Sunday, February 28, 2010

Almost Heaven...

Giving talk tomorrow at West Liberty University, near Wheeling, WV. More than a little cold here.

Blurb: here...

And the accommodations at the Oglebay are pleasant...

News Tip

How interesting. Restaurant refuses to serve customer because customer does not tip.

1. If a tip is required, is it a tip?
2. Can restaurants refuse to serve someone, based on the refusal to pay a voluntary gratuity? After all, the restaurant could add 18% to its price, and give the extra money to the servers/table chef (it's one of those "Japanese Steakhouse" places with a mostly Latino staff).
3. Isn't a petition, and public scorning, the right thing for the customer to do, if she disagrees.

1. No.
2. Yes, but then I think a private restaurant can refuse to serve anyone, at any time, for any reason. What part of "private" don't you understand?
3. Yes.

(Nod to Anonyman, who even tips at Locopop, because he is washed in the milk of human kindness, even though that took a LOT of milk)

Can you hear me now?

Hat tip to GW

Pay the Pfand, Lower Crime Rates!

Externalities from Recycling Laws: Evidence from Crime Rates

Bevin Ashenmiller
American Law and Economics Review, forthcoming

Abstract: This paper tests whether laws that encourage bottle recycling and also increase the labor incomes of low-wage workers have the additional effect of reducing petty crime rates. A simple choice theory model of crime participation and labor supply suggests that low-wage workers may substitute time and effort away from illegal activity to legal and remunerative recycling activity. Between 1973 and 2001, eleven states and one city enacted bottle recycling laws, and this paper exploits the variation in the year of implementation of the bottle laws to measure and test for any reduction in crime rates. The results show that city-level petty crime rates in bottle law states are on average 11% lower than city-level petty crime rates in non-bottle law states. Although the primary positive benefits of recycling income go to low-income individuals, the unexpected secondary benefit of lower crime rates affects both high- and low-income individuals.

It is important to allow everyone to share the religious experience of recycling. Except during "quiet time."

(Nod to Kevin L)

Nolan Chart, Conservatives, Vegans, and Cheeseburgers

Angry Alex, on the Nolan Chart:

It says I'm a Libertarian. *Stands up in a room full of people and says 'My name is Alex and I'm a Libertarian and a recovering NeoCon.' I then duck a bottle chucked at me by Mike Huckabee.

Listening to Mike Huckabee preach the merits of conservatism is like hearing someone preach the virtues of a vegetarian diet while stuffing down a bacon double cheeseburger. Just sayin'

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Starbury is gettin' it done in China

I really didn't think he'd stick it out, but Stephon Marbury is tearing up the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), with as much passion as David Stern is showing tearing up his CBA (collective bargaining agreement).

His last game was a 26 point, 12 rebound, 13 assist triple double that was almost a quadruple double as he also had 7 steals.

He is averaging 21 points, 6 boards, 10 dimes and 3 steals.

His erstwhile last place team is on the verge of making the playoffs.

At least I think this is the case.  My source is in French and my French is beyond rusty.

Hat tip to Lebron!

Friday, February 26, 2010


OMG, OMFG! Glenn Beck actually did the Nolan Chart on the air.

I was riding an exercise bike at the gym, and saw it up on one of the screens. I started pointing and grunting loudly. No one noticed, though, because I often do this.


Try this, instead.

Very cool.

Bob Lee's Account

My man Bob Lee gives his account of the "meeting" we had with Erskine Bowles.

I pass it on without comment, except to say that it's all true.

There are two short movies attached to this post, one to document my big self sitting next to Erskine (which no doubt means that he has no future in electoral politics, in spite of his considerable talent as a finance and budgets guy), and the other to document the young lovelies in whom Bob Lee expressed a paternal interest (a health concern, since they had all had navelectomies). As for me, I never noticed the cheerleaders, being so horrified by the uniforms of the (so-called) players out on the floor for UNC.

Oh, yes, and there was a game.....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roasted Euro-Weenie

"You have the charisma of a damp rag, and the appearance of a low-grade bank clark."

Nobody can ream you a new one like a Brit MP. Even a Brit MEP.

Well played, sir.

(Thanks to Tommy the Gotta Be Brit)

Dan Lee: Mixed Martial Artist

A picture of my boy, Dan Lee, at MSU. Posing.

Where to put your money, non-Mungowitz edition

Apparently someone asked Mungo this question recently and he didn't like his own answer. Well, no one asked me, but here is what I think:

the BRICs

Asian Tigers


Those would be my choices if you have the onions to be bold.

I am not a big fan of US and European equities as a group, US interest rates can only go up, which means bond prices can only go down.

What are your best investment tips?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The End of Rickrolling?

At first, it appeared that Rickrolling was going to be harder.

But, as the update at bottom points out:

UPDATE: Rejoice! Google says that the Rickroll was flagged mistakenly: "With 20 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube, we count on our community members to know our Community Guidelines and to flag content they believe violates them," a statement from the company read. "We review all flagged content quickly, and if we find that a video does violate the guidelines, we remove it, on average in under an hour. We also have a team that is dedicated to identifying and removing spam from YouTube. Occasionally, a video flagged by users or identified by our spam team is mistakenly taken down. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring video or videos that had been removed."

That's pretty plausible. With all the annoyances of the Rickroll prank, I bet more than a few people flag it as spam every day.

So, if you have never been Turn it up.

And if you want to Rickroll Like Teen's your lucky day.

(Nod to Angry Alex, who probably is angry because he got Rickrolled once too often. A man can only take so much....)


Heavy Weather: Two Feet of Snow Forecast!

My Hero

Giving a talk in Denver on Friday. Working on polishing my presentation, but it will probably turn out like this:

YIKES! Run while you can.

Why 3k?

Tomorrow night, Thursday, at 10:30 pm EST, the clock will go below 3,000!

That is, I will have less than 3,000 hours of remaining Chairitude.

Please do raise a glass of your favorite adult beverage, even if it is milk, and remember back with Oliver Wendell Holmes: Three terms of an imbecile is enough.

Markets in everything: How to laugh in Oklahoma edition

Oklahoma now has our very own "laughter coach"; an individual named Tyler Slater. 


Here's his blog.  

There was a short segment on laughter yoga in the mildly entertaining documentary "Enlighten Up", but I think this Okie entrepreneur is doing something different. 

His ad says, "laughter coach Tyler Slater brings fun, variety, education and lots of laughs to your wellness programs, stressed out employees, corporate events...."

Now there are a lot of areas us Okies could use to get coached up in, but, based on my 10+ years of experience, laughing is not one of them.


Bumper Sticker Rorschach Test

Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli are said to have used “ambiguous designs” to test the creativity of art students by asking the student to describe what they saw. Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach used symmetric ink blots to reveal subjects’ unguarded thoughts.

We have a bumper sticker on the Lincoln that seems to be a Rorschach test, also.
What I mean is that each person's reaction to the bumper sticker actually reveals more about that person than anything else.

Last night, the LMM went to the grocery. Came home, and we found this tucked under the windshield wiper. Now, we appreciate the sentiment. And it's nice it's written in purple crayon, on the back of fast food restaurant "color me" sheet; clearly the writer is a mom, with a young child. Thanks, ma'am. We are glad we are not alone!

But.... It should be noted that the bumper sticker was put on that car in 2004, and the bumper sticker refers to the Patriot Act, the federalized War on Drugs, the War in Iraq, and so on. It is quite true that the bumper sticker applies equally to the Obama administration. But I'm not sure we would get the "great american" moniker if our fan knew the actual origins of the sentiment expressed.

Dr. Rohrschach would be proud.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tommy the Driving Brit Visits Stata

College Stata-tion may never be the same....

Fat, Populist, and Stupid is No Way to Go Through Politics, Son

For some blue-state conservatives who honed their political skills by continuously debating liberal peers, mingling with attendees presented unique challenges. Jesse Eiseman and Tyler Trumbach, who came from Columbia University to attend the conference, interrupted a spirited debate over the fall of the Roman Empire to complain to The Daily Beast about the anti-intellectual bent of fellow conservatives at CPAC. 'They have an opinion, but they don't give evidence to back it up, they don't use logic,' Trumbach said. Eiseman added, 'In a lot of ways I feel closer to left-wing intellectuals...I love the populists, I agree with them on many things, but I am scared of what happens when people stop thinking.' The two quickly took to hiding their name badges showing their college in order to avoid ridicule after speakers trashed academic elites onstage. 'There are a lot of anti-Ivy Leaguers around,' Eiseman said....For all the differences between them, however, most attendees said they felt little tension with their fellow conservatives on a personal level.

“We respect each other's viewpoints,” Travis Korson, a George Washington University student, said. “You just don't talk about things you disagree [about].”
[Benjamin Sarlin, The Daily Beast]

If having been to college is embarrassing, the "movement" has a problem. (Nod to Kevin L)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Repeat after me: Opportunity Cost

Holy half-wit, Batman! This person has zero concept of opportunity cost.

Hard to tell, exactly, but I think the implied value of this person's time is about $6 per hour. So, if you are making minimum wage, by all means take his advice.

Otherwise, read this,
and stop shopping once you have to make a new reservation for $1 decrements in plane fare.

Markets in everything: Lactation edition

People, meet Freda Rosenfeld, the "breast whisperer".

Freda is a "certified lactation consultant" and for $200 she will come to your house and teach you how to nurse your baby.

How is it possible that someone could actually earn a living by consulting on what has been a fairly natural and instinctive act in mammals for millennia?

Because of people like this I guess:

“Once you go home from the hospital, you’re on your own with this little alien creature, and you have to figure out how to keep it alive,” Ms. Brill, 39, recalled of her daughter’s birth 16 months ago. “So you put it on your nipple and wait for it to eat, and hope all is right. But you really have no idea. Are they doing it right? Are they not doing it right? Are they eating enough? Are they starving?"


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Video on Cit United V FEC: Munger v. Nichol

Video in link; took out embed because it was annoying since it restarted every time you load the blog.

(It's an hour long, including Q&A. I speak last...starting about 22:30)

Cheeky Greekys

This is so great in so many ways. Thank you Mr. Reuters!

Greek opposition lawmakers said on Thursday that Germans should pay reparations for their World War Two occupation of Greece before criticising the country over its yawning fiscal deficits.

"How does Germany have the cheek to denounce us over our finances when it has still not paid compensation for Greece's war victims?" Margaritis Tzimas, of the main opposition New Democracy party, told parliament. "There are still Greeks weeping for their lost brothers".

So, I am sure you don't need any help in breaking this down, but seriously, WTF???

Greek public finances are shot because of the lost interest on German reparations? 

When caught with both hands in the cookie jar, the first thing that occurs to you is to try and play the Nazi card? 

In 2010?

But the very best part of all this is that Germany HAS ALREADY PAID REPARATIONS to Greece!


From the same article:

In 1960, Germany paid Greece about 115 million deutschemarks to compensate victims of Nazi persecution.

Oh, Greece, is there anything you won't stoop to?

Hat tip to RSP

Can You Judge a Sleaze Book by Its Title?

The Texas billionaire’s pregnant bride: An evolutionary interpretation of
romance fiction titles

Anthony Cox & Maryanne Fisher, Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, December 2009, Pages 386-401

Abstract: In this paper, we focus on the titles of popular modern romance novels,
published by Harlequin Enterprises, in order to ascertain whether these books pertain to women’s sexspecific mating interests. Presumably, market demands have shaped the titles of Harlequins, such that books with titles that reflect topics of interest to women will sell the best. Two forms of analysis were undertaken to investigate whether the titles are in agreement with predictions informed by evolutionary psychology. First, we identified the most frequently occurring words to determine the most prevalent issues addressed by titles. Second, we performed a qualitative analysis to identify the most popular, recurring themes that appear in the titles. Our results indicate that Harlequin romance novel titles are congruent with women’s sex-specific mating strategies, which is surmised to be the reason for their continued international success.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Econ Karma gonna get you.

Wow, talk about bad timing. People could the entire Euro sovereign debt crisis be the universe's way of sticking up for its most favored sons and daughters (economists)?

Have you seen this? Stupid economists, how could you have kept saying and saying the euro was far from optimal on economic grounds? 


Oh, never mind.

Anybody wanna help start up Econ Journal Watch Watch?  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Duke Lacrosse case gets a new twist

The accuser in the case, Crystal Mangum, was arrested in Durham last night:

Police charged her with attempted first-degree murder, five counts of arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, injury to personal property, identity theft and resisting a public officer.

A judge set her bond at $1 million during a Thursday morning court appearance.

This seems like a bit of overkill, as no one was actually harmed, the "arson" is from burning her significant other's clothes in the bathtub, and the "identity theft" is from giving the police a false name when they arrived at the scene. The child abuse is because there were three children in the house at the time of the domestic dispute.

Oh, Durham PD, will you ever do anything right?

I can tell you this right now, If a Durham cop ever tries to arrest me, I will resist to the best of my abilities!

Just What I Needed

Anonyman writes that the CORRECT answer for investment, and monetary policy, in my Fox Business fiasco, would have been something like this. So, let me address the gold / silver / fiat money question.

I have just never understood why there is so much concern over currency, as if this were the number one problem. No question that a fiat money does in fact give the government enormous power. But the currency is more a reflection of power the state already has, rather than a cause of it. Three short points:

1. If the currency is "backed," or convertible, then the government has to store a gigantic amount of physical bullion as a reserve. But then the government can easily devalue the currency by changing the official, as opposed to black market, exchange rate of dollars for gold. There is no protection there, none. And you can't fix the exchange rate, because the value of gold as a commodity and investment in its own right fluctuates, a lot. That means the actual value of dollars would fluctuate with a commodity. That's not stability, that's giving government more power than it had before.

2. If the currency is actually made up of a certain amount of gold or silver alloy, then again its value would fluctuate with the price of the commodity. Worse, it would be heavy, inconvenient, and would wear out over time, wasting tons of gold each year rubbed off on the inside pockets of consumers. How would credit cards work? Very little of our money is currency. You can't possibly have real metal money, because that would (again) be more of a restriction on liberty than the current system.

3. We could get rid of fiat money altogether. Just private money. But the transactions costs of doing that, worrying about inflation and fluctuating exchange rates between different private currencies, would be enormous.

Here's the thing: the government doesn't control the money supply NOW. If you have a credit card, or several, you can create large amounts of new money, all by yourself. Anytime you secure a new line of credit, and actually spend it.... there goes the money supply. And if the government buys bonds, in "open market operations," that doesn't mean that banks will lend. The velocity of money is endogenous, as we have seen recently as credit dried up and people (and banks) held much larger cash balances in the forms of savings and reserves.

Again, I'm not denying that a fiat money creates enormous power for the state. Of course it does. But the war on drugs, the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, restrictions on the right to marry, restrictions on hiring, regulations and taxes on small business, involuntary annexation....I could go on. Why would you start with money, as the number one problem?

And if you DO think that money is the problem, why not work on fractional reserve banking, derivatives, restrictions on competition in insurance, and so on? The obsession with the currency.... I don't get it.

More on Google case

More info on Google case, dismissed for lack of standing.....

The decision itself

Box Cutter Didn't Help Much

Robber with box cutter found hiding inside a box.

They'll never think of looking for me here! 

Bad Day on TV

I have blogged before about television. It's a bad gig. Don't like it, and clearly not good at it.

But, got the call from FOX: come on the show, and talk about Greece. So I gave my thoughts on the situation in Greece. (Okay, these are likely Angus's thoughts, but I may have gotten them right. I tried to listen carefully.)

1. People are fleeing the Euro, which makes the fall self-perpetuating. But Euro seemed stable just last summer, as recently as September, in fact rose against dollar all summer. Does instability matter, within such a large area? After all, within EU everything is in Euros. That's the advantage of a currency union. (Answer: Yes, it matters. EU depends on imports of most raw materials, especially petroleum. If the Euro falls, it will actually help German economy, and France to lesser extent. But the problem is not a decline in the Euro, but rather break-up of the currency union. The main problem is POLITICAL, not ECONOMIC. The only way to save the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) is to take actual money away from the larger nations and prop up the financial systems. Technically possible, but what is in it for the big players, France, Germany, not clear why they would pay for bad policies in PIGS. Greece is small, and could be propped up. A welfare state to pay for poor folks is one thing. But paying for the lies and fake accounting of the Greek government, in the aftermath of the Olympic fiasco, is quite another.)

2. Could this kind of meltdown happen in US? (Answer: Strangely, less likely now, though US is sucking pretty hard. The only main rivals for international currency of choice are the dollar and euro. Dollar is in trouble, because of huge deficits, accumulated debt. US may lose its credit rating, as threat of default becomes real. Problem is that the debt, denominated in dollars, can really only be exchanged for euros, or euro-denominated assets of some kind, if you want to sell dollars, or dollar-denominated assets, on secondary markets. Amazingly, it is STILL better to park your funds in dollars, and US government bonds, than in most other places, especially (post-Greece) in Euros. Problem is that there are huge, truly huge, amounts of cash on the sidelines. People are looking for a safe haven, and also for some kind of return. US rates are so low that investors are getting no return. But the Euro collapse on markets, and political instability in Europe, actually mean that US is somewhat protected in the short run. BUT IT WON'T LAST. Level of US debt is not a problem, but the rate of increase IS a problem. If Asian countries sitting on cash mountain get out of dollars, the effects would be catastrophic. We could see large inflation, and high real interest rates, within three years. In the best case scenario, by 2020 80% of US federal budget will be spent on entitlements and debt service. We have given up all our room for maneuver. One more crisis, and the US might default on its debt. Combined with EU problems, could actually cause worldwide financial meltdown. We are looking at 1932, not 2009, as the worst case scenario.)

Anyway, I hear back from the producer. Neil Cavuto, host at FOX, is interested in hearing how the US might turn out like Greece, not how Greece going down saves the US bacon in the short run. (Here's Neil, in action on Fox)
Sure, I can do that. There are parallels, absolutely, and the fact that US has an independent monetary authority could make things more dangerous. After all, Greece can't devalue the drachma, because they use euros. Their "sovereign" (as if you can call the Greek government anything but a kleptocracy) debt would normally be devalued by one of the two big economic oxidizers, currency devaluation or inflation (one is an exchange rate change, the other is increase in money supply, but their effects are identical). Greece can't do either, and so the pressure builds.... Anyway, the parallel is an easy story to tell.

1. US is on path to fundamental change in the size and role of government. It has ALREADY HAPPENED. By 2020, under the best circumstances, 80% of federal budget will be service on debt and entitlement payments. We have built a fiscal straitjacket. Let me emphasize: it's true NOW, already. (This is more or less straight Angus, plagiarized, or as we say when we look at my c.v., "coauthored.")

2. There are two options available to the US that is not available to PIGS: Monetary inflation, and currency devaluation. PIGS are members of EU, and so have no independent monetary policy. Problem is that if US inflates, that is de facto default on debt. Catastrophic for world economy. We could bankrupt ourselves, ending ability to borrow, by inflating. Result would be double digit interest rates for years, with real rates on the order of three percent, in order to service new debt. We can't inflate our way out of all of it. But given that our annual deficits are now 10% of GDP, inflation may start to seem attractive.

3. Alternative: Look at Greece, because that is our future.
Explosion in euro-denominated debt, strikes, high unemployment, and government increasingly controlling financial and investment decisions of private firms. We think it can't happen, but we are on the steep part of a slippery slope. US debt/GDP ratio will approach 1. Our bonds have shaky ratings. And our taxes are going to go mostly to finance pensions, bailouts, and deficits. Instead of investing in the young, and the talented, we are going to invest in the old, and the bankrupt. Don't be smug, because not only could the Greek nightmare happen here--unless something changes, it will, within the next decade. Look at it this way: The EU limit for annual deficit as a percent of GDP? 3%, no more. Current level in Greece, so large that people are going nuts? 11% What about the US? Last year 9%, this year and for the next five years: 10%+.

Anyway, I do the interview. We go in order: Donald Trump, John Sununu, Mike Munger (one of these things is not like the other song) Neil is kind enough to let me answer the question, at length, drawing out the parallels between Greece and US deficits, and consequences. I do get to use my one prepared zinger: We used to make cars, and other things people wanted to buy. But right now, the only export keeping the US alive is.... debt! Our number one export is debt. If people stop buying that, we are hammered.

So, Neil asks, "But isn't the fact that Greece is pulling down the Euro actually HELPING the US? I mean, the only choices for currencies are euros or dollars, right?"

Since this had been my original claim, the one the producer had said not to make, I was somewhat stumped. Neil went on to ask about where to put money, where to invest, if my claims were true. The one thing I know for certain is that I am not qualified to give investment advice. So I filibustered, Neil got pissed, interrupted, and repeated his question: "Professor, professor, you didn't understand my question. I said, where should we invest? If you know so much, what is the solution?" That's pretty much where things ended.

I am going to go hide in the bathtub. I hate television.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some Links: Do the Hoaxie-Pokesie

Some links. No rhyme, no reason, but some links.

1. Dean Smith wants terminal groin. His neighbor, John Edwards, already has one.

2. A remarkably successful hoax, and my attempt to put the hammer down (P. 3). But I have to give the OP credit: it worked beyond all expectations. Well done, lad(dette).

3. "Do employers discriminate by gender? A field experiment in female-dominated
Alison Booth & Andrew Leigh, Economics Letters, forthcoming. Abstract: We test for gender discrimination by sending fake CVs to apply for entry-level jobs. Female candidates are more likely to receive a callback, with the difference being largest in occupations that are more female-dominated.

Chin Music

From some dude allegedly named Glenn Thrush:

Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is retiring, but he's not the retiring type, ridiculing congressional job creation efforts on "The Early Show."

"If I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months," Bayh said.

A senior House Democratic aide:

“It is hard to stomach lectures from Sen. Bayh on Jobs. For most Americans, if they were as unproductive in their jobs as Bayh has been in his, they wouldn’t have the luxury of quitting — they would be fired.

Awesome! Can I get a Kaboom?

It's never too early to say I told you so

So last night was game one of the Caron Butler error, whoops I mean era, for Dallas.

And the result? Thunder 99, Mavs 86. Mr Butler? 4 - 16 from the floor with 4 turnovers.

So of course I am going to draw my preferred regression line through this single datapoint and proclaim that the big trade did not really improve Dallas enough to take them to a higher level than they were going (that's what blogging is all about, right?).

Not that I fault Dallas for trying something new. They were not really going anywhere before. I don't think they will get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Right now they are tied in the loss column with the Thunder, who implausibly sit 1/2 game out of fourth place in the West.

I think Marcus Camby will help Portland more than Butler will help the Mavs.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are we STANDING for this?

Lost the STOP GOOGLE! suit. Darn.

And, on a strange technicality. Turns out I did not have "standing" to sue.

In other words, it's my money (or part of it). It's state policy, and I live in the state. But you can't sue.

Note that this is NOT sovereign immunity, saying no one could sue the state. This is just that no one can sue the state. Get it? Neither do I...

(UPDATE: Anonyman shares this wisdom.... Think of standing like this: Your spouse wakes up and comes down stairs for coffee, she looks at you with an icy stare and says that in her dream you asked her to participate in a freaky three-way, and she's ticked at you because of her dream. You can now respond that since you were not a party to the dream, she does not have standing to be mad at you.

I'm sure it will work like a charm.

Oh, yeah. THAT will definitely work...)

Yes the Senate is broken (but not in the way you might think)

We are now awash in pleas to "fix the broken Senate", with particular emphasis on getting rid of the filibuster. 

Now, I know that the fair filly is not in the Constitution, but I think the Senate and its vaunted unlimited debate is filling a role the founders wanted, namely slowing down the popular passions of the people's House! Thus I don't view Senatorial delaying and navel gazing as a big problem.

I do think the Senate (and House) is badly broken though, as evidenced by their inability to even bring sensible legislation to the floor in times of dire emergencies.

The stimulus bill was what, about 1/3 weird and unseemly earmarks?

The health care crisis is at least as much about controlling costs as it is about increasing the number of people insured and the bills in each chamber utterly failed to seriously address cost control.

Congress people often use Federal Agencies and SOEs as their own personal experimental laboratories leaving us with the bill when the experiment blows up (Barney F. and Fannie/Freddie).

Congress is broken because it has acquired more power than mere mortals can handle.

I really don't know how we are going to fix that, but by all means, let's not pretend that changing some rules of procedure will fix the problems in our broken legislative branch.


Trading Up

Envy, Altruism, and the International Distribution of Trade Protection

Xiaobo Lü, Kenneth Scheve & Matthew Slaughter
NBER Working Paper, January 2010

Abstract: One important puzzle in international political economy is why lower-earning and less-skilled intensive industries tend to receive relatively high levels of trade protection. This pattern of protection holds even in low-income countries in which less-skilled labor is likely to be the relatively abundant factor of production and therefore would be expected in many standard political-economy frameworks to receive relatively low, not high, levels of protection. We propose and model one possible explanation: that individual aversion to inequality — both envy and altruism — lead to systematic differences in support for trade protection across industries, with sectors employing lower-earning workers more intensively being relatively preferred recipients for trade protection. We conduct original survey experiments in China and the United States and provide strong evidence that individual policy opinions about sector-specific trade protection depend on the earnings of workers in the sector. We also present structural estimates of the influence of envy and altruism on sector-specific trade policy preferences. Our estimates indicate that both envy and altruism influence support for trade protection in the United States and that altruism influences policy opinions in China.

Estimates of the Trade and Welfare Effects of NAFTA

Lorenzo Caliendo & Fernando Parro
University of Chicago Working Paper, November 2009

Abstract: In this paper we build into a Ricardian model the role of trade in intermediate inputs, sectoral linkages and differing productivity levels across sectors. The model can be used for both ex-ante and ex-post trade policy evaluation. We also propose a new method to estimate sectoral trade elasticities. Estimation requires only trade and tariff data and does not require the assumption of bilaterally symmetric trade costs. With the model and estimates of sectoral trade elasticities for the year 1993, we evaluate the trade effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). We do so by incorporating into the model the change in tariffs from 1993 to 2005 to calculate the implied changes in exports and imports. We compare these calculated changes to their observed counterparts and find that the model matches the observed outcomes well. We find that as a consequence of the tariff reductions, real wages increased in all NAFTA countries. Mexico had the largest gains, while Canada and the United States gained relatively more from trade liberalization with the rest of the world than from trade liberalization within NAFTA over the sample period.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Monday, February 15, 2010


How in the world can it be that Canadians can't make ice??

I know economists can't make accurate predictions, but this is more basic than that. It's like a crew of economists not being able to draw and correctly label a supply and demand diagram.



another one bites the dust

Man, people. Democratic politicians are, how shall I put this politely, PUSSWEILLERS!!

Evan Bayh is the latest to announce that he won't face the voters this fall.

Will the last Demo pol left please turn out the lights?

While I think it's very funny how little fight appears left in the Dems, please don't think I am pleased about the possible return of the Republicans. Heaven forfend. I am kind of a "pox on both your houses" guy. As is well documented in this blog, I love gridlock!


The Grand Game!

It's been a while. But the Grand Game is back! It turns out that the folks who run England's criminal justice system would prefer to prosecute homeowners who try to defend themselves. It makes some sense, I have to admit. Homeowners can't run, and the state can hold them hostage because the state controls title and transfer of title.


David Cameron has stoked the row over the prosecution of ‘have a go heroes’ by saying that burglars leave their human rights at the door when they break into a property.... The moment a burglar steps over your threshold and invades your property with all the threat that gives to you, your family and your livelihood, I think they leave their human rights outside,” he said.

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has criticised the... proposal, saying that the current law for householders accused of attacking intruders: “works very well”.

Last month, Munir Hussain, a businessman, was freed from prison on appeal after being jailed for using a cricket bat to batter an intruder who had broken into his home and tied his family up, leaving the burglar with brain damage.

Mr Cameron has also spoken up in defence of Mylene Klass, the television presenter and musician, who was told off by police for waving a knife at intruders who broke into her garden, describing the warning as “ridiculous”.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, dismissed Mr Cameron’s suggestion that burglars should forfeit their human rights as a “wonderful sound bite”.

He told the BBC’s Politics Show: “What sort of country is he trying to create?

"Of course it will receive short-term public applause from those who want to get tough on burglars, as we do in our Government, but where's the practical common sense policy thinking?"

Here's my practical common sense policy thinking: If you break into my house, and then threaten and tie up my family, then I am not obliged to be careful in how I react. If I have a bat, or a 2-iron, and I do NOT hit you in the head, as hard as I can, I may get tied up, too. We aren't talking about some guy who got lost. THE INTRUDER TIED THEM UP. Time for Mr. Cricket Bat. Sure, I can't enslave the intruder, or capture him and torture him. But I am not trained to calibrate how hard I hit with the bat.

Anyway, KPC readers, please pick out the most asinine elements of the story, the beyond stupid quotes, and let us know, in comments!


(UPDATE: My bad. Nod to my man Craig Newmark.....Furthermore, a commenter on N's Door clarifies that the cricket bat beating took place outside. An interesting question, I guess. Clearly I can beat the guy if he is threatening me. If he runs, maybe not. And once he is outside.... I see the point. Always useful to have a few facts, what?)

And while I'm on the topic...

Sorry for so many basketball posts. I guess I have Thunder fever. Here's one more.

It is a bad idea for Cleveland to pick up Amare Stoudemire!! This trade is rumored to be close to completion and I don't think it will help the Cavs get over the proverbial hump this year. Amare plays no D, has already shown he can't play with Shaq, and to my mind, is a fairly overrated player.

This trade makes no sense to me from a basketball perspective. Tyler however, provides an interesting rationale for why it might happen anyway.

Mango Man

For all my earnest friends who work for NGOs: Good intentions are not enough.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Steve Nash is 7 kinds of awesome.

And here I will list four reasons why.

1.  At 36 years of age he is shooting 51% from the field (44% on 3s), 94% from the line and averaging 18 points and 11 assists per game.

2. He lit the Olympic flame at the Vancouver games.

3. After which he headed for Dallas where he won the skilz challenge at the all star festivities.

4. and they there's this:


I rest my case!

Rodney Schools an Econ Prof

What product are you making? "It doesn't matter." Actually, it probably DOES matter.

I had forgotten this scene from the movie "Back to School."

I DO remember the scene where he asks the female English prof if she'll tutor him, so that she can help him "straighten out my Longfellow."

A Valentine Quiz

A short (one question) Valentine's quiz on level of marital understanding for men. Your wife comes downstairs in the morning, pours the tea (which, thank God, you made for her), and stares over the cup at you with a look of pure hate.

Your internal warning bells go off. Still, it will be worse if you don't ask. "Good morning dear, is everything okay?"

Still staring through slitted eyes, she spits out the words, "I had a dream. You were 'The Bachelor,' and you wanted to be with me AND another woman, two of us."

So, do you:

A. Say, "Dear, that could never happen! I'm not a bachelor; they wouldn't let me on the show. Otherwise, though, that sounds good! Maybe we can call someone?"
B. Raise your eyebrows, nod your head slowly, and stare out the window, in deep contemplation.
C. Say, "C'mon, it was only a dream. You know you are the only one for me!"
D. Pretend to have a gran mal seizure and flop on the floor in a coma, doing your best to swallow your tongue.

Now, it is obvious that A is the wrong choice. But now I have direct empirical evidence that B is also a pretty bad choice. In fact, choosing B causes lots of small-fist-sized bruises to appear on your upper arm. So, if this happens to you, go with C and hold D in reserve in case it doesn't work.

Mavs fail chemistry 101

The Dallas Mavericks have acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson from the Wizards.

They didn't give up very much. Just a curiously ineffective Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton, and Quinton Ross.

On paper, it seems like a good deal, except for the fact that Haywood and Stevenson are total knuckleheads.

Plus, I am not a rider on the Caron Butler bandwagon. He gets a lot of good press around the league, but to me he's borderline knucklehead too.

Bottom line is that I don't think this trade puts the Mavericks any deeper into the playoffs than they were already going before it happened.


A funny valentine

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Microchips: Signs of the Beast

The Eschaton, The Micro-chip. Quite an article, about the Virginia Legislature.

My favorite part: Delegate Mark Cole says, "I just think you should have the right to control your own body."

Finally, somebody talking sense. Of COURSE that's right. Um, that means that you are pro-choice on reproductive rights, right Mark? 'Cause then you would be a Libertarian hero. THEN, I would agree with you, if you are just consistent about this "people control their own bodies" thing. Oh....not so much.

(Nod to Anonyman, whose body belongs to his wife)

BN Makes People Mad

Brendan Nyhan makes people really, REALLY mad.

Because he is not really on anybody's team, and pomposity makes him mad. He reads things carefully, and remembers what you said last week. Also, he values consistency, logic, and empirical evidence. For example, here.

How infuriating.

Any boy with a microphone can tell you what he loves the most

Alan, We Hardly Liked Ye

Wow, what a scum-bucket. Dr. Greenspan...really?

While borrowers can refinance fixed-rate mortgages, Greenspan said homeowners were paying as much as 0.5 to 1.2 percentage points for that right and the protection against a potential rate rise, which could increase annual after-tax payments by several thousand dollars.

He said a Fed study suggested many homeowners could have saved tens of thousands of dollars in the last decade if they had ARMs. Those savings would not have been realized, however, had interest rates shot up.

You could extend this logic, of course. You can make millions of dollars, ex post, if you buy the correct lottery ticket, with the winning number. But "buy lottery tickets" is hardly sound investment advice, though of course that is exactly what people did, on a huge scale. Further, trying to get people to buy ARMs, and then jacking up rates by 425 basis points... why? I have no problem with the higher rates, but knock it off with the investment advice, Dr. G!

My pal Hal Snarr, at NC A&T, wrote this piece. I don't agree with all of it, but the "financial molotov cocktail" part seems right.

Hal's points about Glass-Steagal.... well, two cheers for Glass-Steagal. I agree that "too big to fail" is "too big," but only because the buttinski-trons at Treasury and the Fed insist on giving out taxpayer money.


Here is a picture of the house of a friend in Montana:

All right, no. That is the house of Anonyman, in the DC suburbs. Yikes. More snow comin'. Have fun, Anonyman! Shovel, Anonyman, shovel. Ouch, Anonyman, ouch, don't hit ME with the shovel.... I didn't make it snow.

Houston, we have an idiot!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The End, Perhaps, of Hitler Parodies

A parody of Hitler's reaction to Hitler parodies.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Protecting the Honor of Wall Street

Remember when Gary Hart challenged reporters to follow him, and then was amazed when they did, catching him in "Monkey Business"?

Well, saying that the honor of Wall Street has been besmirched is a little silly, also. Those boys pretty much smirched themselves. "John Thomas Financial"? Really? And "lesbian strippers"? Why was that the priority?

I'm not saying that having the morality police from Washington will make things better, or that having Eliot "Yo, Mo Ho" Spitzer is an improvement. But if you have no honor, you can't very well protect your honor. Just keep quiet. Quite a story, quite a shiny, terrifying bald pate.

(Nod to Anonyman, who is NOT that bald, and who likes his strippers straight)

Death Star Bug Zapper

The bottom video is the one.

No, really.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Book Winners!

We have two book winners...drawn from a capacious Mungowitz-sized hat!

Martin Kypta

David Stearns

Please send me your addresses! And congratulations....

Video on Libertarian Positions

A short video on Libertarian positions. There is a mistake. The 70% figure is an exaggeration, for LASIK. And the numbers are wrong. Instead, it should be more like 50%, and the cost has gone down from $2,500 to $1,250.

The funniest headline I've seen this year

People, it's from the WSJ and it can be seen it all its glory right here.


Is this the best they can do?

Over at Econobrowser, the usually excellent Menzie Chinn has posted a couple of graphs that he says are "particularly relevant in thinking about the US fiscal situation". I think they are too, but in the exact opposite way that they are being presented.

I looked at the first graph and said "holy crap"! Then I noticed it was labeled "US debt/GDP ratio not particularly high", and cracked up. Yes, people, it's true that Greece and Italy have higher forecasted debt ratios than us. They are also the the "I" and "G" in the PIGS whose unsustainable fiscal positions are rocking financial markets. The graph could just as well be labeled, "the USA is an honorary PIG" ( of course that isn't actually true either as the demand for dollar denominated debt is going to be quite a bit stronger than that for PIG issued euro denominated debt, at least we sincerely hope so).

I looked at the second graph and said "this graph is factually incorrect". Then I noticed it was labeled "US structural budget balance not unusual". Note the use of the word "structural" as opposed to "actual". Structural means "what's left after I subtract off some stuff to make the deficit smaller". It is not an official US government statistic and is pretty meaningless.

No matter how you slice it, we are on a path to permanently higher federal spending as a percent of GDP and a much higher level of federal debt. I would like to add something like "at least until November" but the heinous spending binges of the Republicans the last time they were in the Congressional majority doesn't give me any hope for a change of course.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ice It

At a certain point in a marriage, the woman exhausts her sympathy for the man's injuries.

I was in Michigan and Ohio, for four days. In freakin' blizzards. Ice everywhere. Never a problem.

Got home, went to the Y to work out, got home after dark. Walking up driveway.

Big smooth icy patch, meltwater that had refrozen. Never saw it. Left leg goes shooting out straight in front of me, right folded beside me. Landed with right heel touching my waist, beside me. Dislocated my kneecap.

It popped right back in, but muscles in right leg cramped up like rock, and sprained kneecap hurt like hell. Felt like I couldn't breath. Certainly couldn't move. Laid there in the ice, for what seemed like an hour, but probably wasn't more than ten minutes. Long enough to get soaked from body temp melting the ice. Watched planes go by, and tried to breathe.

Pulled myself over to truck, to try to get in and blow horn, so LMM could come out and shoot me and put me out of misery. Couldn't reach *^$&%ing horn, and slipped on ice again.

Crawled off ice, and limped into house. LMM looks at me, and says, "Take that wet dirty stuff off!"

I tell her I hurt my knee. She comes over: "Do you need to go to the doctor?"

I say no, has happened before, just a sprain.

LMM, turning back to dishwasher: "Well, at least you iced it."

Kevin Morrison, Duke Student

This Slate article gives major props to my man Kevin Morrison, Duke Phd and now asst prof at Cornell.

Everybody should study game theory. Or else get hammered by it.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

The mighty House of Saud has no love for Valentine's day. The holiday is banned in the magic kingdom and:

The religious police launched Thursday a nationwide crackdown on stores selling items that are red or in any other way allude to the banned celebrations of Valentine's Day, a Saudi official said.

Members of the feared religious police were inspecting shops for red roses, heart-shaped products or gifts wrapped in red, and ordering storeowners to get rid of them, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Red-colored or heart-shaped items are legal at other times of the year, but as Feb. 14 nears they become contraband in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom bans celebration of Western holidays such as Valentine's Day, named after a Christian saint said to have been martyred by the Romans in the 3rd Century.

Wow, so the Wahhabi dudes think that the date of Valentines day is a surprise to their citizens? That they wouldn't just buy their evil red items the week before?

Even the AP can call BS on this:

Each year, the religious police mobilize ahead of Feb. 14 and descend on gift and flower shops, confiscating all red items, including flowers.

Many Saudis, who still want to mark the popular Valentine's, do their shopping weeks before the holiday.

See this is why you have to put rational expectations in your model. Otherwise you get these silly "fool people systematically" results that defy common sense. As bad as people think macro is with RE, trust me it was way worse before RE.

PS: Maybe what's really going on is that the Wasabi-Wahhabis just don't want to pay for their Valentine swag, so they "ban and confiscate" on the eve of the holiday.

Small pieces of good news

1. The Federal government is closed for the 4th straight day!

2. Jobless claims fall faster than expected.

3. Randy Waldman actually got something right (only his first point though).

4. OKC Thunder sit in 5th place in the West, riding a 6 game win streak going into all-star weekend.

5. Shane Battier is gangster now!


One more day until the FAAAAAABULOUS prize is given away.

Duke University Press has donated not one, but TWO copies of Debating Moral Education.

This is the book that garnered mention in the column by David Brooks, in the Times, about the essay by my good friend Michael Gillespie.

You might get one of these copies, but ONLY IF YOU SEND AN EMAIL by tomorrow morning.

The drawing will be held at noon tomorrow, EST. The winners will be announced, and the free books will be sent out. Don't miss your chance!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Instructions from Your Gubmint

The Bishop reminds me in an email that Robert Heinlein, in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," actually describes our friend's ID experience pretty well:

“Do this. Don’t do that. Stay back in line. Where’s tax receipt. Fill out form. Let’s see license. Submit six copies. Exit only. No left turn. No right turn. Queue up and pay fine. Take back and get stamped. Drop dead—but first get permit."

Carolina v. Duke day!

Today is the day Carolina plays Duke. In basketball, I mean.

So today is the day I have double neckwear. Because, you know, I have ties to both schools....Just like last year.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

As goes Carolina, so goes Costa Rica?

As loyal KPC readers know, our man Mungowitz was the Libertarian candidate in the most recent NC governor's race. While he clearly succeeded in his goals of (1) getting his message out, (2) getting the LP automatically on the next election's ballot, and (3) getting investigated by the election commission, alas, he did not win.

Spin forward to last Sunday where there was a Libertarian, Otto Guevara, running for president of Costa Rica (I am not making this up). He didn't win either. No word yet on whether endorsed or savaged Otto.

It was the third time Otto ran. The first time he got 1.7%, the second, 8.4%, and this time he got 20.8%.

I'm just sayin'.......


Monday, February 08, 2010

Technical Efficiency in Basketball

Estimating Production Efficiency in Men’s NCAA College Basketball: A Bayesian Approach

Michael Rimler, Seongho Song & David Yi
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: Using Bayesian analysis with Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) estimation, we generate estimates of technical efficiency for each game played by an Atlantic 10 Conference men’s basketball team during the 2005-2006 season. The flexibility of MCMC, and its ability to provide an objective measure for assessing model fit, makes it preferable to maximum likelihood (ML) estimation of stochastic production frontiers. Within the context of men’s basketball, this article addresses the question of whether technical efficiency necessarily leads to success relative to one’s competitors. Results indicate that (a) technical efficiency does not vary significantly, either across or within teams, implying that teams in the A-10 play at very close and high levels of efficiency and (b) technical efficiency does not
correlate strongly with productivity, suggesting that the fundamental quality of one’s resources are more important than an efficient use of those resources. In addition, parameter estimates suggest that a single turnover or offensive rebound could mean the difference between winning and losing.

(UPDATE: Title was wrong, so I fixed it.)

When did Nigerian scammers take over the Home Depot?

So, Mrs. Angus and me eat lunch in our offices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This usually requires using a microwave, and in our department, nothing is a better illustration of the tragedy of the commons than the department microwave. Sticky, filthy, smelly, AND a line of grad students waiting to use it!

So we decided to get one for the office. Mrs. Angus wanted powerful but not too big, picked out a model and ordered it from Home Depot online. It arrives and we take it to the office and open up the box.

The door of the thing won't open. Busted. Arrived busted.  

Mrs. Angus sends email to Home Depot asking if we can return it at a local store or if we have to mail it back.  Next day, we get a response from their "customer care" department:

Thank you for your email to The Home Depot Online Customer Support.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Unfortunately, we do not have arrangement with the vendor to exchange the entire product.

For assistance regarding the item 100489210 - 1.0 Cu. Ft. Countertop
Microwave Oven from your order number W100474273, please refer owner's manual and contact the manufacturer.

A representative would be happy to assist you.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.


Your friends at The Home Depo

Now there are a lot of funny things here."Inconvenience"?  "further assistance"?  cannot exchange "the entire product"?

But the best part is that the owners manual is INSIDE THE MICROWAVE and thus inaccessible because, you know, THE DOOR WON'T OPEN!

I guess I will take a hammer to the thing and see what parts of the product can be exchanged.


Lou Dobbs Goes Down, and Why

My friend and ex-student Josh Koster, of Chong and Koster in DC, talks about their plan. The piece was published in "Campaigns and Elections' POLITICS" Magazine.

With Lou Dobbs as the fall guy. Hee HEE! ANYTHING that drips mud on "Hate-monger" Lou is worth doing. But this was very cool. The ad....

Now, I should note that Josh and I hardly agree on everything. But on the "rationalize immigration policy" idea, I am definitely there with him. And it is so much easier to watch CNN for a few minutes now, without Lou Dobbs.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Corruption: Munger Investigated!

I feel SO SPECIAL. My campaign for governor is being investigated by a special inquiry of the State Board of Elections. I have FINALLY arrived as a real politician.

Governor "I am Easley the most corrupt governor in NC history" has decided to offer a defense to the charge that he routinely accepted illegal, unreported free private air travel as if it were a perq of office. And having the Highway Patrol "lose" the records of sending troopers to accompany Easley on these secret trips.

Here is an interesting video on the lead-up, and the charges against Ruffin Poole, head thug in charge for the Easley admin.

My main man, Don Carrington, was the one who broke, and has followed, the "Air Easley" story.

So, Easley's defense? Three Republican goob candidates did it, too! (My mom: "If someone else accepts illegal air travel, you would do it, too?" Or something like that).

Anyway, the state board of elections sent me a letter, on real letterhead, with a signature from an actual person, demanding all my campaign travel records! I am suspected of having received illegal contributions of air travel, on private jets!

I'm already planning for my perp walk video. What goes better with steel handcuffs, the grey pinstripe, or the dark charcoal, suit?

Except... that I don't have friends who have private jets. Not all of my friends have private cars. Every bit of travel for the campaign was in my OWN car, and I paid for my own gas.

Still, it is flattering to think that a Libertarian candidate might be the target of bribes from corporations. Implausible, since my platform was to END the payoffs and corporate welfare that those blood-sucking, rent-seeking leeches depend on. But flattering nonetheless.

Ezra Klein Asks For Something He Already Has!

Ezra Klein has his silk prancing pony boxers in a slip knot over the following:

"No single vote by any single senator could possibly illustrate everything that is wrong with Washington today," writes Fred Hiatt. "No single vote could embody the full cynicism and cowardice of our political elite at its worst, or explain by itself why problems do not get solved." But, as he says, Mitch McConnell's vote against the Conrad-Gregg deficit commission came pretty close.

McConnell wasn't some closet supporter of the proposal. He was a constant advocate. Here he is last May, for instance: "As I have said many times before, the best way to address the crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal." But when it came up for a vote last week, McConnell filibustered it. Asked for an explanation, McConnell offered some nonsense about how people serious about getting the debt under control should have opposed the stimulus. Yawn. If he's not going to try to offer a coherent explanation, I'm not going to bother with a detailed rebuttal.

The issue here isn't whether McConnell is a disingenuous opportunist. That goes without saying. What I'd like to see, however, is for people to begin predicting this sort of behavior rather than being surprised by it.

Golly, Ezra! If only there it "Public Choice" theory. There could even be a journal to study this sort of thing. If only there were a university, perhaps one in the DC metro area, that taught Public Choice theory. Let's make one up, and call it "George Mason." If only there were think tanks.... call them "Mercatus" and "Cato"... that publish dozens of articles and monographs every year taking EXACTLY the perspective that Mr. Klein appears to believe he has originated.

Public Choice: Predicting self interest since 1964.

(Nod to Tony V., who is not surprised)

Best Birth Control: Obstinance Training?

Study finds focus on abstinence in sex-ed classes can delay sexual activity
By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 1, 2010; 4:35 PM

"Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases...The study released Monday involved 662 African American students from four public middle schools in a city in the Northeastern United States. It was conducted between 2001 and 2004. Students were randomly assigned to go through one of the following: an eight-hour curriculum that encouraged them to delay having sex; an eight-hour program focused on teaching safe sex; an eight- or 12-hour program that did both; or an eight-hour program focused on teaching them other ways to be healthy, such as eating well and exercising...Over the next two years, about 33 percent of the students who went through the abstinence program started having sex, compared with about 52 percent who were taught only safe sex. About 42 percent of the students who went through the comprehensive program started having sex, and about 47 percent of those who learned about other ways to be healthy did. The abstinence program had no negative effects on condom use, which has been a major criticism of the abstinence approach." [WaPo]

Journal reference for article cited in WaPo....

(Nod to Kevin L)

(Update: Yes, the title is intentional)


Binge drinking can hurt grade performance, study says.

Next up: over-eating can cause weight gain....

(Nod to Angry Alex)

(UPDATE: On the "that's why they play the game!" front, it has been pointed out that in fact the relation is NOT obvious, if one actually READS THE ARTICLE. So, does that mean I can overeat!?)

Easy to Explain

There's nothing confusing about this outrage. The job of "health inspectors," and in fact the job of all government regulation, is to protect the politically and economically powerful. In this case, restaurants that use expensive prepared foods made in factories from low-nutrition sources need protection from the little people who might actually use fresh, nutritious food. We can't have THAT, right? Excerpt:

One mom prepares hundreds of pounds of frozen fruit. The Chicago Department of Public Health says she doesn't have the correct license to make it into candy and sell it. Can she still give it to her son? Not in Chicago.

In a sad struggle that unfolded in a West Town kitchen Thursday night, Department of Health inspectors seized, slashed open and poured bleach over thousands of dollars of local peaches, pears, raspberry and plum purees owned by pastry chef Flora Lazar. She'd purchased the fruit from Green City Market farmers last summer and had planned to use it to make local fruit gelees for her business, Flora Confections.

More than $1,000 of food owned by the Sunday Dinner Club caterers was also destroyed by health department inspectors.

Inspectors cited no health problems with any of the food. They even encouraged Lazar's son to eat the confiscated granola bars from Sunday Dinner Club. They only said the food was prepared by chefs who didn't have the proper business licenses to prepare and sell it. But apparently in Chicago, you also need a license to give fruit to your child.

Even after Lazar had given the cooler to her son, health department inspector Greg Nelson refused to let him keep it. Instead the inspector called the Chicago Police Department to take it away from him. When I asked the inspectors why her son couldn't take the frozen bags of fruit, Nelson said "no comment." He gave the same reply when I asked if it posed any health risk.

These regulations have nothing, NOTHING, to do with protecting consumers. They are designed to protect campaign-contributing producers, and preserve the economic hegemony of corporations. There's no mystery here, except the mystery of why people think health inspectors are here to help them. ATSRTWT (Nod to MJE)

Cuisine: A Problem?

Interesting controversy. If the idea of "soul food" has any meaning, then it can't be inappropriate for Black History month.

On the other hand, it is such a stereotype, I can see why people might be upset. Anyway, a kerfuffle. Make sure and watch the short video by the cook who chose the menu that day.

Some interesting background, on a MLK day menu, and history.

"Elon James White, on the timely, "Look, I really like watermelon. But don't offer me any" question..." (I like the part where Elon admits he is afraid of Melissa Harris Lacewell, a friend of mine, and a fine Duke PhD). (And, I had to watch the whole TWIB video twice. It is extremely funny. You'll see.)

As for the issue: It's complicated.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Scott Brown Commercial

One of Brown's commercials from the Mass Senate race.

The LMM was disappointed. She was hoping to see Scott Brown in a Speedo, I think.

The cool thing is that the craven Mass Dems hadn't changed the law, none of this would have happened, probably. Cool. (Remember this post? Wonder how the 9:15 pm Anon commenter feels about the outcome?)

60 % Female

The EYM chose to go to UNC. This may be why...

AT has some thoughts...

(Nod to Anonyman, who never needed good odds to win)

Waffley Wedded Wife

Poor Girl, couldn't stop laughing.

A lot of women say, about men they like, "He makes me laugh." This marriage might work. He certainly makes her laugh.

Fiscal follies

Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and Paul Krugman are all beating the drums for a second stimulus, more spending, and no current fiscal re-trenchment.

Let me politely as possible say that these drumbeats have everything to do with politics and nothing much to do with economics.

(1) GDP growth has turned the corner and job growth will follow. Job growth almost always lags GDP growth coming out of a recession. According to Jeff Frankel, a member of the NBER business cycle dating committee, this recession is not unusual in that regard.

(2)  I cannot help but laugh when I read people saying the first stimulus was too small or that we need a second stimulus. People, something like $500 billion of the first stimulus (i.e. more than half) has not even been spent yet. What the first stimulus definitely was is TOO SLOW! This is not surprising because the stimulus bill enacted had a lot more to do with politics than with economics.

(3) As we look at the world scene today, the problem of excessive sovereign debt seems to be at least as big of an issue as does the problem of insufficient aggregate demand.

(4) Yes, unemployment is bad. Yes, people are out of jobs due to no fault of their own, victims of bad corporate management, short sighted unions, and financial hijinks. If we had a program that would increase employment at a cost that was less than what the people employed in the program would earn, I would have favored it a year ago.
But no matter how much evidence we see, somehow we still can't face up to the fact that, while in theory it may be possible to do so, our government as currently constituted cannot create jobs in anything resembling a cost effective manner.

(5) One of the last things we need right now is more cost-ineffective pro-cyclical fiscal policy.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Free Books, From Duke Press, For KPC Readers!

In recompense for my faux pas in trying to circumvent the fact that the Gillespie paper is actually PUBLISHED in a book, available for sale, let me suggest the following:

The intrepid Laura Sell has offered two free books to KPC readers! I will mail them, at my expense.

If you want to enter the drawing, just send me an email, we'll have a "draw two from the hat" day on Friday, Feb 12. And then I'll contact the winners for their addresses.

And, NO, I did not get a free book, so the FTC can just work that knot right out of their boxers/panties!

Just send me an email right now! Only one entry per customer, even if you send multiple emails. (And that goes for you, too, Angus you ballot stuffer!)

Lagniappe: Laura Sell sent a letter about those bizarre FTC rules. Interesting...

The Biggest Swinging Ambassador

Frequent Commenter* Scott writes:

I must not be caught up on your blog, because there's no way you missed this.... Well, we HAD missed that, and I don't see how. How could we miss that, Angus?

*Though here, not on this blog. As he said, he apparently doesn't READ KPC.

Anyway, I tried to find out what "An gus" means in Arabic: "That the Gus" is the answer. And that sounds right to me.

"mun go witz" is closest to "depart from witt." Wow. Right again.

Don't blame me if the translations are wrong. I got them here. It is hard to type from right to left.

And if I just spell "Mungowitz" phonetically it looks like this:

مو نجو ويت


Long term musical greatness

I was deep in my music collection last night playing "There's nothing wrong with love" by Built to Spill from 1994 and re-realized that the first four songs on that record are just astonishingly good. Then I realized that BTS is still good as of 2009 and never made a record that sucked. That's pretty rare, so I started trying to think of who else could fit that bill, limiting myself to American groups. Here's what I came up with:

Built to Spill

People, that's it! That's the list!

Modest Mouse now officially sucks. 

The National has been good for a while and never made a record that sucks, but haven't done it long enough to qualify yet (they have a new album coming out soon!!), 

Neil Young was good for a long time but has gone on too long (not heeding his own advice), he's the musical equivalent of Willem de Kooning, only his family isn't destroying his late works. 

I love Guided by Voices, but I have to admit that a lot of what they did sucked. They are the musical equivalent of Picasso; lot's of very high highs but also lots of nasty lows. 

Nirvana didn't last long enough.

Who am I missing?


My man Michael Gillespie, questioning the status of sports, cited by David Brooks.

Can't find a copy of the paper on line, but here is the reference:

Michael Allen Gillespie, Players and Spectators: Sports and Ethical Training in the American University, in Debating Moral Education, edited by Elizabeth Kiss and Peter Euben (Forthcoming 2009), Duke University Press.

And if you ask nice, Michael might send you a pdf....

Thursday, February 04, 2010

beware the PIGS

The sovereign debt crisis is heating up in Europe. The so-called PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) have weak economies, very large deficits, and no national monetary policies to ease their sufferings. Many are skeptical of whether or not they can internally resolve this problem and if they can't whether the EU can or will bail them out.

It is not impossible that we are looking at the end of the Euro as we know it, as one or more of these countries may have to drop out and inflate a new national currency to get out from under their fiscal situation. I would put this probability at something like 37%.

The situation appears to be getting worse rather than better as Greek workers have started striking and Portuguese legislators appear to be thinking about increasing spending and raising rather than lowering their deficit. The Spanish stock market fell 6% today, Portugal's 5% and Greece's 3.5 %

And to think that last year I finally stopped telling my students that, despite its apparent success, it was from from obvious that the Euro would really last as it had yet to weather a major crisis.