Saturday, January 31, 2009

Way cuter than Diana Ross

A Williams sweep

Serena Williams won the Australian Open this morning, crushing Little Marat in less than an hour, love and three. This is her 10th major singles title. The day before, she and Venus won the doubles, their 8th major doubles title together.

Let's see, am I forgetting anything? Oh, yeah, Serena, at 27, is once again the number one player in the world and halfway to another "Serena Slam".

Friday, January 30, 2009

The CATO 200

I got an email today, suggesting that I should be embarrassed to be one of the "CATO 200." (Link to ad)

In fact, according to this emailer, I should be MUCH more embarrassed to be one of the CATO 200 than ANY of the "Duke Lacrosse 88."

I guess I see the point....both were paid ads. But the CATO 200 ad is an existence proof that the claim of professional ecnomists' unanimity on the need for a bailout is not true. Everyone listed in the ad is a professional economist, from many different universities. (5 from Duke, interestingly).

The Duke 88 ad was....something else, IMHO. I have several friends (friends then, and friends now) who signed it. They were, and are, welcome to express their view.

But the ads have pretty different objectives. I don't think the analogy is very insightful.

And the real message, as in this very nice piece at CBS News, is that the unanimusts should just try to get out a little more, and broaden their social circle.

Neo-Logisms and Keeping Gitmo Open

Random Friday thoughts, based on the perils of Blago.

1. Political neo-logisms are important, but hard to predict. Calling something BLANKgate, for's a key party of journalistic argot.

What will it be for Blagojevich? In the car: "Oh, jeez. Everybody check their shoes. Somebody must have stepped in Blagojevich back there."

Or, when someone keeps griping about something that is entirely their own fault: "Will you knock off the Blagojeviching? Just shut up!"

Oops, Letterman, and some other folks, are way ahead of me. Carry on, then.

2. I have changed my mind about Gitmo. I had thought it should be closed, as a prison anyway, as soon as possible. But I was wrong. We are clearly going to need it.... to house all these Democratic governors (Bill Richardson, Elliott Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, who knows who is next). There is no other way to shut them up.

Okay, Now I've Switched

I have to admit....I've switched sides. All of my sympathies are with ex-gov Blago now.

On the plus side, consider this: After the impeachment vote (59 Y -- 00 N)....

He vowed to, "keep fighting to clear my name," and added: "Give me a chance to show you that I haven't let you down."

"I love the people of Illinois today more than I ever have before," he said. And in a joking reference to Chicago's history of crooked politics, he reached down to a boy in the crowd of well-wishers and said: "I love you, man. You know, this is Chicago. You can vote for me. You're old enough."

That's juevos. Juevos Chicageros. The media claimed that he was showing his sense of humor. I submit: NO. He was totally serious.

On the sympathy side, consider this:

" beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor," said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

You want to impeach the guy, okay. But...."beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois"? Holy cow. That's really an ugly thing to say. Kerner.....Rostenkowski ....Ryan? Dude! Blago is a housecat compared to thos tiges. And that's just in the last 40 years.

The best paper I read this month

It's by Jesús Fernández-Villaverde and it's titled "The Econometrics of DSGE Models" ( ungated version here).

It lays out the evolution of DSGE models, gives an excellent and readable account of Bayesian estimation, and discusses some of the major challenges facing the field. It's also witty and a pleasure to read.

Here is a sample:

"the likelihood of DSGE models is, as I have just mentioned,a highly dimensional object, with a dozen or so parameters in the simplest cases to close to a hundred in some of the richest models in the literature. Any search in a high dimensional function is fraught with peril. More pointedly, likelihoods of DSGE models are full of local maxima and minima and of nearly flat surfaces. This is due both to the sparsity of the data (quarterly data do not give us the luxury of many observations that micro panels provide) and to the flexibility of DSGE models in generating similar behavior with relatively different combination of parameter values (every time you see a sensitivity analysis claiming that the results of the paper are robust to changes in parameter values, think about flat likelihoods)."

and another:

"A compelling proof of how unnatural it is to think in frequentist terms is to teach introductory statistics. Nearly all students will interpret con…fidence intervals at …first as a probability interval. Only the repeated insistence of the instructor will make a disappointingly small minority of students understand the difference between the two and provide the right interpretation. The rest of the students, of course, would simply memorize the answer for the test in the same way they would memorize a sentence in Aramaic if such a worthless accomplishment were useful to get a passing grade. Neither policy makers nor undergraduate students are silly (they are ignorant, but that is a very different sin); they just think in ways that are more natural to humans. Frequentist statements are beautiful but inconsequential."

People, I am gonna have to go with BOTH "Yikes" AND "Amen". It's well worth reading in its entirety.

PS. The second best paper I read this month is here (forthcoming in the JME but been around for a while).

A breakfast treat

We woke up this morning and the Nadal - Verdasco semifinal was still going, so we took breakfast upstairs and I chomped on my Gorilla Munch while Rafa finished off the 5th set. The match was 5 hours and 14 minutes, the longest in the history of the Australian Open, and it set up the dream final of Federer - Nadal, though Federer will be much fresher with an extra day off and an easy straight set victory over Roddick in his semifinal.

Nadal beat Federer last year on his surface (Roland Garros) and on Roger's surface (Wimbledon) so it will be very interesting to see if he can recover enough to give Fed a match on this hardcourt surface. This will be Rafa's first grand slam final on hardcourts. If he wins, I'd put the probability of him winning the grand slam at maybe .3 or so.

Tensions will be high at Chez Angus 'cause Mrs. A will be rooting for Federer and I'll be rooting for Rafa!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

Just ask this good Samaritan:

"A Kalama police officer reached into a tank of sewage to rescue a dog that had jumped inside. The officer, Jeff Skeie, was able to grab the sinking dog by the ear Tuesday and pull it out by the scruff of its neck. He had waste only on the sleeves of his uniform until the dog gave itself a vigorous shake, spraying him head-to-toe with sewage."

Hey! It's kind of like the Illinois legislature and Rod Blagojevich, innit?

Porkulus II: Porky's Revenge

I forgot about the protectionism in Porkulus:

"The House-approved plan's "Buy American" provision generally prohibits the purchase of foreign iron and steel for any infrastructure project in the bill.

The European Union's trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, pre-emptively voiced concern about the US measure.

"We are looking into the situation. ... Before we have the final text ... it would be premature to take a stance on it," Ashton's spokesman, Peter Power, said in Brussels.

"However, the one thing we can be absolutely certain about, is if a bill is passed which prohibits the sale or purchase of European goods on American territory, that is something we will not stand idly by and ignore," he said.

Canada's government said it is concerned about US protectionism in the economic stimulus and its diplomats were lobbying US makers against the "Buy American" drive.

"We're always concerned when there are protectionist pressures in the United States," Industry Minister Tony Clement told public broadcaster CBC.

"At the same time the United States has treaty obligations," he said, citing US membership in the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"And we expect the United States to live up to its treaty obligations of open and fair trade."

About 40 percent of Canadian steel is sold in the United States and Canada imports steel from its southern neighbor."

Mother of Porkulus

People, remember when the TARP failed so they loaded it up with extra pork and got it passed the second time? Apparently our government has learned from their mistakes because the stimulus bill is pre-porked for your approval.

From the WSJ: "There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.....Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion)."

From Martin Feldstein: "On the spending side, the stimulus package is full of well-intended items that, unfortunately, are not likely to do much for employment. Computerizing the medical records of every American over the next five years is desirable, but it is not a cost-effective way to create jobs. Has anyone gone through the (long) list of proposed appropriations and asked how many jobs each would create per dollar of increased national debt?

The largest proposed outlays amount to just writing unrestricted checks to state governments. Nearly $100 billion would result from increasing the "Medicaid matching rate," a technique for reducing states' Medicaid costs to free up state money for spending on anything governors and state legislators want. An additional $80 billion would be given out for "state fiscal relief." Will these vast sums actually lead to additional spending, or will they merely finance state transfer payments or relieve state governments of the need for temporary tax hikes or bond issues?

The plan to finance health insurance premiums for the unemployed would actually increase unemployment by giving employers an incentive to lay off workers rather than pay health premiums during a time of weak demand. And this supposedly two-year program would create a precedent that could be hard to reverse."


There's something happening here...

....but what it is not at all unclear; it's the emergence of the Thunder as a viable (on the court at least) NBA team. Last night they beat the Grizz for their 11th win, putting them three rungs out of the bottom of the Association. Scottie Brooks moved Durant to small forward from shooting guard and somehow made it clear to everyone that Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook were going to be getting the shots and leading the team. They are all responding. KD is averaging 24.8 on 47% shooting (42% on 3s) along with 6.6 boards. Last year he shot 42% overall, 29% on 3s and pulled down 4.4 boards. Jeff Green's numbers are similar to KD's and after a very shaky start, Westbrook was named Rookie of the Month in December. Durant is 20, Green 22, and Westbrook is 20 as well.

The Thunder also have 3 first round picks in the upcoming draft and 2 in the following one. The only trouble is they are now losing ping pong balls at an alarming rate (They are 6-4 in their last 10 games).

Here's a paen to Durant from Bill Simmons (hat tip to Tyler Cowen, the LeBron James of bloggers).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I guess it takes a thief to catch a thief

Geithner confirmed as Treasury Secretary

I Bet Somebody Copied....

University plagiarism policies look suspiciously alike.....buncha cheaters.

Everybody hates Novak

We are down to the final 4 in both the men's and women's draw at the first tennis major of the year. Novak Djokovic is out, by his own hand, for the 4th time in a major. That's right people, he's retired 4 times in major championships and he's ONLY 21 YEARS OLD! And HE WAS THE DEFENDING CHAMPION!


Last year at the US Open, Andy Roddick ripped Djokovic for his imaginary injuries before playing him and Novak beat him down bad. This year Djokovic quit against Roddick and then Federer ripped him after he was out of the draw (proving that Federer is smarter than Roddick?).

Here's Fed on Novak:

“He’s not a guy who’s never given up before…it’s disappointing,”

“If Novak were up two sets to love I don’t think he would have retired 4-0 down in the fourth. Thanks to Andy that he retired in the end. Andy pushed him to the limits. Hats off to Andy.”

Let's see if Roddick can take advantage of Federer's man crush on him and maybe beat Roger in the semis? Actually it looks to me like the final will be Roger - Rafa, which is the best anyone could ask for in today's tennis.

Election 2008: The Lib Gov Results

Some people asked for the county by county totals. Here you go, sorted from hightest to smallest.....(source link)

0.050356031 Pender
0.046638319 Orange
0.042566293 Brunswick
0.042561983 Stokes
0.042078228 New Hanover
0.042074739 McDowell
0.04085844 Macon
0.040363843 Alleghany
0.040231955 Watauga
0.040000000 Onslow
0.039938984 Buncombe
0.039565894 Durham
0.039527351 Jackson
0.039498058 Transylvania
0.039160974 Polk
0.038636599 Randolph
0.037845617 Chatham
0.037659733 Wake
0.037647059 Rockingham
0.037633637 Haywood
0.036779295 Davidson
0.036588255 Wilkes
0.035634959 Madison
0.035306334 Swain
0.035121825 Mitchell
0.034839776 Henderson
0.034592576 Alamance
0.03446227 Davie
0.034229254 Yadkin
0.033348902 Currituck
0.033090457 Rutherford
0.032336494 Graham
0.031133166 Surry
0.030687387 Guilford
0.030574881 Clay
0.029697746 Franklin
0.02945571 Camden
0.028972212 Forsyth
0.028449394 Ashe
0.028244275 Lee
0.027798264 Dare
0.027603067 Moore
0.027542974 Caldwell
0.02700933 Person
0.026635171 Cherokee
0.026609899 Tyrrell
0.02656562 Granville
0.026337186 Carteret
0.026162244 Caswell
0.025562649 Harnett
0.024976025 Columbus
0.024560957 Avery
0.024228607 Johnston
0.024225993 Beaufort
0.024127049 Yancey
0.02406452 Rowan
0.023290759 Pamlico
0.023157029 Chowan
0.022628907 Burke
0.022526691 Craven
0.022439586 Jones
0.021873926 Iredell
0.021825371 Cabarrus
0.021678773 Lincoln
0.021587838 Cumberland
0.021505376 Montgomery
0.021452549 Catawba
0.021410163 Bladen
0.021233156 Hyde
0.021172363 Pasquotank
0.020491803 Hoke
0.02028794 Pitt
0.020218489 Mecklenburg
0.020035149 Stanly
0.019852941 Richmond
0.019458946 Perquimans
0.019442523 Union
0.019177109 Duplin
0.018462851 Wayne
0.018367129 Gaston
0.018305045 Alexander
0.017255072 Scotland
0.016554163 Cleveland
0.015367146 Lenoir
0.015265642 Warren
0.014826225 Vance
0.014664411 Gates
0.014601616 Robeson
0.014472944 Martin
0.014367104 Greene
0.014159969 Nash
0.013764651 Sampson
0.01373297 Wilson
0.0134255 Halifax
0.012858249 Washington
0.012691798 Northampton
0.012368584 Bertie
0.010984919 Anson
0.01081624 Edgecombe
0.00809678 Hertford

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Holy Moly

At the end of the third quarter LeBron James ALREADY HAS A TRIPLE DOUBLE:

20 points, 14 boards, 11 dimes, to go with 3 blocked shots and only 2 turnovers in 32 minutes of PT.

Yeah it's only the Kings he's playing but man oh man, that is pretty cool.

In Loco Parentis at Utah State

Reporting "Students of Concern" at this site....could be anything.....anything at all.

From the site:

Occasionally, a student's behaviors will rise above normal interactions to a level of concern that may lead to disruption of classroom or university activity or cause concern of threat towards oneself and/or others. University training is available to help identify these situations.

Like....maybe....protesting? Not agreeing with professors? Very disturbing to be disagreed with, yes?I liked the way that George Orwell put it, in 1984:

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

Multiplier blues

We've heard a lot about government spending and tax cut multipliers in the press and blogosphere. In a new NBER working paper (ungated version here) Eric Leeper and his co-authors address a fundamental issue in measuring the effects of tax cuts. They call it "fiscal foresight".

Here's the abstract:

"Fiscal foresight—the phenomenon that legislative and implementation lags ensure
that private agents receive clear signals about the tax rates they face in the future—is
intrinsic to the tax policy process. This paper develops an analytical framework to study
the econometric implications of fiscal foresight. Simple theoretical examples show that foresight produces equilibrium time series with nonfundamental representations, which misalign the agents’ and the econometrician’s information sets. Economically meaningful shocks to taxes, therefore, cannot generally be extracted from statistical innovations in conventional ways. Econometric analyses that fail to align agents’ and the econometrician’s information sets can produce distorted inferences about the effects of tax policies. The paper documents the sensitivity of econometric inferences of tax effects to details about how tax information flows into the economy. We show that alternative assumptions about the information flows that give rise to fiscal foresight can reconcile the diverse empirical findings in the literature on anticipated tax changes."

And here's a punch line:

"We couch the quantitative assessment in terms of tax multipliers and show that conventional econometric methods, such as identified VARs, can produce wildly inaccurate inferences: multipliers can be estimated to be positive, negative, or zero and they can be five or more times too large over various forecast horizons."

Oh my. People, that is not good. The paper though IS very good and well worth reading.

Final Election Analysis: Best Counties

For the last two days, I have been putting up maps showing support for my Gov campaign, by county. Sunday was the percent map, Monday was the total vote map.

Today: The overall "Best Counties," using the criteria of higher percentage and more total votes. Here is the map:
The counties in Green are both more than 2,000 votes and greater than 3.5% support.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Here's Your Ticket!

From the NYTimes Laughlines:

Barack Obama still maintains he will have an open-door policy with Republicans. Of course, to maintain some semblance of order, access to that door will be done by a system of purple tickets. – Janice Hough, Palo Alto, Calif.

(Purple ticket reference, if you find it obscure)

That's daughter of my good friend, and Ms. Angus coauthor, Jerry Hough.

UPDATE: A little more on Purple Tickets.....

Problems were reported at other entry points as well. There were delays at the Orange Gate, and a power failure at the Blue Gate apparently caused the screeners to have to pat down attendees instead of sending them through metal detectors. But nowhere else were the problems as significant, or the dissatisfaction as strong, as it was among the Purple Ticket Holders. Dianne Feinstein has called for the Secret Service to get to the bottom of the matter. It may be that President Obama should get Chief Justice Roberts prepped for a third rendition of the oath, for the many people whose tickets could not get them access to the festivities.

Shovel Ready? Really?

The Mayor asks, "What this 'shovel ready' thing mean?"

Given this, I'm not sure I know, or that anyone knows.

LW--How's about a little consistency?


A little MORE election analysis.....

Yesterday I showed a map with vote percentages for the Nov. 4, 2008 election, by county.

Today: Vote TOTALS. So, where did I get the most votes? The answer is likely to be "where the most people live," and to some extent that's true. Blue is more than 4,000 votes from that county; Green is 2,500 to 3,999; Yellow is 2,000 to 2,4999, and White is less than 2,000

Here are the top five counties. My vote total was 121,584. (If Al Franken were in charge of my recount, my total would have been 7,245,823)

Wake 16,486 (Raleigh)
Mecklenburg 8,234 (Charlotte)
Guilford 7,326 (Greensboro)
Durham 5,341 (Durham)
Buncombe 4,870 (Asheville)

In other words, those five counties gave me well over 1/3 of the total. The other 95 counties....well.

Tomorrow: vote numbers AND percentages--the BEST counties

Evo 1, Jesus 0

While the final results are not in, it appears that, despite divine disapproval, Evo's new constitution will be going into effect as a clear majority (somewhere in the upper 50%s) approved it yesterday. Some good analysis here and also here. Evo will now be cleared to run for a second 5 year term as president in December and I don't think we've heard the last of the eastern provinces' autonomy movement.

Whatever one may think of Evo, I am happy to see indigenous Bolivians getting a voice in their government. Here is a cool slideshow about the voting.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A little election analysis

Went back and looked at the county by county vote totals for Nov. 2008 for the Gov race, just to see how we did. I was very disappointed in the result, receiving only 2.8%. Yes, that's more than the 2% threshold required to keep the Libs on the ballot, but we really got smoked, in spite of a pretty big statewide effort.

Still....what went right? What counties came down heavily "for," in the Percent Vote column? A map....
Green is 4% and above, Yellow is 3-3.99%, White is 1.5-2.99%, and Red is less than 1.49%. (Click the map to enlarge)

So, pretty good in the southern coastal areas (Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, etc.), in the liberal part of the central Piedmont (Durham-Chapel Hill-Greensboro), and generally best of all in the mountains, especially Buncombe County (Asheville).

Tomorrow: Same Map by Total Votes, not Percent Votes....Stay Tuned!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Please, Sir, Can I have some MORE?

Repub Nat Cmte is sending out this solicitation

I have some sympathy for the claim that Al Franken "won" on votes not cast on election day, but later. The challenges on both sides got pretty silly.

Still....Coleman lost. He should concede. The Repubs have effectively conceded this on committee ratios....

But the rumor (and it is only a rumor) is that the RNC is pulling in so much money off this solicitation that they have told Coleman to put off his concession. Shake your money-maker, Norm. With this hair-do, LOTS of folks would pay.

Icky oo. A pox on both their Houses, and their Senates.

The worst mistake in the history of the human race?

According to Jared Diamond, it's agriculture!

"archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered."

here's one of his cases:

"One straightforward example of what paleopathologists have learned from
skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show
that the average height of hunter-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a
generous 5'9" for men, 5'5" for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height
crashed, and by 3000 B.C. had reached a low of 5'3" for men ,5' for women. By classical
times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still
not regained the average height of their distant ancestors."

While his cases are (as always) just so, the argument seems iffy. After all, agriculture accompanied a rise in the population which in most endogenous growth models, raises the stock of ideas and long run growth. Plus, if we'd stayed hunter-gatherers neither me or Lebron James would currently stalk this planet and that, people, would be a tragedy indeed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Headlines I wish were NOT literally true, #1

"Goat detained over armed robbery"

"Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery."

"Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323."

luckily, the police are (kind of) suspending judgement for the time being:

"We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat,"

Headlines I wish were literally true #47

"Probers Work Backward on Madoff

Chief's Alleged Confession Forces Investigators to Go From Top Down"

That would be about right, wouldn't it?

Vote for Jesus?

Evo Morales is a pretty good politician. He ousted Goni, became president and survived a recall vote. But now, he's apparently in the race of his life against the Son of God!

Well, actually, it's just that Jesus is opposed to Evo's proposed new constitution:

"At the heart of the latest controversy is the new constitution's stated goal of "refounding" Bolivia as a socially-just state guided by indigenous beliefs -- including elevating the Andean earth deity Pachamama to the same stature as Christianity's God. It would recognize broad new rights for Bolivia's Indians, termed "original indigenous peasant peoples" in the document, and demand "decolonization" of all aspects of society. Bolivia's current constitution allows for freedom of religion but specifies Roman Catholicism as the sole state religion."

It's even "worse" than that, from the point of view of Bolivian evangelicals:

"the fight is over fundamental values, which they say the new constitution tramples on, and replaces with ultra-liberal, atheist concepts or worse, those of indigenous religions. They say the constitution appears to open the door to abortion and gay marriage, although it doesn't speak directly to either issue."

Oh my.

However, Jesus is weighing down on Evo:

"In a country that is officially 97.5% Christian, the stance of church leaders carries significant weight. So much so that on Sunday Mr. Morales -- who has actively promoted indigenous beliefs, including appointing traditional medicine men to his government -- publicly declared himself a Catholic, though saying he believes "quite a bit" in Pachamama."

I say: ¡Bolivianos! ¡Voten por Evo!

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Announcement: I am Withdrawing

Raleigh, NC
January 22, 2009

After considering my options, and talking with my advisers, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York.

I don't make this decision lightly, but it is time to end the wild rumor-mungering by many news outlets.

Now, there are those who might say that the reason I am withdrawing is that Gov. Paterson was not going to appoint me anyway. This is nonsense, and typical of the unfounded speculation that has swirled around me in recent days. The fact is, I defy ANYONE to find even one shred of evidence that Gov. Paterson has EVER said, "I'm not going to appoint Mungowitz." I'm confident he has never said that.

And there are other people who have claimed that it was my inarticulate, confused, and downright weird public appearances that caused me to withdraw. But that is again nonsense: My private appearances have also been inarticulate, confused, and weird. Just ask my wife, or my blogging partner Angus. They will vouch for me, I'm sure.

Finally, there have been some allegations (and that's ALL they are) that it was at long last explained to me that, in order to be a Senator from NY, I would actually have to LIVE in NY. For those allegators, I have some names: Bobby Kennedy. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not exactly New Yorkers. Please, the residency requirement is obviously a joke. The good people of the great state of New York are gracious enough to pimp their seats (if you will) to pretty much any Democratic hack who shows up at the door, and smart enough to realize that no one actually born in NY is bright enough to be senator. So those allegators can just shut up.

I expect to release future press statements as events require. I'm sure that the press will pay as much attention to those future statements as they will to this one.
Oh, and here is a photo-shopped picture of me with the flag, and the SoL. Because, let's face it, I am SoL. God bless America.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Many Harvard JDs Does It Take....

How many Harvard-trained lawyers does it take to administer the oath of office?

More than two, apparently.

Or, at a minimum, the same two have to do it more than once!

And then Joe Biden, king of flubs, takes a shot?

Maybe if CJ Roberts had plagiarized the thing, it would have gone better?

(Nod to Anonyman, who gets it wrong the first time, and then just mans up and deals with it).

The Greek God of Walks!!! In My Office!!!

Had a visit from Kevin Youkilis today.

I'm a Cards fan, but still, very exciting. I took a photo, to commemorate the visit.

(Okay....that's Mike Brady, new Asst Prof at Denison University, starting in August. But he LOOKS like Youkilis, don't you think?)

Vicious circles

In a new NBER working paper (ungated version here), Aghion, Algan, Cahuc, & Shleifer show that there is a negative correlation between social trust and government regulation across countries. They also argue that this comes from the demand side (that is that distrustful people demand more regulation) and that it comes even when the demanders know that the government providing the regulation is corrupt. As they put it:

"Using the World Values Survey, we show both in a cross-section of countries,
and in a sample of individuals from around the world, that distrust fuels support for government control over the economy. What is perhaps most interesting about this fi…nding, and also consistent with the model's predictions, is that distrust generates demand for regulation even when people realize that the government is corrupt and ineffective; they prefer state control to unbridled activity by uncivic entrepreneurs."

In their model an "uncivic" entrepreneur is one who will create negative externalities when doing his/her entreprenuring.

It's a panacea, I say!

Grad Students: having a tough job market season?

Profs: just got your piece rejected at the Journal of Last Resort?

Students: just found out there's a research paper AND a comprehensive final in the required class you've been putting off til now?

Fear not, for behold, I have the answer:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kennedy Down

Ted Kennedy had a seizure, apparently, at the luncheon where Obama was "introduced" after the inauguration.

He is getting pretty frail. Whatever else you may think, it is sad to hear that he is so sick.

Apparently Robert Byrd had some med troubles also. Yikes.

UPDATE: No, Byrd was not sick. Just needed to go home.

(Not) Watching the Inauguration

The Drive-by Writer offers some thoughts on the Inauguration.

"Model" Citizens

Some interesting papers, from all over the map....

Simplicity and reality in computational modeling of politics

Claudio Cioffi-Revilla
Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory, March 2009, Pages 26-46

Modeling a polity based on viable scientific concepts and theoretical understanding has been a challenge in computational social science and social simulation in general and political science in particular. This paper presents a computational model of a polity (political system) in progressive versions from simple to more realistic. The model, called SimPol to highlight the fundamental structures and processes of politics in a generic society, is developed using the combined methodologies of object-based modeling (OOM), the Unified Modeling Language (UML), and the methodology of Lakatos' research programs. SimPol demonstrates that computational models of entire political systems are methodologically feasible and scientifically viable; they can also build on and progress beyond previous theory and research to advance our understanding of how polities operate across a variety of domains (simple vs. complex) and levels of analysis (local, national, international). Both simple and realistic models are necessary, for theoretical and empirical purposes, respectively.


Presidential and Congressional Vote-Share Equations

Ray Fair
American Journal of Political Science, January 2009, Pages 55-72

Three vote-share equations are estimated and analyzed in this article, one for presidential elections, one for on-term House elections, and one for midterm House elections. The sample period is 1916-2006. Considering the three equations together allows one to test whether the same economic variables affect each and to examine various serial correlation and coattail possibilities. The main conclusions are (1) there is strong evidence that the economy affects all three vote shares and in remarkably similar ways; (2) there is no evidence of any presidential coattail effects on the on-term House elections; (3) there is positive serial correlation in the House vote, which likely reflects a positive incumbency effect for elected
representatives; and (4) the presidential vote share has a negative effect on the next midterm House vote share, which is likely explained by a balance argument.


Dynamics of the presidential veto: A computational analysis

John Duggan, Tasos Kalandrakis & Vikram Manjunath
Mathematical and Computer Modelling, November 2008, Pages 1570-1589

We specify and compute equilibria of a dynamic policy-making game between a president and a legislature under institutional rules that emulate those of the US Constitution. Policies are assumed to lie in a two-dimensional space in which one issue dimension captures systemic differences in partisan preferences, while the other summarizes non-partisan attributes of policy. In any period, the policy choices of politicians are influenced by the position of the status quo policy in this space, with the current policy outcome determining the location of the status quo in the next period. Partisan control of the legislature and presidency changes probabilistically over time. We find that politicians strategically compromise their ideal policy in equilibrium, and that the degree of compromise increases when the
opposition party is more likely to take control of the legislature in the next period, while politicians become relatively more extreme when the opposition party is more likely to control the presidency. We measure gridlock by (the inverse of) the expected distance of enacted policies from the status quo in the long run, and we show that both gridlock and the long run welfare of a representative voter are maximized when government is divided without a supermajority in the legislature. Under unified government, we find that the endogeneity of the status quo leads to a
non-monotonic effect of the size of the legislative majority on gridlock; surprisingly, under unified government, gridlock is higher when the party in control of the legislature has a supermajority than when it has a bare majority. Furthermore, a relatively larger component of policy change occurs in the non-partisan policy dimension when a supermajority controls the legislature. We conduct constitutional experiments, and we find that voter welfare is minimized when the veto override provision is abolished and maximized when the presidential veto is abolished.


A Computational Model of the Citizen as Motivated Reasoner: Modeling the
Dynamics of the 2000 Presidential Election

Sung-youn Kim, Charles Taber & Milton Lodge
Stony Brook University Working Paper, October 2008

We develop a computational model of political attitudes and beliefs that incorporates contemporary theories of social and cognitive psychology with well-documented findings from electoral behavior. We compare this model, John Q. Public (JQP), to a Bayesian learning model via computer simulations of empirically observed changes in candidate evaluations over the course of the 2000 presidential election. In these simulations, JQP clearly outperforms the Bayesian learning model. In particular, JQP reproduces responsiveness, persistence, and polarization of political attitudes, while the Bayesian model has difficulty accounting for persistence and polarization. We demonstrate that motivated reasoning - the discounting of information that challenges prior attitudes coupled with the uncritical acceptance of attitude-consistent information - is the reason our model can better account for persistence in candidate evaluations over the course of the campaign. Two implications follow from the comparison of models: (1) motivated reasoning explains the responsiveness, persistence, and polarization of political attitudes, and (2) any learning model that does not incorporate motivated reasoning will have difficulty accounting for the persistence and polarization of political attitudes.


Modeling a Presidential Prediction Market

Keith Chen, Jonathan Ingersoll & Edward Kaplan
Management Science, August 2008, Pages 1381-1394

Prediction markets now cover many important political events. The 2004 presidential election featured an active online prediction market at, where securities addressing many different election-related outcomes were traded. Using the 2004 data from this market, we examined three alternative models for these security prices, with special focus on the electoral college rules that govern U.S. presidential elections to see which models are more (or less) consistent with the data. The data reveal dependencies in the evolution of the security prices across states over
time. We show that a simple diffusion model provides a good description of the overall probability distribution of electoral college votes, and an even simpler ranking model provides excellent predictions of the probability of winning the presidency. Ignoring dependencies in the evolution of security prices across states leads to considerable underestimation of the variance of the number of electoral college votes received by a candidate, which in turn leads to overconfidence in predicting whether that candidate will win the election. Overall, the security prices in the Intrade presidential election prediction market appear jointly consistent with probability models that satisfy the rules of the electoral college.


Optimal Gerrymandering in a Competitive Environment

Richard Holden
MIT Working Paper, December 2008

We analyze a model of optimal gerrymandering where two parties receive a noisy signal about voter preferences from a continuous distribution and simultaneously design districts in different states and in which the median voter in a district determines the winner. The form of the optimal gerrymander involves "slices" of extreme right-wing voters that are paired with "slices" of left-wing voters, as in Friedman and Holden (2008). We also show that, as one party controls the redistricting process in more states, that party designs districts so as to spread out the distribution of
district median voters from a given state.

A mathematical model of Athenian democracy

Andranik Tangian
Social Choice and Welfare, December 2008, Pages 537-572

It is shown that the representative capacity of democratic institutions selected by lot (=lottery), as it has been practiced in Athens in 594-322 BC, is quite high. For this purpose, People's Assembly, Council of 500, Committee of 50 with its President, juries, and magistrates are evaluated with indicators of popularity, universality, and goodness. The popularity is a spatial characteristic of representativeness, the average percentage of the population whose opinion is represented on a number of questions. The universality is a temporal aspect of representativeness, the frequency of cases (percentage of questions) when the opinion of a majority is represented. The goodness is the specific representativeness, that is, the average group-represented-to-majority ratio. In particular, it is shown that the size of Athenian representative bodies selected by lot was adequate to guarantee their high representativeness. The background idea is the same as in Gallup polls of public opinion and in quality control based on limited random samples.

(Nod to KL)

Snow Day! 'Snow day for a colonoscopy....

So, I thought I was such a clever fellow.

Scheduling my "procedure" for Inauguration Day.

I should note, at the outset, that it has not snowed more than a piffle in Raleigh in the last three years.

Anyway, this snow (we have gotten 5" in my neighborhood since 3 am) was not predicted.

So...well, let me put it this way.

1. The drugs and compounds that are believed by physicians to be laxatives....They ARE, in fact, very effective.

2. I spent all of yesterday, shall we say, "preparing" myself for the colonoscopy. The goal being to make it possible to view the colon without anything, NOTHING AT ALL, in the way. That's how I know the truth of #1, above.

3. At 3 am today, it started snowing like crazy.

4. At 7 am, I called and cancelled the procedure, because there is no way I would have been able to leave the neighborhood. And if I had left, really really really no way I could have gotten back, since it snowed another 2.5" in the period 7 am -- noon.

5. So, I will have to go through the colonoscopy prep AGAIN, when the now rescheduled procedure comes around again the on the guitar.*

My wife claims this is bad karma. I should never have scheduled the procedure on inauguration day.

The nurses at the clinic, when they found out I had gone through the prep (see #1, above), were not really able to contain the hilarity that seized them. Ha, ha, indeed.

(*Yes, Arlo Guthrie alert)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tom Cruise is a LOT OLDER than I thought

From Yahoo News comes the headline: "Tom Cruise says (he) grew up wanting to kill Hitler"

So he's in his 70's???

"I always wanted to kill Hitler, I hated him," the Hollywood star of such major blockbusters as "Top Gun" and "Mission Impossible," told the press during a visit to Seoul to promote his latest film.

By the way, I've finally seen a good Tom Cruise movie. It's called Tropic Thunder! Highly recommended.

Waiting for Superman

"Is it overwhelming to use a crane to crush a fly? Good time for Superman to put the sun back in the sky." -- W. Coyne

On the day before Superman swears on the Lincoln Bible, I'm troubled by the almost universal use of the Great Depression (GD)) as the frame of reference for our current situation (CS).

The initial phase of the GD was a stock market crash and financial panic. So far, so good. However, the follow ups to those events in the GD were massive bank failures and persistent deflation. In my opinion, we have avoided these follow ups in the CS. Despite Bernanke's early role as Greenspan Jr. in perpetuating overly loose and regulatorily negligent monetary policy, he has to be given credit for helping to ensure that we avoided GD like financial follow ups to the initial crash.

Now we come to the real side of the economy where, as you all know, we are looking at a new "new deal" consisting of possibly a $ 1 trillion plus fiscal stimulus. However, the new deal was a lot more than public spending. It was also a policy of explictly allowing business collusion, and repeatedly raising taxes on private economic activity.

The new deal of course didn't really work at least in terms of ending the GD on any time frame that could be considered politically acceptable (unemployment in 1938 was 19%!!!!). However, this is not to say that the fiscal stimulus part of the new deal didn't work or that a fiscal stimulus in the CS wouldn't be effective in raising measured GDP.

I don't think a massive fiscal stimulus is warranted on business cycle grounds because we have already avoided the horrendus monetary followups to the GD and Obama seems fairly likely to avoid the counter productive fiscal parts of the new deal (now Reid and Pelosi are a different story but for now my $$ is on Obama to at least kind of get what he wants).

In other words, I do not think the GD is a valid frame of reference for our CS because either we did not make, or are unlikely to make, the post crash mistakes that were made in the GD.

In other words, I think this recession is a "normal" one that we likely would have had after the bursting of the housing bubble even if the financial crisis had not also hit us. GD like policy responses are simply not warranted on business cycle grounds. And once we take the doomsday scenario out of play, all the well known objections to normal use of counter-cyclical discretionary fiscal policies (as opposed to automatic stabilizers) come into play.

If this post prompts Brad Delong to call me an ethics free Republican hack, maybe Steve Horowitz can send me a copy of his new office door decoration!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Advertising: Yer doin' it Wrong!

Norman has grown a lot since Mrs. Angus and I arrived. Now we even have a very good Indian restaurant, Himalayas, that makes great dosas and uthappams. However, their advertising needs work.

First, their slogan is "Aroma of India" which I would not necessarily consider appetizing!

Second, their other slogan is "A fine dining experience where earth and sky meet". People, the place is right next to the dollar store and it is often filled with college students. So much for the "fine dining" part. As far as "where earth and sky meet" I guess literally that means "the ground" so it has to be trivially true, but isn't its usual sense a place of high elevation? Maybe they outsourced their advertising to folks who'd never seen Oklahoma?

Oh, well. If you're ever in Oklahoma and are hankering for a dosa, Himalayas is the place.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Two Simple Questions

An angry email from Anonyman:

why is a R administration (at least for a few more days) continually lending money to companies in excess (or close to it) of their market caps?

From an economic perspective, wouldn't it just make more sense to have the gubmint buy them outright and then sell off any assets to cover part of the purchase price?

My answer: That would be SOCIALISM.

Paying huge amounts of taxpayer money to corporations, without any concern about cost or the deficit? That's REPUBLICANISM.

And that, children, is why I am not a Republican, and why you shouldn't be, either.

How Are Ya Goin' Have Ahny Puddin' If You Wohn Be The Veep?

I've seen several folks comment on the bizarre extension of the metaphor here.

Okay, you use the trite expression, and then have done.

But no. Mr. Biden has to waterboard the metaphor until it confesses.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Mr. Biden said in an interview Wednesday. “The Bush-Cheney relationship hasn’t tasted very good. Not a single person you can name for me” — at this point, he leaned forward in his chair, jabbed his finger in the air and punctuated his words sharply. “Look at me, now — a single one can tell you that the pudding has tasted good. Not one. Name me one serious person, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican.”

Icky-oo. Don't bring me some Cheney pudding, don't bring me some Cheney pudding, don't bring me some Cheney pudding, don't bring me some here.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Solving the Poverty Problem: Kill the Poor

From the LA Times, article by Alana Semuels, January 7, 2009

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has given preliminary approval to changes in new lead-testing rules after complaints that the measures could have forced thrift stores and sellers of handmade toys to dispose of merchandise or even go out of business.

If formally adopted, the changes approved on a first vote Tuesday would grant exemptions to last year's Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which seeks to ensure that products for children do not contain dangerous amounts of lead.

As currently written, the act would require all products aimed at children 12 and under to be tested for lead and phthalates starting Feb. 10. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable.

Large manufacturers and retailers say the cost of testing will not be a burden. But small businesses such as handmade-toy shops and thrift stores say the requirement would force them to spend tens of thousands of dollars to test products such as clothing, in which the threat of lead is almost nonexistent. Many thrift stores said they would be forced to stop selling children's clothing or close altogether.


Actually, it makes perfect sense. You should definitely make it harder for really poor people to put inexpensive clothes on their children during (a) a bad recession, and (b) the coldest winter we have had in a while. was wrong. That doesn't make sense.

Look, there has been no rash of injuries and deaths from these clothes, or toys. It is just a way to protect the big corporations that make big contributions.*

*("Large manufacturers and retailers say the cost of testing will not be a burden. But small businesses such as handmade-toy shops and thrift stores say the requirement would force them to spend tens of thousands of dollars to test products such as clothing, in which the threat of lead is almost nonexistent. ")

Golly, I wish Public Choice were not such a deadly accurate way of understanding the political world.

(Nod to Roxanne, who knows stuff)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bob Woodward: Take George Bush.....Please

10 Takeaways from the Presidency of 43

From the WaPo, and Bob Woodward.

My fave:

1. Presidents set the tone. Don't be passive or tolerate virulent divisions.

In the fall of 2002, Bush personally witnessed a startling face-off between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the White House Situation Room after Rumsfeld had briefed the National Security Council on the Iraq war plan. Rice wanted to hold onto a copy of the Pentagon briefing slides, code-named Polo Step. "You won't be needing that," Rumsfeld said, reaching across the table and snatching the Top Secret packet away from Rice -- in front of the president. "I'll let you two work it out," Bush said, then turned and walked out. Rice had to send an aide to the Pentagon to get a bootlegged copy from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bush should never have put up with Rumsfeld's power play. Instead of a team of rivals, Bush wound up with a team of back-stabbers with long-running, poisonous disagreements about foreign policy fundamentals.

Really? Rumsfeld snatched the thing away from the National Security Adviser?

I hate Rumsfeld more every day. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but....

On the Ground: "Shovel-Ready" Means Slinging Manure, at Public Expense

Some musings from the Mayor, who is the point of the spear when it comes to Federal spending.

I wonder how Congress will define “shovel ready.” My city has a road project that is at the 60% phase on the engineering study. All the EIS and NEPA work have been done. We can be ready to go to bid in four months. The bid process could take another two months. And this is after 5 years of planning, hearings, environmental studies, etc. It could probably qualify as a shovel ready project, but it already has 93% federal funding. I will probably apply to have the other 7% funded by the Obama money machine. If I am successful, the funding will simply be for a project that would have happened without the funding. In fact, given the long lead time for such projects, I assume that all shovel ready projects will be the same way. There will be an infusion of cash to purchase projects that would have been built without the Obama cash. Of course if Obama cash funds my 7%, I can take the $200k that we would have spent on the project and spend it on something else, like chip and seal for existing roads.

I am sure every state is scrambling to get things on the list. Here is an email I received today from the lobbyist for the [STATE] League of Cities and Towns.

From: A GUY
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 1:27 PM
Subject: Federal Stimulus Conference Call and Survey

Hello Everyone,

The [STATE AGENCY] has received a few phone calls regarding the Federal Stimulus Package and efforts that are being made to coordinate “ready to go” projects that can be considered by the incoming Obama administration. As such, we have coordinated efforts with our Congressional Delegation to both collect and disseminate information to the delegation regarding municipal projects in [STATE] that are ripe for consideration.

The new administration is looking for “shovel ready” projects that can be undertaken within 60-180 days of a federal appropriation. While it is still unclear how Congress intends to select projects or divvy up the funds, having your project on a list in front of our congressional delegation will certainly be helpful.

Please fill out the following quick survey if you wish to have your project submitted to the [STATE] congressional delegation as a part of the cumulative efforts of the [STATE AGENCY]. We intend to submit the list within the next week, so time is of the essence

Follow this link to the survey:
Take the Survey
Or copy and paste the url below into your internet browser: [LINK REMOVED]

As an additional resource we have asked Mayor ANOTHER GUY of ANOTHER CITY to help us coordinate

He followed it with another email saying,

Hello Everyone,

In the previous survey we sent out, it only allowed for one project to be entered and does not allow for the reuse of the form. To correct that oversight and allow you to enter multiple projects, please use the following link. You should be able to reuse the link multiple times to fulfill all of the requests you wish to include.


Pretty cool, huh? Multiple projects, shovel ready. And, because of impact studies and engineering studies, ALL of those shovel ready projects, without exception, are going to be projects that were being built already.

Your tax dollars at (not) work.

Thunder >> Jazz ??

In a battle of ridiculous team names, the OKC Thunder routed the Utah Jazz last night with Mrs. Angus and I in attendance. There was a lot of good news. First, Chris Wilcox and Damien Wilkens both got DNP-CD'd! Second, Thunder scoring was very balanced with the big 3 (Durant, Green & Westbrook) each getting 20+ and 3 additional players also in double figures. Third, after an initial brain freeze by coach Scottie Brooks, Nenad Krstic spaced the floor, hit the open jumper and pounded the boards in the best performance by a Thunder 7 footer this year (low bar, I know).

When Krstic first entered the game, Brooks called plays to get him isolated in the low post. Those were painful. Two TOs and a blocked shot. I wondered aloud if Brooks had ever seen Nenad play before, but after that they used him in pick and pops and drive and dishes to great effect.

The other extremely encouraging thing about the game was the Thunder only took 6 threes while shooting 38 free throws. The big 3 all took the ball to the rim aggresively. This is a lot easier to do when Wilcox and Wilkens are not on the floor clogging the lanes and calling for the ball all the time.

So now the Thunder are 7-33 and have recorded their first win against an opponent with a winning record. They are 4-4 in their last 8. They are actually in danger of not having the most ping pong balls this spring.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chris Hitchens doesn't like Hillary Clinton

And he doesn't think she should be Secretary of State.

Here is an awesome excerpt:

"Why is Sen. Clinton, the spouse of the great influence-peddler, being nominated in the first place? In exchange for giving the painful impression that our State Department will be an attractive destination for lobbyists and donors, what exactly are we getting? George Marshall? Dean Acheson? Even Madeleine Albright? No, we are getting a notoriously ambitious woman who made a fool of herself over Bosnia, at the time and during the recent campaign, and who otherwise has no command of foreign affairs except what she's picked up second-hand from an impeached ex-president, a disbarred lawyer, and a renter of the Lincoln Bedroom."

Hmmm, guess he doesn't care too much for Bill either.

Early nominees for A-hole of the year

Yes, I know it's only January and I know about Bernie Madoff and the war in Gaza, but here at KPC we like to think outside the box.

So I hereby nominate the "group performing a ritual" who may have permanently disfigured some of the greatest works of art on our planet, the Olmec heads of Tabasco.

Some details:

"This act was carried out by persons performing an apparent ritual," the institute said. "As part of the 'ceremony," they poured oil, grape juice, salt water and other substances" over the heads, a tomb, altars and other structures.

Grape juice and oil?? WTF??

"The Aztecs and Mayas daubed ceremonial structures with the blood of human sacrifice victims. But pouring substances like grape juice and oil over statues does not figure in most historical accounts of pre-Hispanic religions."

So wrong century, wrong substances and wrong culture. Nice work.

These pieces are displayed in an awesome open air park in Villa Hermosa with howler monkeys in the trees. It was one of our favorite places in Mexico.

On a side note, the Olmec produced a variety of terrific art beyond the giant heads including awesome jaguar and human/jaguar mixes and cool miniature tableaux.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Econtalk wins "Best Podcast." Very cool.

And, a sincere goodONya for Betsy. Well done, lass, and well deserved.

Held Together by the Weak Force: Morons

You have doubtless seen this before. Still, as part of the countdown to an increased reliance on Governmentium to fuel our inertia, I thought it meet to reprise this oldy but goody....

A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named Governmentium. Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.

(Nod to that Yale kid)

Another good read

An Economic Recovery Plan for the United States, by Philip Greenspun. Recommended.

Here is the money quote:

"We know what America's future looks like if we continue along our present path. It looks like Michigan."


(Pro) Bowling Aloha

News Flash: Promoters Lie....

Bowling in Hawaii: Examining the Effectiveness of Sports-Based Tourism

Robert Baumann, Victor Matheson & Chihiro Muroi
Journal of Sports Economics, February 2009, Pages 107-123

We use daily airplane arrival data from Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to determine the net change in tourism for a variety of sporting events. We find three events generate a positive and significant net impact on arrivals: the Honoulu Marathon, the Ironman Triathlon, and the Pro Bowl. We estimate that the Honolulu Marathon produces 2,183 to 6,519 in net arrivals while the Pro Bowl attracts about 5,596 to 6,726 in net arrivals and the Ironman Triathlon attracts between 1,880 and 3,583 net visitors. Overall, these events generate similar economic impacts on Hawaii's economy despite the fact that the state spends nearly two thirds of its sports tourism budget on the rights to the Pro Bowl while spending a fraction of that sum on the Ironman and nothing at all for the Honolulu Marathon. None of the three events attract the number of net arrivals claimed by their sponsors, and other sporting events do not generate any identifiable impact on the tourist arrivals whatsoever.

(Nod to KL)

IBM hops on Alex's bandwagon

The smart-grid wagon, that is. From today's WSJ:

"We at IBM were asked to map this out by President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, and our research shows that a $30 billion stimulus investment in just three areas -- smart grids, health-care IT and broadband -- could yield almost one million new jobs within one year. That's possible because these kinds of infrastructure have significantly greater economic and societal multiplier effects than traditional infrastructure like bridges and highways."

Gee, I wonder if they had asked a steel company chief if he would have reached the same conclusion. I guess every cloud has a rent seeking lining.

How is this any different from Larry Flynt's recent statements (by the way, big ups to Alex for the best blogpost title ever on this one)?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Keep Yo Bees Offen Mah Trees!

An interesting dispute. Do bees trespass? Are tangerine blossoms an attractive nuisance?

For some background, my article on the economics of the apiary.

Some questions:

1. Can the Courts settle this?
2. What would Coase say?


(Nod to Tom, who is himself an attractive nuisance)

(UPDATE: Thanks to the General, for pointing out I don't cut and paste well with the other children)

Mandatory Recycling is a Violation of the Separation of Church and State

Wow. It turns out that you can't make money by renaming "garbage" and calling it a "resource."

Who would have thought that? Other than anyone with an IQ over 80, and even one freshman econ course, I mean.

(A nod to ML, who knows garbage when he sees it)

Good Reads

1. From the prolific Bill Easterly in FP: The Poor Man's Burden.

A highlight:

Today, just when we were getting over the long, toxic legacy of the Depression and its misguided emphasis on statist plans to fight poverty, this financial crash threatens to take us back to the bad old days. To avoid such a return, we must keep some principles in mind.

First, we must not fall into the trap of protectionism—neither unilaterally nor multilaterally,

neither in rich countries nor poor. Protectionism will just make the recession spread further and deeper, as it did during the Depression.

Second, when changing financial regulations to repair the excesses of the past several years, don’t strangle the financial system altogether. You can’t have a Revolution from Below without it. This lesson is especially salient as Washington bails out Wall Street banks and failing industries and intervenes in the U.S. financial sector to an unprecedented degree. This bailout might turn out to be the bitter medicine that saves “finance capitalism” from a stronger form of anticapitalism, but in developing countries, open economies are still an open question.

Third, keep slashing away at the enormous red tape that is left over from previous harebrained attempts at state direction of the economy. Learn from the combined dismal track record of stateowned enterprises but also from the unexpected success stories: Private entrepreneurs are far better than the government at picking industries that can be winners in the global economy. Although fierce opposition will be inevitable, to adopt these policies would be to turn the bad hand we’ve been dealt into an outright losing one.

Fourth, don’t look to economists to create “development strategies,” and don’t back up such
experts with external coercion like IMF and World Bank conditions on loans. Such efforts will be either a waste of local politicians’ time or positively harmful. Jeffrey Sachs alone can take partial credit for the rise of two xenophobic rulers hostile to individual liberty—Evo Morales and Vladimir Putin—after his expert advice backfired in Bolivia and Russia. If like-minded experts couldn’t get it done in the 50 years after the Great Depression, they can’t do it in the next 50 years. Nothing in the current crash changes these common-sense principles.

2. N. Greg in the Sunday NY Times: Is Government Spending a too Easy Answer?

A highlight:

"If you hire your neighbor for $100 to dig a hole in your backyard and then fill it up, and he hires you to do the same in his yard, the government statisticians report that things are improving. The economy has created two jobs, and the G.D.P. rises by $200. But it is unlikely that, having wasted all that time digging and filling, either of you is better off.People don’t usually spend their money buying things they don’t want or need, so for private transactions, this kind of inefficient spending is not much of a problem. But the same cannot always be said of the government. If the stimulus package takes the form of bridges to nowhere, a result could be economic expansion as measured by standard statistics but little increase in economic well-being."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why does San Francisco have such great Cabbies?

Mrs. Angus and I took a few cab rides while in SF last week. In one case we were treated to a detailed analysis of the historical inaccuracies in the movie 300 along with a description of Spartan military techniques. In another case, the driver had a homemade berimbau in the passenger seat which launched a lively discussion of musical instruments. Another trip found us with a cabbie telling us about how he left Peru to study in Barcelona during Franco's regime in Spain.

In my experience, this just doesn't happen in other large American cities. It used to somewhat in the Manhattan of my youth, but not anymore.

I wonder why? Are the drivers unionized? Is there a (high) minimum wage for cabbies? Are medallions restricted enough that the cab business is so profitable that some dough trickles down to the drivers? Does the city subsidize colorful cabbies like Switzerland subsidizes traditional dairy farmers in the Alps?

Anybody? Bueller?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rachel Getting Chilipunk'd

One possibility is that quite a few of you out there simply believe that the following two statements are equivalent:

I subjectively like "A"

"A" is objectively good

The problem may be that I take the subjectivist paradigm in economics fairly seriously. I agree it is possible that make objective statements of the form:

"If [Y] is your objective, then [A] is most likely, given the choices to lead to [Y], and so [A] is objectively optimal"

But if your subjective preferences are objectively correct, that obviously gives you a considerable advantage. A pity the rest of the world fails to recognize the superiority of your views over theirs.

An alternative criterion for judging "good" objectively might be to register the evaluations of many individuals, and to ensure that we enlist the power of independence, so that we have the central limit theorem working for us.

For example, a quick look at Rotten Tomatoes shows that 87% of all professional reviewers recorded positive, or highly positive, impressions of "Rachel Getting Married."

Among "Top critics," those most trusted in the industry to have objectively correct subjective opinions, fully 94% thought it good, or very good. These people didn't confer; they registered the opinion independently. So, the estimator "Percent Fresh" has at least some good properties as a measure of objective quality.

Of course, there is also the court of public opinion in a larger sense: box office. A movie I have heard nothing good about, and which no one person has told me they liked, is "The Day the Earth Stood Still." It has taken in $80 million. RGMarried has taken in $10 million, and may not do much more than that. So it seems plausible to argue that RGM is, in fact, not very good, in the sense of commercial success, because it is clearly NOT a commercial success. It's not a failure, I suppose, but if the studio (Sony Pictures) had known it was only going to make $10 million, I bet they would never have made the movie.

As for me, I have found that Rotten Tomatoes "Freshness %" is a really terrific estimator, in the sense that it predicts movies I will like quite well.

Last, if I believed that MY subjective preferences were objectively correct, then THIS would be universally acclaimed as the best movie ever made. ("I thought it was a costume ball!")

Is "Rachel Getting Married" a good movie? Most critics think yes. Far and away most people in the viewing public think "no," and are staying away in droves. I thougt it was quite good. Angus, Ms. Angus, and our commenter (who saw it at the Rialto, same theater where I saw it!) all thought it quite bad. (I do hope that Ginny's BF at least got lucky that night, for being so perceptive).

Boston Blinks

Recently I asked whether the Celtics' current troubles meant anything. After watching their game last night against Cleveland, I can assure you that their slide is weighing heavily on them from the Coach right on down to Scalabrine.

People, with around 7 minutes to go in the game and down 11 points, they started fouling Ben Wallace away from the ball.

Yes, they employed the Hack-A-Ben.

In January.

The defending champs.

The proud warriors.

The Ubuntu dudes.

If you look in a dictionary under panic, there will be a picture of Eddie House humping Ben Wallace in the backcourt.

I was LOL-ing away. The best part was that Mike Brown just left Wallace in the game, Ben kept making 1 of 2, the Cavs D kept getting stops and the lead widened to 19. Then Doc Rivers pulled his big three, but the scrubinis still were going with the Hack-A-Ben!

This is mighty good stuff.

Friday, January 09, 2009

One last word on movies at the behest of Mrs. Angus

She wants all of you to know that "Rachel Getting Married" was so bad it actually made her angry (which 14 years of being married to me should tell you she doesn't get very easily). We watched it on pay per view so we couldn't actually walk out, and I kept insisting that it would "get better". It only got worse. Beyond the Anne Hathaway scenes, much of the movie is taken up with an extended rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding. These parts are so smug and smarmy and PC and self congratulatory and just plain boring that they just kill the flick.

Oh, and let me compliment loyal KPC reader and commenter BR for his endorsement of "The Foot Fist Way". We also watched that movie on pay per view and both Mrs Angus and I loved it. It is brutally funny and also sometimes just brutal but it should definitely go on my 2008 best of list. I didn't realize it was a new release.

Cold Winter Election: A Coat, and a Tie

The Race is a Tie!
Akulliq byelection recount leads to tie

2nd vote needed for electors in Kugaaruk and Repulse Bay

CBC News
January 8, 2009

Voters in Nunavut's Akulliq constituency will have to go to the polls again to pick their MLA, after a recount of ballots from a byelection last month showed a tie for first place.

The judicial recount, which took place Thursday afternoon, found John Ningark and incumbent Steve Mapsalak tied at 157 votes each.

Nunavut chief electoral officer Sandy Kusugak said that under Section 149 of the Nunavut Elections Act, "if a judicial recount results in a tie, that there will be a new election."

"Both John Ningark and Steve Mapsalak attained 157 votes. There's a complete tie, and this will require another election in the constituency of Akulliq," she said after Thursday's recount.

Initial results from the Dec. 15 byelection had Ningark leading Mapsalak by only two votes, triggering the judicial recount because the difference was by less than two per cent.


(Nod to RL)

Celebrating Inauguration Day in Style

So, I'm 50. And the doctor says I need to get a colonoscopy. Now, if the mechanic said I need to get a new exhaust system on my car, I tell him "No! The muffler has not actually fallen off into the street yet. Forget it!" But on "tests," we all become patsies for the medicos, putty in their hands.

Still, I got to choose the DAY of the colonoscopy. And, what day should I pick?

That is, on what day should I pay a lot of money to someone else, so that that someone else can stick a fairly large pipe, in a painful way, far up my bum?
Inauguration Day, of course! That way, I'll be going through in fact what the rest of you will be going through metaphorically.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Two More for Zipperhead's List

Two more movies that me see = me like.

Frost/Nixon (I liked it way more than I expected to. Many reviews pan Kevin Bacon's performance. But they must have never worked in government. Yes, he is scary in that role. But there is nothing unbelievable about that kind of blind, unthinking loyalty)

Milk (Josh Brolin is just amazing. Sean Penn is also amazing.)

And, as for the zipperhead Angoid dislike of Rachel Getting Married, an outstanding movie: He's just worried about the Sooners getting the Boomer lowered on them by that bunch of thugs from Gainesville.