Saturday, May 07, 2011

Win Win: Win

Win Win is a cute movie. The LMM and I liked it a lot. The kid is really fantastic, and grandpa Leo (Burt Young) is wonderful. Paul Giamatti is as good as he always is (though he will never match his performance in "Shoot em up," the best bad movie ever made.)

Choosing your fantasy economic development team

There be "fantasy development" leagues, where you draft countries and then compete based on some weighted scale of growth, infant mortality, FDI, life expectancy, and so on.

If there WERE such a thing, then AK Sen's article would be very helpful for players.

And I think it's pretty interesting anyway: Who do you want on your fantasy development team, China, or India?

Sen seems to say China, but then he goes and tries to draft Bangladesh.

If China is now the right answer, it wasn't always. 'Cause Rap Master Mao was batshit crazy. Read about the mangoes.

weekend links

1. Alexander Cockburn absolutely kills BHO over the OBL affair.

Here's a teaser: From this active volcano of lies, we can safely assume that Obama's re-election campaign has been well and truly launched.

2. Al-Zarkawi gets a new roomie.

This is the funniest thing I've read in quite a while (hat tip to the King of Arkansas).

3. Once again, Timmy Geithner proves himself to be a man of the people.

The culture that is Germany

People, did you know that the German word for "advisor" is "berater"?

That tells you a lot right there doesn't it?

Follow up: do you know how to say MVP in German? Answer is here.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Fun with Movie Titles

This picture shows a rather more suggestive title than was intended...

A friend claims to have seen this sign ten years ago:


(Nod to Angry Alex)

Florida: Home of Bestiality and Butt Cracks

Oh, golly. I was going to do this as "Not the Onion," but what's the point? The Florida legislature, facing a variety of problems with the budget, immigration, and education, have decided to solve the two most pressing problems. I am absolutely not making this up. These are both actual, frequently observerd problems in Florida. Check the story:

1. Also passed by the House and Senate Wednesday is the so-called "droopy drawers bill" (SB 228), will will force students to hike up their pants while at school.

Students caught showing their underwear or butt crack could face suspensions and other punishments.


2. Bestiality: The bestiality bill (SB 344) bans sexual activity between humans and animals and has been championed for years by Sen. Nan Rich, from Sunrise.

Rich took up the anti-bestiality fight after a number of cases involving sexual activity with animals in recent years, including a Panhandle man who was suspected of accidentally asphyxiating a family goat during a sex act and the abuse of a horse in the Keys. The bill would make such acts a first-degree misdemeanor.

You might want to watch this again:

I don't have a bestiality video to show you. Sorry.

The 244,000

All in all a decent jobs report. 244,000 net new jobs in total, 268,000 net new private sector jobs. 29,000 new jobs in manufacturing and the median duration of a spell of unemployment fell below 21 weeks for the first time in over a year. However the overall unemployment rate did rise back up to 9%.

All The News That Fits Our Ideological Bias?

Being The New York Times: The Political Behaviour of a Newspaper

Riccardo Puglisi
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, April 2011

Abstract: I analyse a dataset of news from The New York Times, from 1946 to 1997.
Controlling for the activity of the incumbent president and the U.S. Congress across issues, I find that during a presidential campaign, The New York Times gives more emphasis to topics on which the Democratic party is perceived as more competent (civil rights, health care, labor and social welfare) when the incumbent president is a Republican. This is consistent with the hypothesis that The New York Times has a Democratic partisanship, with some "anti-incumbent" aspects, in that - during a presidential campaign - it gives more emphasis to issues over which the (Republican) incumbent is weak. To the extent that the interest of readers across issues is not systematically related with the political affiliation of the incumbent president and the election cycle, the observed changes in news coverage are consistent with The New York Times departing from demand-driven news coverage. In fact, I show that these findings are robust to controlling for Gallup data on the most important problem facing the country, which I use as a proxy for issue tastes of Times' readers.


Partisan bias in economic news: Evidence on the agenda-setting behavior of
U.S. newspapers

Valentino Larcinese, Riccardo Puglisi & James Snyder
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: We study the agenda-setting political behavior of a large sample of U.S.
newspapers during the 1996-2005 period. Our purpose is to examine the intensity of coverage of economic issues as a function of the underlying economic conditions and the political affiliation of the incumbent president, focusing on unemployment, inflation, the federal budget and the trade deficit. We investigate whether there is any significant correlation between the endorsement policy of newspapers, and the differential coverage of bad/good economic news as a function of the president's political affiliation. We find evidence that newspapers with pro-Democratic endorsement pattern systematically give more coverage to high unemployment when the incumbent president is a Republican than when the president is Democratic, compared to newspapers with pro-Republican endorsement pattern. This result is robust to controlling for the partisanship of readers. We find similar but less robust results for the trade deficit. We also find some evidence that newspapers cater to the partisan tastes of readers in the coverage of the budget deficit. We find no evidence of a partisan bias - or at least of a bias that is correlated with the endorsement or reader partisanship - for stories on inflation.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Nick G and Russ R Discuss FotC

Nick (I can't call him "the Jacket," 'cause he gave it up) Gillespie interviews Russ Roberts.

Nod to Angry Alex

From Madison, NJ

Simon and Garfunkel? Pikers. Gilbert and Sullivan? Don't make me laugh.

From the set of FotC, at Drew University, a candid of the mighty Russ Roberts and Mungowitz podcast duo. (19 albums and still workin!) No, Russ is not standing in a hole.

(Thanks to Jeff Boyd for the pic. Jeff also sent this article about the shoot).

Jeff Miron on How to Balance the Budget

(with apologies to AJ):
Sounds simple.
That's what you're thinkin'.
But entitlements can walk through fire without blinkin'.
Doesn't take much, when you get enough,
Livin' on debt.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The uncensored econometrician

Yesterday in econometrics I, a student asked me "how do you know if you have an endogeneity problem?"

My reply:

"When you are reading the referee report on your paper and it says that some of your explanatory variables are 'clearly endogenous' and require instrumentation!"

Then another student asked, "how do you know you've solved your endogeneity problem?"

Me: "When you get the letter from the journal editor saying that your paper is accepted for publication".

Recession Sessions

What an interesting album.

Not for all fans, I suppose. The idea of "financial folk" is pretty odd.

Almost heaven

"A West Virginia man found wearing women's underwear and standing over a goat's carcass told police he was high on bath salts.

Mark L. Thompson of Alum Creek was arrested at his home Monday. A criminal complaint in Kanawha County Magistrate Court charges the 19-year-old with cruelty to animals.

Sheriff's Deputy J.S. Shackelford says witnesses reported Thompson standing near a neighbor's pygmy goat in a bedroom. He was wearing a bra and female underwear. The goat, a male named Bailey, had at least one stab wound."

1. Isn't a bra already "female underwear"?

2. bath salts? Party tonight at Bath & Bodyworks people!!!

3. do you snort, inject, drink, or just marinate in the bath salts to get high?

Full article (self recommending), including mug shot is here. I would have posted the mug shot, but didn't want Mungowitz to rip me for doing so!

Interesting If True

I had wondered how the famously indecisive BHO had so quickly given the go ahead for the OBL raid.

Maybe I have watched too much "West Wing," but this sounds plausible.

Of course, West Wing was FICTION. And this may be fiction also.


I was told – in these exact terms, “we overruled him.” (Obama) I have since followed up and received further details on exactly what that meant, as well as the specifics of how Leon Panetta worked around the president’s “persistent hesitation to act.” There appears NOT to have been an outright overruling of any specific position by President Obama, simply because there was no specific position from the president to do so. President Obama was, in this case, as in all others, working as an absentee president.

As always, ATSRTWT

(nod to the lovely Blonde)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Rob Kendall Wins!

KPC friend and long-time radio impresario Rob Kendall actually WON his primary election for City Council in Brownsburg, Indiana.

Who says that an honest guy who works hard can't win elections, even if he cares about liberty and the Constituion? (I don't want to kill him, so let me point out he is NOT a Libertarian, but is a Republican. Still, he does care about liberty).

Well done, Rob my man! Vote count: Rob Kendall: 712 -- Bill Guarnery: 383.
Landslide Rob!

I like this account of the debate:

Guarnery had the floor first and issued a statement through a spokesperson.

“I fully support our Town Manager Dale Cheatham and our town,” he said.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps veteran has built his campaign around his solid attendance in council meetings, council experience, and 18 years as a resident and taxpayer of Brownsburg. Through his spokesperson, he disputed numbers regarding the town’s debt and budget put forth by Kendall saying, “Challengers in this race are liable to say anything.”

Anything? Like, maybe, the TRUTH! He is bragging about his attendance, and he didn't show up for the debate? Or is he mute? The spokesperson thing is odd.
(Ol' Bill looks a little like Gordon Tullock. I was the 760th visitor to his website; not a good sign.)

Well done Rob!

Fraud! Fraud most FOUL....

A fraud was perpetrated. A most foul fraud.

It was perpetrated by...ME! How embarrassing.

Convinced that "Curt" was just some troll, whining about being denied his prize, I checked, and....darn.

The following people appear to have qualified to win the prize, but got...nothing.

Scott E.
Susan S.
Christoph B.
Curt G.

So, send me an email to mcmunger at gmail dot com, with a physical address, and I'll immediately send you signed "rubber glove" photo, AND a vintage (long hair) MM4NCGOV bumper sticker, with my apologies.

And, Curt G., way to nurse that (fully justified) grudge for almost two years. Instead of sending a follow up email (Where's my damned shirt!?) you nailed me good. You are right, and I was wrong. Well played.

Hmmm? What? HEY!

Our Treasury Sec'y thought you were too busy celebrating state sponsored murder in an act of war on allied country to notice.

So he snuck this one in on you.

While you were busy reading up on that other thing, Tim Geithner decided to give himself an extension on the debt limit. The Treasury originally set the deadline date to stop borrowing for July 8. But now Geithner says that by taking "extraordinary measures," the agency can keep borrowing until August 2, after reaching its $14.29 trillion debt ceiling by May 16. In a letter to Congress today, Geithner said that "stronger-than-expected tax receipts" would allow more borrowing room if the limit isn't raised in the next two weeks.

(Nod to Anonyman)

and that's the name of that tune

Osama Enchanted Evening: The Assassination WILL be Live-Tweeted

Not really a Keith Olbermann fan.

But this is well done. And the live tweet bit is quite interesting, if it's real. (Not saying it's real, just passing on the link). (Though, there is this...)

There is also the "Obama Bin Laden" thing, which also appears to be real. But not sure why people are giving Fox News such a hard time. Check this: (Screen shot taken at 9:20 a.m. on May 3, 2011)

Now, sure, I understand that Time was saying that Obama struck bin Laden. But it says, plain as day, "Obama bin Laden." Yes, they changed it, on the web site, but how about some equal treatment?

These idiots, for example, are going after Fox for making a mistake. Well, where is the outrage about Time, then?

FOTC In the Southern Germany Times

Frequent (but usually totally wrong!) commenter Martin Kypta sends this note:

just wanted to tell you that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung had a nice article on Fight of the Century on the front page of the second economy section yesterday. However, they did not mention you. Instead, there is an article about Warren Buffett below. Sheesh!

And this time (perhaps for the first time) he was right! (Link for German readers)

Books a Million?

A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).

At first I thought it was a joke – a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each be offered for well over a million dollars. And the two sellers seemed not only legit, but fairly big time (over 8,000 and 125,000 ratings in the last year respectively). The prices looked random – suggesting they were set by a computer. But how did they get so out of whack?

Amazingly, when I reloaded the page the next day, both priced had gone UP! Each was now nearly $2.8 million. And whereas previously the prices were $400,000 apart, they were now within $5,000 of each other. Now I was intrigued, and I started to follow the page incessantly. By the end of the day the higher priced copy had gone up again. This time to $3,536,675.57. And now a pattern was emerging.


(Nod to Leonard S)

Monday, May 02, 2011

What Is Classical Liberalism?

Nigel Ashford answers. A seven minute video.

As you can see/hear, Dr. Ashford tends to think of classical liberals as minarchists, and not anarchists. I agree, but that opinion is by no means universally held.


l'affaire OBL: Nicely summarized by my friend Ed Cone. You gotta like the Al Jazera take on things.

Ross Douthat likewise is what I like: wise.

Opportunity Cost

Amazing. One of our problems is that "expense" is mostly effort and annual budget. Real cost, OPPORTUNITY cost, hardly enters the calculations of government officials at all.

As a result, "we" own a bunch of stupid, useless, wasted spaces in buildings all over the U.S. Because selling them would require that someone get off their ass. And because it would reduce the power of the agency that owns the space. Whereas the money just goes to reduce the burden on taxpayers. And nobody gives a *%&$ about that.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Obvious, But It Needed to be Said

A Test of Racial Bias in Capital Sentencing

Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara
NBER Working Paper, April 2011

Abstract: This paper proposes a test of racial bias in capital sentencing based upon patterns of judicial errors in lower courts. We model the behavior of the trial court as minimizing a weighted sum of the probability of sentencing an innocent and that of letting a guilty defendant free. We define racial bias as a situation where the relative weight on the two types of errors is a function of defendant and/or victim race. The key prediction of the model is that if the court is unbiased, ex post the error rate should be independent of the combination of defendant and victim race. We test this prediction using an original dataset that contains the race of the defendant and of the victim(s) for all capital appeals that became final between 1973 and 1995. We find robust evidence of bias against minority defendants who killed white victims: In Direct Appeal and Habeas Corpus the probability of error in these cases is 3 and 9 percentage points higher, respectively, than for minority defendants who killed minority victims.

My own view: Capital Punishment should be abolished immediately
1. It's barbaric (I won't insult you with a link. It's obvious that the state should not have the power to murder a helpless unarmed person entirely in its power. If you come to my house and break in, I will shoot you, multiple times, with a large caliber weapon. But that's self-defense. Capital punishment is obviously murder).
2. It's racially biased. We mostly kill black people. (See above, or just read the damned newspaper in Texas)
3. It's economically biased. If you can afford a real attorney, you'll get life in prison. And public defenders simply cannot possibly give a real defense.
4. It's more expensive. Cheaper to pay for lifetime incarceration than to pay for all the appeals after the fact. We provide little for actual trial expenses, but then pay millions for appeals after the trial has been botched.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Mugshot of the Day

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a "mugshot of the day" website.

I would say that this violates the 8th Amendment. Not because the pix are humiliating, but because these people have NOT been convicted of any crime.

Having said that: I vote for either Mallory or Angelica. Mallory is pretty darned pissed, and Angelica is a bit too happy.
(Click on the photo for a more humiliating image)
I do think that "Richard Joe" deserves some love.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

IQ and Law Scoffing

Not sure about this study, by my good friend John Nye. Summary from WSJ:

George Mason University economists Garett Jones and J.V.C. Nye set out to solve a riddle: What makes someone likely to obey the law in situations where there’s no chance for punishment? Before 2003, diplomats enjoyed just this type of impunity when parking on city streets. Hundreds of United Nations representatives and foreign consulate officials in New York were free to ignore parking tickets issued by police without fear that their vehicles would be impounded.

A federal law took effect in 2003 giving local authorities the power to pull diplomatic plates from cars with too many unpaid tickets, introducing the first real consequence. Unpaid tickets plummeted as a result. But even in the freewheeling era of diplomatic immunity, not every nation’s diplomats ignored parking tickets just because they could. As the economists note:

Delegations differed widely in their scofflaw tendencies: The median diplomat averaged 8 unpaid tickets per year, the standard deviation was 33 tickets per year, and the maximum was 250 per year (from the Kuwaiti delegation).

The study itself...

Would have thought that "IQ" would be standing in for a national culture of rule of law, and voluntary cooperation. In other words, market systems.

So my hypothesis is that countries with highly developed market systems would be those that have fewer parking tickets. The "IQ" correlation is spurious.


Is Monogamy an Equilibrium?

System justification and the defense of committed relationship ideology

Martin Day et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract: A consequential ideology in Western society is the uncontested belief that a committed relationship is the most important adult relationship and that almost all people want to marry or seriously couple (DePaulo & Morris, 2005). In the present article, we investigated the extent to which the system justification motive may contribute to the adoption of this ideology. In Studies 1 and 2, we examined whether a heightened motive to maintain the status quo would increase defense of committed relationship values. In Study 3, we examined the reverse association, that is, whether a threat to committed relationship ideology would also affect sociopolitical system endorsement. As past research has found that the justification of political systems depends upon how much these systems are perceived as controlling, in Study 4 we tested whether the defense of the system of committed
relationships would also increase when framed as controlling. Results from Studies 1–4 were consistent with our hypotheses, but only for men. In Study 5, using cross-cultural data, we sought to replicate these findings correlationally and probe for a cause of the gender effect. Results from more than 33,000 respondents indicated a relationship (for men) between defense of the sociopolitical system and defense of marriage in countries where the traditional advantages of men over women were most threatened. In Studies 6 and 7, we investigated when this gender difference disappears. Results revealed that when we measured (Study 6) or manipulated (Study 7) personal relationship identity rather than relationship ideology, effects also emerge for women.


Power Increases Infidelity among Men and Women

Joris Lammers et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Using a large survey among 1561 professionals, the current research examines the relationship between power and infidelity and the process underlying it. Results show that elevated power is associated with higher infidelity because of increased confidence in the ability to attract partners. This is found for both actual infidelity and intentions to engage in infidelity in the future. Importantly, gender does not moderate these results: the relationship between power and infidelity is the same for women as for men, and for the same reason. These findings suggests that the common assumption (and often found effect) that women are less likely to engage in infidelity than men is, at least partially, a reflection of traditionally gender-based differences in power that exist in society.


Social Inclusion Facilitates Risky Mating Behavior in Men

Donald Sacco et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract: Although past research has reliably established unique effects of social exclusion on human cognition and behavior, the current research focuses on the unique effects of social inclusion. Recent evidence indicates that social inclusion leads to enhanced prioritization of reproductive interests. The current study extends these findings by showing that the pursuit of these inclusion-induced reproductive goals occurs in sex-specific ways. Across three experiments, social inclusion led men, but not women, to endorse riskier, more aggressive mating strategies compared to control and socially excluded participants. Specifically, included men were more likely to endorse sexual aggression (Experiment 1), high-risk mate poaching behaviors (Experiment 2), and high-risk mate retention tactics (Experiment 3). These results demonstrate that the experience of social inclusion can affect sex-differentiated preferences for risky mating strategies.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Not the Onion

One of these is made up. Which?

Mayor Bloomberg: Sure, we have too many immigrants. The solution is to forcibly remove all of Detroit! (Link)

Preemptive zombie arrest in London, to protect Royal Wedding party. They weren't even protesting, or doing anything (they were zombies, after all), but they were arrested because police thought they might do something. "We've been pre-emptively arrested under suspicion of planning a breach of the peace," (a zombie said)from the police van. "We went to Starbucks to get a coffee and the police followed us in." "We were just dressing up as zombies," said Amy, who was wearing a "marry me instead" T-shirt. "It is nice to dress up as zombies." (Link)

Man beaten up, police cordon off area, but call bystanders over to look. “All right, folks, something for you to see here, check this out,” said patrolman Brian Pearson, who arrived on the scene and instructed onlookers to “just push past that yellow tape there for a better look.” (Link)

Matt Yglesias comes out and admits it: he is frightened of the very idea of Oklahoma. "Oklahoma City crowd is kind of terrifying." (Link)

"A College of Your Own: All academics should blog." Says young untenured academic who blogs. (Link)

I Can Be Flexible...I Know Brad Is!

Brad DeLong raises some questions about the characterization of Keynes as an advocate of "central planning." (Brad DeLong's "Grasping His Winky with Both Hands" blog)

And then turns into a textual critic/ deconstructionist, examining Keynes's writings.

He may have a point, but it seems to me this is like comparing Marx and Marxists.

Marx was interesting, but Marxists are mostly thugs and totalitarians.

It is certainly true that Keynes himself was flexible (As Frankenfurter put it, "I know Brad is!") on both his economic beliefs and his bouncy-bouncy partners. And good for him. I admire Keynes.

But the people who advocate central planning in the U.S. call themselves Keynesians. And, in my opinion, they are Keynesians. Their views are derived from Keynes, in ways that are plausible and in the spirit of Keynes's own work.

So, Dr. DeLong...please. The distinction you are trying to make is foolishly pedantic, even for a foolish pedant like you.

UPDATE: Steven H gets it right. And said it better than I did. Because he is smarter and nicer. Well, smarter.

Office or Policy?

Are Politicians Office or Policy Motivated? The Case of U.S. Governors’
Environmental Policies

Per Fredriksson, Le Wang & Khawaja Mamun
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, forthcoming

Abstract: Are elected politicians primarily motivated by holding office, thus choosing environmental policies accordingly? Or are they motivated by the chance to implement their preferred environmental policies? Do governors have character, in the sense that they promise and implement environmental policies consistent with their own preferences? To answer these questions, we study the differences in environmental spending across both re-electable and lame duck governors from the two main political parties. In our empirical analysis, we make use of parametric and non-parametric regression-discontinuity approaches. While re-electable governors do not set significantly different policies, lame duck governors do. We argue that in
the area of environmental policy governors appear to be primarily office motivated and lack character.

I love the last sentence. In other news, the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, and water is wet.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

When You Gots a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail

Some background.
(Cannot vouch for accuracy of account, just passing it on for what it's worth)

Nod to Tony B

1,000,000 th KPC visitor: Mid June

Sometime in Mid-June, we'll have our 1 millionth visitor. And we need suggestions on how to celebrate. You may recall that our 500k th visitor was in September 2009. So, it took 5.5 years to get to 500k (mostly without Angus) and only a little less than two years to get from 500k to 1 million (with Angus). I think the Angus factor has a pretty important role here in the explanation of hits/month.

So, I think that lucky millionth visitor should get a FAAAABULOUS prize from Angus and from me. BUT that visitor will have to know s/he is the 1 millionth visitor, and will have to send us an email identifying her/himself. (And we can tell, from the IP address, where your physical location is, on Sitemeter, so fraud should not be easy).

I already know what I'll be sending out to that lucky winner. A signed, and tastefully framed, copy of this memorable moment:

But what should Angus do? A picture of Mr. 2T riding a whale?

Thank you Uncle Sam

The Feds have done me a big favor by shutting down internet poker. Now the internet player have come out of their mom's basements and descended on physical casinos!

And us second hand-smoke-victim-Native-American-casino players are welcoming them with open arms.

It's been the talk of the poker room the past two weekends; story after story about how some "internet player" donked off all their chips in a mad bluff or by calling pot sized bets to chase a thin draw that never came.

They pretty much all dress alike, so its easy to spot them even before the action starts: slanted, filthy ballcaps, Affliction t-shirts, and improbable facial hair.

I've been the beneficiary of this internet largesse, and it's pretty fun.

So I ask my dear Uncle to please keep enforcing the "no online poker" ban!