Friday, September 05, 2008

Change we can believe in!

APSA debates abolishing American Politics (and not a moment too soon):

"Spurred by discussion of how the discipline should respond to globalization, the APSA has been talking about whether the way the discipline organizes itself — with a prime position for American politics — makes sense any more.The precise number of subfields within political science is itself the subject of debate. Most people would include American politics, comparative politics, political theory and international relations. Some would add methodologies or area studies or various other topics, but American politics always makes the list. Should it? What would new organizations for the field look like? While the discussion of this issue Thursday at a panel of the political science association’s annual meeting didn’t find a consensus, there was agreement that the current structure has real flaws.

Scholars who called for the abolition of American politics as a subfield were not arguing that scholars shouldn’t study American politics, which may have been reassuring to audience members, most of whom identified by a show of hands as Americanists. But they said that using the United States as an organizational structure, in isolation from the rest of the world, is producing flawed ideas.

Mary Hawkesworth, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said that when the United States is studied in isolation, “certain things get masked.” The “notion of American exceptionalism,” she said, produces “a social amnesia.” For example, she said that that the violence and corruption of the American revolutionaries receives little emphasis, so when students are exposed to the violence of other revolutions, they see no connection to the American revolution and have little tolerance for those other revolutions. Similarly, she said that slavery is taught only as “an aberration in the United States rather than as part of a racist feudalism” imported from Europe.

American politics scholars, she said, largely embrace a view of their work as “non-ideological and moderate,” limiting the critique they may offer of American society. And the current organization of political science, she said, isn’t producing the kinds of understanding that the public needs. Where was political science in predicting the reunification of Germany or the rebound of Russia? she asked. A more global perspective might make the discipline more aware and useful, she said."

So Mary wants to do away with American politics because its practitioners don't emphasize enough how much America sucks? Is this a great country or what?

Whither De-coupling?

One the one hand the global economy seems more integrated than ever, but on the other, it is claimed that the BRICs are growing right through rich country cycles, so what is up with the de-coupling hypothesis?

A new paper by Kose Otruk & Prasad addresses this question empirically using a large dataset of over 100 countries from 1960-2005. They divide the countries into Industrial, Emerging, & Other and use Bayesian methods (Gibbs sampling with data augmentation) to estimate a dynamic factor model of what shocks drive cycles in these countries. When comparing the 1960-84 period with 1985-2005, they find that the global factor has declined in importance in all three groups, while the group factor has become more important in the Industrial and Emerging groups.

So globally, decoupling but within two of the three regions, increased syncronization while in the dreaded "Other" group (developing but not emerging!) idiosyncratic factors have become more important.

Very nice paper, but it seems to me that Tolstoy should get a shout out in the acknowledgements! After all, he said it first.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Scott a Swiss and a Spaniard walk into a bar....

....actually it's into the semi-finals of the US Open as Andy (the best looking man in all Scottish history) Murray, Roger (this is my 18th straight grand slam semifinal) Federer, and Rafa (soy el maximo) Nadal wait to see whether it will be Serbo-punk Novak Djokovic or Andy Roddick joining them there.

The Open has been fantastic so far this year. New faces, tough matches, and last night Venus and Serena put on a ferocious display. I think Rafa vs. Murray will be a competitive and entertaining match and of course I am rooting for Roddick tonight.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

How 'bout we let Chairman Clay break it down for ya in his own words?

“We think the logo is classic in its style. We think it's powerful in its design. We think it evokes energy. We think the word Thunder is displayed with simplicity and dignity. And the colors represent much about Oklahoma.

“Our primary color blue is the color of our state flag. This is very much an Oklahoma organization. The sunset is red and orange. Not too red. Not too orange. And the beautiful sun is reflected by yellow.”

very very afraid.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I don't get it

Suppose I was running for office and had a kid. Suppose I supported de-criminalization / legalization of drugs. Suppose during the campaign the kid dies of an overdose.

Three things would be true.

1. My support for the policy didn't kill my kid. Lots of people die of overdoses while we continue to wage "war" on drugs.

2. My kid dying doesn't make my policy position wrong. It might be wrong (I don't think it is), but my kid dying has nothing to do with the cost-benefit analysis or the morality of the position.

3. My kid dying + my policy position doesn't automatically make me a hypocrite.




So I have to ask, WTF is going on in this country???

Andy Roddick joins the Angus Anti-Djokovic Club

Andy, congrats on making the quarters at the US Open and welcome to my club.

Here is a chunk of Andy's postmatch interview after beating Fernando Gonzalez:

Q. With the way he plays and his style, does it almost mandate that it's going to be a grind? Because it's not easy to knock Djokovic out of points early, even if you're playing well.

ANDY RODDICK: Oh, sure. You're going to have to go to work. He goes to work pretty much every point, and, my service game, he's going to put returns in, he puts guys in pressure. It seems like a lot of times there'd be breaks back and forth with him. You know going in that you're going to have to go to work.

Q. When asked about his injuries today, mentioning the right ankle as opposed to the left ankle, the other day ‑‑

ANDY RODDICK: Isn't it both of them? And a back and a hip?

Q. And when he said there are too many to count.

ANDY RODDICK: And a cramp.

Q. Do you get the sense right now that he is...


Q. Lot of things. Beijing hangover.


Q. He's got pretty long list of illness.

ANDY RODDICK: Anthrax. SARS. Common cough and cold.

Q. Got a lot of things going on with him.


Q. Do you think he's bluffing?

ANDY RODDICK: No, I mean, I'm sure ‑‑

Q. The way you're saying it, almost means you feel like...

ANDY RODDICK: No, if it's there, it's there. There's just a lot. You know, he's either quick to call a trainer or he's the most courageous guy of all time. I think it's up for you guys to decide.

Sweet!! Andy you can be secretary-treasurer for sure.

If the numbers don't go your way, make up some new ones

Ah the IMF. You remember them, right, policy reforms, Washington consensus, adjustment lending? You know, all that stuff that didn't work? Well not so fast says a new IMF working paper entitled "The Myth of Post Reform Income Stagnation: Evidence from Brazil and Mexico".

Here's the abstract:

Economic policies are often judged by a handful of statistics, some of which may be biased during periods of change. We estimate the income growth implied by the evolution of food demand and durable good ownership in post-reform Brazil and Mexico, and find that changes in consumption patterns are inconsistent with official estimates of near stagnant incomes. That is attributed to biases in the price deflator. The estimated unmeasured income gains are higher for poorer households, implying marked reductions in “real” inequality. These findings challenge the conventional wisdom that post-reform income growth was low and did not benefit the poor.

Ha!! and again I say, Ha!!

"What do you mean our policies don't work? What about the 'estimated unmeasured income gains'? Dude, we RULE! Poor people love us."

Aaargh. Olivier, you got a lot of work to do!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wow! Argentina pays up.

In what I think can be fairly described as a surprise move, the Fernandez government announced that it will use foreign reserves held by the Central Bank (of which Argentina has around $47 billion) to pay off its $6.7 billion debt to the Paris Club countries, which has been in default since 2002.

"I have signed a decree today instructing the economy minister to use available central bank reserves to pay off the Paris Club debt," Fernandez said in a live televised speech, met with a standing ovation from industrial-sector executives.

This is the same method that Fernandez's husband, the ex-president Kirchner used to pay off Argentina's debt to the IMF a couple years ago.

Argentina is in the strange position of still belonging to the IMF but refusing to undergo the annual IMF reviews that generally are done for all members whether they are in a loan program or not.

Monetary Policy and Schrödinger's Cat

Barry Eichengreen warns us that there is more to evaluating and conducting policy than picking the correct historical analogy:

"One of the chief ways financial market participants make sense of events is by drawing parallels with the past. The subprime crisis, when it first erupted, was widely perceived as the most dangerous financial crisis since the 1930s. The implication was that it was critical to avoid the policy mistakes that transformed that earlier crisis into a macroeconomic disaster. Specifically, it was important to avoid an excessively tight monetary policy.

Now, with inflation surging, the popular parallel is not the deflationary 1930s but the stagflationary 1970s. Again the implication is that it is important for policymakers to avoid past mistakes. This time, however, past mistakes means a monetary policy that allows inflation expectations to become unanchored.

In fact both analogies are misleading, precisely because market participants and policy makers are aware of this history. Their awareness means that financial history never repeats itself in the same way. Biochemists can replicate their experiments because molecules do not learn. Central bankers lack this luxury."

I like this piece because Barry agrees with me that the Fed did a very good thing (acted as a generous lender of last resort) along with a possibly bad thing (cut rates sharply):

"The Fed’s mistake was cutting interest rates so dramatically when it expanded its credit facilities. Better would have been to lend freely at a penalty rate, a la Bagehot. Higher interest rates which made its emergency credit more costly would have meant better targeted lending and less inflation."


All Hail Marty Fish

The 26 year old Fish, who I've always thought of as tennis' equivalent of "the dude" from the Big Lebowski (the Fish abides!) is in his first ever grand slam quarter final after beating James Blake and Gael Monfils. He now faces Rafael Nadal, but at least it is on a hardcourt where Nadal is not quite so invincible (thought Rafa won the US open series this summer and the Olympic singles gold medal on hard courts).

Fish apparently has really changed his attitude though. In his post match interview after beating Monfils he said:

"Yeah. I mean, this is the biggest tournament of the year, no doubt. It obviously can be argued from a bunch of players at Wimbledon, and this is ‑‑ these are the two biggest ones, are the two favorites that they would like to win most. I think it's no secret, you know, and I said out there on the court, I mean, I desperately wanted to play well and desperately wanted to do well, and this is certainly sweet for sure."

Wow, I can't see Jeff Bridges coming out and admitting something like that. Go Fish!

Monday, September 01, 2008

The resurgent LP

No not the Libertarian Party (sorry Mungowitz), but rather the Licorice Pizza. You know, the 12" long playing vinyl record. It's true! It's in the NY Times. We actually have two turntables at Chez Angus (much to the consternation of Mrs. Angus). Music just sounds more musical on LP over CD, and as the article documents, there is a lot of music coming out on vinyl from new releases by alternative bands to major labels re-releasing chunks of their catalogs on vinyl.

Here's what a couple of 21 year old college boys say in the article about LP listening:

“The process of taking the record off the shelf, pulling it out of the sleeve, putting the needle on the record, makes for a much more intense and personal connection with the music because it’s more effort,” said R. J. Crowder-Schaefer

“I have a ton of music on iTunes,” Mr. (Scott) Karoly said, “but with that music I get A.D.D. really quick. With my LPs, it’s like reading a book as opposed to clicking through articles on Yahoo. When you put on a record,” he added, “it’s an event.”

If you'd like to get on this bandwagon, here is a sweet looking TT to consider (note that you'll still need to buy and install a tonearm:

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Just a small problem.

How, in the name of freakin' GPS, could this happen?

Pretty funny they landed at Duke, though, instead of UNC. Hee....

Hamlet 2

Very fine entertainment.

Take the old Kevin Bacon movie, "Footloose."

And have it rewritten by Hunter S. Thompson, in order to adapt it to 2008. Just a little disturbing, yet somehow heartwarming.