Saturday, March 05, 2011

Which is the Onion?

One, and ONLY one, of the following stories is from the Onion. The other two are actual "stories." That is, they were reported as true.

Try to guess before you click or mouse-over. See if you get it right: which one of these is the Onion?

1. New health study: staring at woman's breasts is excellent for heart health.

"Five-hundred men participated in the German study. Half were told to refrain from looking at breasts for five years, the other half were told to ogle them daily.

The study found the men who stared at breasts more often showed lower rates of heart problems, a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure.

The authors of the study recommend that men stare at breasts for 10 minutes a day."

2. Glad you are out of Libya. But what were you thinking?

State Department officials charged with evacuating nearly 200 Americans from Tripoli last week shepherded the U.S. citizens aboard a ferry, assessed their need for medical attention, and then asked them what the hell they were doing in Libya in the first place.

"We are pleased these Americans are now out of harm's way, but, really, why would anyone want to go to Libya?" a U.S. official told reporters, offering a list of more than 20 countries that are safer, more fun, and "just seem like more logical places to take a vacation" than the repressive North African country.

3. NC Zoo adopts "Snotty the Snot Otter" as their official mascot.

"It made sense when the organizers of a North Carolina festival suggested that the state zoo here adopt a mascot to promote clean rivers.

Except that the creature in question is the snot otter. Formally known as hellbenders, which is not much better from a public-relations standpoint, snot otters are giant, slimy salamanders that lurk under big rocks...

Already up and wriggling is the mascot, Snotty, a big-tailed lizard look-alike with brown skin, beady eyes and stubby teeth.

He made his debut—with mixed results—at the New River Celebration in Laurel Springs, N.C., this past summer.

"There was really just one kid that was kind of scared of me," says Ben Stanley, 20, a student at Randolph Community College here who helped create the Snotty costume and wore it at the festival. "Most of the kids were just running all around me; one actually tried to pull my finger off."
(Ed's Note: at the Munger house, the whole "pull my finger" thing is a bad idea)

(nod to Angry Alex)

(UPDATE: Pablo is right, of course, in comments. A hoax. Not even the Onion, just an everyday garden variety urban legend. I should have known. But since a newspaper carried it...anyway, ONE of the above is real, and TWO are hoaxes)

Official toothpaste of the Mount Pelerin Society

proven 98% effective in stopping partial differentiation!!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Soccer is just plain nasty

Good news on the jobs front

192,000 net new jobs last month. Unemployment falls to 8.9% (still a LONG way to go).

Both numbers beat the consensus forecasts.

33,000 net new jobs in manufacturing.

December job growth was revised up by 31,000 jobs and January job growth was revised up by 27,000.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Recycling Fail

Ann pretty much nails this, I'd say. Nice. On Wisconsin.

Some stuff I have done on recycling, verbally and written.

Taking care of Thomas

Two incredible take-downs of Thomas Friedman.

One is literary, and here's a sample:

But there are other critical factors integral to an understanding of my bollocks theory on the Middle East. Here they are:

MY MOUSTACHE – Americans have never really appreciated what a radical thing I did in growing a moustache, long the symbol of Arab male virility. I’m convinced that when Arab men catch a glimpse of my moustache as they bring me my breakfast in my hotel they are inspired and say to themselves: “Hmmm. Let’s see. He’s middle-aged. I’m middle-aged. He’s slightly tanned. I’m roughly the same colour. His name is Thomas. My name is Hussein. He is a prick. I sometimes act like a prick. He is not president of the United States. I am not president of the United States.

and one, my friends, is culinary:

both are awesome

Hat tip to BR!

IRP vs. Ysursa

Victory is ours.

Or victory is the 1st Amendment's, I guess. But still, I was the expert witness for the plaintiffs, in this case Idaho Republican Party.

Newspaper article. Check the comments.

Court decision. Win! We win!

Very interesting issue: are parties private organizations, able to decide how they select candidates, subject only to nondiscrimination restrictions? Or can the state decide?

This advocate for "independents" thinks its a bad idea. Ma'am, parties are private organizations. If you want to vote in a primary, register as a member of that party. And of course you still get to vote however you want in the general election.

In North Carolina, we allow independents to vote in party primaries. But Dems can't cross over and vote for Repubs. Why would Coke execs get to sit on the board of Pepsi and make marketing decisions?

More soon...

Safety first

If you are going to talk politics with an Ibex, be sure to wear your glasses!

What's in a name?

Well according to Thomas Friedman, President O helped kick start the Arab awakening simply by having the middle name Hussein:

“Hmmm, let’s see. He’s young. I’m young. He’s dark-skinned. I’m dark-skinned. His middle name is Hussein. My name is Hussein. His grandfather is a Muslim. My grandfather is a Muslim. He is president of the United States. And I’m an unemployed young Arab with no vote and no voice in my future.”

Journalist, please!

Loaded Questions: The interrogatory culture that is Germany

In an otherwise enlightening interview with Barry Eichengreen, I had to stop a couple times to compose myself after cracking up at the way the Speigel interviewer posed questions.

Here's my favorite:

Is there any desire in US political circles to do something about this problem? Just last December, President Barack Obama extended the Bush administration's tax cuts to 2012, even though tax cuts for the super-rich do nothing to stimulate the economy.

and another good one:

Are people in the US willing to save at all?

One more for the road:

Despite the current crisis, the economic fundamentals in the euro zone are still stronger than those on the other side of the Atlantic. Why are bond traders scrutinizing Europe but not the US?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Where have you been all my life?

Great story about the precariousness of coaching in the NBA:

According to the Boston Herald, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was quite impressed with the debut of former Thunder starting center Nenad Krstic.

When Krstic pulled down two offensive rebounds on the team's first possession, Rivers reportedly turned to assistant coach Lawrence Frank and asked, “Does he do that all the time?”

Frank, who coached Krstic during his early days, replied: “If he did, I'd still be in New Jersey.”

I enjoyed the Nenad Krstic era in the OKC, even though he always seemed slightly bemused/confused on the court.

Paradoxically, getting Perkins and losing Nenad might make Scott Brooks' job LESS secure. Now with a real center (assuming he gets and stays healthy), the Thunder have one less excuse and lack of results now will cause the fickle finger to more likely be pointed at Scotty.

And, make no mistake about it, the Thunder coaching staff are either weak on the Xs and Os or else weak on getting the players to execute the Xs and Os.

The Africa paradox?

While walking Mr. Tooty this morning Mrs. Angus and I were discussing why Americans visiting in Africa so often conclude that Africans are intrinsically more "joyful" and don't care about material things.

She suggested an analogy to the literature showing that people have a very hard time predicting the emotional consequences of being in unfamiliar, unfavorable situations.

For example, healthy people overwhelmingly say they'd be unhappy with their life if they lost a limb or were in a wheelchair, but people actually in those situations often report that they are happy. Here is a recent example regarding people with "locked in" syndrome. There is a term for this phenomenon; the disability paradox.

So maybe, when rich Westerners visit in Africa, they project their expectations of how happy they would be if they lived in the situations they see onto the local people. When these local people demonstrate that they are actually happy, it causes cognitive dissonance and the westerners attribute the paradox to some intrinsic otherness or lack of materialism, rather than recognizing that external circumstances do not determine happiness.

I am NOT saying poverty is a disability, I AM saying that the phenomenon of inaccurately predicting happiness in unfamiliar, adverse situations may apply more broadly than just to cases of physical disabilities.

Sheen-Gadhaffi Quiz

This is actually quite interesting. I got a 4 of ten, worse than random.

The quiz: who said it?

(Nod to Timmy G)

Women Do More Work Around the House...and the Senate!

The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform

Sarah Anzia & Christopher Berry
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract: If voters are biased against female candidates, only the most talented,
hardest working female candidates will succeed in the electoral process. Furthermore, if women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates. We argue that when either or both forms of sex-based selection are present, the women who are elected to office will perform better, on average, than their male counterparts. We test this central implication of our theory by studying the relative success of men and women in delivering federal spending to their districts and in sponsoring legislation. Analyzing changes within districts over time, we find that congresswomen secure roughly 9 percent more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. Women also sponsor and cosponsor significantly more bills than their male colleagues.


Who Does More Housework: Rich or Poor? A Comparison of 33 Countries

Jan Paul Heisig
American Sociological Review, February 2011, Pages 74-99

Abstract: This article studies the relationship between household income and housework time across 33 countries. In most countries, low-income individuals do more housework than their high-income counterparts; the differences are even greater for women’s domestic work time. The analysis shows that the difference between rich and poor women’s housework time falls with economic development and rises with overall economic inequality. I use a cross-national reinterpretation of arguments from the historical time-use literature to show that this is attributable to the association between economic development and the diffusion of household technologies and to the association between economic inequality and the prevalence of service consumption among high-income households. Results for a direct measure of technology diffusion provide striking evidence for the first interpretation. The findings question the widespread notion that domestic technologies have had little or no impact on women’s housework time. On a general level, I find that gender inequalities are fundamentally conditioned by economic inequalities. A full understanding of the division of housework requires social scientists to go beyond couple-level dynamics and situate households and individuals within the broader social and economic structure.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Tower of David in Caracas

Tower of David: Amazing.

(Nod to Anonyman)

What I've been reading

Red Plenty by Francis Spuford. At its core, it's a narrative of the rise and fall of linear programming as the salvation of the Soviet system! It is funny, sarcastic, insightful and highly recommended, though I have to say it is a very weird book.

The Impenetrable Forest by Thor Hanson. A peace corp volunteer gets assigned to gorilla habituation in Uganda in the early 1990s. I started it because we are going to Uganda this summer, I finished it because it is a fantastic book!

Werewolves of Montpellier, by Jason. On Will W's recommendation I tried this graphic novella, something I'd never had read on my own. I have since bought 3 more of Jason's "books".

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. If you only read one book on the crisis, or even if you only read one book all year, this should be the one!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Washington Monthly loves its readers

It loves them so so much:

"Strange as it may sound, to get a grip on costs, we should in many cases be hiring many more bureaucrats—and paying more to get better ones—not cutting their numbers and freezing their pay. Because in many parts of government, the bureaucracy has already crossed that dangerous threshold beyond which further cuts can only mean greater risk of a breakdown. Indeed, much of the runaway spending we’ve seen over the past decade is the result of our having crossed that line years ago—the last time there was a Democrat in the White House, a divided government, and calls for slashing the federal workforce in the air."

Yes, people, they really said that "much of the runaway spending" is a result of having too few Federal bureaucrats! Talk about pandering to your audience.

This is just so far out there that no one can really take it seriously right?

Everybody Wing Chau tonight!

If you've read Michael Lewis' book "The Big Short" (and if you haven't you are really missing something good), you know that he comes down hard on a particular trader named Wing Chau.

Well hot on the heels of Brat Pitt buying the movie rights to the book, Mr. Chau has decided to sue Lewis for defamation.

His complaint contains some interesting parts, for example:

"Wing Chau and his immediate family are Chinese immigrants. His father, Muk Loong Chau, fled Chairman Mao’s China in 1953 to make a better life for his family in America—to pursue the American dream. Mr. Chau was born in Hong Kong, where the family was waylaid for many year while awaiting a visa. Eventually, the family immigrated to Rhode Island, where his father took various jobs at Chinese restaurants, usually working six days per week."

Michael Lewis! You should be ashamed of yourself!!!

Here is more on the complaint and here is more on the saga of Wing Chau.

And here is something I've not been able to get out of my head since I read the Wing Chau portion of "The Big Short":

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!