Monday, May 31, 2010

Half a loaf

Been listening to the debut album by Surfer Blood called "Astro Coast".

It is basically half of a stellar album. The first six songs are all good with three that are really excellent (Floating Vibes, Swim, & Twin Peaks).

They sound a lot like the Shins circa "Oh Inverted World" (one of the great indie albums of all time by the way).

Then they go and spoil it all with track 7, a weird rip-off of "I'll stop the world and melt with you" by Modern English. It is really atrocious, people.

The rest of the record never recovers.

At the least, I can wholeheartedly recommend getting the three awesome songs. I am putting the first six tracks onto my Iphone.

The rest is pretty bad.

Here's the video for "Swim"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Catch me at the border, I got visas in my name

Extensive profile of M.I.A. in the NY Times Sunday Magazine. This one is a bit better than the ridiculous puff piece on the National a couple weeks ago. Word is that Maya A. didn't like this piece one little bit.

She doesn't come across as an overall genius, but she certainly is a pop genius. "Galang" and "Paper Planes" are two of the best songs of this century.

What the Hex?

Why in the world would Josh Brolin do this?

He has been in some tremendous movies. Why this?

A diet that works: Stop eating and run 15 miles a day

I was going to make fun of Fitty Cent.

But what he did was actually really cool, and impressive. Psychotic, but for a fat man like me, who is always "trying" to lose weight...generally by eating bagels and imagining that I am excercising....well, major props to Fitty.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Libertarian National Convention

Neanderbill and I joined the NC state delegation to the Libertarian National Convention.

Here is a brief video of our arrival at the bar last night, greeting our fellow Libertarian Party members.

[Ponda Baba gives Neanderbill a rough shove and starts yelling at NB in an alien language which NB doesn't understand]
Dr. Evazan: [explaining] He doesn't like you.
NB: Sorry.
Dr. Evazan: [grabbing NB] *I* don't like you either. You just watch yourself. We're wanted men. I have petitioned for ballot access in twelve states.
NB: I'll be careful.
Dr. Evazan: You'll be de-credentialed!
Obi-Wan: [intervening] This gigantic one's not worth the effort. Now, let me get you something.
[Dr. Evazan shoves NB across the room and pulls out a quorum call]
Bartender: No quorum calls! No quorum calls!
[Obi-Wan pulls out his microphone, severing Ponda Baba's eardrum with a point of parliamentary inquiry]

Okay, no, seriously, here are some pix. Here is the view from the floor of the big screens up front. And here is David Nolan (yes, the chart guy, and founder of the LP) making a point. Oh, and don't forget StarChild. StarChild is the best.

Obituary for Neo-Conservativism

C. Bradley Thompson has an interesting new book.

Wow! News and Observer comes through...

Quite an editorial, in the News and Observer.

Check it out.

Inappropriate Anger Pays Dividends

If inappropriate anger explains success, that may be a big part of why Angus and I rule the world.

Cultural Variance in the Interpersonal Effects of Anger in Negotiations

Hajo Adam, Aiwa Shirako & William Maddux
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract: The current research is the first investigation of how the effects of expressing discrete emotions in negotiations vary across cultures. In a hypothetical negotiation scenario (Study 1) and a computer-mediated negotiation simulation (Study 2), expressing anger (relative to not expressing anger) elicited larger concessions from European American negotiators, but smaller concessions from Asian and Asian American negotiators. A third study provided evidence that this effect is due to different cultural norms about the appropriateness of anger expressions in negotiations: When we explicitly manipulated anger expressions to be appropriate, Asian and Asian American negotiators made larger concessions to the angry opponent, and their concessions were as large as was typical for European American negotiators; when we explicitly manipulated anger expressions to be inappropriate, European American negotiators made smaller concessions to the angry opponent, and their concessions were as small as was typical for Asian and Asian American negotiators. Implications for current understanding of culture, emotions, and negotiations are discussed.

(nod to Kevin L)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Media Surprise

The Causal Impact of Media in Financial Markets

Joseph Engelberg & Christopher Parsons
University of North Carolina Working Paper, October 2009

It is challenging to disentangle the causal impact of media reporting from the impact of the information being reported. We solve this problem by comparing the behaviors of investors with access to different media coverage of the same information event. First, we use zip codes to identify 19 mutually exclusive trading regions, corresponding to 19 large U.S. cities and local newspapers (e.g., the Houston Chronicle). For all earnings announcements of S&P 500 Index firms, we find that local media coverage strongly predicts local trading, after controlling for characteristics of the earnings surprise, firm, local investors, and reporting newspaper(s). Reverse causation does not explain our findings. The local coverage-local trading effect: 1) holds for firms unlikely to be of local interest (e.g., remotely located, sparsely held by local investors) and 2) disappears entirely during extreme weather events, which leaves media content unchanged, but disrupts transmission to investors. The evidence supports the idea that media -- apart from the information they transmit -- affect investor behavior.

This is a little surprising to me. Though people watch shows about investing, so they must USE that stuff, even though it has no (and can't possibly have) any useful information.

(nod to Kevin L)

Darwin and the current account?

Sexual competition is a wonderful thing. Just ask any bird of paradise you happen to meet.

Now, in a new NBER working paper (gated version here), Du and Wei argue that it can have aggregate macro consequences as well:

"Large savings and current account surpluses by China and other countries are said to be a contributor to the global current account imbalances and possibly to the recent global financial crisis. This paper proposes a theory of excess savings based on a major, albeit insufficiently recognized by macroeconomists, transformation in many of these societies, namely, a steady increase in the surplus of men relative to women. We construct an OLG model with two sexes and a desire to marry. We show conditions under which an intensified competition in the marriage market can induce men to raise their savings rate, and produce a rise in the aggregate savings and current account surplus. This effect is economically significant if the biological desire to have a partner of the opposite sex is strong. A calibration of the model suggests that this factor could generate economically significant current account responses, or more than 1/2 of the actual current account imbalances observed in the data"

So there you have it people, rampant heterosexuality helped cause the crisis.


This paper certainly has some interesting policy implications, no?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oh Noes!

I got a Mac in the office now. It's a bit too much fun....

Tony, I promise I'll get that paper written up real soon!

How not to be a professional athlete

Here is a great "your doin' it wrong" from alleged American tennis pro Sam Querry:

Q. So do you feel like going in you're not in the frame of mind, or does it happen right in the middle of the fight?

SAM QUERREY: I think it happens in the middle. I think if you ask my coach, David, he might say otherwise. When I lost that second set tiebreaker and got broken in the first game, I was done. I wanted to be off the court.
I started thinking about leaving and pulling out of the doubles and how much I wanted to go home, how much I wasn't enjoying.
You're never gonna win a match if you're just being negative. I'm only hurting myself.

Q. Isn't that the definition of a professional, that you don't despair so fully as the match progresses, that you somehow control your feelings?

SAM QUERREY: Yeah, I need to work on that. I've not been a professional the last, you know, on and off for the last few months. You know, you're out there facing one opponent. I don't want to face the opponent and myself.
You know, I just need to be better than today, in this case, it was Robby. It's someone different every week. But I don't want to be fighting myself out there and also fighting the opponent.

Q. Yet, Sam, you've had some good results on clay. You won Belgrade, won Houston. Are you fighting sort of a Jeckyll/Hyde part of yourself here?

SAM QUERREY: A little bit. Those are 250s, and they're great. I love you know, a tournament win is a tournament win. A final is great. It builds my confidence, but I won Belgrade and my ranking didn't move. I'm kind of past that point right now. Those 250s do nothing for me ranking wise. It's all about the Masters Series and the Grand Slams.
That's where I just have not been playing well. You know, I just need to mentally get it together in my head. I need to enjoy myself out there. I need to enjoy playing. You know, if a guy has a breakpoint against me, I should know, Hey, I've got one of the biggest serves out there. Let's see you win this point off me.
But like I said, I just tank some points.


Full interview is here.

Machine Trading Good?

At a minimum, not bad.

The problem is that many people think stuff they don't understand must be bad. Of course, they still watch their plasma tv. Somehow, not understanding THAT must be okay.

Does Algorithmic Trading Improve Liquidity?

Terrence Hendershott, Charles Jones & Albert Menkveld
Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract: Algorithmic trading has sharply increased over the past decade. Does it improve market quality, and should it be encouraged? We provide the first analysis of this question. The NYSE automated quote dissemination in 2003, and we use this change in market structure that increases algorithmic trading as an exogenous instrument to measure the causal effect of algorithmic trading on liquidity. For large stocks in particular, algorithmic trading narrows spreads, reduces adverse selection, and reduces trade-related price discovery. The findings indicate that algorithmic trading improves liquidity and enhances the informativeness of quotes.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When did Diego Maradona join Van Halen?

Is he the new new lead singer or something?

I can only assume that he is now in the group after looking at his demands for hotel services at the upcoming football World Cup in South Africa.

My favorite items are:

(A) 2 "e-bidet" toilets for his personal use, with heated seats, a blow dryer, and double fountains.

(B) 24 hour ice cream.

Argentina have the best player in the world (Messi), but I don't think they will get out of the first round with this gentleman leading them.

I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees

Whenever a favorite band of mine makes a move to a more "upscale" record label, I get scared.

However, the National have more than survived their move to 4AD. "High Violet" is a great record.

As always, the drumming and vocals are the most distinctive parts of the record, and while there is a little bit of 4AD-ish "fussiness" to the record, it is really fantastic. This is a highly skilled band, I guess at their peak.

When I first put the CD on, it brought Mrs. Angus right into the music room where she plopped herself down beside me and didn't leave until the album ended (she usually "listens" to music on the move).

For my part, I kept updating which song was my favorite and the music went by. High Violet hangs together really well as a cohesive album.

Highly recommended.

Don't Say "Bless You!" in Chapel Hill

Whoops! Forgot the "favorite past posts" this week.

So here it is, from November 2004. In which a Chapel Hillian is offended by my car.
TeeJaw conjures Joe Friday and Colonel Potter to discuss Obamacare.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You have to enforce the law

Even if you agree with the protesters, you have to enforce the law.

This is a bit scary...

(Nod and thanks to Wayne Rogers, for the tip)

Idiot Conservatives on Parade

The last two weeks has brought an avalanche, a deluge, a... well, a lot, of embarrassment for conservatives in terms of public relations. IF they were capable of embarrassment, or self-reflection, or introspection.

One bozo stole large sections of BHO's 2004 convention speech.

Another "family values" candidate, who values families so much that he has TWO of them, was selected by the GOP to run for the House.

The biggest idiot of all, IMHO, a pretty extreme family values guy, who actually hired his long-time mistress to (I'm not making this up) help film a video about the importance of family values. Don't want her to feel left out, right?

Earlier in the month, this fool was caught with a "RentBoy." Now, it's certainly all right with me if somebody wants to pay for sex. And it's true that the RentBoy looks quite hot. But you can't persecute gays with a Torquemada-like fervor, and THEN get caught with "Lucien". As Jon Stewart pointed out, RentBoy didn't even help with the luggage! It's hard to shock the Miami papers, but...

Jon Stewart does some fine television. Rekers story just after 7:30...

Anyway, the most important "family value" ought to be to respect other peoples' choices about their family, and to stop trying to RUN EVERYONE ELSE'S LIVES.

You right wing family values people: shut up, if you can't even keep your OWN families according to your own (admittedly puritanical) standards.

(Nod to Anonyman, who amazingly sent me every one of the above stories)

UPDATE: Another snippet (again from Anonyman) on the GOP right here in NC. The GOP is actually trying to repudiate this candidate, even if it means they lose the seat. Here is the guy's web site....Here's a picture, from Salon. It may have been photoshopped, but I think he may be looking at us... or not.

I'm Feeling Moody

Nice. Very nice. From Blue Matter:

Markets play a simple yet crucial role: they price (or 'rate') assets, so as to ensure societal resources are allocated efficiently.

Markets do this better than any other institution yet devised because people need to put their money where their mouth is; it is not enough to say 'I think Greece will default' - if you are going to have an influence on the price, you have to be willing to take the risk of losing money if your opinion turns out to be wrong, and you would only do that if you have confidence in your information and analysis. That way, the price of different assets, including sovereign debt, is determined by the people with the best information (or, as is the case when it comes to extremely deep and liquid markets such as sovereign debt, the best ability to process the information that is freely available to all).

So, it is a serious perversion of this basic principle when the credit ratings agencies spend 60,000 dollars a year (that's the annual wage of a junior analyst) on analyzing Greek debt while investing exactly $0 on it, yet the effect they have on the price of that debt is equivalent to their controlling billions in funds. What the hell does it mean to 'rate debt'? Isn't this what the market is supposed to be doing by setting the price?

I think there IS an answer to the question: the "skin" a ratings agency has in the game is its repuation. Underwriters' Laboratories, or Consumer Reports, can only survive if their ratings carry information. Information is a complex good, but if one person has information it is hard to sell without revealing the information. Imagine:

A: Is your advice on which blender to buy good?

B: Yes, I have excellent private information about blenders. I have tested hundreds of them.

A: Okay, prove it, before I buy.

B: All right, buy XXX and YYY, because of [reveals private information about blenders]

A: That's stupid! I'm not paying! [OR} Great info, thanks! I'm not paying!

Either way, not paying for a straight up transfer of information. So you get specialized firms, which can (a) charge subscriptions and (b) develop a reputation as a depreciable capital asset, a hostage against lying.

This only works because information about a blender, a car, or a movie, is not really very valuable. So a ratings agency can make sense by obtaining the information and selling it for a small price, like a subscription to CONSUMER REPORTS magazine, where they could never sell it piece rate.

But information on a bond? Or on the likelihood of default on Greek sovereign debt? Why would we think that a rating agency would tell us more than the price of the asset, in elite level financial markets? Good one, datacharmer!

Crime Rates Fall

Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics, challenging the widely held belief that recessions drive up crime rates. The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash. The early figures, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, indicate a third straight year of decreases, along with a sharply accelerating rate of decline. WSJ, Evan Perez.

bu...bu...but that can't be right? We all KNOW that crime rates are rising sharply, because of all those dirty immigrants.

Right? Wait, "Evan PEREZ." He's one of them eel-eagle immy-grants, right? So the story is made up.

Whoops. Guess not. Even an Anglo like "Charlie Savage" is writing this story, for the Times.

Darn it. That whole "immigrants are dirty criminals" was such a good story, too. Until the inconvenient facts got in the way.

Some facts: Markets like predictability, Politicians like chaos

Interesting and useful article, on world investment climate.

Two truths:

1. Markets like predictability. What tax system is best? Whatever one we have, if we keep it and are sure it won't change. What exchange rate is best? The current one, whatever it is. And so on.

2. Politicians crave chaos. What tax system is best? The one I am "reforming" to achieve. What exchange rate is best? I can't tell you, because central bank data are secret, but you'll see. What new policies will help the economy, save the poor, and improve health care? Just TRY to guess what I'm thinking now! Uncertainty is the preferred habitat of politicians and speculators. The politicians are the predators, and the speculators are carrion birds and hyenas that follow the predators around. Amazingly, after investment is destroyed, the politicians actually have the eggs to blame the speculators. Impressive, that the lion would blame the hyena, just because the hyena happens to be seen chewing on the deer the lion killed.

In a stable system, politicians are almost irrelevant. No one is afraid, things are getting better, and there is lots of investment. In an unstable system, we all hang on every word from our "leaders."

The Great Depression was caused by bad monetary policy, and an over activist response by Hoover. (Yep, I said Hoover. Look it up. He pressured the Fed to cut money supply, and worked behind the scenes to raise prices and force financial enterprises to "capitalize" losses. The "do nothing" description is a myth.)

Then Roosevelt, a political genius, realized that the chaos Hoover had created could be used to the advantage of the Democrats and their crony capitalist allies. So Roosevelt consciously choose taxes, pricing regulations, and make-work projects that would create a continuing crisis. (Read Amity Shlaes' fantastic book, THE FORGOTTEN MAN, for a detailed historical account).

The only reason we got out of the Great Depression was that anticipation of WWII made Roosevelt realize that chaos was bad for production and investment. And in a war, everybody listens to politicians anyway, so he was able to end the artificial domestic crisis in favor of a real international crisis. Roosevelt clearly called off the dogs in 1939 and 1940, as you can see from memos telling investors and manufacturers in plain language that they were now free to invest and make things without fear of government attacks.

Like Roosevelt, President Obama is a man of excellent political instincts and zero understanding of markets and the causes of prosperity. We are entering another stage of artificial continuing crisis, and it could last for years. Higher business taxes, a transactions tax, new regulations of finance, new federal ownership of manufacturing in automobiles, steel, and other industries. Anything to make investment returns less predictable, and preserve the power of the government.

You can pay me now, AND you can pay me later

States borrowing off the books? It appears so.

Most states have to run a balanced budget, by state constitution or by statute. But these "emergency" loans from Uncle Barack never have to appear on the state budget. Here is the list of states and borrowings:

Alabama $ 283 million
Arkansas 330 million
California 6.9 billion
Colorado 253 million
Connecticut 498 million
Delaware 12 million
Florida 1.6 billion
Georgia 416 million
Idaho 202 million
Illinois 2.2 billion
Indiana 1.7 billion
Kansas 88 million
Kentucky 795 million
Maryland 133 million
Mass. 387 million
Michigan 3.9 billion
Minnesota 477 million
Missouri 722 million
Nevada 397 million
New Jersey 1.7 billion
New York 3.2 billion
N.C. 2.1 billion
Ohio 2.3 billion
Penn. 3.0 billion
R.I. 225 million
S.C. 886 million
S.D. 24 million
Tennessee 21 million
Texas 1.0 billion
Vermont 33 million
Virginia 346 million
Virgin Islands 13 million
Wisconsin 1.4 billion
Total $37.8 billion

For North Carolina, that's about $210 per person in borrowing. Not very much, perhaps. But that's an additional $400 per person who is actually working and paying federal income taxes. And this is DEBT, not new taxes. How in the world can anyone think that borrowing on the credit of the US, and giving the money to the states, is a good idea? You hear this a lot: "Our state taxpayers can't afford this, so we are going to seek Federal money." IT'S ALL THE SAME MONEY. If you take money from my federal taxes, and give it back to me as a state benefit, there is no net benefit, and nothing of value is created.

But if you BORROW on Federal credit, and give the money to the states, it appears to be free money. Politicians can claim credit for it, and it won't have to be repaid until later. This is exactly the strategy that has worked so well in Greece, for example.

To be fair, this new off-the-books state borrowing appears to be something else: In the long run, this debt will take money from some people, in some states, who are dumb enough still to have jobs. And give that money to other people, in other states, who have figured out that it's cheaper to get free money than to try to earn a living by having a job.

(nod to Doug C, and the Economic Policy Journal)

Get a Job!

Get a job and keep it! High school employment and adult wealth accumulation

Matthew Painter, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, June 2010, Pages 233-249

Abstract: Wealth inequality receives substantial scholarly attention, but mounting evidence suggests that childhood and adolescent traits and experiences contribute to financial disparities in the United States. This study examines the relationship between adolescent labor force participation and adult wealth accumulation. I argue that employed high school students gain practical life skills, abilities, and knowledge from work experience and business exposure that shape investment decisions and affect overall net worth. I use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 cohort, to empirically explore this idea. This study extends the wealth literature by
identifying adolescent employment as an important mechanism that improves adult net worth and financial well-being.

Plausible, but it may confuse cause and effect. If you get a job in high school, you are likely a bit more ambitious. Those jobs are NOT fun (not even if you are "Welder / Union Steward Angus"), and anyone who sticks it out is pretty tough, and willing to work hard.

Still, it is likely to staying with a job teaches you to be more hard-working, also.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Barter and Exchange Leads to Trucks

Interesting article. The reason that humans started to outpace Neanderthals is... exchange, and division of labor.

Nod to Angry Alex

P-Krug Gets Schooled

Tyler comes up really, really big here.

I particularly like point #3, both parts A and B. To paraphrase:

A. Offshore drilling WAS regulated. Why isn't the failure an indictment of regulation?

B. The standard public choice critique is certainly not that markets are perfect. It is that government agencies are subject to problems of information acquisition, capture by industry, and desire for increased revenue. I have almost never heard a libertarian say that markets perform perfectly. The core of the free market position is that government agencies can be counted on to perform less well than P-Krug imagines.

In short, you can't criticize the model of perfect competition unless you are also willing to abandon the model of perfect government.

As usual, and as has been argued here before, LvM said it best:

Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that he wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world...They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve.

(Ludwig von Mises, Epistemological Problems of Economics)

P-Krug is a smart guy. But he has been whoring his intellect in service of his daydreams for a decade now.

UPDATE: I have to add this, from a comment by David--

Krugman's first foray into this was to argue that the oil spill was proof that liability didn't work. In other words, we have a disaster in a heavily-regulated industry with liability caps, and we conclude from that that liability doesn't work.


UPDATE: Related post.... Nicely done, sir. Thanks for the tip in comments.

Underwear, and Rowing

Went to the regatta in Tampa, for the YYM's rowing team.

I should note that the Mungowi have a custom. When we travel, the LMM brings three large suitcases, but forgets something, something important. Famously, when we were travelling to Fundman's wedding, with Neanderbill she forgot (wait for it) HER DRESS. So we were flopping about like fish, searching malls. That story has been told, before.

This time? Underwear. She didn't bring any underwear. (I'm playing this straight, not going to any of the obvious places I might go.)

(And I should note that the lovely Ms. Angus likewise once arrived in NC without undies (except the ones she was WEARING, I hasten to add.) So the Angii and I went to a Kohl's or something, and there in the ladies underwear aisle, a place I had not been before, we saw a very heavily veiled and robed Muslim woman, completely covered, shopping. She was shopping for some amazingly racy thongs and lacy little nothings. Holding up those little g-string looking undies to the light, while she was totally hooded in heavy black cloth. Strange. Anyway, Ms. Angus got some sensible American made-in-Mexico underwear, and we were off.)

So I had to find a Tar-shay, or something like that, and buy the LMM some undergarments. I did find a Target, and this time in the ladies undies aisle there were two elderly women, Brits from their accents, arguing fiercely about whether the double panels in the enormous granny style, come-up-to-your-neck, panties would "control spotting." EEEEWWWWWW! They were loud, and pulling back and forth and holding up the crotch panels to the light. (This, ladies, is why men don't like to buy that sort of stuff. One elderly Brit-women-arguing-about-spotting wipes out at least five Muslim-woman-holding-up-thongs experiences.)

Anyway, all is well, and the LMM no longer has to travel commando. (Or "true Scotsman"). But as soon as we get to the regatta site, we see ....this! Nice!

The regatta site is huge, and crowded. It looked like this, for more than a mile, solid.

Hard to see the actual races, out on the lake. But the YYM rows in a 4-boat, like this one:

Back at the airport, spirits were high. The YYM was dressed all in black, with sunglasses. He's in the middle.

One of our boats, the lightweight 2 men, made it to Nationals, by coming in 2nd in the finals and winning a silver medal. (Our team is Triangle Rowing Club, btw). Yay! Very exciting.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

YYM at the beach....

If you haven't seen the YYM for a while, that's him on the right.

NC Beaches.... nice.

Turn out the lights, the party's over

In my younger days, I tried to publish a paper entitled "How Dead is the Solow Model?"
Let me reproduce in full the abstract to that paper below:

"Stone dead."

Needless to say, I got nowhere, and it wasn't until Mrs. Angus came on board that a much revised, improved and toned down version got published in the Journal of Development Economics.

Undaunted, I rise this lovely morning to proclaim that Keynesian economics, despite recent wide spread reports of its revival, is indeed, "Stone dead".

People, we have seen a literal mountain of government spending around the globe. And what do we have to show for it? An avalanche of unsustainable deficits and sovereign debt levels.

In the long run, it is true that we are all dead. But meanwhile, until that blessed day arrives, we are all broke!

The smartest thing many countries could do right now is the old double D; Default and Devalue. However, the likely result will be a "lost decade" of immiserizing policies undertaken at the behest of Keynes' most horrible creation, the IMF.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tell us how you really feel

Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny really doesn't like Kenny G and really really likes the late Louis Armstrong. So when Kenny overdubbed his music on top of Pops, Pat went mental:

"But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, f***ed up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. "

The whole essay is well worth reading (find it here).

Hey Mungo, I like Pat's style. Can we get him to guest blog some this summer?

Amazing, But Not Surprising

This is a problem for every state in the U.S.

Can you explain to me again how excessive compensation in private employment requires people like this to regulate us?

2008 Election Analysis

Insiders, Outsiders, and Voters in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

Melvin Hinich, Daron Shaw & Taofang Huang
Presidential Studies Quarterly, June 2010, Pages 264-285

Abstract: In 2008, both Barack Obama and John McCain repeatedly talked about "reform" and "change" on the campaign trail, presumably believing that voters would respond to a president who could challenge the established way of doing business. The authors gauge the significance of "reform" politics in 2008 through two analyses. First, they estimate a two-dimensional issue space, paying particular attention to the possibility of a reform /establishment dimension. Second, they consider whether voters (1) preferred reform candidates, and (2) saw Obama or McCain as credible reform candidates. The data indicate the existence of a reform-establishment dimension. However, neither Obama nor McCain effectively convinced voters that they were reformers.


Did Bush Voters Cause Obama's Victory?
Arthur Lupia, PS: Political Science & Politics, April 2010, Pages 239-241

Abstract: In the 2008 election, Barack Obama's campaign brought many new voters to the polls. Were these new voters necessary for Obama's victory? In this study, I find that they were not. The basis of this finding is an examination of decisions made by people who voted for George W. Bush in 2004. I show that Bush voters' decisions not to vote or to support Obama were a sufficient condition for Obama's victory.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Self-fulfilling prophecies or How to make it in America

"THIBODAUX, La. – A man who told police that God told him to walk the streets naked to save his soul has been arrested. Thibodaux police responded to an obscenity complaint around 2 a.m. Thursday and found Shafiq Mohamed walking nude down the street. When approached, Mohamed reportedly told officers that "America raped him" and added God told him to walk the streets naked to save his soul.

Mohamed was taken into custody and charged with obscenity. He was booked into the Lafourche Parish Detention Center where he awaited bail.

It was not immediately known whether Mohamed has an attorney."

Link is here. I believe I'll just let this one speak for its ownself.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Distribution Channels

Nice post on Libertarian views of income distribution from my friend Will W, with some riffs from D. Friedman and R. Frank.

The Catholic Church in Latin America

Great essay by one of my favorites, Alma Guillermoprieto.

Here's her take on the late, unlamented Father Maciel:

"A great achiever and close associate of John Paul II, Maciel was also a bigamist, pederast, dope fiend, and plagiarist."

Highly recommended (it would be "self recommending" but I already read it and liked it).

Thank you Jebus!

People, Doug "master of the obvious" Collins is going to coach the 76ers. While that in and of itself is neither here nor there, it does however mean that HE WILL NO LONGER BE BROADCASTING GAMES ON TNT.

All across America, you can hear the sounds of hoops fans' sphincters unclenching in relief.

Doug, baby, do I ever have an assistant coach for you! He will show your young men how to go to the front of the rim.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Not From the Onion

Though it ought to be from the Onion only.

Check this video. As far as I can tell, the two giant, big brotherish EYES are the symbol of British nanny-state intrusiveness. They got cameras in their bloody RUBBISH TIPS, after all.

(Nod to Mike G)


Big ups to Mrs. Angus, whose promotion to full professor was finalized yesterday and commemorated today with a new sign on the old office door!

Way to go, sweetheart!

GM Lies, Fiscal Sanity Dies

John P. has a nice post on GM, and George Will. GoodONya, John! The best part is the YouTube on the GM "loan repayment." But I don't want to steal; you have to go to JP's page to see it.

But when are you going to send me that clip with my ACTUAL LINE, so I can post it?
"Where to, Lord Keynes?" You keep promising, you big tease, and then NOTH! ING!

I now believe in re-incarnation....

Because James Brown has come back to earth in the body of a young woman:

Hot Links!

This just in: Water is wet. Who knew?

You can now add driving to the list of things Diego Maradona is not good at.

The world's greatest sausage factory is in full swing.

3 Yikes and I'm out!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just when you think it's safe to come out of the closet

Holy Crap, people.

More hail, more tornadoes, the Norman tornado sirens are blowing and the Angii are back in the bedroom closet, hunkered down and tuned in to the national weather service.

you know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is....grand?

Just another band from San Jose

Costa Rica, that is!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Las Robertas. They are women, they are from Costa Rica, they are very very good.

More info here and here and here and here.

I'm a fan.

Photos of Five Worst Airline Meals

From Craig, who linked to photos of the five worst airline meals.

I rushed to look, because I was sure I had seen worse.

But.... nope. Those are awful.

If only I lived in Bridgeport Nebraska....

....then my non-voting might matter!

BRIDGEPORT, Neb. – A deck of cards and a bit of luck helped decide who will likely be the next sheriff of Morrill County.

The nine of hearts Milo Cardenas drew Monday beat Travis Petersen's six of spades, giving Cardenas the Republican nomination for sheriff. Since no Democrats ran for sheriff, Cardenas, the police chief in Bridgeport, is likely to win in November's election.

"I knew it was going to be close, but I didn't expect to be this close," Cardenas said.

The two men agreed to cut a deck of cards after Monday's re-count confirmed that both finished at the top of a four-man race with 379 votes after balloting ended last Tuesday. State law requires tied elections to be settled by a game of chance.

Cardenas said deciding the race with a card game seemed a little crazy but also seemed like the best option.

"I felt more comfortable with the deck of cards. That way you pick your own destiny," Cardenas said.

Brandt shuffled the cards seven times and spread them out on a table before the candidates drew cards simultaneously.

"People wanted to revote and do a lot of things, but unfortunately, Nebraska law is very clear," Morrill County Clerk Kathy Brandt said.

Brandt said none of the candidates who lost in the primary are allowed to run in the general election.

"For all those people that didn't vote, they should realize that one vote does make a difference," Brandt said.

Two points about the Morrill County Clerk, people.

(1) "unfortunately, Nebraska law is very clear"?? WTF? given that people wanted to "do a lot of things", I think it's very fortunate that the law was clear.

(2) Ms. Brandt also seems to have a very low bar for defining "making a difference"! Were these two Republican candidates for Morrill County Sheriff really so different from each other?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Colombian Presidente Mockus, Mock You, Too

An interesting guy. Excerpt:

Perhaps Mockus is best known for his stunts. Attempting to crackdown on traffic law violations, he hired an army of mimes to stand on street corners and publicly humiliate bad drivers. It worked brilliantly. He also created his super hero alter-ego, "Super Citizen" (complete with spandex and cape), to talk to citizens about civic responsibility. This definitely drew more listeners than a mayoral speech. And then there was his most infamous move of all: In an attempt to get the attention of a tuned-out college age audience, he pulled down his trousers and mooned them. Needles to say -- the ploy worked.

Needles, indeed. Some questions:

1. What's with all the mooning, all of a sudden? Sheesh.
2. When I hear "broken window," I think of Bastiat. But most people apparently think of Giuliani. Which is the dominant metaphor?

England Lets 3rd Party Debate; Why Don't We?

I wrote an op-ed about sunshine and open debate for the Durham Herald today.

What do you think?

Squirrel Kerfuffle

The LMM and I disagree about something.

She loves hummingbirds. We have several little hummingbird drinking stations set up, hanging from metal hooks.

There is this one squirrel who has mastered the technology of hanging onto the feeder, tipping it, and then furiously drinking the contents, emptying the container onto himself, his mouth, and the ground, in about two minutes.

The LMM keeps letting the dogs out, and going out herself, to "scare off" the squirrel. But the squirrel comes right back, of course.

My solution: Squirrel dies of a gunshot wound.

Look: (1) There is only one (now fat) squirrel who is doing this. The others try, but the thing tips if they try to drink from the top. No other squirrel has mastered the "hang, tip, and quaff" technique.
(2) we have a .22 with a scope. I can fire those little tiny 20 grain "Colibri"** shells, which have a range of about 100 meters. (The standard .22 LR shell is 40 grains, and these Colibri actually have NO powder, other than the primer)
(3) I can fire downward, with grass as the background, so there is no danger of ricochet, not that these little bullets would go anywhere.

Yes, one should be very careful firing Colibris from a long gun. Not enough power to eject the casing, and in fact the bullet may not leave the barrel, so you really, really have to check after every shot. But they are quite accurate. And at a range of 10 meters, they will kill a squirrel.

All right readers: Who is right?

**Plus, "Colibri" means "Hummingbird" in French (also Spanish, and, oddly, Rumanian). How perfect is that? The fat squirrel gets taken out by a little lead hummingbird!

The Grand Game! Physician Salary Edition

Can we play The Grand Game? Can we? This is just a short version, because all we have is the abstract of the paper. (Yes, you are welcome to use a library subscription to get the actual paper. I am sure there are other delights there, also).

But for now....what is the most amazingly nonsensical claim? That's the Grand Game, folks....

Can We Close The Income And Wealth Gap Between Specialists And Primary Care Physicians?

Bryan Vaughn, Steven DeVrieze, Shelby Reed & Kevin Schulman
Health Affairs, May 2010, Pages 933-940

Abstract: Over their lifetimes, primary care physicians earn lower incomes-and accumulate considerably less wealth-than their specialist counterparts. This gap influences medical students, who are choosing careers in primary care in declining numbers. We estimated career wealth accumulation across specialists, primary care physicians, physician assistants, business school graduates, and college graduates. We then compared specialists, represented by cardiologists, to primary care physicians in four scenarios. The wealth gap is substantial; narrowing it would require substantial reductions in specialists' practice income or increases in primary care physicians' practice income, or both, of more than $100,000 a year. Current proposals for increasing primary care physician supply would do little to lessen these differences.

I'll go first!

1. Why would you WANT to have equal salaries across primary care and all specialties? Why in the world would that be any kind of important policy goal, given all the other problems we have in health care?

2. Given that one might one might have such a goal (I don't, but...), why in the name of Hippocrates would you consider reducing the income of specialists? Yes, you might encourage competition, for its many benefits, one of which might be a reduction in monopoly rents for specialists. But just going in and messing with prices, as a stand-alone goal... amazing.

(Nod to Kevin L, for the article)

Munger Sign on Private Property!

An email I received this morning:

I have an unauthorized sign advertising Mr Munger posted on private property. It is a vacant parcel #500-04-371 in Yavapai County. I appreciate the immediate removal of the sign and an explanation why it was placed without permission.

My response, in the form of a letter--
Dear PERSON: I'm pretty sure you are writing from Arizona. At least, there is a Yavapai County in AZ, but there is not one in North Carolina.

Yet you have contacted the MIKE Munger for Governor campaign, in North Carolina.

May I propose that you contact instead the JOHN Munger for Governor campaign, in Arizona.

I thought about saying that I would appreciate an explanation on why would you would send unsolicited spam to a professor in North Carolina, but people make mistakes. That may be the reason that there is a sign on your property, also.

In any case, it's not my sign.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rally Driver Crashes After Being Mooned

Ah, the memories. Driving home from baseball games in high school.

Remember, Dutch Boy?

A Bizarre Paper, But With An Important Point

Private-Payer Profits Can Induce Negative Medicare Margins

Jeffrey Stensland, Zachary Gaumer & Mark Miller
Health Affairs, May 2010, Pages 1045-1051

Abstract: A common assumption is that hospitals have little control over their costs and must charge high rates to private health insurers when Medicare rates are lower than hospital costs. We present evidence that contradicts that common assumption. Hospitals with strong market power and higher private-payer and other revenues appear to have less pressure to constrain their costs. Thus, these hospitals have higher costs per unit of service, which can lead to losses on Medicare patients. Hospitals under more financial pressure-with less market share and less ability to charge higher private rates-often constrain costs and can generate profits on Medicare patients.

Good lord. The problem is not "profits," but rather that costs are increasing without bound. The point is that in the absence of any kind of competition, the very idea of "cost" is poorly defined. Every step along the line can charge higher prices, because the costs are passed on. You can call that profit if you want, but it's really just a transfer based on the monopoly protections afforded to health care by government restrictions on advertising, and the creation of insuperable entry barriers.

Two things you should read, if you think the article above makes sense (hint: it doesn't)

1. My little piece on insurance, at REASON
2. Nick G's cool piece on eye surgery, at ReasonTV

Cost can come down in a hurry, with competition. But the Obamacare program will, if anything, make the problem worse by focusing on insurance and bureaucratic price-fixing. In any case, blaming "profits" is the sort of idiocy you learn in public health schools, where as far as I can tell they would save time if they could just lobotomizing students. A lobotomy and an MPH are only distinguished by the size of the scar they leave; the effects are identical.

(Nod to KL for the article)

Funny sentences about the Euro Crisis

One is funny on purpose and one is funny - yikes!

"Beware of Greeks burning thrifts"

--Mary Anastasia O'Grady in today's WSJ.

“The situation was already starting to get worse on Thursday afternoon and throughout Friday of the week before last, a number of markets were no longer functioning correctly."

--Feckless ECB president J. C. Trichet as quoted by Tyler this morning.

Mary O's is astoundingly clever. I apparently have underrated her.

J.C.'s is funnier but scarier. He sees not lending to broke-ass governments = not functioning correctly.

They Probably Can't Jump, EIther

What is a "Sentence"?

I don't understand this. It may well make sense, but there are no details yet.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government has the power to indefinitely keep some sex offenders behind bars after they have served their sentences, if officials determine those inmates may prove "sexually dangerous" in the future.

"The federal government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger such prisoners may pose," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the 7-2 majority

UPDATE: If this means that there is a normal hearing, going toward a criminal insanity commitment, then okay. But....if the guy is certifiably insane, how could it be that he could be tried, and sentenced in the first place? I still don't understand.

UPDATE II: Roger Pilon clarifies....

Monday Flashback: 2004 White Sox Game

Our regular Monday feature: one of my favorite posts from the distant past, on Monday. This week, the description of a visit to U.S. Cellular Field, home of those beloved Pale Hose.

The best part really was where the guy ran out on the field, and took his beer with him. When the fat security guys finally caught him, they just straight up beat the hell out of him; don't need no stinkin taser!

What's in a name?

The social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.


The dismal science

--Thomas Carlyle

The mechanics of utility and self interest.

--W.S. Jevons

A study of mankind in the ordinary business of life

--Alfred Marshall

Economics is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.

--Lionel Robbins

The study of how the forces of supply and demand allocate scarce resources

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

--F.A. Hayek

Chairity: Thursday at 7 a.m.

Thursday at 7 am: The "Countdown for Chairity" clock will go under 1,000 hours. Baby, oh baby, oh baby.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This just in: the 22nd amendment does NOT apply to Haiti

Leave it to Slick Willie to find a loophole and get back in the saddle:

"On April 15, the Haitian Parliament ratified a law extending by 18 months the state of emergency that President René Préval declared after the earthquake of January 12. The Parliament also formally ceded its powers over finances and reconstruction, during the state of emergency, to a foreign-led Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH). The CIRH's mandate is to direct the post-earthquake reconstruction of Haiti through the $9.9 billion in pledges of international aid, including approving policies, projects, and budgeting. The World Bank will manage the money.

The majority of members on the CIRH are foreign. The criterion for becoming a foreign voting member is that the institution has contributed at least $100 million during two consecutive years, or has cancelled at least $200 million in debt. Others who have given less may share a seat. The Organization of American States and non-governmental organizations working in Haiti do not have a vote.

The CIRH is headed by U.N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. The only accountability or oversight measure is veto power by Préval. Few expect him to employ his veto option, both because his record is not one of challenging the international aid apparatus, and because of possible repercussions, in terms of the dollar flow, by the CIRH."


Hat tip to LeBron.

Tim G is Gone, But Not Forgotten

My friend Tim G, from Erlangen, is now back in Erlangen after a year at Duke.

On his last day in the U.S., I took this photo. You see Tim there in all his facets: a guitar tattoo that would be cheesy on anyone less sincere about rock music, the Buddy Holly glasses (see above), the books (he xeroxed much of the Duke library in his time here). And the earphones, so that he can play Altar or Lacuna Coil at a volume that would hurt the ears of someone at the same table if he were using ear buds. The full headphones keep all that death metal inside, where it belongs. Tim is a POLITE metal freak.

And he is sitting in the sun, in NC. Since he is now back in Germany, he will never see the sun again.

So, Tim: Alles Gute! Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

Graduation Station

My job, as chair of Poli Sci, is to read out the names of the 132 first majors (we had 200 total majors, out of a class of 1,400, meaning of course that 1 of every 7 Duke students finish with a Poli Sci major. Amazing!).

I get a lot of the names wrong. Hard to pronounce.

But this year I yelled at the kids who blow right past the podium and get their diploma w/o giving the parents a chance to take pictures. I actually made one kid come BACK, and pose again so that dad could take the picture.

We got through 12 awards, and then 132 names, complete with ample ops for pix, in 45 minutes. I made the kiddos line up, and made sure the moms / dads / uncles knew where to stand to take pictures.

Got a big hand from the parents. It's their day. Enjoy, parents! Your kid is done.

Fortunately, not too hot today, and there was a breeze. Another year over....

no fold-em hold-em, Euro style

In the gaming establishment I occasionally frequent, low-stakes poker games are referred to as "no fold-em hold-em" meaning that the tables are filled with calling stations who will pay to see every available card.

I mention this because Barry Eichengreen has chosen a poker metaphor to describe the $1 trillion Euro rescue fund:

"rather than folding their cards, European leaders doubled down. They understand that their gamble will be immensely costly if it proves wrong. They understand that their political careers now ride on their massive bet. But they also understand that they already have too many chips in the pot to fold."

"They already have too many chips in the pot to fold"?

This is a common belief. I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone justify a bad call at the poker table by saying "I was pot committed".

But people, the logic of the irrelevance of sunk costs applies in poker too.

While it is true that the size of the pot in relation to the size of the required bet to stay in can encourage someone to stay in with a weaker hand (if you are getting 8 to 1 on your money, you only have to win 12% of the time to make the call mathematically correct), that is pretty much NOT the case for the Eurozone leaders.

In poker terms, they are making a bluff raise in the hopes of getting the bond markets to fold. It's got nothing to do with chips in the pot.

Look, at least some of the PIIGS are insolvent and will eventually default. Delaying default will make things worse for the debtor countries (though it has the potential to make things better for the lending banks, which (as usual) is the real purposes of the rescue fund).

He also seems to think that the Eurozone has already won the hand:

"Europe’s fortnight mirabilis was also marked by amazing – and erroneous – predictions. Greece would be booted out of the monetary union. The eurozone would be divided into a Northern European union and a Southern European union. Or the euro – and even the European Union – would disintegrate as Germany turned its back on the project....Those forecasting the demise of the euro were wrong because they misunderstood the politics."

I admit I am more comfortable forecasting some sovereign defaults than I am the demise of the Euro, but I am pretty sure that fight is far from over. I'd say there is easily still a 1 in 3 chance that the current Euro-zone system will not survive the next 5 years unchanged. In fact, you could already say it's been dramatically changed by the "unprecedented purchases of Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and Irish bonds by the European Central Bank."

Two final thoughts.

(1) I just don't see the rescue fund as a slam dunk game changer.

(2) I'd like to play Barry heads up in Texas hold-em

Friday, May 14, 2010

How Cool Is This?

Electoral reform? You mean it is not impossible?


Consider the sequence of events.

1. Third party candidate allowed to participate in debates. Does well. Polls show third party might matter, might have good ideas.

2. Election takes place, where third party gets hammered, because of crooked election laws.

3. But because neither of major state-sponsored parties has a majority, third party is able to extract promise to make election law more open and less crooked.

If it happened in England, could it happen in the US? Answer: Probably not, because in the US we can't even get to step 1. Voters can't like what they can't see.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Darned Profits! They must DIE!

Heh. Heh heh. Heh.

He said "Sackodonuts."

Why loopholes are good things, segun yo.

#2 with a WTF

Here is yet another list of the top 10 most profitable college majors.

Economics is #2 (so appropriate,no?). But oh my Lord, the description!

"A pretty ubiquitous myth is that economics is all statistics and math. The fact is, while economics majors do a lot of statistics and math, they also study a wide range of topics, including social science, psychology, political science and history. Alan Metzer, even said: "economics is a social science." There are plenty of humanitarian efforts you can make in this line of work, as economists are needed to create public policy -- domestically and internationally.

Average first year salary: $50,200. Average mid-career salary: $101,000."

I am pretty sure it was NOT Alan Metzer they are trying to quote, more likely it's Alan Meltzer. However I am also pretty sure neither one of those gentlemen were the first to label economics as a social science.

But the best is the equation of "creating public policy" with "humanitarian efforts". Sweet Fancy Moses, people.

Look, econ is a good major and the pay is not bad. But we are not known for our "humanitarian efforts", and, as a rule, we don't study much history or political science.

Globalization Kills Local Culture

Pop Internationalism: Has A Half Century of World Music Trade Displaced
Local Culture?

Fernando Ferreira & Joel Waldfogel, NBER Working Paper, May 2010

Abstract: Advances in communication technologies over the past half century have made the cultural goods of one country more readily available to consumers in another, raising concerns that cultural products from large economies – in particular the US – will displace the indigenous cultural products of smaller economies. In this paper we provide stylized facts about the global music consumption and trade since 1960, using a unique data on popular music charts from 22 countries, corresponding to over 98% of the global music market. We find that trade volumes are higher between countries that are geographically closer and between those that share a language. Contrary to growing fears about large- country dominance, trade shares are roughly proportional to country GDP shares; and relative to GDP, the US music share is substantially below the shares of other smaller countries. We find a substantial bias toward domestic music which has, perhaps surprisingly, increased sharply in the past decade. We find no evidence that new communications channels – such as the growth of country-specific MTV channels and Internet penetration – reduce the consumption of domestic music. National policies aimed at preventing the death of local culture, such as radio airplay quotas, may explain part of the increasing consumption of local music.

Wow, Canada: How much BNLs, Shania, Alanis, and Neil Young can you play in a day?

(Nod to Kevin L)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

give us Barabbas

for we will not have this man rule over us!

And here's why:

by the way, Bryan Caplan is totally wrong, at least about the Japanese electorate. Dude wore that shirt in public and his approval rating dropped 9 points. That, people, is what we call hyper-rational politics.

note: more fun photos at the first link!

That Darned Media

So, South Carolina's budget is in the toidy, the Gov of SC is trying to rekindle his affair with his Argentine "soul mate," and the House of Reps in SC has already given the largest sanctioning fine in its history to Gov. "Gotta get my boy wet" Sanford.

And the villain? The MEDIA. Because they got the name of the hotel wrong. Really.

(Nod to Anonyman, whose soul mate likes Loco Pops)

The 4 chord song....s

Axis of Awesome? Yes, they are pretty awesome. The 4 chord song.
Nod to Angry Alex

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

you wouldn't even know a diamond if you held it in your hand

I know that I am treading on thin ice here, after all, the US of A re-elected George F. Bush!

Nonetheless, I am amazed at how political pariahs can somehow rehabilitate themselves.

Consider Alan Garcia in Peru. From hyper inflation (7,649% in 1990), rampant terrorism and disgrace to, less than 20 years later being again elected President.

Of course that was perhaps a bit of an Edwards v. Dukes (vote for the crook, it's important) situation.

I was amazed to see today that Imelda Marcos and two of her children won elections in the Philippines. Imelda in the House, a Governorship for the daughter and Senator for the son.

After winning, Imelda had this to say:

"The Filipino people can be assured of our selfless and endless service and love to all."


Leadership Deficit

As Dr. Newmark notes, t'ain't often that REASON and NEW REPUBLIC agree. But they do.

Yikes (NBA edition)

“I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have three bad games in seven years, it’s easy to point them out.

--LeBron James

Wow, people. As Wojo points out, that is not exactly what you want to hear from the league MVP after he's thrown away home court advantage and possibly his team's season in the second round of the playoffs.

Hey Moneybags!

This website shows your own personalized place in the world income distribution.

It's simultaneously fun and unsettling.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Immigration Truths

I keep thinking I'm going to write about immigration.

But I have nothing to add to what Don B. says, and links, here.

KPC Classics

I have been trying to repost what I though were some of the best of the past of KPC, on Mondays. But didn't make it in time yesterday. So, a day late, here is another classic from the Jurassic.... blogging from St Louis the day after the 2004 prez debate. I found the whole experience to be surreal, and it still seems that way, reading it nearly six years later.

Your KPC classic....

Truth in Advertising

I often make my lefty friends angry, when I say that force and coercion are the distinguishing features of government. Ultimately, both good laws bad laws are enforced by men with guns, and we are forced to obey. The men, and the guns, don't care whether the laws are good or not.

My friends deny this, and say that in fact obedience is something we all WANT to do, because it makes us happy. And all laws must be good, because government wants what is good for us.

The state of Pennsylvania has abandoned the pretense. Well done, PA.

(Nod to my man John P, at BWtHDIK)

and a mighty slow line it is....

(click on image to enlarge, hat tip to Art C.)

God hates Oklahoma

Wow people, that was a close one! Mrs. Angus, Mr. Tooty, and myself spent late yesterday afternoon and early evening hanging out in our bedroom closet listening to the tornado sirens (which was ok til the power went out), while all hell broke loose outside.

One of my favorite quotes from the National Weather Service yesterday was: "This storm likely to contain damaging hail of baseball size or greater"

I wondered if there was a such thing as baseball sized hail that was UN-damaging, and also doubted that hail could get that big.

Regarding my doubt, here is a photo posted by a local Facebook friend (thanks JPP!)


Monday, May 10, 2010

Article by the McCubbi!

Proposition 13 and the California Fiscal Shell Game

Colin McCubbins & Mathew McCubbins
Stanford Working Paper, December 2009

Abstract: We study the effects of California's Tax and Expenditure Limitations, especially Proposition 13. We find that Proposition 13 was indeed effective at reducing both ad valorem property taxes per capita and total state and local taxes per capita, at least in the short run. We further argue that there have been unintended secondary effects that have resulted in an increased tax burden, undermining the aims of Proposition 13. To circumvent the limits imposed by Proposition 13, the state has drastically increased nonguaranteed debt, has privatized the public fisc, and has devolved the authority to lay and collect taxes and to spend the proceeds so gained. The devolution of authority has been among the swiftest growing aspects of government finance in California, to a far greater extent than in other states. Lastly, we argue that the new tax and spending authorities that have been created to circumvent Proposition 13 have led to a reduction in government transparency and accountability and pose an increasing threat to our democracy.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Germany Blinks


I admit I am shocked (but not awed). The Euro Nations have put together a large ($1 trillion or so) contingency fund to defend their common currency and stock markets are so far rejoicing.

But what shocks me is the fact that the ECB (European Central Bank) is now going to be directly buying government debt.

In other words, goodbye Central Bank Independence, hello Weimar 2.0???

I would call this Wow and Yikes, not Shock and Awe.

Judging Gender

Since we are likely soon to have a new female associate Justice on the SC....

Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging

Christina Boyd, Lee Epstein & Andrew Martin
American Journal of Political Science, April 2010, Pages 389-411

We explore the role of sex in judging by addressing two questions of long-standing interest to political scientists: whether and in what ways male and female judges decide cases distinctly — "individual effects" — and whether and in what ways serving with a female judge causes males to behave differently — "panel effects." While we attend to the dominant theoretical accounts of why we might expect to observe either or both effects, we do not use the predominant statistical tools to assess them. Instead, we deploy a more appropriate methodology: semiparametric matching, which follows from a formal framework for causal inference. Applying matching methods to 13 areas of law, we observe consistent gender effects in only one — sex discrimination. For these disputes, the probability of a judge deciding in favor of the party alleging discrimination decreases by about 10 percentage points when the judge is a male. Likewise, when a woman serves on a panel with men, the men are significantly more likely to rule in favor of the rights litigant. These results are consistent with an informational account of gendered judging and are inconsistent with several others.

Several questions occur.

1. "Panel effects"? That is not the way I would have talked about panel effects. What is meant here is the presence or absence of at least one woman on the "panel" deciding. Makes sense, but panel data is an established term.

2. The rap on SDO'C on the court was that she was erratic. (She wrote McConnell v. FEC, which was bizarre, for example). So the difference (and there may not be one) between men and women may be in the variance, not the means. And in spite of the anecdote about Sandra D., it may well be men who have higher variance. I have no idea. Just saying that the difference in the second moment would be an interesting thing to measure...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The wisdom of Tyler Cowen

He tweets:

"Some people hate me for this view, but TARP is looking better all the time."

I agree. Maybe it worsened moral hazard issues down the road, maybe some of the money has been spent beyond the intent of the program (GM anyone?), maybe it was bigger than it needed to be, but TARP and quantitative easing by the FED pretty clearly worked and worked well.

As a lagniappe, most of the money is actually getting paid back.

What do you think I am, a cuttlefish?

I am very late to this party, and for that I apologize, but have y'all seen the "green porn" and "seduce me" videos by Isabella F. Rossellini on the Sundance Channel?

Freaky-deaky to say the least.

Here is the homepage, where you can learn about the genitalia of ducks and the lack of genitalia of female bedbugs courtesy of a deranged Italio-Swede actress.

As Tyler would say, it's self-recommending!

Saturday, May 08, 2010


"People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election." Otto von Bismarck

hat tip to Keith Gaddie

Markets in everything: Pork-o-meter edition

Sadly this isn't for the kind of pork we really need protected from (which I should have realized right away given that it was invented in Kazakhstan), but it's still awesome nonetheless:

ALMATY (Reuters) – Scientists in mainly Muslim Kazakhstan have come up with an instant test for the presence of pork in food, a popular newspaper reported on Monday.

The plastic-stick test detects food molecules that are found only in pork, which is forbidden by Islam but is easily found in the Central Asian state, Megapolis weekly said.

"It's no secret that some chefs cheat and add pork to beef to make the dish cheaper," the newspaper wrote on Monday, saying the practice was widespread in Kazakhstan.

"When you get your beef patty, cut off a couple of small pieces and drop them in a glass of water. Stir, shake, put the test stick in ... In a minute or two you will see the result."

Megapolis said it was unclear when the test, in which the stick changes color as in a pregnancy test, would become widely available.

I have to say that I think it IS pretty clear when this product will actually become widely available: Never!

Plus, I really admire the onions of a newspaper in Kazakhstan calling itself "Megapolis".