Saturday, March 20, 2010

Price Adjustment to Compensate for Quality Differences in Prostitution

Interesting. Network analysis in the study of markets for sex-for-sale.

I was puzzled by this passage, though:

Another discovery is that a high rating for a particular sex worker is a good predictor of high ratings in the future. That's the kind of rich get richer effect that is seen in many internet phenomena (also known as the Matthew effect). However, average or poor ratings don't seem to affect future ratings either way.

Naturally, buyers tend to use more highly rated sex-workers more often. And over short timescales this can be seen in the data. However, look at longer timescales and the effect drops away. That's probably because sex-workers do not stay in their work for long periods of time, say Rocha and co.

Well, I would have thought that the differences would disappear as prices adjusted to offset quality differences. In fact, I would have predicted that price differentials would would have increased until the marginal consumer of the service is nearly indifferent (holding income effects constant) among different providers. Sure, high quality service is likely a luxury good, but I would still expect that price differences (in effect, rents for differences in attractiveness, effort, and talent) would have explained why top-ratings don't necessarily translate into greater quantities of transactions.

On the other side of the argument, of course, there is the old claim attributed to Napoleon: "In war, as in prostitution, an enthusiastic amateur may outstrip a professional."

(Nod to Angry Alex, who never has to pay for it)

Friday, March 19, 2010


Several people were reminded of good Churchill stories, by the previous post.

The accuracy of these stories is MOST questionable, and in any case they are examples of much older jokes, attributed to Churchill. Still, it IS fun.

1. Shortly before George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion received its first English performance at His Majesty’s Theatre in London (on April 11, 1914), Shaw sent the following telegram to Winston Churchill :
Churchill sent this telegram to Shaw in reply :

2. Lady Nancy Astor: If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee!
Churchill: And if I were your husband I would drink it!

George Thayer (who worked as research assistant to Randolph Churchill on the latter's biography of Winston), wrote in 1971 that this anecdote was false. In any case, this joke appears to be an old one. The January 3, 1900 issue of the Chicago Tribune printed the following: “‘If I had a husband like you,’ she said with concentrated scorn, ‘I'd give him poison!’ ‘Mad'm,’ he rejoined, looking her over with a feeble sort of smile, ‘If I had a wife like you I'd take it.’”

3. Bessie Braddock: Winston, you are drunk, and what's more, you are disgustingly drunk.
Churchill: Bessie, my dear, you are ugly, and what's more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.

This exchange was confirmed to Richard Langworth by Ronald Golding, a bodyguard present on the occasion (as Churchill was leaving the House of Commons in 1946).
Note : in the 1934 movie It’s a Gift W.C. Field’s character, when told he is drunk, responds, ‘Yeah, and you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow and you’ll be crazy the rest of your life.’

4. Young man (seeing Churchill leaving the bathroom without washing his hands):
At Eton they taught us to wash our hands after using the toilet.
Churchill: At Harrow they taught us not to piss on our hands.

5. Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course...
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.'

KY v. Duke in KY Senate race

A little more, after before, about the Kentucky Senate primary, and the role of Duke v. UK.

Meanwhile in the Dem race, candidates are bickering over a bracket wager. A challenge from Lt. Gov. and UK grad Dan Mongiardo to his contender, Duke grad and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway was publicly refused.

In the wager, Mongiardo suggested that if Duke lost, Conway would serve as Mongiardo's personal golf instructor. If UK lost, Mongiardo would be Conway's guide on a wild turkey hunt.

Conway refused to participate and published an open letter to Mongiardo's camp saying that a wager would "cheapen America's greatest sporting event by injecting lowbrow political attacks into the NCAA tournament."

"Evidently, he got really upset by it. He said it was a lowbrow political move. I'll guess he is part of the highbrow crowd," said Kim Geveden, spokesman for Mongiardo's camp.

Conway's camp did not respond to The Examiner's request for further comment.

Munger said Conway's decision to keep the brackets separate from the ballots was the right one.

"Absolutely it was the right thing to do. Don't ever validate something that makes you opposed to the state you are running in," he said.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Raleigh Transit Throws Mungowitz Under the Bus

As all of you know, I am ALL about the greening of my life. So, as part of my renewed dedication to making easy things difficult, and reducing my productivity by wasting my time on useless pro-environment symbolism, I thought about taking the bus from my house to the airport. It's a trip I make often, and I wanted to know if the huge public subsidy to the bus system actually provides anything we can use.

Because, my suspicion is that our bus "service" is mostly designed to provide sinecures for bus drivers. Since the busses are nearly always empty, I assume this meant that the drivers find actually stopping for passengers to be annoying.

Anyway, I went to the Triangle Transit central web site, and asked the crack computer staff (yes, I think they smoke crack) to plan a route for me. Here is.... that first route they suggested:

Walk - 3.25 miles From:
08:31PM - 10020 bushveld ln, Raleigh

To: 09:45PM - Brennan at Creedmoor
33c - CAT - Glenwood-Creedmoor Connector - 0h 21m
Get on: 09:45PM - Stop #8693 - Brennan at Creedmoor
Get off: 10:06PM - Stop #8367 - Duraleigh at Glenwood

Walk - 6.86 miles
From: 10:06PM - Duraleigh at Glenwood
To: 12:43AM - RDU Airport at Terminal 1

Okay, got that? They suggest I walk three miles, then take a bus, then walk 7 miles from there to the airport. Not exactly excellent service. That's 4 hours to get to the airport, and that's assuming I can walk at a pretty good clip, carrying luggage. But, to be fair, there was another suggestion....

Walk - 6.95 miles
From: 09:07PM - 10020 bushveld ln, Raleigh
To: 11:46PM - RDU Airport at Terminal 1

In other words, by simply walking, I can make the trip in only 2.5 hours. What I like about this is that the computer actually suggests this as a viable route. Doesn't say, "no service." It says, "Hey, fat ass, I gots yer bus route right here: WALK!"

To paraphrase Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction," I'd have more respect for the bus system if they just told me to go to hell.

Of course, that was in the evening. Maybe there is a better way in the morning, right? The computer suggested:

Walk - 3.25 miles
From: 09:16AM - 10020 bushveld ln, Raleigh
To: 10:30AM - Brennan at Creedmoor
4 - CAT - Rex Hospital - 0h 41m
Get on: 10:30AM - Stop #8693 - Brennan at Creedmoor
Get off: 11:11AM - Stop #8273 - Hillsborough at Friendly

Walk - 0.03 miles
From: 11:11AM - Hillsborough at Friendly
To: 11:11AM - Hillsborough at Dixie
105 - Triangle Transit - RTP/Raleigh - 0h 25m
Get on: 11:45AM - Stop #8241 - Hillsborough at Dixie
Get off: 12:10PM - Stop #1000 - Regional Transit Center (RTC)

747 - Triangle Transit - RDU Airport Shuttle - 0h 9m
Get on: 12:20PM - Stop #1000 - Regional Transit Center (RTC)
Get off: 12:29PM - Stop #1576 - RDU Airport at Terminal 1

Remember, this is less than 7 miles. At the BEST, the bus system can get me there
in 3 and 1/2 hours, with 44 minutes of wait time.

No wonder the computer I suggested I walk. The computer knows how messed up the bus schedule is!

Three Escheats to the Wind

(Title by John Hood; article, too!)

Reminds me of a wonderful story, which of course may be apocryphal: Clement Atlee was standing at a urinal. Winston Churchill came in, goes to opposite end of long row of urinals.

Atlee: "Feeling a bit standoffish, Winnie?"

Churchill: "Why, no, Atlee. It's just that whenever you see something large and in private hands, you try to nationalize it!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Empirical Work is Useful

Do Good Recruits Make Good Cops? Problems Predicting and Measuring Academy
and Street-Level Success

Billy Henson, Bradford Reyns, Charles Klahm & James Frank
Police Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 5-26

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to extend White’s analysis predicting successful police recruit performance during academy training. Using police personnel data collected on 486 officers hired between 1996 and 2006 by a Midwestern police department, the authors examine characteristics related to academy success as well as active police service. The results show that most demographic and experience variables did not predict academy or active service success. However, White recruits and those scoring higher on the civil service exam consistently performed better on multiple academy outcome measures than their counterparts. In addition, those scoring higher on the overall academy success measure generally received better evaluations from their superiors. The results also show that higher education is not related to any of the measures of academy or on the job success used in these analyses.

Retributive versus compensatory justice: Observers' preference for punishing
in response to criminal offenses

Jan-Willem van Prooijen
European Journal of Social Psychology, February 2010, Pages 72-85

Abstract: In the current paper, the author examines whether independent observers of
criminal offenses have a relative preference for either retributive justice (i.e., punishing the offender) or compensatory justice (i.e., compensating the victim for the harm done). In Study 1, results revealed that participants recommended higher sums of money if a financial transaction was framed as offender punishment (i.e., the offender would pay money to the victim) than if it was framed as victim compensation (i.e., the victim would receive money from the offender). In Study 2, participants were asked to gather information about court trials following three severe offenses to evaluate whether justice had been done in these cases. Results revealed that participants gathered more information about offender punishment than about victim compensation. In Study 3 these findings were extended by investigating whether observers' relative preference for punishing is moderated by emotional proximity to the victim. Results revealed that the relative preference for punishing only occurred among participants who did not experience emotional proximity to the victim. It is concluded that observers prefer retributive over compensatory justice, provided that they do not feel emotionally close to the victim.

(Nod to Kevin L)


Keith Krehbiel: An Artist Like It's 1999

I found an old drawing in my desk drawer. The "artist" is Keith Krehbiel, famed political scientist at Stanford.

To set the scene, the background for this drawing was the end of the 1999 NCAA tournament where Trajan "The Alaskan Assassin" Langdon screwed the pooch on two consecutive trips down the floor. The Krehbiel drawing immortalizes the second trip. Here is the video of the end of the game. The relevant events start at about 1:45. Dr. Krehbiel was moved to artistic expression.... the "play" Duke ran. The reason I use scare quotes is that, as Dr. Krehbiel points out, the Duke players pretty much lined up for a rebound, and let Langdon bring the ball up by himself against three defenders. And, as Dr. Krehbiel further notes on the drawing, Langdon's nickname was "The Alaskan Assassin," not "The Speedy Alaskan Dribbler."

What happened was that Langdon dribbled up, stopped, tried to dribble between three defenders, and then fell down. Never took a shot, never made a pass.

Admittedly, Davidson ran this same (non)play against Kansas in the final 8 game three years ago. But Duke actually had other players, including Elton Brand, who might well have scored. And, if you watch, Curry passed the ball and at least they got a shot off. Yes, they missed, but the guys took a shot. Langdon took a dive.

Keith Krehbiel, artiste and man of the world: Thanks.

Duke Is Key to KY Race

Kentucky senate races turn on ... Duke love?

Seriously, check this out....

Though mentioning rival basketball teams in a U.S. Senate race is unusual, it's not uncommon for candidates to paint their opponents as outsiders, said Michael C. Munger, chairman of Duke's political science department.

Voters generally want to identify with the candidates they support, Munger said. "Many think, 'You are the same as I am, therefore I will vote for you.'"

As teams for the NCAA Tournament were selected Sunday night — UK and Duke both received No. 1 seeds — Secretary of State Trey Grayson launched an online ad highlighting his key Republican opponent's medical degree from Duke, in Durham N.C.

"In March, there's one big difference between Rand Paul and Trey Grayson," says the ad, which then shows an unflattering picture of Paul with a caption that says "I'm Rand Paul and I'm a Duke Blue Devil."

Bad Guys?

The organizational structure of international drug smuggling

Jana Benson & Scott Decker
Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

Abstract: While most group offending is not well organized, it is generally assumed that high levels of organization can be found in group offending that generates revenue, such as white-collar crime, drug sales, and smuggling drugs or humans. The organizational structure of international drug smuggling has typically been viewed as highly rational and formally structured. Employing interviews with thirty-four federal prisoners convicted of smuggling large volumes of cocaine into the United States, this study explored the organizational structure of high level international drug smuggling. The subjects described a general lack of formal structure and depicted the drug smuggling operations as composed of isolated work groups without formal connections among each other. These findings bring into question the idea that these groups are rationally organized around pursuing efficiency and support recent research that suggests network security or minimizing risk are key organizing principles of drug trading organizations.


Lost in the Mail: A Field Experiment on Crime

Marco Castillo, Ragan Petrie, Maximo Torero & Angelino Viceisza
George Mason University Working Paper, January 2009

"We send identical envelopes to different households in Lima, Peru from two American cities and record arrivals. The experiment includes a large population of volunteer households across neighborhoods of different socio-economic backgrounds. To better understand the motivation behind the commission of crime, we manipulated the contents, the sender of the mail and the gender of the recipient. In particular, every household was sent four envelopes over the course of a year. Two envelopes had a sender with a foreign name and two had the last name of the sender and recipient matched. Finally, one of each of the two envelopes contained something inside the enclosed card (a small amount of money) that could not be easily detected without careful attention. The other envelope just contained the enclosed card. All these modifications were as subtle as possible and the order in which each different envelope was sent was random. The experiments show first that the mail service in Peru is highly inefficient. The overall rate of mail lost is 18%. The loss rate, however, hides the fact that mail containing money is lost 21% of the time while mail containing no money is lost 15% of the time. That is, we find evidence of shirking as well as crime. Also, the quality of service is not independent of socioeconomic status. Mail is lost at the same rate (roughly 18%), whether it contains money or not, when sent to a poor neighborhood. When sent to a rich neighborhood, however, mail without money is lost only 10% of the time and mail with money is lost 17% of the time."

Nod to Kevin L


Monday, March 15, 2010

Tea it up

"'We should be creating the biggest tent possible around the economic conservative issue,' said Ryan Hecker, the organizer behind the Contract From America. 'I think social issues may matter to particular individuals, but at the end of the day, the movement should be agnostic about it. This is a movement that rose largely because of the Republican Party failing to deliver on being representative of the economic conservative ideology. To include social issues would be beside the point.'" [NYT]

(Nods to Neanderbill and to Kevin L)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nancy Grace Remembered

No, NG is not dead.

But I do have to remember her on this anniversary of the party on Buchanan Street in Durham.

John Stewart remembered her. (Yes, I have blogged that link before.... but it's very good).

The only better treatment was the Amy Poehler as Nancy Grace thing. That was the best. But that video does not seem to be publicly available any more. You can see in the show notes where it took place.

Still, I remember.... Nancy Grace.