Saturday, November 20, 2010

Answering your questions about thesis defenses

Yes, people, they really do involve snakes. Please read the whole thing, but here is one crucial part:

Q: Would someone who wrote a bad thesis and defeated a large snake get the same grade as someone who wrote a good thesis and defeated a small snake?

A: Yes.

Is Tyler Cowen an Exhibitionist?

Judge for yourselves people:

Check out this tweet, and this one, and this one (the last was a re-tweet by TC), and this blog post, and this one too.

When I contacted him for comments before running this story, Tyler said:

"In my view in the long run better scans mean fewer pat-downs!

I would encourage people to start by calculating the "p" that, twenty years from now, the major airlines get nationalized. Work backwards from there and compute the liberty-maximizing policy."

I, on the other hand, would encourage people to calculate the "p" that, twenty years from now we all have microchips implanted in our body that allow the Feds to track all our movements and conversations. Working backwards from there and computing the liberty-maximizing policy might lead to a differing conclusion than does Tyler's thought experiment!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Blame the Police

This is really dumb.

But don't blame the police: it is the LAW. Cops don't get to pick which laws to enforce. I have argued this before...

So the lady in the article who says cops are wrong, is wrong.

And the lady who says, "Get rid of the chess tables" is an even bigger doofus. How is society made better off by destroying existing chess tables that are heavily used?

The problem is the stupid law. You can't even run on the grass, in the park, unless accompanied by a minor.

The thing is that the freqeuncy of child molestation or abduction by strangers has plummeted. It is NOT, simply not, an actual problem. This paper, in 2004, debunks a number of myths. And stranger abductions have gone DOWN since then.

The problem is nanny-fascist city council members, all over the country, who give in to pressure to make up ridiculous new laws.

(Nod to Anonyman)


Carville defiant on Obama comment By: CNN Political Unit

Washington (CNN) – Democratic strategist James Carville compared President Barack Obama to his Democratic primary rival and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday, implying in rather lewd terms that Obama needs to toughen-up.
And he's not sorry for it.

"If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he'd have two," Carville said at a "Christian Science Monitor" breakfast discussion. His comment was a response to whether Obama is taking strong enough stands on taxes and repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy. Carville made a similar comment to "Newsweek" during the 2008 campaign season when he compared Clinton and Obama's toughness.

"If she gave him one of her cojones, they'd both have two," he said.
He reacted to the comment on CNN's "John King, USA" Thursday.
"If I offended anybody, I am not sorry and I do not apologize," Carville told CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King.

But he also said he intended the comment to be a joke. "Of all the things people say about the president, I think this is fairly mild," Carville said. "I repeated a joke I made in the campaign."

(Nod to the Blonde)

Piling On: Leave the Beast Alone

This is unfair. I am happy to enjoy making fun of President Obama for doing stupid s**t, but how can we blame him for taking security seriously? The tone of this story is just out of line. The "symbol" of riding around in little roller skate cars is not the point of the summit. The press is wrong, here. (And I say this as an experienced limo driver myself...)

However, it does reflect that President Obama has become our new Jimmy Carter. Just a joke, a clown. Not entirely his fault, by any means. Even Charles Krauthammer is saying that the press is "silly and vindictive," for heaven's sake.

Can you believe that just a year ago the slobbering Euro-weenies were giving this guy the Nobel Peace Prize? Now they hate him because he doesn't ride in SmartCar. Oh, you fickle Euro-weenies!

Assault rifle: Good ; Nail clippers: Not so fast

It's a meme now: TSA is crazy. May or not be true, but the meme is fully viral.

Like this... Nail clippers? One guy with nail clippers is going to take over a plane also occupied by 200 veteran infantry troops? An M-16, even without bullets, is plenty of club to face down a vicious nail clipper wielder.

(nod to the Blonde, who said she laughed so hard she snorted)

Even Canada Thinks We are Hilarious

When Canadians are laughing at you, and they are RIGHT, then you are in sad shape.

Markets in everything: Canned goods edition

I can't decide which is funnier; "quality guaranteed" or "in tomato sauce"!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today in Moscow, Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev appeared at a joint news conference:

"Has the Ben Bernank ever run in an election?"

No but he has a nice beard!

People the first three minutes of this video are pure gold:

Fail Contest:: Biggest Fail?

Who is the biggest fail? The keeper or the forward?
To me, this is an allegory. The keeper is the Republicans, failing to make even a cursory effort to protect budget stability.

And the idiot striker who strikes out is the Pelosi-Reid congress, missing the open goal and just doing stupid stuff.

Waddya think?

Appropriations Committees: Nein, danke

Wow! People are turning down Appropriations Committee assignments? That's pretty amazing....

(Nod to @tofias)

KPC solves your problems

Mungo and I have been deluged by emails from KPC readers aghast at the Feds banning their favorite beverage, Four Loko.

Fear not, people. Behold: DIY Four Loko!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You sunk my battleship!

Wow! KPC friend Will Wilkinson scores a bulls eye. Please read the whole thing but here's a teaser to get you going:

"When it comes to macro policy, talk of bounded rationality, animal spirits, and the like is mostly just handwaving used to justify a retreat to "old-fashioned hydraulic Keynesianism" against the dominant stream of professional opinion when doing so suits one's ideological predilections."

How to evaluate the Fed

My friends Larry White, George Selgin and Bill Lastrapes have a new paper claiming the Fed has been a failure. They look mainly at US macroeconomic performance to make this claim.

However, I think any realistic evaluation of the success or failure of the Fed would have to look at reelection rates of incumbent politicians!

A novel idea

Wow! The NY Times had an epiphany and announced that economic growth might actually serve some useful purpose; it could reduce the deficit!

Very open-minded of them. I can just picture the editorial meeting where the writer fought for his story: "See, growth isn't all bad, it can at least raise government revenues."

Sadly, their ideas for "cultivating growth" all involve the government doing more things like "reforming" the tax code and "investing" our money.

One of the problems with this approach is that our government insists on investing money in things that don't have a positive economic return like "green jobs", "alternative fuels", high speed trains, and bribing Brazilian cotton farmers so they can keep paying off US cotton farmers.

The article does argue that the government should "prioritize" education and science, and I am in favor of subsidizing the production of public goods. But what has increased government spending in education actually accomplished so far? Has more money brought better performance, or a stronger, more politically active bunch of public sector union members?

Still and all, the Times saying something good about growth has to be counted as progress of a sort.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Motes vs. Beams

People, Dean Baker is quite a piece of work. He goes after people hard with what I will charitably describe as less than a fully correct analysis.

Here's another example, a post purporting to explain "Robert Samuelson's confusion on real interest rates:

In an economy operating below capacity, it would be desirably to have very low real interest rates to boost investment. This means that the cost of borrowing is low relative to the return on investment. Because interest rates can't go negative, it is impossible for real interest rates to fall as much as would be desired given the weakness of Japan's economy. It would be ideal if it could keep its nominal rates at their current near zero level, while inflation rose to 3.0 or 4.0 percent.

The other reason why inflation would be desirable is that it would allow homeowners to get out from under their debt burdens. If wages rose 3.0-4.0 percent annually in step with inflation, the burden of a fixed mortgage debt would be eroded through time. Also, if house prices rose in step with inflation, consumers would gain equity in their homes.

Excuse me for a moment.....


Thanks, now I feel a bit better. I think I may even be able to make a couple comments.

First, if the real rate is negative, then investment projects with a negative return may actually be "profitable". If the real rate is -4%, then a project with a -2% return "works". Strange way to rebuild an economy, no?

Second and more importantly, the most widely used model of the real interest rate is the Fisher equation which states that the nominal rate is equal to the required real rate plus a premium for expected inflation. It is beyond bizarre (but sadly not uncommon) to assert that inflation can rise significantly without nominal rates also rising.

Third, if inflation rose in a predictable manner, mortgage interest rates would rise as well (see point two) and there'd be no "savings" on new mortgages.

Fourth, to the extent that inflation was unanticipated, yes, borrowers would gain. But this is a zero sum game. Lenders, who after all are people, consumers, and voters too would lose an equivalent amount.

Fifthly and finally, as for how inflation builds home equity, all I can say there is WTF??? Housing is in the CPI. If all prices go up 3% how is the real value of your home increasing?

People, I am fine with trying a little bit of inflation here in the US of A. There are tons of idle cash sitting around, inflation is a tax on holding money, so maybe peoples will spend more. I don't think QE2 is the first sign of the apocalypse. But, even if it works to the specifications of its most ardent supporters, it's not going to come close to solving our problems.

Interesting Video

I don't think there should be laws against anti-gay hate speech, or bullying. A teacher is obliged to protect ALL students from abuse and threats. A classroom has to be safe, and to feel safe. Singling out gay students for special protections will make the problem worse.

This video is impressive. The kid is quite a speaker.

But the article raises some questions, to me. First, no Confederate flags? Really? In my high school, that would have meant sending about half the kids home. Even the women. Yes, it would have. There were lots more Confederate flags than U.S. flags on jackets, pockets, and so on.

Second, "the" home of the KKK? Nice that we have those dangerous maniacs segregated off into one small town in Michigan, but my impression was that the problem was somewhat more widespread, frankly. It's hard to prove a negative, but it appears that the headquarters of the Michigan KKK was near Howell, emphasizing the "WAS." If you are really worried about hate speech, perhaps you shouldn't go making up blatantly false stuff about Howell, MI.

Finally, what is the procedure for expelling a kid? I don't see why the teacher would be a hero for just telling the bully / problem kid to "get out of my classroom." Sure, it's a hassle to follow the rules. But the 14 year old kid who was told to "get out" is in school because the law forces him to be there. You can't just let him wander the halls. If the teacher was suspended for ignoring the rules on suspensions, then I have to say the suspension is consistent with standard practice.

So, two cheers for the teacher. And three cheers for the kid in the vid; good advocacy, and well done standing up to bullies that way.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Handwritten Thank You Notes

Your note, with nicer handwriting. M-Per dishes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Exchange Rates

My man T-Oat kicks Danny D right in the monads...

Sovereign Citizens

This is quite disturbing, in several ways. Read the comments, on YouTube.

I can't imagine what good these people think can come from murdering police officers. Their job is to enforce the law. Some of the laws are good, some of the laws are bad. Cops don't get to decide which are which.

Going to Go Blind....

I have to have cataract surgery, in December. Not a big deal, and with the new lens my eyesight should be dramatically improved. No more glasses. Yippee!

Anyway, while we were driving, the LMM asked what the recovery would be like. I jokingly said that the doctor had said it would really help my eyesight if I had a lot of sex.

She stared out the window, and then said, "Well I guess you are going to go blind then, one way or another!"

Yikes... I must be a bad influence.

Airport Security: Excessive or Just a Hard Problem?

A disturbing little video about a very upset little girl.

I had been wondering about the comparison to Israeli security on El Al. They have never had a hijacking. And there are some folks who wish the Israelis harm, so ... aren't those procedures better? No shoe taking off, no groping, no x-ray porn?

Maybe not. A sensible response from the V-Consp. Three hours? I guess it's not so simple.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

what goes around comes around

Alan Blinder is up in arms at the audacity of foreign leaders calling QE2 "currency manipulation". So is President Obama, Paul Krugman, and a host of other luminaries.

Here's Blinder in today's WSJ: "But calling QE2 "currency manipulation" is a grotesque abuse of language".

His (correct) argument is that QE2 is basic everyday expansionary monetary policy just applied to a different portion of the yield curve. Sure it may have the side effect of lowering the dollar, but.....

People, the foreign reaction is a predictable consequence of our insistence in labeling China's fixed exchange rate as "currency manipulation".

A fixed exchange rate is a basic everyday policy regime. Bretton Woods was a system of fixed exchange rates, so the US has had a fixed exchange rate in the not so distant past. The countries of Western Europe continued to struggle to achieve a system of fixed exchange rates post Bretton Woods, culminating in the creation of the Euro which is a system of fixed exchange rates between all the participating countries.

Here's another gem from Blinder: "the US is sovereign nation with a right to its own monetary policy".

And China isn't???

Our administration and elite pundits have been blaming other countries for our problems for a while now, so it's not surprising that many other countries are enjoying their chance to throw it back into our faces.

Duke Haters

I have been teaching at Duke since 1997.

But I hate, just detest, Duke basketball. I respect, even very much admire, our coach, think the players are all great kids, it's all good. But I cannot abide the team, the cause, the self-love.

Watch this, and tell me I'm wrong.

Let Me Help You Pack!

KPC friend Veronique de Rugy tells a fine Gov. Christie Story.

The Blonde suggests that this be the bumper sticker for 2012: "Let's all help them pack!"

Ban on Dying

French town of Sarpourenx bans dying.

Two problems occur to me. First, how to enforce the ban? Second, I'm pretty sure this means they will have to raise the retirement age, right?

(Nod to the LMM)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's so EZ to save the country

The NY Times set out a challenge: YOU fix the Budget! So I tried and it was easy. You can see my plan from this link.

I (more than) balanced the budget in 2015 and 2030 with 90% coming from spending cuts and 10% from new revenues.

I left the Bush tax rates in place. I didn't get rid our our current tax breaks for mortgages and health insurance. I didn't put on a national sales tax.

I did put on a carbon tax and some type of estate tax. I raised the social security retirement age one year to 68, and I capped medicare growth at GDP growth +1% point starting in 2013.

The rest was just straight up, old fashioned spending cuts.

I would put the chances of anything within two standard deviations of my proposal getting through our political system at right around 2 or 3 percent tops.

But the bottom line is that we are not in budget trouble because of any fundamental structural economic or demographic problems. We are in trouble because our politics are disfunctional.

My idea of Hell

"ACADEMICS at one Australian university have to fill in 14 forms for a PhD student to get from pre-admission to graduation. Those 14 compulsory forms demand 270 separate pieces of information. Each of those items of information has to be supplied, on average, 2.7 times. For each PhD student, academics lose 580 minutes of precious time on form-filling, according to a conservative estimate."

At my university, I get by with having my grad students fill out their own forms and me signing them! That's a foolproof system, right?

What's in a name?

In the recent Brazilian elections, 6 candidates registered themselves as "Barack Obama" (they all lost). One candidate ran as "Chico Bin Laden" (and lost). Over 200 candidates registered their names as some riff on outgoing president Lula's name. There is much more here and here.

My favorite name of all and one person that I'd consider breaking my lifelong "no voting" policy to vote for?

Kung Fu Fatty! (not making this up)

Free-trade Theatre

People, we have met the enemy, and he is us. Only in the wonderland world of Democratic party politics can a President visit a country with which we ALREADY HAVE A SIGNED FTA and come out saying that he failed to reach a trade deal!

At first I thought I'd started down the road to dementia or insanity: "no deal? Wow, I thought we signed one back in 2007, I must be losing my mind".

Well, some people have, and I don't think I'm one of them (at least not in this case!).

Obama travels the earth proclaiming we are going to double our exports, but refuses to push for Congressional action on already signed FTAs that on balance open foreign markets more to us than ours to the other country.

I guess that vaguely positive double-talk about the benefits of trade is better than the "renegotiate NAFTA" rhetoric that came from candidate Obama, but it is still pathetic.