Saturday, April 16, 2011

Selfish reasons to NOT have (more?) kids

Ah yes, kids are cuddly, fun, look like you, and are impervious to your attempts to influence them via expensive or time consuming parenting techniques, so just, chillax, be fruitful and multiply, and enjoy the floor show, what could go wrong?

More than half of baby boomer mothers in the United States support adult children financially and 60 percent are the person their offspring go to when they encounter problems, according to a new survey.

Of women with children over age 18, nine percent said they had adult children living back home for indefinite periods. Twelve percent were primarily responsible for their adult child or children's financial well-being and 31 percent said they had children who returned home, relied on them but expected to become independent.

People, can I get a Yikes!!??

And of course you can't argue that you would raise your child not to be such a shameless leech, because, as we all know, parenting doesn't affect how kids turn out!

Friday, April 15, 2011

WTF squared

Sometimes you see things that stop you dead in your tracks and make you say WTF more than once.

People, here is one of those things:

Yes that is Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Timmy Geithner.

So many questions. Is that a look of pleasure or pain on Timmy's face? Are eskimo kisses the official greeting of G-20 Finance ministers? If this photo had been taken 1.5 seconds later, what would it have shown?

Dr. Doom does China

Uber-bear Nouriel Roubini has turned his sights to China, and he doesn't like what he sees. This is required reading, people.

Here's an excerpt:

When net exports collapsed in 2008-2009 from 11% of GDP to 5%, China’s leader reacted by further increasing the fixed-investment share of GDP from 42% to 47%.

Thus, China did not suffer a severe recession – as occurred in Japan, Germany, and elsewhere in emerging Asia in 2009 – only because fixed investment exploded. And the fixed-investment share of GDP has increased further in 2010-2011, to almost 50%.

The problem, of course, is that no country can be productive enough to reinvest 50% of GDP in new capital stock without eventually facing immense overcapacity and a staggering non-performing loan problem.


Guv by waiver

I don't know what to say about this.

So I'll let Richard Epstein say it.

(Nod to Chateau)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

NYT Op Editoriation

Three NYT op eds on the budget:

"A trick question: If Congress takes no action in coming years, what will happen to the budget deficit? It will shrink - and shrink a lot. This simple fact may offer the best hope for deficit reduction. As federal law currently stands, some significant tax increases are set to take effect in coming years. The most important is the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012...If Mr. Obama wins re-election, he could simply refuse to sign any budget-busting tax cut for the rich...Republicans, for their part, could again refuse to pass any partial extension. And just like that, on Jan. 1, 2013, the Clinton-era tax rates would return. This change, by itself, would solve about 75 percent of the deficit problem over the next five years." [David Leonhardt, NYT op-ed]


"[W]e can't let the oldsters get off scot-free. As my colleague David Leonhardt reported in The Times, two 56-years-olds with average earnings will pay about $140,000 in dedicated Medicare taxes over their lifetimes. They will receive about $430,000 in benefits. This is an immoral imposition on future generations. The Ryan budget wouldn't touch this generation, but a bipartisan budget deal should ask middle-class and affluent boomers to make a sacrifice for their country. Slow the growth in health care benefits now and dedicate that money to paying down the debt and investing in the young." [David Brooks, NYT op-ed]


"Public policy is going to be made from inside a fiscal straitjacket for the foreseeable future. But within that straitjacket, Washington can favor policies that enhance working-class opportunity, while ruthlessly paring back those that subsidize the affluent. The goal shouldn't just be small government, but what the economist Edward Glaeser calls 'small-government egalitarianism.' There are elements of this vision woven into the Ryan budget - cuts to farm subsidies, means-testing for Medicare, and promises to go after tax expenditures that primarily benefit the rich. But at least in its initial draft, too much of the budget's austerity is borne by downscale Americans." [Ross Douthat, NYT op-ed]

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Some thoughts: Douthat's "subsidize the affluent" is a little strange, as is the whole "tax cuts for the rich" meme. 47% of American pay ZERO fed income tax. How would you cut their taxes? You can only cut taxes on people who PAY taxes (I'm an economist; I know these things).

Still, and as Angus has said, we certainly could means test SocSec/Medicare, and by all means should cap mortgage interest deduction, perhaps at $15,000 per year.

But the real "subsidies to the affluent" are cutting subsidies to sugar, corporate farms, oil companies, and big fat defense firms. The problem is not a misallocation by ability to pay, but rather straight up subsidies to war pigs, farm pigs, and the prison-industrial complex fattening the purses of anti-drug warriors. Those payments dwarf the tax cuts.

Taxes take money from people who have earned it. Subsidies are gifts of money from those taxpayers to people who have NOT earned it. Get rid of the subsidies, first.

Veiled Fury

France bans veils. Walking around nekkid is still allowed, however. (Nod to the Blonde, though she doesn't really advocate the walking around nekkid part; I added that.)

Here is the US First Amendment, including the five freedoms from majority tyranny:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
(Written September 25, 1789)

Here is the French version of the same freedoms of religion (from the Declaration of the Rights of Man):

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
(These two written August 26, 1789).

The American version was Sept 25, 1789; the French was August 26, 1789. Yet banning the wearing of headscarves in the U.S. is literally inconceivable.

The difference is that the U.S. version says "Congress shall make no law..." That's a protection against the government.

The French version basically says you aren't supposed to break the law, but there is no restriction on the law itself. The law can say whatever some bunch of meddlers want it to say. That's an establishment of state power over religion. Quite a difference.

Vive le difference!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Unions Oppose Choices for Workers, and Win!

Sen. Wyden's "free choice" vouchers would have provided some alternatives for workers. Perhaps not surprisingly, unions would have none of that. And they killed it. Not clear free choice vouchers were a good deal, economically, for the nation. But that's not the point. Unions actually opposed vouchers, because it reduced their control over workers and gave the workers INDEPENDENCE from union bosses.

Sen. Reid held the knife. Why would anyone believe that private union bosses want to help workers?

For that matter, why would anyone believe that democracy helps citizens? Mencken had it right:

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?


I Have to Pee! I Vote "No!"

Extraneous factors in judicial decisions

Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav & Liora Avnaim-Pesso
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract: Are judicial rulings based solely on laws and facts? Legal formalism holds that judges apply legal reasons to the facts of a case in a rational, mechanical, and deliberative manner. In contrast, legal realists argue that the rational application of legal reasons does not sufficiently explain the decisions of judges and that psychological, political, and social factors influence judicial rulings. We test the common caricature of realism that justice is “what the judge ate for breakfast” in sequential parole decisions made by experienced judges. We record the judges’ two daily food breaks, which result in segmenting the deliberations of the day into three distinct “decision sessions.” We find that the percentage of favorable rulings drops gradually from ≈65% to nearly zero within each decision session and returns abruptly to ≈65% after a break. Our findings suggest that judicial rulings can be swayed by extraneous variables that should have no bearing on legal decisions.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Grand Game: UN Earth Mother Edition

Pelsmin sends this gem (better than the Onion!): Evo goes devo! Bugs have rights...

As finder, Pelsmin exercises right of first point-out-the-idiocy:

I know the US won't go along with it; refers to natural resources as "blessings." We would never support such right-wing evangelical language.

All this put Pelsmin in mind of George Carlin's riff on endangered species, and "save the f*****g planet." I had not seen this. Fantastic.

Chavez's Venezuela is more honest that Kirchner's Argentina

At least in some things. Venezuela's inflation rate last year was the world's highest at 28.2%, Argentina was second at 26.6.

But the big difference was that Venezuela actually reported its inflation rate, while Argentina's government reported an official rate of 10.9%, less than half of the actual rate.

Not only that, but the Kirchner government is attempting to silence critics by fining organizations who dispute the official number!

(earlier we discussed the financial incentives the government has to fudge the number)

Competing views on education

"Education is not the filling of a bucket but the starting of a fire."

W.B. Yeats

"There is no idea so stupid that you can’t find a professor who will believe it."

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pennies and steamrollers?

I have always thought of the carry-trade as a classic example of "picking up pennies in front of the steamroller". Eric Burroughs thinks differently:

"From 2001 through 2010, this JPY-USD short versus a AUD-IDR long was up 162 percent, uncovered interest rate parity be damned."

That's a mighty slow steamroller, eh?


I'm not sure the last sentence of the abstract makes sense to me....Really?

Gender and the Influence of Peer Alcohol Consumption on Adolescent Sexual Activity

Glen Waddell
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract: I consider the alcohol consumption of opposite-gender peers as explanatory to adolescent sexual intercourse and demonstrate that female sexual activity is higher where there is higher alcohol consumption among male peers. This relationship is robust to school fixed effects, cannot be explained by broader cohort effects or general antisocial behaviors in male peer groups, and is distinctly different from any influence of the alcohol consumption of female peers which is shown to have no influence on female sexual activity. There is no evidence that male sexual activity responds to female peer alcohol consumption.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Monday, April 11, 2011

And so it begins

A Chicago public elementary school has banned children from bringing lunches from home.

This is not from the Onion, this is real.

Let's hear from the principal:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," Carmona said. "It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."

Now let's take a look at an actual lunch from this school:

That, gentle reader, is "an enchilada dish", according to the school.



"You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations"

Published in Organization Studies. paper available here.

Science marches on!

Farting as a Defence Against Unspeakable Dread. Journal of Analytical Psychology

In the paper Fordham's views of development and Anzieu's concept of psychic envelopes constitute the theoretical underpinning. Bion's concepts of beta- and alpha-elements are discussed in relation to Jung's views on symbolic development and psychological containment.

The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. Social Forces

In this article, we explore the link between a particular form of popular music (country music) and metropolitan suicide rates. We contend that the themes found in country music foster a suicidal mood among people already at risk of suicide and that it is thereby associated with a high suicide rate. The effect is buttressed by the country subculture and a link between this subculture and a racial status related to an increased suicide risk.

No nod to KL, I did this all by myself!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sad, Really

It's a little sad that Will Farrell has to stoop to imitating...well, me.

Blame Republicans? REALLY?

I am happy to blame the Republicans for a lot of bad things, ranging from elective wars to astonishing hypocrisy about taxes and deficits.

But the government shutdown? The idiot Dems didn't have the juevos to pass a budget when they controlled every branch of government. The idea that "We'll get back to you" is a budget shows you just how inept and corrupt the Dems have become.

Nick G has some more

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Pusillanimous progressive punditry

One official progressive talking point in response to John Boehner playing their politicians like a violin is that Republicans are "bullies" and "hostage takers" (see here and here for examples).

Pundits, please!

Nobody gave Obama an atomic wedgie in the boy's bathroom. Nobody has any Democratic politician's family members locked up somewhere. It's simply that a majority of this country's elected representatives disagree with you on policy.

That's it; that's all.

Now, you may be right and they may be wrong about the policy, but it didn't take physical violence or blackmail to get the policy to turn out the way it did. A lot of people just plain disagree with you on policy.

Last time I checked, that was still allowed 'round here.