Monday, May 07, 2012

What do the European elections mean for the Euro?

People, it's another beard vs. beard situation as Lebron takes the pessimistic view while PK says the results may be good news for the Euro.

The bottom line is that electorates in the PIGS (so far Ireland is resolute in taking its medicine) are unwilling to tolerate the Troika policies. Their only unilateral alternative is to exit the Euro, and they all seem unwilling to take this step.

So, I guess the "optimistic"view is that these results scare Germany enough to get them to pay more for their southern neighbors and to throw their weight behind the ECB significantly raising the Eurozone inflation rate.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Job wars

Nothing takes worse of a beating in presidential elections than do facts and figures.  We know that (a) our employment levels have not recovered to their pre-recession levels and (b) job losses in this recession are far worse than in any post-war recession.

But yet someone manages to produce this (clic the pic for an even more misleading image):





So this "recovery" is "normal", even though we know it isn't.

The trick is accomplished in three steps. The first is by using the total number of jobs and not taking into account that the labor force is much larger now than it was in 1990 or 2001. The second is to date the chart from the bottom of the recession. The third is to ignore all the other post-war recessions.


The invaluable Calculated Risk blog provides a more accurate view about the strength of our current recovery (clic the pic for an even more enlightening image):





Yes people, that is actually where we are and what we are still up against. The first graph is roughly comparing the upward sloping part of the red line against the upward sloping part of the brown line (the 2001 recession and recovery) on a total number of job basis instead on of a percentage of jobs basis, and trying to get you to think that we are better off in this recovery than we were in the 2001 recovery, which of course is utter nonsense.

On a more positive note, I am fairly certain that Bin Laden is actually dead.



The more we prosecute drug crimes, the less successful we can be in prosecuting other crimes. Judge Jim Gray:



Nod to Angry Alex

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Munger Games

Lots of insider jokes on B-schools

I like where the girl is going to be smacked by the Wharton kids, and she says, "Don't hurt me!  I love Pittsburgh!"

Creepiest Card Trick

Orson Welles (creepy enough already) does a card trick with Angie Dickinson. When he asks her to "stroke the cards, very gently, that's it, yesssss...." I got a little creeped out.

Nod to Jacob Grier @jacobgrier

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Federalist Society Debate


I got to do a Federalist Society debate on Amendment One (I'm against).

Here is Amendment One, the "protect marriage amendment."

Here is the ad for the debate.

My notes (only notes, didn't retype it, but this was my opening statement).

Any political system must balance the rights of individuals and the power of the majority.  The US is not a democracy, if by democracy you mean “majority rule.”  Many parts of the US system are explicitly anti-majoritarian.  The Bill of Rights protects individuals against majority tyranny.  Not against “the government,” but rather against majorities.  James Madison in particular was very concerned about majority tyranny.

The power of the majority is most dangerous when the minority is small and isolated.  The greatest constitutional protections focus on conscience and property.  Suppose I want to build a house on my property.  But my five neighbors like it with trees.  They vote to take my property and make it a permanent park.  We vote, and I lose, five to one.

The ability to sign contracts is one of the key provisions protected by the Constitution.  And because the ability to sign and enforce contracts was restricted by state governments intent on using racial prejudice to apply the laws in discriminatory fashion, the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War.
That 14th Amendment is perhaps the single most important change in the US Constitution regarding the ability of states to allow majorities to tyrannize over minorities. 

Section I has three majestic clauses, separated by semi-colons: 
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
No State shall make or enforce any law which
(a) shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor
(b) shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor
(c) deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


 Now, this is the U.S. Constitution, and we are amending the NC Constitution.  So what am I even talking about?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Stephen King should NOT be ALLOWED TO VOTE!

Check this genius quote:

"Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.”

So my man wants the government to both "fix global warming" and "lower the price of gasoline".

Nice work there, Steve. Your political economy is way scarier than your fiction.

I would like the government to make it never rain and have my lawn, plants and trees still stay green and vibrant. Can't do that with the rich man's charity either, right Mr. King?


We Get Letters: OKC Edition

SdM writes:
Dallas lost to OKC last night by 1 pt and I think it's bc they can't do math. Replay: 9 secs left: Nowitski gets a free throw and gives Dallas the lead. 1 secs left: Durant makes a 15 ft shot and gives OKC a 1pt lead. 0 secs left: Dallas is unable to get up the floor and shoot. Assume everyone on the floor makes 75% of their free throws and is 50% from the floor. If there's an OT, winner is determined by a coin toss. What do you do if you're Dallas at the 9 second mark?

SdM's answer: Dallas should have fouled, even though they had the lead, with 7 or 8 seconds left. That's obviously stupid, so I told SdM that was stupid. He pathetically tried to defend himself.

Four cases: 1. OKC misses both free throws. Dallas up 1 and has ball with ~8 secs left. 2. OKC makes 1 and misses 1. Unless OKC gets an offensive rebound off a free throw, Dallas has ~ 8 seconds to (2a) win the game on a last shot. If (2b) they miss, they go to OT and have a 50/50 chance. 3. OKC makes both, takes the lead by 1, but Dallas gets the last shot with ~8 secs left. Assuming teams make 50% of their field goals and 75% of free throws, ...

So, take those probabilities as right.

Here is what I came up with:
prob of case #1: .0625 (if two throws are independent)
prob of case #2: .375 (two ways to make one and miss one
prob of case #3: .5625 (again, independent)

case #4: what they actually did. If 50% from the floor is right, Dallas had a 50% chance of winning, with what they did, NOT fouling. No chance of overtime; they win, or lose, depending on whether Durant hits the shot with 1 second left.

If they fouled, Dallas has the following chances (assuming overtime is a coin flip):
A. Case #1, Dallas wins (assume OKC fouls, or not, but there's tool little time left for anything) p(DalWin)=.0625
B. Case #2, Dallas makes basket from floor p(DalWin)=.375*.5= .1875 Case #2, Dallas misses basket from floor, wins in overtime, p(DalWin)=0.09375 Case #2, Dallas misses basket from floor, loses in overtime
C. Case #3, Dallas .5 chance of taking last shot and winning, p(DalWin)=.5 If I have this right, and assuming OKC does not get off reb'd on it's foul shot, and assuming OKC does not foul Dallas, even in case #1, it looks to me like Dallas's chances of winning, if they foul, are .8375, whereas if they don't foul their chances of winning are 50-50.

Is this right? That's not even close, Dallas should foul. Maybe SdM is not so pathetic after all.

And what matters is just that Dallas' chances of winning if they don't foul are only 50-50, and if they do foul their chances are 50-50 to win, EVEN IF OKC makes both free throws, the worst case scenario. But is it really .8375 if you foul, compared to .50 if you don't? I must have missed something.

La reconquista continues apace

Inspired by La Penguina, Evo Morales chose a Spanish-owned electricity distribution company to nationalize on May Day.

"long live the first of May and long live nationalization", quoth Morales.

Since he nationalized natural gas production on May 1, 2006 and electricity production on May 1, 2010, perhaps the Spanish firm should have known what was coming?



Tuesday, May 01, 2012

And sometimes a picture is pure gold




Sometimes a picture isn't worth spit

Take this one in today's WSJ for example. A scatterplot of countries average growth rate over the 41 years from 1960-2000 against their average math test scores in the same period.



And, yes, of course the authors take the graph as causal explaining how that if we could just get our math performance up to the level of Canda's, we would all become way richer (yes I know the graph shows us growing faster than Canada already. The authors certainly could have picked a better example to tout their "theory").

I agree with the authors that K-12 education in America is failing an unacceptably large number of students and I favor reforms and experiments to search for better solutions. But let's not kid ourselves that the graph presented provides us a "menu" where we pick the growth rate we want by achieving the requisite test scores.