Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Politician is EXACTLY the Sum of Her Parts

Something to do.

But...."a mathematical equation"?

(Nod to Arwen)

Surely You Joust?

A man was actually killed, jousting.

It IS dangerous, one can see that. Just an impossible chance
to be killed, though. The coin lands on its edge, sometimes.

(Nod to Nokes, who adds the following comment:
You know, I hestitated to say this in the original post, fearing that it might seem flippant, but I mean this with all due respect in light of the fact that a relatively young man died suddenly:

Since man is mortal, and we are all going to die anyway, this is a relatively cool way to go. There ought to be a reverse-Darwin award honoring people who die doing something especially cool or especially heroic. I'm not sure this qualifies as heroic, but it does qualify as cool.
And, of course, he is right.)

Stupid Baseball Beliefs

Baseball is done, now we can have fun!

But first, here's some baseball wisdom to ponder during the offseason:

1. A high payroll is negatively correlated with on field success
2. A batted ball picks up speed when it bounces on astroturf (4th paragraph in the link)
3. Real men don't rub it when they get hit by a pitch
4. David Eckstein is a good baseball player

The Fed will Lead us to Ruin I say!!!

So, now that he's not in charge, the maestro sez that without a gold standard or currency board, "all of history" tells us that we will have rampant inflation.

Can this fool sink any lower?? (I mean yes, he might be right, but where where these libertarian views when he was the head of the organization he's now throwing under the bus???).

note: final sentence amended.

The Game's Afoot

The initial third quarter GDP number is in this morning at a smoking 3.9%, well above the consensus forecast of 3.2%, driven in part by a very large increase in exports (16% on an annualized basis), the biggest increase since the beginning of 2003 (underestimating export growth seems to have caused forecasters to underestimate GDP growth for over a year now).

Later today of course, the FOMC will announce whether they will feed or starve the beast of "the markets" with another rate cut. Last time the Fed made a bold half point cut in the face of the alarming (and ultimately incorrect) news of a negative jobs number. When the jobs figure was revised upward KPC wondered if the Fed had panderer's regret.

This time it will be interesting to see if the Fed will cut again in the face of such a strong current growth number. Ironic symmetry would require them not to cut only to see this number then revised substantially downward!

Japan Roundup

1. Measurement: Yr doin' it wrong: In an interesting new NBER working paper (ungated version here) Broda & Weinstein argue that Japan is systematically undermeasuring its deflation rate and thus also its rate of consumption growth.

2. Those who don't like history can always try to re-write it: The Japanese government thinks textbooks are too hard on Japan vis a vis World War II. Specifically the Government is ordering textbook producers to eliminate, among other things, the accounts of forced civilian suicides that the books currently contain.

3. Brother can you spare a riceball? If you are a hobo thinking of relocating internationally, I'd think twice about choosing Japan.

4. Japanese love Hummers!! um, to be more specific, they love the original H1 Hummer from General Motors.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Good Nokes, a Bad Nokes, and Anglo-Saxon Prose

The Good Nokes admires Chertoff, in a limited way.

Orwell's essay.

("Good Nokes" might imply a "Bad Nokes," of course. But all I could find is a Nokes who was once, by his own admission, bad, but who is now good.)

Haas School: Leading Through Grabbing Its Ankles

Actual email, sent out at Haas B-school, Berkeley, today:

Dear Haas Community,
I want to alert you to a potential protest/rally today at 11:30am.
If marchers enter the building, let them. Try to carry on business as usual. If the noise becomes too great, or the crowd too large, feel free to close and lock your office doors - this is a departmental decision.
As always, feel free to contact the UC Police department at 642-6760.
Kind Regards,
Gerardo Campos
Facilities Coordinator
Haas School of Business
University of California at Berkeley
545 Student Services Building, MC 1900
Ph.: 510-642-4617 Fax: 510-642-4700
Cell: 510-847-4707

The Haas School of Business: Leading Through Innovation

(nod to KL, who NEVER locks his doors)

UPDATE: The protest described....

What's the Buzz?

When I saw the headline: "Low Buzz May Give Mice Better Bones and Less Fat", I thought, why those lucky labrats, smoking the chronic and getting in shape at the same time. However, it turns out that the buzz in question is an electrical buzz.

It's still an interesting story, mice stand on plates that produce a low frequency buzz for 15 minutes a day and they end up with 27% less body fat and greater bone density than their non-buzzed control group brethren. Of course the results are preliminary and all that.

Interestingly, the NIH now plans a human trial using elderly people in assisted living centers. Who says we don't respect our elders in the USA??

On IQ, Fables, and the Onion

Article in the WaPo that could have been from the Onion.

cartoon: tablet-carrying Moses looking incredulously toward the heavens.

"Now, let me get this straight," the bearded figure says. "The Arabs get the oil, and we have to cut off the ends of our what?"

I like articles that could have been from the Onion.

(nod to SdM)

A Priest, A Rabbi and A Putin walk into a bar.........

Separated at Birth: TRIPLETS!!!!

Check these. And, match them up!

Peter Feaver, Duke Prof. and Recent NSC Staff
Peter Fenn, Gore advisor and pundit
Fred Barnes, Editor of Weekly Standard

(Belated, and red-face, nod to JR!)

They Stab it with their steely knives but they just can't Starve the Beast!

Romer and Romer in a new NBER working paper (ungated link here) ask: Do Tax Cuts Starve the Beast?

Short answer from the paper: NO

Their slightly longer abstract:

The hypothesis that decreases in taxes reduce future government spending is often cited as a reason for cutting taxes. However, because taxes change for many reasons, examinations of the relationship between overall measures of taxation and subsequent spending are plagued by problems of reverse causation and omitted variable bias. To deal with these problems, this paper examines the behavior of government expenditures following legislated tax changes that narrative sources suggest are largely uncorrelated with other factors affecting spending. The results provide no support for the hypothesis that tax cuts restrain government spending; indeed, they suggest that tax cuts may actually increase spending. The results also indicate that the main effect of tax cuts on the government budget is to induce subsequent legislated tax increases. Examination of four episodes of major tax cuts reinforces these conclusions.

I like the bit that goes "the main effect of tax cuts is future tax increases".

Richard Dawkins Goes Into The "No Win Zone"

From Economic Investigations, the YT link.

Bust Roundup

Pretty interesting stuff lately:

1. La Kirchner: the woman with an economic bust in her future.

2. La Edwards: a bust in Iowa. I have been thinking Edwards would get the proverbial "better than expected" in Iowa, since he has pretty much lived there for three years. And he was doing well.

3. MP3 player in your bust. Leading to the question: "Which one of these is the volume control?"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Separated at Birth!

Mark Perry of Carpe Diem and Steve Kroft of 60 minutes. I've known Mark for over 15 years and I'm not sure which is which!!!

Charlie: Dick Armey is trying to ruin our Love!

Specifically, he says you don't really love me at all. In todays WSJ he calls your plan "the mother of all tax hikes" and says it will raise taxes for "individuals earning above $150,000 and couples earning over $200,000".

Could the love note Greg passed me have been a fake? Do you just want my money?

Amazingly though, Armey is touting a tax plan that almost certainly will raise my taxes:

All taxpayers would have a standard individual deduction of $12,500, and individuals earning below $100,000 would pay a flat 10% of income, while individuals earning above that would pay 25%. Calculating taxes would take less time than brewing a pot of coffee.

Dick, I'm pretty sure I do better than that with the current system, so stop trying to come between me and my Charlie!

Lo, the Noble Savage!

From The Right Coast, a reminder that only civilized nations are...well....civilized.

(Nod to MH)

Down in Front, and a Separated at Birth

Quite a video.

(Nod to Ed C)

Anyway, seeing the stars on the video made me realize that we have missed an important "separated at birth":

John Ritter.........................................John Edwards

(NOTE: This thought, like most of my thoughts, is quite unoriginal)

If you asked Hillary and Obama, the problem in Iowa is that "Three's Company," (careful: .wav download!) and Edwards needs to drop out. "Come and knock on MYYYY door..."

Charlie for President!

Hey, Charlie Rangel loves me and he loves most other economics professors too. Via Greg Mankiw (who is probably a bit too wealthy to feel the Charlie love) comes word that in Rangel's new tax plan: those making between $75,000 and $500,000, would receive much more substantial tax cuts. Those in the $200,000 to $500,000 range, who are in the 96 to 99 percentile of the income distribution, would get a tax cut of about $3,600 per year.

This is according to work done by the Tax Policy Institute. Who pays? The top 1 percent, those making over $500,000, would pay substantially more in taxes. Those making more than $1 million would see their tax bill rise by an average of more than $100,000.

Having already been hit by the AMT the last two years, I am strangely A-OK with this!!!

Don't get me wrong, I'm on record saying that 10% of GDP is a nice number for funding all governmental activity in the US. But since a tax change/increase is surely going to come in 09, Mr. Rangel has done me the supreme favor of taxing the fella behind the tree (er, sorry Greg)!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ed Cone's article

Nice article by Ed Cone on News and Record today. (And, as you likely know, he is also a prominent blogger in Greensboro. Or, maybe ABOUT Greensboro).

My reaction, on my campaign blog.

Sunday Sports Links

1. As if the NBA didn't have enough trouble, Sheedy decides to compare it (unfavorably) to pro wrestling on the eve of the regular season.

2. Tennis Matches Fixed and no one cares. Putin look alike Nikolay Davydenko already under suspicion of match fixing get fined for "a lack of effort" on the court.

3. The results are in and.... Charlie Weiss is the worst coach in the history of the universe.

Lets be more specific, shall we?

Last week, uberblogger Tyler linked to an article about how not to bore people in conversation. The advice includes not talking about dreams, meals you've eaten, and your children's sleep habits. However, this advice is not Economist Specific and thus dangerous for many readers of Tyler's blog. In an attempt to remedy this omission KPC presents Rules for Economists on how not to bore people in conversation.

1. Do not speak at all. Really. NO, Really! Remember, we, after all, are the people with insufficient personality to be actuaries. Just hang loose, rockin' your Harris tweed with elbow patches and pleated Dockers pants and let the good times roll.

2. If you do feel you must break rule 1, for God's sake do not talk about economics! Really, NO, Really! Some one will either start quizzing you about the stock market and then mock all your random walk down Wall St. patter, or some one will loudly proclaim that they took an econ class in college and it was the worst thing that ever happened to them while everyone else nods sympathetically and glares at you, or someone will mock all your invisible hand junk and bust out about the Illuminati or the Free Masons while everyone else nods sympathetically and glares at you.

3. However, if you ever find yourself exclusively in the company of other people with Harris Tweeds and dockers, rules 1 and 2 do not apply. You are at home, young Skywalker, spread your wings, speak your mind, especially if the others also have large plastic name tags clipped to their lapels.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Good Music from Your PC: Vacuum Tube Version

This NY Times article sings the praises of storing your tunes in a lossless format on a PC and then using a USB port DAC (digital-audio converter) instead of your computer's sound card to send the signal to an amplifier. This is actually a great way to get rid of CDs even for your main home stereo system (assuming anyone still has these. In Chez Angus, it takes up one whole wall of the living room).

The article mentions Gordon Rankin, the owner and proprietor of Wavelength Audio, one of the main movers in the vacuum tube revival in the USA. Gordon makes a variety of DACs for PCs that incorporate a vacuum tube stage at the output. His products are well designed, great sounding and simply beautiful. His DAC in the article is called "The Brick" and it looks like one, but here is a lovely 2.5 watt stereo amplifier he made:

Kudos to you Gordon

Friday, October 26, 2007

Didn't Watson Get Fired for This?

Betsy suggests, and I agree, that we need more Biden.

Because EVERYBODY loves a train wreck.

And the ghost stories, that litltle orphan Annie used to tell....

">Article at CBS:

Those things that go bump in the night? About one-third of people believe they could be ghosts.

And nearly one out of four, 23 percent, say they've actually seen a ghost or felt its presence, finds a pre-Halloween poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos.

One is Misty Conrad, who says she fled her rented home in Syracuse, Ind., after her daughter began talking to an unseen girl named Nicole and neighbors said children had been murdered in the house. That was after the TV and lights began flicking on at night.

So, little girls who want to move, just invent a "friend" named Nicole.

I have my own "ghost story." I very clearly remember this happening, and am equally certain it did not. Decide for yourself.

Central Florida, about 1964. I'm 6 years old, sleeping out on the enclosed front porch, because we have out of town guests. It's cold, only about 45 outside, but the room is unheated.

Dark. I wake up. Deep of night, after midnight. Corner of my eye I see a fast movement. Loud male voice, across the room: "Caramba!"

I speak no Spanish, and was not then aware of having heard this word before. I freeze for a good five minutes, shivering. Then I get up and turn on the light. There's nothing. No door opened or closed in the meantime, and the windows are shut tight.

Next morning, I asked my mother what "caramba" means. She wants to know where I heard it. I tell her. She laughs and said that I had a dream.

I was convinced then I had "seen" a ghost. I am convinced now that I had a dream. Probably had heard "caramba" on TV or something, without realizing it.

But it would make me feel special to think that I really did get a visit from ghost, a Spanish conquistador who got lost from St. Augustine in the 17th century, ended up way inland, stubbed his toe, and yelled "caramba."

The people who "see" ghosts probably feel special in just that way.

Senate Votes to Give Public Access to Public Property

Our man Coturnix notes a little-noted senate bill is voted.

If it's publicly funded, the data need to be publicly available.

Market Failures in Everything: Baseball Edition

A while ago an excellent book came out called "Moneyball". Despite Joe Morgan's fervent protestations, it was not written BY Billy Beane but rather ABOUT him and the basic economic idea of trying to find underpriced assets in the baseball talent pool.

One of the most striking concepts in the book is that a lot of traditional baseball thinking, often summed up as "smallball" or "situational hitting" is wrong-headed. You only have 27 outs and it's generally not worth burning one to move a runner up a base, so bunting, the "hit and run to stay out of the double play", going the other way to move a runner are generally not winning maneuvers.

Apparently Ozzie Guillen hasn't gotten the memo, as he appears to be blaming the White Sox's disastrous 2007 season on not playing enough small-ball and is promising to have everybody doing a lot more counterproductive stuff next year.

You're going to see a lot of crazy stuff in spring training, regardless of the baserunning," Guillen said during a conference call. "You're going to see hit-and-run [plays] when it's not a hit-and-run situation. You're going to see people bunting when it's not a bunting situation.

The full article is here, the awesome deconstruction by the talented Ken Tremendous on FJM is here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

You Can't Handle the Truth, But Keith Poole Can

Fantastic email rant from one of KPC's best friends, Keith "HILLARY'S WINNING, & MY GODDAMNED HOUSE IS ON FIRE!" Poole, in San Diego.

The Republican Party is a smoking ruin much like many areas within 10 miles of my house. They threw away their brand name of low taxes and small government.

My academic next door neighbor, Gary Jacobson, and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum but we read the tea leaves the same way. The R's are going to lose a handful of additional seats in the House and about 4 Senate seats (although we have a shot in LA).

I do not see how the Clinton machine can be stopped. The George Soros (plus
other billionaires like the two in CO who have single-handedly torpedoed the Republican party there) will spend at least a ****billion**** dollars through 527s for Hillary! Even though she has high negatives -- my wife, Jan, who many of you have met, is not political at all and she really dislikes her -- it is likelier that the R vote will be split than the D vote. It is not hopeless but I would bet on the Clinton machine.

Look what we have to look forward to -- idiotic trade policy, high taxes, paid family leave, a pre-School entitlement, Union check-offs, nightmarish liberal judges who love a "living" (i.e., New York Times type Constitution), and all other types of horrors only the left can conjure up!

Here I am 60 years old with the housing market crashing and Southern California
burring down, I will never be able to retire!!

The horror, the horror.

We LOVE Keith Poole. He was a grouchy old man at age 7, and has only gotten grouchier and funnier with age.

How Much is Tenure Worth?

How much would YOU accept to give up tenure?

An interesting debate.

Has there been any research on this? What is the value of the contract provision "tenure" for a professor? What lump-sum cash payment would they accept to give it up?

For me, I think I would give it up for $10,000. It is worth SOMETHING, but I am protected by market forces.

Tenure protects those who are (1) lazy, (2) controversial, or (3) faced with cutbacks. I am clearly (2), and some days feel like (1) might be pretty fun.

(Nod to El Zorno)

Those who do not learn from History.....

.....apparently live in Argentina!

Argentina has a long and proud history of hyperinflation, and after the interlude of convertibility and the ensuing disaster and recovery when convertibility failed, it seems that things may be heating up again. KPC has reported on the political battle over the inflation number in Argentina here and here. Now the old school press is picking up on this issue with an article in the Economist and a front page story in the WSJ.

The gist of the matter is that the ruling Kirchner family (current prez Nestor and future prez Christina) after overseeing a quite remarkable recovery from the end of convertibility crisis, dumped the finance minister who helped a lot during the recovery and have been ramping up the populist economics that has made Argentina justly famous throughout the world. Energy price controls are causing shortages, price controls on beef (Argentines consume 140 lbs of beef per person annually) are causing shortages, though beef is now cheaper than veggies in many cases as veggies, being mere incidentals, are not subject to controls! Government spending is up over 45% this year in nominal terms and independent estimates put the current inflation rate somewhere north of 20%, though the official number seems stuck at around 8%.

Mugabenomics on the rise?

A fascinating moral dilemma

We all think child molesters are evil. And, fair enough: an adult
male sexually molesting a young child, against the active resistance
of that child....there's nothing short of cold-blooded murder that could
be worse, and you could even argue that. Child-sex predators are the worst
people on earth.'s a guy who...well, read it.

Admirable, in a way. The guy couldn't help the fact that he has these urges. But
he tried to control his response to these urges. And, i'm guessing that it worked. Poor guy, I seriously feel sorry for him. It's like a horrible game of CLUE: The child molester. With a filet knife. In the bathroom.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater)

Media Frenzy, or Mediocre Frency?


Andrea Mattozzi & Antonio Merlo
NBER Working Paper, February 2007

In this paper, we study the initial recruitment of individuals in the
political sector. We propose an equilibrium model of political recruitment
by a party who faces competition for political talent from the lobbying
sector. We show that a political party may deliberately choose to recruit
only mediocre politicians, in spite of the fact that it could afford to
recruit better individuals who would like to become politicians. We argue
that this finding may contribute to explain the observation that in many
countries the political class is mostly composed of mediocre people.

(Nod to KL, who is en fuego)

Face Time!

Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments

Charles Ballew & Alexander Todorov
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Here we show that rapid judgments of competence based solely on the facial
appearance of candidates predicted the outcomes of gubernatorial elections,
the most important elections in the United States next to the presidential
elections. In all experiments, participants were presented with the faces of
the winner and the runner-up and asked to decide who is more competent. To
ensure that competence judgments were based solely on facial appearance and
not on prior person knowledge, judgments for races in which the participant
recognized any of the faces were excluded from all analyses. Predictions
were as accurate after a 100-ms exposure to the faces of the winner and the
runner-up as exposure after 250 ms and unlimited time exposure (Experiment
1). Asking participants to deliberate and make a good judgment dramatically
increased the response times and reduced the predictive accuracy of
judgments relative to both judgments made after 250 ms of exposure to the
faces and judgments made within a response deadline of 2 s (Experiment 2).
Finally, competence judgments collected before the elections in 2006
predicted 68.6% of the gubernatorial races and 72.4% of the Senate races
(Experiment 3). These effects were independent of the incumbency status of
the candidates. The findings suggest that rapid, unreflective judgments of
competence from faces can affect voting decisions.

(nod to KL)

GadZOOKS! Trying to get on the BALLOT!

"Everybody is very cautious, not wanting to take this too seriously, or to
say that campaign finance laws are going to stop satire, or what is clearly
a joke. But he's trying to get on the ballot, and he could in fact affect
the election."

-- Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election
Commission, on Stephen Colbert's ostensibly faux-campaign

(Nod to KL)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I just look at the pictures....

....and when it comes to reading the NY times I urge you to do the same! Greg Mankiw links to a times article about cloud seeding to defer global warming, but I only had eyes for the fantastic illustration reproduced here:
The artist is the awesomely named Henning Wagenbreth from Germany.

Here he is in action:
and here is his very entertaining website. Kudos to you sir, well done indeed

Bolivian "Decentralization" Update

Perhaps emboldened by their recent success in re-taking the airport from Federal trooops, Unidentified Santa Cruzians followed up earlier this week with tossing sticks of dynamite at the Venezuelan Consulate building and Molotov cocktails at a house where a group of Cuban doctors reside.

Not sure about their beef with Cuba, but this photo may shed light on the Venezuela thing.

How They Gonna Wear Cashmere NOW? And the algae....ick

From the Times:

“We represent the entertainment community,” said Kelly Chapman Meyer, whose husband, Ron, is the president of Universal Studios Group. “We use our resources and our connections to push for environmental issues.”

“We want a climate bill that’s not going to die,” said Colleen Bell, a philanthropist and writer whose husband, Bradley, is the executive producer and head writer of the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Ms. Meyer told Ms. Boxer, a Democrat who is one of her home senators, that warmer weather has intensified climate-related problems in the lapping waves near her house in Malibu. “I’m a surfer,” she said. “The algae bloom is insane.”

Ms. Boxer said she was working to push climate legislation through the Senate, adding that she also worried about global warming. “We can see it happening, we can feel it happening,” she said. “The fashion industry is so upset because they can’t sell their cashmere sweaters.”

Note that this last was actually said by a U.S. Senator, albeit one with an I.Q. (though not an appearance) that would make her well-suited for the role of trophy wife.

But the warming isn't all bad, at least not when it comes to overheated rhetoric: “'You’ll be the hot grandma, I’ll be the kind-of-hot grandma,' Ms. Meyer said."

Well, there you are, then.

(Nod to Anonyman. He's hot, too)

And, your little DOG, too!

Scariest Democrat "poll."

I guess scariness is the best revenge.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

KPC's 5 Rules for Changing Jobs

Kenny Smith, in a column criticizing Kobe Bryant, posted his version of "Basketball's Trade Commandments". Lucky for us, academic departments can't trade us, but getting outside offers and changing jobs is a big issue in our bidness too.

Thus, and with props to Kenny, KPC offers "5 Rules for Changing Jobs".

1. Do not complain about being underpaid or use that as the stated reason for looking to move. Sure we all know that money is the reason, but no one wants to hear it. As hard as it may be to believe, there are probably people in your own department who make less money than you.

2. Never let anyone know how much you want to go. Remember: he who cares the least wins! Also remember that you may end up staying put and facing the same people who you’ve told how miserable they make you.

3. Never bring an offer to the table that you are not prepared to accept. If you bring in an outside offer and your home department does nothing about it, it’s a gots to go situation (unless the offer you bring is actually worse than the one you already have (don’t laugh, that has happened more than once in this world)).

4. Don’t throw your current colleagues under the bus. There is nothing more off-putting than to be interviewing someone and have them constantly complaining about and belittling their current colleagues. It makes you wonder what they’ll be saying about you if you hire them. It's amazing how often people do this.

5. Don’t be a tease. Don’t generate offers from places you have no intention of going to and don’t hold on to an offer for an eternity while you bargain the last nickel from your current chair or dean. Rember, Karma can be a B#&*#&CH!

Switch-Hitting Tila Tequila

MTV’s A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila, features MySpace superstar Tila Tequila whose profile is touted as having the most friends in the history of MySpace. Follow Tequila as she whittles down a group of 32 suitors - 16 straight men and 16 gay women to pick just one to win her heart.

The Apocalypse is upon us. The end is near.

That Darned Fine Print: The Dollar-Loonie Exchange Rate

Note from KPC friend, RL:

Maybe economists like you can make sense of what is "normal" price
appreciation and what is "abnormally quick" changes in exchange rates?

The markets responded sharply in the first day of trading after these
comments, but then traders realized that - whether or not the pace of
the change was in line with historical norms - the equilibrium price was
near where the dollar-looney
traded at on Friday!

I wonder whether the current stock market volatility is also "abnormal"
since, from what I can tell, it also is not consistent with historical

Does the leader of the Bank of Canada not read the fine print that says
that historical performance is not indicative of future returns?

Markets in Everything

Consider two commodities:

A. The value of seeing the Red Sox in the World Series
B. The value of seeing the Red Sox win their first world series since 1918.

Since all tickets are sold, and there is a thick secondary market, we can be reasonably certain that the difference between B and A is the premium of novelty.

An article from the Globe, with more info, and some prices.

(Nod to Tofe, who never has to pay for it)
(And, props to TC, for the "MiE" title. I have credited it before, and from now on will just assume everyone knows where it comes from)

Drink Limits Useless, Made Up

That number we made up?

Well, you must OBEY!

How are ya gonna hev eni pudding, if you don
obey your arbitrary drink limits?

(Nod to TtWBB)

Cookies Affect Your Discount Rate?

The Effects of Appetitive Stimuli on Out-of-Domain Consumption Impatience

Xiuping Li
Journal of Consumer Research, February 2008

Earlier work in consumer research has documented the effect of appetitive
stimuli (e.g., chocolate cookies) on a related consumption domain (e.g.,
eating). We argue that appetitive stimuli can lead to a change in temporal
orientation and affect subsequent consumption impatience across domains. In
a series of experiments, we find that consumers exposed to appetitive
stimuli are more present oriented, more likely to choose smaller-sooner
rewards or vice options, and more likely to make unplanned purchase

(Nod to KL, who loves cookies)

Monday, October 22, 2007

If You Have a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Bureaucrat

A heart-warming story of an old lady kicking a little tail.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Closing the Barn door after all the cows are out again!

No this is not from the Onion:

Cycling chief warns the sport risks becoming a 'travesty' and 'fraud'
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer
October 22, 2007

PARIS (AP) -- The head of cycling's governing body warns that the sport risks becoming a "travesty" and "fraud" unless it unites to fight doping.

In a conference attended by the sport's divided leadership, International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid urged colleagues Monday to move past their differences and recognize that the survival of cycling is at stake.

"We are here because we share a common determination to stamp out doping in our sport," said McQuaid, who has been criticized by Tour de France and anti-doping officials. "There's been so much background noise in recent years, the fact that we all still agree on one major objective is a good start for this meeting."

"Either we fix this beyond doubt or cycling as we have known it -- in all its glory -- will become a travesty of a sport, a fraud for the public, and a shame for us in this room." he added.

the rest is here.

Come Back Mary Anastasia, we miss you!

One of the very weirdest things about the WSJ editorial pages is the surrealistic Latin America column by the redoubtable Mary Anastasia O'Grady. However, today, in her absence, a guest column by Manuel Ayau may well be the worst thing ever published on those pages (which is really saying something).

The column has two points, viz. what Guatemala needs is less civilian government and more Army!!

Guatemalans will vote in a presidential runoff election on Nov. 4 and as of now, center-right, retired military general, Otto Perez Molina appears to have a slight lead over the moderate, center-left candidate Alvaro Colom. At a time when Latin America is supposedly surging to the left, Mr. Perez Molina's strong campaign is instructive. So too is the fact that in the first-round vote Guatemalans widely rejected the four extreme left-wing candidates, giving them less than 6% of the vote. Candidate Rigoberta Menchu managed a mere 3.1%, suggesting that Guatemalans are not nearly as impressed with the Nobel Peace Prize winner as the international community is. Another interesting outcome of the first round was the substantial support for retired military candidates for congress, and for Mr. Perez Molina, in regions that were supposedly victimized by the army in the past.

If the good news here is that socialists aren't all that popular, the bad news is that this reality is not reflected in our institutions, where socialist ideas remain deeply imbedded (Sic). Even though voters go to the polls every four or five years with hopes raised that an honest, capable person will come to power and preside over a more just society, they are always disappointed. Changing the managers without changing the institutional framework is like changing the driver when a car keeps breaking down. Even if the more market- oriented Mr. Perez Molina wins, Guatemala won't begin to make real progress until it amends crucial aspects of its 1985 constitution.

Many Marxist ideas survive because it is hard to change the legal culture established in the heyday of socialism, when lawyers and politicians were trained that it is the government's task to solve all problems. Our constitution pays lip service to the rights of the citizens but regulates every aspect of daily life, including working hours, leisure time, social security and policies in education, banking and culture. Even sports must receive 3% of the budget. Using these constitutional mandates, legislators expand their power and further interfere in private, peaceful transactions. In fact, lawmakers are duty bound to do so.......

Historically, when police have lost control of law and order, Guatemalans clamor for the army as the authority of last resort, much like Americans rely on the National Guard to control riots or widespread violence. Here, too, the country has been hamstrung by the remnants of socialism. Ever since the military defeated the subversive movements of the Cold War, left-wing international organizations and foreign governments have insisted on crippling the institution. Today the military is reluctant to take action and be subject to antimilitary international criticism. Guatemalans, however, know that before and during the years of subversive activities the armies were a civilizing force; this is evidenced by the popularity of ex-military candidates in elections.

All of this is pretty amazing.

"In regions that were supposedly victimized by the Army in the past"

"Guatemalans clamor for the army as the authority of last resort, much like Americans rely on the National Guard to control riots or widespread violence."

Wow. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the US national guard has wiped out villages and left mass graves behind (in the US at least). Nor do I think the word "supposedly" belongs in the first quote either.

Here is an alternative perspective: In its final report, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH- Guatemalan Truth Commission) concluded that army massacres had destroyed 626 villages, more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, 1.5 million were displaced by the violence, and more than 150,000 were driven to seek refuge in Mexico. Further, the Commission found the state responsible for ninety-three percent of the acts of violence and the guerrillas (URNG-Guatemalan Revolutionary Union) responsible for three percent.

Shame on Manuel Ayau and shame on the WSJ for printing this trash. All I can say is thank God the Guatemalan army is now "reluctant to take action"

I also wonder what Ayau thinks governments do in other countries: "Our constitution pays lip service to the rights of the citizens but regulates every aspect of daily life, including working hours, leisure time, social security and policies in education, banking and culture."

All these things may not be directly in constitutions, they are certainly in the purview of most governments today (note I am NOT saying that they should be). The US government certainly regulates working hours, leisure time (can't buy drugs, gamble wherever you want, consort with courtesans), social security, education, banking, and culture.

LOL, I guess we are all "marxists" now.

Strange Days in Bolivia

As cocalero-presidente Evo Morales appears on the Daily Show, his project to rewrite Bolivia's constitution (key feature: unlimited reelection for the president) is foundering badly and the country seems ever more likely to actually fracture. Last week in Santa Cruz, the least worse off of the Bolivian states and an anti-Morales hotbed, protesters clashed with federal troops and occupied and then reoccupied the international airport there.

Locals retake Bolivia airport from army

By HAROLD OLMOS, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 19, 4:47 PM ET

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia - Armed with clubs and waving provincial flags, thousands of residents of Bolivia's wealthiest province seized control of the country's busiest airport Friday from troops sent in by President Evo Morales. The retaking of the airport was a victory for leaders of a province fighting for greater autonomy from the socialist central government.

Soldiers and military police melted away before the protesters flooded into Santa Cruz's Viru Viru airport, avoiding clashes. It was not immediately clear if the troops had left the airport entirely or withdrawn to a distant part of the facility.

Morales ordered 220 troops to take control of the airport Thursday after workers threatened to block flights that did not pay landing fees to local officials rather than the national airport authority. Among the carriers affected was American Airlines. The dispute quickly became a flashpoint between Bolivia's national government and a region seeking greater autonomy.
At least two soldiers were wounded Thursday, one by gunfire, and local hospitals reported that about 20 other people were injured, some by tear gas fired by troops to repel protesters shouting, "The airport belongs to Santa Cruz!"

Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas called on residents Friday to retake the airport and thousands responded, marching past startled passengers into the terminal and waving clubs and green-and-white Santa Cruz flags. The soldiers left "with their tails between their legs," Costas said.

Oh and in case you are wondering what these rebel elites of Bolivian society look like:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A .500 average gets you in the Hall of Fame, right?

I recently posted that two of my favorite bands from last year were putting out new products. Well said products have arrived, been listened to, and I have to say the results are mixed.

First the good news: Spencer Krug's new Sunset Rubdown album is fantastic. Let me see if I can describe it by analogy: how about a mix up of Queen / Jonathan Richman / Velvet Underground / Igor Stravinsky / and the Fall? How's that grab you? This is totally out of control and totally wonderful. You should really own the whole Frog Eyes catalog (with and without Krug) along with the Sunset Rubdown stuff and the initial Wolf Parade record. Even if the above mashup and the idea of out of control pscho pop music doesn't sound appetizing, you should at least try Wolf Parade.

Now the bad news, Band of Horses does not survive the departure of one of their founding members. It's just "dad rock" now. BOH was all about the rave up. That was their thing. That is now gone and what is left is plodding, boring, trivial. I am not giving up though. Since things are progressing poorly, I've decided to go back in time and try Carissa's Wierd (sic), the pre BOH band of the original BOH lineup. Details to follow.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shock (me with your ignorance of) Capitalism

Wow. Naomi Klein may have written the single most illogical and confused book since...well, since THIS intellectual indignity was foisted on an unsuspecting world.

A review.

An excerpt:

Hot tip: Invest in "Disaster Capitalism." This new investment sector is the core of the emerging "new economy" that generates profits by feeding off other peoples' misery: Wars, terror attacks, natural catastrophes, poverty, trade sanctions, market crashes and all kinds of economic, financial and political disasters.

In this Orwellian future, everything must be seen with new eyes: "Disasters" are "IPOs," opportunities to buy into a new "company." Corporations like Lockheed-Martin are the real "emerging nations" of the world, not some dinky countries. They generate huge profits, grow earnings. And seen through the new rose-colored glasses of "Disaster Capitalism" they are hot investment opportunities.

To more fully grasp this new economy, you must read what may be the most important book on economics in the 21st century, Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" ...

Another. By Joe Stiglitz. He must be in love, because he certainly doesn't actually review the book. Why give her a pass like that? Say it ain't so, Joe!

Excerpt: Klein is not an academic and cannot be judged as one.

I think Prof. Stiglitz means that this idiotic book cannot be criticized for misusing evidence, or ignoring logic. I disagree, actually: evidence and logic are also useful in arguments made outside the academy.

Here's the thing: essentially every example she gives, EVERY example, shares one thing: They are all bad actions by government. This is a critique of

Milton Friedman, and the Chicago School, and Buchanan/Tullock and the Public Choice school, share on very important tenet, one core belief. And that is that powerful governments will be dominated by powerful economic interests. Interest groups capture regulatory agencies, and financial interests come to control money supply growth and bailouts.... BUT ONLY IF: (and that's a big "if")

ONLY IF the government tries to micro-regulate firms, and if the government tries to control the money supply and offer risk buyouts like FDIC and "too big to fail" safety nets. It's the solution that's the problem. If government doesn't try to manage money supply growth, then financial interests can't bribe the government to control money to their advantage.

All of the problems in "Not Dr." Klein's book are of a piece: government goes to war, government uses tsunami to redistribute property, etc. It is the conceit that government can do good that leads to us giving it too much power. And, a government powerful enough to give Naomi Klein everything she wants is powerful enough to take everything she has.

News Flash: Fed Guy defends Fed

In yesterday's WSJ, Harvey Rosenblum, the director of research of the Dallas Fed vigorously defended the FOMC from the charge of creating moral hazard with a novel argument:

The Federal Reserve does not conduct monetary policy to influence stock prices, regardless of whether the stock market is rising or falling. The Fed does, however, try to create the macroeconomic stability needed to achieve its mandates -- and this is where Mr. Taylor's work comes in. Over the past couple of decades, the FOMC's interest-rate behavior has been replicated closely by a forward- looking Taylor Rule, developed by my Dallas Fed colleague Evan Koenig.

Now Evan Koenig is a good guy, and I don't have any beef with him, and maybe there is some kind of verision of a Taylor rule that the Fed could be said to be following (I couldn't find any articles with Taylor Rule in the title on Koenig's vita), but the Fed has never announced or committed to following a Taylor Rule, and certainly they don't always/often follow Taylor's version of the Taylor Rule.

I've used this graph before, but here is the Fed funds rate under Alan Greenspan from 2001-2005 compared to the ideal rate setting from the classic Taylor Rule:

I don't see much chance that using forward looking variables can rescue this performance. In any event, Mr. Rosenblum offers us nothing other than his indignation as proof. No references, no graphs, no data.

He does emphatically tell us to shut up about moral hazard though:

So let's stop the complaints about moral hazard and the "Bernanke put." Who wants to be the first to volunteer to live in a world like the first quarter of the Fed's post-World War I history, when the economy was in recession over 40% of the time?

In other words: stop complaining, at least we are better than we used to be!

Maybe Mr. Rosenblum is actually lobbying for the position of postmaster-general.

Coturnix Delivers

Coturnix delivers the eclectic and the strange.

Come to think of it, Coturnix HIMSELF is eclectic and strange.

The Dollar Gets Pounded

Dollar dives; pound flies.

Harsh! Owie.

Well, I do come in for some harsh, but probably deserved, treatment here.

Some minor points:

1. I like to ride Amtrak. Given a choice, I would say that Amtrak should be privatized. When in DC, I ride the Metro. That doesn't mean I think the Metro
should have been built, at an enormous cost to taxpayers. I don't see that boycotting any of the things provided by the state, against my will, make me better off.

2. My hair is NOT dyed. It has not been colored in any way, not since 2005 (I got some highlights then, at my wife's suggestion). The story on the hair: My wife had a severe bout with cancer in summer 2004. Five operations. We spent a lot of time around women with no hair, because of chemo and other rough treatments. I resolved to grow my hair out, to donate it to Locks of Love. It is nearly long enough to donate now. I look forward to getting rid of it. My preference has always been for short hair. Since clearly no woman would find my hair attractive, I assume that the writer (and his fascination with my hair) reflects some sort of homosexual-denial anger. It's okay that you are gay, pumpkin. Just come out and admit it to yourself. You'll be happier.

3. Some students don't like having to think. They prefer to have lectures read to them, instead of thinking. Those students should not take my classes. The idea that "prepared" means having the professor read lecture notes is rather silly.

(Thanks to alert reader TR. You didn't need to be quite so GLEEFUL, though)

Okay, NOW I Get It: T2 Dishes

T2 dishes. The theory of everything.

Okay, now I get it. It's a joke.

How not to spend your 15 minutes of fame

Me and Mungowitz are still waiting and hoping for ours, but a cautionary tale was well provided last night by a humanoid named Jim Leavitt, the coach of the South Florida Bulls. Did any of you see the game and his crazed weasel performance? Stomping and screaming, eyes bulging, neck veins pulsing, even when his team had done an ok job. The picture shows him in one of his calmer moments.

Mr. Leavitt, Woody Hayes is dead and gone and your program ain't gonna last with these kinds of shenanigans. You got your 15 minutes and decided to act like you had rabies. Kudos, sir

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reader Questions....

A quick, and probably not entirely correct, set of answers to some questions from avid reader Eric M:

1. Scandinavian countries get a great reputation for providing a high standard of living alongside big government programs to redistribute wealth. I am sure they didn't invent a free lunch up there so what part of the story am I missing?

Maybe *I* am missing something. But here are my answers.

I. Sweden has created this lovely mindset.
II. If you look at Scandinavian communities in the U.S., their standard of living is higher, their level of health care is higher, and they have far more freedom. In fact, there are more Norwegians (2nd, 3rd, 11th generation) in the U.S. than there are in...NORWAY! The only way to compare Northern Europe to the U.S., and have Northern Europe win, is to compare to the ENTIRE U.S. Yes, the U.S. has populations (native Americans, African Americans, Latino immigrants, and so on) whose economic well-being, and health care, is not as good as in Northern Europe. But the native Americans had all their property stolen, and subjected to collective property rights, which destroyed their economic well-being. African Americans were enslaved, and then subjected to Jim Crow and discrimination until...well, still. And Latino immigrants moved to the U.S., not to....well, not to Scandinavia. They don't want to have to wait two years for an emergency appendectomy.

In short, the Northern European solution involves:
a. Keep out the poor people
b. Send lots of your poor people to the U.S., where by the way they become rich and prosperous.
c. Rely on a cultural ethic of working hard, even if lazy people take advantage of you.

(a) is still working pretty well. (c) is falling apart.

2. Ohh and on the socialized medicine thing. If i am paying for your health care through transfer payments all of a sudden I become real concerned with your choices in life and anything that could lead to chronic health problems like diabetes. No one wants to live in a country where people are constantly pissed at you for not hitting the gym and having in-vitro pregnancy induced. Just a thought

It is interesting, isn't it. If we collectivize costs, by having a social safety net, suddenly most of my choices have externalities associated with them. My big fat ass is likely to cost you higher medical bills, because I rely on you, the working guy, to pay my health insurance.

But then of course you are going to want my big fat ass to get thinner.

In twenty five years: It's six a.m. An alarm goes off, in Norman, OK. Sleepy, but extremely fit, people climb down the stairs of their high density apartment blocks. They move to the middle of the streets, which have been blocked off to traffic. (The traffic is only buses nowadays, running on solar cells. The EPA has outlawed fuel cell cars, because some people got wet from second hand water vapor exhaust).

The folks in the street get into the ready position. THe ubergruppenhealthfuhrer blows her whistle and says, "250 pushups, all of you! You must be healthy, for the common good! DOWN! UP! DOWN! UP!"

Miki Lays the Smack Down

Why do "bosses" send out emails, pretending they want to increase

When you think about it, sending out an email is the opposite of
improving communication one on one.

Anyway, my friend Miki got one of those emails, and took exception.

The Scariest Sentence Ever!

"I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."

From the Boston Globe.

Holy Crap!!

Extremism IS a vice!

Barry Goldwater famously said: I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

But you know what people? He was wrong wrong wrong.

It's that kind of thinking that gets brilliant economists making an absolute black and white case for Free Trade when they know it's not correct because they don't want to give aid and comfort to the "enemy".

It's that kind of thinking that gets people arguing that the Bush tax cuts have paid for themselves, when it's clear that the Laffer Curve argument does not apply to the current US situation, because they want a smaller government.

On the other end of the spectrum, it's that kind of thinking that gets people spinning out doomsday scenarios about global warming well in advance of any science because people need to be mobilized.

It's that kind of thinking that makes people claim that Bush is "denying insurance to poor children" by vetoing a larger increase in coverage than he was willing to accept because they believe in the social justice of government single payer health care.

What I don't get is why these people can't see that their rabid extremism makes their arguments totally non-credible. Nothing makes me dig in my heels more than a sanctimonious, shrill, know it all.

I'll close this sermonette by echoing my main man, Isaiah, "Come and let us reason together".

Can I get a Amen?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We're Different....Just Like You!

On people from the "northwest", a list of types.

Many are good, but "Obsessive Compulsive Recycler" is a personal fave. (That's #17).

(Nod to Todd, who recycles rationally)

Lemons and Child Care

Can consumers detect lemons? An empirical analysis of information asymmetry
in the market for child care

Naci Mocan
Journal of Population Economics, October 2007, Pages 743-78
(older version, SSRN)

This paper tests adverse selection in the market for child care. A unique
data set containing quality measures of various characteristics of child
care provided by 746 rooms in 400 centers, as well as the evaluation of the
same attributes by 3,490 affiliated consumers (parents) in the U.S., is
employed. Comparisons of consumer evaluations of quality to actual quality
show that after adjusting for scale effects, parents are weakly rational.
The hypothesis of strong rationality is rejected, indicating that parents do
not utilize all available information in forming their assessment of
quality. The results demonstrate the existence of information asymmetry and
adverse selection in the market, which provide an explanation for low
average quality in the U.S. child care market.

So, a question: I can see the lemons thing. Pedophiles will work in day care centers more cheaply than the rest of us. Lazy people will take jobs as day care
providers, because it seems easy. Something like that.

But, parents are desperate for high quality, low cost day care. Why aren't there more chains? Reputation should solve this problem, at least in part. CarMax has largely solved the problem in used cars. Of course, CarMax doesn't just rely on reputation; they also offer a very good warrantee.

(Big nod ups to KL)

Patent, Shmatent

Very interesting paper on patents. (Yes, I was looking at Maskin's papers, after he won the Nobel in Economics).

Bottom line: Firms that do NOT patent their technologies innovate faster, and are actually more profitable.

Causal, or just correlation?

(Nod to BR, who knows stuff)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Put Down the Garbage, and Step Away from the Van

The City of New York has long had garbage sports teams (the Mets, the Knicks, the Rangers....all garbage for a long time now).

But now NY is laying claim to a strange property right: WE OWN YOUR GARBAGE!

In this story in the Times (garbage of another kind entirely) we learn how it works.

“While the theft of recyclables may seem like a harmless offense, this activity seriously damages the city’s recycling program,” (NYC Mayor) Bloomberg said when he signed the law on Tuesday. With each theft, the city loses income from the sale of its own recyclables.

...The problem, sanitation officials said, was reflected in a steep decline in the amount of recyclables that were picked up from some of the city’s wealthiest and most densely populated blocks in a 12-month period that ended in July.

In parts of the Upper East Side, the officials said, the tonnage of bundled paper that was collected plunged 25 percent — compared with 2 percent citywide — and not because residents discarded less of it or became less responsible about separating recyclables from their other trash. Instead, a lucrative underground market has emerged.

Scrap metal, like the bed frame taken by Mr. Bosque, can be sold for up to $250 a ton, five times the price of a decade ago, according to a widely recognized index of commodity prices published by Waste News, a trade publication. Bundled paper or cardboard, the most commonly stolen of New York’s recyclables, can bring in $90 to $120 a ton, more than double what the city receives under long-term contracts with its own brokers and processors.

That means someone can quickly fill a van in Manhattan, drive to Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, and sell the loot to one of several brokers. After that, most of the paper and metal ends up in China, Vietnam, India and other developing nations where demand for recyclables has soared.

“There has always been a fair amount of scavenging in the U.S., but the increase in demand from abroad has been dramatic,” said Ted Siegler, an economist and consultant based in Vermont who has analyzed recycling around the world.

He said a piece of scrap metal taken from a Manhattan curb might end up in a steel mill furnace in Asia.

Some thoughts:

1. Suppose I write a contract with a recycling broker, who can get twice as much as the city will pay for this material. Do I own my own garbage? Can I sell my old bed frame on Ebay, for $4, instead of giving it to the city? Is New York going to change the sign on the Statue of Liberty to "Give me your poor, your tired, your recyclables!" Do I *owe* the city all my garbage, as a kind of tax?

2. The city is complaining because it has less garbage to pick up. In fact, people are "stealing" the garbage. I have a proposed solution. Stop collecting the garbage, and let people come in from New Jersey with vans and take ALL of it. Then you won't have to have all those $120,000 per year garbagemen on the city payroll.

3. At what point does the property right to the garbage get transferred to the city? Suppose I decide it is cheaper, for me, to sell my used paper to a broker. Do I owe the revenue to the city? How is that different from having an entrepreneur take the paper I have given away by putting it on the curb?

(Nod to Watercrosser Man)

So you want to be my Trade Representative?

Well the BBC has created a test to see how well you might be able to negotiate the slippery slopes of trade deals, either as the representative of a developing country or of a global giant.

Check them out here and here.

I am proud/embarrased to say that I scored "devilishly devious" on the first quiz and "prince of darkness" on the second.

If Mungowitz and Me worked in Advertising.....

There would be a lot more commercials like this one!!

Nobel Reflections

As everyone knows, the Economics Nobel was awarded to Hurwicz, Maskin & Myerson for mechanism design. Marginal Revolution has wall to wall CNN style coverage here, here, here, here and here.

Personally, I like this award in that the three recipients are super-smart, well published, well cited, not overtly political dudes. However, there has also been a lot of back and forth about whether this was a pro or anti "market" prize.

I had Jim Little, a Minnesota PdD and student of Hurwicz, for Micro II in grad school and we were taught Hurwicz as a cautionary tale for designers, like an Arrow impossibility theorem for mechanism design. If memory serves, he proved that there cannot be a decentralized incentive compatible mechanism that doesn't waste resources. So I guess that would be pro-market, no?

Also, a lot of the explanation of mechanism design has centered on the properties of the second price auction. Again, if memory serves (and like the (in)famous T2, I only know what I learned in school (and I wasn't paying all that much attention)), the second price auction wasn't invented by mechanism design theorists, and it doesn't escape Hurwicz's theorem either. While auction theory has shown a lot of progess, the use of mechanism design for tax problems and public goods problems, in my opinion at least, has not made a lot of progress. That is perhaps what Tyler meant when he said this kind of work was falling out of fashion.

In other words, we've recently had prizes for auction theory (Vickrey and his second price style auctions) and game theory so to me the distinctiveness of the mechanism design field is its application to taxation and public goods provision where it's not working all that well.

But then again, I'm just an empirical macro/development/political economy guy from Oklahoma!

Monday, October 15, 2007

T2 Explains Why It is Important for Someone ELSE to Teach Economics

A remarkable video.

Don't watch it all; the first 30 seconds will be enough. Though, you may
want to watch more to see the graphics. This fellow actually spent time on this.

A comment on the video, from YouTube:

OMG. You have over 3,000 subscribers most of whom are under the age of 18. Please, for their sake, stop propagating this absolute nonsense!!! You clearly know nothing about how the Federal Reserve or the American monetary system works - please don't speculate as if stating truths.

And THAT is the thing. 3000 subscribers.

We are dead. There is no hope.

T2 has 3,000 subscribers. This one video has been viewed more than 4,000 times.

Maybe half a billion will do the trick!

At the University of Oklahoma we count on rabid statewide support and our 7 national championships to keep things a hoppin'. At Oklahoma State, they count on T Boone Pickens (what a great name, reminds me of Foghorn Leghorn). Mr. Pickens donated $70 million to OSU athletics in 2003. Unsatisfied with the results, he upped the ante and added another $165 million last year.


"What I keep coming back to is we're in the Big 12, and it's a tough conference," Mr. Pickens said. "I want us to be competitive. How it impacts me? My name's on the stadium.

"I don't know what else they could do. I guess they could put it on each one of the seats."

So far not so good: the 'Pokes are 4-3 so far this year and their recent victory against Nebraska induced that august institution to fire its athletic director, even though they had just just given him a new 5 year contract over the summer. I guess it's still not cool to lose to OSU, where's that checkbook T Boone??

Update: grammar edit at 10:44 pm

Principles of Economics

Not bad, for a five minute video.

Nice treatment of Macro, in particular.

BBC goes all Libertarian

From Somalia, a success story (maybe)

A host of mobile phone masts testifies to the telecommunications revolution which has taken place despite the absence of any functioning national government since 1991.

And, that's from the BBC, mind you. Gushing.

Note that the claim is NOT that the government is taking a laissez-faire approach
to telecom regulation.

No, the "government" paid the haul-ass fare to get out of town in 1991, and there
hasn't been a government since.

Now I am not a fan of the whole "look at Somalia, they are doing fine without a government" movement, because they really aren't. Armed gangs of thugs are dangerous, and need to be controlled, regardless of whether they are Somalis in "technicals", or Durham police in black and whites. In both cases, you need a state to step in.

But it is true that governments are at least unnecessary, and possibly a hinderance, to the functioning of many kinds of markets.

(Nod to MAG)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rollin' on the River, Okie Style

I'm sure most of you people wake up on Sunday morning and say to yourselves, "gee, I wish I knew more about Oklahoma!" Well I live to serve.

Did you know that Oklahoma City is becoming the rowing mecca of the USA? It's in the NY Times, so it must be true.

We made ourselves a river, an entertainment and shopping district sprung up around it, and a displaced east coast rowing enthusiast waged virtually a one man campaign to have a rowing course included in the development.

Mike Knopp spent enough time walking through weeds and biking through a dried-up drainage ditch to come to a startling conclusion: What a perfect spot for a rowing course. The only thing missing was water. That same spot, now a controlled waterway stretching along the southern edge of downtown Oklahoma City, was host to an exhibition event last week featuring Olympic-caliber rowers from around the world. Only a few years ago, the river existed only in Knopp’s imagination.

Fewer than three years after the river was dedicated, Oklahoma City is quickly becoming a hub for Olympic-style water sports. Beyond the USA Rowing World Challenge this week, the Oklahoma River has been chosen to play host to the Olympic trials for canoeing and kayaking next spring. “We have gone from the Dust Bowl to the River City,” said Pat Downes, the economic development director for the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority. “We have gone from mowing to rowing on the river, and all in a very short period of time.”Oklahoma City’s ascension in the rowing world has been so quick because of that old real estate adage: location, location, location. The course is south of downtown and the Bricktown entertainment district, making it friendly for spectators, sponsors and the news media. Unlike in Europe, where elite rowers and kayakers routinely draw 30,000 or more fans at world-class events, there are relatively few urban settings in the United States that can provide the same atmosphere. “Anywhere that our athletes go where there’s more people, more excitement, more enthusiasm, that’s better,” said David Yarborough, the executive director of the United States association for canoeing and kayaking. In its third year, the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta, held by Oklahoma City University, drew 30,000 spectators last year and will be a part of the festivities this weekend, including exhibitions featuring teams from the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Switzerland and Moldova.

I guess I'll have to make do with this until we get the Sonics!!

Maybe there should be MORE Steroids in Baseball

I am not a baseball expert (I get almost all my info from here). However, it seems to me that the Cleveland pitching staff could use a massive testosterone infusion after walking Manny Ramirez with the bases load 3 times in the first 12 innings of the ALCS! I believe two of those walks were on four pitches. Wow!

In the series so far, Manny has 3 hits, 4 walks and 6 runs "batted" in. He's their daddy for sure.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

And Sometimes a Cigar is NOT just a Cigar

Sim Jae-Duck, ex-mayor of Suweon and current member of the South Korean Parliment has built the pictured edifice (all 4500 square feet of it) to mark the launch of his new NGO, The World Toilet Association!

Sim's campaign began during his term as Suweon mayor from 1995 to 2002. His drive to transform toilets into "clean and beautiful resting places imbued with culture" earned him the nickname "Mayor Toilet".

Public restrooms in the city were jazzed up with paintings, fresh flowers or even small gardens. His achievements prompted Sim to launch the Korea Toilet Association in 1999, in time for South Korea's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup three years later.

A future project in his active mind is IT-based toilets, where people can check their health or surf the Internet.

"Toilets were once regarded as stinking and dirty places. Not any more. They must be treated as the sanctuary that protects human health," Sim said.

Perhaps it will not come as a big surprise to you that the punchline here is: Sim was BORN IN A BATHROOM!!!!

Sim Jae-Duck was born in a restroom and now he plans to live and die in one -- a 1.6 million dollar toilet-shaped house designed to promote his tireless campaign for cleaner loos worldwide.

Sim's birth in a restroom was in line with traditional beliefs.

"It was intentional. My mother followed advice from my grandmother that people born in restrooms will enjoy long lives," said the 74-year-old.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Madrazo Update (or Cover-up, yer doin' it Wrong)

KPC had earlier reported how Roberto Madrazo, in typical PRI dinosaur style, had scammed and cheated to "win" his 55 and over age group in the Berlin Marathon.

Now Madrazo says, he did not pretend to win but simply had quit the race due to injury and just went back to get his stuff. Hmmmmm.

Well, here are some pictures of him crossing the finish line:

His victory was widely reported in the Mexican Press and his denial of trying to claim the win was not forthcoming until after he was DQ'd from the race, which happened days after the event.

In other words, well, really there are no other words. He ran across the line celebrating and accepted the accolades for winning his age bracket. He seemingly had no problems with how the events unfolded until after he was DQ'd.

This is why I am such a huge fan of Ernesto Zedillo, the last PRI president. The PRI turned to him in desperation after their chosen candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assasinated, and apparently his lack of insider status helped enable him to inaugurate an independent electoral commission and oversee / allow a free / clean 2000 presidential election that was won by Vicente Fox thus ending the 70+ year hegemony of the PRI.

Now for Madrazo or any other PRI-ista to win the the presidency, they actually have to win a truly contested election (Madrazo finished a distant third in the 2006 election).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dismantling the Apparatus of the State

The Marxist Apartment.

"I brought up that I thought it was total bullshit that I'm, like, the only one who ever cooks around here, yet I have to do the dishes, too," said Foyle, unaware of just how much the apartment underscores the infeasibility of scientific socialism as outlined in Das Kapital. "So we decided that if I cook, someone else has to do the dishes. We were going to rotate bathroom-cleaning duty, but then Kirk kept skipping his week, so we had to give him the duty of taking out the garbage instead. But now he has a class on Tuesday nights, so we switched that with the mopping."

After weeks of complaining that he was the only one who knew how to clean "halfway decent," Foyle began scaling back his efforts, mirroring the sort of production problems experienced in the USSR and other Soviet bloc nations.

(Nod to WEE)