Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rising Real Wages and the Spread of Opulence

Prof. G. Kennedy gives, as always, a learned and nuanced description of the problem.

I always come back to these two pictures shown in this post. Which one has higher wages, do you expect? And which one produces cheaper products? Since opulence, by definition, is higher wages and cheaper products, we're done here.

Civic Literacy Quiz

The ISI "Civic Literacy Quiz": Since many of our elected officials apparently think the Constitution is not really something they need to know.

I got a 97%, and the one question I missed, I missed on purpose.

Go ahead and take it if you want. Spoilers below...

Are you done?

Okay, here's the question I "missed"

33) If taxes equal government spending, then:
A. government debt is zero
B. printing money no longer causes inflation
C. government is not helping anybody
D. tax per person equals government spending per person
E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

Clearly, they want you to say "D". But A is a better answer. If there is no deficit, there is no borrowing. If over N years there is no borrowing, then there is no debt. So, "A" is the better answer.

"D" is correct only the following silly sense: Since Tax Rev = Gov Spending,
it must be true that (Tax Rev / Population) = (Gov Spending / Population). But there is no reason to believe that taxes paid match up with benefits received FOR EACH PERSON. Only in the aggregate would this be true. In fact, there is no reason to believe that taxes paid = gov spending for ANY individual citizen. It's just not a very good question.

UPDATE: From comments...listen, folks, it does NOT say this year. Not this month, not this century. It says FOREVER. The budget has always been balanced, and it always will be. Sure, if it said, "in a given year," fair enough. It does NOT say that. There is no debt in the world of that question. I agree that if it said, "in the past year" or "in a given fiscal year" it would be okay. But it doesn't.

Furthermore, it is NOT TRUE that the taxes a person pays are the same as spending on that person. So answer "D" is actually wrong. Those of you defending this question wallow in lameness.

Texas, California, and P-Kroog

Angry Alex sends the link for this joke, and commentary from P-Kroog, falsely comparing TX with CA.

Reminds me of this joke, which I heard in Idaho. You should know, if you don't already, that thousands of Californians have moved to Idaho, largely to avoid the stupid government in CA. Of course, those Californians bring "stupid" with them; unfortunately, it's contagious.

Four women in a car. Front seat, woman from Kentucky, woman from North Carolina. Back seat, woman from Idaho, woman from California.

Woman from Kentucky looks down at her drink. "I'm from Kentucky. I'm really tired of bourbon; we have SO much bourbon. It's just obnoxious and useless. Enough is enough!" And she throws the bourbon out the window.

Woman from NC is driving, looks down at cigarettes. "I'm from North Carolina. Tobacco everywhere, people smoking. Tobacco is just obnoxious and useless; enough is enough!" And she throws the pack of cigarettes out the window.

Woman from Idaho looks around, reaches across and opens the other door....and kicks out the woman from California.

There are a lot of locational preferences that I understand. But California.... I just don't get it. You people who claim to like it: STAY. HOME.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Friday, January 14, 2011

mean-variance domination

Kevin Durant has repealed the laws of finance and CBS sports can prove it!

There's supposed to be a trade off between average return and variance where you get a higher return by bearing more risk. Yet, of all the leading scorers in the NBA (and he is THE leading scorer) Durant has the lowest variance of points per game.

Here's the picture (click the pic for a more glorious image):

Michael Beasley, call your office!

Game of the year so far

Amazing NBA game in the OKC last night. Thunder led wire to wire and beat Orlando 125-124. Durant won it at the end by absolutely abusing Turkoglu, who he outscored 36-7. Howard had 39 points and 18 boards and the Magic shot 14-28 on threes, but all in vain.

Besides the game itself, two things stood out. First Stan Van Gundy is an absolute jerk. He is down on everyone and everything all the time. I think he will lose that team.

Second, Dwight Howard absolutely does not give a F**K about his chosen profession. He's talking to the crowd, clowning around with the ball, yakking to his opponents, and just acting like a goofball while his team is losing. He has to be so incredibly frustrating to coach.

I guess he and Stanvan deserve each other.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

They should have stuck with import substitution

From Argentina (one of my very favorite countries) comes a great story on how tax collectors are innovating to find unreported income.

Briefly, they are counting the number of imported breast implants to get an idea of the income of plastic surgeons. They claim that given the number of these imports, there is at least $10 million of unpaid taxes floating around the industry.

People, these poor surgeons are just the latest victims of globalization!

My favorite short poems about prison

Prison Ball

They don't negotiate if you are held
Hostage. Don't attempt to take a charge.
If you find a point guard who'll pass the rock,
Help him escape. Let him fastbreak at large.

-Sherman Alexie

Christmas in Prison

It was Christmas in prison
and the food was real good.
We had turkey and pistols
carved out of wood.

-John Prine

If I wasn't already married......

This one would be a keeper!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Men Are Evil

I took my younger son skating a few years ago. Went to the men's room. As I was coming out, a woman with a very angry face and holding a young boy's hand shouted at me, "What were you doing in there?"

Stunned, I mumbled that I was using the bathroom. She kept yelling, "You aren't supposed to. It's against the rules!"

Turns out the skating rink wouldn't allow men to go to the men's room alone. You were supposed to go with your son. (What if you had a daughter, you ask? You were supposed to tell a clerk, who would stand guard. What if you were there by yourself? Not allowed; you could only go to the rink if you were accompanying a child).

WTF? What is this? WSJ article gives some perspective.

In this forum, notice that no one worries about men who have daughters, only strange men who are pedophiles. Yet nearly ALL actual sexual abuse of children is the fault of family members. (And don't get me wrong, it's not like most men abuse their daughters, either. Extremely rare)

Women are very strange. They have plenty of good reasons to dislike men. Why are they making up absurd new reasons?

Consider the following comment, from this forum:

Well, I am a mom of two boys 8 and 5. I won't let them go to the mens bathroom alone any where unless their dad is with them. I think people just don't trust older men alone. I don't. Those are the one's that you always hear taking a little boy or something and leaving with them. And they are in the bathroom alone...and then I send my kids in there. I'm afraid they may be checking my kid out lol. idk, it's always been an issue for me. I was touched when I was little by my own grandfather. My grandfather was a well respected man in the community, he was asked to play pro golf after winning state championship in Texas, he was the manager over half of the Exxon plant in Texas. So this is why I wouldn't even trust a well respected man with a child. Maybe I am a bit over protective but if I can save my kids that kind of stress I have done my job. Until they are old enough to say no and fight a grown up, I will be that way. You really have to think about what could go on if you send a kid in a bathroom alone. You don't know who is in there. You don't know who they are or where they have been or if they have done something or are looking for someone. My kids do play outside and do kid stuff but when we are in public it's very different. Hope this helps some and may help you understand more what some people may feel about their kids. Boys and girls both. It's a crazy world so be careful. Now, yes she could have put her grandson in the stall that wasn't a changing stall in the bathroom but I'm sure that this may be why she had him with her.

I'm amazed. "You always hear"? In fact, you almost NEVER hear of this. It never happens, statistically, not compared to the frequency of abuse by familty members. She documents that in her own case the abuse was her grandfather, a family member. And concludes that ALL men want to abuse children. Ma'am, I'm sorry you were abused. But you are a dangerous lunatic.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Heavy Legal Ordnance Used For Oppressive Ordinance: Street Vendors Must DIE!

KPC friend Sara Burrows has a nice piece on the increasing official harrassment of street vendors in Raleigh.

Brick and mortar restaurants are thinking about this wrong, because they can. They are like the idiot record companies, who assume that all music downloaded at a zero price would have been purchased at full price (price elasticity = 0, in other words).

I'm sure street vendor food is SOME kind of substitute for restaurant food, but not dollar for dollar, and not meal for meal. When my friend Jay Hamilton sneaks a Pauly Dog, he is not doing it INSTEAD of a restaurant meal. He is having a hot dog on the run.*

More on street vendor harrassment below. Remember, the state is simply acting here as the enforcement arm of anti-competitive business interests. The interests of consumers count bupkis, bagel, nada.

Raleigh is actually far behind Durham in this respect, which is remarkable. But then the New York Times did recently list Durham as one of the top unexpectedly cool places to eat and to visit (check #35...). Raleigh, listen up! Good restaurants and good food trucks are NOT substitutes, but rather are complements....If you want to be the sort of place where people go to eat, you need more stuff to eat. Stop protecting all those suckwad Applebees and Bob Evans in Raleigh from Tony's Tacos!

(*Jay is running, not the hot dog).

If at first you don't succeed....

People, I'm still unhappy about the colonialist fabulism of Bret Stephens in yesterday's WSJ.

Besides the points I already discussed, Stephens claims that unless "the west" is willing to recolonize, it should be obliged to stop pretending that it cares about problematic countries.

I would make a different case: Unless "the west" is willing to undertake a significant increase in legal immigration and/or reduction in barriers to imported goods, it should be obliged to stop pretending that it cares about the people living in problematic countries.

At least allowing greater immigration and lowering trade barriers are things a western country could actually do, and we know they would provide incredible help.

Suppose that Canada announced it was going to make Ivory Coast a colony. What would happen? How would that work out for our northern neighbor?

Sadly it probably wouldn't be much less controversial (at least inside Canada) than an announcement that Canada was going to materially increase it's allowed immigration from sub-Saharan Africa.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Duke v. MD--YYM is there!

Cliff Tucker tries to inbound the ball. But C-Crazies put that bad hoodoo on him.

The YYM is circled. Exciting. Duke uses non-price rationing to allocate game tickets. They are all "free" to students, but you have to wait in line. Maryland game usually a tough ticket to get, since U of Maryland is basically an urban pentitentiary with chalkboards and we HATES them. But this game was on January 9th before classes started and the YYM only had to wait about six hours in line to get into a position where he could fling that hoodoo.

Grow up and mow up

Here's a great video for a song off Danielson's upcoming album. The song is "Grow up". He is wearing some totally badass shoes in the video. Do you think they are John Fluevogs?

Heartbreaking Grace and Tremendous Courage

This totally made me tear up. What a great guy.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Dancing on the Ceiling

The Jacket appears on Parker-Spitzer, does a good job.

Then presumably he put on the hard hat and tool belt, and went to his night job in a Village People tribute band.

(Nod to Angry Alex, who is clearly just jealous. But then, so am I)

D-Zet's Review

D-Zet reviews vol 5 in the Seldon Series.



In a stunningly ignorant article in today's WSJ, Bret Stephens calls for the re-colonization of selected countries:

"some new version of colonialism may be the best thing that could happen to at least some countries in the post-colonial world"

He's not totally specific; he names Haiti, Ivory Coast & Sudan, but also says "Post-colonial Africa has seen the future. As often as not it looks like Zimbabwe".


Then there's this:

"The colonialists of yore may often have been bigots, but they were also, just as often, doers. Their colonies were better places than the shipwrecked countries that we have today".

Holy Crap.

First, sub-Saharan Africa is actually improving on governance on the whole, not digressing. Second, colonialism helped create the conditions that plague the region like artificial borders, ginned up ethnic rivalries, diminished local capacities and so on. Third, "sure they were bigots, but they got things done"? Really? We are going to use "the trains ran on time" as a serious argument?

Finally, as to the colonies being "better places" than their current independent counterparts, I have to ask, better for who? Has Bret ever read about the colonial experience of the Congo? Has he ever heard of apartheid?

This guy should be fired, ASAP.

Monopoly My Foot

The other shoe drops...

...on the Brannock Device

(Nod to the EYM)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ice Storm

We are getting a fo-sho, straight from Oklahomo, oh-no ice storm here in Raleigh.

To paraphrase Joe Schultz: s*&t-f%$k.

Feeling Old

Not even 30 years old...and antiques?

Jefferson v. Adams Attack Ads


Deerhoof vs. Evil is coming out soon. Here's a video of a song from it:

From this small sample, it seems like they've been drinking the Spencer Krug koolaid; the song reminds me of "Paper Lace" by Swan Lake. Very melodic for Deerhoof.

Grandpa Toots

Mr. Tooty was being extra weird last night. Had to take a photo:

I didn't even know the iPhone 4 had a flash until last night!!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Bring Back the Toasters

KPC friend Amar Bhide has an interesting piece in the F-Times

True Grit: Bold Talk From a One-Eyed Fat Man

So, the LMM and I tried leaving the house. She drove to the movie theater near our house, and we saw "True Grit."

From now on, I want everyone to call me "Brewster Rugburn." I have the eye patch and everything.

(BTW: If I took off the eye patch, you could see my eye. But my eye, alas, could not see you. Unless you were a large very bright light.)

Wrath of Khan

Bob Frank takes the death of Al Kahn as an occasion to launch into bizarre attacks on macro theory and airline deregulation.


Apparently Al once said "if you can't explain what you are doing in plain English, you're probably doing something wrong", which I guess means the general theory of relativity is pure bullcrap.

Bob riffs off this to "If you can’t describe what your model says in plain English without provoking derisive laughter, it probably doesn’t say anything of value”, and says Macroeconomists should take heed.


I must say though, that I've never thought it was hard to say what DSGE models were saying in plain English without getting laughs. I did find it so hard to say what textbook Keynesian models were doing with a straight face that I had to quit teaching intermediate macro.

Bob then returns to his main theme, an appreciation of all things Kahn:

"Many disgruntled air travelers remember him unfavorably as the chief architect of commercial airline industry deregulation. But as he was quick to remind critics, planes now fly with many fewer empty seats than they used to, resulting in much lower average fares, after adjusting for the sharp increases in operating costs that have occurred in the interim."


Um, I'm pretty sure there was a lot more to airline deregulation than decreasing the number of empty seats on flights. There was entry, there were new routes, there was the opening of air travel to the middle class. In short the industry was transformed in a way that massively benefitted consumers.

I'm not sure why Bob is so conflicted that here in his homage to Al, he feels the need to take shots at Al's crowning achievement.

Bob then ends with a heartwarming story about how kind and beloved Al was:

"A story circulating at the time described an English professor’s complaint to him about the high salaries of economics professors. “Perhaps you should consider starting an English consulting firm,” he is said to have responded."

If I didn't know better, I'd think Bob didn't actually like Al very much.