Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Slowdive, biches

Sitting in the Tampa airport waiting to get back to the sorghum fields of west Texas, I got to thinking about my relationship with music and specifically concerts that gave me an intense, ecstatic, transcendent, experience like what Kerry Howley describes in her great book, “Thrown”.

Here’s a semi-chronological list:

Luxuria,  Hollywood bowl, LA CA
Neil Young, / Wolf Trap
Luna, Knitting Factory, NYC
Morphine, Tipitinas, NOLA
The National,  Austin TX
Built to Spill, multiple occasions
Car Seat Headrest, Opolis, Norman, OK
Slowdive, Tampa FL


I can sometimes get this at home on the stereo, I’ve built / curated over the last 20 years but only with quieter music, like:

Sufjan Stevens
Pernice Brothers
Palace Music
Bon Iver
Mazzy Star
Sparklehorse

Most all music sounds great on my stereo, but this type can get me super close to the out of body type experience I got at the concerts listed above.


At this point in my life, I am pretty much willing to chase this feeling anywhere I think I might be able to find it. Suggestions welcome!!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday's Child is Full of Links!



1. At LEAST 90% of bike accidents could be prevented if riders simply bought a car like a normal person, instead of this crazy sanctimonious virtue signalling.

2.  I have noticed this problem more and more.  Many people have told me that Prof. MacLean has "refuted" all of the evidence that she just made stuff up. No. In fact, all she did was rebut it, and that only by saying things like, "My critics are bullies."

3.  Third Eye Fine. Or so the beetles say.

4.  Truthiness, 10 years after.

5.  Introduction to emergent order. And then It's a Wonderful Loaf.

6.  Malls with husband pods.  And everybody is a little happier.

7.  This has got to be the Onion.  Though, the guy looks pretty tired, and I can see why.

8. Sam Harris did a podcast with Yale's Nicholas Christakis.  And Prof. Christakis brought up the research of Kevin M. Munger, the "NYU Grad student" mentioned.  The paper discussed in the podcast is here.  Here is some discussion in the Atlantic.

9. LuckyToken Lottery. Da blockchain rulz.

10. Our favorite headlines. Hard to beat that one. Perhaps had been listening to that Shooter Jennings' "Manifesto #1": "Get out of that skirt. But leave them high heels on..."

11. Okay, so YOU guys pretend to be cops, and YOU guys pretend to be drug dealers. It'll be great, because apparently there is not enough REAL crime to keep us busy. In one of the least safe places in the U.S.

12. My Duke colleague Peter Feaver is a voice of reason. First he was a voice of reason at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then on Trevor Noah's show. (Fixed. thanks, commenter!)

13. GOOGLE should change it's motto to "Do no stupid," and then follow that motto. But, no.

14.  On Ken Burns' "Vietnam."

15.  Williams College and its craven administration are leading the way toward the American Cultural Revolution. Shameful.

16.  "No more research is necessary. We know everything." It was wrong when they said that to Copernicus. It's wrong to say that now to Swedish universities.

17. A discussion of the work and contributions of Gordon Tullock.  Boettke, Levy, Kurrild-Klitgaard, Munger.

18. Why is there corn in our gas tanks?

19. Sweden once again shows that libertarian DIRECTION is the right policy.

20.  But....but.... but, Gorsuch!

21. WalMart Nation?

22. Trump and the "Regulatory State."

23. Pumpkin Spicer not really finding a job.

24/ Brendan Nyhan on informal rules. David Hume through Douglass North.


The grand lagniappe: a (the?) vintage Fluffer-nutter commercial. Why do we even HAVE a government, if stuff like this can happen? With thanks to all those who found it funny that I had not heard of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches growing up. But especially to David Pinto, who sent me this damned earworm.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Simba has two dads


People, did you know that animals can be gay? Well Ezekiel Mutua didn't and he's not happy about it.

Yes, Mr. Mutua, there are gay lions.


I just love Zeke's stated possible reasons for this phenomena:


1. Gay tourists were doing it in the bush and the lions learned from them. (big if true. those would be some badass gay tourists for sure). People, I have been privileged to see lions in the wild. Believe me, getting out of the land rover and getting busy did not cross my mind.

2. Demonic possession.


Zeke is adamant about one other thing: They lions didn't learn it from the movies!

Really? Was that the common assumption of everyone else? Two lions strolled into downtown Nairobi and went to the movies? And saw Brokeback Mountain?

Would the movie thing make more sense if I told you Zeke was the president of the Kenya Film Classification Board?

Amazing that he thinks he has to cover his ass from being blamed for the gay lions. I really hope Mr. Mutua and his ignorant, biased attitudes, have no future in Kenyan public life.






Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday's Child is Full of Links



1.  Republican baptism.  Seriously, self-consciously atheistic, secular baptism, for a fee, from the priests of the state.  Guess what country? Yep. France.

2.  News? Best-selling gun is popular.  New scientific study: most people think water is wet.

3.  A serious question:
Consider A to be the number of people who can correctly define the Streisand Effect.
Consider B to be the number of people who can identify Barbara Streisand.
What is the "over/under" year when A>B?  I say 2025.

4.  Police: We need to know. But you don't need to know we know.  Or even that we know. Trust us, because we know what's best.

5. Ilya Somin on the MID.

6.  Signs of the apocalypse: Not just McDonalds. But you are so lazy you can't even stop off at the drive-through. You want that giant burger and large fries BROUGHT to your fat ass, so you can keep binge-watching "2 Broke Girls."

7. It's a new game: Rand Paul, fan of Ayn Rand, was attacked over lawn clippings and trimming of hedges. So, what do we call this incident?  Some suggestions:  "Who is John Assault?" "Atlas Shrubbed." "The Hedge Row."  See? Isn't that fun?

8. Bitcoin costs a lot....of electricity.

9.  Dan Drezner on "The Tax on Women in National Security."

10.  Okay, but is it art? Not if it is demolished. Who owns it?

11.  Money and Cryptocurrency....

12. HA! No wonder the LMM looks so young and lovely. 

13. Ranch dressing. A KEG of ranch dressing. That is all. Well, actually, that is NOT all. Save room for the PieCaken.

14. Mike Pence on the "Year of Accomplishments" by the Trump Administration.  Really.

15. Hedy Lamarr was better than I am at EVERYTHING. Happy Birthday, Hedy Lamarr.

16. Was John Locke the first "modern" economist? (8 minute video)

17.  Have you ever wondered about the strange, messed up play the Indy Colts ran in 2015?  I had wondered. The play. The explanation. Another explanation.

18. Miles Davis did an interview with 60 Minutes in 1988.  Miles Davis does not appear to be from Earth. But he was remarkable. An electrifying presence.

19. This level of misunderstanding of what libertarianism is can only be willful. Because Elie Mystal can't be THAT confused. Right?

20. Virgil Storr and some weak free-rider have some interesting things to say about the Bolshevik revolution.

21.  The state desperately wants to regulate food trucks, to make sure no one can get inexpensive meals conveniently. You should have to go to a sit down restaurant, or else get fried salty fat in a bag by standing around at McD's. But it's hard to hold the lid on. Because....Uber Eats.

22. Can you imagine overlooking such a mistake in the headline?  On the other hand, they ARE "bi"valves, so maybe it was on purpose...

23. I wrote this nearly three years ago. But it has never been more true.

24. For Radley Balko:  Well done, sir.  If you haven't read his book, I'd recommend it. If you have read it, I'd still recommend it.

Grand Lagniappe: A very interesting story of the "general equilibrium" nature of ....well....of nature. In just 22 years, large changes. Pretty powerful example of comparative statics.













Monday, November 06, 2017

Monday's Child



1.  This Bitcoin thing....what IS it?

2.  "Orange Man Killed in Domestic Dispute."  At first I thought that must mean that Melania had had and put ol' Pumpkin Spice in that great spice rack in the sky.  But no; they mean Orange County, FL.  Still:  Florida!

3.  On the other hand:  Ohio! An orange bucket head.

4.  Dracula was a blood sucker. But because he was a ruler, not because he was a vampire.

5.  Defending diversity visas....

6. Oh, man. They've apparently recruited the duplicitous ghost of Robert MacNamara to write the SIGAR reports now.

7.  My review-extension of Brennan-Jaworski book, and here's the book.

8. A cute Twitter account. I have often thought of doing this. Glad someone is doing it so I can enjoy it.

9. Actually, Tucker Carlson, I can think of several. Being force to "immigrate" as slaves should be pretty high on the list.

10. This is not some Fox News bimbette. This was written by Donna Brazile. Good God.

11.  The counterrevolution of conscience at Reedatopia.

12.  I am a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the ACLU. I don't agree with everything they do. But overall they are a force for good. As here.

13. Why do we say "soccer" in the U.S.? Because the Brits did a bait and switch on us!

14. To paraphrase Mr. Bumble, the HMRC is an ass.

15. If you don't know Mr. Bumble, it's from Oliver Twist:  “It was all Mrs. Bumble. She would do it," urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round, to ascertain that his partner had left the room.

"That is no excuse," returned Mr. Brownlow. "You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction."

"If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass — a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

16.  We are on the verge of an American version of the Cultural Revolution.

17. The power of socialism: It can take a wealthy, developed country and bankrupt it in just ten years. Viva Madurismo!

18. To be fair, Americans don't know much about communism/socialism. It's not inevitable that communism disappears. 

19.  Our favorite headlines!  Man Shoots Self in Penis While Trying to Rob Hot Dog Stand....

20. Podcast with David Mayhew: "Can Congress Govern?"

21. Our favorite headlines. Florida Woman!

22.  A serious incident of WTF? Someone went to some trouble to film this.  Whatever that "one store" is, Ima not be stopping there.

23:  The (questionable) economics of foreign aid.  




Lagniappe:  Who knew that there was even a record to break? But now there is.  The LMM and I were way out in front of the curve, as always:

Friday, November 03, 2017

We Get Mail!

In the recent Econtalk podcast, I noted that I was ignorant of (among other things) the meaning of the "English Dance" Schiller refers to in his letter.

Russ and I got this email (name redacted):

Hello Gentlemen. 

Thanks for your continued efforts in spreading education through your podcasts. I am a listener of EconTalk. 

Recently Professor Munger you made a reference to Schiller and a dance form that he refered to. I asked my uncle, a Schiller and Goethe academic, for more information as you stated that your research hadn't turned up the specifics of the dance in question. 

Here is his response : 

"'Der englische Tanz” (sometimes “Anglaise") could mean several things back in Schiller’s day, but most usually indicated a contradance, in which couples form lines facing each other. Schiller considered such a dance a metaphor for an ideal of freedom, in which each individual moved freely, but at the same time did not intrude on the others’ movements. The whole had form and order (and beauty), while the individual practiced “rücksichtsvolle Selbstbestimmung'." (The last term one can translate as perhaps "thoughtful self-determination.")

So, folks:  Have a “rücksichtsvolle Selbstbestimmung" Friday!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Econ 101 Question.....

Why is it that soda cans are sold in boxes that look like this....


But beer is sold in boxes that look like this....


My guess:  Soda cans are usually sold warm, and it is convenient to be able to put the whole box into the fridge and have it cool quickly. For that, you want more surface area. Beer, on the other hand, is often sold cold. You then transport the container to somewhere where (if you are, for example, Ben Powell ) you drink the entire 12 pack while you shoot your deer rifle at the power lines from your back porch, sitting in your underwear on a lawn chair. That would mean that you want LESS surface area for the already cold-and-you-want-to-stay-cold beer than for the warm, want-to-cool-fast, and only one or two cans a day soda. The surface of the beer box is 325 square inches. The surface area of the soda box is 365 square inches. You want the soda to cool fast, and you want the beer to warm slowly. So, there is 12% more surface area on the soda box, just as you would expect if Powell's Law ("Hey! We ain't done drinkin', son. There's still beer left in the cardboard box!") is correct.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday's Child is Full of Links!

1.   7 Nihilistic Quotes That Only Brilliant, Misunderstood Young Males On The Internet Will Appreciate.

2. It's not so clear he DID know what he signed up for. Unless he signed up for random death and pointless violence, perpetrated by a state without any purpose or conscience.

3. By at least one measure, Trump actually is telling the truth about being the "DeRegul-Nator."

4.  Looking for something else, I came across Malcolm X's  1964 "Ballot or Bullet" speech. Don't know why I didn't already know it. I'll be using it in class now....

5.  I taught Chris Freiman everything he knew. Fortunately, he learned a lot more. An interesting discussion of "luck egalitarianism." And then there's his terrific book....

6.  The Angus/Mungowitz grad alma mater has decided to enter a sucking contest, on speech codes. And I have to admit that Wash U really does suck pretty hard.  Trying to be #1 at SOMETHING, perhaps?

7.  The problem:  We have produced so many artificial snowflakes.  The solution:  van Jones, with whom I agree on almost nothing, crushes this out of the park and into low-Earth orbit.  Brilliantly said, Mr. Jones. We should not pave the jungle for our young people.

8.  Was this Jeff Flake's equivalent to riding down the escalator?

9. The transaction costs economy and unintended consequences of policing Craig's List.

10. Should insurers manage the opioid epidemic? The "other" Dr. Michael Munger offers some views.

11.  National book publishing rates per million of population. The English-speaking countries are hard to interpret, because market is so big.  But Turkey is surprisingly highly ranked, given repression on most speech. And Denmark:  Wow. Pretty impressive.

12. Aussie report on productivity. Overall, not too bad. But multifactor productivity growth is essentially non-existent. That's not good. (Tomorrow 3.0, on the horizon?)

13.  Millenials feel entitled to use the word "entitled" without being ashamed of how entitled they feel.

14. Impeach-O-Meter: The jerk doesn't fall far from the jackass tree.

15. The corruption of the National Book Award.  Pretty powerful indictment.

16.  Blockchain, supply chain.

17.  You may recall the butter crisis in Norway. Which prompted this, one of the all time best videos to appear at KPC.  Epic. A plea from the heart. Etc.



Well, there's a new butter crisis.  And it's equally hilarious, in terms of the solutions proposed.

18. The U.S. is on the verge of its own "Cultural Revolution." On the obligation to speak up....

19.  Our attic has been living a lie. Almost verbatim the thesis of my new Cambridge book, in one pithy cartoon.  With thanks to the LMM.

20.  How smart do you have to be to be famous for being smart without ever having actually done anything?  Pretty smart, I'd say.  I did try to warn people about this classic type, though, right here, at #5.

21.  I often hear of people who are excoriated for "advising" dictators. The problem with that criticism is that growth usually produces democracy. So advising dictators how to grow the economy is corrosive to dictatorship (or maybe it is). (It's true that the U.S. government advised dictators on how to torture, but what do you expect from the state?) The oddest thing, though, is that for some reason telling outright lies in support of the Soviet regime was cause for Pulitzer prizes.


And the grande lagniappe: For Halloween tomorrow: 50 most excellent pun costumes.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  Just as Skippy suspected, squirrels chunk their nuts.  Little b***ards.

2.  In which Prof. Thomas Wood of OSU makes a claim.  A pretty sound spanking is administered by Columbia Prof. Musa Al-Gharbi here. (Lagniappe: More of Al-Gharbi's work. Nicely done...)

3. Planetary Resources: the first deep space commercial enterprise?

4.  The neo-Tollison post of the week: a perfect metaphor for the rent-seeking society.  Guy who had actual talents diverted to unproductive but highly remunerative tax shelter writing.  Now, guy is "too fat to jail."  Bob, get that bourbon and diet Coke and toast the world for us.

5.  Against the enemies of modernity.

6.  Hollywood appears to hope that if Harvey is burned at the stake, all the other abusers will just get a pass.

7.  Really? If "Wolfenstein" offends you, you are a snowflake. A Nazi snowflake, to be sure, but a snowflake nonetheless.

8.  Turo! Has anybody used it? Has anybody heard of it?  Seems interesting.

9. Might legalizing cannabis help reduce opioid use?

10.  Many of my colleague on the Left firmly believe in the value of international institutions.  I differ. I believe in their potential value. Their actual value is pretty low.  As evidence, I give you Robert Mugabe, "Goodwill Ambassador" for the WHO.

11. I'm wondering if this isn't the psychology equivalent of "broken window fallacy." The paper seems to say that social deviance can have positive social effects.  In particular, "gossip may be a mechanism through which deviance can have positive downstream social consequences."  Well, a hurricane likely causes increased social cohesion among survivors. But that just means that there is less harm than you might expect, NOT that there are "positive downstream social consequences."

12.  On the other hand, gossip may be beneficial all by itself.

13.  Trial by ordeal.

14. In which legal marijuana is discussed, and Jeff Sessions tells a "joke." Warning: I'm not sure it was a joke.

15. One problem with politics is that it's better to win elections than to lose them. Everything else is secondary.  Having started the "identity politics" crap, the Dems are horrified at the implications.   But it's pretty obvious that if your side depends on identity politics of minority groups, you are going to get hammered.  Yes, it's a shame that your enemies can use weapon that you used first. But the point is to win. That's why I don't trust majoritarian politics as a way of organizing society.

16. Almost Like Praying...

17.  FREE FOOD! In the staff kitchen! (I hear there's cupcakes, Mark!)

18.  Raleigh and the "Research Triangle" are often yammering about light rail. Always makes me think of the experience of Springfield.  Plus, there's a song.

19. KPC fave pmarca is, as usual, on firm ground. It may be true that software eats the world, but it's also true that the next morning there is another new world to be eaten...

Finally, congrats to those terrific Astros, for making the NY Yankees look like this:


Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday's Child is Full of Links!

It's back.  Monday's Child is full of links.  You're welcome.

1.  Frampton comes back!  Here at KPC we covered the travails of one UNC physics prof., Paul Frampton, in Argentina.  So here, and then here, and then here. and then here.

But, now, he's BACK!  Ready to get back in the game. No, really, he rallied. All this texts that he called "jokes" at his trial? Those were fake!  And, to be fair, they were a bit odd.  It's all ridiculously entertaining.  Clearly should be a movie, with Will Farrell playing the lead role.

2.  Viewpoint diversity is important. But "affirmative action for conservatives" would just double down on the existing problem.

3.  Binders full of asinines.

4.  We're just wrestling, son!

5.  Apparently, the only important "diversity" is diversity of hues. Diversity of views or experiences doesn't count. And if you think it does matter, you will be forced into a Cultural Revolution style "Struggle Session" to be humiliated and forced to apologize.


6.  Robotics is not going to end the world.

7.  My man Sam Bowman explains what the word "endogenous" means.  And he's right.

8.  Did you know this? "Railfans" are people who like trains. But they scorn "Foamers," who really really like trains. Sometimes, railfans feel persecuted and misunderstood.

9.  The awesomely awesome Megan McArdle on EconTalk?  Two of my favorite people talking to each other? Where do I sign up?

10.  This....THIS is what made me decide that "Monday's Child" still has a place in a world of Twitter. Because sometimes you just need links.  Here's the story.  For those of you too young to remember, here's the correct historical reference:  "With God as my witness..."  That may have been the single best moment of television in the late 1970s, a time when television comedy ruled.

I want to end the new beginning of Monday's Child with a request:  Please send me links that belong here.  send to mungowitz at gmail dot com.  Thanks!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bob Tollison is saying, "I told y'all so!"

Angus and I had a great friend, Robert Tollison, who died last year.

An article of faith for Bob, a core of his belief system, was that Dean Smith had somehow managed to corrupt and coopt the NCAA, and all basketball functionaries.  That is, it's not just that Dean and the UNC administration cheated. They had become the secret rulers of the whole process.

As you may know, there has been a scandal at UNC for the past five years or so.  Classes that didn't meet, had no requirements, and had papers written by TAs.

Thursday, the NCAA decided that there was nothing to be done. No sanctions, no punishment for basketball.   This is quite a surprise. It would NOT have surprised Bob.

Bob:  get a celestial bourbon and Diet Coke, and enjoy your vindication.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

People who believe in magic really do believe....

Connecting the Dots: Illusory Pattern Perception Predicts Belief in Conspiracies and the Supernatural
Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Karen Douglas & Clara De Inocencio , European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract: A common assumption is that belief in conspiracy theories and supernatural phenomena are grounded in illusory pattern perception. In the present research we systematically tested this assumption. Study 1 revealed that such irrational beliefs are related to perceiving patterns in randomly generated coin toss outcomes. In Study 2, pattern search instructions exerted an indirect effect on irrational beliefs through pattern perception. Study 3 revealed that perceiving patterns in chaotic but not in structured paintings predicted irrational beliefs. In Study 4, we found that agreement with texts supporting paranormal phenomena or conspiracy theories predicted pattern perception. In Study 5, we manipulated belief in a specific conspiracy theory. This manipulation influenced the extent to which people perceive patterns in world events, which in turn predicted unrelated irrational beliefs. We conclude that illusory pattern perception is a central cognitive mechanism accounting for conspiracy theories and supernatural beliefs.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Synthetic Control: Ur (probably) doin' it rong!

People, I've been refereeing a lot of synthetic control papers lately, and I have to say that I don't like what I'm seeing.

I'm seeing 3 big mistakes that people are sometimes trying to sell as features.

Let's discuss.

1. Large, indiscriminate donor pools are not advisable. Look at the Godfather Abadie's papers. The donor pools are 20-40 units. People seem to have the crazy belief that more is better.  It's not.

Let's let Abadie et al. AJPS 2015 explain it:

“Constructing a donor pool of comparison units requires some care. First, units affected by the event or intervention of interest or by events of a similar nature should be excluded from the donor pool. In addition, units that may have suffered large idiosyncratic shocks to the outcome of interest during the study period should also be excluded if such shocks would have not affected the treated unit in the absence of the treatment. Finally, to avoid interpolation biases, it is important to restrict the donor pool to units with characteristics similar to the treated unit. Another reason to restrict the size of the donor pool and consider only units similar to the treated unit is to avoid overfitting. Overfitting arises when the characteristics of the unit affected by the intervention or event of interest are artificially matched by combining idiosyncratic variations in a large sample of unaffected units. "

Got that? pick your donor pools with smarts and with care.


2. Throwing away available pre-intervention outcome data is not advisable.  SC is subject to the same critique as matching, that unobserved factors are not being accounted for. For this reason, the Godfather stresses that the pre-intervention period should be long. From the same AJPS paper:

Critics of Mill’s Method of Differences rightfully point out that the applicability of the method may be limited by the presence of unmeasured factors affecting the out- come variable as well as by heterogeneity in the effects of observed and unobserved factors. However, using a linear factor model, Abadie, Diamond, and Hainmueller (2010) argue that if the number of preintervention periods in the data is large, matching on preintervention outcomes (i.e., on the preintervention counterparts of Y0 and Y1) helps control for unobserved factors and for the heterogene- ity of the effect of the observed and unobserved factors on the outcome of interest. The intuition of this result is straightforward: Only units that are alike in both observed and unobserved determinants of the outcome variable as well as in the effect of those determinants on the outcome variable should produce similar trajectories of the outcome variable over extended periods of time. Once it has been established that the unit representing the case of interest and the synthetic control unit have similar behavior over extended periods of time prior to the intervention, a discrepancy in the outcome variable following the intervention is interpreted as produced by the intervention itself.“ 

I've seen papers discarding pre-intervention data to make the sample "more reasonable". It actually makes the experiment less credible. Now if your are studying a post-Soviet country, sure, you are not going to have a long pre-intervention period. But you should realize that your results are not going to be super robust.

3. Using all the possible lagged outcome variables as predictors is not a good idea! I know, I know, people have done it in good journals and argued in favor of it.

But, "using all outcome lags as separate predictors renders all other covariates irrelevant. This finding holds irrespective of how important these covariates are in order to accurately predict post-treatment values of the outcome, threatening the estimator’s unbiasedness."

To quote Lizzy Warren, "holy guacamole"!!!

Here is a link to the relevant paper.

Here's a bit longer and even scarier quote from it,

"Consequently, in the SCM application we mainly focus on throughout this paper—Billmeier and Nannicini (2013), who analyze the impact of economic liberalization on GDP—the covariates taken from the literature do not affect the synthetic control. The authors obtain the very same counterfactual that would have followed if they had used economically meaningless covariates—or even none at all.3 We further discuss that solely optimizing the pre-treatment fit of the dependent variable and ignoring the covariates can be harmful: the more the covariates are influential for future values of the outcome, the larger a potential bias of the estimated treatment effect will become, possibly leading to wrong conclusions."

So don't use an indiscriminate donor pool. Don't use all the possible lagged outcomes as predictors. Don't throw away pre-intervention data. Unless you want me to go all "reviewer #2" on your asses!



Monday, July 10, 2017

Listen up people, the Body of Christ AIN'T GLUTEN-FREE!


.....But it can contain GMOs.


This is an actual ruling from an actual religion in the actual year or our Lord 2017.


Since neither Tony Gill or Phil Magness are Pope, you may wonder why this bizarre edict has been issued.

Well, "The new rules are needed because the bread is now sold in supermarkets and on the internet, the cardinal said."

LOL, thanks for clearing that up.

So there you have it people. If you want to pretend that a piece of bread turns into a 2000 year old body, you better be damn well sure that bread has gluten. You know, just like Jesus!

Monday, July 03, 2017

NOT an actual email from a book author...

To be quite clear....

I did not receive the following email from any Duke colleague, or any professor of history. But I did receive the email, and I thought I would repost it.  It pretends (falsely) to be a summary of my review of Democracy in Chains. It isn't. But it is fair to say this is what the author might have said.

*********************

Thanks so much for the very positive review and affirmation of my book Democracy in Chains by my colleague Duke Professor of Political Science Dr. Michael Munger. Please find below salient extracts from Dr. Munger’s review.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by my Duke University colleague, Nancy MacLean, a professor in our distinguished Department of History… is… a remarkable book. MacLean has argued persuasively throughout her career for the historical method…in this book… MacLean recounts an exchange, a conversation really, between two conservatives…intent on reverse-engineering a …political order in America…using shadowy methods and discredited theories. Democracy in Chains is a work of …historical...research underpinning …facts … from a much larger record…drawing reliable conclusions about history. 

Democracy in Chains is a great story… of … James M. Buchanan, the winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. MacLean is able to decode the true meaning of his …writings which…sought … to bring down.. America and replace it with a plutocracy. …MacLean’s excellence as a writer,…careful sifting of evidence and respectful encounters with opposing points of view…reveal … that …Buchanan … wanted to establish a …society …for racial segregation… 

MacLean’s book…is admirably academic and careful. … MacLean …found …the attempt by segregationist forces to support vouchers. MacLean says, “The economists made their case in the race-neutral, value-free language of their discipline, offering what they depicted as a strictly economic argument—on ‘matters of fact, not values.’” MacLean … support the claim that Buchanan advocated vouchers for the purpose of achieving segregation. … Buchanan’s support for vouchers and for school choice arose from a deeply held concern for …a …repressive apartheid society where African-Americans were …murderous and … must be forcibly suppressed… MacLean has discovered a number of important documents from the history of Public Choice, and other aspects of the history of the 1960s and 1970s in academic economic circles. There is a terrific example on pp. 115–117, where the “glee” of Buchanan and others about their conspiracy, gathered around a roaring fire in the remote mountains of Virginia, is documented.

 … MacLean has…written that history, using … public documents that … destroy...the conspiracy; …that … would sweep the nation, and the world… When summarized in this way, MacLean’s thesis really does read like a … narrative thread connecting the documents and discussions that …strategize about how to win back the White House and rejuvenate the conservative movement… The contribution of Democracy in Chains, then, is to do two things…Identify James Buchanan as the focal point of the revolution, and identify the content of Public Choice research and teaching as anti-Constitutional and anti-democratic… As I hope has been clear, as a book Democracy in Chains is well-written, and the research it contains is both interesting and …illuminating…as an actual history…of the work of James Buchanan …to end democracy in America. 

My thanks to the actual author of this email, Steve Spearman. And he is right: every word of the above actually appears in my review, and in precisely this order!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

NCGA Does the Right Thing. Sort of.

A Senate bill (SB656), already passed by the NC Senate, is now out of committee in the NC House, and scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, June 26.  The "committee substitute" bill is here, if you want to look at it.....

What would this mean? NC has had some really restrictive ballot access laws, since 1983. In particular,
it now takes about 110,000 (individually validated) signatures to get on the ballot ("access") and 2% of the vote in either the Prez or Gov races to stay on the ballot once on ("retention").

The bill, if it passes, and it's expected to pass, would change those rules as follows:
Access: 10,000 signatures
Retention:  Either the 2% rule for Prez or Gov votes in NC in previous election OR have "a candidate" on the ballot in 80% of the states.

Now, the Libertarian Party has been on the ballot continuously since 2008, when (ahem) I got more the 2% of the vote for Gov.  In 2012, Barbara Howe did it, and in 2016 Lon Cecil did it.  A number of Republicans blame the LP for the Republican loss of the Gov race in 2008 (implausible) and in 2016 (extremely plausible).

But the point is that the LP is already on, again, for 2020. My man Gary Johnson actually got 2.74%, 130k votes, the first time an LP Prez candidate has EVER secured ballot access in NC.  Whoo-HOO!

Okay, so here's the thing. The Republicans don't have many chances to look like they are for ballot access, or expanding electoral freedoms (which include voting for the candidate of your choice). AND, they are likely tired of having to lose some votes, enough in close races to change the outcome, to the annoying "third party" Libertarians.

You can have a double win, if you are a Republican strategist, by cutting the restrictions on ballot access! You get credit for having a more sensible and less draconian set of rules, more in line with other states (NC regularly makes, on merit, those "Worst Laws in the US" lists, when it comes to ballot access).

And you get the Greens on the ballot, diverting votes from the Dems! Is there a downside?


I don't really see one. An interesting question is whether Gov. Cooper will sign it.  If a goofball like me can figure this out, I expect Mr. Cooper will not need to have the effects explained to him. But it will be difficult to veto the thing, because it really does just bring NC back into compliance with pretty normal rules for party access. This is hardly a radical bill, it just also "happens" to help the Republicans at the ballot box.  (Here is a story from the right-leaning Carolina Journal, which doesn't mention the political angle--adding Greens takes away Dem votes--or, oddly, the new 80% retention rule added in the committee version).

EDIT: The reason the 80% (40 states) is important is that Stein was on the ballot in 44 states in 2016.  That means that, depending on the way the law is interpreted retroactively (and it seems to be retroactive, since it says "previous election"), Greens would be on the ballot for the 2018 midterm elections in NC.