Monday, August 31, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 7: NEWS FLASH!!!! RTL Day Postponed Indefinitely! You Heard it HERE First!!!!

NEWS FLASH! Samoan Right to Left Driving Decision POSTPONED! Article, one hour ago.... Excerpt:

APIA, Samoa - Following a protest march this morning, which saw almost 2000 people participate, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliaia Malielegaoi has promised to reconsider the date of the driving side switch....

Organised by People Against Switching Sides (PASS), the protest was staged as a final plea to the government to delay the road switch from the 7th of September to a later day.

"I can see that this is important to you, that you have made your voices heard, that you want us to reconsider," Tuilaepa commented after meeting the protesters.

"I promise you this, the Cabinet will meet today to reevaluate the hard decision we had already made, so that you know that we, like you, also care," the Prime Minister said.

Stay tuned, fans of arbitrary conventions and transitional transactions costs everywhere! (Oh, and I should point out that the closely watched Samoan Supreme Court case, brought by PASS, failed on Monday. Story.)

The Russ-n-Mike Show

Another installment of the "Russ and Mike" show, on EconTalk.

Also, always available on iTunes U, under "Duke", for you podcastroids.

Unchain my heart

Word is that Apple is going to try a multicarrier approach for the IPhone in the USA within a year or so! That sounds like pretty bad news for AT&T

I want to ride my bicycle.....

Freddy Mercury would have been very very pleased with this:

Plus for a few Euros more you can add..... KARAOKE!!!

Grazing, Girth, and Dog-Food Pate

Grazing, Goods and Girth: Determinants and Effects

Daniel Hamermesh, NBER Working Paper, August 2009

Using the 2006-07 American Time Use Survey and its Eating and Health Module, I show that over half of adult Americans report grazing (secondary eating/drinking) on a typical day, with grazing time almost equaling primary eating/drinking time. An economic model predicts that higher wage rates (price of time) will lead to substitution of grazing for primary eating/drinking, especially by raising the number of grazing incidents relative to meals. This prediction is confirmed in these data. Eating meals more frequently is associated with lower BMI and better self-reported health, as is grazing more frequently. Food purchases are positively related to time spent eating—substitution of goods for time is difficult—but are lower when eating time is spread over more meals.


Can People Distinguish Pâté From Dog Food?

John Bohannon, Robin Goldstein & Alexis Herschkowitsch American Association
of Wine Economists Working Paper, April 2009

Considering the similarity of its ingredients, canned dog food could be a suitable and inexpensive substitute for pâté or processed blended meat products such as Spam or liverwurst. However, the social stigma associated with the human consumption of pet food makes an unbiased comparison challenging. To prevent bias, Newman's Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with five unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the five was dog food. Although 72% of subjects ranked the dog food as the worst of the five samples in terms of taste (Newell and MacFarlane multiple comparison, P<0.05), subjects were not better than random at correctly identifying the dog food.

(Nod to Kevin L, who only confuses CAT food with pate)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Baseball Award Picks: NL

NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright

NL MVP: Albert Pujols

NL Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus

At this point, Rasmus is a long shot; his average has fallen 40 points in the past six weeks. Plus, he is in a platoon situation since Holliday took over left field.

But Wainwright and Pujols are locks, unless something changes. There are guys who have numbers similar to Pujols, but no one is more valuable. The Cards picked up Holliday, who has protected Pujols a little. But Pujols is still pretty much the offense, day in and day out.

Wow! Was I Ever Wrong

The Lovely Ms. Mungowitz had asked how Mass would handle the problem of replacing Ted Kennedy in the Senate.

I had said that the law was a little strange in Mass.; they require a special election. This law was implemented in 2004, when there was a Republican governor.

Now, I feel like such an idiot. Since there is a DEMOCRAT governor, the state legislature is apparently going to change the law back to allow an immediate gubernatorial appointment.

The Massachusetts assembly would be ashamed, if any of them were remotely capable of feeling shame. But then if they could feel shame, they wouldn't be the Mass assembly.

RTL-Day Minus 8: The Germans Did It!!! And Imaginary Battleships Used to Control Kiwis

Interesting. It turns out that Samoans drive on the right because of brief Germanity (1900 -- 1914). I did not know that. Here's a flock o'Kiwis, fresh from NZ, who occupied Samoa in 1914, and proudly representin' Kiwiland by holding the captured German flag. More background on the Kiwi invasion....From that source, we get the following reason why Samoans should be keep driving on the right:

According to Source 8, several hundred New Zealand soldiers, bored by having nothing to do on this remote island [Samoa; he means Samoa], broke into some warehouses at the harbour on 26 December 1914 and "liberated" large quantities of alcohol, from which they have been barred since the occupation began.

According to Source 9, the situation went quite out of hand, and Colonel Robert Logan had to invent a threat from the German battlecruiser SMS VON DER TANN was observed in the Pacific Ocean heading for Samoa - a situation similar to the appearance of SMS SCHARNHORST and SMS GNEISENAU - in order to regain control of his force. This threat sobered -up the soldiers and they were ordered into the hills surrounding Apia to dig trenches and other fortifications.

The folks from the Commonwealth in the area, both Oz and NZ, have over 6 million words for "vomit," because they love to drink too much and then take their half out of the middle, ignoring lanes altogether. So, saying Kiwis drive on the left, or right, is simply a description of the lane they are too drunk to stay in. THAT hardly matters, I admit. But leave the Samoans alone, you Kiwi bludgers.

Article with some recent observations
on the switch from right to left lanes.

Maybe it's just me...

But I think this is pretty Shi**y:

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.

The whole piece is well worth reading. This coming week at the US open, we'll see one of Scotland's finest at work, but Gordon Brown is pretty much the bottom of the Scottish barrel. He stinks likes 3 week old haggis.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 9: Quiet

"It's quiet." "Yeah, too quiet." Many bad movies, and now the Samoan RTL (right to left) driving switch, have this kind of dialogue.

And lots of other dialogue. Drudge is on the case. And the comments are worth reading. The Frank Zappa quote, for example.

But the comment I like is this one: "Don't let the man keep you down. Everyone that is against this should continue to drive on the original side. It'll work itself out." Yup, that'll work. Also, this interesting article, which I had missed before.

And, Salelolaga caves in to pressure to switch.

Blighty: where men are men and......

From our good friends at the AP:

LONDON – A British farmer who paid a new world record price for a sheep says the animal is the finest specimen he has ever seen.

Farmer Jimmy Douglas shelled out 231,000 pounds ($347,000) for the 8-month-old Texel ram called Deveronvale Perfection at an annual sale in Lanark, Scotland.

Douglas says the ram has "a great body and strong loin."

The British Texel Sheep Society says the fee paid Thursday is a world record, eclipsing a 205,00-pound price paid in Australia in 1989.

Society member John Yates says the ram will likely father pedigree lambs worth millions of pounds (dollars) for his new owner.

Breeder Graham Morrison, of Banff, Scotland, says he was staggered by the price but insists Deveronvale Perfection lives up to his name.

Man oh man oh man. "A great body and a strong loin"???? Really??? Does that guy realize he said that OUT LOUD???

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great Moments in Faculty Meetings

As chair, I have now been presiding over faculty meetings for fully 10 years. (Not one meeting. Just when we have meetings, I mean)

Sometimes, a shining beacon of comedy gold breaks through the tedium, and there are moments of transcendent joy. Today was such a day.

An administrator is describing to us the need to renumber courses. The current numbering system is: courses below 100, freshman. 100-199: pure undergrad. 200-299: mixed grad/undergrad 300+: pure grad

The administrator (a good guy, with an excellent sense of humor) says, "There are two reasons we have to renumber."

"First, we are running out of numbers. Lots of old courses still on the books, and it is hard to assign new ones." (Plausible, I admit, but a bit silly).

"Second..." (he starts to titter, through his nose, though trying to maintain a straight face) "we worry our students aren't getting enough credit for the difficulty of the courses. At other schools, students are taking courses with numbers in the 400s or even the 600s. Those seem a lot harder than courses numbered only in the 100s."

We all burst out laughing. But it TURNS OUT THAT THE ADMINISTRATION REALLY WANTS TO RENUMBER THE COURSES FOR THIS REASON! The higher the number, the harder the course!

At this point all hell breaks loose. People start shouting suggestions. I wish I had written them all down, but I only remember these three:

A. "We are like Spinal Tap University! Our courses are so hard, the course designations go to 1100!"

B. "We could just use course numbers from the real line between 0 and 1. There are PLENTY of numbers there!"

C. "Just multiply the existing course numbers by one million. Think how smart our students will be then! They will be geniuses if they make an A in PS10492488. They all get into law school!"

To the credit of my fellow admin guy, he was pounding the table and gasping for air at this point. It was truly hilarious. I am still chuckling about the incident even tonight. Great moments in faculty meetings....

RTL-Day Minus 10: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Dave Barry asks the question about the Samoan lane change, the one question we have all been asking: What could possibly go wrong?

Well, part of the answer is this: Some villages have refused to "go along." Switching models may work for regression; random switching doesn't work so well for games of coordination with multiple equilibria.

Another Reason Why I love Mexico

Mexico nabs 6 in theft of border-fence steel

TIJUANA, Mexico — Police in the Mexican border city of Tijuana say they have arrested six men for stealing pieces of the U.S. border fence to sell as scrap metal.

Holes in the border fence once were more commonly made by migrant smugglers, but fewer people are trying to cross because of a weak U.S. economy and a crackdown on immigration.

The Tijuana police department says the suspects intended to sell the steel sheeting as scrap.

The first two men caught cutting into the fence on Monday. An alleged accomplice was detained Tuesday with 11 pieces of fencing. The U.S. Border Patrol alerted police to three more suspects.

Police said Wednesday in a statement that the men may face federal charges because the fence area is considered federal property.

That is the quintessential when life gives you lemons, make lemonade philosophy in action. Well done lads!

Hat tip to The Mex Files who suggest maybe the US should build a wall around its fence!

I am a Natural Leader. So was Hitler.

On the "Monkey See, Ass**** Do" front, I took the same test as Angus. The results....actually, they describe me pretty much perfectly. A little scary.

Your result for The Brutally Honest Personality Test...

Dictator- ENTJ

53% Extraversion, 53% Intuition, 70% Thinking, 80% Judging

Have you no soul? It's clear you have no heart and that your blood runs cold, but really, do you have even one redeeming factor? Sure. You're a natural born leader. So was Hitler. You just don't like people, do you?

You don't play games. You take charge. And there's very little room for mistakes in your world. You're forceful, intimidating and overbearing. Heard of the word "patience?" Trust me, it's a word and it's something you're sorely lacking. Believe it or not, you're not always right. Learn to have some patience for those who think differently from you, knobflap.

From the way people's knees knock when they see you, you should have realised by now that you're not exactly a "people-person." You're more of a "people-eater." You just ain't tuned into people's feelings and probably couldn't care less whether you were anyway. Maybe you're not from this planet but the rest of us are.

Sure, you're intelligent. So what? You have some semblance of power. Big deal. At least people LIKE the rest of us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 11: UPROAR!

From the Jakarta Globe....

Note the picture of an apartment building, with a caption saying it is a bus. If the journalists in Jakarta can't tell an apartment building from a bus, how can the poor Samoans drive on the left?

Keynes: The Paul Krugman of Roosevelt

JM Keynes was to FDR as Paul Krugman is to BHO. In other words, really smart guy, really good economist, no sense of self-respect or need to honor what he knows. At least, he never let what he knew as an economist get in the way of what he believed as an ideologue.

Check this quotation from Keynes, which is actually one of the smartest and most concise summaries of the case against central planning that I have ever seen. Seriously, Keynes understood Lenin and central 1919. Just nailed it.

Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.
Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

In the latter stages of the war all the belligerent governments practised, from necessity or incompetence, what a Bolshevist might have done from design. Even now, when the war is over, most of them continue out of weakness the same malpractices. But further, the governments of Europe, being many of them at this moment reckless in their methods as well as weak, seek to direct on to a class known as 'profiteers' the popular indignation against the more obvious consequences of their vicious methods. These 'profiteers' are, broadly speaking, the entrepreneur class of capitalists, that is to say, the active and constructive element in the whole capitalist society, who in a period of rapidly rising prices cannot but get rich quick whether they wish it or desire it or not. If prices are continually rising, every trader who has purchased for stock or owns property and plant inevitably makes profits. By directing hatred against this class, therefore, the European governments are carrying a step further the fatal process which the subtle mind of Lenin had consciously conceived. The profiteers are a consequence and not a cause of rising prices. By combining a popular hatred of the class of entrepreneurs with the blow already given to social security by the violent and arbitrary disturbance of contract and of the established equilibrium of wealth which is the inevitable result of inflation, these governments are fast rendering impossible a continuance of the social and economic order of the nineteenth century. But they have no plan for replacing it.

That's from "The Economic Consequences of the Peace," 1919. Keynes really deeply understood money, before he decided to become a flack and a shill for the dark side.

Paul Krugman? That's what I'm saying. Smart guy, rotten soul.

Anyway, I do a weekly radio show, on WPTF, with Bill Lumaye, 5-6 pm on Thursdays. I run a cheesy contest, with a "FABulous Prize" of a bumper sticker I made up, called the "KOIT CLUB" (I am the "Knower of Important Things," so that's KOIT, get it?). I read a quotation (this week, part of the quote above), and the listeners have to guess who it is. Hilarity ensures.

Got an email from a listener, after the show, who was incredulous:
When I heard you on the radio today I thought for sure you were quoting someone from the Austrian School of Economics. In fact, I tried to call and guess you were quoting Ludwig von Mises (my battery died).

Please don't take this wrong way, but I would like to know where you got that quote from. Please provide the book and the page number. You'll have to forgive me, but I am in utter shock that Keynes would make a statement like that and later go on to be known for what Keynesian stands for today. Can you provide some insight into how and why he made this huge transition?

Thank you, (Name)

I hear you, even though your battery died. It's pretty amazing.

They hate me, they really hate me!

In a comment on a recent post, John Thacker Esq. called me an assh***.

So I decided to take the "brutally honest personality test" and it turns out that HE WAS RIGHT!!

Here is my result:

Your result for The Brutally Honest Personality Test ...

Crackpot - INTJ

27% Extraversion, 73% Intuition, 87% Thinking, 67% Judging

Here is their description of me:

People hate you.

Paris Hilton hates Nicole Richie. Lex Luther hates Superman. Garfield hates Mondays.But none these even rates against the insurmountable hate, people have for you.

I mean, you're pretty damn clever and you know it. You love to flaunt your potential. Heard the word "arrogant" lately? How about "jerk?" Or perhaps they only say that behind your back.

That's right. I know I can say this cause you're not going to cry. You're not exactly the most emotional person. You'd rather spend time with your theoretical questions and abstract theories than with other people.

Here is what they think I look like:


Stay boring my friends

more here.

Jasper Johns, political savant

Tyler has credited JJ with being one of the top 3 living artists, but I would like to point out that, even in 1961, JJ knew Oklahoma was a Red State!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This is Wrong. Duke IS the Douchiest

The Top 25 Douchiest Colleges

(Duke is ranked #2, only because the authors are such haters that they didn't want Duke to be #1 at ANYTHING.)

La Paz trumps Amsterdam!

by offering cocaine instead of mere marijuana in the drug tourism market.

That's right parents, be worried when you kid tells you they're going to do a semester abroad in Bolivia:

"Tonight we have two types of cocaine; normal for 100 Bolivianos a gram, and strong cocaine for 150 [Bolivianos] a gram." The waiter has just finished taking our drink order of two rum-and-Cokes here in La Paz, Bolivia, and as everybody in this bar knows, he is now offering the main course. The bottled water is on the house.

The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. And he has seen it all. "We had some Australians; they stayed here for four days. They would take turns sleeping and the only time they left was to go to the ATM," says Roberto, who has worked at Route 36 (in its various locations) for the last six months. Behind the bar, he goes back to casually slicing straws into neat 8cm lengths.

Phone call for Rick James!!!

RTL-Day Minus 12: Why Not?

As promised, today some arguments about why it might be a bad idea to switch sides for driving in Samoa.
1. An Australian engineering expert, Professor Thomas Triggs of Monash University, told the court on Thursday he predicted more accidents and road deaths if the change goes ahead.

He feared mostly for pedestrians, who were very likely to forget which direction to look when crossing the road. "Habit is extraordinarily difficult to change," Prof Trigg said.

2. It was also "extremely concerning" that most Samoa cars are US-style left-hand-drives.

Drivers will not only have poor visibility from the outsides of the road but their headlights will be dangerously misaimed into oncoming traffic. Headlights would need to be replaced, a costly process for the nation.

Lesa said PASS witnesses giving evidence had been heavily critical of the failure to consult publicly or carry out a feasibility study on the move. "There's a lot of talk of the whole thing being ridiculous and crazy," he told AAP.

3. For car owners, the switch is also expected to drive the value of their vehicles off a cliff, since about 14,000 of the country's 18,000 vehicles are designed to drive on the right. Although such cars will be allowed after the changeover, they are likely to become less desirable.

"To be really quite frank, we find [the change] ridiculous," says Sina Retzlaff-Lima, whose Apia Rentals rental-car company has 40 cars made for driving on the right side of the road.

4. Islanders against the move have set up a group called People Against Switching Sides (PASS). It claims that 14,000 of the island’s 18,000 cars are designed for driving on the right and buses will have to be reengineered (by using a blow torch or power saw) to change their door access.

No wonder we have trouble exporting democracy...

...given that the product we produce domestically is of such low quality, it is perhaps not surprising that it hasn't been a best selling export.

On the one hand we have a President promising painless pie in the sky and on the other we have the opposition claiming that Obama wants to kill your grandma.

Who wouldn't want to buy that?

And we keep getting distracted by side issues, like the presence or absence of a "public option".

To my mind, the biggest issue is cost. We have just been given a figure of 9 trillion in additional Federal debt expected over the next decade. This number assumes fairly large tax increases over the current situation and does not reflect additional debt that might accrue due to health care legislation.

If we are going to insure everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions and not let premiums reflect risk, then premiums for healthy people are going to go up, not down, and the subsidy required for lower income folks to hold these policies are going to be extensive.

The government can't make reality go away by legislation, and they cannot borrow unlimited amounts of money without seriously adverse consequences.

Musique Concrete?

This is a stereo system by artist/designer Ron Arad. A transistor amp, turntable and tower speakers all set in concrete. A cool and striking design.

Hat tip to the hordes of MOMA who pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 13: Um....Why?

To follow our lead (lede?) story....Samoa plans to switch from driving on the right, to driving on the left, just 13 days from now.

KPC readers want to know: WTF?

Some arguments for the switch--
1. The main reason for Samoa's switch is that two of its biggest neighbors, Australia and New Zealand, drive on the left-hand side, whereas Samoa currently drives on the right, as in the U.S. By aligning with Australia and New Zealand, the prime minister says, it will be easier for poor Samoans to get cheap hand-me-down cars from the 170,000 or so Samoans who live in those two countries. It could also help more people escape tsunamis, says [Prime Minister] Tuilaepa.

2. In a TV address about the road change last week, the prime minister warned that "the only thing to fear is fear itself." [Ed: Now, THAT is a good one. Unfortunately, the PM also appears to think that people should fear tsunamis (see #1, above). So, the only things we have to fear are fear itself, and tsunamis....and sharks. Amongst our fears are....]

3. [The prime minister] listed a series of other steps, including declaring Sept. 7 and 8 national holidays. The government has also set up a "training area" near a sports stadium where drivers can practice the fine art of driving on the left side of the road.

Tomorrow: The other side speaks out, with arguments against.

(The view from Oz....Can anyone find a web site for "People Against Switching Sides", or PASS?)

Education: yer doin' it wrong

In Peru, the government recently delivered a boatload of laptop computers to over 2,000 school kids in indigenous communities. There's just one big problem. In 50 of the 73 communities where the computers were sent, there is no electricity to keep them running (these are not self cranking types).

As it turns out though, this is actually a big improvement over the last program like this. In that case, the computers were set up in English (!!!!) and the batteries were defective.

Plus, not to worry because the government is pledging to soon deliver 2 solar panels to each of the communities that got laptops but don't have electricity!

No word on how these panels would be utilized or how an electric grid for a village could run on two panels (maybe they are VERY BIG panels?).

Here is the full story (in Spanish). Hat tip to the inimitable Otto.

Breaking news! Bernanke to be re-appointed

Story here

The Devil went down to .....Lima?

looking for a pageant to win.

One thing I really enjoy about Latin America is the intense national rivalries and even hatreds between the component countries. Which, to Mrs. Angus's dismay, I love to stir up. When in rural Peru, I'd ask "I had this great drink in Chile called Pisco, do you guys have that here?" and sit back and enjoy the show (works just as good in Chile, by the way).

Well, Bolivia and Peru are at it about who own the intellectual and historical property rights over a giant female devil costume:

A diplomatic storm is brewing between Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia's president has accused Peru of thievery. Peru's Congress issued a bristling denial. Bolivian diplomats are threatening to take the dispute to an international tribunal at The Hague.

The two Andean neighbors are tussling over a costume in the Miss Universe pageant.

Last week, in the event's national-costume competition, Peru's candidate, Karen Schwarz, wore an elaborately embroidered outfit with a massive horned headpiece. It was inspired by practitioners of a timeless Andean ritual known as La Diablada, the Devil's Dance.

Bolivia's Culture Minister Pablo Groux said what's really fiendish about the costume is that it's a rip-off of Bolivian culture. He maintains La Diablada originated in the 12,000-foot-high Bolivian city of Oruro and that Peru's imitation is threatening the national brand -- and the tourist industry. Bolivia formally protested to Peru's government and says it has protested to the Miss Universe pageant. 

Perhaps the best part of the whole story is the name of the Peruvian candidate: Karen Schwartz??? Are you kidding me??

The second best part of the article is that a Peruvian newspaper researched the issued and found that Chile first used the costume in a Miss Universe contest in 1983.

Chile!! That most hated of countries to a Bolivian. Took their coastline and took their costume.

(of course, all this was a tempest in a teapot because Miss Venezuela won the contest for the second year in a row and the 6th time overall)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tiger: Good, or Makes You Choke?

Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse? Persistent Bias in the Face of Experience,
Competition, and High Stakes

Devin Pope & Maurice Schweitzer
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2009

Although experimental studies have documented systematic decision errors, many leading scholars believe that experience, competition, and large stakes will reliably extinguish biases. We test for the presence of a fundamental bias, loss aversion, in a high-stakes context: professional golfers’ performance on the PGA TOUR. Golf provides a natural setting to test for loss aversion because golfers are rewarded for the total number of strokes they take during a tournament, yet each individual hole has a salient reference point, par. We analyze over 1.6 million putts using precise laser measurements and find evidence that even the best golfers - including Tiger Woods - show evidence of loss aversion. On average, this bias costs the best golfers over $1.2 million in tournament winnings per year.


Dominance, Intimidation, and 'Choking' on the PGA Tour

Robert Connolly & Richard Rendleman
Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, May 2009

Extending the work of Connolly and Rendleman (2008), we document the dominance of Tiger Woods during the 1998-2001 PGA Tour seasons. We show that by playing 'average,' Woods could have won some tournaments and placed no worse than fourth in the tournaments in which he participated in the year 2000, his best on the PGA Tour. No other PGA Tour player in our sample could have come close to such a feat. We also are able to quantify the intimidation factor associated with playing with Woods. On average, players who were paired with Woods during the 1998-2001 period scored 0.462 strokes per round worse than normal. Although we find that Woods' presence in a
tourname nt may have had a small, but statistically significant adverse impact on the entire field, this effect was swamped by the apparent intimidation factor associated with having to play with Tiger side-by-side. We also demonstrate that Phil Mickelson's performance in major golf championships over the 1998-2001 period was not nearly as bad as was frequently mentioned in the golf press. Although Mickelson won no majors during this period, he played sufficiently well to have won one or two majors under normal circumstances. Moreover, his overall performance in
majors, relative to his estimated skill level, was comparable to that of Tiger Woods, who won five of 16 major golf championships during our four-year sample period. Thus, the general characterization of Woods as golf's dominant player over the 1998-2001 period was accurate, but the frequent characterization of Phil Mickelson choking in majors was not.

(Nod to Kevin L, who never chokes)

RTL-Day minus 14: Please Sir, Can I Have Samoa?

(...and a one, two, one two three four)

So....just 14 days from now, Samoa will be the most recent nation to change sides of the road for driving. Interesting article, in WSJ.

And, as always when a nation decides to do something ridiculous, we at KPC will be reporting the progress, or the giant cluster firetruck, every day.

Right to Left Day - 14: Here is a chart of those nations that have made the change in the recent, and not even that recent, past.... (Credit: Same WSJ article)

KPC: Your source for going the wrong way, worldwide....

Skip and Larry Go For a Bike Ride, And It Makes CNN

My sympathies are for my ex-Duke colleague Skip G., and for often times Duke visitor Larry Bobo. What are they supposed to say? And why did CNN pick it up? And why am I blogging about it?

(nod to RL)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I need some Horsepower!

Saturday at MOMA with the hordes. Van Gogh's Starry Night playing the role of the Mona Lisa (i.e. people lined up 12 deep surrounding it). Luckily most of the special exhibits were relatively open. There was one that I didn't even want to look at called "Designed for the Stage", drawings by artists for operas, plays, etc. But there I found gold!

Diego Rivera took a commission to do a set design for a play called Horsepower in the early 1930s.


Here is a drawing, which is now my favorite piece by Rivera ever.

Thank you hordes for driving me out of the main galleries and into the nooks and crannies of MOMA!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Think This is a Problem

Chateau sends this link, to a story headlined:

Time for Term Limits? Let the Voters Decide!

I'm pretty sure there is a problem with that. Voters actually get to decide at the time of elections.

(Full disclosure: we have written about term limits before....And, we have noted the sort of person who opposes term limits, including Hugo Chavez)

New Wife Writes to Tech Support

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.3 to Husband 1.0 and I noticed a distinct slowdown in the overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly before. The difference is especially noticeable after I had such good performance after Boyfriend 5.2 crashed and I upgraded to Boyfriend 5.3. (Boyfriend 5.2 and Boyfriend 5.2a were buggy and annoying, but after I ran the U&UrHand2Nite 6.1 add-on then Boyfriend 5.3 was apologetic, attentive, and obedient).

Even worse, installing Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs that had been working well. These included Romance 9.5, Conversation 31.6, and Personal Attention 6.5. Further, and worst of all, Husband 1.0 came bundled with a bunch of undesirable shareware, including WEATHER 5.0, MONEY 3.0, COMPUTER PORN 2.0, and SPORTSCENTER 24.7.

The truth is that WeNeedToTalk 8.0 no longer runs at all, PickUpYourWetTowel 31.6 just hangs, and Housecleaning 2.6 totally crashes the system to a bluescreen.

Please note that I have tried running NAGON 5.3, and DenySex 6.9 (which comes as freeware with WIFE 1.0) to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do? Now that Husband 1.0 has been opened, the Best Buy says I can't return it. And I can't the operating manual anywhere.

Signed, New Wife

Sweet Nothings? Obama Sells Us Out, Again

On sugar corruption, two interesting articles....

article the first

article the second

Some people will actually try to make a "national defense" argument on sugar. GMAFB.

R U Vivid? Social Science on the Court

Sub-Perfect Game: Profitable Biases of NBA Referees

Joseph Price, Marc Remer & Daniel Stone, BYU Working Paper, June 2009

Abstract: This paper empirically investigates three hypotheses of inconsistent rule enforcement by National Basketball Association (NBA) referees. Using a sample of 28,388 quarter-level observations from six seasons, we find that NBA referees make calls that favor home teams, teams losing during games, and teams losing in playoff series. All of these biases are likely profitable to the league. We identify these effects as caused by referee bias, as opposed to player behavior, by using play-by-play data that allow us to analyze turnovers referees have relatively high and low discretion over separately. We also find that the biases do not increase in situations where their direct financial benefit to the league would be greater, and conclude that the biases are likely of an implicit nature.


Money and fame: Vividness effects in the National Basketball Association

Long Wang, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, January 2009, Pages 20-44

In his widely reprinted paper On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B, Kerr argued that vividness was one of the major reasons for distortedrewards. Using both archival and survey data, the present paper directly tests Kerr's proposal by investigating whether, how, and why highly visible behaviors are over-rewarded and less visible, but similarly (or more) important behaviors are under-rewarded. The National Basketball Association (NBA) was chosen as the domain of this study because scoring is particularly vivid, even though both non-scoring and scoring performances are critical for winning games. Findings from four studies demonstrated that the scoring performance of NBA players was weighed more heavily than their non-scoring performance. Scorers were rewarded with higher salaries and received more support in the NBA All-Star balloting than defenders, even though they might not necessarily make more contribution than their teammates. This pattern of findings suggests that the vividness effect may lead to pronounced differences in people's judgments, especially when they face abundant real-world information with similar validity.


A test of the widespread-point-shaving theory

Richard Borghesi & William Dare, Finance Research Letters, forthcoming

Abstract: We test whether corruption is widespread in NCAA basketball by examining scoring patterns in games involving suspected point shavers. If conspiracy occurs frequently, then we should find that strong favorites score fewer points and/or allow more points than expected. However, findings reveal that strong favorites, previously believed to be the most likely candidates to engage in point shaving, may instead be the least likely. We propose that a shift in coaching strategy late in blowout games explains the anomalous bet outcome distribution patterns previously identified in the NCAA basketball betting market.

(Nod to Kevin L, who is definitely vivid)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Waterslide Video: BETTER than real

(It's not real, but it is real cool). How it was done....

(Nod to SdM)

Best Debt Clock

This is the best debt clock I've seen. Lots of details.

On the other hand, the details are pretty grisly.

New Jersey RULES!

Before Mrs. Angus and I lived in Mexico, we lived in New Orleans. When Mexican people would say how different things were in Mexico vs. the US (trying to warn or scare us I guess) we would laugh and tell them how we had a bumper sticker that said "Louisiana: 3rd World and Proud of it", and how living in NOLA was excellent practice for living in Mexico (bribes work, the cops are not necessarily your friends, right away means never).

Now, though, I think I would recommend a year in New Jersey as a good primer for living in Mexico (though that is probably an insult to Mexico). Where else can you get politicians habitually on the take, Rabbis brokering body partz and now, the anti-corruption cops are getting busted for corruption there!!

Hey, isn't Tyler from New Jersey?


Common Law Environmental Regulation

Two Theories of Environmental Regulation

John Hasnas, Social Philosophy and Policy, July 2009, Pages 95-129

Abstract: The over-exploitation of commonly-held resources is typically analyzed as an instance of market failure that calls for legislation to internalize the social costs that private activities impose on the environment. In this article, I argue that to the extent that this analysis ignores the regulatory effect of the common law, it is unsound. In The Tragedy of the Commons, Garret Hardin points out that there are two solutions to the tragedy: privatize the resource or restrict access to it. Environmental legislation is a means restricting access to the commons. The evolutionary development of common law is a means of privatizing the commons. These
represent alternative methods of environmental regulation. Proper public policy analysis requires a comparative assessment of the efficacy of these methods for resolving any particular environmental problem. In many, if not most cases, such an assessment will show common law regulation to be superior to environmental legislation.

(nod to Kevin L)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Res Ipsa Loquitur, part deux

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Hard Times for the Kirchners

We have posted in the past about how Argentina has been fudging their macro data (see here and here) by systematically under-reporting inflation, which is a very convenient thing to do when you have issued inflation-indexed bonds!

However, it seemed like the Kirchner governments were more or less getting away with it. Now, after a humbling electoral defeat, anti-corruption prosecutors are actually going after them for the funny numbers!

"BUENOS AIRES -- Workers at the government's National Institute of Statistics call it crass manipulation: Their agency, under pressure from above, altered socioeconomic data to reflect numbers palatable to the presidency. Inflation and poverty miraculously dropped, they said in interviews, and the economy boomed.

At least officially.

"They just erased the real numbers," said Luciano Belforte, an 18-year veteran at the institute. "Reality did not matter."

The alleged manipulation, which is under investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors, has angered Argentines. But in a globalized world, where a pensioner in Italy might be as likely to invest in Argentina as in Fiat, the suspected modifications are being felt far beyond this city.

In fact, an association of community college professors in New Jersey, a cattleman in Colorado and a Latino business group in California say they too are being shortchanged because they hold Argentine bonds. By underreporting inflation figures, economists say, Argentina is cheating investors of proper compensation on nearly $50 billion in debt benchmarked to inflation.

Economists say the official inflation rate of 8.5 percent in 2007 was really about 25 percent. In the 12 months ended this June, the INDEC put the rate at 5.3 percent, but economists say it might be three times higher. Argentina's vaunted economic growth this decade might have been exaggerated, too. Credit Suisse said the 7 percent expansion the government reported last year is likely 2 to 3 percent lower. "

The fact that this is being investigated shows just how far the Kirchners' star has fallen. Maybe Uncle Hugo can send an army of Guido Wilsons with suitcases over to help them out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gordon Tullock Uber Alles

Gelman, Silver and Edlin pay homage to the man:

"One of the motivations for voting is that one vote can make a difference. In a presidential election, the probability that your vote is decisive is equal to the probability that your state is necessary for an electoral college win, times the probability the vote in your state is tied in that event. We computed these probabilities a week before the 2008 presidential election, using state-by-state election forecasts based on the latest polls. The states where a single vote was most likely to matter are New Mexico, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Colorado, where your vote had an approximate 1 in 10 million chance of determining the national election outcome. On average, a voter in America had a 1 in 60 million chance of being decisive in the presidential election. "

Gee, I hope there are some other motivations for y'all.

Mad Men Yourself

I made an avatar at "Mad Men Yourself." It looks disturbingly like me, actually.

Dancing With the Felons

Tom Delay is going to be on "Dancing with the Stars." No, really.

Excerpt from the "Post" story, describing Delay's previous relation to the show:

Back in the fall of 2006, shortly before "Dancing" debuted its new season, DeLay had sent out a blast e-mail asking people to vote for country crooner Sara Evans, who was going to be competing against [Jerry] Springer, among others.

Evans had been a strong supporter of the Republican party and, more importantly, her husband was a GOP fundraiser who had run unsuccessfully for political office in Oregon four years earlier and whose resume included chairman of Craig PAC, a national political action committee dedicated to electing Republicans at the federal and state level; her husband, Craig Schelske, also had been executive director of the conservative organization American Destiny Inc.

In his e-mail to "Dancing" fans, DeLay said that Evans "represents good American values in the media" while "ultra liberal talk show host Jerry Springer" did not.

"We need to send a message to Hollywood and the media that smut has no place on television," DeLay said. By "smut" he meant "Springer."

Embarrassingly for DeLay, Evans made "Dancing" history when she became the franchise's very first competitor to abruptly quit the show, because, she said, she needed to be at home with her little children while she filed for divorce, having just discovered Schelske, had cheated on her, had at least 100 nude photos of himself with his little colonel fully erect on the family computer at home, had watched porn on the family computer and had made requests online for sex with multiple partners on Craigslist.

It was a high point in the "Dancing" franchise.


"His little colonel"? Wow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Industrial Organization

Question. Is this an illustration of economies of scale or of scope?

Maybe the "Know Nothings" Were Better Citizens?

Two friends of mine here at Duke published an interesting paper....

Public information and electoral bias

Curtis Taylor & Huseyin Yildirim
Games and Economic Behavior, forthcoming

We present a theory of voting that predicts that elections are more likely to be close, and voter turnout is more likely to be high when citizens possess better public information about the composition of the electorate. These findings suggest that providing more information to potential voters about aggregate political preferences (e.g., through pre-election polls or expert forecasts) may undermine the democratic process. Our analysis reveals that if the distribution of political preferences is common knowledge, then the unique type-symmetric equilibrium leads to a stark neutrality result in which each alternative is equally likely to win the election. By contrast, when citizens are ignorant about the preference distribution, the majority is more likely to win the election and expected voter turnout is lower. Welfare is, therefore, unambiguously higher when citizens possess less information about the preference distribution.

(Nod to Kevin L)


From the Norman Transcript:

Lake turns green

Taste, odor issues being addressed

By Tom Blakey

Although it's not yet time for Lake Thunderbird to "turn over," the warm, sunny days are causing the lake to turn green from a proliferation of alga, affecting the water's taste and odor, officials said.

"We're getting a bunch of algae in the raw water lines, before it's treated. so we're adding carbon before we filter it and adding additional chemicals," said Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske. "A lot of tastes and odors are sneaking through, though.

"For the time being we're having to put up with that," he said. "We're constantly testing it and it's perfectly safe."

Komiske said water treatment plant workers are "treating the water more at this time for taste and odor issues."

I cannot even begin to describe how bad the tap water in Norman usually tastes, let alone how it tastes right now. Mrs. Angus and I have a home distiller and we use that to make our drinking water, but this weekend we went to a local eatery and were served a glassful of liquid ass.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shut Up!!

In his awesome yam-colored shoes, Usain Bolt ran the 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. He is the world's greatest athlete (or as we say in the Big 12, ath-a-lete)

monkey see monkey do

This is my "mad men" avatar. Mrs. A and I are only about 1/2 way through season II on DVD.

Betting on Policy

Using Markets to Inform Policy: The Case of the Iraq War

Justin Wolfers & Eric Zitzewitz
Economica, April 2009, Pages 225-250

Financial market-based analysis of the expected effects of policy changes has traditionally been exclusively retrospective. In this paper, we demonstrate by example how prediction markets make it possible to use markets to prospectively estimate policy effects. We exploit data from a market trading in contracts tied to the ouster of Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq to learn about financial market participants' expectations of the consequences of the 2003 Iraq war. We conducted an ex-ante analysis, which we disseminated before the war, finding that a 10% increase in the probability of war was accompanied by a $1 increase in spot oil prices that futures markets suggested was expected to dissipate quickly. Equity price movements implied that the same shock led to a 1.5% decline in the S&P 500. Further, the existence of widely-traded equity index options allows us to back out the entire distribution of market expectations of the war's near-term effects, finding that these large effects reflected a negatively skewed distribution, with a substantial probability of an extremely adverse outcome. The flow of war-related news through our sample explains a large proportion of daily oil and equity price movements. Subsequent analysis suggests that these relationships continued to hold out of sample. Our analysis also allows us to characterize which industries and countries were most sensitive to war news and when the immediate consequences of the war were better than ex-ante expectations, these sectors recovered, confirming these cross- sectional implications. We highlight the features of this case study that make it particularly amenable to this style of policy analysis and discuss some of the issues in applying this method to other policy contexts.

(Nod to Kevin L)

BDM: The New Nostradamus

Print....(NYT Mag)

(Nod to Kevin L, who knew in advance that this was going to happen)

If you have to ask, you are probably doing it wrongs

This is the actual largest headline on Sunday's OKC newspaper of record (we don't get this paper, but I saw like 40 copies walking Pluto this morning):

Oklahoma financial advisers ask: What would Jesus do?

People, I am not making this up!!

FaithShares Trust... will offer shares of exchange traded funds based on indexes that track recommendations of organizations representing Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and nondenominational Christian groups. The funds will include large-cap stocks, excluding those that conflict with core beliefs of the various denominations...the index designed for Baptists will invest no money in companies that produce alcohol of any kind, Phillips said. For Catholics, companies that make beer and wine are allowed, but not those that produce distilled alcohol, he said. The Methodist fund will not invest in any company that produces more than 10 percent of its revenue through alcohol production....

Stevens said it makes sense that the FaithShares concept would originate from the Bible Belt.

"We think that being from Oklahoma City gives us added credibility with the faith-based community,” Stevens said. "We’re not a giant firm trying to make money off people. We believe this stuff with our hearts.”

 "We want people to know our hearts are in the right place. This isn’t some scheme. We really are trying to do the right thing.

 Rarely have I heard a more convincing profession of religiousity than "we believe this stuff with all our hearts"!!!

And, if they really wanted to know WWJD, maybe they could try looking at the second chapter of the Gospel of John, esp verses 13-16 or so.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Careful with that club, St. Francis

Apparently, Australian police now arrest people for having steering wheel locks. It is true that "the club" looks like a gun, if you are an idiot. (PHOTO: Liam Kidston, Courier Mail)
It really is delightful, when you think about it. The reason people have steering wheel locks is that the police are completely incapable of protecting our property, and have no real interest in doing so. But when we try to protect ourselves, WE get arrested. The police spend more time trying to regulate guns of the law-abiding than the theft of criminals. I guess the law-abiding are easier to find, because we have addresses so we can have state-required IDs. Another story about the arrest and harrasment of the poor kid. Here is an excerpt:

When two senior police arrived in an unmarked vehicle the situation was quickly resolved and the handcuffs removed from Mr Hastings.

"As the officer walked away he said 'get a new steering wheel lock, it looks like a bloody gun'," he said.

"I was absolutely gobsmacked. I said 'are you serious? All that for a steering lock?'," he said.

Mr Hastings said the officer then replied he was "a lucky boy".

"He told me 'any other cop would have had you at gunpoint'."

The cop could be right, in fact. The kid was lucky he was only handcuffed. He should have been beaten, I suppose. It is more convenient for the police if you let people steal your car.

Which brings me to my main story. I saw this really cute wooden carved statue of St. Francis of Assisi, in Santa Fe. Now, notice that St. Francis is carrying a cross. EXCEPT that it is broken. So now it looks like a steering wheel lock. Which apparently looks like a gun, if you are a cop.

My prediction: St. Francis is going to be told that he, too, is lucky for only getting handcuffed and roughed up. An Australian policeman would have him at gun point.

The Whitest Man on Earth

I spent most of the last week in Santa Fe, NM. It is as fine a place, especially in August (a good time NOT to be in OK or NC) as there is. Got to see the oldest church in the U.S. (San Miguel, 1610. That's old).Could see the state capitol building out of my balcony, at the hotel.
Plus, the hotel had a nice crisp NYTimes and coffee every morning, right outside my door. Mornings were quite cool, in the desert, 50 or 55 F.

I also got to see a very fine fellow. In fact, he is the whitest guy in the world. I don't mean that he has light skin, though that is true. It's the whole package: the skin, the accent, the 6 foot 4 inch height and 6 foot 5 inch vertical reach, the wannabe "game worn" Rhodes College basketball shorts. I give you the product of Wonderbread and Hellman's: Art Carden.

Wir haben mehr zu bieten: Political Cleavage in Germany

So, we have Putin showing off his pecs, and now Merkel showing off hers.

I don't think Americans understand what European politics is really about. In the video, I like the part where the elderly woman says she doesn't like the cleavage show. Not because it is undignified, but because the women are too old.

(The title, "Wir haben mehr zu bieten", means "We have more to offer.")

Nod to RL, who has a lot to offer.

Presidents say the darndest things

While no one will ever match the Shrub's endless flow of unintentional comedy (at least I hope not), our current president can break out with some accidental comedy gold as well.

I can't believe I missed this when it first happened. Earlier this week President O refuted that the public option in health insurance would crowd out private plans BY CITING THE POST OFFICE!

Thank you for that Mr. President.

"He (Obama) also disputed the notion that adding a government-run insurance plan into a menu of options from which people could pick would drive private insurers out of business, in effect making the system single-payer by default.

As long as they have a good product and the government plan has to sustain itself through premiums and other non-tax revenue, private insurers should be able to compete with the government plan, Obama said.

"They do it all the time," he said. "UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. ... It's the Post Office that's always having problems.""

Of course, UPS and FedEx have crushed the post office in the areas where they are allowed to compete (I think FedEx planes even help deliver a big chunk of the USPS's overnight mail) and the Post Office hemorrhages money while operating as a first class mail monopolist subject to Congressional oversight.

If private insurance companies were allowed the flexibility that UPS and FedEx have to produce and price products and sell them across state lines and the public option had to stand on its own two feet I would predict exactly the same outcome in health insurance. But I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that type of playing field to emerge anytime soon.