Kids Prefer Cheese
Credibly promising to be irresponsible...since 2004!
Monday, May 17, 2010
A Bizarre Paper, But With An Important Point
Private-Payer Profits Can Induce Negative Medicare Margins
Jeffrey Stensland, Zachary Gaumer & Mark Miller
Health Affairs, May 2010, Pages 1045-1051
Abstract: A common assumption is that hospitals have little control over their costs and must charge high rates to private health insurers when Medicare rates are lower than hospital costs. We present evidence that contradicts that common assumption. Hospitals with strong market power and higher private-payer and other revenues appear to have less pressure to constrain their costs. Thus, these hospitals have higher costs per unit of service, which can lead to losses on Medicare patients. Hospitals under more financial pressure-with less market share and less ability to charge higher private rates-often constrain costs and can generate profits on Medicare patients.
Good lord. The problem is not "profits," but rather that costs are increasing without bound. The point is that in the absence of any kind of competition, the very idea of "cost" is poorly defined. Every step along the line can charge higher prices, because the costs are passed on. You can call that profit if you want, but it's really just a transfer based on the monopoly protections afforded to health care by government restrictions on advertising, and the creation of insuperable entry barriers.
Two things you should read, if you think the article above makes sense (hint: it doesn't)
1. My little piece on insurance, at REASON
2. Nick G's cool piece on eye surgery, at ReasonTV
Cost can come down in a hurry, with competition. But the Obamacare program will, if anything, make the problem worse by focusing on insurance and bureaucratic price-fixing. In any case, blaming "profits" is the sort of idiocy you learn in public health schools, where as far as I can tell they would save time if they could just lobotomizing students. A lobotomy and an MPH are only distinguished by the size of the scar they leave; the effects are identical.
(Nod to KL for the article)
Funny sentences about the Euro Crisis
One is funny on purpose and one is funny - yikes!
"Beware of Greeks burning thrifts"
--Mary Anastasia O'Grady in today's WSJ.
“The situation was already starting to get worse on Thursday afternoon and throughout Friday of the week before last, a number of markets were no longer functioning correctly."
--Feckless ECB president J. C. Trichet as quoted by Tyler this morning.
Mary O's is astoundingly clever. I apparently have underrated her.
J.C.'s is funnier but scarier. He sees not lending to broke-ass governments = not functioning correctly.
They Probably Can't Jump, EIther
What is a "Sentence"?
I don't understand this. It may well make sense, but there are no details yet.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government has the power to indefinitely keep some sex offenders behind bars after they have served their sentences, if officials determine those inmates may prove "sexually dangerous" in the future.
"The federal government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger such prisoners may pose," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the 7-2 majority
UPDATE: If this means that there is a normal hearing, going toward a criminal insanity commitment, then okay. But....if the guy is certifiably insane, how could it be that he could be tried, and sentenced in the first place? I still don't understand.
UPDATE II: Roger Pilon clarifies....
Monday Flashback: 2004 White Sox Game
Our regular Monday feature: one of my favorite posts from the distant past, on Monday. This week, the description of a visit to U.S. Cellular Field, home of those beloved Pale Hose.
The best part really was where the guy ran out on the field, and took his beer with him. When the fat security guys finally caught him, they just straight up beat the hell out of him; don't need no stinkin taser!
Labels: el beisbol
What's in a name?
The social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
The dismal science
The mechanics of utility and self interest.
A study of mankind in the ordinary business of life
Economics is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.
The study of how the forces of supply and demand allocate scarce resources
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.
Chairity: Thursday at 7 a.m.
Thursday at 7 am: The "Countdown for Chairity" clock will go under 1,000 hours. Baby, oh baby, oh baby.
Labels: countdown of chairity
Sunday, May 16, 2010
This just in: the 22nd amendment does NOT apply to Haiti
Leave it to Slick Willie to find a loophole and get back in the saddle:
The majority of members on the CIRH are foreign. The criterion for becoming a foreign voting member is that the institution has contributed at least $100 million during two consecutive years, or has cancelled at least $200 million in debt. Others who have given less may share a seat. The Organization of American States and non-governmental organizations working in Haiti do not have a vote.
The CIRH is headed by U.N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. The only accountability or oversight measure is veto power by Préval. Few expect him to employ his veto option, both because his record is not one of challenging the international aid apparatus, and because of possible repercussions, in terms of the dollar flow, by the CIRH."
Tim G is Gone, But Not Forgotten
My friend Tim G, from Erlangen, is now back in Erlangen after a year at Duke.
On his last day in the U.S., I took this photo. You see Tim there in all his facets: a guitar tattoo that would be cheesy on anyone less sincere about rock music, the Buddy Holly glasses (see above), the books (he xeroxed much of the Duke library in his time here). And the earphones, so that he can play Altar or Lacuna Coil at a volume that would hurt the ears of someone at the same table if he were using ear buds. The full headphones keep all that death metal inside, where it belongs. Tim is a POLITE metal freak.
And he is sitting in the sun, in NC. Since he is now back in Germany, he will never see the sun again.
So, Tim: Alles Gute! Herzlichen Glückwunsch!
Labels: people and places
My job, as chair of Poli Sci, is to read out the names of the 132 first majors (we had 200 total majors, out of a class of 1,400, meaning of course that 1 of every 7 Duke students finish with a Poli Sci major. Amazing!).
I get a lot of the names wrong. Hard to pronounce.
But this year I yelled at the kids who blow right past the podium and get their diploma w/o giving the parents a chance to take pictures. I actually made one kid come BACK, and pose again so that dad could take the picture.
We got through 12 awards, and then 132 names, complete with ample ops for pix, in 45 minutes. I made the kiddos line up, and made sure the moms / dads / uncles knew where to stand to take pictures.
Got a big hand from the parents. It's their day. Enjoy, parents! Your kid is done.
Fortunately, not too hot today, and there was a breeze. Another year over....
Labels: academic politics
no fold-em hold-em, Euro style
In the gaming establishment I occasionally frequent, low-stakes poker games are referred to as "no fold-em hold-em" meaning that the tables are filled with calling stations who will pay to see every available card.
"Europe’s fortnight mirabilis was also marked by amazing – and erroneous – predictions. Greece would be booted out of the monetary union. The eurozone would be divided into a Northern European union and a Southern European union. Or the euro – and even the European Union – would disintegrate as Germany turned its back on the project....Those forecasting the demise of the euro were wrong because they misunderstood the politics."
Two final thoughts.
(1) I just don't see the rescue fund as a slam dunk game changer.
(2) I'd like to play Barry heads up in Texas hold-em
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Cute Things Falling Asleep
Friday, May 14, 2010
How Cool Is This?
Electoral reform? You mean it is not impossible?
Consider the sequence of events.
1. Third party candidate allowed to participate in debates. Does well. Polls show third party might matter, might have good ideas.
2. Election takes place, where third party gets hammered, because of crooked election laws.
3. But because neither of major state-sponsored parties has a majority, third party is able to extract promise to make election law more open and less crooked.
If it happened in England, could it happen in the US? Answer: Probably not, because in the US we can't even get to step 1. Voters can't like what they can't see.
(Nod to Anonyman)
Darned Profits! They must DIE!
#2 with a WTF
Here is yet another list of the top 10 most profitable college majors.
But the best is the equation of "creating public policy" with "humanitarian efforts". Sweet Fancy Moses, people.
Globalization Kills Local Culture
Pop Internationalism: Has A Half Century of World Music Trade Displaced
Fernando Ferreira & Joel Waldfogel, NBER Working Paper, May 2010
Abstract: Advances in communication technologies over the past half century have made the cultural goods of one country more readily available to consumers in another, raising concerns that cultural products from large economies – in particular the US – will displace the indigenous cultural products of smaller economies. In this paper we provide stylized facts about the global music consumption and trade since 1960, using a unique data on popular music charts from 22 countries, corresponding to over 98% of the global music market. We find that trade volumes are higher between countries that are geographically closer and between those that share a language. Contrary to growing fears about large- country dominance, trade shares are roughly proportional to country GDP shares; and relative to GDP, the US music share is substantially below the shares of other smaller countries. We find a substantial bias toward domestic music which has, perhaps surprisingly, increased sharply in the past decade. We find no evidence that new communications channels – such as the growth of country-specific MTV channels and Internet penetration – reduce the consumption of domestic music. National policies aimed at preventing the death of local culture, such as radio airplay quotas, may explain part of the increasing consumption of local music.
Wow, Canada: How much BNLs, Shania, Alanis, and Neil Young can you play in a day?
(Nod to Kevin L)
Labels: articles to read
Thursday, May 13, 2010
give us Barabbas
for we will not have this man rule over us!
note: more fun photos at the first link!
That Darned Media
So, South Carolina's budget is in the toidy, the Gov of SC is trying to rekindle his affair with his Argentine "soul mate," and the House of Reps in SC has already given the largest sanctioning fine in its history to Gov. "Gotta get my boy wet" Sanford.
And the villain? The MEDIA. Because they got the name of the hotel wrong. Really.
(Nod to Anonyman, whose soul mate likes Loco Pops)
Labels: political theatre
The 4 chord song....s
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
you wouldn't even know a diamond if you held it in your hand
I know that I am treading on thin ice here, after all, the US of A re-elected George F. Bush!
Nonetheless, I am amazed at how political pariahs can somehow rehabilitate themselves.
Consider Alan Garcia in Peru. From hyper inflation (7,649% in 1990), rampant terrorism and disgrace to, less than 20 years later being again elected President.
Of course that was perhaps a bit of an Edwards v. Dukes (vote for the crook, it's important) situation.
I was amazed to see today that Imelda Marcos and two of her children won elections in the Philippines. Imelda in the House, a Governorship for the daughter and Senator for the son.
After winning, Imelda had this to say:
"The Filipino people can be assured of our selfless and endless service and love to all."
Yikes (NBA edition)
“I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have three bad games in seven years, it’s easy to point them out.”
Wow, people. As Wojo points out, that is not exactly what you want to hear from the league MVP after he's thrown away home court advantage and possibly his team's season in the second round of the playoffs.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I have been trying to repost what I though were some of the best of the past of KPC, on Mondays. But didn't make it in time yesterday. So, a day late, here is another classic from the Jurassic.... blogging from St Louis the day after the 2004 prez debate. I found the whole experience to be surreal, and it still seems that way, reading it nearly six years later.
Your KPC classic....
Truth in Advertising
I often make my lefty friends angry, when I say that force and coercion are the distinguishing features of government. Ultimately, both good laws bad laws are enforced by men with guns, and we are forced to obey. The men, and the guns, don't care whether the laws are good or not.
My friends deny this, and say that in fact obedience is something we all WANT to do, because it makes us happy. And all laws must be good, because government wants what is good for us.
The state of Pennsylvania has abandoned the pretense. Well done, PA.
(Nod to my man John P, at BWtHDIK)
and a mighty slow line it is....
God hates Oklahoma
Wow people, that was a close one! Mrs. Angus, Mr. Tooty, and myself spent late yesterday afternoon and early evening hanging out in our bedroom closet listening to the tornado sirens (which was ok til the power went out), while all hell broke loose outside.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Article by the McCubbi!
Proposition 13 and the California Fiscal Shell Game
Colin McCubbins & Mathew McCubbins
Stanford Working Paper, December 2009
Abstract: We study the effects of California's Tax and Expenditure Limitations, especially Proposition 13. We find that Proposition 13 was indeed effective at reducing both ad valorem property taxes per capita and total state and local taxes per capita, at least in the short run. We further argue that there have been unintended secondary effects that have resulted in an increased tax burden, undermining the aims of Proposition 13. To circumvent the limits imposed by Proposition 13, the state has drastically increased nonguaranteed debt, has privatized the public fisc, and has devolved the authority to lay and collect taxes and to spend the proceeds so gained. The devolution of authority has been among the swiftest growing aspects of government finance in California, to a far greater extent than in other states. Lastly, we argue that the new tax and spending authorities that have been created to circumvent Proposition 13 have led to a reduction in government transparency and accountability and pose an increasing threat to our democracy.
(Nod to Kevin L)
Labels: articles to read
I admit I am shocked (but not awed). The Euro Nations have put together a large ($1 trillion or so) contingency fund to defend their common currency and stock markets are so far rejoicing.
But what shocks me is the fact that the ECB (European Central Bank) is now going to be directly buying government debt.
In other words, goodbye Central Bank Independence, hello Weimar 2.0???
I would call this Wow and Yikes, not Shock and Awe.
Since we are likely soon to have a new female associate Justice on the SC....
Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging
Christina Boyd, Lee Epstein & Andrew Martin
American Journal of Political Science, April 2010, Pages 389-411
We explore the role of sex in judging by addressing two questions of long-standing interest to political scientists: whether and in what ways male and female judges decide cases distinctly — "individual effects" — and whether and in what ways serving with a female judge causes males to behave differently — "panel effects." While we attend to the dominant theoretical accounts of why we might expect to observe either or both effects, we do not use the predominant statistical tools to assess them. Instead, we deploy a more appropriate methodology: semiparametric matching, which follows from a formal framework for causal inference. Applying matching methods to 13 areas of law, we observe consistent gender effects in only one — sex discrimination. For these disputes, the probability of a judge deciding in favor of the party alleging discrimination decreases by about 10 percentage points when the judge is a male. Likewise, when a woman serves on a panel with men, the men are significantly more likely to rule in favor of the rights litigant. These results are consistent with an informational account of gendered judging and are inconsistent with several others.
Several questions occur.
1. "Panel effects"? That is not the way I would have talked about panel effects. What is meant here is the presence or absence of at least one woman on the "panel" deciding. Makes sense, but panel data is an established term.
2. The rap on SDO'C on the court was that she was erratic. (She wrote McConnell v. FEC, which was bizarre, for example). So the difference (and there may not be one) between men and women may be in the variance, not the means. And in spite of the anecdote about Sandra D., it may well be men who have higher variance. I have no idea. Just saying that the difference in the second moment would be an interesting thing to measure...
Sunday, May 09, 2010
The wisdom of Tyler Cowen
"Some people hate me for this view, but TARP is looking better all the time."
I agree. Maybe it worsened moral hazard issues down the road, maybe some of the money has been spent beyond the intent of the program (GM anyone?), maybe it was bigger than it needed to be, but TARP and quantitative easing by the FED pretty clearly worked and worked well.
As a lagniappe, most of the money is actually getting paid back.
What do you think I am, a cuttlefish?
I am very late to this party, and for that I apologize, but have y'all seen the "green porn" and "seduce me" videos by Isabella F. Rossellini on the Sundance Channel?
Freaky-deaky to say the least.
Here is the homepage, where you can learn about the genitalia of ducks and the lack of genitalia of female bedbugs courtesy of a deranged Italio-Swede actress.
As Tyler would say, it's self-recommending!
Labels: foreign relations
Saturday, May 08, 2010
"People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election." Otto von Bismarck
hat tip to Keith Gaddie
Labels: behavioral economics
Markets in everything: Pork-o-meter edition
Sadly this isn't for the kind of pork we really need protected from (which I should have realized right away given that it was invented in Kazakhstan), but it's still awesome nonetheless:
ALMATY (Reuters) – Scientists in mainly Muslim Kazakhstan have come up with an instant test for the presence of pork in food, a popular newspaper reported on Monday.
The plastic-stick test detects food molecules that are found only in pork, which is forbidden by Islam but is easily found in the Central Asian state, Megapolis weekly said.
Laptop Dance: How Could This Go Wrong?
Friday, May 07, 2010
Bass Ackwards Redux
I have been claiming that Greece is not ruining the Euro, but that the Euro ruined Greece. Now, compulsive tweeter Felix Salmon provides a provocative tidbit in support of this thesis:
A good jobs report
+290,000 in April (231,000 in the private sector (yes we still have one)), and March's number was revised upward from 162,000 to 230,000.
More confident employers stepped up job creation in April, expanding payrolls by 290,000, the most in four years. The jobless rate rose to 9.9 percent as people streamed back into the market looking for work.
The hiring of 66,000 temporary government workers to conduct the census helped overall payroll growth last month. However, private employers -- the backbone of the economy -- boosted jobs, too. They added a surprisingly strong 231,000 positions last month, also the most since March 2006, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The unemployment rate rose from 9.7 percent in March to 9.9 percent in April, mainly because 805,000 jobseekers -- perhaps feeling better about their prospects -- resumed their searches for work....
Also encouraging: The employment picture in both March and April turned out to be stronger than previously thought. Payrolls grew by 230,000 in March, better than the 162,000 first reported. And, 39,000 jobs were actually added in February, an improvement from the previous estimate of 14,000 losses.
QOTD: British election edition
"The country has spoken — but we don't know what they've said,"
Labels: show me what you got
Well Hung Parliament
Brit Labour Gov Goes Up in Flames, Down in Seats!
Actually, Labour lost, and should have lost power, but the districts are so distorted in terms of seats/votes ratio that I don't see how the Brits even call these things elections. Also, the LD surge turned out to be just puff, no real blow.
And so the pound gets pounded.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
This just in: A = A
What part of non sequitur do you not understand?
In reference to immigration, I keep seeing and hearing the phrase "what part of illegal do you (insert derogatory epithet here) not understand?" given as the beginning and ending of any debate.
I guess this is supposed to mean that fact that something is illegal means we should have zero tolerance for it?
Speeding is illegal but.....
Driving while texting is illegal but....
Not reporting all tips or gifts on your income tax is illegal but.....
Making sales in cash and not reporting the income is illegal but....
Smoking marijuana is illegal but......
We could literally list scores of things that are clearly illegal but cause most people little or no consternation. There are also tons of things that are illegal but carry inconsequential penalties.
Hey, that is immigration reform I could really get behind.
Fine all illegals $5.
There, two problems solved.
Labels: get that weak stuff outta here
This is one of the coolest things I have read in a long time. Worth reading the whole (very long) thing.
It is very interesting that there is a huge difference between speech to text, and text to speech. I often use Adobe's listen-to-text feature to be able to hear a dissertation or a paper read aloud to me on a long drive. Just plug my laptop into the auxilliary jack on the BMW (it's supposed to be for your iPod or MP3 player, but it works on anything that has an audio jack). Start up the PDF reader by clicking on "Read out loud" (which, bizarrely, is in the "View" menu on Adobe).
Wouldn't work well on a diss with a lot of tables and equations, but works fine for lots of theses in poli sci.
It is rather amazing that the reverse process, speaking and having the computer record the words, basically doesn't work at all. Optical scanning works quite well, with error rates below 5%. But audio speech-to-text... 80%, tops, and even then you are better off typing it straight from voice, for most purposes.
Betsy has a good story on election reform in Arizona.
I am not a fan of taxpayer financing of elections. If you want to get money out of politics, get government's hands off our money. The reason that election outcomes are so crucial right now is that government has metastisized into nearly every aspect of our lives.
To make elections less expensive, make them less important.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
The Ward Boss supplies some excellent comic material, here.
I would add, to the list of things you will never see in a published paper:
"The reason that some of the indep vars are logged and some are squared and some are linear is that none of the results come out right otherwise."
Cinco de What?
Zombie Joseph Beuys?
FYI, Mungowitz, here are the top 5 reasons why I don't vote:
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Libertarians Dissed, and I Commit Election Fraud
Very interesting. I went to vote today, of course. (Angus does not vote, which mystifies me. Of COURSE he is right that voting because you affect the outcome is silly. But voting because it makes normal people nervous....THAT is really fun. Of course, at this point Angus has 34 years of virginal non-voting streak at risk, so perhaps I don't blame him after all).
Anyway, I went to vote. I was #306, and I went to the poll 10 minutes before closing time. ("You.... you are number #306! Get in line!" I love being an arbitrary number chosen by the state. Perhaps I should get used to it, if laws like the Arizona "Extra Real ID" rules spread to other states).
Except there was no line. I was the only one there. Four poll workers, and me. Yes, they are volunteers. But they are volunteers working for the state. And... well, let me tell you.
I give the front line lady my name. She finds my entry in the "Giant Special Book of People Who Have the State's Permission to be Citizens, and Other Secret Things." And says, "Please state your name." Since that is what I had just done, and that is how she found my listing, I was giggling. (Angus, see what you are missing, man?) Then, "State your address."
I said, "10020 Bushveld." She looks up, suspicious. "Bushveld WHAT?"
"Lane," I said, amazed. "10020 Bushveld LANE." She nods, still suspicious. Now, I was #306 for the day, in a place where the polls had been open since 6:30 am. They are only getting a little less than 4 people every 10 minutes, or 24 people per hour, voting. There couldn't have been much demand for vote fraud. She just didn't like the look of me, I think. (Yes, I was wearing dirty shorts, a ripped t-shirt with a spaghetti sauce stain, and flip-flops. Again, Angus, man, so many chances to enjoy this).
She starts to explain to me which ballot I can vote. North Carolina's D and R parties have chosen to have semi-open primaries, where D registered voters vote D, R registered voters vote R, and unaffiliated voters can vote either.
Except that there is a third party, the Libertarians. Actually on the ballot. Except there were no ballots. This may make some sense, because I think that no Libertarian primary is contested this time around. Still, we have a Senate candidate, Dr. Michael Beitler, and I was looking forward to voting for him. We did all that work to get on the ballot, and I was looking forward to it. If you look at the list of candidates who filed for office, and paid fees (pdf here), you'll see there are more than 20 Libertarian candidates for statewide, federal, or state assembly seats. We did all that work, and got on the ballot. And then I got more than 2% running for governor. So we are ON THE BALLOT.
The lady is flustered by my Libertarian registration, which is there plain as day on the record. She goes to ask Uber-voting-spiel-fuhrer. They argue, she gestures, he peeks at me. Then he comes over and asks, "Sir, what is it you want to do?"
Now I start to giggle again. I did not say that I was there to watch the baseball game, and have some margaritas. Instead, I said, "I want to vote. I thought this was the voting precinct for my address, and..."
He interrupts, though not rudely, and says, "Yes, but who are you going to vote for?"
I raise my eyebrows, and my voice (there were two people behind me now): "I have to tell you who I'm going to vote for? Is this some kind of profiling? I thought we had secret ballots!"
The voting-spiel-fuhrer, who was painfully earnest, actually dropped his mouth open and then turned beet red. "Da... boh... No, I meant which party do you want to vote for?"
"I want to vote in a way that doesn't violate North Carolina's election law. I am registered Libertarian. I want to vote for my party, as the law dictates. Are you telling me I can vote in another party's primary?"
He said, "We can't have a different ballot for each party. What if the Greens, or the ... the...." (he couldn't think of any other parties) "....wanted to vote? It would be too expensive to print ballots for every party."
So, I said that the Greens, the Constitution, the Socialist Workers, the Farm Union, and Moonies couldn't possibly ask for a ballot, because they are NOT recognized parties in the state of North Carolina. The Libertarians, by contrast, are fully recognized, and are on the ballot. So his example made no sense. None of those parties were authorized to field candidates, but the Libertarians are authorized, and in fact do have candidates, including Mike Beitler who is running for the Senate nomination.
The poor fellow held up pretty well. He said, with an air of finality, "You just tell us which ballot you want, Democrat or Republican, and we'll give it to you."
I said, "Republican." (I wanted to vote for my friend BJ Lawson, since there were no Lib ballots). And I voted, and I got one of those "I voted" stickers, and I went out to the car.
But I still think that the poll workers were mistaken, and that I should not have been allowed to vote in a partisan primary other than the one I am registered for.
And, I was struck by a question whose answer I don't know, at all. What is rule for the Libertarian Party? When we have primaries in 2012 (we are likely to have contested primaries for both Governor and President), will our ballot be open, semi-open, or closed? I do not know the answer to that.
what if Yakov Smirnov had been from North Korea?
I think things would have gone much like this.
Here is my favorite:
Chang Man Yong works on a collective farm in North Korea. He goes fishing, gets lucky, and brings a fish home. Happy about his catch, he tells his wife: "Look what I've got. Shall we eat fried fish today?"
The wife says: "We've got no cooking oil!"
"Shall we stew it, then?"
"We've got no pot!"
"Shall we grill it?"
"We've got no firewood!"
Chang Man Yong gets angry, goes back to the river, and throws the fish back into the water.
The fish, happy to have had such a narrow escape, sticks its head out of the water and cheerfully yells: "Long live General Kim Jong Il!"
Hat tip to LeBron!
Has it really come to this?
We are now going to give awards to soldiers who don't kill innocent civilians?
NATO commanders are weighing a new way to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan: recognizing soldiers for "courageous restraint" if they avoid using force that could endanger innocent lives.
The concept comes as the coalition continues to struggle with the problem of civilian casualties despite repeated warnings from the top NATO commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, that the war effort hinges on the ability to protect the population and win support away from the Taliban.
People, please join me and other libertarians around the world in deploring and protesting these senseless, state-sanctioned murders.
Just So You See What I'm Dealing With....
People meet me, and my wife, and everything seems normal. You have to understand what I'm dealing with here.
The LMM has a cousin / aunt (for Italians in RI, it's hard to tell the difference) who sent us this. Thanks, Shirley!
THE DIFFERENCE IF YOU MARRY A RHODE ISLAND GIRL
The first man married a woman from North Carolina . He told her she was to do the dishes and house cleaning. It took a couple of days, but on the third day, he came home to see a clean house and dishes washed and put away.
The second man married a woman from Florida . He gave his wife orders she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and the cooking. The first day he didn't see any results, but the next day he saw it was better. By the third day, he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done and there was a huge dinner on the table.
The third man married a girl from Rhode Island . He ordered her to keep the house clean, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed, and hot food on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything, but by the third day, some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye, and his arm was healed enough that he could fix himself a sandwich and load the dishwasher. He still has trouble sitting down, though. (Note: Last line revised, in response to comments)
Monday, May 03, 2010
China and the US Debt
China and the United States: The Bonds of Debt, by Donald D. Hester
Professor of Economics, Emeritus
The University of Wisconsin – Madison
This paper explores the large and growing indebtedness of the United States to the People’s Republic of China. Beginning with the 1971 reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, international trade between them expanded but was very modest until the mid 1980s. At that point, China under Deng Xiaoping adopted a variation on the successful export strategy that had been pioneered by Japan and the smaller Asian “tigers”. The first section of the paper analyzes the distinctive features of this variation and provides tabular information about trade and foreign exchange balances and the exchange rate between the dollar and yuan. The second section proposes a crude game-theoretic discussion of what each country might gain and lose from their large growing financial entanglement in the short and long run. The third section is a discussion of the limits of the imbalance and how U.S. debts to and Chinese claims on other countries impact the relation between the P.R.C. and the U.S. The concluding section focuses on the paradox of a poor and rapidly growing authoritarian country financing an undisciplined and relatively declining democratic superpower.
Anniversary of Chille's
Financial Regulation Will Help! Not....
So, now the government is going to fix the financial industry, because markets don't work?
Look, the genesis of the financial crisis was a trap, set by federal government offiicials and regulators.
It was a trap baited with four kinds of tasty cheese:
1. Down payment subsidies, encouraging people to buy houses more expensive than they could actually afford
2. Changes in the definitions of "conforming" loans, with much looser requirements for packaging and reselling by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.
3. Artificially low interest rates that served to finance an asset bubble in housing and commercial real estate.
4. An implicit guarantee, made by all of the last four Treasury secretaries, that any decline in housing prices would be treated as a "market failure," prompting government action to prop up prices.
While it is clearly true that private investors behaved both greedily and in some
cases foolishly, these four factors ensured that the financial disaster would be
larger, and last longer, much longer, than would have happened if government had
just left housing markets alone.
Given the temptations to meddle, and given the inability of government officials to
obtain the accurate information that unfettered markets provide through prices,
there is no reason to believe that these new attempts at regulation will turn
out any better than the old ones.
In short, given that government had a substantial role in causing the crisis through
misguided regulation, there is no reason to believe that the new regulatory policies will help.
YYM in Erg Contest
A video of the YYM owning an erg contest. (He's the second from the front, going left to right) He had his best time ever, 6:42 mins for a 2k race. And won his heat.
Information and Portion Size
When Healthy Food Makes You Hungry
Stacey Finkelstein & Ayelet Fishbach
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming
Abstract: Do subtle cues for imposed healthy eating make consumers hungry? Imposed healthy eating signals that the health goal was sufficiently met, and thus it increases the strength of the conflicting motive to fulfill one's appetite. Accordingly, consumers asked to sample an item framed as healthy later reported being hungrier and consumed more food than those who sampled the same item framed as tasty or those who did not eat at all. These effects of healthy eating depend on the consumer's perception that healthy eating is mandatory; therefore, only imposed healthy eating made consumers hungrier, whereas freely choosing to eat healthy did not increase hunger.
The largest Last Supper: Depictions of food portions and plate size
increased over the millennium
B. Wansink & C. S. Wansink
International Journal of Obesity, forthcoming
Abstract: Portion sizes of foods have been noticably increasing in recent years, but when did this trend begin? If art imitates life and if food portions have been generally increasing with time, we might expect this trend to be reflected in paintings that depict food. Perhaps the most commonly painted meal has been that of Jesus Christ's Last Supper, chronicled in the New Testament of the Bible. A CAD-CAM analysis of the relative food-to-head ratio in 52 representative paintings of the Last Supper showed that the relative sizes of the main dish (entree) (r=0.52, P=0.002), bread (r=0.30, P=0.04), and plates (r=0.46, P=0.02) have linearly increased over the past millennium.
Promoting Healthy Choices: Information versus Convenience
Jessica Wisdom, Julie Downs & George Loewenstein
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, April 2010, Pages 164-178
Abstract: Success in slowing obesity trends would benefit from policies aimed at reducing calorie consumption. In a field experiment at a fast-food sandwich chain, we address the effects of providing calorie information, mimicking recent legislation, and test an alternative approach that makes ordering healthier slightly more convenient. We find that calorie information reduces calorie intake. Providing a daily calorie target does as well, but only for non-overweight individuals. Making healthy choices convenient reduces intake when the intervention is strong. However, a milder implementation reduces sandwich calories, but does not reduce total calories due to compensatory effects on side orders and drinks.
(Nod to Kevin L, who always has the skinny)
Sunday, May 02, 2010
The EYM Gets His Tooth Back!
A year ago, from Germany, I told the story of how the EYM, dancing on a chair, tried to break that chair with his face. An on-looker described the resulting sound of tooth fragments hitting the floor as "like someone was playing Yahtzee."
Here is the EYM recently.
Here is the EYM after the dentist performed the adatoothtome. (Three operations, total).
He looks good! Of course, being the EYM, he then promptly got a haircut, apparently from someone using a weedwhacker.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Tyler Out Front
So, Tyler had been fussing that the hotel doesn't sell the NYTimes. And, it was raining and blowing pretty hard.
But I took a break and walked down to Starbucks, and they had the NYT. I picked him up a copy.
And then came back up here to my room to write about immigration (article in today's NYT, btw).
And THEN I notice that Tyler had already asked the right question. Now I don't have to write that post. Dude, we're even.
Will I be able to play the piano?
Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and
hurried to the checkout counter.
The man at the counter asked the older boy, "Son, how old are you?"
"Eight," the boy replied.
The man continued, "Do you know what these are used for?"
The boy replied, "not exactly, but they aren't for me. They're for him. He's my brother. He's four. We saw on TV that if you use these you can swim and ride a bike. Right now, he can't do either."
Reminds me of the 1940s era joke: GI gets his hands burned in an explosion in battle in Italy. He wakes up, and sees the doctor examining him. "Doc! DOC! Will I be able to play the piano? TELL ME that I will be able to play the piano!"
The doctor looks carefully. The burns aren't that bad, and there is no bone damage. "You will be able to play the piano beautifully, son."
GI: "Oh, you're a genius, Doc. I never could play before."
Friday, April 30, 2010
The problem with Greece and the Euro isn't that the fixed exchange rate is foiling Greece from devaluing its way back to prosperity, but rather that adopting the Euro (and the ECB rules) let Greece finance an incredible spending binge at artificially low rates.
If Greece had never joined the Eurozone, it NEVER would have been able to run up so much foreign debt.
My problem with congress in a nutshell
“Balancing the budget and reducing the debt, in my mind, are not ends in and of themselves,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “We can't afford to skimp on our children's education, assuring access to quality, affordable health care, retirement security, achieving energy independence, investing in our infrastructure, supporting medical research, creating more jobs.”
The article containing this gem is here.
While I do partly agree with the first phrase to the extent that I don't favor balancing the budget at current spending levels, the hideous combination of arrogance, profligacy and ignorance shown here typifies, to me, how our congress operates (and has operated for quite a while now).
1. First quarter GDP growth estimated at 3.2%, slightly under the forecasted rate of 3.4%. Consumer spending rose 3.6%. Can you say, "the jobless recovery continues?" Thank you, I knew that you could.
Fire Protection Services
For you schmoes who dared doubt me, about provision of fire services.....
Well, read and cheer the mighty forces of private self-interest! That's 1979, Journal of Libertarian Studies, for the reference.
(nod to B-Doog, who knows stuff)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Russ R on the financial crisis
Nick T gives some good advice on dissertations.
I have taken my own shot at this, along with Dave Schmidtz and others. (For the dissertation part, check page 21 and following)
Funny to think of Nick writing about writing dissertations. Seems like just yesterday when he was a newbie in grad school, and wrote this on his blog.... Four weeks later, Nick said I had "outed him." Blogging was a bit more outre and underground in 2004.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
New Laptop Design: Roll
Interesting design for "laptop."
1. Stupidest part of the rescue package that I'm aware of:
Labels: misery loves company
It's the Insolvency, stupid!
Yesterday was the day it seemed that everyone figured out the Greek crisis is not one of liquidity but rather of insolvency.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I just love this last passage from Mencken's 1926 "Last Words."
I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson come instantly to mind: Jackson and Cleveland are in the background, waiting to be recalled. Nor is this process confined to times of alarm and terror: it is going on day in and day out. Democracy always seems bent upon killing the thing it theoretically loves. I have rehearsed some of its operations against liberty, the very cornerstone of its political metaphysic. It not only wars upon the thing itself; it even wars upon mere academic advocacy of it. I offer the spectacle of Americans jailed for reading the Bill of Rights as perhaps the most gaudily humorous ever witnessed in the modern world. Try to imagine monarchy jailing subjects for maintaining the divine right of Kings! Or Christianity damning a believer for arguing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God! This last, perhaps, has been done: anything is possible in that direction. But under democracy the remotest and most fantastic possibility is a common-place of every day. All the axioms resolve themselves into thundering paradoxes, many amounting to downright contradictions in terms. The mob is competent to rule the rest of us—but it must be rigorously policed itself. There is a government, not of men, but of laws - but men are set upon benches to decide finally what the law is and may be. The highest function of the citizen is to serve the state - but the first assumption that meets him, when he essays to discharge it, is an assumption of his disingenuousness and dishonour. Is that assumption commonly sound? Then the farce only grows the more glorious.
I confess, for my part, that it greatly delights me. I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself - that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can't make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of. How can any man be a democrat who is sincerely a democrat?
It is rather amazing that progressives are convinced that man is deluded, badly informed, ill-motivated, and terminally selfish.... unless that man steps in a voting booth or public office. Then, the saints sing from on high and only good things can happen.
Labels: H. L. Menken was right
Epstein-Zinn-Weil preferences to the rescue (again)
Xavier Gabaix and Robert Barro are, in my opinion, on to something really intriguing and good with their work on the effects of rare disasters.
Now, in a new NBER working paper (ungated copy here) titled "Crises and Recoveries in an Empirical Model of Consumption Disasters", Emi Nakamura, Jon Steinsson, Robert Barro and Jose Ursua introduce a new twist, viz. Epstein-Zinn-Weil preferences.
Well because of this:
In a model with power utility and standard values for risk aversion, stocks surge at the onset of a disaster due to agents' strong desire to save. This counterfactual prediction causes a low equity premium, especially in normal times. In contrast, a model with Epstein-Zin-Weil preferences and an intertemporal elasticity of substitution equal to 2 yields a sizeable equity premium in normal times for modest values of risk aversion.
People, those are some magic preferences!
Try to Pay Attention....Libertarians are NOT Individualists
Got this asinine cartoon from my man KL....
How confused can you possibly be?
1. Libertarians believe that individual CHOICES, not disjointed individual ACTIONS, are the center of the good society. I have a 2006 BMW 330i. Not a clue how it works, the engine is a complex mystery to me. So, do I do all the work myself? I do not, none of it in fact. I pay an expert to do the service work for me. My choice to purchase a BMW was based in part on the excellent service record of the 330 series. I had a lot of choices, and I chose the BMW. Maybe a good choice, maybe not. But I do NOT believe in the need for, or even the desirability of, total independence and self-sufficiency. Markets always create complex mutual interdependencies that greatly increase specialization and improve welfare.
2. If the government stopped providing coercively "supplied" fire services, what would happen? Would there be zero fire protection? No, volunteer fire departments would take up part of the slack. In fact, volunteer fire departments are a perfect example of voluntary private organizations that would carry most of the water in a libertarian society. We don't necessarily need for-profit firms to do the work, though in larger cities that would probably make sense. This fallacy, that if the government stopped providing the service there would be no new institution to solve the problem, is obvious nonsense. Yet it is essentially the only argument that the anti-libertarian ning-nongs and lefty figjams have in their pathetic little arsenals. It doesn't matter how many times the canard is refuted, you still hear it.
An argument in favor of cloning yourself
Honoring the Government Workers
Does It Matter if Exchange is "Euvoluntary"?
Is exchange just? Does it matter if exchange is "euvoluntary"? I try to answer these and other questions, here.
Excerpt, with definition of euvoluntary:
Euvoluntary exchange requires (1) conventional ownership of items, services, or currency by both parties, (2) conventional capacity to transfer and assign this ownership to the other party, (3) the absence of regret, for both parties, after the exchange, in the sense that both receive value at least as great as was anticipated at the time of the agreement to exchange, (4) neither party is coerced, in the sense of being forced to exchange by threat, and (5) neither party is coerced in the alternative sense of being harmed by failing to exchange.
In the political world, “power” is measured by the capacity of one person or a group to impose his, or its, will on others through the threat of violence. That is the sense of “coercion” in number 4 above. In the economic world, power in an exchange relationship is measured by the disparity in outcomes if no exchange is agreed upon.
More simply, economic power is the disparity in welfare at the reversion points, or the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Let’s call this the “BATNA” for short.
Suppose I am considering buying a bottle of water. If I am in a grocery store, and notice that the price is $1,000 per bottle, I laugh and push my cart along. I’ll buy the water somewhere else, or get some from the tap, or choose any of many alternatives. I am almost indifferent, in fact, between buying water at Kroger or buying it at Food Lion, for the market price of $0.90. I have choices.
And, I have money, and we all agree that I own that money and can transfer, and we all agree that each store owns the water, and can transfer it. Finally, the water is not poisonous, and tastes good, so I won’t regret purchasing it, if I choose to do so. So the exchange is euvoluntary.
Now, let’s suppose instead that I am far out in the desert, and am dying of thirst. I happen to have quite a bit of cash on me, but I can’t drink that. A four wheel drive taco truck rolls over the hill, and pulls up to me. I see that the sign advertises a special: “3 tacos for $5! Drinks: $1,000. 3 drinks for only $2,500”. I argue with the driver. “Have a heart, buddy! I am dying of thirst!” He asks if I have enough money to pay his price, and I admit that I do. The driver shrugs, and says, “Up to you! Have a nice day!” and starts to drive off.
I stop him, and buy 3 bottles of water for the “special” price of $2,500. Was the exchange euvoluntary?
It was not. The exchange violates part 5 of the definition, relative equality of BATNAs. My BATNA was death, from thirst. The driver was little affected by whether a deal was consummated (though he got a bit richer), while I was enormously affected. Even though in most important senses the exchange was voluntary (I could have said no), it was not euvoluntary.
(The paper is tentatively forthcoming in Social Philosophy and Policy, September 2011)
Monday, April 26, 2010
Lakers are from Mars, Ron-Ron is from Venus
Here is what Ron-Ron had to say after his Lakers got demolished Saturday night:
"They were aggressive," forward Ron Artest said. "No excuses. I hope nobody blamed the refs. Nobody did, right? They did well. We've got to play basketball."
And here is what Ron-Ron had to say about his 3-point shooting:
"My three-point touch? Oh, I don't worry about that. It's there. I like it," he said. "I missed three layups. I'm more concerned about that."
By the way, he was 0-4 on threes in the game and is shooting 13% on threes for the series.
Quotes are from here.
Nerd is the Intersecton of Dork, Dweeb, and Geek
A most excellent Venn diagram.
Anyone who actually LIKES Venn diagrams (and who says things like, "You can find Nerd at the intersection of Geek and Dork), is of course pretty good nerd material already. Otherwise, you think it's like the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, which is a street corner.
Ode on a Grecian Burn
The Greek bailout is proceeding apace. Their budget deficit was again revised upward and their bond rating accordingly again revised downward, so their debt refinancings are getting ever closer and more expensive. The EU and the IMF are committing around 40 billion Euros in funds.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Nine bins, no waiting
England is screwed. We even have a label that says so.
But.... what the heck? Anyone want to play a little "Nine bins"?
All resources are either substitutable, or renewable, except.... ONE. Our time. That's the one thing we can't get more of. Yet the envirophiles want to waste all our time on religious ceremonies to worship Gaia.
(Nod to the NCM)
He said, He said
So after my Thunder utterly beat down the Lakers last night, Kobe Bean Bryant said:
After digesting this quote from KBB, Tyler Cowen said:
"Kobe should be PM of Greece or Iceland!"
I do know that KBB claims to be fluent in Italian......
The most productive carpenter in a framing crew, for example, might produce twice as much as his least productive colleague, but is rarely paid even 30 percent more.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
The pursuit of the green cash flow has begun. Here are some Transit and Highway marketing efforts. For a little perspective on the Transit end, here is Thomas Rubin Writing for the Reason Foundation.
Rubin states “The purpose of this critique is not to attempt to show that buses are bad for energy use, air quality, or the economy. It is, rather, to show that any proposal to achieve improvements in any of these through transit, including bus transit, must be based on a realistic presentation of the current situation, the historical trend, and the practical potential for improvement. Any evaluation based on wholly ridiculous bus load factors and misstatements of auto load factors, using this analysis as the basis for future promises of improvements, fails this test badly.”
Jobs labeled green now have the highest market value. “Green” is even better than “free”, because policy makers can justify tax increases to help pay for their winning coalition (link...).
Why Give It Away? Do They Love Us?
KPC Friend Robet Eaton writes:
I saw David Pogue (NYTimes' tech guru) wonder aloud in his blog "why would these cable companies offer free wi-fi service???" It seemed like a scam, or a trojan horse to him.
He got his response quickly, in comments. It wasn't a scam, it was competition. "The free WiFi hot spots are an enticement to ward off defections to Verizon (and its Fios service) and AT&T."
I love how incredulous people can be that actual competition brings about such favorable results for us consumers ...
Well, yes, RE, the incredulity is amusing. But their refusal to update their beliefs can only be explained as religious devotion to a view that markets are bad, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
Labels: We get letters
Video on Price Gouging
Friday, April 23, 2010
Don't Stop That Train....
Train doesn't stop, yet passengers get off. Nice.
(Nod to A.V., who doesn't care--he's just dying to get off)
Force Bad, Persuasion Good. Guns Rule Out Force.
One of those internet sensations going around. Still, worth thinking about.
The Gun is Civilization
Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed.People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society.
A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.
Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level.
The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone.
The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation... and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act.
by Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret)