Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conan's Exit Interview, and a Ken Burns Special...

Markets in everything: Omnisexual Valentine's Bison edition

Yes people, America's favorite mascot, Rumble T. Bison (the T stands for The) is available to service your valentine.

Here, let me quote from the solicitation:

Each visit includes a basket full of romantic items, music, and quality time with Rumble.... It doesn’t matter if your Valentine is a man, woman, or child; Rumble will make this Valentine’s one to remember. Call Rumble’s “loveline” for more info.

By the way, it's $249, and that includes tax!

Here's a teaser; a little bison-cake for y'all:

GuhDAY! Russians Hack Up Aborigines from Oz

So, here's the story:

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, the favorites for ice-dancing gold in Vancouver, wowed the crowds with their routine at the European Championships. They sit in the lead after their original dance, a tribute to Australian Aborigines.

Except, Aboriginal leaders don't see it as a tribute. They don't really see how it has anything to do with their culture at all.

"They have got the whole thing wrong," said Stephen Page, artistic director of the respected indigenous group, the Bangarra Dance Company. Page said there were no traditional movements in the routine, the music sounded more like it came from India or Africa than Aboriginal Australia and the body paint looked like "a three-year-old child had drawn it on"... "Probably the elders in the bush would be laughing because they would be saying, 'Look how stupid these fellas are,' " he said.


Okay, I think that last sentence is probably right. But that would also be the reaction of the elders in the bush to all of the OTHER ice dancing costumes also. It is certainly MY reaction.

And here's the thing. It is ICE dancing. The idea of authentic Aussie aboroginal ice dancing is a little hard to imagine. The only ice in all of Oz is at the MacDonalds, and they won't give you any. These pictures here? Don't believe it. They are photo-shopped.

(Nod to Anonyman, who would look good in those costumes)

Judge Made Law

The Trouble with Cases

Frederick Schauer & Richard Zeckhauser
Harvard Working Paper, August 2009

Abstract: For several decades now a debate has raged about policy-making by litigation. Spurred by the way in which tobacco, environmental, and other litigation has functioned as an alternative form of regulation, the debate asks whether policy-making or regulation by litigation is more or less socially desirable than more traditional policy-making by ex ante rule-making by legislatures or administrative agencies. In this paper we step into this debate, but not to come down on one side or another, all things considered. Rather, we seek to show that any form of regulation that is dominated by high-salience particular cases is highly likely to make necessarily general policy on the basis of unwarranted assumptions about the
typic ality of one or a few high-salience cases or events. Two cornerstone concepts of behavioral decision – the availability heuristic and related problems of representativeness – explain this bias. This problem is virtually inevitable in regulation by litigation, yet it is commonly found as well in ex ante rule-making, because such rule-making increasingly takes place in the wake of, and dominated by, particularly notorious and often unrepresentative outlier events. In weighing the net advantages of regulation by ex ante rule-making against those of regulation by litigation, society must recognize that any regulatory form is less effective insofar as it is unable to transcend the distorting effect of high-salience
unrepresentative examples.


Judicial Duty and the Supreme Court’s Cult of Celebrity

Craig Lerner & Nelson Lund
George Washington Law Review, forthcoming

Abstract: Judging from recent confirmation hearings, there is now a consensus that
Supreme Court Justices should be humble servants of the law, highly respectful toward precedent and without personal agendas of any kind. Few informed observers expect this to happen. After describing some of the institutional factors that operate to discourage adherence to the traditional ideal of judicial duty, this article proposes four statutory reforms that could help the Justices stick a little closer to the promises they are expected to make, and do make, at their confirmation hearings. First, Congress should require that all Supreme Court opinions, including concurrences and dissents, be issued anonymously. This should lead to fewer self-indulgent separate opinions, more coherent and judicious majority opinions, and more reason for future Justices to treat the resulting precedents respectfully. Second, Congress should require the Court to hear at least one case certified from a circuit court (or one diversity case) for every federal question case they choose from their discretionary docket. This would reduce the temptation to assemble a docket consisting largely of interesting or high-profile cases, and encourage the Justices to grapple with more of the important but unglamorous issues vexing the lower courts. Third, Congress should forbid law clerks to draft judicial opinions, and move them to the office of the Court’s Librarian, where they would do legal research for the Court rather than for individual Justices. Truly humble and old-fashioned judges should study the precedents themselves, discuss the law with their colleagues (rather than with their handpicked votaries), and write their own opinions. Fourth, Congress should require Justices to serve part of their time on lower federal courts, as they did for the first century of the republic’s existence. Restoring “circuit riding” would give the Justices some on-going experience with playing the role of a modest judge whose decisions are subject to appellate review and who is often required to interpret and apply muddled Supreme Court opinions. If serving as a Supreme Court Justice were to become a full-time, non-delegable job with fewer opportunities for personal aggrandizement, the Justices would behave more like judges than legal celebrities, Presidents would have more incentive to appoint genuinely able people, and fewer Justices would insist on staying in the saddle past the time when they can even mount the horse.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not hard to explain....

Efficient Regulation, Andrei Shleifer
NBER Working Paper, January 2010

Abstract: Regulation of economic activity is ubiquitous around the world, yet standard theories predict it should be rather uncommon. I argue that the ubiquity of regulation is explained not so much by the failure of markets, or by asymmetric information, as by the failure of courts to solve contract and tort disputes cheaply, predictably, and impartially. The approach accounts for the ubiquity of regulation, for its growth over time, as well as for the fact that contracts themselves are heavily regulated. It also makes predictions, both across activities and across jurisdictions, for the efficiency of regulation and litigation as strategies of enforcing efficient conduct.

Actually, it's easy to explain. Regulation makes it possible for felons like Andrei Shleifer to steal millions. There, that puzzle is solved!

(Nod to Kevin L)

Yes, There IS Such a Thing as Left-Wing Authoritarianism

Paul Krugman reveals just how far he has gone in a totalitarian direction. Angus and I have long believed P-Kroog has sold out, but I at least have had the sense that there is some underlying part of his brain that still perceives some part of reality.

I am no longer sure. P-Kroog apparently believes that Obama does not, in fact, have enough midi-chlorians, and so (I'm not making this up) wrote a post called "He Wasn't The One We've Been Waiting For." Yes, he did. Russ Roberts gives the appropriate response, a combination of confused surprise and dispositive counterarguments. Will W also is incredulous, and rightly.

And he also wrote this unbelievable op-ed. I really thought that this was from the Onion at first. As my man Don B put it:

Polls show that health-care ‘reform’ of the sort the Senate passed is now overwhelmingly unpopular. Indeed, as Scott Brown’s victory makes clear, it’s unpopular even in Massachusetts – perhaps the most ‘Progressive’ state in the union. And the President and members of the House obviously believe these polls, otherwise they wouldn’t have so quickly run away from the Senate bill.

For Mr. Krugman nevertheless to insist that “the nation is waiting” for final legislative approval of this ‘reform’ reveals that Mr. Krugman’s arrogance has reached such Brobdingnagian proportions that he mistakes his own desires for those of the American public.

So, to Mr. Overwater: There IS such a thing as left-wing authoritarianism.

Irish University System Does Something Smart!

Irish university system aboishes the center! Let a thousand flowers bloom. And save a lot of money, at the same time you get rid of central bureaucracy.

The objection of the center:

"We produce all their degree parchments and also run awards competitions, from the undergraduate to the postdoctoral level," she said. Those awards allow the university to promote comparability of standards and reward academic excellence as a central unit. The university also supports academic publishing and gives grants to individual scholars, she said.

We produce all their degree parchments?

(At this point, Angus sticks his right fist in the air, sticks his thumb out between his ring and long fingers, wiggles his thumb, and yells, "ARRRRRRRRRR!")

(Nod to Tommy the Brit)

Glen Beck is Afraid

Wow, Glen Beck is pretty much all upset about Scott Brown. "A dead intern...."? Really? That's pretty extreme.

My wife, the good LMM, has expressed....let's call it "admiration," since this is a family blog, for Scott Brown and his photo. Fine with me: doesn't matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home.

(Nod to Anonyman, who also has a yummy "treasure trail." Or, that's what I hear)

Poll Cats

Interesting horse race from HotAirPundit, on who were the real poll cats and who stunk.

Blue Mass Group had Coakley +8? Even Kos played it straighter than that, calling it a toss-up. What did Blue Mass Group do, talk to everybody's mom? That's not a very random selection algorithm.

And Zogby...really?....what the heck?

(Nod to the NCM)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Little Happy, A Little Sad

Watching this made me miss Storchbier, and Eva and Sebastian, and Frau Uhlich, and Herr Kauffmann, and Martin, and Hajo, and der Geist, and lots of people.

In Franconia, where I was, it would be Fastnacht; in Western Germany (esp. Koln) it would Karneval; and in the rest of Bavaria and Austria, Fasching. In any case, as Stephen rightly says: Prosit!

El Mercurio

Bill Galston and I fuss at each other about Prez Obama, in El Mercurio, newspaper of Chile's capital, Santiago.

El problema es que hasta ahora los intentos de reforma y la implementación de planes económicos han dado malos resultados políticos: los congresistas han perdido respaldo en sus distritos y la popularidad de Obama ha caído significativamente.

Michael Munger, profesor de la Universidad de Duke, sostiene que los demócratas interpretaron mal el mandato con el que llegaron al gobierno. El voto por Obama fue para el político carismático y no para todo su programa, asegura.

La mayor desilusión ha sido para sus seguidores. "Por años, él hizo campaña asegurando que reduciría la polarización política", comentó a "El Mercurio" William Galston, analista de la Brookings Institution. Pero durante su gestión la brecha entre los partidos ha crecido, dijo Galston, y se ha visto poco del bipartidismo prometido.

For some reason, it tickles me to think of Bill Galston as an "analista." I'm just sayin'.

Book 'Em, Danno!

Oh, so now it's "Who has the bigger bookshelf?", is it. It's not the size of your books, it's how you USE them, or something like that. Anyway, let's do this. Side wall....

The back alcove....

Finally, the window wall. And, yes, the fridge has beer in it, some fine hefeweisse and a couple of local micro-brews.

And, let me share this: in grad school, Angus and I shared an office. The office had four desks, but because I was "elected" Prez of the Grad Student Association, I assigned offices, and I felt like the two of us in an office for four would mean we would be more comfortable.

Angus at one point attempted a coup, by ballot stuffing. But I Chavezed all down his leg, by declaring the election to be void, and announcing I would be President for life. Since that meant he got to keep the office, Angus converted to being a Mungista again.

Anyway, I remember one day I came back from the bookstore, with about 10 or 12 new Poli Sci books. Angus went through them, increasingly incredulous. "Stupid...stupid....REALLY stupid (A Gary Jacobson book, I think)...stupid...." Not one of the books impressed him as worth having.

Angus didn't realize that political scientologists don't actually READ these books. We just use them as an excuse for ending conversations: "It was here somewhere...let me look for it and get back to you...I know I JUST saw it...." With all the books I have, I almost never have to talk to anyone.

I may be an ingrate, but I am NOT illiterate!

Wow, I am taking a beating in the comments. BR points out that I don't seem to have any books in my office and Mungo mashes me in the forehead with a driver, Mrs. Woods style, for not having invited him to visit Soonertopia. I have no defense against the latter but against the former I can say that I do indeed have books in my office. Here is a picture to prove it:

They are mainly on Macro/growth, econometrics & bayesian statistics, and political economy, with some finance and international econ thrown in.

Maybe some day I will be able to post a picture of Mungo riding the Sooner Schooner!

Liberty Wins! Liberty Wins!

That's my Harry Caray imitation.

The Supreme Court comes through. Stupid freakin' campaign finance law! Yay! Here's the ruling. I can't believe our side actually WON for once.

"My" amicus brief in the case, if you are interested....(Allison wrote it; I just signed it).

UPDATE: For you half-wits commenting (i.e., everyone who disagrees with me), check this!

Left and Right agree: soak the "rich"

Tyler reports on health care contingency plans from the right and left sides of the blogosphere and they have one thing in common; the rich should pay.

M. McArdle:   "eliminate the tax-deductibility of health insurance benefits for people making more than $150K a year in household income, $100K for singles."

E. Klein:  "Revenue comes from a surtax on the wealthy."


How about increasing the supply of medical providers? How about allowing insurance companies to compete for clients across state lines? How about eliminating the tax-deductibility of health insurance benefits for ALL people? How about experimenting more with the Mayo clinic type model which is not (in my understanding anyway) a fee for service model? How about encouraging people to exercise more, eat better and stay healthy? How about tort reform?

Of course the best thing would be to somehow reduce the hysteria about access to health care. Most health care doesn't actually work, and our society wastes billions of dollars annually on the health care game. How about a subsidized national pool for catastrophic coverage insurance and the rest is up to you?

It is a very disturbing trend to see individual groups getting singled out for benefits or tax hits. Unions getting exempted from the "cadillac tax", big banks singled out to repay the TARP money that went to GM and Chrysler, the rich to pay for increased health care coverage, Nebraska getting exempted from having to pay for expansion of Medicaid in the state.  I don't think we can expect good results from continuing this method of getting agreements or financing expenditure in the long run.

Edwards: She Said That....I am the One! But The Kid Is Not My Son!

Wait. Yes, it is.

You have to like the "my mistress is such a slut she slept with everyone on my campaign" defense that Edwards tried at first. I'm sure Ms. Hunter liked that a lot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the "here's my office!" meme....

From the door....

Cute Hayek painting, and my view of a roof...

Best part: The Gothic window, facing southest, looking out over the main quad! Lots of the exterior shots of Dawson's Creek, the old TV show, were shot looking up at this window. It was supposed to be "Worthington University" on the show....

Looking back, looking forward: Obama more popular than his policies

Article in the mighty Durham Herald Sun, about what Obama accomplished.

As the article notes, my claim is that both sides have misinterpreted recent events. Even Scott Brown's election....NOT a Republican resurgence. Just people pissed off at incumbents.

The Most Unpopular Person We Have Polled Anywhere, at Any Time

That would be....John Edwards.

(Nod to Anonyman, who was ALWAYS one of the popular kids)

Rockin' the Canadian Tuxedo!

A quiz on economics

It's a short quiz.

Do you think that cruise ships should continue to dock at Haiti's Labadee peninsula, so that passengers can "frolic" and "buy trinkets"?

To me, the answer is obviously "yes," if the passengers don't mind. It's possible passengers don't WANT to go, but if that is what is advertised, and passengers buy a ticket, I say "go."

Because the alternative is to say, "Haiti is devestated. Let's boycott Haiti, to make sure the economic damage is as great as possible. Let's deny local workers the only chance they have to make some money, so as to make our rich white American selves feel moral."

But I expect that most people disagree with me. Right?

(Nod to Anonyman)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Pin up boy takes it down

They are calling the Mass. special Senate election for Scott Brown!

Unbelievable! Yale has App State Envy

People if you enjoyed this, then you gotta watch the video below (I know it's long but at least give it 'til the singing starts):

Hat tip to Ken Tremendous.


Will Obama be the "Haiti President"?

Tyler Cowen says yes and predicts that over 1,000,000 Haitians will be living in (I assume he means US run) "refugee camps for the foreseeable future". He closes with the line that "everyone in Haiti is looking to president Obama".

I know that Tyler has a deep and special relationship with Haiti. He introduced me and Mrs. Angus to the work of Antoine Oleyant and Edouard Duval-Carrie. But I personally do not foresee the US getting involved in a huge long term way in Haiti.

One reason is our history. I don't see how we can get away running things there. Could a mission there survive if American soldiers killed Haitian people?

Another reason is politics. Haitians don't vote. I realize there are a fair number of Haitians living in the USA but they are not a powerful lobby and I don't think are likely to become one. It's not clear to me what groups would favor the US taking the lead in running and reconstructing Haiti.

Another reason is that, as Tyler himself points out, it's a no-win situation. If we do take over, we are unlikely to be successful. Obama probably does not want to "preside over the collapse of a country of more than nine million people" but, contra Tyler, I don't understand why he has to or will do so.

Reconstructing Haiti needs to go through the World Bank or the UN. Not because those institutions would do a better job, but simply because the US can't / won't / shouldn't be seen as the party that bears the responsibility for the outcome.

Where the magic happens

Spring semester starts today. For some reason I thought I'd show y'all my office. Mrs. Angus and I put $0.49 per square foot laminate floating flooring down over the ancient and foul carpeting in our building, and I built my own set of office furniture last year in our garage. Here it is (click on pics to enlarge):

Here's a close up of the desk:

Oh, yeah, I made a matching bookshelf too:

Now I gotta get my butt in that chair and do 5 referee reports, finish 4 papers, teach two grad classes and direct 3 dissertations!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Podcastroid, Unite!

For podcast fans: An econ version of "Pardon the Interruption."

With the indefatigable Russ Roberts as the interruption.

And as always, available on iTunes U, for use while driving or exercising. Makes a GREAT gift!

A Little Lunch at Nello's....

Russian billionaire Abramovich drops $50k for a nice lunch.

The Ward Boss writes, "Look, I had the Milanese, and the water. I'm not submitting receipts to be reimbursed for anything else...."

Good. I am not sure that the $7k+ "tip" would have made it through Duke's accounting office.

(A copy of the bill....) (Click to enlarge)

Now, you are thinking, "3 bottle of wine? For $1,500? WOW!" But wait, check again, you missed a zero....Plus, tax is more than $3,200, and the tip is more than $7,300. Nice tip...

Come on Eileen!

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a Republican and I've never voted. What I am on record as supporting is gridlock. And I love the theatre of the absurd that our political discourse has become. 

Naturally then, I am all a-tingle in front of the surreal possibility that the Democrats could actually lose Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

I am sure those political geniuses Reid and Pelosi have contingency plans to get their extremely popular political agenda passed if they lose their 60th vote, but I don't think they can do it without sometime taking another vote of some type and I am wondering how many rank and file legislators would reconsider their previous votes in light of current trends.

Could it be like the 1994 midterm elections a year early? A boy can dream, can't he?

Change of government in Chile

Since the end of Pinochet's dictatorship in 1990, Chilean presidential elections had been won by the left coalition group Concertación. Yesterday, Concertación lost the presidency to a candidate of the right, businessman Sebastian Piñera.  This is partly because they ran a very poor candidate in ex-president Eduardo Frei, and partly because the coalition itself is unraveling.

As far as I know, there haven't been any denunciations from the Chavez - Ortega - Morales - Correa axis as of yet, perhaps because, by their standards, Concertación is not a really a left party.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good on ya, Rog!

Roger Federer organized a pre Aussie open exhibition to benefit Haiti. It was a big hit. Here is one video:

and there is much more here. It is very entertaining, perhaps more so than actual tournament tennis these days.


The OKC: where we take our processed meats VERY seriously

I am not joking:

Police say a fight over Spam led to a sledgehammer attack.

Investigators said it happened at a southwest Oklahoma City home when Howard Jones thought his roommate ate his Spam.

Officers said the men argued and then Jones hit him in the head with a sledgehammer....

Police arrested Jones on suspicion of assault.

I can only imagine what would have happened if it had been braunschweiger!