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.

movie madness

I rise here to amend some of my earlier movie remarks and rebut some of my co-bloggers more egregious cinematic opinions.

I said: I'll fill out my top 10 with four movies that I think I would have liked if I had been able to see them:

Frozen River
The Wrestler
Happy Go Lucky
Rachel Getting Married

Well I've now seen The Wrestler, which is fantastic and Rachel Getting Married which was an abomination. People, it just plain sucks. There are some great intense scenes with Anne Hathaway but mostly it is a pastiche of smug unlikeable people getting together and celebrating their own awesomeness. It is PC and it is boring and it is bad.

I also saw Gran Torino, which I didn't think I'd like but it was really good. Very un-PC, but very good. The only downside is that Mrs. Angus is now calling me "zipperhead" all the time.

Don't Give Up Now! Vote Us Like Yo Back Ain't Got No Bones!

Hey, Econtalk got nominated again.

The competition is tough.

But you can vote once per day per IP address.

Vote early AND OFTEN, please!

(And, you might give a quick shout out to KPS friend Betsy, while you are at it! Vote for "Betsy's Page," while you are at the site)

Celtic Collapse?

I should be up front here. I am not a Celtic fan. I liked Magic, not Larry. I share initials with KG and like his fire, but Paul Pierce is a deal breaker for me. My preseason picks for the finals were Cavs - Hornets.

So, the question for today is, does the 2-6 record of the Celts over their last 8 games mean anything? In one sense, the answer has to be "no". They have the 3rd best record in the league, it's only early January and there is a ton of time to right the ship.

In another sense though the answer has to be "maybe". Since losing to the Lakers on Christmas day, they've lost to (among others) Golden State, the Knicks, and Charlotte.

People, the Thunder have defeated Golden State and the Knicks!!!

Boston's core is old. Rondo is getting better but I remain unconvinced about Perkins and Powe.

I am looking forward very much to Friday's Cavs-Celts game.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Live-Blogging the Davidson-Duke Game

Jeff Van Gundy? Are you kidding me? Why do they allow him anywhere near a microphone?

This is going to be a long night.

UPDATE 7:20 PM: What a bunch of little ticky-tack bullshit fouls! And, as I know the good Angus agrees, how in the world can they call that crappy charge with the defender camped out basically right under the basket? Get out the damn way, son! It's dangerous when guys set up to undercut someone jumping for a basket. Ten feet out, sure, a charge. But no charges right up under the basket.

The refs are going to call 30+ fouls in the game, at this rate. Swallow the whistle for a few minutes, fellas. Let the young men play.

UPDATE 7:28 PM: Jesus on a stick. Four trips down the floor, each way: 4 travels, and 2 absolutely phantom charges. One of them has the Davidson player jumping to a spot under the basket as the Duke player was going up. It's a foul on Davidson, but the idiot calls a charge on Duke.

Look, I'm rooting for Davidson here, but this may be the worst refereed game I have ever seen. I was kidding the first time, but I'm serious now: Angus could do a better job reffing this game. Really.

UPDATE 7:41 PM: Okay, I was wrong about Van Gundy. He's hilarious. Nicely done.

The latest reffing outrage is ANOTHER charge, UNDER THE BASKET AGAIN. And this time the defender is still doing the FREAKIN' ELECTRIC SLIDE step just to get there. That wasn't a charge if it was at mid FREAKIN' court! And no way you call it under the basket.

I seen better refs in intramurals, back at Wash U, watching Trout's Raiders play.

UPDATE 7:52 PM: Announcer Mark Jackson just said that Curry is clearly going to be an NBA point guard, because he passes so well, as we can see.

This after Curry had four turnovers: three passes to no one, and one pass right to Kyle Singler, under the basket. Now, it's true that Singler was open. But he also plays for Duke. This, I submit, is a drawback.

Then, less than 60 seconds later, Mark Jackson said that Duke's guard Paulus is a "true professional, at the college level." Does he mean that Paulus is going to play professionally? I hope not. Does he mean that Paulus is getting PAID to play for Duke? That is a pretty significant allegation. I am mystified.

Halftime. I can't stand it. Going to the gym. Post mortem after the mortem.

FINAL UPDATE: Back from the gym, 9:42 PM


1. Davidson's Lovedale could play off the bench, or even starting small forward, for quite a few teams. Not top 10 teams, but he is a perfectly solid player.

2. Mark Jackson persisted in this "Stephen Curry is going to be the best point guard in the NBA" thing. But Van Gundy (I now love Van Gundy; sue me) totally ripped him, no mercy. Excellent television. Mark Jackson should ONLY get to speak if Van Gundy gets to correct him.

3. Second half was pretty fun to watch, after the refs appeared to leave their whistles in the locker room. There were muggings, and several times somebody lowered their shoulder and played "bowling for fouls" running down the lane, knocking defenders aside like the 1-2-3 pins. And the refs NEVER called charging. Much better.

I'll Bet He Does, Too

"I love this rug."

-- Former President Bill Clinton, to President George W. Bush in the Oval
Office today


(Nod to KL)

Best. Slogan. Ever.

Buying Growth, Buying Hearts

Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq

Eli Berman, Jacob Shapiro & Joseph Felter
NBER Working Paper, December 2008

Rebuilding social and economic order in conflict and post-conflict areas will be critical for the United States and allied governments for the foreseeable future. Little empirical research has evaluated where, when, and how improving material conditions in conflict zones enhances social and economic order. We address this lacuna, developing and testing a theory of insurgency. Following the informal literature and US military doctrine, we model insurgency as a three-way contest between rebels seeking political change through violence, a government seeking to minimize violence through some combination of service provision and hard counterinsurgency, and civilians deciding whether to share information about insurgents with government forces. We test the model using new data from the Iraq war. We combine a geo-spatial indicator of violence against Coalition and Iraqi forces (SIGACTs), reconstruction spending, and community characteristics including measures of social cohesion, sectarian status, socio-economic grievances, and natural resource endowments. Our results support the theory's predictions: counterinsurgents are most generous with government services in locations where they expect violence; improved service provision has reduced insurgent violence since the summer of 2007; and the violence-reducing effect of service provision varies predictably across communities.

Dictators, development, and the virtue of political instability

Ronen Bar-El
Public Choice, January 2009, Pages 29-44

A large body of literature stresses the benefits of regime stability for economic growth in poor countries. This view, however, discounts the gains from threats to regime security when populations living under dictatorial regimes cannot benefit from the disciplining of political competition available to voters in democracies. This paper applies a model of economic growth to study the sources of the differences in economic performance and repression policy among dictatorships as well as the parallel in dictatorial regimes of the benefits achieved through political competition in democracies. Threats to the security of dictatorial regimes are shown to be a means of benefiting the population through the responses of the regime.

(Nod to KL)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gopher Broke Senator

It appears the Gopher state is going to send a skunk to the Senate.

I have to admit, it is hard to read around the self-serving, partisan (even for the WaPo) claptrap in this article, but it does seem that Stuart Smalley is heading east to the District.

It seems time for the "Grand Game." I would say that the scariest part of the article is one of two possibilities:

a. First, on votes not counted, but now counted, for Franken, the WaPo weasels say "Don't ask." Just trust us, folks, NOW the count is correct. Don't worry your pretty little heads over the details. But, when other ballots might favor Coleman, they are "allegedly wrongly rejected." Is it okay if we ask about THAT? Or should we just wait until you get this all decided behind some locked door?

b. Al Franken and that hot Senator "Frazier*" picture. Wow.

Look, I'm no fan of Norm Coleman. But Al Franken? AL FRANKEN? Golly.

*George W. Bush calls Diane Feinstein "Frazier." Yes, he does. Because Barbara Boxer (BOXER) is called "Ali." I'm not sure why Bush might think that Boxer and Feinstein are Ali-Frazier style rivals, but there it is.

Your Chance to Strike a Blow for Truth, Justice, and Laissez Faire Economics!

Hey, Econtalk got nominated again.

The competition is tough.

But you can vote once per day per IP address.

Vote early AND OFTEN, please!

(And, you might give a quick shout out to KPS friend Betsy, while you are at it! Vote for "Betsy's Page," while you are at the site)

Bev Perdue: Look at Me, Watch Me Change


NC's "new" Governor, Bev Perdue, actually said, again, the following:

"Just look at me and you see change..."


Dr. Perdue has been the Lt. Governor, and presided over everything done in the NC Senate, over the last 8 years. Her governorship represents an explicit extension of the corrupt and incompetent governing style of the NC Eastern Dem machine.

But then....What kind of change is she talking about?

I figured it out: When you see Bev, you see constant change in how she describes her background and qualifications. I notice that she is alleged to have variously claimed to have a PhD in education, education administration, health care, and elder care delivery. Maybe she represents changing dissertation topics? Many grad students do that, but most do it BEFORE they finish, though. Rewriting the subject afterward, so as to appeal to different audiences, is more....well, innovative.

Governor Perdue should say: "Just look at me and you see me changing my story, about almost everything." (Note: that last link is from the local National Public Radio affiliate. These are not exactly right-wing hatchet jobs. I am reproducing the list of inconsistencies, in case the link up and disappears....)

From Isaac Hunter's Tavern, Blog for NPR's WUNC

Beverly Perdue Biographical Inconsistencies
“Coal Miner’s Daughter”
In 2000 Beverly Perdue claimed she grew up “real poor” as a “coal miner’s daughter.” In actuality her father was a millionaire who owned the mine.
• While running for lieutenant governor in 2000, Perdue claimed she grew up “real poor.” She also would often show her campaign video titled “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Perdue provided a voice-over in the video and said, “We never knew we were poor.” At the time Perdue failed to mention that her father eventually owned the mining company and was a millionaire. A classmate of Perdue’s brother told The Independent Weekly Beverly was “was one of the privileged girls’” in town.” The News & Observer reported another inconsistency in the video, “As [Perdue] talks on her campaign video about her family and humble childhood in Grundy, Va., the video image pulls into a close-up of a gaunt man, his face streaked with coal dust…. The man pictured is not Perdue's father.” [The Independent Weekly, 3-29-00; News & Observer, 4-12-00]
• Perdue implicitly referred to this mishap during her campaign kickoff event for governor: “My dad started as a coal miner, he worked his way up, and he became very successful.” [Beverly Perdue, New Bern, 10-1-07]

Public School Teacher
Over the years, Beverly Perdue has made numerous claims about being a public school teacher, including that she taught in North Carolina.
• In a 1991 resume Perdue listed her “Professional Experience:”
• “Public School Teacher, Louisville KY.”
• “Substitute teacher 1970 Kindergarten, Winder, Ga.,”
• “1971-1972 Ninth grade Civics teacher in Jacksonville, Fla.”
• 1978-1982 “Teacher; Kindergarten, Ninth Grade and Twelth [sic] Grade”
• In a 1995 resume Perdue listed her “Prior Experience:”
• “Teacher, Kindergarten, Ninth Grade and Twelfth Grade”
• In a 2007 speech to NARAL Perdue said she taught public school after earning her PhD. This claim directly contradicts her statements regarding the timeline of her teaching career. Perdue told NARAL, “[Perdue’s parents] preached education as the difference maker, and I took it to heart and made them proud when their daughter earned her PhD. I went on to become a public school teacher, and a geriatrics director at a community hospital in Craven County.” [Speech to NARAL, 4-17-07]
• Perdue told the NCAE in 2007 she “worked as a public school teacher in Georgia and
Florida—taught K, 9th, and 12th grades.” [Beverly Perdue 2008 NCAE Gubernatorial Candidate Questionnaire]
• In early October 2007, the News & Observer’s Under the Dome blog reported, “In 1969, Perdue worked as a public school teacher in Louisville, Ky. In 1970, she worked as a substitute kindergarten teacher in Winder, Ga., and from 1971 to 1972 she worked as a ninth grade civics teacher in Jacksonville, Fla.” The Under the Dome page has now been edited and lists Perdue’s experience simply as, “In the past, Perdue worked as a public school teacher.” [News & Observer’s Under the Dome Blog, 10-3-07 saved version; News & Observer’s Under the Dome Blog, accessed 10-8-07, perdue]

Small Business Owner
Beverly Perdue has also claimed to be a small business owner. To our knowledge, she has never identified the small business that she owns.
• In April 2007, Perdue spoke to National Federation of Independent Business members at the NFIB/North Carolina's Small-Business Day at the Capital. “Perdue recalled her years as a small-business owner and empathized with the challenges facing small businesses today, particularly finding affordable health care.” [Members Meet Legislators, Lt. Gov. Perdue Speaks at Small-Business Day, National Federation of Independent Business, accessed 10-8-07, 33284.html]
• In a January 2005 interview with UNC-TV Perdue said, “Small business has been a huge piece of my personal and political focus the last four years. I ran a small business and never understood why we could continue as a state to constantly focus on the big businesses and the out-of-state businesses.” [UNC-TV, NC NOW, Interview with Beverly Perdue, 1-18-05]

Doctorate Degree
At different times over the years, Perdue has made conflicting claims regarding the subject of her doctorate from the University of Florida. She has said it was in education and she has said it was in health-care, specifically gerontology.

• On her 2008 campaign website, Perdue claimed she “earned a Ph.D. in Education
Administration.” [Beverly Perdue 2008 Campaign Website, “About Bev Perdue”, details.asp?id=44, accessed 10-8-07]
• On her 2004 campaign website, Perdue claimed she received “PhD. in
administration and education from the University of Florida.” [Beverly Perdue 2004
Campaign Website, “Biography”, archived 9-29-04,]

• In a January 2002 interview with UNC-TV, Beverly Perdue answered a question about
her first year as lieutenant governor, “It’s what I’ve been trained in. I’m a policy planner, it’s what my Ph.D is in – aging and health-care.” [NC-TV, NC NOW, Interview with Beverly Perdue, 1-15-02]
• In April 2007, Perdue’s then Chief-of-Staff and current campaign manager Zach
Ambrose e-mailed a “Perdue News” newsletter containing a profile of Perdue. Ambrose
introduced the article, “I wanted to pass along to you a good profile of Lt. Governor
Perdue that was published in the inaugural issue of Women in the Triangle published by Business Leader magazine. The article mentioned, Perdue earned “a Ph.D. in
administration with a focus on gerontology, the study of aging.” [“Perdue News”
Update, 4-20-07]

Many press accounts also describe her doctorate as either in education or health-care. There is no evidence Perdue has asked for corrections in these articles.

• A 2002 Charlotte Observer article’s entry on Perdue’s education stated she received a “doctorate in education, University of Florida, 1976.” [Charlotte Observer, 8-4-02]
• A 2007 Charlotte Observer article which described Perdue’s campaign kick-off event
stated she received a “Ph.D. in education administration from University of Florida
1976.” [Charlotte Observer, 10-2-07]

• A 1987 Charlotte Observer article stated, “After earning a doctorate in gerontology
in 1976, she developed a career as a consultant in health care problems of the elderly, specializing in community-based programs. She has written an unpublished, 400-page novel dealing with the problems of aging.” [Charlotte Observer, 4-5-87]
• A 1995 Fayetteville Observer stated “[Perdue] has a Ph.D. in health administration
and is a geriatric care consultant and a lecturer and writer on aging and health care.” [Fayetteville Observer, 11-26-95]
• A 2000 Charlotte Observer stated Perdue earned a “doctorate in gerontology in
Florida.” [Charlotte Observer, 10-15-00]
• A 2006 News & Observer stated, ““A two-term lieutenant governor, Perdue is attempting to become North Carolina's first female governor. The daughter of a Virginia coal mine owner, she earned a doctorate in geriatric care and battled her way up in politics starting as a state legislator from New Bern before rising to lieutenant governor.” [News & Observer, 12-15-06]

UPDATE: In comments, Dave DeWitt of WUNC notes that I am incorrect, in terms of facts, regarding Dr. Perdue's doctorate. It does in fact address gerontology. Thanks for the correction.

Three Papers You Have Not Seen, But May Want To

The GDP Paradox

Jeroen van den Bergh
Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

Despite all theoretically and empirically motivated criticism of GDP as a social welfare and progress indicator, its role in economics, public policy, politics and society continues to be influential. To resolve this paradox, one has to recognize that many economists accept the criticism of the GDP indicator but deny its relevance. This paper evaluates the reasons for denial. This entails five steps: (1) a brief review is offered of the extensive literature showing that GDP per capita (growth) is far from a robust indicator of social welfare (progress); (2) the influence of GDP information on economic decisions by firms, consumers, investors and
governments is examined; (3) behavioural explanations for a widespread belief in the relevance of GDP are discussed; (4) the customary arguments in favour of the GDP indicator are analysed; and (5) proposed alternatives to GDP are evaluated. The paper ends with outlining the implications of giving less attention to GDP information in policy and politics. It is argued that removal of the information failure which GDP represents, in monitoring economic progress and guiding public policy, will lead to decisions and developments being more in line with improving human well-being. Moreover, ignoring GDP information is consistent with a perfectly neutral stance regarding economic (GDP) growth. Indeed, an unconditional anti- or pro-growth imperative acts as an unnecessary constraint on our search for human progress.


Why Aren't Developed Countries Saving?

Loretti Dobrescu, Laurence Kotlikoff & Alberto Motta
NBER Working Paper, December 2008

National saving rates differ enormously across developed countries. But these differences obscure a common trend, namely a dramatic decline over time. France and Italy, for example, saved over 17 percent of national income in 1970, but less than 7 percent in 2006. Japan saved 30 percent in 1970, but only 8 percent in 2006. And the U.S. saved 9 percent in 1970, but only 2 percent in 2006. What explains these international and intertemporal differences? Is it demographics, government spending, productivity growth or preferences? Our answer is preferences. Developed societies are placing increasing weight on the welfare of those currently alive, particularly contemporaneous older generations. This conclusion emerges from estimating two models in which society makes consumption and labor supply decisions in light of uncertainty over future government spending, productivity, and social preferences. The two models differ in terms of the nature of preference uncertainty and the extent to which current society can control future societies' spending and labor supply decisions.


On the robustness of laissez-faire

Narayana Kocherlakota & Christopher Phelan
Journal of Economic Theory, forthcoming

This paper considers a model economy in which agents are privately informed about their type: their endowments of various goods and their preferences over these goods. While preference orderings over observable choices are allowed to be correlated with an agent's private type, we assume that the planner/government is both uncertain about the nature of this joint distribution and unable to choose among multiple equilibria of any given social mechanism. We model the planner/government as having a maxmin objective in the face of this uncertainty. Our main theorem is as follows: Once we allow for this kind of uncertainty and assume no wealth effects in preferences, the uniquely optimal social contract is laissez-faire, in which agents trade in unfettered markets with no government intervention of any kind.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Birds, Bees: Choices, Costly Signals, and Genetic Adjustments

Intelligence and mate choice: Intelligent men are always appealing

Mark Prokosch, Richard Coss, Joanna Scheib & Shelley A. Blozis
Evolution and Human Behavior, January 2009, Pages 11-20

What role does a man's intelligence play in women's mate preferences? Selecting a more intelligent mate often provides women with better access to resources and parental investment for offspring. But this preference may also provide indirect genetic benefits in the form of having offspring who are in better physical condition, regardless of parental provisioning. Intelligence then may serve as both a cue of a mate's provisioning abilities and his overall heritable phenotypic quality. In the current study, we examined the role of a man's intelligence in women's long- and short-term mate preferences. We used a rigorous psychometric measure (men's WAIS scores) to assess intelligence (the first study to our knowledge), in addition to women's subjective ratings to predict mate appeal. We also examined the related trait of creativity, using women's ratings as a first step, to assess whether creativity could predict mate appeal, above and beyond intelligence. Finally, we examined whether preferences for intelligent and creative short-term mates shifted according to a woman's conception risk. Multilevel modeling was used to identify predictors of mate appeal. Study participants (204 women) assessed the long- and short-term
mate appeal of videos of 15 men with known measures of intelligence performing verbal and physical tasks. Findings indicate that both intelligence and creativity independently predicted mate appeal across mating contexts, but no conception-risk effects were detected. We discuss implications of these findings for the role of intelligence and creativity in women's mate choices.


Duration of courtship effort as a costly signal

Robert Seymour & Peter Sozou
Journal of Theoretical Biology, 7 January 2009, Pages 1-13

We consider a male and a female in a courtship encounter over continuous time. Both parties pay participation costs per unit time. The game ends when either one or other of the parties quits or the female accepts the male as a mate. We assume that there is a binary variable which determines whether the male is a “good” or “bad” type from the female's point of view, according to either his condition or his willingness to care for the young after mating. This variable is not directly observable by the female, but has fitness consequences for her: she gets a positive fitness payoff from mating with a “good” male but a negative fitness payoff from mating with a “bad” male. We assume also that a “good” male has a higher ratio of fitness benefit from mating to fitness cost per unit time of courtship than a “bad” male. We show that, under suitable assumptions, there are evolutionarily stable equilibrium behaviours in which time-extended courtship takes place. A “good” male is willing to court for longer than a “bad” male; in this way the duration of a male's courtship signals his type, and acts as a costly handicap. By not being willing to mate immediately the female achieves a degree of screening because the posterior probability that the male is “good”, conditional on his not having quit the game, increases with the duration of courtship.


"A UK researcher has a new explanation for how the human race manages to keep a fairly even balance of males and females, despite massive deaths of young males in war and selective abortion of female fetuses in certain parts of the world. Corry Gellatly, a research scientist at Newcastle University, proposes that there's a gene that determines whether a man will father more sons, more daughters, or equal numbers of each. When females are in short supply, they have a better chance of snagging a mate, and are thus more likely to pass the gene for fathering daughters on to their offspring. And when men are scarce, they have a better chance of mating and passing along the gene for having sons...The ratio of male to female births jumped significantly at the end of each of the world wars in countries involved in the fighting. A number of hypotheses have been floated to explain why. One idea is that returning soldiers have extra-frequent sex with their partners, which could lead to fertilization earlier in the menstrual cycle, possibly making male births more likely. Another hypothesis holds that larger males are more likely to survive wars and more likely to father boys. After sorting through 927 family trees from North America and Europe, including 556,387 people in all, Gellatly proposes another explanation. In an article published online in the journal Evolutionary Biology, the researcher suggests that men carry a gene that controls their ratio of X to Y sperm, and thus the likelihood of their fathering sons or daughters. Women carry the gene as well and pass it along, but do not express it." [Source: Reuters]

Questions: How in the world did I ever get married? Fraud, perhaps? Is it really true that "good" men will court longer? Why? And having a gene that "controls" the ratio of X to In response to what stimulus?

(Nod to KL)

Advice to Our Next President, From Our First President

EC sends an email, quoting George Washington, the man who would not be king, on the day of his self-chosen retirement:

"...[edit], nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils ? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

[edit, portion dealing primarily with European intrigues of the time]

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard..."