Friday, July 25, 2008

A Caricature: The Reason Men Need Wives

So, I was very pleased that the News and Observer in Raleigh
took the final full step to include me as a candidate: A caricature
of the "Under the Dome" form.

Here it is:

My wife, looking over my shoulder: "That's awful. Looks just like you, though!"

She is dedicated to keeping me real. And I am much the realer for it.

Oh, by the way, an actual USE of the caricature, announcing that...yes....I've been invited to the final state-wide debate. October 15. Get your popcorn for that evening.

I have to sound a word of caution, though. I am not convinced that Bev Perdue will show for that debate, now that I am invited. Too many imponderables, and hard to control. So, stay tuned: I'm predicting a "schedule conflict."

W is Batman.....Is Cheney the Joker?

W is Batman?

I think this gentleman is batsh*t. But here at KPC, we report, you deride.

What do YOU think?

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight,"
currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a
paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by
George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified
and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand.
Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal
with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when
the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a
free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a
criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its
moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

(Nod to KL)

King BIll The Priapic, and the Golden Child of Shy-Town

From G-man in Los Angeles (who knows from priapic!), I got this link....

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Voters: I forget....

Sam Popkin, my man.

Sam is entertaining:

"If I say to you, 'What did the guy you didn't marry say to you in bed?' " and you can't remember, "does that mean you didn't enjoy it?" Popkin says.


(Nod to Corn in the Cemetery Boy)

Tight Genes

Individual Differences in Executive Functions Are Almost Entirely Genetic in

Naomi Friedman, Akira Miyake, Susan Young, John DeFries, Robin Corley & John
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, May 2008, Pages 201-225

Recent psychological and neuropsychological research suggests that executive functions-the cognitive control processes that regulate thought and action-are multifaceted and that different types of executive functions are correlated but separable. The present multivariate twin study of 3 executive functions (inhibiting dominant responses, updating working memory representations, and shifting between task sets), measured as latent variables, examined why people vary in these executive control abilities and why these abilities are correlated but separable from a behavioral genetic perspective. Results indicated that executive functions are correlated because they are influenced by a highly heritable (99%) common factor that goes beyond general intelligence or perceptual speed, and they are separable because of additional genetic influences unique to particular executive functions. This combination of general and specific genetic influences places executive functions among the most heritable psychological traits. These results highlight the potential of genetic approaches for uncovering the biological underpinnings of executive functions and suggest a need for examining multiple types of executive functions to distinguish different levels of genetic influences.


Two Genes Predict Voter Turnout

James Fowler & Christopher Dawes
Journal of Politics, July 2008, Pages 579-594

Fowler, Baker, and Dawes (2008) recently showed in two independent studies of twins that voter turnout has very high heritability. Here we investigate two specific genes that may contribute to variation in voting behavior. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we show that individuals with a polymorphism of the MAOA gene are significantly more likely to have voted in the 2004 presidential election. We also find evidence that an association between a polymorphism of the 5HTT gene and voter turnout is moderated by religious attendance. These are the first
results ever to link specific genes to political behavior.

(Nod to KL)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Immigration: The Issue?

Munger and McClain talk about immigration and the elections of November.

I love those Crazy, Musical Clowns

Update from Potato Festival in Munger, Michigan

Crazy, musical clowns join the mix in Munger

Members of the Scottville Clown Band, who will not only march in Sunday's 1 p.m. parade but also perform in the entertainment tent later in the day, are newcomers to the Munger spud fest.

Munger Potato Festival Chairman Don Smrecak has been inviting the band of clowns to perform at the festival for years but, due to scheduling conflicts, it never worked out.

"We're finally going to see our way clear to take them up on their offer," said Charlie Weber, secretary for the Clown Band.

Weber, who has performed with the band for 21 years, said the Scottville-based group plays a lot of John Philip Sousa marches, some novelty tunes, some show tunes and some polkas, with a few surprises mixed in.

The band's roster includes more than 200 members, most of whom hail from Michigan, but there are some who live in other states like Ohio, Illinois, Texas and California.

Just who and how many members of the band will show up in Munger this weekend is anyone's guess.

"We never know who's going to show up. ... The guys just show up," Weber said. "We usually have about 40 guys on average for a performance."

Weber, who plays trombone with the band, said he has developed a new costume this year. A financial advisor with Edward Jones, Weber will be dressed as a brown bull with horns on his cap.

Angus is in Grand Rapids. He should drive over. I know that I would hate to miss Crazy, Musical Clowns, particularly when they are so hard to schedule.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Munger Potato Festival

This year, another Munger Potato Festival.

Don't miss the Figure 8 Race!

And, hopefully, there won't be any "incidents" in the whole
queen thing, like LAST year.

The Scholarship of Location, Location, Location....

Real Estate Roundup, for KPC readers!

Inequality in Land Ownership, the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions and the Great Divergence

Oded Galor, Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrathy
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

This paper suggests that inequality in the distribution of land ownership adversely affected the emergence of human capital promoting institutions (e.g., public schooling) and thus the pace and the nature of the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, contributing to the emergence of the great divergence in income per capita across countries. The prediction of the theory regarding the adverse effect of the concentration of land ownership on education expenditure is established empirically based on evidence from the beginning of the 20th century in the US.

Does Hazardous Waste Matter? Evidence from the Housing Market and the Superfund Program

Michael Greenstone & Justin Gallagher
Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 2008, Pages 951-1003

This paper uses the housing market to develop estimates of the local welfare impacts of Superfund-sponsored cleanups of hazardous waste sites. We show that if consumers value the cleanups, then the hedonic model predicts that they will lead to increases in local housing prices and new home construction, as well as the migration of individuals that place a high value on environmental quality to the areas near the improved sites. We compare housing market outcomes in the areas surrounding the first 400 hazardous waste sites chosen for Superfund cleanups to the areas surrounding
the 290 sites that narrowly missed qualifying for these cleanups. We find that Superfund cleanups are associated with economically small and statistically insignificant changes in residential property values, property rental rates, housing supply, total population, and types of individuals living near the sites. These findings are robust to a series of specification checks, including the application of a regression discontinuity design based on knowledge of the selection rule. Overall, the preferred estimates suggest that the local benefits of Superfund cleanups
are small and appear to be substantially lower than the $43 million mean cost of Superfund cleanups.


Estimates of the Impact of Crime Risk on Property Values from Megan's Laws

Leigh Linden & Jonah Rockoff
American Economic Review, June 2008, Pages 1103-1127

"Using very detailed data on the locations of convicted sex offenders (whose identities and residential locations are made public on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry) and the dates on which they move into a neighborhood, we estimate that, on average, the values of homes within 0.1 miles of an offender fall by roughly 4 percent. This effect dissipates quickly with distance of homes from the offender; homes between 0.1 and 0.3 miles away show no effect...Our estimates suggest that individuals have a strong distaste for living in close proximity to a sex offender. We estimate that a single offender depresses property values in the immediate vicinity by about $5,500 per home. If we aggregate these effects across all homes affected and all offenders, we find that the presence of sex offenders depresses property values in Mecklenburg County by about $60 million. This suggests that
households would be willing to pay a high cost for policies that remove sexual offenders from their neighborhoods."


Making Property Productive: Reorganizing Rights to Real and Equitable Estates in Britain, 1660 to 1830

Dan Bogart & Gary Richardson
NBER Working Paper, June 2008

Between 1660 and 1830, Parliament passed thousands of acts restructuring rights to real and equitable estates. These estate acts enabled individuals and families to sell, mortgage, lease, exchange, and improve land previously bound by inheritance rules and other legal legacies. The loosening of these legal constraints facilitated the reallocation of land and resources towards higher-value uses. Data reveals correlations between estate acts, urbanization, and economic development during the decades surrounding the Industrial Revolution.


Lessons from Strange Cases: Democracy, Development, and the Resource Curse in the U.S. States

Ellis Goldberg, Erik Wibbels & Eric Mvukiyehe
Comparative Political Studies, April 2008, Pages 477-514

The work linking natural resource wealth to authoritarianism and under-development suffers from several shortcomings. In this article, the authors outline those shortcomings and address them in a new empirical setting. Using a new data set for the U.S. states spanning 73 years and case studies of Texas and Louisiana, the authors are able to more carefully examine both the diachronic nature and comparative legs of the resource curse hypothesis than previous research has. They provide evidence that natural resource dependence contributes to slower economic growth, poorer developmental performance, and less competitive politics. Using this
empirical setting, they also begin parsing the mechanisms that might explain the negative association between resource wealth and political and economic development. They draw implications from intranational findings for resource abundant countries across the world and suggest directions for future cross-national and cross-state work.

(Mega-nod to KL. All praise be unto him)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hey Golf: Get out of the stone age!

I like the commercials for Top-Flite Balls where the guy checks to see if the golfer is worthy of the product: "Winter rules?" "Cheating". "Gimmies?" "Make the putt". "Mulligans?" a withering stare.

However, there are a slew of ridiculous rules that are selectively enforced that make no sense, give the "perpetrator" no competitive advantage and need to go. Two great examples occurred this past week.

The first is the insane DQ-ing of Michelle Wie for "failing to sign her scorecard". She actually did sign it, but she left the scorer's trailer without signing, was called back by volunteers and signed. After playing her next round, she was informed by the LPGA that she was out of the tourney. Now I know the LPGA hates Wie, but this is ridiculous. What is the injury to other competitors that happened here? And even if such an injury could be conjured up, why DQ? Why not 2 strokes? Or an hour in the stocks? Or the comfy chair?

The second example is from the British Open. In 35 mph winds on slick greens, golf balls will move without being hit. Yet if you ground your putter behind the ball and it moves before you hit it, you incur a penalty. Even worse, according to the rules official. If you address the ball and then back away without re-marking the ball and the ball moves, it's a penalty. So we treated to the sight of golfers altering their putting styles, trying not to ground their putters behind the ball, twitching and jitterbugging around worried about breaking this rule. Why?

It's beyond time to modernize and streamline the rules of golf.

A surprising beneficiary of the weak US dollar

NBA players are starting to go (or go back) to European pro leagues. Well it's not too surprising really as it's just another example of how the weaker dollar spurs US exports. Some of the players in question are Europeans. Carlos Delfino and Juan Carlos Navarro have left to go back to a Euro team and the Spurs' first round draft pick (the improbably and wondrously named) Tiago Splitter decided to stay in Europe and refused to sign with the Spurs. But the most significant development is that Josh Childress is allegedly on the point of signing a pretty nice contract with a Greek team. Childress is a restricted free agent with the Hawks, but can sign with a foreign team without restrictions. This would be a juicy coup for European professional ball.