Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the land of the blind, the one eyed pundit is still a dope

The tax wars are at least entertaining. On the right, pundits often point out that many Americans pay no federal income taxes and even more pay very little.

On the left, pundits counter by saying there are more taxes than federal income taxes. For example, everyone with a job pays federal payroll taxes.

For example, here is Jon Chait, citing and debunking the rights point's about who pays taxes.

Are right leaning pundits deliberately trying to pull a fast one, hoping that people will gloss over the modifiers "federal" and "income" and think the stats apply to total taxes?

Maybe. Couldn't put it past them, though Chait (and his source, Emmy winner Leonhardt) do a poor job making their case.

But who pays federal income taxes is an important issue because we are debating raising them! If everyone votes and the median voter doesn't pay federal income taxes, then there is little direct cost to the majority in voting higher tax rates.

That, I think, is the important public choice issue here, and it makes question of who pays federal income taxes is important in it's own right, irrespective what other taxes exist, given that it's the federal income tax we are proposing changing.

Not the Onion...

So, which of the stories below is the Onion?

1. Nude golfers want course of their own in U.S., to match French course. The French course "includes four par 3 holes and two par 4 holes and a water hazard. There's also a large putting green and a golf pro ready to show guests how to swing that club."

2. Man depressed by changes at Arby's: thinner paper and more (but smaller) onion bits on buns.

3. Man "dressed as manequin" nabbed in women's bathroom. 20-year -old from Edgbaston was seen sneaking into the women's toilets "dressed like a mannequin with a mask and a wig" earlier this month. When security guards nabbed him, Hardman admitted to performing a sexual act and said: "I've been a bit weird."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Are Liberals So Condescending?

KPC friend, and my own good friend, Gerard Alexander had a piece in the WaPo that was good a year ago, and even better now. Worth reading. Excerpt:

It's an odd time for liberals to feel smug. But even with Democratic fortunes on the wane, leading liberals insist that they have almost nothing to learn from conservatives. Many Democrats describe their troubles simply as a PR challenge, a combination of conservative misinformation -- as when Obama charges that critics of health-care reform are peddling fake fears of a "Bolshevik plot" -- and the country's failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments. "We were so busy just getting stuff done . . . that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are," the president told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a recent interview. The benighted public is either uncomprehending or deliberately misinformed (by conservatives).

This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.



Well, we never really meant you HAD to switch to CFLs. All we did was make standard bulbs illegal. "Table for Mr. Freude! Table for Mr. Schad N. Freude!"


Nod to Angry Alex.

(Lagniappe: A commenter from the article... Me, I eschew all CFLs and use my trusty 40,000 year old, never failing fire torch dipped in endangered species fat. Keeps burning forever or until I bag the last one and have to move on to another! Provides heat, light, natural aroma and is a great dinner time conversation piece next to the stuffed head on the wall. Ta heck with those oil / gas derived spaghetti twirls. Give mah a good heated light source any day 'n' save mu dang fuel oil bill. So if we have nukes, wind turbines, etc. whats the point in saving electricity anyway??? Anyone who has used CFLs knows how poor they are at doing the job. And darn if they don't pollute way way more than normal bulbs do. The moronic non-logic of spinach for brains environmentalists and pink of centre liberals! Some one otta shoot the lot of them and save the planet for the rest of us. Yehaww! )

Hot Links

1. The grading season is upon us, get fired up here! "he urines to be accepted".

2. Deflection: S&P is now running Greece (according to its Prime Minister)!

3. Grand concession: AG Eric Holder admits that not all price rises are not prima facie illegal!

4. Nice graphs from John Taylor in the WSJ.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Countdown to Excellence

The will be out next week. John P is doing that voodoo that he do. And you will see the Ben Bernank as you have never seen him before....

In case you missed the Battle at Buttonwood, by the way. Worth watching.


I had never seen this article, in the Atlantic, about one of my two favorite twitter feeds, @mayoremanuel. (The other is @shitmydadsays, which has also pretty much gone silent; woe!)

A HuffPo story back at the height of the magic.

Anyway, I actually miss @mayoremanuel. A lot. Prof. Sinker talks about it.

Toe Truck

"Raising boys who want to dress like little girls..."

This is hilarious. But it's also sad.

Fox News (though to be fair most other networks also went nuts).

Jon Stewart is right: "Do you have any idea how long a weekend is...with children?"

Watch through to the very end. A most excellent twist.

Interestingly, the whole pink / blue thing is quite recent. Or, rather, recently reversed:

"[A] Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, 'The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.'...In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers." [Smithsonian magazine]

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

You don't have to live like a refugee

Or, the UN, the missing environmental refugees, the missing map and the moving goalposts.

There is good overall coverage here.

The UN environmental program (UNEP) had a webpage claiming that there would be 50 million environmental refugees by 2010, along with a nice map of where they might likely come from.

When they started to take fire from this clearly incorrect prediction (It was made in 2005), they just said, "no we didn't say that and took the page down!"

And now? Apparently the 50 million refugees will show up in 2020. They just missed the first bus, I guess:

He just wants to be an American boy!

Yes that is allegedly Russian President Medvedev shaking his booty in the video. Paradoxically, it is believed that his favorite musical group is Deep Purple!

Vladdy O'Hooligan

“We see that everything is not so good for our friends in the States,” Putin told lawmakers Wednesday “Look at their trade balance, their debt, and budget. They turn on the printing press and flood the entire dollar zone — in other words, the whole world — with government bonds. There is no way we will act this way anytime soon. We don’t have the luxury of such hooliganism,” he said.

As much as I like the image of the US government as a bunch of drunken skinheads, rampaging through towns breaking windows and breaking heads while singing obscene songs, Vladdy is, as usual, full of it.

The BRICS (and how primitive Russia ever got included with real vibrant economies like Brazil, China, & India, I'll never understand) CLEARLY WANT US to run a big trade deficit. They are willing to put up with rising domestic inflation in their efforts to stop their currencies from appreciating and (perhaps) our trade deficit from falling.

And regarding the US debt, it's "flooding of the world" has raised the interest it must pay to an eye-popping 3.5%??????

Vladdy is right that Russia doesn't have the luxury of large scale Ruble denominated borrowing, in part because THEY DEFAULTED IN 1998!

I think Vladdy should stick with wrestling bears and snowmobiling with his boy-toy Medvedev.

UPDATE: In an unthinkable coincidence, it was pointed out to me that Paul Krugman has similar thoughts on Vladdy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Too Important? How About "Mr. Pot, Meet Dr. Kettle?"

I got a hee-hee out of this:

1. US government so confused, corrupt and incompetent cannot wipe own butt. Debt is downgraded.

2. More on S&P downgrade.

3. Chuckie Schumer has been pressing to investigate rating agencies for negligence and fraud, ignoring risks. "Clearly, this job is too important to be left to the Private sector." Senator Schumer said in a NY Times interview.

This "job" is clearly too important to be left to Chuckie Schumer. Dude, get your own house in order.

(Nod to L.S.)

Follow ups

1. I ripped Melo for his weak play in game 1 of the Knicks-Celts series so I have to give him credit for a great stat line in game 2: 42 points on "only" 30 shots, 16 rebounds, and 6 assists with only 1 turnover. Nice. Of course, the Knicks still lost.

2. As of 11:00 am CDT, the Dow is up 1.6% and the NASDAQ 2.0%. Somehow I must have missed where S&P took back its debt-downgrade threat??

With friends like these.....

Chilling headline this morning "Italy sending military instructors to Libya".

I can only hope they are going to help Gadhafi!!

Isn't it bad enough that France is helping the rebels?

This reminded me of Churchill's retort to Von Ribbentrop when Ribby told him Italy would be on Germany's side in the coming war:

"It's only fair that you have the Italians this time, after all we had them last time".


Diffusion through Democracy

Katerina Linos
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Many argue that international norms influence government behavior, and that
policies diffuse from country to country, because of idea exchanges within elite networks. However, politicians are not free to follow their foreign counterparts, because domestic constituencies constrain them. This article examines how electoral concerns shape diffusion patterns and argues that foreign templates and international organization recommendations can shift voters' policy positions and produce electoral incentives for politicians to mimic certain foreign models. Experimental individual-level data from the field of family policy illustrates that even U.S. voters shift positions substantially when informed about UN recommendations and foreign countries' choices. However, voters receive limited information about international developments, biased towards the policy choices of large and proximate countries. Aggregate data on the family policy choices of OECD countries show how voters' limited information about international models shapes
government decisions: governments are disproportionately likely to mimic countries whose news citizens follow, and international organizations are most influential in countries with internationally oriented citizens.

Unexpected Bedfellows: The GATT, the WTO and Some Democratic Rights

Susan Ariel Aaronson & Rodwan Abouharb
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract: The WTO system and democratic rights are unexpected bedfellows. The GATT/WTO requires governments to adopt policies that provide foreign products (read
producers) with due process, political participation, and information rights related to trade policymaking. Because these nations also provide these rights to their citizens, a growing number of people are learning how to influence trade-related policies. As trade today encompasses many areas of governance, these same citizens may gradually transfer the skills learned from influencing trade policies to other public issues. Thus, the WTO not only empowers foreign market actors, but also citizens in repressive states. We use both qualitative and quantitative analysis to examine whether membership in the WTO over time leads to improvements in these democratic rights. Our qualitative analysis shows that these issues are discussed
during accessions and trade policy reviews. Quantitative analysis examines how members of the GATT/WTO perform on these democratic rights over time. We use a cross-national time series design of all countries, accounting for selection issues of why countries become members of the GATT/WTO regime. We find that longer GATT/WTO membership leads to stronger performance on our metrics for political participation, free and fair elections, and access to information.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Make Up Day

From the set of "Fight of the Century": Make up chair. Note "Keynes" in the background, planning his next heist.



Some analysis on demand, and then on supply.

A more positive view.

Unexpected, Bizarre. And Totally Predictable.

Is there no limit to what the government will do to harass citizens who are merely trying to petition government?

Original story. Engineering without a license.

My first post.

Now, law without a license?

So, the guy says, "I am NOT REPRESENTING the association in this matter." Couldn't be clearer. But they referred him to the state bar anyway.

Wow. As I said before, it should be impossible to surprise me. But that "public servant" Andrew Ritter who says his job is to "protect the public," when what he means is he is protecting himself and his buds from the inconvenience of citizens asking questions....Jeez. I'm surprised. Again.

Here's the cool thing: the resolution of the first case ("Engineering without a license") is something that only Orwell could appreciate. Here is the description from our local NBC 17:

Eventually, the state engineering board decided that the report WAS IN FACT a violation. The group was practicing engineering without a license. But the board decided not to pursue the matter because it is not entirely clear who wrote what. The report is "too good," though, and that means it is illegal, and not something that can be used in the proceedings.

So, if you write a detailed memo, using evidence and logic, you are VIOLATING THE LAW. But since it is too hard to tell who wrote the illegal petition for redress of grievance, they are going to let Mr. Cox off. This time. Next time, boy, you may not be so lucky. You had better be damned glad that our government is a benevolent and loving government, Mr. Cox. They'll be watching...

Interesting View on Economics of Drugs "Wars"

Angry Alex sends this interesting podcast, on Planet Money's interview with a former seller of drugs.

A disturbing implication: "Freeway Rick" was not selling drugs as some kind of social protest. He was selling them because they were illegal, and that's the way to make money.

So, if some drugs were legalized, then poor but entrepreneurial folks would just sell something else. Right?

Debt and Interest

Okay, so the guy is a little creepy. And the linear projections are sometimes silly. But Worth thinking about.

(Nod to Tony B)

Lies, damn lies, & business journalism

So S&P's attempt to avoid indictment by threatening Uncle Sam's credit rating caused the stock market to fall yesterday. At least that's the near universal narrative of the business press.

There's just one problem; it's horses*%t!

First, stock markets were down in Asia and Europe before the US market opened and before S&P announced.

Second, prices of US government debt, the very thing S&P was attacking, ROSE yesterday as did the Dollar vs. the Euro.

I think it's far more likely that the increased prospects of imminent default in Europe was driving events, than was S&Ps posturing, but the plain fact of the matter is that WE DON'T KNOW what drives short run movements in markets, and the last time I checked, post hoc ergo propter hoc was still an egregious logical fallacy, no matter how often the business press uses it.


This video is unexpectedly disturbing. Did NOT see the end coming.

(Nod to the LMM)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Microfinance Fail

Interesting to learn about microfinance.

Which is the reason I love doing podcasts with Russ Roberts. I learn a lot. Because Russ has this $%&#$ing habit of asking questions I can't answer.

So, I give you the most recent podcast on EconTalk, Roberts & Munger on microfinance.

If China Invents Better Solar Panels, We All Benefit

More evidence Angus has it right:

Why the Industrial Revolution Was British: Commerce, Induced Invention, and the Scientific Revolution

R.C. Allen
Economic History Review, May 2011, Pages 357–384

Abstract: Britain had a unique wage and price structure in the eighteenth century, and that structure is a key to explaining the inventions of the industrial revolution. British wages were very high by international standards, and energy was very cheap. This configuration led British firms to invent technologies that substituted capital and energy for labour. High wages also increased the supply of technology by enabling British people to acquire education and training. Britain's wage and price structure was the result of the country's success in international trade, and that owed much to mercantilism and imperialism. When technology was first invented, it was only profitable to use it in Britain, but eventually it was improved enough that it became cost-effective abroad. When the ‘tipping point’ occurred, foreign countries adopted the technology in its most advanced form.

Spontaneous Order

A street person "directs" traffic in Raleigh, after the tornado destroyed a lot of infrastructure, and knocked out power.

(Nod to the good Mr. Greene).

Whitest Man on Earth

I have claimed several times that Art Carden is the whitest man on earth.

Being truly white is not just having pasty skin, though of course that helps.

Being truly white requires a sense of tight-ass, mayonnaise-on-Wonder fashion, also, no matter how out of place.

Consider the picture below, taken at APEE, in the Bahamas. The prosecution rests.
(BTW, in case you couldn't tell, Art C is the giant corn-fed galoot in the middle, with the suit)

Question: Why Do Liberals Favor Tax Increases?

Why do lefites favor tax increases?

Because they assume that the law doesn't actually APPLY to them.

Eric Holder the latest Obamatron to say, "Who, me? You actually wanted ME to pay?"

I suppose there's no reason the Atty General should have to obey the law.

High Heels Hurt

High heels more dangerous than sports! They mean more dangerous for women, of course. Shoes are a trap.

Walking in heels: A lesson. Think of your "power center." Tiny woman talks to giant blonde Amazon woman. This may be the most fatuous thing I have ever seen.

But heels are bad for men, too. Some men get hurt chasing after a another man carrying or kicking a ball. But even more men get hurt chasing after women who are wearing high heels.

'Cause they might actually catch up to the woman. And that's how the men get hurt.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Made in the World

Made in the World, brought to you by the WTO.

Watch the video. Yoda incarnate, with lots of odd lip smacking.

They call me Melo Yellow (quite rightly)

In the Knicks' give-away to the Cs yesterday, Carmelo Anthony missed 10 of his last 11 shots. For the entire game he was 5-18 from the field with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 turnovers.

Here's what Melo had to say for hisself:

“I’m not too concerned about my individual performance or anything like that,”

the quote comes from here, but the article is mostly weird Celtic worship (i.e. self non-recommending).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let the Sun Shine

Or, not. It looked like a dark day for the pigs in the solar-industrial complex, but then the bright (though artificial) electric spotlight of the feds shone on them.

Solar advocates mounted a last-minute push Monday to prevent sweeping cuts to a federal loan guarantee program for clean energy development in a Republican budget plan. The cuts would have essentially closed the program, which is popular with solar power developers, and rescinded billion of dollars in loan commitments for dozens of projects.

"Popular"? I bet. The oil depletion allowance is popular with the oil pigs, too. That doesn't make it right.

Look, for a big enough subsidy we could take used toilet paper and make dental floss. And that subsidy would be popular with industry. That doesn't mean taxpayers should be forced to pay for it. The very fact that such a large subsidy is required implies there is no sound economic justification for doing it, in terms of saving resources. (Yes, I have talked about solar subsidies before...)


(Nod to Anonyman)

Getting Ready to Shoot Congressional Hearing!

On the set of "Fight of the Century!"

Getting ready for transport to the shoot.

In the forest: Bach That Thang Up

(Nod to the Blonde)

Face Time

What does it mean to find the Face of the Franchise? Physical Attractiveness and the Evaluation of Athletic Performance

David Berri, Rob Simmons, Jennifer Van Gilder & Lisle O'Neill
Economics Letters, June 2011, Pages 200-202

Abstract: We show that attractiveness, as measured by facial symmetry, leads to
greater rewards in professional sports. National Football League quarterbacks who are more attractive are paid greater salaries and this premium persists after controlling for player performance.


About Face: The Association between Facial Appearance and Status Attainment
among Military Personnel

Thomas Hochschild & Casey Borch
Sociological Spectrum, May/June 2011, Pages 369-395

Abstract: This research assesses the extent to which facial appearance is related to
occupational status attainment. Through the use of Internet technology, a diverse random sample of research participants viewed Navy boot camp photographs and rated sailors across nine dimensions. Sailors who were rated highly attractive were also thought to be intelligent and to possess leadership qualities. And, consistent with social expectancy theory and status generalization theory, sailors who were rated high across these three traits advanced to higher ranks, and did so more rapidly, than those rated low on these traits. The findings of this study underscore the sociological significance of facial appearance as a means by which people are stratified within social structural contexts.


Identifying personality from the static, nonexpressive face in humans and
chimpanzees: Evidence of a shared system for signaling personality

Robin Kramer, James King & Robert Ward
Evolution and Human Behavior, May 2011, Pages 179-185

Abstract: Many aspects of personality are honestly signaled on the human face, as
shown by accurate identification of personality traits from static images of unknown faces with neutral expressions. Here, we examined the evolutionary history of this signal system. In four studies, we found that untrained human observers reliably discriminated characteristics related to extraversion solely from nonexpressive facial images of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In chimpanzees, as in humans, there is therefore information in the static, nonexpressive face that signals aspects of an individual's personality. We suggest that this performance is best explained by shared personality structure and signaling in the two species.

Nod to Kevin Lewis, who is beautiful.