Kids Prefer Cheese
Credibly promising to be irresponsible...since 2004!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Economists Make Prediction, Prediction is Correct!
How Smart Are the Smart Guys? A Unique View from Hedge Fund Stock Holdings
John Griffin & Jin Xu, Review of Financial Studies, July 2009, Pages 2531-2570
Abstract: Compared to mutual funds, hedge funds prefer smaller, opaque value securities, and have higher turnover and more active share bets. Decomposing returns into three components, we find that hedge funds are better than mutual funds at stock picking by only 1.32% per year on a value-weighted basis, and this result is insignificant on an equal-weighted basis or with price-to-sales benchmarks. Hedge funds exhibit no ability to time sectors or pick better stock styles. Surprisingly, we find only weak evidence of differential ability between hedge funds. Overall, our study raises serious questions about the perceived superior skill of hedge fund managers.
Luck versus Skill in the Cross Section of Mutual Fund Alpha Estimates
Eugene Fama & Kenneth Frenchm University of Chicago Working Paper, March 2009
Abstract: The aggregate portfolio of U.S. equity mutual funds is close to the market
portfolio, but the high costs of active management show up intact as lower returns to investors. Bootstrap simulations produce no evidence that any managers have enough skill to cover the costs they impose on investors. If we add back costs, there is some evidence of inferior and superior performance (non-zero true alpha) in the extreme tails of the cross section of mutual fund alpha estimates. The evidence for performance is, however, weak, especially for successful funds, and we cannot reject the hypothesis that no fund managers have skill that enhances expected returns.
Since both of these results are PRECISELY what economists would predict, I expect to hear a little credit from you nay-sayers.
What I don't understand is why universities wasted so much money on high-priced investment advisers. Hell, I could have lost 20% or more of Duke's endowment, and done it for HALF the cost.
Fact is, Ms. Mungowitz and I bailed out of the stock market for our 401k money in August of 2007. Now, that was not the peak, and for a while I felt silly. But converting all of our stocks into cash and short term gov bonds certainly "made" us a lot of cash, from November 2008 through February 2009. And I didn't charge us any fees at ALL.
Called Strikes On Checked Swings
What is going on with baseball umps?
They are calling strikes on checked swings. I don't mean checked swings that went around. I mean a twitch, not even close to a real strike.
Both the home plate umps, and the 1st/3rd umps, are calling strikes that are clearly balls. It must be a policy.
I am not complaining in a partisan way; the Cards seem to benefit as often as they are harmed. What I mean is, the umps are calling it both ways.
But those are not strikes. What's happening here?
I am not the only one who has noticed, I should point out. Here, and here. Oh, and here.
Another example, perhaps the clearest I have found:
Umpire Jim Wolf who called the balls and strikes in yesterdays game for the Mets pitchers, and just the strikes for the Yankees’ A.J. Burnett, should be investigated for betting on baseball. Only someone who had money on the Yankees would have given Burnett those strike calls. The first and third base coaches must have been in on the fix too, as the checked swing strikes weren’t even close.
Sure, that guy is a Mets fan, and so not really to be trusted. But....c'mon.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
An embellished account of Shaq's meet up with Cav coach Mike Brown here.
Smarter Nations are More Liberal
IQ and the Values of Nations
Satoshi Kanazawa, Journal of Biosocial Science, July 2009, Pages 537-556
Abstract: The origin of values and preferences is an unresolved theoretical question in behavioural and social sciences. The Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, derived from the Savanna Principle and a theory of the evolution of general intelligence, suggests that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to acquire and espouse evolutionarily novel values and preferences (such as liberalism and atheism and, for men, sexual exclusivity) than less intelligent individuals, but that general intelligence may have no effect on the acquisition and espousal of evolutionarily familiar values. Macro-level analyses show that nations with higher average intelligence are more liberal (have greater highest marginal individual tax rate and, as a result, lower income inequality), less religious (a smaller proportion of the population believes in God or considers themselves religious) and more monogamous. The average intelligence of a population appears to be the strongest predictor of its level of liberalism, atheism and monogamy.
A blog post on the journal article..... Excerpt: Kanazawa uses a simple thought experiment to illustrate the idea that adaptations are “designed for and adapted to the conditions of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, not necessarily to the current environment.” In other words, our very ancient ancestors’ environment.
Now, I am a fan of evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology is more speculative, but okay, can be interesting. But the kind of "just so" story being concocted here is just silly nonsense.
From the comments on that blog post: "It should also be noted that the Journal of Biosocial Sciences has a reputation for publishing offensive and poorly evidenced papers that make undeservedly big splashes."
Look, Dr. Kanazawa has happened upon a purely cross-sectional correlation, one that is easily explained. The more money the state spends on indoctrinating people in state schools, the more those same people favor state schools. Yes, there is a by-product, in that people with more schooling also perform better on IQ tests. But Dr. Kanazawa has uncovered either a wholly spurious correlation, or else one where the causation is actually reversed. It is not true that smart nations are more liberal. What is true is that liberal nations spend more taxpayer money on public education. Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, of course. But it has nothing to do with the magic faeries that Dr. Kanazawa seems to see dancing in the air around him.
(A big happy nod to Kevin L. Bless you, lad. This is pure gold)
UPDATE: This paper, forthcoming in INTELLIGENCE, is much more carefully done, and is at least worth considering, in terms of its conclusions and results--Charlie Reeve, "Expanding the g-nexus: Further evidence regarding the relations among national IQ, religiosity and national health outcomes," Intelligence, forthcoming
Some Important Verbs
Angus and I have been having a small debate, about two verbs. But with help from Martin K., I have come up with the key distinction.
Angus claims (and rightly) that the verb "to Jess" means to make certain social commitments, perhaps only implicitly but still clearly, and then just completely blow them off. For example, if you are skiing with several people, and all make plans for going to dinner after the next run. Then one or two of the group see the route you are taking down, and with nothing more than a "I'm not going that way" take off down a much longer run, served by a different lift line. You have been "Jessed" (named after the master Jesser, Jess Yawitz. (A junior Jess master is Tom Gilligan, coming up fast through the rankings, for Jessing promised golf outings).
"To Munger" is, I would claim, somewhat different. I do have the habit of going to a party, and then when it is time to go I just leave. Not quite sneak out, but...okay, I sneak out. I don't like the whole big scene of taking leave, small talk, interrupting the conversation of other people just so I can go home. This is NOT Jessing, which involves the breaking of the promise for further social interaction. Anyway, Martin Kypta came up with the perfect short definition of Mungering: "To Munger is to waive goodbye." I wish I had thought of that.
UPDATE: Angus is going to argue that "To Munger" has at least two archaic meanings. The first is to use one's large (and possibly smelly) body to wind around plates or boxes of supposedly shared food items, thereby claiming them, much as a dog might. (And, yes, this did really happen, absolutely.)
The second is to make large (in fact, grandiose) claims about athletic skills and mastery of sports. It later turns out the actual talent level is much, MUCH less, and then the Mungerer will make some even MORE preposterous excuse. The excuse simply adds to the comedy material of John Jarosz, who retells the story four or five times each day for a month.
While I do honor Angus' position as the keeper of the flame of tradition, I think these two archaic meanings are no longer in common usage.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Faculty v. Student Football Match
So, here at FAU there is a summer party where faculty play the undergrads, in Politisiche Wissenschaft land, in a football match.
I was immediately pronounced "Captain." Yes, that thingie on my right arm says "Spielfuehrer"; I think I am going to ask the folks back at Duke to start calling me "Der Lehrerfuehrer." It has a certain ring to it. (oh, and yes, I realize they were mocking me, by making me Spielfuehrer, but they were mocking me in a friendly way. No, I'm sure of it. All the people trying to hide their laughter, they were just jealous. You know how people are.) I did get a picture of some of the students from my class. F and A, on the right side, both seemed to find all of this rather more amusing than I had hoped. Here is the "after the match" photo. Darned kids. They kicked our butts, 6-2. I contributed two assists, I should note. Both for the other team. (Look, the guy I kicked it to was wide open, and in front of the net. Sure, he was on the THEIR team, not mine, but he WAS OPEN. My teammates were not very impressed. "You are supposed to STOP them from scoring!) If you click on the photo, you will see IDs for Der Geist, Martin, Hajo the intrepid, and of course me (still wearing the Spielfuehrer armband). After the game, Der Geist went around complaining that he had forgotten to bring any underwear. This act played to mixed reviews, at best.
But it was a terrific evening. Very fun, a real sense of fellowship. I was proud to be a member of the department, if only temporarily.
Big Swinging Sports Cars
The effect of conspicuous consumption on men's testosterone levels
Gad Saad & John Vongas, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming
Using evolutionary psychology as a theoretical framework, it is argued that conspicuous consumption serves as a means by which men communicate their social status to prospective mates. Accordingly, men's endocrinological responses, particularly their testosterone levels, are responsive to fluctuations in their status as triggered by acts of conspicuous consumption. Study 1 reports that men's testosterone levels increased and decreased partially (directionally), after driving an expensive sports car and an old family sedan, respectively. Additionally, the location of the drive, either a busy downtown area or a semi-deserted highway, partially moderated this response. Study 2 demonstrates that when men's social status was threatened by the wealth displays of a male confederate in the presence of a female moderator, their testosterone levels increased. This is suggestive of an evolved mechanism for responding to intra-sexual challenges. Collectively, these constitute the first set of studies to measure hormonal outcomes in consumer behavior.
(Nod to Kevin L)
Labels: articles to read
T. Hobbes: Marginalist?
Der Geist writes with this question:
Did Thomas Hobbes have at least some glimmerings of the origins of subjective marginalist thinkings in economics?
Justice of Actions, is by writers divided into commutative, Distributive; ...Commutative they place in the equality of value of the things contracted for; and distributive, in the distribution of equall benefit, to men of equall merit. As if it were Injustice to sell dearer than we buy; or to give more to a man than he merits. The value of all things contracted for, is measured by the Appetite of the Contractors: and therefore the just value, is that which they be contented to give (Leviathan, chapter 15, paragraph 15)
Friday, July 10, 2009
Bringing their A game
Loyal KPC readers know that when it comes to the annual "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, I am totally rooting for the bulls (see here and here).
Well this year the bulls are not fooling around, as they claimed their 15th victim since the "festival" started keeping records in the early 1900s.
According to the NY daily news:
"The San Fermin festival Web site said the unidentified man was gored in the neck and lung during a run in which a rogue bull named Cappuccino separated from the pack, which is among the worst things that can happen at Spain's most popular fiesta."
"Rogue"? Really? Why not "Rational" or "Unhappy to be stampeded through the streets only to be ritually slaughtered later in front of a cheering crowd"
Spain is a beautiful country that I greatly enjoyed visiting but there is something deeply F-d up about a place where this is the "most popular fiesta" in the country.
Marc A: Back in the Game
Thursday, July 09, 2009
The Culture that is Germany II
With any luck, this will be a long running series:
"BERLIN (Reuters) – A drunk German sparked a slow-speed after stealing a tractor to get home from a nightclub after his girlfriend left without him, said police, who used to try to stop the vehicle.
"After his girlfriend abandoned him in a night club, the 23-year-old driver, who doesn't own a license, commandeered the vehicle to make his way home," a police spokesman said on Monday.
Six began trailing the tractor, which was chugging along at 20 km (12 miles) an hour, after they were alerted to the theft at about 5 a.m. Saturday.
Officers tried holding up stop signs and directing pepper spray through the open window to bring the driver to a halt.
They then tried unsuccessfully to end his getaway by throwing nail belts on the road, but the tractor's tires proved too thick, said the police spokesman.
The 40-minute chase finally came to an end when officers shot at the tractor's tires after it rammed into a police car and collided with another vehicle."
My favorite part? "Officers tried holding up stop signs!" Having visited Germany a couple times, I honestly can't believe that didn't work. Maybe the dude was really Austrian.
North Carolina News Round-up: Mayberry was never like this!
1. Bob Ethridge (D- ) actually managed to summon moral outrage about the chance that some large corporate chicken farms were about to go bankrupt. Bob's solution: Quick! Give them other people's money!
"I introduced this legislation because these farmers should immediately be eligible for disaster assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Etheridge said in a statement.
“I will not stand by as rural America’s poultry producers are left abandoned by this economic downturn. We have a tool to help them and this legislation would give them a strong chance to get back on their feet.”
I always thought that a disaster was a hurricane, or flood. This is just straight highway Bobbery, though. Wow.
2. Barack Obama tries to start war with Italy:
President Barack Obama presented Italian President Giorgio Napolitano this morning with a gift from North Carolina.
Obama, meeting with Napolitano prior to the G-8 Summit, presented the Italian president with a variety of American wines. Included in the package was a 2008 Raffaldini Vineyards Vermentino.
Raffaldini Vineyards is in Ronda, between Winston-Salem and Wilkesboro, and the vinyard's owners were thrilled to have their wine included in the gift.
Nothing can possibly go wrong with this... It's not like the Italians know anything about wine, right? Ooops. I predict that Italian Air Force bombers are taking off right now, heading for Diego Garcia in retribution.
3. NC Senate Remembers Vernon Malone. I remember Vernon Malone, also. Last September, at a forum, a few weeks before the election, I espied Senator Malone standing by himself, having some refreshment at the soft drink table. I went over and introduced myself (we had met several times, but I knew he wouldn't remember, no reason he would, he met lots of folks, every day).
He was a very civil and genteel man, and took my hand and leaned over to hear what I had to say. As soon as he heard my name, he literally jumped back, dropped my hand, and half ran across the room to stand with some other folks. He did not look back.
I thought it was odd, but a moment's reflection reveals the explanation: He didn't want anyone to take his picture talking to me. There were in fact lots of reporters and media there. And, in the Senator's defense, I see his point. It would seem disloyal for a senior Democratic Senator to be seen talking to the Libertarian Governor candidate. No harm in it, but why take a chance of having to explain it, especially if I got free ink from it. It was nothing personal, just good political instincts on his part.
So, Senator Malone, you were a fine man, North Carolina misses you, and I don't blame you for high-tailin' it. You moved pretty fast for a 77 year old guy, I have to admit.
No Need to Over-Complexificate This
There is no need to overcomplexificate* this. I think the following study goes a couple of steps too far.
The Heritage of Herding and Southern Homicide: Examining the Ecological Foundations of the Code of Honor Thesis
Robert Baller, Matthew Zevenbergen & Steven Messner Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, August 2009, Pages 275-300
The authors examine the ecological foundations of the thesis of a "code of honor" as an explanation for southern homicide. Specifically, they consider the effects of indicators of ethnic groups that migrated from herding economies (the Scotch-Irish), cattle and pig herding, and the relative importance of agricultural production across different areas in the Old South. Using county-level data on argument-related White male homicide offenders (1983 to 1998) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Supplementary Homicide Reports, the authors observe the theoretically expected positive interaction between the proxy measure of the presence of Scotch-Irish communities, namely, the percentage of churches that were Presbyterian in 1850, and the number of cattle and pigs per capita in 1850. They also find a negative effect of an index of crop production in 1850 on argument-related offending. The overall pattern of these findings is highly consistent with the herding thesis advanced by Nisbett and Cohen.
Herding economies? That's full of sheep dip. It's pretty simple: if you give a bunch of Scottish Presbyterians guns, a LOT of people are going to die. And you can call it a code of honor. But it's more like one of Angus's jokes:
What is the origin of copper wire? It was a shortage: Two Scots, one penny.
*GW Bush may never have said this. But I bet he did.
(Nod to Kevin L)
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
The Culture that is Germany
"German police called to clear a road of a dead badger found the animal in question had in fact gorged itself on over-ripe, fermented cherries and, blind drunk, staggered out into the middle of the road.
"The animal's stomach had turned the fruit to alcohol and the badger was, to put it crudely, drunk as a skunk," said a police statement on Wednesday. "In addition, the badger was suffering from diarrhoea studded with cherry stones."
Prodding the reluctant beast with a stick, officers managed to persuade it to leave the road near the town of Goslar in northwestern Germany and to sleep off his night of excess in a nearby meadow.
"It could not immediately be established whether the badger got into trouble with his wife when he came home in such a state," the tongue-in-cheek police statement concluded."
Link to story with a picture is here.
Selection Trumps Socialization
The Culture of Academic Disciplines and the Sociopolitical Attitudes of Students: A Test of Selection and Socialization Effects
Mark Elchardus & Bram Spruyt, Social Science Quarterly, June 2009, Pages 446-460
Objective: Using cross-sectional and panel data, this article estimates to what extent the association between students' choice of academic discipline and their sociopolitical attitudes is due to socialization and selection effects.
Methods: This is done on the basis of seven incoming cohorts of students and one panel of students. Changes in the panel are controlled for contextual influences by comparing them to a control group.
Results: Both selection and socialization effects are observed. The first are, however, much stronger than the second.
Conclusions: Although the literature, and particularly the more popular literature, highlights socialization effects, these turn out to be very modest. Future research should address the questions of how and why students select academic disciplines in a way that establishes strong relations between those disciplines and their sociopolitical attitudes.
Interesting. I think this means that people are confused even before they BECOME sociologists.
Labels: articles to read
A Truly Great Journal: "She Blinded Me with...An Inflatable Bra"
Dear Readers: I give you some highlights from the most excellent journal, "PERCEPTUAL AND MOTOR SKILLS." I am so glad that this journal exists. On the first two studies, I wondered, "Can men really be that stupid, and easy to manipulate?" Then I thought about it, and decided, "Yes, of course." On the third study: this can't be right. But it is certainly interesting. Presumably it was not replicated, in other studies, or we would have heard more. So what is the flaw in the research design?
Bust size and hitchhiking: A field study
Nicolas Guéguen: Perceptual and Motor Skills, December 2007, Pages 1294-1298
To test the effect of a woman's bust size on the rate of help offered, 1200 male and female French motorists were tested in a hitchhiking situation. A 20-yr.-old female confederate wore a bra which permitted variation in the size of cup to vary her breast size. She stood by the side of a road frequented by hitchhikers and held out her thumb to catch a ride. Increasing the bra-size of the female-hitchhiker was significantly associated with an increase in number of male drivers, but not female drivers, who stopped to offer a ride.
Experimental pain thresholds influenced by sex of experimenter
K. Gijsbers & F. Nicholson, Perceptual and Motor Skills, December 2005, Pages 803-807
Thresholds for pressure pain were tested in 64 adult human subjects (age: M=22.0 yr., SD=7.5). The subjects were young adults drawn from a student population. They were divided into two groups of men and two groups of women, with 16 participants in each group. A female experimenter tested one group of men and a male experimenter tested the other group. The women were tested in a similar way by an experimenter of the same sex for one group and the opposite sex for the other group. The two experimenters were dressed in a manner that emphasised their gender roles. The men tested by a female experimenter showed a higher average pain threshold than the men tested by a male experimenter, but there was no difference in the average pain thresholds of the two groups of women.
Testing for telepathy in connection with e-mails
Rupert Sheldrake & Pamela Smart, Perceptual and Motor Skills, December 2005, Pages 771-786
This study investigated possible telepathic communication in connection with e-mails. On each trial, there were four potential e-mailers, one of whom was elected at random by the experimenter. One minute before a prearranged time at which the e-mail was to be sent, the participant guessed who would send it. 50 participants (29 women and 21 men) were recruited through an employment web site. Of 552 trials, 235 (43%) guesses were hits, significantly above the chance expectation of 25%. Further tests with 5 participants (4 women, 1 man, ages 16 to 29) were videotaped continuously. On the filmed trials, the 64 hits of 137 (47%) were significantly above
(Major Nod to Kevin L)
What could possibly go wrong with this brilliant plan?
Chapel Hill woman arrested.
For growing marijuana.
On. her. FRONT. PORCH.
"It's a brilliant plan. They'll never catch me, see? It's hiding in plain sight, see? Have you ever heard of anyone growing MJ on the front porch?"
I'm no fan of this particularly dumb law, but the police are in fact obliged to enforce it. At least go with the BACK porch, I think.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Fighting Fire with NOT Fire
Why Do I Love Columnist Barry Saunders?
Why do I love Barry Saunders? Here's why: He writes stuff like this.
There are two places you don't want to be if you value your safety.
One is laid up in a trailer with Sweet Thang watching "Green Acres" reruns when a tornado strikes.
The other is standing between the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a hot microphone when a black celebrity dies.
Just think of a famous black person who has died within the past 30 years. Now try to picture Jesse not at the funeral.
You can bet your last copy of "Thriller" that when Michael Jackson is laid to rest today, Jesse will be there.
The reverend has become a latter-day Zelig, the Woody Allen character who turned up everywhere throughout history. The tragic part is that like Zelig, too often he's just part of the backdrop.
You may agree with Barry, or not. But you know what he thinks. 'Cause he tells you.
Labels: people and places
Sacrificing to the Earth Goddess: Political Environmentalism HARMS the Environment
An argument I have over here in Germany nearly every day: Environmentalism HURTS the environment. Recycling, the car buy-back program....almost everything we do to try show our support for the environment, HURTS the environment.
And the only counterargument I usually get is, "But the government wouldn't do this unless there is a good reason!" A variant, in other words, of "I was just following orders!"
Look, I admit that the U.S. has had some problems lately, blindly following our leaders into an unjust war, the Patriot Act, and the insane war on drugs. But...Germany? Are you kidding me? I would have thought the whole early-to-mid century experience would have made citizens skeptical of the claims of government.
It has had the opposite effect. Germans simply assume that anything the government tells them to do must be (1) good for the individual, (2) good for the society, and (3) good for the environment. No need to check, no evidence counts, it is simple and abject faith that the government is always right. (Karl Marx famously said that if Germans were going to stage a protest to shut down a train station, they would buy a train ticket first.)
Then, when we come to an obvious clusterf**k, like the "Abwrackprämie" program, they say, "Ah, we need to have some reforms, and spend more money. Then this program will work. It is a good idea, it just hasn't been implemented correctly."
Um...no. It is a BAD idea, and spending more money on it will only make it worse. Here is a really insightful article on the "buy back," which has been a disaster in nearly every way. It is expensive, it has not helped the German auto companies, and it is BAD. FOR. THE. ENVIRONMENT.
Government is dominated by organized interest groups, out for profit. That's it, that's all you need to know. Everything else is just eyewash. The buy back program is a payoff to the car companies, and labor groups. It has nothing to do with the environment, except when it comes to selling the program to you saps who pay the bills.
To their credit, real German environmentalists, who actually DO care about the environnment, have come to this realization also. It makes no economic sense to scrap the cars, when they have lots of useful life left (first reuse, THEN recycle, right?). The problem is that if the cars are not scrapped, then they continue to pollute, in other countries where they will probably last for another 200,000k kilometers.
Jürgen Resch, who heads a German environmental group called Deutsche Umwelthilfe, said he expected "hundreds of thousands" of scrapping-bonus cars to be exported. "They will go on damaging the environment with emissions," he said, and wind up disassembled in countries where the scrapping standards are "far lower than ours."
Don't reform, folks. Abolish. Stop the madness.
Now the U.S. has a similar, perhaps even more ambitious, program. Not surprisingly, the German program has had some....
"... unintended consequences. First, the obvious car to buy, when an owner turns in a clunker, is small and cheap. That means sales of Hyundais, Dacias, Skodas and European-model Fords have been better stimulated by the scrapping bonus in Germany than sales of Mercedes sedans or BMWs. By the end of March, only about 24 percent of the bonus money had gone toward German-made vehicles — above all Opels and VWs. In May the German share had risen to 40 percent, according to a report by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (the Verband der Automobilindustrie).
The other problem, though, is regulating what happens to old cars. These schemes are no good for the environment if the clunkers don't get junked. A newsmagazine called Monitor, a sort of German 60 Minutes, examined the fate last February of a decent but down-at-the-heels 1994 Mercedes turned in for the scrapping bonus. The avenues for a junk dealer to re-sell a car that wasn't, in fact, junk, were numerous and tempting.
"It's an invitation to fraud," said Michael Wacker, a burly auto-parts dealer who pointed to a halfway decent VW resting on a hydraulic lift in his yard. "That's only got 62,000 miles on it. Plenty of people would like to drive something like that."
The market for slightly used, slightly gas-guzzling cars in Poland and the Czech Republic, not to mention Africa or Russia, is a lucrative reason for some junk dealers not to scrap still-drivable cars. The Monitor journalists had no trouble finding people to export their Mercedes from Germany in spite of documents claiming it should have been scrapped locally; and of course it's just as easy to pollute the climate from Russia or Africa as from Germany or the United States." (Source)
I have to admit, I am pretty excited about the US program. Here is the list of cars owned at Haus Mungowitz (yes, we have six cars. Ask NeanderBill):
1. 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan (170k miles) (18 mpg)
2. 1995 Ford Mustang (185k miles) (16 mpg)
3. 2001 Lincoln Town Car (105k miles) (22 mpg)
4. 2006 Ford F-150 full size pickup truck (40k miles) (15 mpg)
5. 2001 Ford E-150 conversion van (80k miles) (12 mpg)
6. 2005 Toyota Corolla (48k miles) (35 mpg)
The sum of the values of 1, 2, and 3 is about $1,000, maybe. But I am happy to do my public duty, and sell them three or four times their value to Barack Obama, as long as he pays me personally. My scruples would prevent me taking actual TAX dollars, of course. Of course, now that I know that it is my public DUTY to take the tax money, for the good of the environment...I'll have to think about it.
The American Dream: Caused by Tea? Migration? Education?
Tea - midwife and nurse to capitalism
A. Kemasang, Race & Class, July 2009, Pages 69-83
Abstract: Tea is and has for long been so ubiquitous a part of daily life, in the UK
particularly, that its true significance remains almost invisible. Yet, as this article shows, it has nonetheless been of unprecedented importance in the historical, social and economic development of Britain, from the eighteenth century onwards, and not only as a major plantation-grown commodity of colonial trade. Indeed, its knock-on health benefits, as a counter to alcoholic alternatives and insanitary water supplies, were of primary importance to the growth and maintenance of the early industrial working class - and hence to the very development of Britain's early industrial and colonial supremacy.
The American Century? Migration and the Voluntary Social Contract
Jonathon Moses, Politics & Society, forthcoming
Abstract: This piece argues that free migration was a central if implicit part of the
liberal social contract and that America's founders were both aware of this and exploited it to legitimate their new state. The piece begins by describing this uniquely American contribution to liberal political thought. It then juxtaposes this contribution against the nature of our own international order, to show just how foreign the American Century has become. The piece closes with a short depiction of what an American Century would look like today - were it true to this early ideal - and comments on its feasibility.
Our Forgotten Founders: Reconstruction, Public Education, and Constitutional
Tom Donnelly Yale Working Paper, March 2009
Abstract: In this Article, I will consider a question that has been largely ignored by legal scholars: What role has public education played in constructing (or reinforcing) a constitutional culture that celebrates our Founding Fathers, but gives short shrift to their Reconstruction counterparts? To that end, I will look at the constitutional stories we tell our schoolchildren about the Founding generation and their Reconstruction counterparts. In particular, I will focus on the construction of constitutional heroes within these two key periods. First, I will use the Founding narrative as my baseline. From there, I will compare that account to our textbooks' treatment of Reconstruction. In the end, today's high school textbooks tend to praise the Founding generation and canonize certain key Founding Fathers, while, at the same time, largely ignoring Reconstruction's key players and
underemphasizing the constitutional revolution our Forgotten Founders envisioned (and began to wage). Our Reconstruction Founders deserve a more prominent place in the public's consciousness - and in the constitutional stories we tell our schoolchildren. If today's schools teach our children to revere the Founding generation by emphasizing their achievements and largely ignoring their shortcomings, our schools should (at the very least) stress the ambition of our Reconstruction Founders - even if they did not fully succeed in their efforts - and connect their incompletely - realized vision to the expansion of individual freedom and equality in the twentieth century.
Labels: articles to read
Monday, July 06, 2009
Micos, Macacos, & Muriqui
Spending a couple days at the RPPN Feliciano Miguel Abdala, near the town of Caratinga, in the state of Minas Gerais was one of the most fun experiences of my life. It was just Mrs. Angus and me in the reserve (there was also a research team headed by Prof. Karen Strier from the Univ. of Wisconsin, but we only saw them briefly).
The Muriqui (which is an indian word meaning "happy men of the forest") are endangered but their population in the reserve is steadily growing.
We also saw some capuchin and howler monkeys!
Here is a slideshow:
Ryan Smith to LA Kings
Okay, so a word about frequent commenter "Martin."
Martin was assigned to help me give a major university-wide talk. It had been pretty widely advertised, all around the...well...university. We expected a decent crowd (meaning, since I was the speaker, more than about three, which is the number that SHOULD come out to hear me).
Anyway, Martin has the key to the cabinet, and we open it up. It had to look like two Neandertals trying to figure out a VCR. "Why flash 12! 12! 12!? And what is 12, anyway?" "HUNH. Me not know."
We poked and pushed buttons, and I went and got a VGA cable from my office. (For some reason, you have to bring your own VGA cable, to connect a laptop. Strange, since everything else is provided.) I pushed the "Aus" button, on the theory that...well, I didn't have a theory. Of course, that turned the beamer off, and we had to wait to recycle it.
Never did get the thing to connect. Martin went and got the hausmeister, who was not in. Martin walked back and forth 20 times, reporting back, while I pressed buttons and grimaced. On the 12th trip, Martin reported that the hausmeister was in fact in his office, but on the phone. On the 20th trip, the hausmeister accompanied Martin back. The HM opened the door, and pressed the big, master "ein" button. And then he said something in German. I assume it was something on the order of, "Lots of electronic equipment works better if you turn it on! Boy, are you guys dumb!"
And it did. Work better. When we turned it on. I blame Martin for this.
Anyway, it all worked, and we had an hour before the talk, which was to start at 6. Except that 6 means 6:15, in bizarro world Germany academics. (As I have written before). So, as I left, I said, "See you at 5:45, Martin!" And he said, "See you at 6:15!"
And both of us thought, "Wait, he can't have that right. I must have misheard him."
I got back at 5:45. And there is no one in the building, anywhere. I start to freak out (I do have a time fetish, and I hate, hate, HATE to be late.) A few people show up at 6:05, and one of them, mirabile dictu, has a KEY. The freakin' key that I need to open the cabinet, and set up the projector (and turn on the "Ein" key, by the way).
We barely get set up in time.
Martin strolls in, at 6:14. Which would have been fine, except that he HAD THE KEY. If someone else had not had a key, my head might have exploded by this time.
So...when Martin comments that Ryan Smith was traded to the LA Kings, I am trying to be happy. Martin, inexplicably, is a big LA Kings fan. That's like being a Kansas City Royals fan in baseball, except that the Royals were once good. (Interesting, btw, that there was some bad blood between Smyth and the Kings, not so long ago. These things do blow over, once he's a teammate, but still...)
Anyway, props to Ryan Smyth, and to Martin. And next time I want to get my OWN key.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
1. Roger Federer defeats Andy Roddick at Wimbledon to claim his 15th Grand Slam title. Tomorrow's news flash: sugar is sweet, sun rises in the east. You may want to watch this 2007interview, which is still as hilarious as any post-match interview you will see. Whatever else, Andy does a good job of telling the truth.
2. Steve McNair found dead in condo. Ick.
Happy Anniversary to the LMM and to Me!
23 years and one day ago, I wasn't married. And today my older son is a college sophomore, living in an apartment in Chapel Hill. And the younger younger Munger is signing up for senior pictures. Because he is a high school senior.
23 years ago today we were going to the second wedding reception at the Elks Club, in Westerly, RI. The wedding had been at 9 am, and I hadn't slept at all the night before. Then we drove to a bad hotel outside of Boston, where we spent our wedding night. My friends had loaded every part of Donna's suitcase, including her pill bottles, with rice. Took years to live down the rice thing, and to get all the rice out of our luggage and pockets of clothing. Donna was so mad she stayed in the bathroom of the hotel for two hours and cried. Nice wedding night. "Honey? Sweetie? Are you okay?" "NO! I hate you and your friends! Don't you DARE touch me."
Next morning, before dawn, we flew to Bermuda, for our honeymoon.
My wife is a better person than I am in every way, except one: I married better than she did!
Happy anniversary, dear....
You Are So Booty-Call, to Me
The "Booty Call": A Compromise Between Men's and Women's Ideal Mating Strategies
Peter Jonason, Norman Li & Margaret Cason Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming
Abstract: Traditionally, research on romantic and sexual relationships has focused on
1-night stands and monogamous pairs. However, as the result of men and women pursuing their ideal relationship types, various compromise relationships may emerge. One such compromise is explored here: the "booty call." The results of an act-nomination and frequency study of college students provided an initial definition and exploration of this type of relationship. Booty calls tend to utilize various communication mediums to facilitate sexual contact among friends who, for men, may represent low-investment, attractive sexual partners and, for women, may represent attractive test-mates. The relationship is discussed as a compromise between men's and women's ideal mating strategies that allows men greater sexual access and women an ongoing opportunity to evaluate potential long-term mates.
(Nod to Kevin L)
Labels: articles to read
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Helping, Tolerating, Affect
Two very interesting studies. The stereotype is that senior women in academics can sometimes be very hard on junior women, and the stereotype is also that girls in middle school can be very hard on each other. I wonder about how the manipulations were actually managed in the Psych Science paper.
And, the other study resonates with my experience here in Franconia, in Germany. It is a very embedded culture, compared with the rest of Germany. You don't talk to people unless you have been introduced. And you would never impose on them unless you know them well. But on the other hand friendship is perhaps more important, and less superficial, here in Franconia than it is in the U.S. Not better or worse, just different.
Males' Greater Tolerance of Same-Sex Peers
Joyce Benenson, Henry Markovits, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Diana Geoffroy, Julianne Flemming, Sonya Kahlenberg & Richard Wrangham Psychological Science, February 2009, Pages 184-190
Abstract: Three studies were conducted to examine the often-cited conclusion that human females are more sociable than males. Using perceptions of roommates, roommate changes at three collegiate institutions, and an experimental manipulation of friendship beliefs, the studies demonstrated unequivocally that males exhibit a higher threshold of tolerance for genetically unrelated same-sex individuals than females do. Tolerance was defined as acceptance of the stresses and strains within relationships. Results are discussed in terms of potential underlying mechanisms and ultimate explanations.
Helping Strangers Is Lower in Embedded Cultures
Ariel Knafo, Shalom Schwartz & Robert Levine Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming
Abstract: The embeddedness cultural value orientation regards the extended in-group, not the individual, as the key social unit. Embedded cultures focus on the welfare of the in-group, limiting concern for outsiders’ well-being. Therefore, the authors hypothesized that people in high-embeddedness cultures are less helpful to strangers in need. They related countries’ embeddedness scores to rates of helping strangers in three field experiments across 21 countries. Large cross-national differences in helping strangers related strongly and negatively to cultural embeddedness in subsets of wealthy and developing countries. This suggests that prevailing cultural values affect the way people relate to needy others outside their in-group.
(Nod to Kevin L)
Labels: articles to read
Mr. Pujols: Walk Him. Just Walk Him.
I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. And so, my favorite player in all of baseball is Mr. Pujols.
But I have a question, a serious question, though it will sound crazy.
Here's the situation, last night in Cincy, playing the Reds. Cards down 3-0, looking dispirited. Men on first and second, two outs. Idiot Reds reliever walks Hoffpauir, bringing up the only real threat in the Cards lineup....Mr. Pujols.
The Reds bring in a righty reliever, to do the righty v. righty thing. This reliever is a wily veteran, David Weathers, with 18 years of major league experience. But (and I like big buts, you know I cannot lie), Mr. Pujols is 9 for 18 lifetime against David Weathers. Just wears him out like an old sock.
To complete the setting, remember that following Mr. Pujols in the lineup is Ryan Ludwick and then Rick Ankiel. Both very good defensive outfielders. But neither of them bats over the "Munger line" (my current weight is 240 lbs; Ludwick is batting .235 and Ankiel is batting .230).
Summary: 8th inning, two outs, you are ahead 3-0, the next two guys in the line-up are in deep slumps. Your bullpen is the best in the major leagues (Cincy has an amazing bullpen).
Do you pitch to Mr. Pujols? It is radical to suggest, but I say: No, you do not. Walk him. Yes, I know the bases are loaded. But. Walk. Him. It's still just 3-1 and neither of the next two batters are likely to do anything except fly out.
They pitch to Mr. Pujols.
Mr. Pujol hits a long homer, a grand slam, the big salami with extra cheese and pickles. Even Mike Shannon, who has been drunk since 1973, notes in this video that "maybe you think about walking him."
Next inning, in the 9th, he* hits an RBI double, winning the game for the Cards. Look, the rest of the Cards, not counting pitchers even, have a team batting average of .240. Albert is batting .340, with 82 RBI, 31 homers, and a slugging average of nearly .750.
Why don't they walk him? Even with the bases loaded? Baseball has this silly macho thing, instead of just trying to win.
Anyway, I do want to thank Cincinnati, and manager Dusty Baker, for giving me such a fine thrill this morning when I watched the video of Mr. Pujols single-handedly beating them. But I don't understand WHY they did that.
Every team says, "Don't let Pujols beat us." And then Pujols beats them. Because they pitch to him.
Reminds me of the old Groucho Marx joke. Guy comes running in to Groucho's office (Groucho is pretending to be a doctor). "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this." Groucho: "Don't do that." Well, it hurts when they pitch to Mr. Pujols. Don't do that.
*Pujols, not Shannon
Sarah Palin: Certifiable Lunatic
So, Gov. Palin is quitting, just straight up quitting her job as Governor of AK.
Her reason? Pure noble self-sacrifice.
"I love my job and I love Alaska, and it hurts to make this choice, but I'm doing what's best for them," Palin said, the sun glinting off a seaplane on Lake Lucille behind her.
Palin, 45, said that, after deciding not to run for reelection as governor, she realized she did not want to finish out her term merely for the sake of doing so.
"As I thought about this announcement that I would not seek reelection, I thought about how much fun other governors have as lame ducks: They maybe travel around their state, travel to other states, maybe take their overseas international trade missions," she said.
"I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," she continued. "I promised efficiencies and effectiveness. That's not how I'm wired. I'm not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual."
Good lord. All over the world, people go to work and do their jobs, just because they have a sense of obligation. Ms. Palin just got bored with the idea of doing the job she told the citizens of Alaska she wanted, and now she is quitting that job, FOR THE SAKE OF THE CITIZENS.
She may have a point, after all. Alaska is better off without her. Just yesterday she won the award for being the most ridiculous public figure of the pawt year. That means she beat out Blago, folks. No small achievement.
Friday, July 03, 2009
HIghs and Lows of Food in Munich
I have mentioned before the food requirements of the Lovely Ms. Mungowitz. So, while we were in Munich recently, we despaired of finding a decent place to have a salad that was devoid of things such as cucumbers, peppers, cheese, dressing, or croutons. The only solution? Subway Sandwich Shop. No, I am not kidding. In Munich, we went to the Subway for lunch.
The YYM saved the day, however, by ordering potato chips. Unexpectedly, a truly genius move. Here are two of the types of potato chips available at the Munich Subway Sandwich Shop:
The first, inexplicably, is "Ready Salted." Is this "ALReady Salted," in disguise, or something else? The second is "Prawn Cocktail." We ordered those, of course. And we disappointed, since there was no noticeable flavor of prawns on the chips. (That's "crisps" for you, Tommy). Or maybe we were happy. I don't remember.
Because then we got some real food. A nice dunkel and a big-ass brezel. The YYM was pleased.
Funny Audi ad
Not sure where they are really going with this.
1. Security guards are wimps?
2. Woman can't park?
3. The security guard loaned the woman his Audi?
4. The guy is FRENCH, for heaven's sake. The gun probably isn't even loaded, because the government is arguing about standards for bullets.
I have to admit: Audi commercials are cute. Here is another, for dog lovers.
Synecdoche in Munich: Best Signs 3
Being KPC readers, you all know that "synecdoche" is not a city in New York, but is rather a figure of speech where the part is used to represent the whole. For example, if a ship has "40 hands aboard" that means 40 sailors (why not 20, since they each have 2 hands?)
Anyway, we saw a great example of synecdoche in Munich. You know how many auto companies use ads where a woman is draped across the car? They are sending this message, in effect, drawn to male psychological scale: The car is not really what is supposed to catch the male purchaser's eye, in other words. (She is on the hood of a car. Look closely.)
Well, in Munich we saw a more creative approach. They didn't use a whole woman. In fact, draped across the hood, they let the hole stand for the woman. (I like....bad... puns, you know I cannot lie!)
Thursday, July 02, 2009
She (and he) wore blue velvet
Mrs. Angus took this shot on land near Porto Joffre (as always, click the photo to enlarge). They are supposedly the biggest flying parrots in the world. These two were in love and working on their nest.
You otter be in pictures
I took this picture from a small boat on the Rio Piquiri, which divides the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.
The Movies: Brazil v. Germany
In Rio, Mrs. A and I also went to the movies. We saw a fairly bad movie starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen (I think it was called Duplicity?), but the experience was fun.
Like Germany, there were assigned seats. However, you could pick them in advance from a computer screen. Sadly for me, when they turned the screen around to face me, I just assumed it was a touch screen and repeatedly tried to manually select the seats we wanted to the great alarm of the clerk and the great amusement of the people in line behind me. The bus we took from Rio to Angra dos Reis also had assigned seats (this may be more common, I have to confess that I don't take the bus much!) and people seem to take their seat assignments fairly seriously.
There was also a separate line for senior citizens!
Snacks were different from the US. There was popcorn and soda, but no candy bars. People were eating dessert items and even sandwiches at tables by the concession stand before the film started. There was very little eating inside the screening room. From what we saw overall, there are few obese people in Brazil (even compared to Mexico, let alone the US).
Prices were amazingly high, more than $10 per ticket, but at least there was no intermission.
The film was subtitled, but not very well. Mrs. A and I can both read Portuguese pretty well and were cracking up a few times at the differences between the spoken English and the written Portuguese.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Mrs. Angus and I are back from Brazil. Many cool things, stories, and adventures, but I figured I'd better not bury the lead: WE SAW JAGUARS IN THE WILD!!!!!!!!!
Here is an example, taken from a small boat on the Cuiaba river in the Pantanal:
Click on the picture to enlarge. That was pretty much the coolest thing ever.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Class and Voting: Chavismo and Bushismo
Who Votes for Chavismo? Class Voting in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela
Noam Lupu, Latin American Research Review, forthcoming
Abstract: The conventional wisdom about contemporary Venezuelan politics is that class voting has become commonplace, the poor doggedly supporting Hugo Chavez while the rich oppose him. This class voting is seen as both a new feature of Venezuelan politics and a puzzle given the multiclass bases of prior populist leaders in Latin America. I clarify the concept of class voting by distinguishing between monotonic and non-monotonic associations between class and vote choice. Using survey data, I find that only in Chavez's first election in 1998 was class voting monotonic. Since then, class voting in Venezuela has been non-monotonic, with the very wealthiest Venezuelans disproportionately voting against Chavez. At the same time, Chavez's support appears to have increased most among the middle classes, not the poor. Finally, I find that whatever effect Chavez may have had on overall turnout, his efforts have not disproportionately mobilized poor voters.
State Income Inequality and Presidential Election Turnout and Outcomes
James Galbraith & Travis Hale, Social Science Quarterly, December 2008, Pages 887-901
Objective: This study examines the links among income inequality, voter turnout, and electoral choice at the state level in recent presidential elections.
Methods: We introduce two new state-level ecological data sets, estimated annual Gini coefficients of income inequality from 1969 to 2004 and a measure of income segregation across Census tracts within states in 1999. We test for associations among inequality, turnout, and party preference with cross-sectional, fixed-effects, and multilevel analyses.
Results: The cross-sectional effect of inequality on voter turnout and electoral choice is ambiguous. However, a fixed-effects analysis links higher income inequality to lower voter turnout and also to a stronger Democratic vote. Multilevel results indicate that higher levels of economic segregation likewise are associated with depressed turnout, after controlling for individual voter characteristics and for state-level income.
(Nod to Kevin L)
Labels: articles to read
Institute for Justice Study
A new IJ study, one that I was privileged to write. Lots of good support in editing and packaging from the IJ folks, I have to admit. They do a first rate job.
Americans were once free to speak about politics without asking permission from the government or being forced to document their political activities for the authorities. But under the guise of “campaign finance reform,” government regulation of political speech has metastasized, spreading far beyond the mere financing of campaigns to monitor and control everyday political speech by ordinary citizens.
The latest wave of such regulation is state and federal laws targeting so-called “electioneering communications.” The term is most closely associated with the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known popularly as McCain-Feingold, and describes broadcast ads that merely mention a federal candidate and that air shortly before an election. For the first time in American history, federal law brought such speech and the groups that engage in it under the regulatory control of the government.
Best Signs in the World--2
Here is a very fine sign, near an American military base in Germany: I would imagine that this command applies especially, though not exclusively, to those people who actually HAVE dogs....On the other hand, apparently the troops are allowed to fill their housing areas with cow or turtle excrements, if they so desire. Rules can seem so arbitrary, don't you think?
(Nod to Martin, who fills his housing area with sturm und drang, though in a tasteful and friendly way)
Monday, June 29, 2009
The Economic Consequences of Subsidizing Homeownership
Steven Slivinski, Richmond Fed, gives an excellent history of the outlines of home ownership subsidies in the US, and the consequences.
We are living with the consequences, by the way.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Zoooh (as the Germans say), I went with the YYM to a movie today here in Erlangen. Transformers. (I should note that that web site is EXACTLY a rip-off of the Starcraft web site maintained by Blizzard, ten years ago)
On the German movie experience:
1. Assigned seats. No, really.
2. Unbelievably outrageous prices. Just like the U.S. in other words. Equivalent of $12 US for a ticket. Interestinglz, they price higher on weekends.
3. You can get a combo deal (menü) that is downright American, also. A giant (1.5 liter Pepsi Leight and a huge bucket o'popcorn. For about $11 US. No ice in the drink, though, so of course it is warm pretty fast. If you are going for the giant American style drink you have to cough up for the ice, I think.
4. After 10 minutes of previews, the curtain closes, the lights come up, and the theater comes in with a bucket of candy. He asks if everyone is okay, ready to start? People yell, "JAAAAH!" He goes back out. Then ten more minutes of trailers.
5. At this point about ten people come in, in the dark. the YYM and I had moved, because our ridiculous assigned seats were in the only row that had people in it. Apparently they sell one row at a time, in case there is a last minute rush from an arriving aircraft carrier. We had to get up, and find other seats, because bizarrely we happened to sit in the seats assigned to the rational late-comers.
6. A solid 25 minutes after the movie is supposed to start, it starts. Of course, it is Transformers. Having it be in German is a blessing. I am free to think that I have no idea what is going on because of the language barrier. If it were in English I would know that I had no idea what was going because it actually makes no sense.
7. After 80 minutes, the curtain closes, and the lights come up. Intermission. No, really.
8. AFter 10 minutes, lights go back down, and the movie starts, going on for another 70 minutes.
On the movie: it would have been dramatically improved by cutting out a full hour. I'm not exaggerating. It is an hour too long. At one point, the hero stops to talk to the SHC who is running with him toward the amazingly nonsensical conclusion. It has taken them at least a minute to move 100 meters, under violent attack from every quarter, for the last ten minutes. In other words, they have moved maybe a kilometer in ten minutes. They peer ahead. Hero says to Smokin' Hot Chick (Megan Fox), "We only have another 3 kilometers to go!" Audience actually groans and laughs, loudly. I have never seen that reaction before.
It is pretty clear who the target audience of this movie is. Here is a pic of Megan Fox, the main SHC. She is "painting" the motorcycle, in her dad's motorcycle shop. And, if you have been to a motorcycle chop shop, then you know that this is just how the workers look, dress, and position themselves to paint. JUST like this.
Biggest stars of the movie:
A. Megan Fox's breasts (they appear in nearly every non-exploding scene, and many exploding scenes.
B. The two "Jar Jar in a Car Car" transformers, though in the German dubbing they just had high pitched voices, like Ewoks.
C. The U.S. military. It was practically a commercial. Brave. Excellent tech weapons. The scenes with the planes, and the foot soldiers who never retreat, and then the hovercraft tank carriers....made you want to join.
D. Chevrolet. It straight up WAS a commercial.
E. The enormous destroyer Decepticon transformer. It had a giant pair of wrecking balls, right where a mammal that size would have...well, a giant pair of wrecking balls.
Things that should be shot over, or maybe just shot: A. The theme that bad government officials ruin everything. The fact is that bad is the ONLZ* kind of government official there is. Of COURSE they ruin everything. B. The plot. Incredibly bad. C. The editing. Leave an hour of this turkey behind, and it would be a lot more watchable.
My favorite review: It’s like watching a blender for two hours while someone shouts at you. And then the last half an hour is the same, except it’s more like having your head strapped to a washing machine while you watch a blender and someone shouts at you. And that guy LIKED the movie.
Still, I have to admit, I liked it too. It is a terrible movie, but it hardly pretends to be anything other than what it is. It is comic book set to massive sound and music, with several SHCs, and tremendous special effects. It's worth seeing. If you are male and 16, it may be worth seeing twice.
*darned german keyboard!
UPDATE: As commenter NP points out, here is a better review. What HE said. That's what I think, now, too.
Earmarks and Rules
Determinants of the distribution of congressional earmarks across states
Melissa Boyle & Victor Matheson, Economics Letters, August 2009, Pages 63-65
Abstract: This paper examines pork-barrel spending within states and finds that per
capita earmarked funding is correlated with the inverse of a state's population, the presence of a Republican Congressional delegation, and the tenure of a state's senior Senator.
Administrative Procedures and Bureaucratic Performance: Is Federal
Jason Webb Yackee & Susan Webb Yackee, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, forthcoming
Abstract: We provide the first empirical assessment of the ossification thesis, the widely accepted notion that procedural constraints on federal agencies have greatly hindered the ability of those agencies to formulate policy through notice and comment rule-making. Using data that cover all active federal rule-writing agencies from 1983 to 2006, our results largely disconfirm the ossification thesis. Agencies appear readily able to issue a sizeable number of rules and to do so relatively quickly. Indeed, our empirical results suggest that procedural constraints may actually speed up the promulgation of rules, though our model suggests that this positive effect may decline, or even reverse, as proposed rules age. We conclude that procedural constraints do not appear to unduly interfere with the ability of federal agencies to act, or in most cases, to act in a timely manner.
(Nod to Kevin L, who always finds the coolest stuff)
Labels: articles to read
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The Grand Game
It's been a while since we played the "Grand Game," where we at KPC post a news story, or blog entry, from some other source, and ask readers to point out the most amazing or outrageous part of the story.
Here's today's story:
(CNN) -- Monica Conyers, Detroit's embattled City Council president pro tempore, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to commit bribery, a federal court representative in Michigan told CNN.
Detroit City Council member, Monica Conyers, admits accepting bribes to sway a $1.2 billion contract vote. ATSRTWT
My own picks for most amazing outrageous:
1. The mood was somber at Conyers' office on Friday, an official there told CNN. Really?
2. According to state law, Conyers will have to forfeit her seat, Tolliver said. Cockrel said there's language in the law that makes it unclear whether she needs to forfeit her seat immediately or after sentencing
"It hurts the City Council's image, for sure," Cockrel said. Let's see, she pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to change her vote on the city council. And now they act like the only problem is some obscure state law that says she will have to forfeit her seat? Soon? I would HOPE so. As for "hurting the city council's image"....Jeh*vah, Jeh*vah, Jeh*vah! Like in Monty Python, how could it POSSIBLY get any worse? The only way the Detroit City Council could have a worse image is if they admitted to cannibalism.
Lots of other stuff to pick from. After all, this fine woman is the wife of John Conyers, my FAVE-o-rite US Congressman.
And, she is 44; that means John Conyers (He is *80*) took office in the U.S. House in 1965, the year his wife was BORN.
Finally, the ethics-minded Mr. Conyers wrote, "The Constitution in Crisis," because of his concern about good government. Perhaps now he will write, "My Wife Stole a Bunch of Stuff." Because, friends, that is just the kind of guy he is.
(Nod to RL)
Friday, June 26, 2009
And Iran, Iran so far away...Couldn't get away
Michael Jackson died....
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Schuhbeck's Orlando in Munich: A Very Fine Restaurant
As part of the service here at KPC (motto: "Where You ALWAYS Get What You Pay For!"), we do offer selective restaurant reviews. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Well, here's one that is good: Schuhbeck's Orlando. Bizarrely, it is located in the same platz that fronts the Hofbräuhaus .
And, you should go to the Hofbräu, to see the Americans be Americans. It is quite a display. Embarrassing to BE an American, but entertaining. I'd say just have a liter, and a big brezel (they are overpriced, but quite good). Then go for a walk over to the English Garden to build up an appetite for dinner.
And then have dinner at Orlando. It is 40 meters north of the Hofbräuhaus, and a world away. They have Augustiner Weissbier (!!) on tap, as well as Konig Ludwig Dunkel. (Again, !!) A fine wine list. The speisekarte is extensive, and quirky. I had "Orlando's Pan," a truly odd but wonderful mixture of vegetables, meats, and a salad. Kind of a mixed grill, not too much of anything, a delightful combination of flavors and textures. Lots of classics on the menu, and they all looked good. The LMM did her usual menu rewrite ("I want the chicken and rice, hold the chicken and rice, and give me some steamed vegetables"), and the waitress came through very well.
The desserts were rich, and delicious. Not too large, just very well done. Again, beautifully presented, different textures, wonderful.
The atmosphere is clean, elegant....makes you feel good after the nut-scene at the Hofbräu.
Laptop Toughness Tests....And a Monitor Plays Butch Cassidy
Health Care Article....
An article I missed, back in the N&O in Raleigh. By my friend and ex-student Don Taylor, at the Sanford Institute.
Excerpt: DURHAM -- In my health policy class at Duke, I teach students two "laws" that govern all health systems: (1) Everyone dies; the only questions are when and from what? and (2) before that, the healthy subsidize the sick.
The first law is inescapable. Making the second function is the essence of health policy. These two laws hold true in Canada. The U.K. Germany. Japan. The U.S. Medicare program. Duke University's private employee plans, and every Blue Cross and Blue Shield group plan sold in North Carolina. In fact, the reason you have heard discussion of the State Employees Health Plan this spring is because Law 2 above was no longer functioning because there were too few healthy state employees and dependents subsidizing the sick ones.
The whole article is interesting. My own view is that the problem is NOT that there are too few healthy subsidizing too many sick. The problem is that there are too many demands that health care "should be" free, and so it is expensive. Our system is focused on providing expensive cure, not cheap prevention.
Look, I have auto insurance, but it doesn't pay for oil changes. People need to pay more of their own costs, not in money terms but in basic maintenance and lifestyle choices. Get off your fat ass, put down the potato chips, and go for a walk.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Interesting Tool: Snapstream
North Carolina Criminalizes Thought
The state of North Carolina has deputized teachers at public schools all over the state, forcing them to try to read the minds of children. (Assuming the Gov signs the bill, and she will)
If you see a fight in the school yard, you as a teacher must try to put your hand on the bigger kid's forehead, and do a Vulcan Mind Meld. If you detect any of the following illegal thoughts:
Dislike or bad feelings based on "Race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability or association with a person who has or is perceived to have any of those characteristics."
If you detect these feelings, or think you do, or imagine that you might, then the punishment for bullying is different than if none of these are detected. So, you tell the kid being bullied, "Hey, punk, go wipe the blood off your nose. You are not a special protected category, with wealthy friends in the legislature. So, if you don't get out of my face, I the teacher am going smack you again. Stop your whining."
You can find this whole remarkable bill, right here.
My own thoughts:
1. The state cannot protect children in the schools from violence. Our schools are falling apart, our teachers are overworked, and have very few resources. Adding this burden of mind-reading to teachers is not going to help. It is simply a feel-good measure for the left. The bill is clearly unenforceable, and the cynical supporters know that. They can pass the bill, knowing that it does nothing to protect children from the real bullying that happens every day in the schools (mis)managed by the state.
2. There are actual, real rights being denied to gay men and women in NC. I find it incredible that committed same sex couples are being denied the right sign a basic marriage contract. But supporting bills like this, that single out gay people for SPECIAL rights, rights denied the little kids who happen not to be in a particular category, is counterproductive. That is, passing this bill HURTS the gay and lesbian cause in NC, because straight potential allies will now see gay rights as special rights, not human rights.
A mistake, this legislation. I hate it. I'm not surprised it passed, given the lack of leadership in the Dem party in NC, but I hate it. I mean, just read this account from the News and Observer (and I believe the reporters have this right):
Students and administrators might as well be living on different planets when it comes to school bullying.
Students say it is common for bullies to taunt and hit them or their classmates, and for teachers to do little to stop it. Superintendents and principals say that bullying is a small problem and that policies to discourage it work well.
Into the divide comes a bill that awaits Gov. Beverly Perdue's signature to make it law. The bill is meant to protect students who are harassed for reasons such as race, religion or disabilities. It also would protect students from being tormented because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.
Who cares WHY the kids are being tormented? We need a policy to stop the torment. While we are at it, let's have a policy to reduce gravity, also. I was a little fat kid. I got teased, and tormented, a LOT because I was a little fat kid. Pushed down, beaten up, had my lunch money taken. And, gravity affected me more than the other kids. Gravity DISCRIMINATED against me, singling out the fat kids to make them weigh more, run slower, jump less, all sorts of things that made me sad.
You can't have a policy to make kids like each other, any more than you can reduce gravity. The teachers might be able to keep better discipline, if the public schools would let the teachers actually run the school, like in a charter or private school. But teacher are prevented by policy from actually exercising discpline.
This new law just means that teachers will have to fill out police reports, after the fact, and using Vulcan Mind Meld. Damn.
An Interesting Video: Libertarians Can't Win?
Good friend, and ex-student, Josh Koster has an interesting Esquire article.
And, he did play a small role in the world media non-reporting of the Iranian non-election. He did manage to help pull down this web site for a bit:
I'm pretty sure someone important once said something about evil winning when good people do nothing. It seemed, at least to this (somewhat liberal, somewhat skeptical, but not emotionally so) activist, that the evil in Iran had begun to win because the watchdogs were acting like lapdogs. So I decided it was time to cut off the flow of false information and force them to, you know, report. If Ahmadinejad's propaganda machine stopped functioning, maybe the truth would start to. Twitter can stop and start at the same time.
The link that I repackaged and distributed on Twitter this week was to a tool called PageReboot.com. It does exactly what you'd expect it to do: refresh whatever Web site you want at whatever frequency you set. Sure, the site's intentions center more on winning eBay auctions than, say, affecting the outcome of a democratic election, but democracy's a loose term in Iran. All people had to do, then, was click my link and leave it open, and the lie-spewing servers of The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) would be slammed 3,600 times an hour.