Friday, August 01, 2008

Tyler crosses the line

I think he may just be trying to get a rise out of me because I often mock his beloved Beatles, but in his post about Ohio, the Lebron James of bloggers says:

"Popular music: I can't think of much...Boz Scaggs doesn't count nor does Peter Frampton. Lonnie Mack's The Wham of That Memphis Man! is one of the least known great albums. Doris Day is a very good singer and do see Pillow Talk if you don't already know it."

AAAAARRRGH!!! OK T, I'm taking the bait.

Guided. By. Voices.
The Breeders, The Amps (and 1/4th of the Pixies), i.e. the inimitable Deal sisters.

People, that's just from Dayton! Robert Pollard and Kim Deal. You could just listen to their stuff and nothing else all your life and be way way way ahead of the game.

But that's not all. From the Cleveland area: Eric Carmen (the Raspberries), Devo, and Pere Ubu!

And if that wasn't cruel enough, T goes on to opine:

Director: Wes Craven remains underrated; I still like his The Serpent and the Rainbow, among others. I can't think of a notable movie set in Ohio, can you?"

Umm, phone call for Dr. Cowen. Dr. Cowen, call your office!!

People I give you Jim F. Jarmusch!! You know, the guy who directed Stranger than Paradise (set in Ohio too by the way), Mystery Train, Night on Earth, Dead Man, Ghost Dog, and Down by Law.

Holy Crap. He got me real good.

The King is dead, viva el nuevo Rey

Roger Federer has been #1 for 235 weeks. However, since Rafa Nadal beat him on clay in the French and grass at Wimbledon, a lot of people (including me) consider him the "real" #1. Now though Nadal is poised to take over the official top spot as well. Federer lost in the 3rd round of the Master's series event in Cincinnati at the hands of serving machine Ivo Karlovic. If Nadal wins the tournament, he gets the top ranking. In one of the small injustices that plague modern tennis, Federer lost the match without ever having his serve broken (and having broken Karlovic's). Rafa next plays Lapentti (I'm penciling Nadal in for the W) and then the winner of the match between rising start Ernests Gulbis and Serbian punk Novak Djokovic. In the other half of the draw lurks Andy Murray, the best looking Scotsman in all of human history! Have I mentioned that I like tennis?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Bishop on Waterskis

The Bishop is skiing on Lake Powell, in all its (and his) majestic splendor.

When Literary "Theory" is Used for Science

Sovereignty and the UFO

Alexander Wendt & Raymond Duvall
Political Theory, August 2008, Pages 607-633

Modern sovereignty is anthropocentric, constituted and organized by reference to human beings alone. Although a metaphysical assumption, anthropocentrism is of immense practical import, enabling modern states to command loyalty and resources from their subjects in pursuit of political projects. It has limits, however, which are brought clearly into view by the authoritative taboo on taking UFOs seriously. UFOs have never been systematically investigated by science or the state, because it is assumed to be known that none are extraterrestrial. Yet in fact this is not known, which makes the UFO taboo puzzling given the ET possibility. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, the puzzle is explained by the functional imperatives of anthropocentric sovereignty, which cannot decide a UFO exception to anthropocentrism while preserving the ability to make such a decision. The UFO can be "known" only by not asking what it is.

Yeah. And "tenure" in political science can only be obtained by not asking anything about the actual world. "Drawing on the work..." of three literary theorists who think that the idea of planes flying is socially constructed? And this is supposed to tell us something about science.

Jesus on a stick. Gimme a break.

(nod to KL)

(UPDATE: This was edited to remove a crude ad hominem. I earlier said that Agamben, Foucault, and Derrida were "human dildoes." But, in fact, I only consider Derrida to be a human dildo. A vibrating one. I do apologize to the other two gentlemen, who were only muddled-headed, not full-fledged sex toys like Derrida.)

Is "Costly Signal" Such an Obscure Concept?

I'm finishing an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, on recruiting upper level administrators at universities. (It should be out August 18, and I'll post it).

One of the editors had questions about a section where I touted "costly signals" as being a useful way to commit. The context was trying to get folks to come to campus for a final visit. I proposed that the Provost, not the headhuntrix employed by the Provost, make the call. Because "costly signals make the world go round."

And....I got the question: What in the world are "costly signals"?

Is it that obscure a concept?

Male peacock tails: wastes energy, makes the birds vulnerable to predators. But, chicks dig it. Because only a healthy male peacock can maintain that huge tail and not get caught by a fox.

Psychologists use "costly signal" theory to explain human social customs. Say a couple has been dating for a while, have not been intimate. Valentine's day rolls around.

If the guy buys the woman nothing, she is upset. "He doesn't love me." They don't go upstairs and get busy.

If the guy buys her chocolates, a card, and flowers, "He DOES love me!" Getting busy is a real possibility, either upstairs or they may end up staying downstairs and using the couch.

Here's the point, though: Suppose the guy had given the woman MONEY, cash equal in
value to the chocolates and flowers. That would be a crude insult, treating her like a prostitute.

She would throw the cash in his face, and tells him to get out, and take his stupid "764-Hero" CDs with him. (She hates emo, but didn't want to tell him).

You have to WASTE the money for it to have value as a signal. Card

All a pure waste, in terms of practical value. But NOT irrational, because they are costly signals of commitment.

"Costly signal" theory is very common in zoology and biology/evolutionary theory.
Grazing on the savannah, a gazelle spots a leopard moving through the tall grass fifty meters away.

What does the gazelle do? It jumps STRAIGHT UP, two meters high!
That wasteful release of energy shows the big cat, "I'm not easy to catch!" and the cat looks somewhere else for prety. (Yes, gazelles really do this, as you likely know).

You see this in birds a LOT: Mother bird comes back with a juicy worm. ALL the babies in the nest go nuts, wasting energy. Mama gives worm to most vigorous squawker. Baby bird is wasting energy, but signalling fitness, gets the worm. Weak baby starves, but might not have survived anyway.

The Great Wall of China was a costly signal. Barbarians riding along on horseback,
suddenly see a wall stretching out of sight in both directions. Wow! A kingdom that wealthy must be able to maintain a huge army. Lets go somewhere else.

The basic result is that only signals that cost resources, that WASTE resources convey information.

Signals that don't waste money are called "cheap talk," like "No, honey, I'll respect you in the morning. Seriously, I will."

Is this really not a widely known concept?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Say yes! to M!ch!gan!

Before I got myself in a pickle in Medina OH, we had some fun in MI on the shores of Lake Michigan by the Nordhouse Dunes.

We also climbed Sleeping Bear. It seemed a lot bigger when I was a kid!

Funky Cold Medina

I am back from a doubleheader family visit (mine in Michigan and a bunch of Mrs. Angus' in Ohio). Our last stop was Medina Ohio where I never tired of asking "Where's Tone Loc?" However, in a case of karmic justice, a very very bad thing happened to me there. Mrs. Angus asked her 88 year old grandfather (who downloads and listens to Econtalk podcasts by the way) what kind of movies he liked. "Musicals" he said. After I ran out of breath singing a few bars of "Surrey with the fringe on top" at the top of my lungs, I found myself in a local multiplex with the two of them watching (though I mostly had my eyes closed) Mamma Mia!

Holy Crap people. It will be months before I will have any testosterone back flowing through my body. The singing is bad. The dancing worse. The acting still worse. The camera work worser still. I am serious. Here you can check an actual professional review by the best movie reviewer in the world if you don't believe me.

If you told me this was a vanity project by Meryl Streep who had personally paid all the production and distribution costs and then was committed to an asylum immediately after its filming, I would easily believe you. That and she had some kind of photos of Pierce Brosnan with several goats that she used to convince him to humiliate himself the way he did in this film.

Friendship and Complex Interdependencies in Markets

Friendship and commercial societies

Neera Badhwar
Politics, Philosophy & Economics, August 2008, Pages 301-326

Critics of commercial societies complain that the free-market system of property rights and freedom of contract tends to commodify relationships, thus eroding the bonds of personal and civic friendship. I argue that this thesis rests on a misunderstanding of both markets and friendship. As voluntary, reciprocal relationships, market relationships and friendship share important properties. Like all relations and activities that exercise important human capacities and play an important role in a meaningful life, market relations and activities are essentially structured and supported by ethical norms and, in turn, support these norms. The so-called norms of the market, such as instrumentality and fungibility, come in varying degrees and characterize not only market, but also nonmarket, relationships, including friendship. Furthermore, although market relationships are primarily instrumental, the individuals involved are not. The virtues of markets have their counterparts in friendship, as do their vices. For these and other reasons, market societies are not only not inimical to friendship, they create a more secure matrix for civic and personal friendship, as well as for other important values such as art, science, or philosophy, than any other developed form of society.

It does make one think of Adam Smith's discussion (WN, I, 1, 11) of the complexity of cooperation and dependency in market societies:

Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or day-labourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation. The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder, the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser, with many others, must all join their different arts in order to complete even this homely production. How many merchants and carriers, besides, must have been employed in transporting the materials from some of those workmen to others who often live in a very distant part of the country! how much commerce and navigation in particular, how many ship-builders, sailors, sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world! What a variety of labour too is necessary in order to produce the tools of the meanest of those workmen! To say nothing of such complicated machines as the ship of the sailor, the mill of the fuller, or even the loom of the weaver, let us consider only what a variety of labour is requisite in order to form that very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool. The miner, the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore, the feller of the timber, the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brick-maker, the brick-layer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the mill-wright, the forger, the smith, must all of them join their different arts in order to produce them.

(Nod to KL)

Monday, July 28, 2008

LOL Cats

(Nod to Bureaucrash)

Edenton Tea Party, and Friends in Edenton

A video with good friends John and Robin Sams (actually, this is about Robin, a wonderful artist and art gallery operator on Broad Street in Edenton).

Thanks to John Sams for organizing my visit to Edenton. A great time.

I did NOT know this....

A note from an old friend of KPC, appropriately redacted, but with a good question. I did not know of this provision, and it is an interesting question......

"I get out of the army after [many] years of [type of duty] on [date in 2010]. My plan was to fight to get into grad school at [some good places in the East, not on the coast].

My incentives have changed because of the new GI bill. The old GI bill paid a set amount of money per month for 3 years, regardless of where you went to school. The new GI bill pays your school tuition at any public school plus a set amount of money based on army allowances for housing. The highest allowances for housing are in San Francisco and Hawaii. I like sandy beaches and money so its time to apply to the University of Hawaii's economics masters program.

I wonder if colleges in high housing allowance areas will see an increase in applications from soldiers using GI benefits. How about colleges in really nice places that would normally be costly to attend? Interesting set of new incentives guys getting out now face."

And there are lots of those "guys," too. An interesting question. Thanks for writing.

Help the President with Law Enforcement!

I have an old metal sign, framed and hung on my office wall.

It says: Help the President with Law Enforcement! Repeal the 18th Amendment....for Prosperity!

Lots of stuff is illegal just because it happens to be against the law. Or to paraphrase the old gun slogan: If everything is criminalized, then all citizens will be criminals.

Interesting conference at Heritage; MP3 here.

Thanks to William G. Atwell, Prison Fellowship Ministries, for sending it along.

But...I have to ask: Ed Meese? Ed MEESE? I accept that big Ed has it right on the federalism (return police power to the states) issue. But yikes.

By itself the pure "return power to the states" perspective is only a half measure, or quarter measure. Here is my view.....

The ideal is self-ownership, and self-responsibility. I drink too much, I have an accident, I owe very large restitution, and since I committed violence, I go to jail. I have violated, egregiously, my promise not to initiate violence against others.

In most matters, I would like for the "policy" choices (say, do we smoke marijuana?) to be "local." Meaning, I decide for me, and you decide for you. My mind decides for my body. That's local control.

Once politics gets into it, then I start deciding for you, and you start deciding for me. Not good, but less is better. Better if these choices are local, made at the small town level than at the county level. Better at the county level than the state level. And better at the state level than the federal level. And better at the federal level than at the North American Union level. (EEK!)

So, sure, moving from the fed level down to the states is a small improvement (although the states abused that right in Jim Crow, and resisted basic human rights for blacks for decades).

But the real problems is criminalizing everything. It's not FEDERAL criminalizing everything, it's making crimes of consensual behavior at ANY level. Moving from fed to state control simply makes it easier to get some states to do the right thing, the opposite of Madison's argument in Federalist #10.

I don't see that it matters that much if you are in fed prison, or a city jail. In both cases, you might as well free your mind, 'cause your ass ain't goin' nowhere.*

Help the President, the Governor, the Mayor, and the traffic cop with law enforcement. Get rid of a bunch of laws.

(*Plagiarized from John Stewart)

If you think the currency shortage is bad, wait two weeks

That's a quote of a quote from this article by David Theroux.

There's no bottom to the abyss of political destruction in Zimbabwe.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And, now: A word from Mike Munger

A doppelganger Mike Munger. United Steel Workers Mike Munger. USW Local 1660 President Mike Munger

Same belly, you'll notice. And "sense" of style.

Lolcats from Bureaucrash!

Most excellent LOLcats, from the good folks at Bureaucrash.

(Nod to the incomparable Orvetti, who knows stuff)

Never Look Down The Barrell of a Loaded Spudgun

The U.P. suggests this use for those Munger 'taters: Spudgun, from Spudtech.

Wait! You can't really buy one.....Interesting.

There Are So Many Things to Do With A Potato....

Potato, potato, who's got the hot potato?

Perhaps some lucky youngster competing in all sorts of potato games today at the Munger Potato Festival taking place on the grounds of Merritt Township Hall.

Today is Kids Day, and festival chairman Don Smrecak of Munger says there are all sorts of games centering around potatoes and kids beginning at 10:30 a.m. with a tractor pedal pull.

Modeled after the big kids' tractor pull, children ages 4-14 will pedal tractors pulling a dray, which is a weight. Those pulling it the farthest will win prizes. Actually, anyone showing up will win a prize.

Children can also compete in potato sack races, Mr. Potato Head decorating contest, potato face painting and a potato toss.

"There are so many things to do with a potato," Smrecak said. "

A new Lake Wobegon style sign-off: Munger, Michigan. Where even the ugly potatoes are hot, and all the children can pull a dray really far.

Two Views on Credit

First, my friend and co-candidate (LIB, SENATE from NC) Chris Cole:

Second, my friend and co-pissed off economist, Dr. Robert Higgs.