and take some simple steps to increase your chances of success. I first started looking in a September, and by that March, I found the woman I’m almost certainly going to marry. As a public service, I hereby present some basic tips (OK, a mild diatribe) to help you find Mr. and/or Ms. Right, culled from my own experiences and the combined wisdom of several eligible young Pittsburghers.

Off The Record Post-Mortem

You notice that the word “The” is capitalized above. This is a joke by Dennis Roddy and Company: you see, capitalization of the word “the” is not accepted style! LOL! Or, should I say, LoL!

The use of internet acronyms like above got an inexplicable huge laugh from OTR’s geriatric audience. And old they were: 2politicaljunkies’ dayvoe must have been relieved after his harrowing exposure to teenagers at Bill Richardson’s fish-market stop to find himself in a crowd where his ability to walk without a cane marked him as among the halest and heartiest. Speaking of, I introduced myself to him, to which he responded “oh, okay,” and scurried off. He may have been trying to avoid David Johnson, who was standing nearby and is apparently still on television.

The other inexplicable big hit of the evening was a disturbingly racist sketch about the Hill District. The less said about that the better.

Before the show proper began jokes were delivered by Ken Rice, who apparently is also still on television, and Dan Onoroto. Both had funny jokes. Rice’s delivery was fantastic, Onoroto’s surprisingly poor. The great questions raised by the county exec’s delivery, which featured his face buried in his notes and the top of his head pointed squarely at the audience, were: Is that guy a monk? Or does his hair just grow like that? Couldn’t his hairdresser come up with a way to make his head look less tonsured?

The unparalleled highlight of the show was Council President Doug Shields as Pirates owner Bob Nutting delivering a lengthy speech in a “Pirate accent,” which sounded like equal parts Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Spanish, West Indian and drunken slurring, while executing a 360-degree wide-legged scurry that called to mind a meth-head crab in a basket.

Meanwhile, the mayoral candidates were having a serious debate across town, which Ravenstahl attended, there being no sporting events to interfere. They both agreed that development is good, and further each agreed that his opponent is an asshole. Luke conclusively lost my vote by committing this sin against the English language: “Myself and the county executive have been meeting regularly with the organizations in the Hill District” and this one: “I’ll put my one-year record against any mayor previously.”

Mark said he would mandate LEED green building standards for the North Side casino, which falls short of my proposal to mandate blowing it up with a cruise missile as soon as construction is complete, but I suppose is a step in the right direction. Luke correctly pointed out that the mayor has no power to do that. Ann Belser pointed out that she was missing Off The Record for this crap. Call it a draw.

Strip Club : Another Big Benefit To The North Side

I can’t help sticking in a little dig about all the feigned surprise that a strip club has now been proposed near the North Shore Casino. Another little tidbit that comes out is that a supermarket which is about the only new project likely to actually benefit local residents is in doubt because of– surprise– parking issues.

Make no mistake about it, I am in favor of having a casino, partly because due to the bills run up by previous black hole developments, the city now is in desperate need of cash but the sum total of these combined projects has been to destroy almost all the mixed use residential, office and retail potential of the North Shore waterfront.

This is where I’m’a gonna be tonight

Do you like dumb jokes about local politics written by people whose background is in journalism rather than comedy? If you are reading my weblog posts, I think I can assume the answer is yes.

Tonight, at eight o’clock, is the premiere and closing, because people will need to go back to their real jobs tomorrow, of Off The Record VII, Pittsburgh’s best and only annual musical comedy written by journalists. The journalists in question here are the employees of the Post-Gazette. The employees of the Tribune-Review were invited to help, but they were all busy trying to cover up their boss’ divorce.

Call 412-456-6666 (three sixes are evil, but five sixes means fun for everyone) for tickets. You can find me by turning around in your seats and gazing high into the nosebleeds, because I can’t afford your fancy sixty dollar tickets.

Diminishing returns

First Mayor Ravenstahl, seen here hoping that those cameras didn’t catch his e-mail password, buzzkut4life, blows off the Hill District to fly off to New York for a wild night of booze and hookers. Well, who wouldn’t? Private plane, dude!

Then he blows off women’s groups to play golf with sports stars. Not a private plane, but still pretty cool, and who cares? Broads were probably just mad because they were on their periods or whatever and needed some kind of vagina pills. Not that they tell you much about the lady-parts at North Catholic (if God meant us to know what a fillopius tube was, he’d have put in a window).

But now, he blows off the North Side to go hang out with the Mayor of Boston. I know Boston is a bigger city than Pittsburgh, and they have their one-if-by-land history crap going on, but the Mayor doesn’t care about that stuff. That guy is really just another mayor.

New rule: if you are going to skip out on a very important community meeting, it had better not be to hang out with anyone less famous than Abe Vigoda, or if not a celebrity, anyone financially or morally unable to take you to Chicago for steaks on zero notice. What about steaks with Sal Tessio and Mark Cuban? That would be awesome. Luke would skip the election for that.

Note to self: remember to check the DeSantis campaign financial filings to make sure they are claiming all these trips that Luke is taking as in-kind contributions.

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