Saturday, October 30, 2010

Goolsbee P'wnd

The other side of the white board: Dr. Goolsbee, call your office.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Joshua Bell, Free and Clear

An interesting story. And the Snopes commentary is also interesting.

For my own part, I know I can tell the difference between a $3 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle of wine, but I have very little chance of distinguishing a $15 bottle of wine from a $70 bottle of wine.

And I usually stop to listen to musicians in the subway, and leave a buck. Perhaps because I can't tell the difference.

(Nod to the LMM)

The Culture that is France

Tyler says: "A Korean man over 75 is more likely to be working than a Frenchman in his early 60s."

Tea Party Article, and Stewart/Colbert Article

My man Sheldon called, and we had a nice talk. And then he wrote it up in the newspaper...

And then my man David called, and we had a nice talk. And then he wrote it up in his newspaper chain, McClatchy.

You want to know anything, just ask. We can have a nice talk!

Incentives in universities

Nick Rowe has a great post on the woes of the central planner in university settings.

You should definitely read the whole thing, but here's my favorite bit:

"It's not enough (in some cases) to put the carrot in front of the donkey. You have to point to the carrot, tell the donkey it is a carrot, and that he can eat it. And work out marginal revenue and marginal cost for the donkey too. And repeat this several times".

One interesting take on university incentives comes from the school where Mrs. Angus and I worked in Mexico City, CIDE.

Everyone started with the same (fairly low) base salary and the requirement to teach one class. There were then extra payments for teaching more classes (subject to demand). There were also payments based on one's overall academic reputation from SNI which came in three levels if you qualified. They also paid piecework on articles. A payment for each working paper and then an additional payment for publication on a scale related to the quality of the journal. Finally there were semi-annual productivity bonuses that could be as large as two months base salary.

I found this to be a great system. We got a ton of work done there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Dinner with Angus (and the Lovely Ms. Angus)

So Angus put together a first rate supper here at House d'Angus. Afterwards, the sitting / tea drinking / storytelling began.

Angus and I, affected by the decaf tea no doubt, began to bare our innermost souls. Each of us confessed our deepest, most intimate fear, which interestingly happen to be identical.


Ticks we can deal with, broken bones, fire, all fine. But no freakin' leeches, please. Gives us nightmares.

So...Ms. Angus immediately tells a story of a missionary she had heard about, in Africa. A large leech apparently crawled onto him.

And into his eye.

It latched, and managed to get to the back of his eye. "Like it was going to go into his brain," she said.

Angus and I are staring at her. We have bared our manly vulnerabilities, and she is going to go THERE?

Immersed in her story, she continued: "They had to pour hot sauce into his eye. Hot pepper sauce. He was screaming and thrashing around, and they had to tie him down. They kept putting more pepper sauce into his eye, and he was screaming. But they were afraid the leech would go into his brain."

Angus and I are holding onto each other and making little whimpering sounds.

She goes on. "Finally, the leech couldn't stand it, and the pepper sauce was burning it. So it came out." Seeing us staring at her, she said, "What? What did I say? Did I mention it was going to go into his brain?"

I am going to dream me some tremulous dreams, I'm afraid. Ms. Angus won this round.

He came, he saw, he conquered!

Mungo ruled the Sooner nation last night. Thanks to SIAS for sponsoring this event and to everyone who came out. It was informative, provocative and entertaining.

KPC Summit!

So, I am visiting at House d'Angus, and got to see the early morning walk wear of the lovely Ms. Angus (to be fair, it was COLD this morn, so she had every reason to wear gloves). We walked Mr. Tootie, and then Angus and I headed to the office.

O Daily had this article about my talk last night. (I already wrote them about the misspelling in the title!)

Voters may be dumb, but they are smarter than Taegan Goddard

On his Political Wire, Goddard says:

A Bloomberg National Poll finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won't be recovered.

The facts: The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters and expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks.

Umm, Taegs old pal, the economy HAS shrunk! real GDP peaked in the 4th quarter of 2007 and we have not yet reached that level. Now the economy is not still shrinking, but that's a different story.

While I'm at it, taxes HAVE gone up. Our deficit has exploded and (repeat after me cheese lovers) DEFICITS ARE FUTURE TAXES!

Finally, while banks are paying back TARP money with interest, taxpayers are losing billions on the TARP funds that were used to bail out GM.

I would score this one for the voters!

Does it matter if the Republicans take the House?

Some see a zombie apocalypse. I don't see much really.

First, the "repeal Obamacare" idea is simply nuts. The Repubs won't have anything near a veto proof majority and the Dems in the Senate, even if the Repubs take the Senate, can just act like the current minority party in the Senate is acting.

Second, it's true that "progressive" legislation will be harder to pass. But it seems that it was already next to impossible to pass anyway. Cap & Trade is already dead, card check already dead, more stimulus, already dead. I don't see any big change here.

Third, it's true that there will be more support for DADT and the wars and our brutal immigration policy, but again, the current administration was already vigorously prosecuting these and other horrible policies.

Finally, I do think there will be a change in the mix of tools used to achieve deficit reduction, with (and I admit this may be more of a hope than a reality) more emphasis on spending cuts and less on tax increases. In any event, I think a Republican House makes deficit reduction at least a little bit more likely.

PS: Am I the only one who'd like to see Christine O'Donnell in the Senate? Just for the Caligula's horse kind of vibe it would have?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tonight's the Night

Bruce Berry and Mungowitz were/are both working men, and while Bruce is gone, you can see Mungo tonight at 7:00 at OU (181 Hester Hall)!

Be sure to introduce yourself to he or I as a KPC reader!

Here's the ad one more time, just because it's so cool:

Observations from the Thunder's opening night

Derrick Rose really likes to shoot the basketball (31 shots in 31 minutes).

Thabo Sefolosha is a ferocious defender.

The Thunder really miss Nick Collison. He's their "glue" guy, especially on interior defense.

"DJ Boom" is not actually a DJ at all!

Thunder still are not good at halftime entertainment.

Wayne Coyne is extremely skinny.

I am ready for the Daequan Cook era to be over.

Kyle Korver's new teammates don't seem to like him very much.

Thunder won the game by finally playing some good D in the last half of the fourth quarter, which featured some spectacular dunks by Durant and Westbrook. Right now though, they don't look like a better team than last year.

Do (ex) leaders matter? Another data point

There is a decent sized literature in economics, finance and political science that attempts to gauge the impact of politicians by what happens in markets in reaction to their unexpected deaths.

Well, Nestor "el penguino" Kirchner, the once and perhaps future president of Argentina died suddenly yesterday. However, the Argentine stock market was closed for the national census (I am not making this up), so any test of market reactions to his death won't be totally clean.

Bloomberg reports that Argentine stocks trading in the US "surged the most since 2008". Hard to say exactly what that means though. They also report that Argentine sovereign risk fell by half a percentage point.

Nestor, who Boz nominates as one of the greatest of all the Argentine presidents, was married to the current president and was planning to run again in next year's presidential election.
Some people will mourn, others reflect on his legacy, but somewhere, someone is getting ready to run an event study!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Washaway Beach

This may be a hoax, I admit.

But it's a story about Washaway Beach, in Washington state.

In which a guy being interviewed says, quoting now:

“When you buy a place at Washaway Beach, you hope it’s there forever...”

(Nod to Angry Alex)

So You Want to Be a Political Scientist?

So You Want to Be a Political Scientist?


nod to @kohenari

Surviving Halloween

Our friends at Popehat have produced a list of 25 tips to help you stay alive in "a world teeming with serial killers, aliens that aren’t interested in bringing peace to mankind, backwoods cannibals, and corpses that hunger for the flesh of the living".

My favorite is #19.

...and when I die, I'll be Sooner dead!

My university's fight song has some very strange words.

As did Jeffrey Landregan on the occasion of his execution by the State of Arizona:

"Well, I'd like to say thank you to my family for being here, and all of my friends. Boomer Sooner."

By way of context, Jeffrey got into trouble in AZ after escaping from prison in OK.

The scariest phrase I read this morning

"We know how monetary policy works"

--James Bullard, President, St. Louis Fed

Things that make my life more difficult than it could be

Dems at Defcon 1

Interesting article (read the update, too!).

The gist is that most early voters are registered Dems, which I have heard also, and thought strange. BUT.... Dem Party internal polls show that these early voting "Dems" are overwhelmingly voting Republican, in some cases nearly straight ticket Republican.

Hence, DemCon 1.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

El Mercurio article

My interview with Carolina, my coffee buddy from Santiago.

On the election in the U.S....

On the leftiness of Obama redux

To summarize where we are, I've come to realize that a lot of Obama's foreign and social policies are both (a) wrong and (b) conservative.

Since then I've been dealing with a lot of "epistemic closure" from the left as they argue that there is no evidence at all of Obama being left or liberal. I presented a lighthearted list, the first 6 of which I think are genuine evidence.

In an attempt to bring some at least semi-objective data to bear on the issue, I propose that his voting record as a Senator is relevant for judging his ideological bent (i.e. his inner leftiness).

Here is some information on that record:

The National Journal magazine, in its annual vote rating, said Obama moved left last year to the "most liberal senator" rating "after ranking as the 16th and 10th most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate."

Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal activist group, and the American Conservative Union, the conservative activist group, also rate Congress members on their votes. Their findings describe Obama as one of, but not the most liberal U.S. senator.

The ADA gave Obama a 75 percent liberal score in 2007, 95 percent in 2006 and 100 percent in 2005. Other Democratic senators received 100 percent during those years. David Card, ADA communications director, said Obama's score was lower last year because he missed certain votes.

Obama has a lifetime ADA average of 90 percent. Other senators - such as Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and others - have higher lifetime ADA ratings. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, was ranked as the most liberal senator by the National Journal in 2003.

"He is one of the most liberal senators," Card said, referring to Obama.

The ACU, which customarily places conservative Republicans on the top of its list and liberal Democrats at the bottom, has given Obama a lifetime ranking of just 7.67, according to the figures on the group's Web site.

It says Obama scored 8 percent in 2005, 8 percent in 2006 and 7 percent in 2007. Other Democratic senators in the ACU rankings have had lower yearly and lifetime scores, the site shows.

"He's one of the most liberal," said Larry Hart, the ACU director of government relations.

What do econ bloggers think about government and the economy

Every quarter the Kaufman foundation polls a group of "leading economics bloggers" (which means, not Angus!) on a bunch of questions.

The one I found most interesting was "Is the federal government too involved in the U.S. economy?"

63% said yes! This is on page 5 of the report linked above.

Page 11 of the report reveals that only 9% of the respondents are registered Republicans.

***update*** the above sentence should say only 9% identified themselves as registered Republicans!

The whole report is (still) well worth reading.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Small Business Myth

Veronique dR does a nice of abusing a silly myth.

Small businesses do create the most jobs. And destroy. It's like saying I have lost 600 pounds in the last year; true. But I have gained 860 pounds, and I still weigh 260. You need to worry about the NET change.

And government policies not only do not help small business produce more jobs, but those policies actually hurt. Veronique does a nice job of making it understandable.

Fisk, Fisk, Fisk

P-Kroog is well beyond self-caricature. He has become the Michael Jackson of economists. You want to look away, but you. just. can't.

Nod to Angry Alex

Political Quiz

A version of "Jay-walking" on the U of Colorado campus.

Many fine moments.

But my favorite is when they ask one kid, "How many judges on the US Supreme Court?"

Silence. Then a hint: "It's an odd number!"

Kid responds: "Oh, eighteen." We are so screwed.

(Nod to Anonyman, who visited Chez Mungowitz with the lovely Ms. Anon this past weekend. Very nice time)

Top 10 signs Obama is a lefty

In an earlier post, I became aware that our president, at least on foreign policy and many social issues actually is acting in quite a conservative manner. Unfortunately, he is also totally wrong on these issues just as the previous "conservative" administration was.

So I started to wonder exactly why I had the perception that Obama was "pretty far left".

Hence this Top 10 signs Obama is a lefty list:

10. His incessant pandering to unions

9. His child-like love for high speed rail

8. His pushing for subsidies for solar, wind, & ethanol (i.e. uneconomic boondoggles).

7. His refusal to understand that electric cars actually burn coal in many parts of the country!

6. His firm belief that a small group of experts can competently run the economy

5. The amazing growth in the Federal budget under his watch

4. His habit of flip-flopping like a boated marlin

3. His inability to consider issues of moral hazard or unintended consequences in policymaking

2. His belief that anyone who disagrees with him is stupid or evil or both

1. His overall superior, moralistic, and condescending attitude

Macro and the non-economist

After playing tennis with a non-economist friend yesterday, he asked me how can macro have two completely different schools of thought which seem to differ even on the basics. I told him that, at the op-ed level, macro had a lot of ideology and politics in it and there were more than two schools of thought!

He then asked how it could be the case that when people look at the same data, they don't arrive at the anything near the same conclusion. He said that it was irritating and frustrating to see constant disagreement by economists over macro issues

I told him two things.

First, there isn't really that much data! Since world war two we are working on what, our 10th business cycle?

Second, macro is largely a non-experimental science thus causation was a b*&#ch to figure out and counterfactuals were in short supply.

I also told him that op-ed level macro wasn't generally serious academic macro (though some of it is).

And he asked me what serious academic macro had done vis a vis predicting the meltdown.

I told him, "very little".

I then told him macro forecasters are like weatherpeople, the worse we do and the worse things get, the more they are in demand. I don't think he was too impressed.

I don't fault modern macro for not predicting the financial meltdown; to me thats a borderline silly complaint.

I do think though that op-ed level macro is often not doing the profession any favors in its quest to be viewed as a science.

All We Are Saying.... give "No Prez" a chance!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

one reality, many interpretations?

The progressive drumbeat that the Dems are in trouble because Obama was too conservative continues.

Mark Thoma gives a clear articulation of the view:

"I don't know if the centrist, bipartisan seeking, compromising Obama we have seen to date can actually embrace an encompassing vision. He seems afraid to be a Democrat.."

It's hard for me to understand this sentence coming from a person (i.e. Mark) who I like and respect. From my perspective, Obama is pretty far left and uncompromising.

So let me invoke Robin Hanson and try to list things Obama has done that qualify as evidence for Mark's view.

I would say on economic policy the closest thing to centrist & compromising that he's done is appoint Summers and Geithner.

Can you count not pushing for single payer as bipartisan seeking or compromising?

Then there's Guantanamo, renditions, wiretaps, and the like. I view the continuation of these policies as wrong, but are they being continued as a compromise? Or out of bipartisanship?

Oh and then there are the wars. Do they count?

Oh my, there's also no action on immigration reform and the monstrosity that is DADT.

Holy Crap! Maybe Mark has a point.

I see Obama as the worst possible policy mix. Wrong on economic issues, wrong on foreign policy and wrong on social issues too. A Dem should at least get the social issues right!

That Robin H. sure is a smart fellow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Froggy apocalypse continues

More rolling strikes and national days of action are planned as the country waits for its Senate to vote on the bill to raise the retirement age by two years.

Let's get a message from the French street:

"I am 44 and I don't want to work until I am 62 or 67," teacher Odile Jaquet told the Associated Press news agency. "I am still young: I still have to work for another 18 years, and in my industry, I don't think that I will be able to work much longer."

Some comments:

First, let me point out to Odile that by saving and investing, one can build one's own (this would be worded less awkwardly if I had any idea what gender the name Odile connotes) financial assets and choose one's own retirement age. Waiting for the state's permission is not the only possible option. I don't want to work until I'm 67 either and have taken a series of steps to try and insure that I won't have to, whatever Uncle Sam may do to his official "retirement age".

Second, being a 52 year old teacher, I wonder what it is about our industry that would cause a 44 year old teacher to say "I don't think I will be able to work much longer". Maybe Odile just got done grading a bunch of mid-terms, that often makes me think the end is near.

Third, is this action being phased in over time or does it just hit everyone at once? If I was 59.5 and planning to retire, I'd be seriously pissed. At age 44, Odile still has a chance to make financial decisions that would allow retirement at 60 instead of 62 (or 65 instead of 67).

Fourth, I would reckon that this small raising of the retirement age is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the eventual retrenchment of the French welfare state. I wonder what kind of protests will occur when the big stuff starts to come down?

Quotes entirely relevant for this election season

"Politics is a ridiculous profession populated by ridiculous people. Maybe if we elect increasingly clownish candidates, the public will eventually come to realize this, and finally realize that it’s probably not a good idea to put larger and larger portions of our lives and livelihoods in the hands of people who have achieved success in a field that rewards character traits you spend your entire tenure as a parent trying to teach out of your kids."

-Radley Balko

Stealing From the Children

A nice synthesis by Dr. Karlson.


Senator Boxer: "I worked SO hard..."


Call Me Madam Joe from RightChange on Vimeo.

And, yes, it did really happen.


quotes entirely relevant for explaining why I live in Oklahoma

"You can get 100 wings here for less than 100 bucks, Good deal, huh?"

-Kevin Durant

Phone call for Mikhail Prokhorov!

(click the pic for a more glorious image)

more here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Take These Words, and Make a Title

So, can you take these words, and make the title of an actual article?

Seven Inch Rim Jobs

Is this the title you came up with? Here?

Nod to Angry Alex.

JoPa is on the right track

American football has a big problem. The accumulation of huge hits seems to be causing severe neurological problems. The NFL has responded by adopting a more strict concussion protocol and now looks to be adopting or enforcing more rules against helmet-to-helmet contact.

NCAA legend Joe Paterno says that the league should remove the face mask from the helmet.

I say they should remove the entire helmet!

Really. You can't have helmet to helmet hits without a helmet! Maybe receivers and quarterbacks get helmets but no one else does.

It is not a huge stretch to argue that better helmets make for more vicious hitting and more injuries.

Maybe, a la Gordon Tullock, backs and receivers could wear a headband of metal spikes while defensive players go bareheaded.

If football doesn't solve this problem, it may not exist in anything like its current form in another 20 years.

Then poor Oklahoma won't be first in anything!

Quotes entirely relevant for these troubled times

"The pet-wheelchair industry is one manufacturing niche the U.S. still dominates"

--Timothy Aeppel, WSJ

Politics and Baby Mamas

Mothers are somewhat more conservative than women overall. Does becoming a mother change a woman's political attitudes? Or do relatively more conservative women become mothers at a higher rate?

Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms and the Question of “Transformative” Motherhood

Jill Greenlee, Politics & Gender, September 2010, Pages 405-431

Abstract: From Dwight Eisenhower to John McCain, presidential candidates have appealed to female voters by highlighting motherhood in their campaigns. The most recent example of this has been the “hockey mom” trope introduced by the first hockey mom to earn a slot on the GOP presidential ticket, Governor Sarah Palin. These appeals, while motivated by political gamesmanship, imply that mothers see the political world a bit differently from other women. They suggest that women with children have different political priorities and concerns and, at times, different positions on political issues. This article takes this proposition seriously, and asks the question: Does becoming a mother have a transformative effect on women's political attitudes? Using longitudinal data from the four-wave 1965–97 Political Socialization Panel Study, I track the movement of women's political attitudes on partisan identification, ideological identification, and policy issues. I find that the effects of motherhood on women's political attitudes, while not uniform in nature, do push some women to adopt more conservative political attitudes. Thus, these results suggest that while motherhood does not transform women's political attitudes, for some women motherhood does promote interesting attitudinal shifts.

Nod to Kevin Lewis...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In the Land of Real Sucking, Those Who Only Kind of Suck Will Win

Let's not forget, the Republicans do in fact suck. But they only kind of suck, so they will win big in November.

Nod to Angry ALex


Tyler's a comin'!

On the "post your poster" meme, here is the one I did for Tyler Cowen's visit in two weeks....
Not near as pretty as the one Angus had done for my visit to OU, but that's because Angus wisely avoided using MY photograph.

Some Constitutional Links

10th Amendment Case: what should the feds do? (Nod to Neanderbill)

Miss O'Donnell is powned, by asking what she thinks is a "gotcha" question: "Where is this 'separation of church and state' in the Constitution?" Remember, she was a "Constitutional Scholar" at Claremont. I was open-mouthed watching the video. This debate was at a LAW SCHOOL. That's why the laughter. O'Donnell actually looks around and grins, certain that they are laughing at her clever gotcha question. (Nod to Anonyman)

UPDATE: From the National Review..... And, sorry Ms. Trinko, but that is a fail. There are two parts to the guarantee of the separation of church and state in the 1st Amendment. The first is the restriction on establishment. The second is the restriction on free exercise. BOTH of those together, where the government cannot choose one sect, and ALSO cannot restrict what individuals practice, together constitute the separation of church and state. So, the defense that "free exercise" somehow requires the teaching of intelligent design in schools is just nonsense. It DOES mean that the state cannot prevent it from being taught in church, and that's all. Ms. O'Donnell is an idiot, but at least she is an idiot in the first instance. Ms. Trinko, in defending this nonsense, is a derivative idiot in the second instance.

Federal judge hears case on Obamacare. This has already gone further than I expected.

This is what yesterday was like for me

epic fail photos - Surfing FAIL

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Foot in mouth disease, ecclesiastical edition

Regarding AIDS, the head of the Catholic church in Belgium recently said:

"I would not at all think in such terms. I do not see this illness as a punishment, at most a sort of inherent justice, a bit like how we are presented with the bill for what we do to the environment."

Regarding Gentiles/Goyim (aka non-Jews) the head of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages and a senior Sephardi adjudicator recently said:

"Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel,”

“Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat.

That is why gentiles were created,”

Thank you gentlemen, for clearing up a few mysteries for us.

Obama explains the upcoming election, take 2

I guess the "blame it on the Supremes" balloon wasn't flying, because now the President is blaming the upcoming election results on evolutionary biology!


"People out there are still hurting very badly, and they are still scared. And so part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared," Obama said at a Democratic fundraiser Saturday in Boston. "And the country is scared, and they have good reason to be."

Man, that is a bodacious line of argument, innit?

Here is what Obama should say:

We won near-historic majorities in 2008 and history shows that those kinds of gains are almost always eroded in the following mid-term. Plus, despite our best efforts, the economy hasn't recovered quickly and historically voters will blame my Party for that.

But don't be fooled my friends, the Republicans are the same duplicitous, ignorant, venal, clowns you correctly threw out in 2006 and 2008, and if these historical forces put them back in now, they will be gone again by 2012!

The 2010 election will be just an inconvenient blip in the road to a progressive America.

KPC readers, what do you think?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oh brave new world that has such people in it

"Like, it sounds so old," she told the press before her Las Vegas party. "And then the other half of me is like, I feel so accomplished and it's really no different than 29."

Kimmy Kardashian!!

Taking a stand that appeals to no one

This is pretty much what President Obama has done. He's making vague noises about the "government tightening its belt", which has made Delong, Krugman and Mark Thoma go ballistic.

Of course, contingency plans for a possible 5% cut that might involve not filling vacancies is not going to do anything to placate deficit hawks and Tea Party Peeps.

Sure the President is in a rough spot. The incumbent party generally loses seats in a mid-term election, and voters tend to punish incumbents for poor economic performance, but Obama seems to have gone totally tone deaf, appealing to neither the left or the right.

Perhaps the most disconnected part of his remarks are where he blames the upcoming electoral debacle on the Supreme Court:

Obama linked the Republican momentum to a Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to spend freely on elections.

"I would feel very confident about our position right now if it weren't for the fact that these third-party independent groups, funded by corporate special interests and run by Republican operatives, without disclosing where that money is coming from, are outspending our candidates in some cases 5 to 1, 10 to 1.. . . And it's the direct result of a Supreme Court opinion called Citizens United."

He called the opinion "a profoundly faulty Supreme Court decision [that] has opened the floodgates to special interest money, undisclosed, and having a significant impact on the election."


Makin' Bacon

It is hard to know how to react to this.

First of all, it's a waste of perfectly good bacon.

Second, it is, as my Duke colleague D. Schanzer notes, "intolerance." (He also says that intolerance is in "plentiful abundance," which must be different from regular abundance, I guess...)

I can see that someone might think it was funny (in a not very funny, drunk redneck yelling "FREE BIRD!!!!" kind of way). But I can also see, and moreso, how an already beleaguered minority would perceive this as a threat. If you want to have ham on Easter, to show you are not Muslim (or Jewish), then go for it. But why do you have to go defile someone else's church?

The KKK does not represent mainstream Christianity. Al Qaeda does not represent mainstream Islam. Lay off other peoples' churches.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

The Culture that is Oklahoma

47th in life expectancy,


1st in the BCS!!!

At least we excel at what's really important.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quotes entirely relevant for this election season

"Thank God I am not a free-trader. In this country, pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce fatty degeneration of the moral fiber."

--Teddy Roosevelt, 1895

Best bedroom ever?

The (mono) Culture that is Germany

Ah yes, Germany. Where people still want a "pure" country and 10% dream of a new Fuehrer.

The article starts strong:

Germany's attempts to create a multi-cultural society in which people from various cultural backgrounds live together peacefully have failed, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

"Multikulti", the concept that "we are now living side by side and are happy about it," does not work, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

"This approach has failed, totally," she said in Saturday's speech.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, CSU, told the same party meeting Friday that the two Union parties were "committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one.

"'Multikulti' is dead," he said.

I don't know what you think of when you hear the phrase "a dominant German culture", but it does not produce a pleasant image of unicorns and rainbows in my head.

Then the article progresses from intolerance among the elites to intolerance among the rank and file:

The study, by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think tank, showed that more than one third (34.3 percent) of those surveyed believed Germany's 16 million immigrants or people with foreign origins came to the country for the social benefits.

Around the same number (35.6 percent) think Germany is being "over-run by foreigners" and more than one in 10 called for a "Fuehrer" to run the country "with a strong hand".

Thirty-two percent of people said they agreed with the statement: "Foreigners should be sent home when jobs are scarce."

Far-right attitudes are found not only at the extremes of German society, but "to a worrying degree at the centre of society," the report noted.

More than half (58.4 percent) of the 2,411 people polled thought the around four million Muslims in Germany should have their religious practices "significantly curbed."

The integration of Muslims has been a hot button issue since August when a member of Germany's central bank sparked outrage by saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants with headscarves.

That last bit reminds me of when I left GMU for Tulane and Gordon Tullock told me the move was terrific because I was "raising the average IQ at both places"!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

LeBron James is a metrosexual!

And here's the proof:

I guess he thinks he's Sonny Crockett now??

China loves Federer

Let me just let Roger tell it:

“[Fans are] very creative here in this country giving gifts,” Federer said Thursday. “Obviously many think of my twin girls. Many think of Switzerland, maybe give me a cow or something like that. Others create great books about me and my career, places where they've been, pictures they've taken with me, souvenirs that I've signed for them, they've taken pictures of it. It's very nice.

"It's very different, to be honest. Not everywhere do I get such nice and creative gifts. I always need to pack in the extra suitcase to take all the gifts back. That's the only small problem, but it's a good problem to have, so I'm happy about it.”

Holy crap, people. Has China gotten so far ahead of us that they've made a cow that fits in a suitcase? Like the giraffe in the DirectTV commercial? Thomas Friedman will have a heart attack when he hears about this!

Friday, October 15, 2010

My old Macro professor goes Medieval on Modern Macro

Larry Meyer:

"There’s also another tradition that began to build up in the late seventies to early eighties—the real business cycle or neoclassical models. It’s what’s taught in graduate schools. It’s the only kind of paper that can be published in journals. It is called “modern macroeconomics.”The question is, what’s it good for? Well, it’s good for getting articles published in journals. It’s a good way to apply very sophisticated computational skills. But the question is, do those models have anything to do with reality? Models are always a caricature—but is this a caricature that’s so silly that you wouldn’t want to get close to it if you were a policymaker?

My views would be considered outrageous in the academic community, but I feel very strongly about them. Those models are a diversion. They haven’t been helpful at all at understanding anything that would be relevant to a monetary policymaker or fiscal policymaker. So we’d better come back to, and begin with as our base, these classic macro-econometric models. We don’t need a revolution. We know the basic stories of optimizing behavior and consumers and businesses that are embedded in these models. We need to go back to the founding fathers, appreciate how smart they were, and build on that."

Full interview is here.

Obviously many Central Bankers disagree with Larry as the Fed and the ECB and the Central Bank of Canada are heavily invested in DSGE modeling.

Mungos a'coming

People I am happy to announce that K.G. Mungowitz will be in Oklahoma later this month:

(click on the pic for a more glorious image).

Thanks to Jacque B. for the cool poster.

Won't you help us?

Us Okies are phlegmatic about tornadoes but we are terrified of snow, and now I've discovered we are terrified of earthquakes too. People were going absolutely nuts over our mini-quake (people I was on the third floor and it didn't even knock me off my foam roller) even though it basically did zero damage.

(click on the pic for a more glorious image)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Mrs. Angus and I are going to see Blonde Redhead in Dallas next month. I googled the opening act,Ólöf Arnalds, and holy moly, she/they are tremendous!

Here is a video:

Ólöf Arnalds - Innundir skinni from One Little Indian Records on Vimeo.

Here is another:

Here is the myspace page.

It's like if Justin Vernon were a woman!

Why is it so hard to stay a good guy?

Or, why is it so hard to give up power.

Look at the Castro Brothers, they were once heroes of the revolution (I mean that sincerely) and now they are just the worst.

Look at Robert Mugabe, hero of Zimbabwe's independence, now reduced to destroying his own country to stay in power well into his 80s.

Look at Chavez. It's hard to remember now that he too was a hero.

In Africa, Museveni of Uganda helped depose Amin but has stayed in power now for 24 years and counting.

Sadly, Paul Kagame appears to be the latest case. He was a post-genocide hero, but most recently won re-election with 93% of the vote after vigorously suppressing opposition parties. Now the NY Times reports that Rwanda's leading opposition figure was just arrested today. Of course Paul has a long way to go to reach Mugabe longevity; he's only got 10+ years on the job at this point.

Are these all manifestations of the same personality type? Does fighting for a cause somehow delude you into thinking you are indispensable?

I find these cases simultaneously baffling and heartbreaking.

Pity poor Connecticut

There is an old joke in economics:

"I pity the poor econometrician who must use a dummy for sex and a proxy for risk".

Porfirio Diaz once said:

"Poor Mexico, so far from God but so close to the United States"

People, I pity the poor Connecticut voter, who has as her Senate candidates Vince McMahon's wife and one Richard Blumenthal, who repeatedly lied about his military service and, in response to a debate question asking how his lawsuits against Connecticut companies affected job creation said:

"Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs".

So you have a creepy showman's consort or an uber-creepy serial fabulist.

Good luck to the Nutmeg State voters, they'll need it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is Macroeconomics just looking under the streetlamp?

A fascinating new paper by Ricardo Caballero basically says yes:

"In this paper I argue that the current core of macroeconomics—by which I mainly mean the so-called dynamic stochastic general equilibrium approach—has become so mesmerized with its own internal logic that it has begun to confuse the precision it has achieved about its own world with the precision that it has about the real one. This is dangerous for both methodological and policy reasons. On the methodology front, macroeconomic research has been in “fine-tuning” mode within the local-maximum of the dynamic stochastic general equilibrium world, when we should be in “broad-exploration” mode. We are too far from absolute truth to be so specialized and to make the kind of confident quantitative claims that often emerge from the core. On the policy front, this confused precision creates the illusion that a minor adjustment in the standard policy framework will prevent future crises, and by doing so it leaves us overly exposed to the new and unexpected."

The piece is well worth reading both for its own arguments and the list of interesting "periphery" papers mentioned and cited.

A touching homecoming

It would have been Agent Zero's first game back in DC since he got popped for packing heat in the Wizards' locker room.

He celebrated by faking an injury, sitting out the whole game, and then telling people he had done so after the game was over.


Washington should keep him so far away from John Wall. If they can't get anything at all for him in a trade, they should just cut him.

Ball Don't Lie has more.

My third earthquake!

People, Oklahoma gots earthquakes! I've been in tornadoes in Ohio (Xenia 1973), earthquakes in Pasadena and Mexico City, repeatedly threatened by hurricanes in New Orleans and now experienced a smallish (4.5 on the Richter scale) earthquake in Normatopia while doing Pilates (really)!

When the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse arrive, will I even notice?

What is going on in North Carolina?

The locals here in Angusland are buzzing over how has ranked OKC as the 7th best area in some index of income growth out of 100 ranked areas.

Me being me, I was immediately attracted to the bottom 10.

Grand Rapids MI, Phoenix AZ, Toledo OH, Detroit MI, Riverside CA, sure they make sense.

But then there's Raleigh, Greensboro, & Charlotte. Three NC cities in the bottom 10?


Y'all really should have elected Mungowitz!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The men were here to get your Belgian things

This is a great story (hat tip to Interfluidity).

From Euro Intelligence (I know, I know):

"The political situation in Belgium is becoming increasingly dramatic. After negotiations have broke down twice, the king asked for a new round of consultations to find a compromise over institutional reforms, possibly the last chance before organising new elections. Many expect that new elections would nothing but radicalise the positions, Le Monde reports. According to polls, the separatist NVA would get more than 30% of the votes in Flanders. French-speaking socialists now evoked a plan B, where Wallonia and Brussels would form a new Belgium. The Flemish response was that if they want to keep the heritage they can also keep the whole of the Belgian debt."

So Bolivia has managed to hold together but Belgium might not?

How fast could Evo learn Flemish?

Equal time: Breastfeeding Leave for Men

Men get to take "breast-feeding" leave, after baby is born.

Even if the mother of the baby is not employed, and is staying home.

No, really. In Spain.

Why is it that these arguments about equity seem to be most powerful when some bunch of whiny MEN think they have been denied something? I mean, it's true that if the man were staying home, and the woman were working, the woman would get an hour paid leave to go breastfeed. But, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, there is a difference in equipment we're talking about here. (And, vive la difference, by the way!)

And how long is it before Europe just closes completely? These people are batshit crazy.

(UPDATE: Could this be a way of subsidizing babies? Spain's birth native born birth rate is very low, 1.32 children per woman, only Greece is lower...That would be clever, right? ....Nah, can't be)

(Nod to the Ward Boss)

Flight of the Bumblebee

DC police cordoned off a street so that "Transformers 3" could be filmed. LOTS of cash paid for this service.

But then DC police let a DC police car come through the set, during filming. And the cop car causes Bumblebee to have an accident.

They cover the Bumblebee to keep people from taking pix. But, too late.

Thank goodness the DC police are around to protect us all. Idiots.

(Nod to Anonyman)

France is Closed

Riots by French "workers."

Bastiat described the French state perfectly: "The State is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

All those jumpin' Frogs want to have free retirement. Let someone else pay! I've worked hard for fifteen years...or something like that.

But I have to do you tell if a French worker is retired? I can't imagine anyone doing less work than they do when they are "working." I guess it means they can do nothing sitting on their ass at home smokin' cigs instead of sitting on their ass at some fake job smokin' cigs.

You better watch out for the police...

I've been ranting about the abuse of accounting identities recently so I read with interest an article by Dean Baker about the importance of accounting identities.

However, Dean merely takes the trade deficit = capital account surplus identity and uses it to start on a strange journey to Nutbush. So let's queue up the Bob Seger and follow along:

The basic logical problem stems from the simple accounting identity that national savings is equal to the broadly measured trade surplus. A country with a large trade surplus will also have large national savings. Conversely, a country with a large trade deficit will have negative national savings. These relationships are accounting identities -- there is no way around them.

So far so good, Dean, I'm totally with you. We are far away from the Nutbush city limits. Not sure who exactly denies this identity but....

This brings us to the next part of the story: where trade deficits come from. At a given level of GDP, the main determinant of the trade deficit is the value of the dollar in international currency markets. This is very basic supply and demand. If the dollar is higher in value relative to other currencies then our exports will cost more to people living in Germany, Japan and China.

If a car sells for $20,000 in the United States then the price of this car to people living in other countries will depend on how much of their own currency (euros, yen, or yuan) they must pay to get a dollar. The higher the dollar relative to these other currencies, the more expensive the car is to foreigners. And, the more expensive it is to foreigners, the fewer U.S.-made cars they will buy. This means our exports will fall.

The story works in reverse on the import side. If the dollar is high and therefore buys lots of foreign currency, then imports are cheap. This means that we will buy lots of imports.

Hold on there partner. Not so fast. It is far from clear that the "main determinant" of trade deficits is the nominal exchange rate. There are a lot of countries whose currency is cheap in dollar terms with which we don't have large deficits. Further, the correct measure would be the real exchange rate and there are a bunch of other factors involved as well. Also not too sure what this has to do with accounting identities.

Still I will grant you that an overvalued real exchange rate would work to reduce exports and increase imports, other factors held constant. Not sure who denies this either though....

This brings us back to the budget deficit part of the story. If the United States has a large trade deficit, then it means that net national savings are negative. That is definitional. For net national savings to be negative then we must have either negative private savings or negative public savings (i.e. a budget deficit).

The budget deficit follows from the fact that we have a trade deficit, which is in turn the result of the overvalued dollar. This brings us to the strangely paradoxical behavior of the Washington policy elite.

Ok, now I see what you did there. You made a u-turn, floored the accelerator, and flew right into downtown Nutbush.

Rather than abusing an identity, Dean is abusing logic and economics.

People, there is a huge theoretical and empirical literature about the so called "twin deficits", and the bottom line is there is little consistent empirical evidence that trade deficits cause budget deficits and certainly it is in no way inevitable that they will.

In fact, in the literature I mention above, most authors argue that it's our budget deficit that is causing the trade deficit, and not as Dean Baker is arguing here with no evidence anywhere in sight that the trade deficit causes the budget deficit!

"if one wants to get the budget deficit down, then it is necessary to reduce the trade deficit."

This is way beyond Nutbush and just plain ridiculous.

If we cut spending and increased taxes we could balance the budget next year no matter how large the trade deficit might be. It just wouldn't be a factor.

Dean Baker has graduate level training in economics so, at some level, he himself must know that he's full of it here.

The bottom line, people, is that contra Dean, the value of the dollar has been falling as our budget deficit has been rising. Here's a graph from Mark Perry on the dollar; I don't guess you need a graph to know what's happened to the budget deficit over that same period.

Our huge budget deficit is NOT due to foreign currency manipulation. It's due to the recession and the explosion of spending over the last four years. No amount of identity theft can change that.

Yuan Me, We Gotta Talk....

Interesting article by Israel O., at Heritage, on yuan kerfuffle.

Woods on the Non-Depression of 1920

I did not much like "Meltdown." It's just too tendentious and selective in its use of evidence, though I agree with many of its conclusions.

But this T. Woods talk is pretty entertaining. Earlier he had written this, which is interesting and useful. (Hard to believe that this 50 minute talk followed a dinner, though. That's a long after dinner talk. Yikes.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just in case you were wondering how awesome the 2010 Nobel Peace is

Hugo Chavez doesn't like it!

So that makes it *extra* awesome.

Breaking down the Econ Nobel

Overall, I like the choices. Search theory and unemployment. My personal choice was Paul Romer and will be until he gets it, but this is a deserving group.

As usual, LeBron is all over this story and has done it better than I ever could.

Here are his post on Mortensen, on Pissarides, on Diamond, and his personal take on the relevance and meaning of this year's prize.

Kudos to Tyler for excellent and incredibly rapid coverage of this year's economics Nobel. Given that these guys were far from the front-runners, he must have produced all of this on the run this morning.

Nobel Prize!

Nobel Prize in Econ! (Yes, I know it was hours ago, but there is no point trying to beat Tyler, anyway...)

Those wacky swedes.... (Yes, they are so wacky they are Norwegian)

(UPDATE: Lots of good stuff on background of winners at MR...)

(UPDATE II: Nice predictions, oddsmakers...)

Power and People Who Suck

Do powerful people suck?

Or are sucky people those who seek power?

Some experiments with answers.

(Nod to Angry Alex, who doesn't want power)

Markets in Everything: Tex-Mex fusion edition

Fiction Writer P-Kroog

Two NYT articles.

First, a sensible one, with good examples, by G. Mankiw.

Second, a remarkable one, truly remarkable, by fiction writer P-Kroog. The second does he get paid to make s**t like this up?

(nod to Angry Alex)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mystery of the Disappearing Streetcar

Actually, not a mystery at all, as our good friends at "Market Urbanism" show. An interesting story.

Why Was YouTube Invented?

This is why, though no one knew it at the time.

CNN story.... The guy is not homeless, but he is trying to advertise homelessness.

(Lagniappe: Note that Kermit on the Left Hand clears his throat at 2:15. Opened mouth at wrong time. Had to cover....)

(Nod to Anonyman, who knew it)

Born in the USA

On my scorecard there is one justified and awesome China bash and one confused and unjustified China bash.

Giving the Peace Price to Liu Xiaobo is the J&A bash. That was inspired. The Obama administration's insipid response was a bit less inspiring, but double kudos to the Norwegians here.

The currency war meme is the C&U bash. It's hard to even know where to begin here.

First, tons of countries have fixed their exchange rates for long periods of time. It is fairly unprecedented to call it "protectionism". The whole US philosophy for the Bretton Woods era was free trade and fixed exchange rates! Read Eichengreen's excellent "Globalizing Capital".

Second, lots of countries that nominally are "floaters" actually closely manage their exchange rates. This has been well documented in Calvo, G., and Reinhart, C. (2002). "Fear of Floating." Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Levy-Yeyati, E. and F. Sturzenegger (2004). "Classifying Exchange Rate Regimes: Deeds vs. Words." European Economic Review.

Third, to the extent that China's currency is undervalued (and let me stress that there is no true objective measuring stick for that determination), it is costly to them. Their consumers face higher prices for imported goods and the country faces inflationary pressure.

Fourth, the notion that Chinese exports are stealing jobs from the USA is most likely incorrect on at least two dimensions. (A) If Chinese exports to the US fell, those products would likely be replaced by exports from another developing country. (B) The fact that a product is produced in another country and for sale here does NOT imply that domestic workers have been pushed into unemployment. Jobs are not on the periodic table. There is not a fixed supply in the world. Even if a US manufacturer "outsources" production to another country, the domestic employees are not doomed to a life of unemployment. Even in our hideously bad current economy hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created every month (gross, not net, sadly).

People, our true problem with China is (or should be) that it is a totalitarian state that oppresses its citizens and supports other totalitarian states that directly or indirectly threaten us. Our economic problems are not imported from China. They are "Made in the USA".

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Decade of Sucking for Cards

St Loo Cards are a proud franchise. Yankees have 27 WS titles, Cards are second in all of MLB with 10. Next NL team is the Dodgers, with 6. Nobody else is really close. Cards are clearly the class of the NL.

But there is bad news. Here is the number of Cards post season appearances by decade, with World Series titles in parens:

1920s: 2 (1)
1930s: 3 (2)
1940s: 4 (3)
1950s: ZERO (0)
1960s: 3 (2)
1970s: ZERO (0)
1980s: 3 (1)
1990s: 1 (0)
2000s: 7 (1)
2010s: ZERO (0)

Total post-season appearances in even decades: 19
Total WS titles in even decades: 8
Total post-season appearances in odd decades: 4
Total WS titles in odd decades: 2

I think I'll become a TB Ray fan. I know all the players, because I have watched them at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a decade, and have known some of them when they came up from AAA.

A shame.... when Holliday tried to catch that line drive, the last out of the game, with his man parts, that that game was the Cards' last post-season experience for a decade...

Unfair, but funny

Nothing fair about this, since the various physical and political miscues are unrelated. But it is both funny and effective...

(Nod to the Blonde)

Killing with kindness

Here's LeBron James on Kevin Durant:

"He's great because he's humble," James said of Durant. "He accepts the challenge, but he's a very humble kid. He doesn't let it get to his head too much. He's been probably one of the best players since he was growing up. I mean, he was the freshman player of the year at Texas. He's gotten a lot of exposure and he knows how to handle it."

"You just appreciate great talent," James said. "He's just one of those guys, one of those kids, man, who's just going to continue to work hard and try to be one of the greats. For me, I admire stuff like that because I know how hard it is to work. I know how hard it is to get to that level where you feel like you're one of the superstars in this league. He's great. He's an unbelievable talent.

"He loves the game of basketball. He's a student of the game and he has a knack for knowing how to win and knowing how to put the ball in the hole."

Full article is here.

Harvest Moon

Happy Pumpkin Time!
From KPC

Friday, October 08, 2010

Rat Brain in a Jar Runs Robot

I find this very disturbing.

(Nod to Alex T)

This is happening

I have a couple questions here. (1) is a shoe that lets pro atheletes get over on a little asian guy really that appealing? (2) Why can't Dwight Howard fake playing the piano any better than that? (3) Where can I get a pet cheetah?

Great Headlines

I have nothing to add to this:

"Postal Union Election Delayed After Ballots Lost in the Mail"

(Nod to Angry Alex)

I came, I saw, I bailed out

I am deviating from the Angus-Mungowitz investment optimism, at least in the short run.

On August 3, Angus did a dangerous thing, making a prediction...about the future. I went along, and in fact had been buying stocks for a bit.

But I'm out, as soon as the trades can be executed. Almost totally out.

1. Since August 3, stocks have risen a bit, total. Not a lot, from about 10680 to 10950, with a drop and recovery in between, but if you had bought on the advice o'Angus on August 3 you would already have made 2.5% in 2 months. Don't be greedy.

2. It's October. Sure, I know that this is like believing in goat entrails or tea leaves, but some bad stuff has happened in October. You may enjoy this, especially the "ripe pumpkin theory."

3. There's an election. I know 'cause it's in all the papers. And no one knows what is going to happen. Not knowing means volatility and lots of it.

I parked almost everything in money market and real estate. (TIAA-CREF's real estate account is up 8% this year, btw). Bonds may be bubbling, 'cause any change in inflation expectations will hammer them. Bonds aren't usually this risky, though they are always riskier than many people seem to believe. And stocks scare me until after the election. That means zero out stocks, and zero out bonds, for a month.

So, depending on what happens on the first Tues after the first Mon in November, I may go back to stocks. But now I am officially on the sideline.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

There are no pan-asian supermarkets down in hell

The Mountain Goats just absolutely killed it Wednesday night in OKC. I am a big fan of the old Goats (i.e. John Darnielle playing guitar and screaming), but the current 3 piece line up has an incredibly good rhythm section and John has become quite an accomplished player. At times JD carried the beat and bassist Peter Hughes was playing the melody.

Anthropologically speaking, what impressed me about the show was that JD has really a second career now with a whole new audience of kids who seem to only know his 4AD stuff.

Before the show, one young'un was telling his buddy how he hopes they'd play "their old stuff" and I mentioned Golden Boy, Alabama Nova, Going to Scotland, The Last Day of Jimi Hendrix's life, and they'd never heard of those songs. By "old stuff" they meant Your Belgian Things (which they did play).

At several points in the show the audience was singing along like it was a Springsteen show or something, which was tremendous to see.

The opening bad was Wye Oak, who I'm still trying to decide about. I love to see a girl wailing on her guitar, but the two of them were trying to get too much stuff done all at once. I'm gonna pick one of their CDs and give it a try though.

Anvil Shooting

I see this in my future, right after deer season ends.

Just Legalize It

Jeffrey Miron....nicely played, sir.

(Nod to Richard S.)


A woman in a bar....pretty clever.

(Thanks to the LMM)

Life Hackers

Article in NATURE

And five questions....

(Nod to Bobby E.)

Psychology: Enemy of 1st Amendment?

Steven Pinker gives an interesting and provocative lecture on psychology and the first amendment...

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Peruvian Political Potboilers

As Tyler has reported Vargas-Llosa has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Whatever you may think of this award (I am not a big fan), his country, Peru, is both wonderful and deeply weird.

Considering the fact that their current President, Alan Garcia, pretty much turned the country into a basket case during his first term as President in the 1980s, electing him again was a supremely reckless act. However, the Peruvian economy has performed very well during his regime. Now it turns out that there are plans afoot to put him on trial for human rights crimes after his term ends.

Of course, this has already happened to Alberto Fujimori, who during his term as President, rescued the economy and put a massive hurting on the Shining Path, albeit with some unsavory methods and allies.

Just to make this soup even weirder, the current "front-runner" to be the next president is Alberto's daughter, Keiko Fujimori!

People, I am not making any of this up.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Cautionary tale

I loved this mini-story / blog post by John Scalzi. It's titled When the Yogurt took Over" and is self recommending!!

One quick nugget:

A week later, during breakfast, the yogurt used the granola she had mixed with it to spell out the message WE HAVE SOLVED FUSION. TAKE US TO YOUR LEADERS.

It's not just me anymore

The latest progressive meme is that the government should run like a business and any business in the government's situation would rationally and profitably borrow a lot of money and invest it right now. Mark Thoma and P. Krugman have made arguments like this and Ezra K. has a recent plaintive one in the WaPo.

The problems with this line of reasoning are many. For example, (1) the government ISN'T a business. Profit (or even ROI) is not its bottom line. (2) If the government were a business, its shareholders (i.e. us) wouldn't have to wait til November to boot our current management team. (3) In most businesses that I am aware of, management cannot vote to help themselves to more money from their shareholders.

People, it's not just me anymore; the "American street" simply doesn't trust the government to do things right.

At least Ezra does recognize that our government doesn't "do" infrastructure in a business-like manner:

The problem is that the way we choose our infrastructure projects is an embarrassment. About 10 percent of infrastructure spending comes from politicians securing earmarks. Most of the rest depends on a formula in which the government just hands money over to the states. There's no requirement for cost-benefit analysis or rate-of-return calculations. The decisions are horribly politicized.

Nice, but then he just hand-waves it away by saying we need to tie further massive borrowing to vague "reforms".

Good luck on that one, EK!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Never play soccer with a politician

Pay close attention around the 35 second mark of this lovely video:

Ignominy, thy name is Ginepri

Squirrel 1, Robby Ginepri 0 !!

Markets in Everything: Mexican Century Bonds Edition

This is a pretty amazing turn of events. Mexico is selling 100 year government bonds and the expected yield is around 6%!

I admit that I am impressed with Mexico's macro management over the last 10 years, but a 6%, 100 year bond?? I don't think I'd be that bullish on Mexico.

I would suggest to our own government though that borrowing long now, rather than short is a good idea.

Republicans "Minor Party" in Colorado?

There's a lot to like about this...

If nothing else, it means we will hear a lot about "Gov. Hickenlooper." I like that.

But I really like the fact that the idiot Republicans are going to get hammered with the barriers to entry that they built up against "minor parties," so called.

(Nod to Sparktatstic Dave)

Donald Duck and Glenn Beck

Not sure what to think of this. But it is amusing...

Monday, October 04, 2010

Non-markets in some things: South Korean Edition

People: there's a Kimchi Crisis in South Korea. Prices for 2.5 kilos of Napa cabbage (the preferred base ingredient) have risen from 2,500 won a month ago to 11,500 won.

The WSJ has a (partly gated) article on this headlined "South Korea Faces Pinch in Kimchi Supply".

The article alleges that this is due to too much rain and poor harvests in South Korea.

I call Bulls**t!

Napa cabbage is a transportable commodity. South Korea is a geographically small country. No way a bad harvest there would cause world prices to rise so dramatically.

Now sure, perhaps the harvest was bad everywhere. But also perhaps it's this:

"The government responded to the price spike Friday by suspending its tariffs on cabbage and radishes and announcing plans to import 150 tons of fresh vegetables from China with special emphasis on napa cabbage."


Hey WSJ, you kinda buried the lede there. Tight supplies and high prices for Kimchi (relative to the free trade outcome) are SOP for South Korea.

How about "Protectionest policies rise up to bite South Korea in the Butt" for the headline?

Smart Groups

Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human

Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher Chabris, Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi
& Thomas Malone, Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Psychologists have repeatedly shown that a single statistical factor — often called "general intelligence" — emerges from the correlations among people's performance on a wide variety of cognitive tasks. But no one has systematically examined whether a similar kind of "collective intelligence" exists for groups of people. In two studies with 699 individuals, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group's performance on a wide variety of tasks. This "c factor" is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.

Surprising, and also easily testable. Corporations with boards, or top executives, that have these features should on average be more profitable. And if the effect is as strong as suggested here, then ALL corporations should have such decision structures, because to do otherwise would be much less profitable. Any company that uses a different firm would be competed out of existence, or bought out in a hostile takeover. At worst, these schmoes could start their own company, with this decision structure, and rule the world. The fact that the they don't means that they know these idiotic results are no bigger than the third order of smalls.

I should note that government, on the other hand, since it faces no profit constraint or takeover discipline, could continue to use whatever system it wants.
So the schmoes should take their little paper over to the government, and suggest that their system be adopted there.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Peter Principle

Peter Principle is an old laugh line.

But it is plausible, it turns out.

Universities promote administrators WELL beyond their level of incompetence. After all, I was a chair for ten years. Just THINK about that.....scary.

Universities, it appears, actually use the Dilbert Principle: The least competent people are "promoted" to administration, where they can do the least harm.

Scots wa hae

Went to an excellent, if somewhat retro, show at the new to me location of the 9:30 club in DC last night. Radar Brothers - Vaselines - Teenage Fanclub.

Didn't know the Radar Brothers, who looked like they should be called Radar & Sons, but they were good. I will look them up.

Vaselines were amazing. Eugene Kelly is one of my favorites and their new album fits in well with their classic songs. Their drummer was *awesome* as was the interplay between Eugene and Francis. Only downside was they or their soundman decided to turn things up to 11 so that extended guitar playing turned to white noise fairly quickly.

Teenage Fanclub were incredible. They had the soundsystem mastered and were pristine. Played an excellent set mix of old and new. I am old and was very tired, but I didn't want it to end.

By the way, if you can find the EPs that Eugene Kelly released under the moniker of Captain America, they are well worth having.