Monday, February 28, 2011

Okay, One for the Critics

I generally have little patience for the haters who want to blame America's collective and individual giant fat asses on fast food in general and Mickie D's in particular.

But...I have to admit the anti-oatmeal bitching is pretty much on target.

Tried it myself:

1. Asked for no cream and no sugar. Got both.
2. Took it back. Was assured that could be done. Got both again.
3. Took it back. Manager came over. No, turns out can't be done. Can redo without sugar if I really WANT to, but cream is already mixed.
4. I just left it on the counter, and left.

McDonalds insists you can customize, but it's actually not true.


An allegory of California government at work. (Nod to Timmy G)

The truth about the public sector union kerfuffle

Look people, this one is simple. Public sector unions are a taxpayer funded Democratic party vote and money machine. For that reason Democrats love them and Republicans hate them. Now the Republicans have the upper hand and are trying to do something about it.

Everything else in the debate is BS (perhaps the Oscar for BS could go to these geniuses who claim that taxpayers don't pay for the compensation of public sector workers).

So it doesn't matter if you can find a study saying public employees are over or under paid or have higher or lower benefits. It doesn't matter if you compare apples to apples or apples to hedgehogs. It doesn't matter if the unfunded pension liabilities are mostly structural or cyclical.

This is just straight up political payback. I wonder what the public sector union bosses expected would happen if the Republicans ever figured out what was going on and got hold of enough political power to do something about it?

Anarchy in the UC

Hayekian anarchism

Edward Peter Stringham & Todd Zywicki
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Should law be provided centrally by the state or by some other means? Even relatively staunch advocates of competition such as Friedrich Hayek believe that the state must provide law centrally. This article asks whether Hayek's theories about competition and the use of knowledge in society should lead one to support centrally provided law enforcement or competition in law. In writing about economics, Hayek famously described the competitive process of the market as a “discovery process.” In writing about law, Hayek coincidentally referred to the role of the judge under the common law as “discovering” the law in the expectations and conventions of people in a given society. We argue that this consistent usage was more than a mere semantic coincidence — that the two concepts of discovery are remarkably similar in Hayek's thought and that his idea of economic discovery influenced his later ideas about legal discovery. Moreover, once this conceptual similarity is recognized, certain conclusions logically follow: namely, that just as economic discovery requires the competitive process of the market to provide information and feedback to correct errors, competition in the provision of legal services is essential to the judicial discovery in law. In fact, the English common law, from which Hayek drew his model of legal discovery, was itself a model of polycentric and competing sources of law throughout much of its history. We conclude that for the same reasons that made Hayek a champion of market competition over central planning of the economy, he should have also supported competition in legal services over monopolistic provision by the state — in short, Hayek should have been an anarchist.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm Pretty Sure This is the EYM's Gig

Don Q

Raoul writes: "Not sure why this made me think of you..."

Looks Heavy, Feels Light, Less Filling?

A number of "write your own joke" opportunities here...

The Brightness-Weight Illusion: Darker Objects Look Heavier but Feel Lighter

Peter Walker, Brian Francis & Leanne Walker
Experimental Psychology, November/December 2010, Pages 462-469

Abstract: Bigger objects look heavier than smaller but otherwise identical objects. When hefted as well as seen, however, bigger objects feel lighter (the size-weight illusion), confirming that the association between visual size and weight has a perceptual component. Darker objects also look heavier than brighter but otherwise identical objects. It is uncertain, however, if this association also has a perceptual element, or if it simply reflects the fact that, in English at least, the same verbal label (light) is applied to both surface brightness and weight. To address this, we looked for a brightness equivalent of the size-weight illusion. Paired-comparison judgments of weight were obtained for balls differing only in color. Based on vision alone, darker objects were judged to be heavier. When the balls were hefted as well as seen, this association was reversed (i.e., a brightness-weight illusion), consistent with it having a perceptual component. To gauge the strength of the illusion (in grams), a white and a black ball (both 129 g) were each compared against a set of mid-gray balls varying in weight. When the balls were hefted as well as seen, the white ball felt approximately 8 g heavier than the black ball, a difference corresponding to 6.2% of their actual weight. Possible environmental origins of the association between surface lightness and weight are considered.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Clueless white people


Why do so many white people love to take photos like this one???

That's LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and wife with a group of Zambian orphans.

Even worse than the picture are his quotes. On Tosh.O there is a frequent segment called "is this racist"?

“The people, as long as their basic needs are met — they’re not starving and they have shelter — are such a joyful culture,” Kershaw said.

“You come home and you see people striving to get more money, more cars, bigger houses and more possessions, thinking that will make them happier. You go to Zambia, it helps put things in perspective. You realize where happiness comes from, and it’s not from material goods.

Ah yes, Africans are "joyful" and not materialistic. They don't want money, cars or big houses. I guess his evidence for that was that they didn't already have them?

I guess it's good that there are so many poor people in Africa. We need them to teach life lessons to self absorbed moronic celebrities!

Belated RIP for Escalade

Massive baller Troy "Escalade" Jackson died last week. He was a phenomenon to be sure:

I never knew that he was Mark Jackson's little brother. More here.
Hat tip to LeBron!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Elections Have Consequences: Dems Reap the Whirlwind

Barbara Boxer explains to Senator Inhofe that elections have consequences.

And of course, Jefe Obama got him a slice of that:

In Washington's current state of dysfunction, everyone has a favorite hyper-partisan moment. House Republican Whip Eric Cantor's moment came at a White House meeting with congressional leaders on day three of the new Administration. He handed President Barack Obama a list of ideas to fix the economy. Pointing to a small business tax-cut item, Obama said: "We disagree on tax policy." When Cantor tried to justify his own position, Obama responded: "Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won."

But inexplicably the elected officials in Wisconsin trying to prevent a vote are brave and "love democracy." Nancy Pelosi unmuzzles her great store of wisdom:

"I’m very proud of what they are doing,” she said. “They’re standing up for the rights of America's workingmen and -women to have a voice at the table about their jobs and their futures, so yes, I support them.”

Working people have a voice at the table because their representatives wet themselves and run away and hide like scared punks? Here I thought elections had consequences, ma'am. In fact, I think you told us we had to pass legislation so that we could find out what was in it, right?

The fact is that Wisconsin is broke, and their government is broken. Nice piece in Reason on this. The business of the Democratic party is taking money at gunpoint and using it to overpay people for public those people are forced by self-interest to vote Dem.

This means of buying support has long been the tactic of every dictatorship, of course. But WI, and CA, and OH, are NOT dictatorships. They are republics, and the voters are trying to fix things while there is still time.

Now, I agree that the Repubs in WI are grossly overplaying their hand. Attacking unions this way is way out of line, and they are going to pay for it.

Just. Like. The. Dems. Did. on health care. So spare the indignation, Dems. You taught 'em how to do this.

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
Hosea 8:7

The greatest thing to come out of George Mason!

With all apologies to Pete Boettke, it's got to be this (best to watch with the sound off because the guy is kind of an a-hole):

More on this tiny dancer is available here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kosmos Podcasts

So, the complete set of four Kosmos podcasts. (The Ward Boss is a smart ass. Just trust me...)

Dissertation and Research Agenda (LINK)

Publishing Your Work (LINK)

Obtaining Research Funding (LINK)

The Tenure Thing (LINK)

The distressing distribution of unemployment

We know that unemployment is still very high, around 9% of the labor force. Initial jobless claims fell last week to below 400,000, but the 4 week moving average is still right at 400,000. Historically, in a healthy economy this number should be somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000. But we are slowly moving in the right direction and the overall unemployment rate should start to fall (que dios me escuche!)

However, the way unemployment is currently distributed across the population makes me fear that, without some type of effective intervention, the new equilibrium unemployment rate will be higher than what we've seen in the past.

The share of unemployment that is long term (more than 27 weeks) is very high (almost half of the currently unemployed have been so for more than 27 weeks!), and the unemployment rate for uneducated workers aged 25 or greater is also very high (around 14% compared to around 5% for workers with at least a BA).

Long term unemployment always rises in recessions, but this case is exceptional as can be seen in the following graph (clik the pic for a more depressing image):

Today, Tyler links to an article where employers at a job fair are discouraging currently unemployed workers from filling out applications!

Here's a graph of unemployment broken out by education level (clik the pic for a more depressing image):

I know that I haven't shown that the long term unemployed and the low education unemployed are the same people, but I am pretty sure that at least a big chunk of them are, and it's a real problem because the obvious policy response would be to educate them and that is neither quick, easy, or cheap.

But the likely combination of persistent high unemployment and low earnings for folks with low education and America's increasingly dismal record of turning out quality high school graduates is truly distressing.
Hat tip to Calculated Risk for the excellent graphics.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sammy P loves him some Perk

Presti said he did not enter the trade deadline looking to deal the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Green, a fourth-year player out of Georgetown.

"That was not an objective," Presti explained. "There were only a couple of players I would consider, and Perkins happened to be one of them.

"If we could not have gotten Perkins, we would have been happy standing pat (with Green on the roster), but you can't just get a guy like Kendrick Perkins. You can't just get guys like that. It will cost you something. He's a 26-year-old beast. He's a championship-level, experienced guy, but he's young. He fits our timeline tremendously."

Thunder muscle up

Nenad and Jeff Green to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson along with Mo Peet and DJ White to Charlotte for Nazr Mohammed.

I think I'm thrilled.

Jeff Green just was not a realistic power forward; he's much better suited for small forward but Kevin Durant is doing ok at that spot.

Now the Thunder have a defensive minded center and a back up center. I guess Ibaka and Collison will play the 4.

It's a little bit weird to get two centers an no power forward, but this is a great move I think. I'd like to know a bit more about Kendrick's contract situation and where the Thunder are going to move Nate Robinson, but I am happy given what we know as of now.

*******UPDATE***** Kendrick's contract expires this summer and apparently he's still not ready to play. So Nazr will be starting at center then? Green had to go, and I guess he didn't have too much value. I am still good with the deal. Thunder haven't committed money long term to any of these new guys.

Let the camera do its dirty work

Iran Radio Interview

Yesterday I did an interview with one of Iran's state-run media outlets, IRNA.

They are clearly pursuing the angle that Angus mentions below.

The line: Iran was first to overthrow American puppet government, in 1979. Rest of Arab world finally catching up, should acknowledge Persian/Shi'a leadership. In other words, Shah=Mubarak=etc.

Wow. Balls, that does take. Impressive. I can imagine some guys sitting around arguing about how to pitch this. Somebody comes up with the "Iran leads toward democracy and overthrow of Great Satan" bit. They all laugh, "No, that's too stupid. We oppress our own people." Then they look at each other..."Ya know, it could work! And it will be hilarious to hear the Americans sputter."

My Son, With Whom I am WELL Pleased

My boy, Dan Lee, has a nice paper coming out in PRQ.

"Anticipating Entry: Major Party Positioning and Third Party Threat"

Daniel Lee
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract: Observers of U.S. elections have reason to believe that third parties are
not relevant political actors since they rarely win many votes or influence which major party wins an election. Researchers should use dependent variables besides vote choice and vote share to find third party effects that are a normal aspect of the American two-party system. A spatial model of elections motivates the hypothesis that a higher likelihood of third party entry induces greater major party candidate divergence. An empirical test that uses candidate positioning data in the 1996 U.S. House elections provides evidence of this third party effect.

So, here is the answer to the question, "Why run as a third party candidate?" We don't have to WIN to make a difference. And just the fact that a third party COULD enter conditions competition between the two state-sponsored parties.

The point is that when a reporter says, "But you can't win!", here's your answer. Opening the system to competition helps CITIZENS by making the big parties more responsive. And the article is fully peer-reviewed.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)


"It is unimaginable that someone is killing his citizens, bombarding his citizens, how can officers be ordered to use bullets from machine guns, tanks and guns against their own citizens?"

"This is unacceptable. Let the people speak, be free, decide to express their will. Do not resist the will of the people."

--Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Story is here. Who says this guy doesn't have a sense of humor?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Libertarian View of Unions

Will Wilkinson has a nice post on *a* (I won't say *the*) libertarian view on unions.

Not sure why Will can't spell "labor," though. Or "favor."

Real Hoaxes or Hoax Hoaxes?

1. At first, I thought this must be a hoax hoax. appears to be a real hoax.

Wow. P'wned by the Beast.

(Nod to Anonyman)

2. And this....this can't be right, can it?

-- U.S. sending officials to Europe to coordinate effort to stop "outrageous" violence in Libya, President Obama says. (CNN) (Slate update)

Really? President Obama's first instinct when there is violence always seems to be to call up some.... lawyers. Damn.

Reminds of a great old William Hamilton cartoon (can't find it online).
One guy talking to another, in front of some U.S. flags, obviously a government office. Upset guy says, ”I think it’s high time we quit shilly-shallying and put a couple of committees together to take a look at some of the contingencies of toughening our rhetoric!”

Go crazy, folks, go crazy!

Explaining Age in the EU

Nice article.

"Determinants of Age in Europe: A Pooled Multilevel Nested Hierarchical Time-Series Cross-Sectional Model" Uchen Bezimenia (World Academy for Government Progress. E-mail:

Abstract: Age is often found to be associated with a plenitude of socioeconomic, politico-administrative, biological and thanatological variables. Much less attention has been paid by scholars, however, to explaining ‘age’. In this paper we address this unfortunate scientific lacuna by developing a model of ‘age’ as a function of several factors suggested by (post)rational choice and social constructionist theories. Using state-of-the-art multilevel statistical techniques, our analysis allows the determinants of age to vary with the institutional characteristics of European countries. Our findings convincingly show that generalized trust in strangers, support for incumbent extremist political parties in provincial elections held in the month of January, and the percentage of overqualified women in the cafeterias of national parliaments are all statistically significant explanations of ‘age’. Our findings have obvious implications for conspiracy theorists, organizational advisors, spin doctors and ordinary charlatans.


(Nod to the Ward Boss)

tUnE yArDs RuLe!

Wow, people, I am embarrassed that I missed this. Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE yArDs is fantastic. You can hear some songs on her myspace page, and here is a write-up along with an song from her upcoming (in April) new album.

Kind of a mix of Dirty Projectors and The Blow, with a touch of The Books thrown in.

Krugman in Oklahoma

Alternate titles: "The devil came down to Norman", "We came not to praise Caesar, but to poison him".

Regarding the second alternate title, here is an un-photoshopped picture of the entree from the gala dinner (clic the pic for a more un-appetizing image):

According to my sources, Krugman was Krugman: Insightful and analytical on international economics, predictably partisan on domestic politics.

Bad news for Tyler: PK confessed to not having read "The Great Stagnation", though he said he was a regular reader of "Marginal Revolution".

Good news for rich people: PK said that had he been president, he would have let all the "Bush tax cuts" expire, even though it would harm the economy, because he feels that it was the last chance to ever get rid of the cuts for the rich. He fears they will now be permanent.

While endorsing more stimulus and more infrastructure spending, he dissed high speed rail, saying it should be a very low priority at best.

All in all, he did an hourlong Q&A with students and some Econ faculty, then the "dinner" and a speech. Here is a write-up of the Q&A from the student paper.

Bottom line: I am so so so glad I went to the Thunder game!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kosmos Podcasts

The complete set of three. One more to come, soon.

Dissertation and Research Agenda (LINK)

Publishing Your Work (LINK)

Obtaining Research Funding (LINK)

Enjoy! And thanks to JH for being so patient. She has memorized the intro by now, for my boring bio.

Classic moments in politics

In this video, Nixon takes action to "defend the American dollar" by closing the gold window and ending the Bretton Woods era. It is a masterpiece of doublespeak and obsfucation.

Of course, by defend the dollar he meant let it drastically depreciate against the German Mark. The speech was in August of 1971. Here's a picture:

Pretty Cute: Prez Obama Wishes My Niece "Happy Birthday"

My niece, Elle Sandifer, gets happy birthday wishes from our Prez himself.

A video from after; Elle is on the right.

"OMG!! He's so REAL..." Whatever else you think of the Prez, he is pretty smooth in these sorts of gigs.

Went to JBJovi Concert Last Night

My thoughts from Bon Jovi concert, from Twitter...Most recent first, read up from bottom...I believe I was one of seven males in a sold-out crowd of 19,500.

Jeez, the women here just went feral. "Bad Medcn" caused a shriek that rose far above the range of human hearing. Not sound, just pain. 11 hours ago

JBJovi concert: never has so much bleach been swinging and so much silicone flopping. These ladies are going to be sore in the morning! 11 hours ago

Opening act for JBJ was Billy Falcon. Impressive opening, charismatic guy. "Power Windows" 12 hours ago

Guy at Bon Jovi concert just walked up to me, said "You don't work here." He's gonna be busy. 13 hours ago

At Bon Jovi concert. Thousands of inappropriate 50 year old women, roaming in Chardonnay scented packs... 14 hours ago

The LMM is a BIG JBJ fan. He makes her happy. And if sometimes she calls me "Jon" when we go upstairs, it's a small price to pay.

Here is a representative sample of the entire arena.
With all that bouncing, there was a lot of Victoria's Secret product being asked to bear load factors, fore and aft, that had to be well beyond design tolerances. But I don't think there were any injuries. Hooray for American engineering!

And it was fun. (N&O:

(For these and other pix, go to N&O site...)

The People have spoken

It was no contest.

I'll be going to see Blake Griffin terrorize Jeff Green tonight with a friend, while Mrs. A goes to Krugmanfest.

I'll try to get a guest blogger to cover Krugmania for us.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Griffin or Krugman: You make the call

People, here's my situation.

Tomorrow at OU, Paul Krugman is speaking. There's an "informal" meeting with econ students and faculty, then a dinner and a speech.

I have tickets.

Tomorrow at the OKC Arena at about the same time, Blake Griffin and the LA Clippers will be playing the Thunder.

I have tickets.

Due to the great stagnation, we have no kind of transporter technology that can solve my problem.

I gotta pick.

Que hago?

Consumer: Control Thyself

(Along the lines of "Physician: Heal Thyself!", I mean)

Francesca Righetti & Catrin Finkenauer
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

The present research tested the hypothesis that perception of others' self-control is an indicator of their trustworthiness. The authors investigated whether, in interactions between strangers as well as in established relationships, people detect another person's self-control, and whether this perception of self-control, in turn, affects trust. Results of 4 experiments supported these hypotheses. The first 2 experiments revealed that participants detected another person's trait of self-control. Experiments 3 and 4 revealed that participants also detected the temporary depletion of another person's self-control. Confirming the authors' predictions, perceived trait and state self-control, in turn, influenced people's judgment of the other person's trustworthiness. In line with previous research, these findings support the positive value of self-control for relationships and highlight the role of perceived self-control for the development of a fundamental relationship factor: trust.


Self-Regulatory Strength and Consumers’ Relinquishment of Decision Control: When Less Effortful Decisions are More Resource Depleting

Murat Usta & Gerald Häubl
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Based on the self-regulatory strength model and prior research on self-esteem threats, the authors predict and show that delegating decisions to surrogates – such as financial advisors or physicians – depletes consumers’ limited self-regulatory resources more than making the same decisions independently, thus impairing their subsequent ability to exercise self-control. This is the case even though decision delegation actually requires less decision making effort than independent decision making (Study 1). However, the resource depleting effect of decision delegation vanishes when consumers have an opportunity to affirm their belief in free will (Study 2). Moreover, remembering a past decision that one delegated impairs self-control more than remembering a decision that one made independently (Studies 3 and 4). The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Angus Is Right, As Usual!

Holy cow, why so much hatin' on Angus?

Look, the welfare economics case for free trade could be built on (a) the Pareto criterion, or (b) the Kaldor-Hicks Compensation Principle.

As Angus notes, no way you can say moving from protection to free trade is a Pareto improvement. There are winners and losers.

And no Libertarian can invoke the KHCP, because it's collectivist and utilitarian. KHCP does not require compensation be made, and doesn't even require individual consent, and so it is inherently coercive. A majority decides on a policy, and the minority is harmed without its consent. Yes, perhaps the harm was caused by eliminating a policy (protection) that was itself coercive (consumers were harmed without THEIR consent), but you can't get to free trade unless you go the collective-coercion route. Angus is obviously right about that.

Two points: First, less of a problem if compensation is actually made, as I suggested last summer at the Takeaway.

Second, I have a paper coming out in an edited volume that points out the equivalence of KHCP and Coase, in terms of costs (in both cases, you are adding up costs and benefits). Differences are (a) KHCP doesn't require consent or compensation, while Coase requires both, and (b) KHCP faces the Hayek problem, because there are no prices to measure welfare costs. Coase forces bargaining and honest preference revelation, EXCEPT when transactions costs of collective action and preference revelation are too high.

Mankiw's leap

In last Sunday's NY Times economics column, NGM quite reasonably points out that voluntary exchanges benefit both parties in the exchange.

However, he then makes an unsupportable leap to the following:

Listening to the president, you might think that competition from China and other rapidly growing nations was one of the larger threats facing the United States. But the essence of economic exchange belies that description. Other nations are best viewed not as our competitors but as our trading partners. Partners are to be welcomed, not feared. As a general matter, their prosperity does not come at our expense.

I do agree that China is not one biggest problems the US is facing, but not for the reasoning that NGM uses which is that all voluntary exchanges are mutually profitable (read the article, it's the only principle he speaks of before giving the quote i reproduce above).

People, the United States is not a person! Only in DSGE models do we assume that all individuals are identical! There is no "our" to which general statements can be attached.

Yes, going from autarky to free trade will raise the GDPs of both nations, but that is a very far cry from saying that a large number of individuals will not be made worse off in the process. I figure that NGM is familiar with the Stolper-Samuelson theorem, so I guess he is assuming the political process always provides adequate compensation for the losers??

ROFLMAO, anyone?

Here's a case for free trade:

Individuals should be allowed to contract with whoever they wish, without government interference based solely on geography.

Now, that is not much of an economic argument, but, to tell the ugly truth, THERE ISN'T MUCH OF AN ECONOMIC ARGUMENT.

Once you factor in agent heterogeneity, imperfect competition, increasing returns, and an arbitrarily large number of traded goods, the welfare economics of free trade is murky at best.

Here's a political economy case for free trade:

Yes free trade has its losers and drawbacks, but the losses and distortions from free trade are far less than the losses and distortions from politicized, "managed", trade so free trade is therefore preferable.

Is there a bumper sticker big enough to hold that?

A TED Talk

Not sure the TED talks are much more than cream-skimming.

But this one is pretty good cream. Head foots.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winning An Argument

How I'll be spending spring break

This is very recent video from the Silver Bank off the north coast of the Dominican Republic, where we are headed. Can't wait!!

Men's Brains and Women's Brains

"Every one of those little blue balls is a thought about something
That needs to be done, a decision or a problem that needs to be solved.

A man has only 2 balls and they take up all his thoughts."

(Nod to the LMM)

Friday, February 18, 2011

the element "woman"

(click for more readable, and of course glorious, image)

(Nod to the LMM)

Don't park illegally in England

Not even if you have a pretty good excuse....(note action in circle on left)

This is Kind of Whack...

This is not the Onion, really: Blacks in Wax.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Markets in everything: non-surgical sterilization

Levi's is actually marketing and selling what they call "ex-girlfriend jeans" to men.

Here's their pitch:

Remember the girlfriend with the great style? Here's a tribute to her -- a fit that's super-snug allover, an update of the five-pocket classic that's as skinny as it gets.

Here's a pic:

I can totally see this fad sweeping through the membership of the American Economic Association, can't you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Full Press on Guttenberg!

Wow, this would be embarrassing enough. And to be named....Guttenberg.

But then another paper put this up. Yes, it's in Deutsche. But you can click on the graphic (INTERAKTIV), and see the plagiarized parts. Well played!

(Nod to Flo H)

Feaver v. Munger: The Grid

Pretty self-explanatory, a feature of the Duke Chronicle

Feaver v. Munger on the Grid

Andrew Sullivan Making Sense

For years Andrew Sullivan was one of my favorite writers.

Then, he appeared to have lost his mind

But, as Anonyman notes quite rightly, this is good stuff.

Grand Game: CPAC Edition

Wow. This guy Kevin McCullough is a piece of work. Were being a prick the same as wisdom, ol' McCull would indeed be the wisest of men (as he appears to believe). Really a fantastic article. Enjoy, and do share your thoughts.

Check McCullough's web site; he is basically Taliban, in terms of his world-view.

As for me, just the fact that someone would write "Disrespectful Libertarians" is pretty hilarious, something I should refer to the Department of Redundancy Department.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Culture that is Korea: Economies of scope in the Korean banking industry

In the R.O.K., banks will pay you a higher interest rate on your deposits, the more weight you lose!


SEOUL (Reuters) – Park Keun-jun is determined to fulfill two resolutions this year: bulk up his bank account but slim down himself.

Enter South Korean banks, with plans to help with both.

"I'd like to bet my money on a bank's savings plan if the bank gives credits to me for not giving up on my New Year's resolutions," said Park, a 32-year-old car designer.

Hana Bank, the banking arm of Hana Financial Group, sells an installment savings product called "S-Line," a Korean word that means an hourglass figure -- just one reflection of the current Korean obsession with being slim and in shape.

The more calories a customer burns, the higher interest rate the bank gives. If a customer loses more than five percent of their weight within a year, or holds a gym membership, the bank grants special rates...For Park, who wants to save money for several years but fears burning a hole in his wallet by following his fitness resolution since many gym memberships in Seoul are expensive, such banks' plans give him guarded hope.

Now I am waiting for the gyms to retaliate by letting you use more or better equipment as you progressively dis-intermediate your funds.

Markets in Everything: Principles texts for under $250

I guess NGM didn't get the memo that his taxes were NOT going up, because he's charging $238.95 for the new edition of his principles text.

Amazon is offering it to me at 20% off plus free shipping! A mere $191.16.

The comparable edition of LeBron and Alex's book is "only" $168.95, which Amazon is willing to give me for $132.03, a 22% discount.

So at the Amazon prices, Lebron & Alex are 31% cheaper, but still pretty steep.

The previous edition of Mankiw's text did have a Kindle edition for $149, no word about whether the new edition will or if so, at what price. Surprisingly, LeBron and Alex do not have a Kindle edition (at least that I could find).

These days, given that you could make yourself a pretty good free principles text just by downloading relevant Wikipedia entries, I don't see how these rents can be sustained over the long run (I am aware that not all or perhaps not even a majority of the rents are going to the authors).

Monday, February 14, 2011

How Crazy?

How crazy is too crazy?

I myself think that Duke's "fans" are excessive. Having the noise be intimidating is fine. But the physical presence and the reaching out is a distraction.

They can say what they want. But that doesn't make it right.

Profs Gone Wild

Cornell prof goes nuts when kid yawns...

The remix...

The analysis...

(Nod to Sarah Straw)

Ron Paul Kicked Out of Popular Front for the Liberation of Judea....Splitters!

This is so unbelievable,

YAF kicks out Ron Paul

In the same story we learn that YAL is the "group of the future." Made me think of this...

In fact, for "real" conservatives, the relationship with Ron Paul was like the Sam Goldwyn bon mot: "I never liked you, and I always will!"

(Nod to Anonyman)

Quien anda lo mas despistado?

People, who is the most clueless, the NY Times or the WaPo?

Let's start with the Times, which has produced this gem:

Obama Budget Pivots From Stimulus to Deficit Cuts

WASHINGTON – President Obama, pivoting at midterm from costly economic stimulus measures to deficit reduction, on Monday released a fiscal year 2012 budget that projects an annual deficit of more than $1 trillion before government shortfalls decline to “sustainable” levels for the rest of the decade.

There is just not enough koolaid in the world to wash this kind of crap down. Obama is not pivoting from the stimulus; he's freezing spending at the stimulus levels. Plus his PLANNED deficit for 2011 is $1.65 Trillion and for 2012 it's $1.1 Trillion. After that, it's not clear he'll even BE IN OFFICE. It's incredibly brave of him to shrink the deficit in 2021!!

Not to be outdone, the WaPo fires back with this:

Obama administration studies recent revolutions for lessons applicable in Egypt

As the Obama administration works to shepherd the Egypt uprising toward a democratic government, it is drawing on the experiences of a half-dozen other nations whose revolutions have been the focus of internal White House study in recent weeks.

Oh yeah, I'm feeling all Psalmy up in here...

Obama is my shepherd, I am so screwed. He maketh me lie down with the Israelis, He leadeth me back to Camp David, He restoreth my subsidies. Yea though I walk through the valley of the Muslim Brotherhood, I shall fear no Islam, for Obama is with me.....

Journalists, please!

A horse is a horse...

...of course of course, but sometimes it turns out to be a Trojan horse. Like the stimulus bill.

Timely, targeted, and temporary?

We can debate the first two Ts, but the third one turns out to be false. The stimulus spending levels now apparently are permanent. I for one am shocked. President O has unveiled his "pain" budget of a mere $3.73 trillion, freezing spending in some areas at their 2010 levels.

Gee, thanks!

Of course even this bogus freeze does not apply to our President's favorite toys: choo-choos and windmills (and electric cars too!).

Did somehow progressive pundits and politicians just not get fun stuff to play with when they were kids? Is this nutty obsession just due their receiving Amy Chua parenting?

Yes, unemployment is still very high, people are still suffering. But we have already spent trillions and trillions with little to nothing to show for it!

Telegram for Dr. Obama: The leeches are not helping the patient!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The New Kirkpatrick Doctrine

The Myth of Mutant Ideologies...

in the Durham Herald,
by this correspondent.

Why didn't Fubarak resign sooner?

Two competing views.

First, this story says he was out of touch, isolated, surrounded by yes-men and advised by his genius son that he could still ride things out and stay in power.

Second, this story says he was buying time while he feverishly stashed his billions of wealth in untraceable places.

I guess both could have elements of the truth, but my money is on #2.

Gerry Gaus and David Schimdtz

Some pix of my good friends from Arizona, Gerry Gaus and David Schmidtz, two of the best philosophers around.

A picture of them hanging out, casually. (Gerry is the one with the long hair, btw.)

And another picture, all cleaned up and ready to step out.

Turn the Car OFF!

And take away the license. Hurry.

They are who we thought they were

In a fascinating new NBER working paper (ungated version here), Bertrand, Bombardini, & Trebbi try to sort out whether it's expertise or connections that make lobbyists valuable. Here's the bottom line (the extra emphasis is mine, not theirs):

"A pure issue expertise view of lobbying does not fit the data well. Instead, maintaining connections to politicians appears central to what lobbyists do. In particular, we find that whom lobbyists are connected to (through political campaign donations) directly affects what they work on. More importantly, lobbyists appear to systematically switch issues as the politicians they were previously connected to switch committee assignments, hence following people they know rather than sticking to issues. We also find evidence that lobbyists that have issue expertise earn a premium, but we uncover that such a premium for lobbyists that have connections to many politicians and Members of Congress is considerably larger."

Somehow, those results reminded me of this:

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Atlas Shrugged Part I.
In theaters April 15. That's not long.

It could be really, really terrible, you know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Behind The Music: The Pretense

An underground version of "Behind the Music."

Way, way behind. Or, perhaps in front, or a little off to the side with a small table and an ottoman.

UPDATE! The Pretense video has gone feral! That's like going viral, but with a lot fewer views.

separated at birth?

Supposedly, Fubarak's nickname is "the laughing cow". I don't quite see it but hey, here you go:

Excellent Sarcasm

Here at KPC, we love some timely, cutting sarcasm.

And this is a tasty slice.

Worth reading the whole thing, though it is large.

I have myself thought about price-gouging a bit. Print. / Podcast.


Fubarak is out! For realz this time. Awesome!

P-Kroog Hat Trick!

What a great op-ed, a P-Kroog trifecta.

First, and entirely gratuitously, he calls all conservatives racists. Later, he says Republicans want to return to slavery (the "ante-bellum period" is clearly code). This is a total non sequitur, even by P-Kroog standards.

Second, he poops all over KPC-friend "Guido" DiLorenzo!

Finally, it's worth pointing out that the title, presumably ironic, is "Lincoln, Inflationist." Um, Paulie baby, annual inflation from 1862-1866 was 20%+. Yes, in the North. South was a basket case. But North had huge inflation, too, because of (wait for it!) paper money.

Lincoln WAS an inflationist. Sure, there was a war, maybe there were good reasons. But making fun of the idea that inflation even existed under Lincoln is a little silly.

Most entertaining. People used to say that Doonesbury should be moved to the editorial page. Perhaps. But by that logic P-Kroog's columns should be moved to the comics.

Republican Soul

So, perhaps David Lightman was trying to protect me.

I had said that these first few votes in the House are a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. And that's what David quoted, for the McClatchy chain (likely in a paper near you!). Then I switched and said, "No! Say, 'a battle to see if the Republican Party HAS a soul!'" David laughed and said he'd go with the first version. But I'm not so sure. The vote on the Patriot Act was interesting.

This post at Monkey Cage, make a reasonable point, based on this graph:
(By all means ATSRTWT!)
That point is that Tea Party-endorsed candidates are no more likely than "regular" Repubs to have voted no on Patriot Act extension.

In fact, if you look at proportions of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, there are 52. Of those, 44 voted to reauthorize Patriot Act. That's the number those 'Cagers should have quoted, instead of just the proportion. 8 votes! So Tea Party didn't affect PROPORTIONS.

So what is the story? First, the Tea Party affected partisan proportions, back in November. The Republicans have a majority because of Tea Party mobilization. Sure, a lot of members don't caucus. But without the Tea Party, no Republican majority and we aren't having this conversation.

Second, the new House leadership can't count. Why put this to a vote? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad. This humiliation may well embolden those "libertarian- leaning" Republicans to join with the Dems on some other bills, and block the agenda of the bright orange Republican leadership. The story is that a few Republicans bucked the leadership and voted no.

There is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. The Tea Party affected the election by helping the Repubs get a majority. So the story on Pat Act was, and is, that the majority is fractious. Sure, perhaps not Tea Party vs. Establishment, but Big Gov thugs against Small Gov protesters, with Partido de Te folks on both sides of that divide. And the Small Gov folks won one battle in what is going to be a long war.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

there is no stagnation

(Clic the pic for a more glorious image)

Taken from here, the blog of cartoonist extraordinaire Jason!

What does Egypt mean for China?

Two interesting essays, one by Barry Eichengreen, the other by Dani Rodrik. Both recommended.

The bottom line of both is that China's leaders should now be even less certain that economic progress will be sufficient to keep them in power.

Fubarak gets hosed?

Wow, people. According to the AP:

President Hosni Mubarak will meet the demands of protesters, military and ruling party officials said Thursday in the strongest indication yet that Egypt's longtime president may be about to give up power.

The military's supreme council was meeting Thursday, without the commander in chief Mubarak, and announced on state TV its "support of the legitimate demands of the people." A spokesman said the council was in permanent session "to explore "what measures and arrangements could be made to safeguard the nation, its achievements and the ambitions of its great people."

And then comes the money quote:

Gen. Hassan al-Roueini, military commander for the Cairo area, told thousands of protesters in central Tahrir Square, "All your demands will be met today."

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

UNC v. Duke--Two Ties Day

Annual picture in front of K-ville sign. Note neckwear: I have ties to both schools!

Here is the tent city of K-ville. Doesn't smell good at this point.

Background on K-ville

K-ville rules for this year. Just in case "You've never been to K-ville! But you've been to Oklahoma! For they tell me it has snowed there...but I really don't remember."

He Lied and Said He was a ... Lobbyist

Rep. Lee is married, and 46. And a Congressman.

But he lied and said he was single, 39, and a lobbyist.

The woman on Craigslist was not impressed.

Reminds me of the story about the economist. Mom was coming to visit, and economist made his friends promise NOT to tell mom he was an economist. "She would be so embarrassed, so don't tell her! She thinks I play piano in a whorehouse!" You can see why saying you were a congressman was even worse. In effect, Rep. Lee said that he was an economist.

@mattyglesias says: "Not sure I understand what wrongdoing Rep Lee has committed." Dude! Being a pathetic idiot is not illegal, but it is certainly embarrassing. Congressman gots to go.

Mission Impossible Squirrel

CBL Version:

Reggae MI version:

Nod to the LMM

Vile McBride of the abused Ukulele

Six new inches of snow and I am not yet in the mood to finish my paper with Aaron (sorry dude!), so here you go.

1. I love Kurt Vile's music. Here is a video:

2. I discovered Kurt by watching Eastbound & Down, so here's a Danny McBride video (in two parts)

3. This guy is obviously talented but this is exactly how NOT to play the ukulele

What's In a Name

They may want to honor the guy, but not by naming the new Gov Center after him. The name is....infelicitious.

More, and a picture.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Good Advice for the People of Egypt

From the ever-intrepid Rafael Yglesias:

"You don't want to suffer from premature democracy. You might create the Senate."

More here, here, and here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Different Hues, Identical Views =/= "Diversity"

Interesting that the explanation of "bias" occurs to psych-os so readily, but not so much when it comes to the obvious bias against conservatives.

Or so says John Haidt, in this speech here, nicely power pointed. Terrific talk, < 30 mins. In fact, one of the best talks I have ever seen.

And John Tierney wrote about it, and the New York Times published it. I'm pinching myself. Must be dreaming.

Some little pieces on this debate in which I have had a voice.






Mr. Overwater? Thoughts?

(Nod to Neanderbill)

Snow advisory

With another storm supposedly heading our way, I want to remind everyone that shoveling snow is way more dangerous than you think.

Take this case from Tulsa where a guy helps someone dig their car out of the snow and ends up shot, buried in the snow, and dead for his troubles.

People, there's no place to go anyway, just stay inside and wait for the melt-off!

Hat tip to Mungo's nemesis.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Roma Ladrona!

People, Rome has stolen the grand canal from Venice!

If it wasn't true, could Reuters report it?

A mob of his own

As protests continue, Hosni Fubarak invests in his own shock troops by announcing a 15% pay raise for all government employees.

That should help keep them out on the streets punching Anderson Cooper!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

As the blogosphere turns

Jeez. This is a weird mess. First, on Saturday, the NYTimes runs an article called "The lucky break of rent stabilization", which details the ups and downs of negotiations between tenants and developers over buyouts. Then N.G. Mankiw links to it for textbook promotion under essentially the same title, "The lucky break of rent control"

Here's NG's entire text:

For those instructors teaching about the economics of rent control (Chapter 6 of my favorite textbook) or the Coase Theorem (Chapter 10), this article about buyouts of rent stabilized tenants should generate a good class discussion.

Just your typical NG book plug, right? Nothing to see here.

But then, some blogger named Buce just goes off on NG with a post called "Mankiw's luck"

Here are some excerpts:

"Honestly, I sometimes wonder why this guy (i.e. NGM) gets taken seriously, but I suppose I know: he plays into every instinct for smug self-satisfaction that you would expect among cosseted, comfortable Harvard students--and that you would want a proper education to beat out of them."

Always good to start out with some non-germane mudslinging, Buce, please go on:

"Now strictly speaking, I am no great fan of rent control: I think it often does more (social) harm than good. But "luck"? Why is rent control more a "lucky break" than being born blond, beautiful, Norwegian and blessed with great ski-jumping skills? "

Umm, neither NG nor the NY Times article that he links to say anything like "rent control is the only form of luck that the human race can get". I think we can probably agree that since rent stabilized apartments aren't means tested or anything, it actually is lucky to be able to get one. but surely there's more to your complaint than NG didn't provide an exhaustive list of lucky things that can happen to humans:

Maybe I've got other friends who, say, bought apartments in the East 60s back in the Dinkins administration when those puppies were going for $65k a pop, tops. I suppose Mankiw might want me to think that those buyers (as distinct from those renters) were operating out of pluck and foresight and deserve every penny of the appreciation that they've enjoyed. I doubt it. I suspect that most of them were hard-working strivers who wanted to live in a nice place (considering) and got, well, lucky. Does Mankiw spend a class hour trying to delegitimatize their hold on good fortune, to figuring out ways of clawing it back from them?

Wow, WTF is this about? Again neither NG or the Times article says anything pro or con about price appreciation for homeowners! This guy/gal is basically unhinged.

NG must have taken a full Austin Powers right in the middle of Buce's cornflakes at some point.

Ok you say, that's amazingly bad, but hey, it's just some creepy corner of the interwebs, only NG fanboys like me (LOL) would ever find it.

Well actually I found it because Mark Thoma the king of econ blog links decided for some inscrutable reason to link to it! Why, Mark, why? Don't hate the Playa!

All Hail Keith Gaddie

Keith is professor of political science at OU, a publishing machine, an expert in southern politics, a sought after consultant in cases involving re-districting and voting rights, and a novelist!.

People, you should fire up the Facebook and beg Keith to friend you. He has the consistently best FB posts of anyone in my vast network (of 116) friends. Here is a koan-like gem from this morning:

"Anderson Cooper is the little miniature dog in America's designer handbag."

I don't think I've written a sentence that good in my whole life!

HerHonor The Mayor

The coolest lady, the best argument for not retiring, and the special category "Best wearing of a bike helmet during an interview" awards go to...this woman:

Oh, and by the way, the city has zero debt. None. And she's 88. What did YOU do today?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Mubarak Out?

Members of leadership of Egypt's ruling party, including President Hosni Mubarak, submit resignations, state TV reports. CNN


UPDATE: No, CNN message was cryptic, at least to me. It just said "resigned," not "resigned as head of party." HN remaining as Prez, resigning as head of party. Laughable.

Fubarak's new Cabinet: A Photo Essay

Friday, February 04, 2011

Is this anyway to WTF?

It depends. If WTF means "win the future", then no. But if it has its more traditional meaning, then yes!

People, after all the speechifying, name calling, accusations, and general boo-sheet, the Obama administration has again declined to name China a currency manipulator!

Now personally, I don't think having a fixed exchange rate is currency manipulation, nor do I understand what makes us judge and jury on these issues, but my God, these guys really really really give new meaning to the phrase "cheap talk".

Dear Feds: if you are not going to do anything about it, then please just STFU!

No Quixotes! Munger v. Google Rejected by NC Supreme Court

Damn! Munger v. Google has such a nice ring to it. But it was rejected by the NC Supreme Court.

Sure, it was actually "Munger, et al. v. State of North Carolina." But it was Google that took all that cash and built a "server farm." (That's basically an insulated warehouse with some extra HVAC, btw)

We had brought suit, and I was lead lead plaintiff. (Robert Orr did all the work, of course. I was just eye candy. Or maybe BOB was Quixote, and I was Sancho Panza. That's more like it.)

But the NC Supreme Court today smashed all my dreams. Went so far as to say that the very idea of reviewing the review of the appeals decision was "improvidently granted." Oh, that hurts. Improvidently granted? "Sorry, nothing to see here folks. Just an everyday violation of the NC Constitution. Move along, citizens, move along. Because there is NO STANDING! NO STANDING."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Not Making This Up: Activist Accused of Being Too Smart

I would have thought the oppressive apparatus of the state could no longer surprise me with its never-ending creativity. But...I am surprised, by this.

The NC DOT did an engineering study of a local road widening project, and concluded that no new signals were required at two intersections. A citizen, David Cox, had the gall to disagree. He did some research, and put the research in the form of an organized argument.

The state could have responded by ignoring the request. Or the state could have pointed out the errors in the study. (I myself have no position on the merits; haven't studied it, don't know the issues).

But the state engineer instead threatened the citizen with legal action... for... being smart! They investigated, saying Cox was "practicing engineering without a license." Yes, really. The state DOT head engineer, Kevin Lacy, did not dispute the facts, the analysis, or the conclusions of the report. All he did was try to get the report dismissed because it was "engineering quality work." Read that again: the citizen made a petition to government for redress of a grievance, and the state wants to prosecute the citizen because the quality of the analysis is too high. (If the petition, redress, etc. thing sounds familiar that's because it is a right guaranteed in the 1st Amendment).

Now, the citizen had NEVER claimed to be an engineer, and had simply signed his name to the report. And he had organized the report in a way that made sense to him, presenting information that he thought was important for the question of whether the intersections needed traffic signals.

The cool thing is that the state is going to say, "We never ACTUALLY brought charges!" Just like the Mafia thugs say, "Nice restaurant. It wud be a shame if sumpin wud to happen to it, like youknowafireorsumpin, capisce?" The fact is that the state can exert an enormously chilling effect simply by suggesting that citizens should be investigated.

But the idea that a citizen can be investigated for being smart and making an effective counter-argument.... wow, I did not expect the state to be willing to be that thuggish.

Finally, I should note that this may all be self-serving for the KPC staff. Because if being really smart, persuasive, and disagreeable is a crime now...well, Angus and I should just assume the position.

Grand Game: Government Investment Edition

It's been a while, for the Grand Game. That's where I put up a link, and you bright and good-looking KPC readers look for unintentional hilarity. Today's edition: Government investment in science!

I'll go first! My favorite part is where the government shill "proves" that these are worthwhile investments....

Success is probably 10 to 20 years away, said Arun Mujamdar, director of the program, which is called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

But the private investment is “a good sign, an endorsement of some sort,” he said. “The best thing the government can do is to catalyze investment.”

While 31 projects have not yet attracted outside help, all are continuing, according to the department. Josh Lerner, a professor at the Harvard Business School and an expert on venture capital, said he would have been surprised if most of the projects had attracted private financing quickly.

If all the projects had quickly drawn private money, it would have suggested that the projects would have happened without government intervention, Mr. Lerner said.

With a track record of six of 37 being picked up, “it’s hard not to feel it’s a reasonable indicator that they’re doing something right,” he said.

So, to cut to the chase, there are three possible outcomes:

1. These are silly wasteful boondoggles. Nonetheless, private capital might be attracted because the research is backed up with huge artificial subsidies, as is the case with ethanol. The only reason ethanol is a fuel additive is that we spend $1.50 per gallon in subsidies. Still, it's true you can "profit" in this industry, because govt policy is distorting price.

2. These are good projects, but would have been invested in by private capital, precisely because they are good projects.

3. These are good projects, but because of imperfect capital markets or basic public goods problems in research no private firm would have invested in them.

I say they are mostly #1. Sure, by dumb luck some of them would have been useful anyway, but then they are category #2.

Note the genius move of the description in the article: We know that some are not #1, because a few have attracted some private investment. And we know that the rest are not #2 because...MOST OF THEM HAVE NO PRIVATE INVESTEMENT!

He actually claims "If all the projects had quickly drawn private money, it would have suggested that the projects would have happened without government intervention."

Brilliant. The lack of private investment PROVES that the public investment is justified, and in fact foresighted and even visionary. Unfortunately, nowhere is it explained why the fact that there is no private investment doesn't imply that these are blue sky bullshit pork projects.

Now, your turn, folks!

(nod to Anonyman)

Two Catholic Jokes

Apropos of pretty much nothing, two Catholic jokes:

There once was a religious young woman who went to Confession. Upon entering the confessional, she said, 'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.'
The priest said, 'Confess your sins and be forgiven.'

The young woman said, 'Last night my boyfriend made wild passionate love to me seven times.'

The priest thought long and hard and then said, 'Squeeze seven lemons into a glass and then drink the juice.'

The young woman asked, 'Will this cleanse me of my sins?'

The priest said, 'No, but it will wipe that big grin off of your face.'

Muldoon lived alone in the Irish countryside with only a pet dog for company.. One day the dog died, and Muldoon went to the parish priest and asked, 'Father, me dog is dead... Could ya' be saying' a mass for the poor madadh?'

Father Patrick sniffed, 'I'm afraid not; we cannoa be havin' sairvices for animals in the chairch.... But there's a pack o' Baptists down the lane, un there's no tellin' what strange things they believe. Maybe they'll honor yer poor creature.'

Muldoon said, 'Aye, that's a good idear. I'll go right away Father. Do ya' think 5,000 punt is a big enough donation?'

Father Patrick exclaimed, 'Sweet Mahry, Mother of Chay-sus! Why din' ya tell me the blessed dog wahr Catholic?

(nod to the LMM)