Saturday, April 03, 2010

A delightful piece

A delightful little article, on one man's travels among the strange and mysterious "Econ" tribe.

One of the chief priests, a "Dr. Romer," once appears to have worshipped different dieties, but now worships the god called "Porkulus." Angus had pointed this out at the time, of course, but it is worth remembering.

(Nod to the NCM)

Hot Links!

1. Kobe cashes in before the new CBA bites down on superstars.

2. Turns out Kenyon Martin does NOT like popcorn.

3. Tyler C is a club kid?

4. According to this, me and Mungo should just give up and fold KPC.

5. Ray Fisman strikes again.

Some Days, You Learn Things.

JS writes:

There some days when you learn things. I have been looking at transit data and saying that transit only covers 15% to 30% of operating expense from their fare boxes except in top 5 markets where it can up to 30% to 48%. Well after reading Sam Staley’s blog at the Reason Foundation, I now have to rethink this since it now appears that there has been some fare box stuffing. It turns out “Some 120,000 federal workers in the Washington region receive up to $230 a month for transit, which amounts to taxpayer-funded free rides or at least a hefty bite out of even the most expensive trips.” according to the Washington Examiner. Amazingly that could add up to $331 million a year for a transit agency that collects $683 million a year in fares with a $1.9 billion operating budget.
The examiner later states that “For years, federal employees received free and subsidized parking. Taking away the perk hasn't been a viable option: When President Carter tried it in 1979, federal employees protested and started a boycott of U.S. savings bonds”.
So what can be done? May be the Feds can apply a little Ricardian comparative advantage. Find the price point that Federal employees think the dough that they will get is equal to the transit or parking and get out of the “Green Washing” with the transit and the diametrically opposed “Brown” parking subsidy at the same time. There are markets in everything and I for one would be happier to be paid in dollars than in subway tokens or parking passes. I think it would be worth seeing if federal employees felt the same way.
Nor is it gloom and doom for the transit agency. There are plenty of consumers who would be willing to pay to avoid DC traffic. Now, they just would be a little more like choice riders.

Tell the Truth?

Interesting concept. Get politicians to promise to tell the truth.

"I, as an elected official, make a personal pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth while representing my constituents and conducting the business of the office to which elected."

Only about their public acts and duties, mind you. If Bill wants to lie to Hillary about Monica, that's between them.

I should note that I met Miles when we both had kids at RCHS.

Discuss, please.

Thundercats are go!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Problem is NOT That Women Don't Know What They Want....

...the problem is that they DO.

Mike, in an earlier comment, is led to think a bit out loud about an analogous experience.

It WOULD be amazing if one could build a single custom made piece of furniture for less than a manufactured unit that sold thousands.

England = Scary

Popehat gives some details about England.

Tommy, you okay, man?

The EYM Lays Down Some Smack

A letter in the Deadly Tar Ball. The letter:


Though I’m thrilled to learn that our University is attempting to provide sustainable dining, Tuesday’s article, “Local Food, Big Business,” failed to explain what that actually means.

I’m inclined to think that “sustainable food” is food produced, transported, prepared and consumed without consuming finite natural resources or damaging the environment.

The article implies that subsumed under the term “sustainable” are the terms “local,” “organic,” “smaller farms,” “grass-fed beef” and “free-range eggs.”

The first two agree with my understanding of the term, but they get increasingly ridiculous.

Eggs produced by caged chickens are no more or less sustainable than free range eggs; they are more humane, but not more sustainable.

So by using the word “sustainable” to mean so many different things, the article robs itself of any actual weight or significance.

In my eyes, “sustainable” now means “any of a variety of liberal buzzwords designed and propagated to make people feel better about themselves.”

Kevin Munger

Oh, where, WHERE did I go wrong? Clearly, I failed as a father. A kid who doesn't realize that "sustainable" is something we worship.... well, I blame the LMM. She's a lawyer, and tends to think that words have meanings, rather than emotions.

"The Entire Island Will Tip Over and Capsize"

I just keep watching this. WTF?

Watch the question asked at 1:20.

This should be on the Onion. Is he kidding? He must be kidding.

If he is NOT kidding, then is he perhaps worried about underpopulation? I mean, the island might well float up into the sky and block out the sun if there are too FEW people on the island. Has anyone thought about that? I mean, no one worried about global warming, right?

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Lord Gaia Himself

Prof. Lovelock..."Lord Gaia himself..."

And these are our allies?

"The lawyer of a Lebanese TV psychic who was convicted in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft said Thursday her client could be beheaded this week and urged Lebanese and Saudi leaders to help spare his life.

Attorney May al-Khansa said she learned from a judicial source that Ali Sibat is to be beheaded on Friday. She added that she does not have any official confirmation of this. Saudi judicial officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

A Lebanese official said Beirut has received no word from its embassy in Riyadh about Sibat's possible execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly define the charge of witchcraft.

Sibat is one of scores of people reported arrested every year in the kingdom for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortunetelling. These practices are considered polytheism by the government in Saudi Arabia, a deeply religious Muslim country.

Al-Khansa said she has called upon Saudi King Abdullah to pardon Sibat, a 49-year-old father of five. She also says she is in contact with Lebanese officials about the case.

She added that Sibat did not make predictions in Saudi Arabia and was neither a Saudi citizen nor a resident in Saudi and therefore should have been deported rather than tried there.

Sibat made predictions on an Arab satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut. He was arrested by the Saudi religious police during his pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina in May 2008 and sentenced to death last November."

The full story is here.

I guess I just can't stomach the "realist" school of international relations because our propping up of heinous regimes like this disgust me.

Pirate To-Do List

Pirate to-do list:

1. Remember to get parrot and AK-47, and other "effects"
2. Make sure that ship you attack at night is not extremely heavily armed US warship

They forgot #2
, it appears.

Here is what USS Nicholas was packin':

One OTO Melara Mk 75 76 mm naval gun
two Mk 32 triple-tube (324 mm) launchers for Mark 46 torpedoes
one Vulcan Phalanx CIWS
four .50-cal (12.7 mm) machine guns.
SM-1MR Standard anti-ship/air missiles (40 round magazine)

What is a Phalanx? It's a 20mm Gatling gun, which fires 4,000 high explosive/incendiary rounds per minute. That is putting quite a bit of lead downrange in a hurry.

Furthermore, the main gun, the Melara Mk 76 mm, can fire more than 80 rounds per minute, with each shell carrying 15 pounds of high explosive. (Yes, 80 rounds per minute, and that's limited only by the loading device. The rate of fire on the gun is actually more than 100 rounds per minute. So a three second burst is 5 or 6 massive shells.)

Wilt's Crib

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When Robert met Edmond

Newish NBER working paper by Aghion, Howitt, & Murtin (ungated version here) is titled: "The Relationship Between Health and Growth: When Lucas Meets Nelson-Phelps."

They argue that Lucas, who modeled an effect of improving health on growth and Nelson and Phelps who modeled an effect of the level of health on growth are both correct.

Their evidence comes mainly from a 96 country cross sectional average growth regression where both the initial level of life expectancy and the growth of life expectancy over the sample have positive and significant coefficients, both in LS and IV models.

Of the two results, they claim the effect of initial life expectancy is more robust.

I like the piece because they take a very reduced form approach. It's health and health improvements on growth, with basically nothing else in the model.

I dislike the piece because they, as do so many others, abuse the Hansen test of over-identifying restrictions to justify their instruments.

First, failing to reject the null, or "passing" the Hansen test, does not validate your identification, the test is on over-identifying instruments. Consider that in an exactly identified equation the test cannot be performed.

Second, failing to reject the null doesn't mean you don't have an instrument problem. A p level of .13 on a Hansen test means you don't reject the null at conventional levels, but it also means (more or less, I am speaking imprecisely here), there is an 87% chance that the null is false and your instruments are suspect. Another way to say this is we are rarely given any information about the power of the test, which is crucial when failing to reject the null is what guides our modeling choices.

Police Car Chew Toy

(Nod to Angry Alex, who called this "the darnedest thing")

New RNC Symbol

(Nod to the Bishop, who cites I found it at Blue Gal)

Hello Lakers?

The Thunder routed the 76ers last night to push their record to 45-28

Thunder have games remaining @Boston, @Dallas, Minnesota, @Utah, Denver, Phoenix, @Golden State, @Portland, Memphis.

Going on form they will win 3 more games and finish 48-34. The number 9 team, Memphis, already has 35 losses, so the Thunder appear to at least be in the playoffs. I am assuming that the positioning race between Utah, Denver, Dallas, and Phoenix will be ongoing so that those teams will be, in the words of Sheedy, "playing hard, my man" down the stretch.

However, it's hard to see how they can hold on to the 6th or 7th seed given their schedule vs. that of the Spurs and the Blazers. Each of them has one more loss that OKC right now, but both have a bit easier schedule remaining and both hold the tiebreaker against OKC.

San Antonio has Houston, Orlando, @Lakers, @Sacramento, @Phoenix, Memphis, @Denver, Minnesota, @Dallas. So put them down for 4 wins, tying OKC at 48 - 34. However, as noted above, the Spurs hold the tiebreaker over the Thunder.

Portland has the Knicks, @Denver, @Sacramento, @Clippers, Dallas, @ Lakers, OKC, Golden State. So put them down for 5 wins (yes beating the Thunder in Portland).

That gives Portland in 6th, Spurs in 7th, and OKC in 8th.

The critical game for the Thunder will I guess be the Portland game. Winning that could keep them in the 6th spot if all three teams perform as expected otherwise. Beating Denver or Phoenix at home would be huge too. Who knows, maybe they can steal another one from the Nuggets.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All Hail Greg Weeks

Greg puts a hammering on Chuck Schumer on Immigration reform.

Here's Schumer on meet the press:

MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer, is immigration reform dead then?

SEN. SCHUMER: I don't think so. First, let's look at how desperately we need it. Fifteen thousand people cross our border illegally every day. Most of them take jobs from Americans. And yet, at the same time, there are certain people we need in this economy to help us grow, and we can't get them--engineers, doctors, farm workers. So the system is broken--it lets the wrong people in, excludes the wrong people--and so we need to fix it.

Now here's Greg on Schumer:

This is both inaccurate and unhelpful. "Most" illegal crossers do not take jobs away from Americans. But if Schumer believes they do, then it is not useful to say we "desperately" need them to take away those jobs. Overall, he seems to think the U.S. economy needs only a tiny fraction of the workforce that is attracted to it, which ignores demography and common sense. Which "wrong people" does he think are being let in?

In short, if Schumer is the point man for immigration reform, then it is in trouble.

Kudos, Sir!

Not Fiction, but a Cartoon Videotape

I believe that this cartoon captures the essence of going to dinner with the Lovely Ms. Mungowitz. It captures the scene so accurately that I think the artist (Mr. Piraro) must have seen us in a restaurant recently.

The link is kind of hinky, so let me just give the dialogue.

Man and woman in restaurant, ordering, waiter is writing down orders.

Man: "I'll have number 7."

Woman: "I'll have a wide assortment of ingredients from your menu, in different combinations than you offer them, but first, this series of probing questions."

But, GOSH, I do love her anyway. Even though in restaurants I generally want to hide.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Whale-y boy

I wasn't going to touch the whales. I told myself, look, these are wild animals and deserve respect. If they come close to the boat, observe and enjoy, but don't touch.

As a point of reference, there were people on the trip announcing their goal of hugging and kissing a whale!

So the first couple times a baby came close to the boat, I didn't try to touch. On the last afternoon though, a particularly playful baby was romping back and forth between our boat and another while his mom rested nearby. He came up to the front of the boat where I was and tilted his body so he was looking right at me! At that point the thought hit me that the little dude WANTED me to touch him.

So, the next time he came by, I did. Here are some photos taken by someone in the other boat:

In the picture above, that's Mrs. Angus's arm in the red reaching out to touch the calf.

I wouldn't call it a spiritual experience, but it amazed me how these creatures seem to want to interact with humans. Even some adults approached our little boats to be seen and touched. It's even more amazing when you consider that within the lifespan of some living gray whales, there still was whaling going on in this exact spot!

The NY Times Magazine recently had a great story on whales including a description of a trip to Laguna San Ignacio, where Mrs. Angus and I were.

Open Marriage

B PhD has a nice piece on "open marriage."

Best line: If you have slept with n people, then anyone who has slept with n+1 people is a slut. Our own experiences form the outer boundary of what is morally acceptable.

Amazingly perceptive remark. And it transfers to other areas. We are all immigrants, in the U.S. Even the "native Americans came here just 8 or 10 thousand years ago. But somehow, the arrival of one's own particular ancestors seems to have perfected the U.S. Before my people came: America sucked. After they came: America was perfect, and all additional immigration should be outlawed.

The KPC view--on marriage, let people do what they want. Rules=tyranny.

On immigration--let people live where they want. More people=better country.

What if the Coen brothers had written the Old Testament?

****Spoiler Alert*********

We all know the story of Job, right? God brags on him to Satan, and Satan says, "yeah sure Job's your boy, but he's got it made, so why shouldn't he be. I bet he's just a fair weather friend". Then God said, "Let's find out", and proceeded to hammer Job with all sorts of travails and afflictions. Job's friends (comforters) said "Job: curse God and die" but Job said something like, "even if he kills me, I will still love him".

I finally saw the Coen brothers movie, "A Serious Man", which to my mind is a modern retelling of the story of Job with one crucial twist: when it comes to onion time, the Coens' protagonist flinches and sins.

And in the movie, an instant after the sin, it appears like the protagonist and his son are both going to die.

Probably pretty accurate?

Oh, I guess if you haven't read the Old Testament (or seen the movie), I have got some serious spoilers in this post!

Game Theory

Game Theory: A Practitioner's Approach

Thomas Schelling
Economics and Philosophy, March 2010, Pages 27-46

Abstract: To a practitioner in the social sciences, game theory primarily helps to identify situations in which interdependent decisions are somehow problematic; solutions often require venturing into the social sciences. Game theory is usually about anticipating each other's choices; it can also cope with influencing other's choices. To a social scientist the great contribution of game theory is probably the payoff matrix, an accounting device comparable to the equals sign in algebra.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Libertarian Protests McCain-Palin, Gets Roughed Up

I can see the point. "Freedom of speech" does NOT mean you get to make an unscheduled presentation at someone else's rally. Video Here. So, holding a sheaf of papers and shrieking "freedom of speech!" doesn't make much sense, when you are on private property reserved and contracted for by someone else.

Still, every time I think of John McCain, I do want to go do something that might get me arrested for saying bad words in public. So I don't blame the "libertarian," either. We don't think much of John McCain.

Oh Hi! Got any Fish?

Mrs. Angus and I were amazed and enchanted by the variety of colors and shapes of the harbor seals along the Monterey coastline.

Congressman Rangel Goes From Avuncular to Homoncular

Look, Angus and I don't hate Democrats. We hate incumbents. So don't hate us.

Good Samaritan arrested in Pennsylvania

Can anybody 'splain me exactly why poor Donald Wolfe is being persecuted by the "man"?

Here's the AP story, in its entirety:

Police say they charged a Pennsylvania man with public drunkenness after he was seen trying to resuscitate a long-dead opossum along a highway. State police Trooper Jamie Levier says several witnesses saw 55-year-old Donald Wolfe, of Brookville, near the animal Thursday along Route 36 in Oliver Township, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The trooper says one person saw Wolfe kneeling before the animal and gesturing as though he were conducting a seance. He says another saw Wolfe attempting to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Levier says the animal already had been dead a while.

The Associated Press could not locate a home telephone number for Wolfe.

So is trying to help a fellow creature on the side of the road prima facie evidence of being drunk?

Or is it only when the creature you are trying to help is stone dead that you get busted for public drunkenness?

If it is the latter, let me point out two things in Mr. Wolfe's favor. (1) It was a POSSUM. One of the hallmarks of possum-ness is faking being dead. Wolfe's confusion is thus understandable. (2) Maybe Mr. Wolfe fully knew the critter was deceased. After all, one witness said Wolfe appeared to be conducting a seance!

People, whatever you do, don't attempt to make a miracle in Punxsutawney PA. You'll get tossed in the drunk tank for your troubles! Especially if you don't have a home phone number.