Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fat Kids, Unite

Angry Alex notes that, as a former fat kid, he has some sympathy for the wrong side. As a CURRENT fat kid, I may also.

Patrick blogs about a video. It's rather violent. Don't watch it, if you are going to get upset.

As a fat kid in a very poor school growing up, I was spat on, kicked, had my books thrown up in trees, etc. Pretty much every day.

Then one day I had my own "snapped" experience. Kid was spitting on his hand and wiping it on my shirt. I was quite strong and large, but wouldn't fight. But then I did. Drove a straight right into his stomach; since he wasn't looking and I caught him square, this was pretty tough for him. He dropped, started throwing up, and since he couldn't breathe choked on his own vomit a bit.

It happened one more time, but I didn't wait nearly as long before I punched him. He tried to duck, and I caught him on ear. Bright red, a little cut. He started crying.

And then nothing. Fat kids of the world, unite.

Cognitive Capitalism

Interesting study: thinking matters, so learning HOW to think matters. Conclusion: READ MORE KPC!

Cognitive Capitalism: The impact of ability, mediated through science and
economic freedom, on wealth

Heiner Rindermann & James Thompson
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Traditional theories of economic growth stress the relevance of political, institutional, economic, geographic and historical factors. In contrast, human capital theories claim that peoples’ competences are the deciding factor in achieving technological progress leading to wealth. Using large scale assessments (TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS) cognitive competence sums for N=90 countries were calculated for the mean and the upper and low level groups and compared for their influence on GDP. Cross-national analyses applied different statistical methods (path analyses, bootstrapping), measures developed by different research groups, for different country samples and historical periods. All results underscore the decisive relevance of cognitive ability, particularly of an upper ability group creating an intellectual class with high accomplishment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and which predicts the quality of economic and political institutions, resulting in economic affluence. Cognitive resources enable the evolution of capitalism and the rise of wealth.

Supporting this thesis, which I don't know much about.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Securities Trading of Concepts (STOC)

Securities Trading of Concepts (STOC)

Ely Dahan et al., Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract: Identifying winning new product concepts can be a challenging process that requires insight into private consumer preferences. In order to measure consumer preferences for new product concepts, we apply a securities-trading approach where new product concepts are traded as financial securities: Securities Trading of Concepts (STOC). We apply this method because market prices are well known to efficiently collect and aggregate private information regarding the economic value of goods, services, and firms, particularly when trading financial securities. Our research includes the first application of securities markets to test potential new product concepts, and is the first to compare such an approach against stated-choice, conjoint, constantsum and longitudinal revealed preference data. In our research, we place STOC in the context of existing methodologies, as well as prior research on prediction markets and experimental economics. We conduct a series of experiments in multiple product categories to test whether STOC: 1) is more cost-efficient than other methods; 2) passes validity tests; 3) measures expectations of others; and 4) reveals individual preferences, not just those of the crowd. All results are confirmed, with the notable exception that STOC, as tested, does not accurately predict actual product market shares and price sensitivity. Our results also show that traders exhibit bias based on self- preferences when trading. Ultimately, STOC offers two key advantages to traditional market research methods — cost efficiency and scalability. For new product development (NPD) teams deciding where to invest resources, this scalability may be especially important in the Web 2.0 world where customers are constantly interacting with firms and with each other in suggesting numerous product design possibilities that need to be screened.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Europe Rising: American Economics Hegemony Threatened?

Is the hegemony of American economists in "top" journals being threatened by our European colleagues?

"Internationalisation has meant a growing voice for Europe within the economics literature...Some Americans pooh-pooh Europe’s rise. Many new journals have started up in recent years, and European papers are far more common in their pages. But this cannot fully explain the fall in North America’s market share. Controlling for new journals, the share of European papers still rose markedly...Americans need not panic. Economists affiliated to North American institutions contribute 76% of articles in the top journals. They receive a disproportionate number of citations." [The Economist]
(Credit: The Economist) Nod to Kevin Lewis

They Couldn't Understand What He Was Saying....

A BRITISH man had surgery to reattach his testicles after his girlfriend allegedly bit them off, the Daily Mirror has reported...

Douglas had to call emergency services himself after the incident, but was in so much pain operators could not understand what he was saying. He needed emergency surgery and had to spend several days in the hospital recovering from the attack.

Tommy the Brit notes: "And people wonder why I'm gay..." Not sure that is protection enough. Unless you think a man would not do this to another man, understanding the implication of the attack. I'm pretty sure the lady understood the implication of the attack pretty well.

Why the Pass for the Chosen One?

I often hear my righty friends complaining that the main-stream (drive-by) media gives Pres. Obama a pass, because he is the "Chosen One" and therefore above criticism. Well, yes, MSNBC may do that, but I think you have to see Rachel Maddow and co. as satirists, not actual news commentators. Because the fact is that some fine lefties are plenty critical of the Chosen One. Nat Hentoff, for example. (Yes, it's WND, but Nat is an honest lefty). My man Nat says:

Particularly telling – in view of President Obama's continuous contempt for constitutional limitations on executive powers – Alexis Agathocleous, a Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney involved in its lawsuit, Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al., tells me:

"Designation of a control unit within the federal prison system regularly comes with due process. This includes notice of the allegations against you, an opportunity to refute those allegations and an appeal. But prisoners sent to the CMU receive no such procedural protections.

"They are not told in any meaningful way why they have been designated to the CMU, nor do they have a chance to challenge that designation. Additionally, there is no meaningful review process that would allow them to earn their way out.

"CMU prisoners are therefore indefinitely subjected to harsh deprivations – such as a permanent blanket ban on contact visitation with family and loved ones (far more severe than at the Supermaxes) – without procedural protections guaranteed by the Constitution." President Obama agrees.

So I missed an historic event: When was Barack Obama coronated?

If you think THAT is "giving a pass," maybe it's because you righties actually AGREE with proliferation of unconstitutional denial of due process, and basic human, rights to prisoners.

How about this NPR story?
Not exactly cozying up to the administration. Here is Part 2 of that series.

What about The Nation? Hysterical lefties like that clearly are giving the Prez a pass, right? Not so much, actually.

Hentoff asks a good question: "There has been very little attention to these Guantanamo Norths in the press – print, radio, television (broadcast and cable), even the Internet. (Where are the websites of outrage? The Facebook pages of protest?)"

Well, my constitution-loving friends on the right... how about it? I'm thinking you only "love" the Constitution when it serves your narrow interests.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Education and Evidence

Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from New York City
Public Schools

Roland Fryer, NBER Working Paper, March 2011

Abstract: Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an
increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.


The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Students, Teachers, and Schools

Thomas Dee & Brian Jacob
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Fall 2010, Pages 149-194

Abstract: The controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) brought test-based school
accountability to scale across the United States. This study draws together results from multiple data sources to identify how the new accountability systems developed in response to NCLB have influenced student achievement, school-district finances, and measures of school and teacher practices. Our results indicate that NCLB brought about targeted gains in the mathematics achievement of younger students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, we find no evidence that NCLB improved student achievement in reading. School-district expenditure increased significantly in response to NCLB, and these increases were not matched by federal revenue. Our results suggest that NCLB led to increases in teacher compensation and the share of teachers with graduate degrees. We find evidence that NCLB shifted the allocation of instructional time toward math and reading, the subjects targeted by the new accountability systems.


Starting the Wrong Conversations: The Public School Crisis and “Waiting for

Katy Swalwell & Michael Apple, Educational Policy, March 2011, Pages 368-382

Abstract: The documentary “Waiting for Superman” has become one of those rare things,
a (supposed) documentary that generates a wider audience. It also is one of the more recent embodiments of what Nancy Fraser (1989) labels as the “politics of needs and needs discourses.” Dominant groups listen carefully to the language and issues that come from below. They then creatively appropriate the language and issues in such a way that very real problems expressed by multiple movements are reinterpreted through the use of powerful groups’ understandings of the social world and of how we are to solve “our” problems. This is exactly what is happening in education; and it is exactly what this film tries to accomplish. We critically examine the arguments and assumptions that the film makes, as well as how it makes them. In the process, we demonstrate how it elides crucial questions, contradicts many of its own claims, and acts to close off the kinds of substantive discussions that are essential for serious educational reforms.

Linkage and Lunkage

Some links:

1. The crack government of France reacts to nuclear problems... by arguing about parking. (Nod to L. Smith)

2. The NC Supreme C's decision on ballot access. Some thoughts in response to the NC Supreme C's decision. Article in the N&O.

3. Charter school's $125K experiment on 60 Minutes

4. Ed Glaeser is a very smart man. On whether the Tea Party should become A Fool for the City.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting Faculty to Retire

(Very) Senior faculty: How will we miss you if you won't go away?

It seems to me that tenure contracts should end at age 70. After age 70, you would revert to renewable five year fixed term contracts.

Because I hear that it is really hard to get some faculty to retire. (This is not a problem at Duke of course. All our faculty are highly valued, and welcome to stay as long as they want...)

An article from the VC

(Nod to Angry Alex)


Angry Alex sends this link.

A t-shirt: "If I had a dollar for every time Capitalism got blamed for the problems caused by Government, I'd be a fat filmmaker with a baseball cap."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No More Drunk Drinking

Ed Cone notes that drunk drinking can be fun, but you gotta watch it.

And North Carolina officials warn against it.

Silicone Killed the Snake TV Star

I'm not sure what to say. Video.

It's a classic Hollywood story. Girl meets snake. Snake bites boob. Snake dies. Some commentary.

Not sure I buy the story. I'm betting she squeezed the bejezus out of the snake. Silicone is just not that poisonous. Also, if all the silicone leaked out, Ms. Fox is going to look somewhat...lopsided. Was this some kind of Garden of Eden thing, except it was the snake who bit the (apple)? And then the snake died? Tough justice.

(nod to Anonyman, who said it was too gross to watch, so he watched ten times)

(Just as I thought: Snake did not die.)

Republicans Should be Embarrassed....

I am a "plain meaning" fan, for the Constitution. Sure, the words have to be interpreted, and there is a large body of midrash to go with the Constitutional Torah.

But this is a problem with any contract, and judges are good at interpreting contracts when there is a dispute over meaning. That is ALL Constitutional law should be about: the meaning of the contract. And you can only change the contract with unanimous consent. As Rousseau put it:

There is but one law which, from its nature, needs unanimous consent. This is the social compact; for civil association is the most voluntary of all acts. Every man being born free and his own master, no one, under any pretext whatsoever, can make any man subject without his consent. To decide that the son of a slave is born a slave is to decide that he is not born a man.

Unanimous consent in a large nation is awfully tough. And so we have a process for deciding how to change the Constitution. Unless you change it, though, you are stuck with the original language, to which you have to attach meaning.

So, on the 2nd Amendment: These words clearly establish an individual right to bear arms. They also allow that aspects of this right can be regulated. Gun rights are subject to a lot more legitimate government regulation than speech rights. "Congress shall make no law" is much more forceful than "well-regulated." We have to argue about just how these two things interact. But the two clauses have plain meaning.

My friend Sandy Levinson wrote a great piece on the 2nd Amendment, calling it embarrassing. What he meant by "embarrassing" is that lefties try to ignore its plain meaning. If you don't like the 2nd Amd, you have to change it, pumpkin! (Sandy is no conservative, mind you. He is just honest and careful. A plain meaning guy, in other words.)

The "originalist" interpretation seems similar to plain meaning, but it is different. The orginalists want to argue that the Constitution implies not what the words say but what the Founders MEANT. From this distance, and with the problem of anachronism, it seems to me that originalism is impractical and bordering on absurd.

Worse, the Repubs want to have it both ways. Nice piece in New Republic from back in January, by Eric Posner:

The problem with originalism is that, however useful it may be as a form of criticism, it cannot support a positive program. During the 2010 election, Americans may have expressed anxiety about the size of government, but in general Americans adore big government and do not want to see it repudiated in the name of some abstract idea. Every political challenge to the New Deal administrative state has gone down in flames, and today Americans look to the federal government to protect them from terrorists, financial scams, economic downturns, environmental degradation, educational failure, poverty and sickness in old age, natural disasters, and foreign competition. As a governing doctrine, the small-government ethos of originalism does not have a constituency. And the public may soon realize that originalism is unlikely to end the politicization of the judiciary. As the Heller case showed, originalism just displaces political disputes among judges into a different idiom. Even as discussion about the original meaning of the Constitution becomes more common on the Court, the left/right division between Supreme Court justices will be plain as ever. This is especially so because originalism unsettles precedent, permitting both liberal and conservative justices to disregard earlier decisions that rub them the wrong way. In addition, as Republicans gain more power, their commitment to originalism will look ever more inconsistent. Institutional commitments in politics don’t run very deep. Republicans already championed federal marriage legislation, even though the Constitution gives Congress no power to regulate family relations; and during the Bush administration, constitutional constraints on executive power were forgotten. This will surely happen again the next time the Republicans take control of the government, and they can only hope that their earlier blandishments about the original understanding of the Constitution will have been forgotten.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Very Interesting Description of Japanese Nuclear Problems

Great article. Very interesting and informative. Original source.

And the comments are fascinating, too.

(Nod to Mr. Overwater)

UPDATE: Interesting, but wrong, or so it appears. Updates from people who know what they are talking about (or else an elaborate hoax. I can't tell.)

Wow, nothing

Can anyone explain this? Zip, nada, bupkes.

This trial is actually a pretty big deal. Regardless of what you think of the Liberty Dollar (you might be a fan, or you might not), there should be SOME coverage.

Environmentalists are BAD for the Environment

John Tierney: The Man

“Efficiency advocates try to distract attention from the rebound effect by saying that nobody will vacuum more because their vacuum cleaner is more efficient,” Mr. Shellenberger said. “But this misses the picture at the macro and global level, particularly when you consider all the energy that is used in manufacturing products and producing usable energy like electricity and gasoline from coal and oil. When you increase the efficiency of a steel plant in China, you’ll likely see more steel production and thus more energy consumption.”

Consider what’s happened with lighting over the past three centuries. As people have switched from candles to oil-powered lamps to incandescent bulbs and beyond, the amount of energy needed to produce a unit of light has plummeted. Yet people have found so many new places to light that today we spend the same proportion of our income on light as our much poorer ancestors did in 1700, according to an analysis published last year in The Journal of Physics by researchers led by Jeff Tsao of Sandia National Laboratories.

“The implications of this research are important for those who care about global warming,” said Harry Saunders, a co-author of the article. “Many have come to believe that new, highly-efficient solid-state lighting — generally LED technology, like that used on the displays of stereo consoles, microwaves and digital clocks — will result in reduced energy consumption. We find the opposite is true.”

These new lights, though, produce lots of other benefits, just as many other improvements in energy efficiency contribute to overall welfare by lowering costs and spurring economic growth. In the long run, that economic growth may spur innovative new technologies for reducing greenhouse emissions and lowering levels of carbon dioxide.

But if your immediate goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions, then it seems risky to count on reaching it by improving energy efficiency. To economists worried about rebound effects, it makes more sense to look for new carbon-free sources of energy, or to impose a direct penalty for emissions, like a tax on energy generated from fossil fuels. Whereas people respond to more fuel-efficient cars by driving more and buying other products, they respond to a gasoline tax simply by driving less.

A visible tax, of course, is not popular, which is one reason that politicians prefer to stress energy efficiency. The costs and other trade-offs of energy efficiency are often conveniently hidden from view, and the prospect of using less energy appeals to the thrifty instincts of consumers as well as to the moral sensibilities of environmentalists.

(Nod to Anonyman and his candy-ass Prius)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tsunami: Just awful

Remarkable, terrible pictures. Cleverly set up, so you can mouse over and see before/ after. (Thanks to the Blonde for the link).

Given how little warning they had, the government likely did the best that could have been done. That was a huge earthquake.

Amazingly, we now have "Tsunami warnings" here in NC, on the coast. Not really very helpful. "If you see a wall of water moving extremely fast, please try to run, even the land here is perfectly flat for about 15 miles." I guess there is the water receding, and the roar. But still, 5 minutes? There's one bridge off the island.

A bonus: you can buy a plagiarized paper, if you want.

Not a real warning. Just a sign that says that if there IS a tsunami, you need to run away. As this page notes there has been...only one tsunami in the Atlantic. Okay, there have been at least ten, but only one that caused actual damage. And that one was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake tsunami, which was admittedly a real son of a b***h: Voltaire thought of it as a metaphysical event, raising questions about God himself. An excerpt from Voltaire's poem responding to the Lisbon earthquake (and anticipating Pat Robertson being an idiot), straight out of Pangloss's playbook.

What crime, what sin, had those young hearts conceived
That lie, bleeding and torn, on mother’s breast?
Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of vice
Than London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?
In these men dance; at Lisbon yawns the abyss.
Tranquil spectators of your brothers’ wreck,
Unmoved by this repellent dance of death,
Who calmly seek the reason of such storms,
Let them but lash your own security;
Your tears will mingle freely with the flood.

Old Ben Barber loves him some Saif!

An amazing interview is here. Ben sure does not like anyone to think that he may be wrong about anything. Also, he has some very strange views about what a Ph.D. dissertation is. Here he is responding to plagiarism charges against his homie Saif:

It's a dissertation; I have read it. There are about 600 books quoted at length or paraphrased -- it's a doctoral dissertation; you're supposed to cite people! You're not allowed to have your own views

600 books quoted at length? Not allowed to have your own views?


oh and by the way, check the second link. Home-boy plagiarized in a big big way!

Barber is a joke.

Fake ID Ownership in College

Fake ID Ownership in a US Sample of Incoming First-Year College Students

Norma Nguyen et al.
Addictive Behaviors, forthcoming

Objective: One way that underage drinkers procure alcohol is by using a fake ID. This study examined demographic characteristics and alcohol-related problems associated with fake ID ownership among incoming first-year college students.

Method: We examined baseline data collected as part of a web-based alcohol education program that had been completed by a large, cross-sectional sample of incoming college freshmen from across the US.

Results: Only 7.7% of incoming freshmen reported owning a fake ID. Multiple logistic regression indicated that the odds of owning a fake ID were significantly increased by intent to join or current membership in a fraternity or sorority (OR = 2.00; 95% CI = 1.64,2.44; p < 0.0001), having taken the survey after the start of fall classes (OR = 1.27; 95% CI = 1.01, 1.59; p = 0.04), reporting 1 heavy drinking episode in the past two weeks (OR = 1.28; 95% CI = 0.97,1.68; p = 0.01), reporting 2 or more such episodes (OR = 2.78; 95% CI = 2.10,3.66; p < 0.0001), experiencing external harms related to alcohol use (OR = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.01,1.61; p = 0.01), and drinking and driving (OR = 1.34; 95% CI = 1.03,1.75; p = 0.03).

Conclusions: Fake ID ownership was associated with intent to join or current membership in a fraternity/sorority and with reports of heavy drinking episodes, alcohol-related problems, and drinking and driving. Fake ID owners and incoming college students seeking fraternity or sorority membership should be targeted for multiple interventions to reduce alcohol-related harms.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)