Monday, December 31, 2007

Immigration Mania

The anti-immigrationist mantra goes something like: Criminals! Welfare cases! Job Stealers!

Yet, it seems to be the case that in the aggregate, crime is down while immigration is up, and in particular, that immigrants have lower crime rates than the native born (even the immigrants from south of our border that people get most worked up about). See here and here (note the list of references in the second link). Even gang violence in LA is down!

Similarly, welfare caseloads have fallen dramatically over the last decade:

Then there is welfare. Since the high-water mark of 1994, the national welfare caseload has declined by over 60 percent. Virtually every state in the union has reduced its caseload by at least a third, and some have achieved reductions of over 90 percent. Not only have the numbers of people on welfare plunged, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty, and child hunger have all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers have risen.

And, despite our current economic problems (amazingly no one has blamed the credit crunch on immigration yet), the unemployment rate is holding at 4.7%

Current illegals need a simple, achievable path to citizenship and future illegals need to be avoided by making legal immigration cheap and ez.

(By the way, even if you don't like the immigration slant here, just relax and enjoy all the good news. Besides crime and welfare cases, teenage drug use and abortions are also down. The whole essay in the last link is well worth reading).

Hat tip to the WSJ who got this one right.

UPDATE: Robert Reich (yes him!) gives another reason to be pro-immigrant: Someone's gotta pay for his social security benefits!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Firepower for the Holidays

At the Mungowitz house, we have a saying. "Nothing says 'love' during the holidays like a Soviet assault rifle." Well, it's not a saying, exactly, but I said it a lot until my wife told me to shut up. My younger son got a nice AK for xmas, and we have tracked down some cheap Wolf (Russian-made) 7.62x39 ammo.

Same son "set the table" for christmas. Note the nice table cloth. (We got into some trouble for this. My wife was not amused. Didn't care about the guns. But getting gun oil on the table cloth might have made her pick up one of the guns and whip me with it!)

Then, we went down to the property in Chatham and tried two experiments. Experiment the first: Does an apple have sufficient mass to cause a hollow point 9mm bullet to burst? The apple:

The result: Absolutely. A not inconsiderable hole in paper target. Ouch. Shards sprayed out from bullet nicely. That would leave a mark, I think.

Experiment the second: What happens if you shoot a computer monitor with a 9mm hollow point from short range (10 yards)? We thought that this was worth a movie....

Then, a bonus: If you have a shotgun, and a CRT...well, you know.

Be careful what you wish for!

The NY Times is such a funny bunny. In the opinion section I read "The Free Market: A False Idol After All?", where I am informed by Jared Bernstein that "Untethered Market Forces lead to bad things. You simply can't run an economy as complicated as ours on ideology alone".

Now we could have a lot of fun with that on its own, no? Being the richest country on earth is a bad thing?? Someone is "running" or supposed to be "running" the economy? Mr. Bernstein is bringing something beyond "ideology" to the table?

But, what I want to do here is to point out yet again, or in this case let the Times itself point out yet again, the simple fact that in the real world where we live, actual government regulation often makes things worse instead of better. To wit, two pages later, in the very same section of the Times, Atul Gawande unpacks a great example.

He describes a John Hopkins program that institutes a five step anti-infection checklist in hospitals. The program has been a big success, "Over 18 months, the program saved more than 1,500 lives and nearly $200 million", by among other things, reminding doctors to wash their hands before running IV lines into patients!

And then, the government acted: "Yet this past month, the Office for Human Research Protections shut the program down. The agency issued notice to the researchers and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association that, by introducing a checklist and tracking the results without written, informed consent from each patient and health-care provider, they had violated scientific ethics regulations. Johns Hopkins had to halt not only the program in Michigan but also its plans to extend it to hospitals in New Jersey and Rhode Island."

Ah yes. The sweet logic of the "small kings". A poster telling doctors to wash their hands is basically the same thing as an experimental drug and every patient that enters the hospital with the posters would have to provide written consent to having them there, just like you'd have to give written consent to being experimented on with a new drug therapy.

I can't wait for these guys to fix the financial services industry! How about y'all??

Maybe we could put a poster up all over the country saying "Remember: just because things could be better doesn't mean new government actions will actually make things better"

I wonder how long it'd be before the small kings would make us take it down?

Saturday, December 29, 2007


The Mungowitz "Best of '07"

My own contribution, to match Angus's. My top five of 2007 list.

1. Angus. Since he came on the blog the number of hits, and the number of links has more than doubled. More important, the quality and interest of the posts, by any objective standard, has improved markedly. Angus carried me to tenure as a coauthor, and now is doing so as a blog partner.

2. The PUBLIC CHOICE special issue on blogging. The editors were actually Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber, and Dan Drezner of the eponymous blog. But I really felt like I learned a lot from the special issue (I am Associate Editor of PUBLIC CHOICE, if it matters, for the world outside Europe). And my own paper, at the end, raises some questions that are really interesting. I don't know the answers. But asking was fun.

3. Watching my sons play baseball. Kevin, the older, is aging out of city league, and may not play again in any kind of organized fashion. But in summer league for 18 year olds, in his last game, he was starting pitcher against the league's best team. (Previous game against them, we got smoked!) He lasted five innings, and gave up just one run through four. They nicked him for two more runs in the fifth. It was a hot, exhausting day. He only had two strikeouts, but he kept getting them to pop up, and every time they hit a shot it was right at someone. And, we were ahead, 7-3, partly because Kevin had two long doubles and a sharp single, with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored, on his own. Our team brought in our "closer," a walk-em/strike-em out kind of pitcher. He walked the bases loaded, and gave up two runs in the sixth, before ending the uprising. Basically same thing in the 7th, bases loaded on walks and one error, two outs, and a full count on the batter. The runners are off with the pitch. The batter hit a silo shot, incredibly high, and our pitcher called everybody off and caught it himself, lunging for it and just snagging it. Afterward, getting some Mexican food, Kevin and I just sat together and looked out the window. The best feeling. Probably his last game ever. And I was there to share it.

And, I have written about Brian's terrific game, in the semifinals of the city tournament for 15-16 year olds. (Brian will have another year in that league!). Next game didn't work out, but what a game.

Finally on this topic, I also told you about this remarkable game. Very memorable.

4. Another trip to Utah, at Park City, at THE LODGES, in June. With my good friends, Pat Lynch and Randy Simmons. One of the best sessions ever. Terrific sessions, hiking, good food, and new friends. We read some very interesting stuff on early American economics, and got to argue with Peter Onuf. What could be better? Thank, Liberty Fund, for a great week!

5. My wife still has had no return of the cancer that was the center of our worries in 2004. She looks great, and is able to do almost everything as before. She does get tired a little more easily than five years ago, but considering everything, it's all good.

Happy New Year!

Mike Huckabee: Sophist, Racist, Liar

Apparently unhinged by hate-monger Tom Tancredo's endorsement of Flip-Flop Romney, TGI Friday's spokes-bigot Huckabee has been breaking new ground in his race to secure the Torture Party's nomination (John McCain honorably excepted).

He has been arguing that the death of Benazir Bhutto underscores the need for us to build a fence along our Mexican border. That's sophistry.

The one thing that most Mexican immigrants actually have in common with Pakistanis? Darker skin than Preacher Mike's. That's racism.

Huckabee claimed that Pakistanis are the most numerous illegal immigrants to the US "except those (nationalities) immediately south of the border." According to the department of homeland security, that's lying.

I fear for our republic, people, if this is what we're coming to.

Angus's Best of 2007

This is a totally personal list of the 5 best things that happened to me in 2007:

1. My trip with Mrs. Angus to Tanzania and Rwanda. Just an incredible time seeing amazing wildlife, learning about their behaviors, meeting and talking with local people and interacting with other tourists.

2. The performance of my students, Shu Lin and Haichun Ye. Despite each having me as their advisor, they have multiple publications (including a forthcoming piece in the Journal of Monetary Economics) and an overflowing interview dance card for the AEA meetings. Students like them are what makes my job fun.

3. My own research. I had two articles published this year, one other accepted for publication, and three others got revise and resubmits. I am especially happy with my article with Mrs. Angus in the Journal of Development Economics.

4. Learning more about Bayesian statistics and MCMC (Markov Chain Monte Carlo). I sat in on two courses at Duke two years ago on my sabbatical, and after now teaching it a second time here at OU, I feel like I really have made some progress understanding it (sorry to all my students in the class last year, lol).

5. Blogging. Seriously. Tyler had been telling me I should blog, and after I did a week's guest blogging on Marginal Revolution, I was sad when it was over. Then Mungowitz invited me to tag team up, and the rest is history. Blogging definitely keeps you on your toes.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Op-Ed: Grades for the Dems' First "Semester" in Power

An Op-Ed in the Durham-Herald today, by your man M.

For first term, Democrats get two 'Cs' and an incomplete

By Mike Munger : Guest columnist
The Herald-Sun
Dec 28, 2007

The Democrats have had a full grading period back in control of Congress. Unfortunately, they didn't take a full course load, backing off on lots of legislation. In fact, the Dems are playing this as if they can just sit tight and win the presidency, and gain seats in the Senate. They are like those smug kids who try to keep their GPAs by ducking all the hard courses.

But the new majority hasn't pressed the president on a schedule for leaving Iraq, for reducing the deficit, or solving problems in the finance and housing sectors. Time for some grades on what was done.

Tactics: C-

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caused raised eyebrows with two things she did in her first days in office. Day one, she took "impeach Bush!" off the table. Then she backed sleazy insider John Murtha for Majority Leader over loyal and effective Steny Hoyer. When Hoyer won anyway, there was audible snickering at Pelosi's leadership abilities.

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, announced in May that he, "and most Democrats," believed the war in Iraq was already lost. That's a lot different from, "we can't win." Don't these people have writers on their staffs? Later, in June, Reid staked his reputation on an immigration reform bill that not only didn't pass, but got held up as a sign of how out of touch Dems are with border issues.

The point is that neither leader can enforce discipline, or inspire confidence. A gentleman's C, for coming to class but never really participating.

Foreign Policy: Incomplete

The Dems didn't even show up for the final test! No real attempt to press for a timetable for withdrawal, and no effort to tighten the purse strings on the administration. Maybe they were trying to avoid the toxic charge, "you don't support the troops." Still, they signed up for the group project on "end the war" and then just stopped attending class.

Pelosi, in particular, misplaced her foreign policy syllabus. Her remarkably naive view of Israeli-Syrian negotiations was embarrassing. Pelosi's pressing on the "Armenian genocide" issue infuriated Turkey at a time when the U.S. needs Turkey for a dozen strategic reasons. Even the relatively liberal U.S. State Department had an answer for the tin-eared Pelosi straight out of Ring Lardner: "'Shut up,' he explained."

Domestic Policy: C+

The Dems have formed a circle ... and started kicking each other. In the Senate, the filibuster/veto threat has proved so potent that Reid doesn't even schedule debates. Instead, he cuts out the offending passages in advance, placating Republicans but infuriating Democrats. Rep. Charles Rangel diagnosed Senate Dems as showing signs of "Stockholm Syndrome," where prisoners develop a crush on their captors.

The Dems' only available strategy would have been to pass the bills they had promised to voters, and then use the media to advertise their plight when the president vetoes the bill. Instead, Bush's (very real) veto threat has ended class discussion completely. The Senate's timidity has robbed the Dems of a forum for showcasing noble losses. Pelosi has actually done some things here: the House has passed bills on energy policy, renewable energy, the Iraq war, the housing and subprime mortgage debacle, and middle-income tax cuts, which would have been offset by tax increases on the wealthy. But the Senate has consistently gutted these bills, or ignored them, without forcing the president to carry out the veto threat. The result is that House passage of the measures gets no attention from the media, and no attention from the Democratic base.

It's time for the Christmas break, and I have to get these grades turned in. We'll see how the Dems do in their sophomore year. But with all the presidential rush activities going on, I bet they get distracted again.

Michael Munger is chair of the Political Science Department at Duke University and a Libertarian Party candidate for governor.

© 2007 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Don't Libertarians favor American Interventionism on Principle?

Question: Who has done more for liberty than anyone in the last 100 years?

Answer: The Pentagon!

Seriously. American military intervention has been an incredible boon to global liberty. We fought and defeated the Axis powers in WWII, bringing liberty back to conquered Western Europe and giving it to Japan and Germany as well. We helped ensure that liberty would thrive via the Marshall Plan. We fought in the Korean War and have seen from that great natural experiment how valuable our intervention was. Indirectly via the cold war, we contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union and the spread of liberty in Eastern Europe. OK, Vietnam didn't turn out well, but the comparison to Korea shows that maybe we should have tried harder?? Iraq has not gone well either, but it's not over till the fat lady sings right?

So why do Libertarians care only about the liberty of Americans? Libertarians are OK with military force to defend liberty within our borders right? What is so special about those borders?

Before you write me off as a hata, let me show you my score on the World's Smallest Political Quiz:

The red dot is me. I didn't get 100 on economic issues because I only answered "maybe" to "replace government welfare with private charity" and to "cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more" I'd prefer to gradually reduce government welfare and see what happens and cut taxes and spending incrementally and see what happens starting say with a 15% cut. But according to the quiz, I'm a staunch Libertarian. So what's my major malfunction? Why is liberty do be defended in one location but not another?

So I took Ezra Klein's advice.....

.... and read the transcript of Ron Paul's appearance on "Meet the Press". Here is a nugget:

MR. RUSSERT: Under President Paul, if North Korea invaded South Korea, would we respond?

REP. PAUL: I don't--why should we unless the Congress declared war? I mean, why are we there? Could--South Korea, they're begging and pleading to unify their country, and we get in their way. They want to build bridges and go back and forth. Vietnam, we left under the worst of circumstances. The country is unified. They have become Westernized. We trade with them. Their president comes here. And Korea, we stayed there and look at the mess. I mean, the problem still exists, and it's drained trillion dollars over these last, you know, 50 years. So stop--we can't afford it anymore. We're going bankrupt. All empires end because the countries go bankrupt, and the, and the currency crashes. That's what happening. And we need to come out of this sensibly rather than waiting for a financial crisis.

Hmmmm. Are the people of South Vietnam really better off for our leaving than the people of South Korea are for our staying? I mean you can say it's wrong to be involved at all. You can take a position of non-intervention as a given, but Paul is making a cost benefit argument here and saying that the benefits are negative.

Well let's consult our friend the Penn World Tables. In 2003 (the last year with data for all three entities), we find the following figures for per capita income. Vietnam: $2560, South Korea: $17,595, North Korea: $1428 (these numbers are adjusted for deviations from PPP and the variable I use is called RGDPL). So South Korea is 7 times richer than Vietnam and we have the natural experiment of what happened to North Korea. I think you can argue that if we'd left Korea the same way we left Vietnam (during the war), Korea today would look like Vietnam at best. Conversely, if we'd stayed in Vietnam, South Vietnam today quite likely would look like South Korea.

Now you can say, we've been in South Korea long enough, time for them to stand on their own two feet (and with a more than 10x greater wealth than the North, clearly they should). Or you could say despite the amazing success of our policy with South Korea it wasn't worth the cost. But you can't really say what Paul is saying. It doesn't make sense.

Also, I don't think you can say "we can't afford it" and "we're going bankrupt". It's just not true. It's just not even close to true.

I think Ron Paul should stick to "these are my principles, my ideology," and not try some whacked out instrumental arguments for his positions.

Bhutto Shot Dead

Early reports were that she had escaped.

Maybe not?

Pakistan is scary.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When Great Economists go Wrong. A tale in 2 parts

I want to say right up front, before we get going that Dani Rodrik and Greg Mankiw are excellent economists with records far better than mine will ever be. I have learned a lot from them and respect them and their work.

Yet, each has, I think, made a mistake recently. Dani in his "the NY Times doesn't get it on Trade" post on his blog, and Greg in his NY Times column on fighting recessions.

First Rodrik. Dani is not a fan of expanding or even perhaps maintaining the current world trade regime. When the Times indirectly editorialized in its favor, he responded with:

"Here's what's wrong with this argument:

1. It automatically equates any desire to reconsider trade agreements and take a breather on new agreements as "protectionist."

2. It fails to recognize the ways in which technology and globalization interact to contribute to unequalizing trends in incomes, taking refuge in the defensive statement that "There is scant evidence that trade has played a big role in holding down typical workers’ wages."

3. It follows up this statement with "There is abundant evidence that it has contributed substantially to America’s overall economic growth," ignoring what every student of trade learns, which is that large gains from trade are possible only if there are also large amounts of income redistribution."

Ever so humbly, here is what I think is wrong with Dani's argument. First and most easily, it IS overwhelmingly likely politically that reconsidering existing agreements will turn out to create more protectionism. Secondly, Rodrik gives the impression that there is a single trade theory that has not been convincingly rejected by the data that one can use to provide reliable answers to policy questions. I am pretty sure this is not true. As to "what every student of trade learns", I would have to say they learn that we have no reliable theory that has not had its brains beat out by the data. Thus the theoretical "impossibility theorem" Rodrik sets up is not produced from a well functioning model and we are not required at all to accept it (see here for more on this point).

Now to Greg. In his column pleading to keep politicians out of the recession fighting business and letting the Fed do the job he says,

"In creating the Fed, Congress wisely made it a technocratic institution free of many of the political pressures that accompany other policy decisions in Washington. Subsequent experience in the United States and abroad confirms that more independent central banks lead to better economic outcomes. That’s why, in recent years, many nations have passed reforms to insulate central banks from politics."

Now I could beef about the "free of political pressures" part, but that would be tooting my own horn, so let me focus on the part about how "Subsequent experience in the United States and abroad confirms that more independent central banks lead to better economic outcomes."

First for the US, there is no before and after so we can't judge anything in that manner. Indeed most studies on the effect of Central Bank Independence use cross country, cross-sectional regressions, and the results, as Adam Posen has so cleverly shown, are far from supporting Mankiw's assertation. There is no empirical consensus on the question of the effects of CBI.

So, my complaint in both cases is about taking things that aren't necessarily so and using them to make political or policy points that don't necessarily follow. Even though I do admit that I actually agree with both Rodrik's and Mankiw's main arguments in their essays, I am not comfortable with the way they support them.

update: Rodrik link is mended. thanks to commentors for the heads up.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wow I guess Venezuela really IS a rich country.... apparently no Venezuelan travels abroad with less than $800,000 in their luggage. On the heels of Guido Wilson in Argentina, now Venezuelan national Luis Klein has been apprehended in Boliva with 800 large in his bag "after a Venezuelan air force C-130 cargo plane took off without him when residents opposed to Venezuela's influence in Bolivia began throwing rocks at the aircraft."

What happened next you ask?

community activist Mario Aguilera said Klein then boarded a van headed for Guayadamerín, a town on the border with Brazil. But he was intercepted by protesters who noticed his uniform and followed him from the airport.

''The people wanted to lynch the Venezuelan when he was trying to escape in a van, but we took him to the police and we handed him over,'' Aguilera told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview.

''We cannot permit that this government is at the service of Don Hugo Chávez, and give them the green light to come in and disrespect our national dignity,'' he added.

I am definitely going to be on the lookout for Venezuelans with suitcases here in Norman, and I advise all of you to do the same in your home towns!

Hair Harvest: Part III (The Finale)

Well it's ____-cuttin' time. As in hair.

Raquel takes the pigtails and severs them. All those months, gone in seconds.

Here are the hanks of hair, four of them, ready to go into the mailer.

I look a lot different. A little gray, in fact. The hair was still brown / blonde, down to the temples. But gray now.

A Law for everything??

In today's miniscule WSJ, there is a fun article about how pre-holiday sales are finally legal in Euroland, though allegedly such a foreign concept that retailers use the English word "Sale" to advertise them.

The article contains the following nugget: "Germans tend to adhere to structures and rhythms that don't change," says Rolf Pangels, managing director of the retail federation BaG in Berlin. "And they tend to want a law for everything. An American wouldn't understand all the laws we have here."

Sadly, I am not so sure how true this is anymore. More and more Americans seem to want "a law for everything" as well. The strange phenomenon of turning to government to fix problems it created is growing all the time.

Oh, yeah, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Tax on iPods

Canada proposes new taxes on iPods.

Story here.

Now, that's not the dumbest thing I have heard today. THIS is the dumbest thing
I have heard today. (Or maybe the best, I can't decide. The kid did a minute by minute blog of his "liberal arts" class. Which, to be fair, was a disaster. But the kids didn't start until the 8th class, and then quit after 13 classes, just quit).

An argument for NOT allowing students to have laptops in class. Or, maybe Canada should tax laptops, also. Even though the tax poses no penalty at the margin for the behavior apparently being deterred....

(Nod to RL)

Hair Harvest: Part II (The Pigtails)

Time for part II of the hair harvest bit.

If you missed part I, it's here.

Anyway, the ironing process is fairly lengthy. And it requires this:

The next thing is the forming of the fateful pigtails, which is the hair that
will be donated.

It's a nice look. Just imagine me with these pigtails, and a nice little cheerleader outfit. I could give Giuliani a run for his money, yes?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hair Harvest: Part I (The Horror)

My wife had cancer in 2004. Five operations of varying severity. (Up to and including "severe"). She is fine now, thanks. Or, as fine as any cancer survivor can be.

In the wake of this horror, I resolved to embark on a path that might create
some small humor, but also be a symbolic homage to Donna's struggle. We
saw a lot of women with no hair, as they went through chemo and radiation.

I resolved to grow my hair out, and donate it to "Locks of Love." That organization creates
hairpieces for children whose hair follicles are severely damaged by chemical
treatments for disease, or by some disease itself.

So, to all of you who have wondered about, or openly mocked, my hair....that's why
I grew it out.

Anyway, it was finally long enough to harvest. I am going to post, over the next three days, installments that show the process of harvesting. Several of the photos are, I am sad to say, hilarious. But while you are laughing at me, laugh with me a little also. And let's try to find a cure for cancer in our own lifetimes, before those lifetimes are cut short. Breast cancer, in particular (and that is what my wife had) is an epidemic.

Now, let's have some fun....Installment I: The Horror

My hair had at this point been washed, and is being dried. You can get an idea of how long and curly it is.

After the drier...well, pictures are worth 1,000 words. Also worth hiding from the children.

Then I had to wait for a while. Racquel was busy. Sitting there, I made the day of several dozen women who walked by. They tried not to burst out laughing. Very few were successful. The reactions ranged from titters (most) to one rather large woman who had to lean over with her hands on her knees and whoop with laughter for several seconds. "Meat Loaf!" she wheezed. "You look just like Meat Loaf!" Thank you, ma'am, thank you.

Then, into the chair. Racquel began the ironing and straightening process. Flock of Seagulls, you got nothing on me.

Tomorrow: Installment II: Pigtails (Yes, pigtails)

How the Internet has made our Lives better



Friday, December 21, 2007

Fractions are Hard

At least for Janet Hook of the LA Times: She finds "ambivalence" in the facts that 1 in 3 Americans would deny social services to illegals, while on the other hand 60% favor a path to citizenship for illegals.


66% not in favor of denying social services is evidence of anti-immigrant sentiment while 60% favoring a path to citizenship is evidence of pro-immigrant sentiment??

Besides finding this ambivalent, she refers to the two factoids as "crosscurrents".

I think we need a Federal "no reporter left behind" bill that pays for mandatory 4th grade math education and then implements a competency test that you must pass before getting a byline.

Venn Diagrams are Fun!

At least in the hands of Jessica Hagy:

Who's the craziest of them all??

Despite Tyler's recent posts about Ron Paul (here and here) and mine about Huckabee (here and here), it's actually Mitt Romney who is the craziest person in race for the torture party's presidential nomination (again John McCain is honorably excepted from this characterization).

Why you ask? Is it the Mormonism? The plastic hair? His first name?

No, it's because (a) Tom Tancredo endorsed him, and (b) he accepted the endorsement.

"Tancredo and Romney met for about an hour today prior to the announcements, Tancredo said. He opted to support Romney after he was reassured that he had clarified his position on immigration.

Tancredo has questioned Romney’s sincerity on the issue in the past, but said Thursday he’s convinced Romney would secure the border, prosecute employers of illegal immigrants, and make those who are here illegally return to their native countries."

The abject spineless flip flopping and pandering of Romney (and Giuliani) is just despicable and sickening to behold.

Squirrelly is as Squirrelly does

Last night I saw a bizzarre headline on Yahoo News (shocking, eh?):

Squirrels Use Snakeskins to Mask Scent from Predators

Immediately I pictured squirrels killing and skinning snakes and then wearing the skins on their bodies like so many rodentian Xipe Totecs, but it's not like that. Instead:

ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent, a team at the University of California Davis reported.

"They're turning the tables on the snake," Donald Owings, a professor of psychology who helped lead the research, said in a statement.

This, however, led me to further questions, like (1) How does smelling like a snake deter snakes? Wouldn't it attract them?

And (2) why would a professor of psychology be studying ground squirrel behavior?

Well (1) still has me stumped, but it turns out that (2) is a no-brainer. It's because ground squirrels are publishing gold! Owings has published over 30 papers on ground squirrel behavior. You can see for yourselves here.

If there is any justice in the world, the Swedes will create a Nobel for squirrelology and Owings will be the first recipient. He is the Milton Friedman of the California ground Squirrel.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Small Kings: The Thing Itself

A story sweeping the internet, about the Icelandic woman who was mistreated by TSA and DHS. "What bad people!" is the conclusion we are supposed to draw.

I beg to disagree. This is not an anomaly. These are not bad people, no worse at least than your average worker in other fields.

The problem is the reliance on force and bureaucracy.

Do me a favor, please. Read this. Really, read it and let me know where I have got it wrong.

The problem is not the people. The THING! The thing itself is the abuse. Changing the people won't help.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater, who genuinely believes that good people would change things)

Whack Job Alert!!!

Just when D. Broder says it couldn't get much weirder, it gets weirder.

Check this.

A claim that the Greens MUST be mooncows, to out mooncow (or moonbat, in this case) the Dems. Not easy. The list of "accomplishments" is a nice touch.

Must inequality be a "perma-problem"?

Over at MR, Alex has produced an interesting analysis with a bottom line claim that of current Federal Spending 63 cents on the dollar is a transfer down from the rich to the poor. This by way of refuting the claim that while the rich pay for most of government, they also receive most of the benefits. The majority of the comments feature people squirming to still make a case that more redistribution is feasible and desirable, which leads me to the following thoughts.

Above some threshold, should inequality matter for public policy? Suppose everyone had good educational opportunities for their children, affordable health care, a car, affordable safe shelter, cable TV, and a retirement plan. Would it or should it matter if some people had a heck of a lot more? Or is inequality a political perma-problem, i.e. merely a convenient / immutable rationale for bigger government?

If we decide that we are not at that threshold (or that it does not exist), is simple re-distribution the best way to reduce inequality (considering that there might be other policy goals in play)? In other words, doesn't it make more sense to use policy to help provide the skills and tools needed to raise incomes organically rather than to simply transfer incomes ex-post? If we agree on this, is it always or mostly the case that higher taxes are the way to improve opportunity equality?

Think of schooling, probably the single biggest opportunity inequality in our country. Is more government spending the answer?

I am all about equality of opportunity. If we could achieve that, then any inequality of outcomes would not bother me at all.

What is really sad is that we could satisfy almost everyone here. The combination of our defense budget, farm programs, and congressional earmarks cut by 2/3 would allow of a heck of a lot of policy space for both smaller government and reduction of opportunity inequality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm not sure this follows....

Electoral design and voter welfare from the US Senate: Evidence from a
dynamic selection model

Gautam Gowrisankaran, Matthew Mitchell & Andrea Moro
Review of Economic Dynamics, January 2008, Pages 1-17

Since 1914, the US Senate has been elected and incumbent senators allowed to
run for reelection without limit. This differs from several other elected
offices in the US, which impose term limits on incumbents. Term limits may
harm the electorate if tenure is beneficial or if they force high quality
candidates to retire but may also benefit the electorate if they cause
higher quality candidates to run. We investigate how changes in electoral
design affect voter utility by specifying and structurally estimating a
dynamic model of voter decisions. We find that tenure effects for the US
Senate are negative or small and that incumbents face weaker challengers
than candidates running for open seats. Because of this, term limits can
significantly increase voter welfare.

The welfare effects of term limits are more complex than this, for starters. But I'm not sure that this argument is right even on its own terms.

Bush's Xmas Gift to Latin America Revealed

We have just learned that the White House has sent the following holiday gift to the heads of state of all Latin American nations:

Hat tip to Thomas Thompson

Update: I hear Barak Obama got Hillary the same present!

Guido Wilson: The Bagman who keeps on Giving

So, this is good, people. Unca Sam now has implementing the Monroe Doctrine down to a sweet science. He has yankee hatas the Kirchners and Hugo on the run.

To recap. In August Venezuelan Guido Wilson is detained in Argentina with 800 large in his briefcase. The Kirchners protested a bit too much (then President Nestor said "my hands are clean", which being translated means "my hands are dirty" (this system works for Roger Clemons quotes too by the way)), and complained to Venezuela, but the trail seemed to go cold.

Fast forward to last week when US Federal agents arrest 4 Venezuelans for harassing and threatening Guido (who has a home in Miami, of course). Now President Christina Kirchner proclaims "this is a garbage operation" and Hugo weighed in yesterday that it was "a big lie". Translation? Anyone? How about "Holy Crap! Pwned by Unca Sam!! Again!!"

Now it turns out that Guido has been cooperating with the Feds for a while and they have Chavez's boys on tape offering among other things 2 million for Guido to keep his mouth shut. You can read about it here in the NY Times. According to US Attorney Thomas Mulvihill:

"after Mr. Wilson was caught in Buenos Aires he began to talk to F.B.I. agents about the suspected agents of the Venezuelan government. At least seven meetings took place between Mr. Wilson and the five individuals cited in the complaint between August and early December, the prosecutor said.

The F.B.I. set up video and audio surveillance to document meetings where the defendants sought to pressure Mr. Wilson into keeping quiet, in one case making a threat against his family and in another offering him financial backing from Petróleos de Venezuela, Venezuela’s national oil company, according to prosecutors.

At one point, two of the co-defendants offered Mr. Wilson $2 million to buy his silence, Mr. Mulvihill said."

Andres Oppenheimer has a nice column on the case and the Kirchners in the Miami Herald, written before the latest news about the bribes and videos came to light.

I am so loving this. I just want to know one thing. Where was Thoma Mulvihill in 1961 when we really really needed him?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Paul Krugman makes....sense?

Paul Krugman goes all Public Choice on us.

...there are large differences among the candidates in their beliefs about what it will take to turn a progressive agenda into reality...And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve...Do Obama supporters who celebrate his hoped-for ability to bring us together realize that 'us' includes the insurance and drug lobbies?...Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world. Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate. There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now...And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide...

But the news media recoil from populist appeals...Let’s be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public. And nothing Mr. Obama has said suggests that he appreciates the bitterness of the battles he will have to fight if he does become president, and tries to get anything done." [Krugman, NYT op-ed]

The fact that Krugman inexplicably APPROVES of the populist crap doesn't make him
any less right about Obama's naivete.

Does the Fact that China is Poorer than we thought mean their Currency is Less Undervalued than we thought??


(hey we're economists. what did you expect, a straight answer?)

KPC earlier reported that the Asian Development Bank had done a full PPP price level and income study and found China's GDP to be about 40% lower than World Bank Figures.

In an excellent post over at Econobrowser, Menzie Chinn explains where this figure comes from and shows that using this new income data seriously weakens the case that the Chinese currency is undervalued relative to the dollar.

FInd the Mistake: Fair Trade Bananas

You know those cartoons where you are supposed to find the mistakes?

One could apply the same approach to this "white paper" on fair trade
bananas. Wow. Find the mistakes.

The Indiana University Study Tips

I'm in Bloomington, Indiana, visiting my ailing stepmother.

Went out for some dinner last night, and read the student newspaper. Excerpts/tips from an article on "Finals Produce Stress."

1. "...students say they would love to get an early start on their heavy workload....
'I’d like to study early, but I don’t always do,' [Sarah] Burstein said."

TIP 1: The key to studying earlier is to avoid waiting until it is late. There is only do, or do not. No try.

2. "Usually, an early start on studying keeps her from being overwhelmed with material before finals week arrives, [Burstein] said.

'The key,” she said, “is actually going to class.'”

TIP 2: I don't really have anything to add to that. The key is, in fact, actually going to class. Young Sarah is clearly a good adviser.

3. "The decision to “cram” for a test can sometimes lead to numerous all-nighters filled with massive amounts of caffeine. Junior Jessica Tubbs said she usually takes the route of cramming for tests instead of getting an early start on her workload.

'I haven’t even started studying,” Tubbs said. “I plan to study for finals in the order that I take them. You kind of get the hang of how you need to study as an upper-classman.'”

TIP 3: Now, this tip does require more experience; you'd have to be an upper-class student, with years of finals under your belt, to see this. So, the tip is this: if you haven't studied at all, and your finals are not all scheduled for the same time, then you should study for your finals in the order that they are scheduled. In particular, it is rarely useful to study for a final after you have taken it.

(Please note that in order to KNOW when your finals are scheduled, you probably already had to act on TIP 2, and go to class at least a couple of times to get the syllabus).

The article is full of stuff like this. I really can't do it justice.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why Kim Deal is the real deal!

Kim Deal, of Pixies fame, is putting out a new album this spring with the Breeders after a 5 year absence. This is great news as the previous Breeders albums, Title TK, The Last Splash, and Pod are excellent and still often played favorites of mine.

In this interview with Pitchfork, Kim gives some insight in that great Breeders sound:

"there's an actual band, and I own actual instruments, and actual tubes have to be replaced, and people actually have to fly in, and they have lives, and you have to go over the song-- because remember, this is tape. It's not like, "'s the idea of the chorus. We're going to use the Pretenders drums from the first record, 'cause they sound so good," you know? That's not how we do it. Jose [Medeles], the drummer, has to fly in, and we actually have to write a song from beginning to end that sounds cool. And if it doesn't sound cool at this part, it's not like we can just go, "Yeah, let's rearrange that in ProTools," you know? It's just a totally different way of thinking.

I'm not the quickest, most prolific writer either. I would never pretend to be. I don't think prolific-ness is equal to quality at all. I would rather have one song that people actually like than 15 songs that they can barely stand. But that's just me."

Tube amps? No ProTools? Analog tape? Wow! Wow! Wow!

Quality over Quantity? Double Wow Wow Wow.

You go Kim!

(here is a link to a song from the new record)

Turns out restaurants are the least of his problems

"Everyone with a theology degree take a step forward. Not so fast there Huckabee...."

Of all the weird things to misrepresent, having a theology degree has to be right up there, doesn't it? Nonetheless, it is being alleged that Huckabee has done exactly that (see stories here and here).

Looks like we may have a Venerable Jigwang situation brewing up here in the USA!

Well played Unca Sam! Tweaking two birds with one warrant.

As you may remember, last August, a Venezuelan national was stopped entering Argentina with around $800,000 in cash in his briefcase. Our report at the time is here. Speculation was that the money was for the Kirchner election fund but Guido Wilson, the bag man, stayed mum and the whole affair sadly died out.

Until Wednesday when the US arrested 4 men in Miami (where Guido Wilson also owns a home and lives part time) for coercing Sr. Wilson into saying that the money was his and not from the Venezuelan government.

From the WaPo article:

The four suspects are accused of having traveled to Florida, where Antonini owns a home, to pressure him to conceal the truth about the cash, according to court documents. Two of the men -- Carlos Kauffmann and Moisés Maionica -- allegedly told Antonini that Argentine and Venezuelan authorities would pursue him if he denied that the funds were his but that he would be protected if he remained quiet.

"Carlos Kauffmann advised Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson that the consequences of Antonini's future actions might put the life of Antonini's children at risk," said the criminal complaint, which was prepared by the FBI. Referring to Venezuela's state oil company, it said, "Moises Maionica advised Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson that PDVSA would pay for all the expenses and financial penalties that Antonini might incur as a result of the seizure of the $800,000."

The four men have been charged with being unregistered foreign agents in the United States. Two of them, including Maionica, have denied the charges, according to the Associated Press. The others have asked for court-appointed attorneys.

So we can tweak La Penguina and Hurricane Hugo with one swell foop. I say kudos to the Justice Dept. Well done indeed.**

Finally, just for the ladies, here's a pic of Guido Wilson, international man of mystery:

** One thing that truly troubles me though, in fact it troubles me before I say or do anything these days, leaving me almost paralyzed with angst, and that is WWJICTOMP!!!***

***What Would John In Carolina Think of MY Post??

Sunday, December 16, 2007

John in Carolina Gets the Last Word

And you can find that last word HERE.

One excerpt (taken out of context, of course):

I’ve re-read your Chronicle letter, my comment on its thread, and our subsequent posts and comments concerning them and issues related to them.

I affirm everything I said. I’m satisfied with “my case” and how I presented it. I don’t doubt you feel similarly about your part of our "conversation."

I disagree with some of your comments, including some of your characterizations of what I’ve said, what the evening was like and what you say are the conditions which obtain for discourse at Duke and other universities you call “elite.”

His comments have been very useful. My triumphalism was overdrawn. Goes to show that one can always win if the standards for winning are dumbed down far enough.

Perhaps the most telling comment was actually a comment, but it captured the sense of the John's overall argument very well, also. Ralph Phelan, in commenting on one of John's posts, said, about my crowing about Duke: "We aren't Columbia yet, but give us time!" That's both funny and on point. Being better than Columbia on free speech grounds is nothing to be proud of.

I learned a lot from the exchange, and thank John for his work on this, when he has been very busy with other things. Getting to know John, and for that matter Ralph Phelan, a bit has been one unexpected benefit to this discussion.

A wonderful Christmas to all those who emailed, or commented, on this matter!

Yes there are two Americas (and one of them eats real bad)

Or, The best sentence I read today, from the NY Times magazine profile of Mike Huckabee:

"I met Huckabee for lunch at an Olive Garden restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. (I had offered to take him anywhere he wanted and then vetoed his first choice, T.G.I. Friday's.)"

Now I know he's lost 100 pounds and may have food issues, but anywhere you want to go in Manhattan for free and those are your top two choices?

Maybe he thinks the Olive Garden is an homage to the Mount of Olives? or the Garden of Gethsemane?

Something For the Haterade Set

For all of you out there sipping your first Haterade-and-Gin of the day, trying to think what you can say about Duke the coming week....consider this. FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

That's green, folks. There aren't many GREEN schools. Duke is one of them.

Enjoy that Haterade. MMMMMMMmmmmmm, Haterade.

The point? You don't need to spend all that time doing arcane research on evil profs who aren't even at Duke any more. (Houston Baker went to Vanderbilt, and Grant Farred went to Cornell. But I hear about them at least once a week.)

Instead, the trolls of the world can redirect their manic energies toward a real battle, where a school near you has been shown by FIRE to have real speech codes, a real problem with repression.

I hope you get to see the new movie, Indoctrinate U. It has interviews with many of the most physically attractive professors in America.

Angus's Question: I second!

Angus raises some questions.

This question seems pretty simple to me, which probably means I don't have a good handle on the problem.

But the question is not: "Can/Should the Fed try to improve the balance sheets of for-profit financial institutions through reducing key bellwether rates, and through open market operations?"

If forced to answer that question, I would "no" to the shouldn't part, because I would answer "no" the can part: The problem is solvency, not liquidity. (Yes, I know Krugman makes this argument, that's why I think I must be wrong!). The Fed can't solve that problem.

There is a useful question, though, and that is the one Angus raised. And that question is: "Should the Fed accomodate large changes in relative prices (energy, some food) by translating actual real price change into inflation through an expansive monetary policy?"

That is the question actually presented to the Fed, and to the policy community. And that's the question I would like to hear answers to. Me? I vote, "No."

Note that I am NOT saying that the Fed should allow, or foster, DEFLATION if it comes to that. But we are a very long way from deflation. I wouldn't accomodate a deflation, either.

Obama Round-Up

I have consistently said that Hillary can't lose, assuming best play.

Either I may be wrong, or the "best play" assumption is being violated by
the soulless androids that work for Ms. Clinton.

"When Obama speaks before a crowd, he can be more inspirational than
Clinton. Yet, with his relative inexperience, it's hard to feel as confident
he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead." [Des Moines
Register editorial

"Before leaving Iowa for the weekend, Mrs. Clinton forcefully, if obliquely,
pressed the case that she was not only more experienced than Mr. Obama, but
better able to take on what is sure to be an aggressive campaign by the
Republican nominee. 'I've been vetted,' Mrs. Clinton, of New York, told
reporters on Friday. 'I've been tested. There are no surprises.'" [NYT]

"One staunch Clinton backer, a former elected official in the state, felt
alarm on visiting Obama's headquarters in Manchester to pick up tickets for
a friend for Oprah Winfrey's appearance with Obama last weekend and seeing
how much 'buzz' there was there. 'I'm nervous. Obama's campaign feels like
Jack Kennedy's. They seem so excited,' said the supporter, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity because the campaign had not authorized the comments.
'When I call Hillary's headquarters, there's no electricity. It's scary.'

" my estimation, it's not a close call: Obama is a far more impressive
(even if more inexperienced) political talent...His call to turn the page on
the politics of the past has resonance, in part because he seems to fit the
message so well. Obama comes across as likeable, civil, grounded, and not
reflexively Ali against Foreman, Obama seems to me to have
the right style in this match-up. Right now, Obama is riding a wave that I
don't think will recede." [Peter Wehner, head of strategy at the White House until 2007]

(nod to KL)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Norman Ice Storm in Pictures!!

These were taken by our friend Tommy Blue, who didn't get his power back until this evening (6 days!!!), and immediately emailed us the pics when he did get power.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn Bolivian!

Recently KPC has reported on the increasing divisiveness of Bolivian politics here and here.

The situation is further heating up as Santa Cruz and three other Departments (i.e. states) are voting/declaring "autonomy" from the central government after Cocalero Presidente Morales decided to just push his new constitution through by any means necessary.

To prevent such ship jumping, Morales has quixotically dispatched 422 police officers to Santa Cruz!! I wonder how that precise number was determined?

It seems like Bolivia is going to figure out what works by first experimenting with all the things that won't / don't work and then settling on something else.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is the Fed fighting the wrong battle?

I am just an Okie outsider, not privy to the forecasts and deliberations of the FOMC. But I do know these things (1) Output is still growing and unemployment is not rising. (2) Inflation is rising (3) The last time our monetary authority accomodated energy price increases in a big way didn't work out so well.

On point (1): Unemployment was steady at 4.7% last month and new jobs went up by 94,000. Third quarter real GDP growth was above 4% and productivity rose by 6.3% in that quarter. Even industrial production rebounded from its October fall to post a November gain.

On point (2) CPI inflation was .8% in November and is running at over 4% for the last 12 months and over 5% (annualized) for the last three months. Even "core" inflation is rising and rising faster than predicted. The real return on 10 year t-bonds is slightly negative now.

On point (3) of course I am refering to the stagflating 70s.

So either the Fed is making mistakes, or is being politically pressured into this policy path knowing it's probably a mistake, or the Fed foresees something really really bad in the near future that it doesn't want to talk about publically.

I am not sure which of these three scenarios I hope is the correct one.

Update: This well reasoned gentleman has a slightly different view of the situation.


On following up the toad smoking question, KPC uncovers the jenkem epidemic.

When I was in college, I remember a friend saying, "Man, THIS is some good shit." Never thought he might be speaking literally.

My suspicion: a hoax. Has anyone ever met anyone who has ever met anyone who did jenkem?

A Boy and his Toad

Man arrested for toad possession.

Man makes bail, toad still in custody.

Best line:

"There are a lot of things that are created naturally but they are still not legal.”

To which I say:

The only reason a lot of things are illegal is that they happen to be against the law.

One picture is better than 31 pages.

I came across an article entitled: "A Dynamic Enquiry into the Causes of Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe".

I was stunned to see it was 31 pages long when it should have just been this.

Of course, one could reasonably inquire into "The Causes of Mugabe in Zimbabwe". That paper should consist of this.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dumb Water

Somebody fix it.

Best Pop Music of 2007

I have a top 5 and a second 5, no particular subordering in each group. In my opinion, it was a very good year in music.

Top 5:

Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Britt Daniel does more with less than anyone since John Cage)
Sunset Rubdown: Random Spirit Lover (Over the top madness. essential)
Black Cab: Jesus East (hard to find Aussie psycho-drone. try
The National: Boxer (I slept on these guys for years. they are the real deal)
Seabear: The Ghost that Carried us Away (lovely, simple and fun)

Second 5:

MIA: Kala
Okkervil River: The Stage Names
Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity
LCD Soundsystem: The Sound of Silver
Bill Callahan: Woke on a Whale Heart

Honorable Mentions: Blonde Redhead: 33, Jens Lekman: Night Falls Over Kortadala, Les Savy Fav: Let's Stay Friends, Panda Bear: Person Pitch.

Disappointments: Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (guess they were one album wonders), Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (ditto), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Some Loud Thunder (ditto ditto), Liars: Liars (this just plain sucks), Modest Mouse: We were Dead before the Ship Even Sank (ditto).

Separated at Birth?

As suggested by sharp-eyed reader NewBigPrinz....

Robyn Hitchcock

My son Kevin

I survived the Oklahoma Icestorm of 2007!

(t-shirt forthcoming).

Wow. Me and Mrs. Angus have been refugees. No power for 3.5 days. Cold weather. About 15 trees on our property destroyed. No damage to house or dog though. Spent the first night sleeping in my office on my yoga mat (not too comfy), the next two with our friend Charlie (much much better). Back home now, grading finals and thinking about buying a chainsaw.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Full Metal Christmas at the North Pole

No common decency here. Not for kids, not work safe.

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Suppose you take some schmoe, give him a whiteboard, a marker, and a video camera.

What's the worst that could happen?

This. This is the worst that could happen.

Note that if you take out global climate change, and put "asteroid strike" or "killer virus" or "nuclear holocaust" or ANY OTHER doomsday scenario, his "argument" leads to the same "inescapable conclusion."

The problem with expected value is that you need probabilities. Bozo here appears to believe that we should spend an infinite amount of resources on multiple problems. If you multiply infinity by an integer, where the integer is determined by the number of "problems" that at least one bedwetter is worried about, then you get.... well, you get Al Gore winning a Nobel Prize.

And that, my children, is the worst that could happen. Good night, and sleep well.

Happy / Merry!

A fine merry Christmas from the Mungowitz compound!

Try to guess the name of the idiot not smiling and looking at the ceiling. That's right, that would be.... "Kevin"... click the pic, you'll see what I mean.

Also, about three seconds after this picture was taken, the tree fell over right on my wife's head, causing most excellent shrieking. (Yes, really). This is already my favorite xmas picture EVER. Oh, the memories of xmastime, with the family.

"At Least There Was A Toilet...."

Man trapped in the loo. 100 hours. Ick.

(Insert your own joke at this point)

Buggles? We don't need no stinkin' Buggles!

Great cover version of the first video ever played on MTV. Done here by "The Wrong Trousers" and showing the influence Joanna Newsome is having on our youth.

Hat tip to Pitchfork.

Be Fair....Be Patient....And Be Happy

Cliches often contain truth....

Procedural Fairness, Outcome Favorability, and Judgments of an Authority's Responsibility

Joel Brockner, Ariel Fishman, Jochen Reb, Barry Goldman, Scott Spiegel &
Charlee Garden
Journal of Applied Psychology, November 2007, Pages 1657-1671

Fairness theory (R. Folger & R. Cropanzano, 1998, 2001) postulates that, particularly in the face of unfavorable outcomes, employees judge an organizational authority to be more responsible for their outcomes when the authority exhibits lower procedural fairness. Three studies lent empirical support to this notion. Furthermore, 2 of the studies showed that attributions of responsibility to the authority mediated the relationship between the authority's procedural fairness and employees' reactions to unfavorable outcomes. The findings (a) provide support for a key assumption of fairness theory, (b) help to account for the pervasive interactive effect of procedural fairness and outcome favorability on employees' attitudes and behaviors, and (c) contribute to an emerging trend in justice research concerned with how people use procedural fairness information to make attributions of responsibility for their outcomes. Practical implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research also are discussed.


Patience is a virtue: Cooperative people have lower discount rates

Oliver Curry, Michael Price & Jade Price
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

Reciprocal altruism involves foregoing an immediate benefit for the sake of a greater long-term reward. It follows that individuals who exhibit a stronger preference for future over immediate rewards should be more disposed to engage in reciprocal altruism - in other words, 'patient' people should be more cooperative. The present study tested this prediction by investigating whether participants' contributions in a public-good game correlated with their 'discount rate'. The hypothesis was supported: patient people are indeed more cooperative. The paper discusses alternative interpretations of this result, and makes some suggestions for future research.

(Nod to KL, who is always fair and cooperative. ALWAYS, I'm telling you)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


My boy T. Schaller asks, "Where are the moderate Republicans?"

The answer is that one of them turned into....Tom Schaller!

Fred Lays the Smack Down on Manny

Philosophical trash talking.

(Nod to PDF, who KNOWS from trash)

Are Chile and Venezuela really the Same??

Over at Oil Wars, they say the answer is yes (it's the first post there as of my posting this, dated December 9th and titled "Is this the way to go?" I can't get a unique link to the post).

It's really worth reading the whole thing to try and see how to make an untenable argument as best you can by playing with the data and abusing the language.

For example we are told that Venezuela has made better progress in combating unemployment though the graph we are shown shows the Chilean unemployment rate is lower than the Venezuealan one in every observation depicted!

The main argument is Chile is dependent on a single commodity export (copper) just like Venezuela (oil) but Ven is actually doing as well as if not better than Chile.

The main data in support is a graph showing that since the end of 2004 Venezuela has been growing faster than Chile (sorry but I don't see how accumulating more international reserves is a sign of superior economic performance).

However, the author cleverly has omitted pre-2004 data which tells a very different story (sorry this is so small, click it and watch it grow!!):

These data,from the Penn World Tables tell a different story. (Data are adjusted for variations in PPP. The series is called RGDPL). Venezuela was poorer in 2004 than it was in 1977! Chile caught them in 1991 and in 2004 Chilean per capita income was hugely greater (note that much of this excellent relative performance is post Pinochet).

The oil wars guy concludes as follows:

It would seem Chile is not all it has been cracked up to be. The sad reality here is that neither of these countries are in very good shape. Venezuela is poor and very heavily dependent on one export commodity. And so far attempts to diversify the economy seen either not to exist or not to have had success. Chile, contrary to popular perception, is also very dependent on export of a single commodity. And while it has had more success than Venezuela in increasing other exports those other exports seem also to be commodities or agricultural products. In other words, both countries are on the bottom of the world wide food chain exporting only natural resources and agricultural products - for some reason value added manufactures seem to be beyond them.

But one point is crystal clear. Chile, being to a large extent stuck in the same swamp of underdevelopment that Venezuela is, can hardly serve as a model for how Venezuela is to get out that underdeveloped state. For that Venezuela would do MUCH better to look east towards South Korea and Taiwan than to look south towards Chile.

Now I'm not here to say Chile is a model for anybody, but I do say that they have gotten quite a bit further out of the "swamp of underdevelopment" than has Venezuela.

While we wait for the Fed...

Okie Pete bought a donkey for $100 cash with delivery for the following day. The next day the seller drove up and said "Sorry Pete but the Donkey is Dead and I already spend your money". Pete thought a spell and said, "OK, just give me the dead donkey and I'll raffle it off"

"You can't do that"

"Watch me"

A week later the seller saw Pete and asked "how'd the raffle go?" Pete said, I sold 500 tickets at $2.00 each and made a profit of $998?"

"No one complained?"

"Just the winner, so I gave him his $2.00 back"

from "Plato & a Platypus walk into a bar: Understanding philosophy through jokes"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some Subprime Mortgage Facts

As Mrs. Angus and I dig our way out of ice sheets and downed trees, I recommend this Boston Fed working paper written by a couple of PhD students from Boston Univ.

The abstract: This paper provides the first rigorous assessment of the homeownership experiences of subprime borrowers. We consider homeowners who used subprime mortgages to buy their homes, and estimate how often these borrowers end up in foreclosure. In order to evaluate these issues, we analyze homeownership experiences in Massachusetts over the 1989–2007 period using a competing risks, proportional hazard framework. We present two main findings. First, homeownerships that begin with a subprime purchase mortgage end up in foreclosure almost 20 percent of the time, or more than 6 times as often as experiences that begin with prime purchase mortgages. Second, house price appreciation plays a dominant role in generating foreclosures. In fact, we attribute most of the dramatic rise in Massachusetts foreclosures during 2006 and 2007 to the decline in house prices that began in the summer of 2005.

So yes subprime mortgages for home purchase do end up in foreclosure "too often" and it's price declines, not interest rate increases, that are the key driver of foreclosures. Not only is the Paulson plan weird, it's pretty much misdirected and likely useless.