Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happiness: yer doin' it wrong!

At least if you're running Bhutan you are. The impoverished Himalayan nation's king has been promoting the importance of Gross National Happiness as a goal of the nation. So far the only concrete policy steps taken to raise it are (1) a smoking ban, (2) a dress code, and (3) setting limits of how much of the country can be developed.

But now the king wants to take it to the next level. How? Well he's appointed a "happiness commissioner" and the country is being surveyed about their level of happiness with an instrument "comprised of nearly 300 questions" that "take(s) several hours to complete."

Aaargh!! I'm from the government and I'm here to help you!! Run!!!

Here's some excerpts from the WSJ article linked above:

Developed in the 1980s by Bhutan's fourth king, Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is a Bhutanese twist on Gross Domestic Product. Up till now, it has not represented an actual dollar figure, but rather, a fuzzy set of principles on the environment and culture. It has produced unique policies, such as a smoking ban, strict limits on deforestation and a dress code....
its leaders want to prove that they can achieve economic growth while maintaining good governance, protecting the environment and preserving an ancient culture. To do that, they've decided to start calculating GNH. It means coming up with an actual happiness index that can be tracked over time.

"We are in the midst of great changes," Mr. Tshiteem says in an interview. The Happiness commissioner wears a red checkered Bhutanese robe, called a gho, and munches on betel nut as he looks ahead to his country's collision with the modern world. "If we are going to manage this change, we have to be able to measure it," he says.

Being right next to India, Mr. Tshiteem has developed negative views toward industries that could help soak up Bhutan's young, unskilled workers and fuel growth. On outsourcing, he says: "Stay up all night, sleep all day, I wouldn't want to see my kids in a job like that."

And on fast food and McDonald's, he wonders whether possible health problems and the impact on Bhutan's culture would outweigh the benefits of job creation and potentially higher prices for farmers. "Maybe," ventures the Happiness commissioner, "Bhutan can be a small island, free from the golden arches."

OUCH! Dude, that hurt.

The Nuge Comes Up Big

Ted Nugent on gun rights.

(Nod to AH)

Nature or Nurture in Cooperation/Defection

Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust game

David Cesarini, Christopher Dawes, James Fowler, Magnus Johannesson, Paul
Lichtenstein & Björn Wallace
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 March 2008, Pages

Although laboratory experiments document cooperative behavior in humans, little is known about the extent to which individual differences in cooperativeness result from genetic and environmental variation. In this article, we report the results of two independently conceived and executed studies of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, one in Sweden and one in the United States. The results from these studies suggest that humans are endowed with genetic variation that influences the decision to invest, and to reciprocate investment, in the classic trust game. Based on these findings, we urge social scientists to take seriously the idea that differences in peer and parental socialization are not the only forces that influence variation in cooperative behavior.

(Nod to KL, who cooperates)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Check this, but don't blame me

(Disclaimer: I didn't make this up. And nobody is my home boy).

Don't hate me because I'm Munger.

Actually, that's Munger, Michigan. Another reason not to hate me. Or blame me.

There Ought to Be a Law.....

A California woman was shot to death as she pleaded with emergency dispatchers to come and help her. Her death will not make the network news programs this evening, but this is the latest reminder that we must take responsibility for our own safety and not rely on the police. ATSRTWT

That is just wrong. We need a law against burglary! Oh, wait, that is against the law. We need a law against murder. Oh, that's against the law, too.

I know, we need a law that would keep honest citizens from having a gun, to defend themselves against people who break the law. That's a law we could enforce.

But....hmmmmmm....hard to say why that would help. Why would taking a gun away from ME take away the guns from the hands of people who we already know ignore the laws? It's just a non sequitur. If that woman had had a gun, she wouldn't have been on the phone, begging for help that didn't come. A republican citizenry has an obligation to participate in their own self-defense, and a free people have a right to do so.

Are we a free republican people, or not?

(nod to Instapundit, via AH)

Opera can be hazardous to your health

Performing opera, that is. But at least you get to dress up and canoodle with hot chicks:

Friday roundup

1. Bill Clinton ruined his superbowl for nothing.

“I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America’s moral leadership in the world,” Mr. Richardson said in the statement, provided by the Obama campaign early Friday morning.

2. An opposition politician breaks down Mugabe-omics in the WSJ.

Economic mismanagement by Mr. Mugabe's government is an even more serious problem. Zimbabwe's inflation and unemployment rates are 150,000% and 80% respectively. Infrastructure is crumbling, and education and health-care systems have collapsed. Life expectancy is now among the lowest in the world, having declined, since 1994, to 34 years from 57 years for women, and to 37 years from 54 for men. Some four million of my fellow citizens have fled the country, taking with them both human and financial capital.

3. Chavez goes after another opposition TV station in Venezuela as his popularity falls.

The tension between the news station and Chávez comes as the leftist president has lost popular support.

The polling firm Datos, in a quarterly survey of 2,000 Venezuelans last month, found that 34 percent said they support Chávez's government, down from a high of 67 percent in early 2005, and the lowest level since 2003, The Associated Press reported.

Another survey, by Venezuelan pollster Alfredo Keller, found that 37 percent of Venezuelans questioned identified themselves as Chávez supporters in February, down from 50 percent in mid-2007, the AP reported.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

...As Though They Were Adults

John Stewart's take on Obama.

I can't imagine the hate mail HE will get.

(nod to SdM)

Thug Life in Michigan Local Politics

State-owned thuggery in Redford, Michigan, a western suburb of Detroit.

A website devoted to identifying Dillon's thugs. Pretty impressive that all of them are taking "vacation days" to spend their time blocking and harassing petitioners.

These are state employees, mind you. I recognize they get a LOT of vacation time. But they must be getting one day vacation for every day they work, to be able to pop up that quickly to surround any petitioner who dares ask for signatures.

A news story for background.

This is pretty mean stuff. I wish that Dillon's state thugs would take a page from the Detroit mayor's book. Then, it would be workers getting screwed, not the taxpayers.

Is the Fed targeting the Stock Market?

Well, if so, they might be "doin' it rong!". On September 4th 2007 the Dow stood at 13,400 and the Funds target was 5.25. On March 19, 2008 (yesterday) the Dow kneeled at 12,099 and the Funds target was 2.25. The raw correlation between the Funds target and the Dow from 8/15/07 - 3/19/08 is .75!!

It could just be the Fed is cutting for whatever reason and that's driving the market down. Which would be weird but not a case of the Fed targeting the Dow. However, if the market declines are driving the Fed to cut, that would be targeting. Note that these are not mutually exclusive hypotheses.

To sort them out, lets turn to our friend, the Granger causality test!!

At short lags (2, 3 or 4 days), changes in the funds target Granger cause the Dow (to go down!!!) but changes in the Dow do not Granger cause the funds rate (so no targeting). However at longer lags (which kind of make sense for the stock market feeding into monetary policy) the story changes. At lags of 5, 6, or 7 days each series Granger causes the other! And at lags of 8 or 9 days, the Dow Granger causes the funds target but the target does not Granger cause the Dow (I am using a 10% significance level here, but the results are broadly similar at 5%).

So yes, there is some very crude evidence that the Fed is targeting the Stock Market when looking at lags of between 5-9 days. Of course they are totally failing in these efforts as their cuts are "causing" the market to fall further.

If I've left out another relevant variable, then my tests are misspecified and biased. Also, to match up the interest rate data to the Dow data requires adjusting for the fact that the Dow data is on a 5 day week along with a few holidays missing, and Fred II reports the Funds target on a 7 day week basis. I filled in the holidays for the Dow by repeating the previous days close and matched the 5 day week to the 7 day week by hand.

Here is a graph of the Dow with vertical lines marking the dates of rate cuts:

Clinton is as Clinton does

In the Ohio primary, Obama and Hill were competing to see who could be more anti-trade, specifically anti-NAFTA. Obama suggested that Hillary was initially for NAFTA and was changing her view only now for political expediency (wherever could he have gotten that idea??).
Hill as is her wont, took great umbrage at an Obama mailer suggesting that she had been a NAFTA supporter. Here, let CNN remind you:

"Sen. Clinton has been going to great lengths on the campaign trail to distance herself from NAFTA," Obama said Sunday in Lorain, Ohio. "In her own book, Sen. Clinton called NAFTA one of 'Bill's successes' and 'legislative victories.' " "One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don't think NAFTA has been good for America -- and I never have," he said. The weekend feud kicked off when Clinton blasted recent mailings from the Obama camp, telling a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, an Obama mailing spread lies about her positions NAFTA.

The mailer says Clinton was a "champion" for NAFTA while first lady, but now opposes it. NAFTA was negotiated by the first President Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Citing a 2006 issue of New York Newsday, the mailer says Clinton thought NAFTA was a "boon" to the economy. The term "boon" was actually the paper's characterization of Clinton's stance, and not a quote from her.

"Bad trade deals like NAFTA hit Ohio harder than other states. Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA," the mailer says.

A visibly angry Clinton lashed out Saturday at Obama over the campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false."

"Shame on you, Barack Obama," she said, adding that she is fighting to change NAFTA.

Well imagine my surprise to read yesterday that, according to her recently released records, Hill was indeed a NAFTA champion.

Shame on who, exactly?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Life: A pictoral essay

Sunday March 16:

Monday March 17 - Sunday March 23

Monday March 24th

Bring the Violence, It's Significant--To the Wife

My dear wife sends me the following email:

Menopause Jewelry

My husband, being unhappy with my mood swings, bought me a mood ring the other day so he would be able to monitor my moods.

We've discovered that when I'm in a good mood, it turns green.

When I'm in a bad mood, it leaves a big freaking red mark on his forehead.

Maybe next time he'll buy me a diamond. Dumb ass.

Wow. Her birthday is coming up. I think I'll take back the mood ring I bought her,
and get a diamond.

(props to Disturbed, for the title)

hat tip: LOLst Breakfast of Academic Losers

Earlier, I argued that coffee, a muffin, and the NYT spelled failure in academics.

But it turns out I was wrong. The problem is: Beer.

(Nod to Bayou Jack, who asks: "Mungowitz, does this mean you plagiarized all your papers and books? 'Cause, looking at that gut, you have been DOIN' some beer." Thanks, Jack. I meant what I said about your mom.)

My Bad. This is MUCH More Offensive

My bad.

Apparently, the psycho "Stop, or I'll call you a racist" guy who sent me that email yesterday was reacting to something else.

Time Magazine picked up my entire quote, on Obama's speech:

Michael Munger
Political Science Professor
Duke University

Obama's speech was brave. He is trying to take an actual position, rather than just distance himself from the Rev. Wright, who is clearly a political liability. But I think he is being naive. There are just too many easy attack ads, piling up in the Republican library. (Michelle Obama: "For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my country." Rev. Wright: "God DAMN America.") Maybe it's a shame that you have to try to exhibit a treacly, shallow patriotism to be President. But John Kerry got hammered just for protesting the Vietnam War, a war that George W. Bush ducked. A black candidate named Barack Hussein Obama can't have questions about his patriotism, and commitment to America, not if he is going to beat a genuine war hero. I think Obama is unelectable. He had to distance himself far from Wright. Instead, he was brave.

Okay, NOW I see why he compared me to the KKK boys from Pulaski, TN. Wait. No, I don't.

Bayou Jack Sends Pictures of his Mom

Bayou Jack writes, sending some family pictures, with a description.

Here, for example is his mom, and younger brother.

Seriously, quite a father and son team. Notice that they are from my hometown area, in rural central FLA. Bayou Jack and Dutch Boy come from the same roots. Little surprise I think the kid on the right was our high school valedictorian.

Mungowitz Inaugural Party: NC Statehouse, 2009

It doesn't add up

The Fed struck again yesterday afternoon with another .75 percentage point haircut for the Fed funds rate. Since August, this rate has fallen from 5.25 to 2.25 while inflation has risen from 2.5% to well over 4%.

Mungowitz will probably kick me off this blog for beating this particular horse so often, but I think this is bad policy. The only thing I think these rate cuts have done is reduce the greatly feared ARM re-sets that were on the near horizon. However, we now pretty much know that the real problem for homeowners is not payment re-sets, but that home prices have fallen (or stopped rising) enough to make their positions negative. We have too much housing still at too high a price and the price re-set is slow. One thing that would help would be to stimulate the demand for housing with lower long term interest rates, but the current Fed policy of allowing inflation to rise has 30 year mortgage rates "stuck" well above 6%.

In sum, while I applaud the lender of last resort actions the Fed has been taking, I see little good and a lot of ill coming from these unrelenting Fed fund rate cuts. They won't stave off a possible recession, nor will they solve or notably improve the housing crisis. They will push up inflation and keep long term rates higher.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mungowitz Called NAMES (sniffle)

Wow. So I gave a comment on Obama's speech. It was brief, pretty tepid. I underlined the quote from me, so it is easy to pick out:

The big question is whether Obama's speech Tuesday did enough to quell some of the negative impacts on his campaign.

"I don't know whether it will be sufficient to stem a racial backlash against his candidacy," said Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution.

"But he clearly demonstrated his capacity to lead public opinion and not simply be a slave to it. Indeed, I would say he appeared wise beyond his years and genuinely presidential."

Michael Munger at Duke University called it a "brave" speech. "He is trying to take an actual position rather than just distance himself from the Rev. Wright."

Some analysts say it's much better for Obama to confront explosive race issues now because they were bound to become front and centre at some point.

"If he has to confront racial division in October in a major way, he will lose the election," said Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia.

"By October, he needs to have the media and voters say: 'We've already finished with this subject. What about Iraq. What about the economy?"'


Almost immediately after, I got this email.

date Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 8:30 PM
Mike, your analysis of Mr. Obama speech was laughable. You were evidently dismissive with your unrestrained candor of Mr. Obama's chances of winning a general election.

if I didn't know better, I would think you have been spending your weekends organizing fundraisers for the boys back in Pulaski, TN.

FYI, my Munger, which I assume is shorthand for War Monger!

My parting gift is again to remind you that before too long, most of our future leaders will be of a darker hue! And that my friend is just plain fact, based solely on the demographic trends of the great United States.

I will even go as far as to say that there is a greater chance of these next few elections, four to five at most, can, and will be seen as the twilight of an ill conceived era. Again, I will say, 250 years at most!

um....okay. I guess you win, pumpkin. I'm no match for you. The whole "War Monger" should write for Leno.

All Hail Mungowitz!

Chillipunk'd no more, Mungowitz will stride the stage like a colossus at the final NC Gubernatorial debate this October. This is huge, people. We will see things we have never seen before. My advice? Get your tickets early!

Angus: Repent!

They slipped up and said it out loud

Judge Walter Croskey 2nd district court of appeals in the decision to ban home schooling in California unless the home schooler has a teaching credential:

“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.”

Holy crap people! Did he really write that? Loyalty to the State??

You know, suddenly home schooling doesn't seem so creepy to me anymore.

Here is an essay on the ruling. Here is David Friedman on the quotation.

A policy puzzler

The Fed is so screwed. Economic growth has slowed to a crawl at best, housing prices are taking forever to adjust down after the bubble, credit markets are panicky like Mungowitz when there is only one six pack left in the fridge, and inflation is on the rise.

Now it seems clear, given that markets are expecting a 3/4 to 1 percentage point cut in the Fed Funds rate later today, that the consensus opinion is that the Fed is committed fighting recession and ignoring inflation risks.

On the one hand, this makes sense because a recession is probably more painful than some extra inflation (which presumably the Fed would slowly bring down after the crisis has passed). On the other hand though, it doesn't make sense because the Fed can actually control inflation and its main policy tool, the rate cut, stands little chance of averting a recession especially compared to its chances for further aggravating inflation.

Now Mrs. Angus and I both have tenure (and university enrollments are still booming for the time being) and we are planning a foreign vacation this summer, so maybe my views are totally skewed by my own self-interest here, but I think the Fed is making a mistake. They can pursue their lender of last resort function (which I think is good policy given our credit market panic) without also pursuing their panderer of first resort path of continuing to cut the funds rate.

People, we had a huge asset bubble burst and the asset in question (housing) has slow price adjustment. Cutting the Funds rate won't change this.

Hilllary: Strong Woman, or "Rhymes with Stitch"

Social Desirability Effects and Support for a Female American President

Matthew Streb, Barbara Burrell, Brian Frederick & Michael Genovese
Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 2008, Pages 76-89

Public opinion polls show consistently that a substantial portion of the American public would vote for a qualified female presidential candidate. Because of the controversial nature of such questions, however, the responses may suffer from social desirability effects. In other words, respondents may be purposely giving false answers as not to violate societal norms. Using an unobtrusive measure called the "list experiment," we find that public opinion polls are indeed exaggerating support for a female president. Roughly 26 percent of the public is "angry or upset" about the prospect of a female president. Moreover, this level of dissatisfaction is constant across several demographic groups.


Selective Attention to Signs of Success: Social Dominance and Early Stage
Interpersonal Perception

Jon Maner, Nathan DeWall & Matthew Gailliot
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, April 2008, Pages 488-501

Results from two experiments suggest that observers selectively attend to male, but not female, targets displaying signs of social dominance. Participants overestimated the frequency of dominant men in rapidly presented stimulus arrays (Study 1) and visually fixated on dominant men in an eyetracking experiment (Study 2). When viewing female targets, participants attended to signs of physical attractiveness rather than social dominance. Findings fit with evolutionary models of mating, which imply that dominance and physical attractiveness sometimes tend to be prioritized preferentially in judgments of men versus women, respectively. Findings suggest that sex differences in human mating are observed not only at the level of overt mating preferences and choices but also at early stages of interpersonal perception. This research demonstrates the utility of examining early-in-the-stream social cognition through the functionalist lens of adaptationist thinking.

Here's what I think. Humans are sexually dimorphic, and muscle tone and mass also differ. Dominance hierarchies are based in part of objective dominance potential, and in the absence of other information a lot of that comes down to visual correlates of size and strength. If a man the size of my wife (5'3", 95 pounds) tried to give signals of dominance, he would get the hell beat out of him. Man strive for dominance, and won't concede to a tiny man without evidence.

So, these studies should control for size and strength. If you were comparing two people of the same potential dominance, in physical terms, I bet most of the "gender" difference would disappear.

I am 6'1", 250 pounds, can bench press my weight, and look like I can bench press my weight. Dominance signals from me may not be welcome, but they are not embarrassing. People think, "well, he's a big guy."

Dominance signals from a tiny person are going to be resented, and perhaps openly mocked.

Now, dominance hierarchies can be malleable, of course, when you have more information than just size. In my house, there is no question but that my wife occupies a higher position than I do. I am obedient and respectful, at all times, knowing that to act otherwise would bring me certain death.

(nod to KL for the references)

Look at ME! Look at ME!

A competition between the Govs of Penna and NY, on who was the biggest sex sleaze.

David Paterson, the NEW gov of NY, admits to his own sexual infidelities. (He's blind, so I think that means he could go with cheaper hookers, right?)

Still, McGreevey may win. Having your driver help you make a sandwich, with your wife being the

(Nod to KH)

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's The Apocalypse: The NY Times has it right

I am no fan of the NY Times. The hatchet job those folks did, in editorials and largely fictional "news" of the Duke non-rape, non-assault case was appalling.

But, they have it right, right now.

First, on the Bear-Stearns bailout. Are you KIDDING me? I remember in the late 1980s when all my cheeKAHgo boy friends who worked in Chile were telling me confidently that the regime meant it, it really did. No bailouts. Oh, until some banks failed, banks owned by the pro-regime elite. 1983, and again in 1989. Turned out that free-market principles don't extend to letting your pals go bankrupt, even if they deserve it. In 1989 Chile passed the "Law Establishing the Central Bank of Chile, Law No. 18840." To make these bailoutsofourrichfriends easier. Bye, bye, now, cheeKAHgos.

Second, Stanley Fish (Stanley FREAKING Fish, of Duke Psychotic English Department fame!) totally nails the issues, the analysis, and logic of the superdelegate "crisis."

The PRD still belongs to AMLO

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, (AMLO), aka el Peje has kind of pulled a Putin with "his" party, the PRD. After his incredibly narrow loss to Calderón in the 2006 presidential election, Peje refused to accept defeat, set up a shadow government and generally alienated even his intellectual allies on the Mexican left. However, he has re-gained some traction (or suction as they call it on "the wire") with his opposition to any move to allow privatizing part of Mexico's petroleum industry and his criticism of Calderón ally and interior minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño, who "has been accused of steering lucrative contracts with the state oil monopoly to his family trucking business when he was the chairman of the energy committee in the lower house of Congress and, later, an assistant secretary of energy."

AMLO has been making political hay and re-gaining popularity. At the same time the PRD was undergoing a campaign and vote for a new party leader. Yesterday, Alejandro Encinas won the post in an election. Encinas is a close ally of AMLO and the WSJ opined last week that, "Mr. Encinas, a former member of the defunct Mexican Communist Party, vows to stick with Mr. López Obrador and take a hard line against Mr. Calderón's government. If he wins, Mr. Encinas will likely throw the entire party machinery behind Mr. López Obrador for another run at the presidency in 2012."

Here is a link to a spanish language story on the election outcome and it's significance for AMLO (Peje).

Bald don't lie

I am not a big fan of costume dramas, but I gotta say the first episode of "John Adams" on HBO last night was pretty terrific. Amazingly, Paul Giamotti is actually too handsome to give a true to life portrayal of good old JA, but when he got up in the pulpit and speechified about natural rights and liberties I actually got choked up a bit.

Laura Linney seems like she's going to be good as Abigail. Linney gave a great performance in "The Savages" last year opposite Phillip Seymor Hoffman.

There's a long way to go, and the other characters so far (Sam Adams, John Hancock, the Attorney General) are just crude caricatures, but I think the whole thing might be good.

Feast your eyes on the real McCoy people; some forefathers eye-candy for ya: