Saturday, May 28, 2011

Williams Hoax, But Still True Conclusion

So, there's list of ten reasons why BHO will win, written by my friend Dr. Walter Williams (better friend of long-time GMU colleague Angus, of course, but still my friend).

Except that it's a silly hoax. Really.

Except that in fact the conclusion is correct, and I said so months ago. BHO cannot lose the election, now that the idiot Repubs took the House. No one will vote Repub after being reminded what a bunch of fakes and frauds the US House is led by.

Oh, yes, I did go there.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I have always liked Veronique. A tough lady. And quick with the whole numbers and evidence thing.

Some questions....

Just some questions that occur to me.

1. Is President Obama going to demand that the U.S. negotiate with Mexico based on the 1840 borders? Are we going to return the occupied "North Bank" of the Rio Grande? After all, it is the traditional home of the Mexican people, many of them speak Spanish, and thousands have crossed the border illegally so they can live in their ancestral homeland. We are putting more and more settlements in the region, but it's not clear that ethnic Mexicans should have to endorse this blatant land grab. I'm sure the French would like Obama him more for insisting on a Mexican "right of return" to this region. And the President appears to be running for President of France.

2. Many of Scotty McCreery's votes, by some estimates up to 60%, came from women in the 40-60 age range. Let me ask this: suppose that Lauren Alaina had won, and most of HER votes had come from 40-60 year old men. Wouldn't we all have found that really creepy? Both Scotty and Lauren are 16, so the comparison is fair. Why is it okay for middle aged women to lurk a 16 year old boy? Ick.

3. Is it the end of the world, for real? People laughed at the folks who thought the world would end on May 21st at 6 pm. But it may still happen. The LMM threw away a pair of shoes, and I don't believe she bought an offsetting new pair. That reduces her reserve to just under 400 pairs of shoes. So, I ask again, is it the end of the world?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

FDA: Feed the Dim Administrators

Sometimes I wonder if the FDA sucks as much as I think the FDA sucks.

And, it turns that it DOES.

An article, "Medical Devices: Lost in Regulation," by retired medical device researcher Paul Citron in the Spring 2011 Issues in Science and Technology [downloadable here] argues:

Although the United States is still home to numerous medical device companies, these companies no longer bring cutting-edge innovations to U.S. patients first. And U.S. clinical researchers now often find themselves merely validating thea pioneering work that is increasingly being done in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Worse still, seriously ill patients in the United States are now among the last in the world to receive medical innovations that have secured regulatory approval and clinical acceptance elsewhere in the developed world.

Citron cites several cases in which European patients benefited from early access to new medical devices: Deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson's disease by 44 months; a ventricular support device to improve circulation by 29 months; a pacemaker device to manage irregular contractions in failing hearts by 30 months. Why is this happening? Citron maintains:

What's behind this erosion of leadership and late access to innovations? Simply stated, an overreaching, overly burdensome, and sometimes irrelevant Food and Drug Administration regulatory process for the most sophisticated new medical devices.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fear of Crime=>Purchase of Gun

Note that if the state actually did the only job that we really want from us, which is to protect us from bad people, this would not be true.

The effect of perceived risk and victimization on plans to purchase a gun for self-protection

Gary Kleck et al., Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

Purposes: To determine if perceived risk of criminal victimization, and past criminal victimization experiences, increases the likelihood of a person owning a gun for self-protection, and to determine if defects in past research concerning the way gun ownership was measured had obscured such effects.

Methods: We analyzed data on over 2,500 U.S. adults, using different ways of measuring gun ownership, and also analyzed future plans (among persons who did not own a gun at the time of the survey) to acquire a gun for self-protection. The latter procedure avoids the causal order problem attributable to the possibility that acquiring a gun might affect victimization risks and perceived risks, as well as the reverse.

Results: The estimated effect of perceived risk and prior victimization changed from being nonsignificant when household gun ownership was the dependent variable (as in most prior research) to being increasingly strong, and statistically significant, when gun ownership of the individual respondent for defensive reasons was measured. Further, once the causal order issue was side-stepped, risk and victimization showed even stronger, significant positive effects on planning to get a gun.

Conclusions: Crime affects gun ownership, in addition to any effects that gun ownership may have on crime.

Two friends of mine have written books on this. They disagree, with each other at least.

John Lott

Kristin Goss

Nod to Kevin Lewis

The New "Don't Go To College" Scholarship

Don't go to college, do get $100,000

The winners were announced today for a new fellowship that has sparked heated debate in academic circles for questioning the value of higher education and suggesting that some entrepreneurial students may be better off leaving college.

Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, will pay each of the 24 winners of his Thiel Fellowship $100,000 not to attend college for two years and to develop business ideas instead.

The fellows, all 20 years old or younger, will leave institutions including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University, to work with a network of more than 100 Silicon Valley mentors and further develop their ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education, and energy.

More than 400 people applied for the fellowship, and 45 of them were flown out to San Francisco in late March to present their ideas to Thiel's foundation and the network of Silicon Valley mentors.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paying For It: Laws and Norms

Do laws affect attitudes? An assessment of the Norwegian prostitution law
using longitudinal data

Andreas Kotsadam & Niklas Jakobsson
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: The question of whether laws affect attitudes has inspired scholars across many disciplines, but empirical knowledge is sparse. Using longitudinal survey data from Norway and Sweden, collected before and after the implementation of a Norwegian law criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, we assess the short-run effects on attitudes using a difference-in-differences approach. In the general population, the law did not affect moral attitudes toward prostitution. However, in the Norwegian
capital, where prostitution was more visible before the reform, the law made people more negative toward buying sex. This supports the claim that proximity and visibility are important factors for the internalization of legal norms.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Crime is Falling

FALLING. And that is true even though our idiot lawmakers insist on continuing to make more and more idiot laws.

LeBron has some details, and the link.

Gary Johnson

That cute Will W writes about Gary Johnson in the Economist.

Mr Paul and the tea-party movement are each in their separate ways creatures of Cold War-era conservative-libertarian "fusionism", which remains a powerful ideological and institutional force on the right. In contrast, Mr Johnson comes off as a post-fusionist, libertarian-leaning fiscal conservative. The very existence of such a creature heartens me, but it remains that there exists in our culture no popular, pre-packaged political identity that celebrates and defines itself in terms of these laudable tendencies. "Liberaltarian" pragmatism has no electoral future in the absence of support from social movements and institutions dedicated to promoting it. Mr Johnson's main contribution during the race for the Republican nomination may be simply to show voters that the lonely ground on which he stands is there to stand on. And that's quite worthwhile. But I don't think the MSM has been out of line in treating him as even more of a long-shot than, say, Tim Pawlenty, a similarly uncharismatic but recognisably conservative ex-governor.

Wascawy Wabbit Seller!

This is almost unbelivable. He stopped. He stopped selling rabbits. Now they fine him.

Because they can. Make an example of him. That sort of thing.

If it was so important to shut him down, why didn't they shut him down? They did nothing, except impose a fine long after he stopped the activity.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

You're So Vain, You Probly Think This Post is About You

No good deed goes unquestioned: Cynical reconstruals maintain belief in the
power of self-interest

Clayton Critcher & David Dunning
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract: In four studies, we examined how people maintain beliefs that self-interest is a strong determinant of behavior, even in the face of disconfirming evidence. People reflecting on selfless behavior tend to reconstrue it in terms of self-interested motives, but do not similarly scrutinize selfish behaviors for selfless motives. Study 1 found that people react to new information that selfless behavior is common by interpreting it as more reflective of self-interest. Studies 2a and 2b, applying a Bayesian analysis, demonstrated that people see "too much" self-interest in seemingly selfless actions, given their prior beliefs, but see the predicted amount of self-interest in seemingly selfish actions. This demonstrates that people do not possess internally consistent belief systems, but rather undue cynicism. In Study 3, participants read about real philanthropists whose acts of generosity had been heralded by major news outlets. As participants spent more time considering why such philanthropy was performed, they formed more cynical impressions of the philanthropists' motives. Beyond offering insight into why belief in the norm of self-interest persists, these studies introduce a novel route by which beliefs resist disconfirmation.

Reminds me of Gordon's old paper...

It's The Expenditures, Stupid!

(Nod to Tim Hedberg, at IHS)

Will the Fair Tax Raise Cain?

Herman Cain is a big fan of the "Fair Tax."

Me, I'm not so sure. We have to cut spending. Taxes are a secondary consideration.

Anonyman is not so sure the math adds up. Me, either.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cross Talk: Arab Spring?

Alon Ben-Meir, Daniel Pipes, and I were on Cross-Talk.

Wanting Money is Okay; A Golden Toilet is Not Okay

Moral Signals, Public Outrage, and Immaterial Harms

David Tannenbaum, Eric Luis Uhlmann & Daniel Diermeier
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:Public outrage is often triggered by "immaterially" harmful acts (i.e., acts with relatively negligible consequences). A well-known example involves corporate salaries and perks: they generate public outrage yet their financial cost is relatively minor. The present research explains this paradox by appealing to a person-centered approach to moral judgment. Strong moral reactions can occur when relatively harmless acts provide highly diagnostic information about moral character. Studies 1a and 1b first demonstrate dissociation between moral evaluations of persons and their actions - although violence toward a human was viewed as a more blameworthy act than violence toward an animal, the latter was viewed as more revealing of bad moral character. Study 2 then shows that person-centered cues directly influence moral judgments - participants preferred to hire a more expensive CEO when the alternative candidate requested a frivolous perk as
part of his compensation package, an effect mediated by the informativeness of his request.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Not the Onion?

1. WOMAN STOOD UP IN GLOUCESTER; NOW PREGNANT: British couple arrested for having public sex against the wall of the police station in Gloucester, England. According to the arresting officer: "Mr Moore's trousers were around his ankles and Miss Howell had a pile of clothing beside her. We were called from the station and it seems they had a measure of difficulty disengaging Miss Howell and Mr Moore from their activity...They were arrogant and aggressive and said 'If you don't want to look, you don't have to.'"

During the scuffle that followed as police tried to arrest them, both officers were slightly injured. Lisa Ellis, defending, said Moore and Howell were in a relationship together. "They had a couple of drinks and got carried away," she said. Miss Howell is now pregnant, and apparently will NOT be naming the baby "Gloucester." (LINK)

2. ET PHONES JIA: "Everybody from fund managers to jet-setting diplomats is talking about the world's center of gravity shifting to Asia. Now, extraterrestrials appear to be taking notice, too...'It's not surprising, really,' says Debhanom Muangman, a 75-year-old Harvard-educated physician and one of Thailand's leading UFO investigators. 'Aliens have been coming to Asia for decades, but now they sense a change. This is where the progressive countries are, so they are coming here much more often now.'" (LINK)

3. HAIR: New rash of thefts of hair and hair extensions. Ebay blamed for increased of ease of selling hair, because of course you want to rub up against hair that you buy from someone on Ebay. "During the past two months alone, robbers in quest of human hair have killed a beauty shop supplier in Michigan and carried out heists nationwide in which they have made off with tens of thousands of dollars of hair at a time." (LINK)

Nod to Tommy the Brit and to Kevin Lewis

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Highway Robbery

Angry Alex is en fuego. Thanks for the link....

Amazingly brazen. The great part is that the cops actually steal it from each other. And they ONLY try to get the money. Don't care at all about drugs.

We are about 3 years from being Northern Mexico. The temptation to steal drug money, illegally or "legally" as these Tennessee ubergropintheives are doing, is too much.

Grand Game: Hoosier 4th Amendment Edition

I am incredulous about many things in this case.

And it turns out that the Attorney General, who in principle benefits from the decision, actually had the juevos to ask Bozo and the Clown Court to think this over. This judge is Mitch Daniels' big achievement, as a nomination? I'm glad Daniels dropped out of the Prez race. One fewer Constitution-breaker for me to hate. The judge who wrote the opinion, Steven David, is an idiot. Don't take my word for it; it says so on the interwebs, and so it must be true.

The first point is that this was clearly within the scope of probable cause. No 4th Amendment issue need be raised. The Indiana Court is just engaging in recreational judicial legislation. It's not (just) that they got it wrong, THERE WAS NO ISSUE THEY HAD TO ADDRESS.

But they also got it way wrong. The point is not that there is a remedy for false arrest and home invasion. The point is that there has to be a presumption that protects citizens from harrassment and to be secure in their homes and their possessions. "They can sue"? Are you kidding me? Sovereign immunity protections aside, even if that WERE somehow a remedy, the 4th Amendment is explicit, and the body of court decisions is clear. I don't have to sue, because the cops can't come in. And if they do come in, they can't use the evidence. End of story.

Yes, in THIS case they had probable cause, and could have entered. But that's what's so outrageous about writing a 4th Amendment opinion on these facts. You can't freakin' amend the Constitution just because in your opinion another remedy has become available. And, again, let me point out that this is a "conservative" court. God save us from conservatives, as Dan pointed out.

Jeez. Am I going to have to vote for Obama? Cause that's messed up. But we need liberal judges, on both state and national courts, to stop this erosion of our most basic, and until now settled, civil rights.

Nod to Angry Alex. Thanks!

A Guest Blog: Best and Worst World Economies

(While Angus is out...Uganda Africa Again?....I'm accepting guest blogs, even those with opposing views on globalization. So, here you go!)

Comparing the Best and Worst World Economies (by Jeremy Fordham)

Economies thrive when a country has something to sell that the rest of the world wants. Whether it's animal, vegetable or mineral, or in the case of a service economy, human, trade creates wealth. One would think that the richest nations would be the ones with the most natural resources, but it's not necessarily true. For example, Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds, but has a GDP per capita of only $6,000.

Once a country identifies its resources, it must have the infrastructure to develop them and the political will to build that infrastructure. This can be done in two ways. One is to use public money for building roads, rails and ports to transport resources to market. The other way countries can grow their infrastructure is by creating trade and tax policies, which foster respect for human rights and the rule of law and will attract businesses to invest and develop the resources, creating wealth for both the companies and the host countries.

The U.S. has been enormously successful by all of these methods, with a public infrastructure that supports business, trade policies that attract foreign investment and one of the world's best human rights records. On the other hand, the Democratic Republic Congo, which is the poorest country on earth, has failed miserably at all three. The country has almost no infrastructure for developing and transporting resources. Likewise, it repels foreign business investment with one of the worst, most violent strings of mass human rights violations on the planet.

As anyone who has studied economics will tell you, there are similarities and differences between the richest and poorest economies. However the differences are stark when viewed statistically. According to the International Monetary Fund, the United States still leads the top ten economies in the world, with a 2010 GDP per capita of $47,400. At the other end of the spectrum, the Democratic Republic of Congo has a GDP per capita of $332. Yet both are republics. Both are rich in natural resources. The U.S. sits on vast deposits of coal, oil, natural gas and minerals. The Congo has oil, natural gas, gold and magnesium in abundance. Why then is the U.S. so rich and the Congo so poor?

One of the major reasons may be that the Congo's $24 trillion in mineral resources also fuels political corruption, and with no infrastructure to speak of, there is no support for industry. Violence prevents businesses from investing and extracting the resources that would make the country rich. This is a problem for many poorer economies in Africa, from Rwanda to Niger.

However countries that have no resources to sell, are small in geographical area, and isolated from the rest of the world have the worst lot of all. Though Nepal is home to Mt. Everest, its people live on an average of less than two dollars a day. Somalia, riven by political violence and with 73 percent of its population living in poverty, has found an unlikely source of income: piracy.

Yet Japan, which is also isolated, geographically small and resource-poor has the third best economy in the world, according to the CIA. Though Japan is a small island, it has invested all over the world in developing resources far from its shores. Technological innovation, a strong work ethic, high educational standards and research and development by industry led it to topple the U.S. "big three" car companies when it developed economy cars during the gas crisis of the 1970s. Following the market, Japanese car companies built factories in the U.S. to accommodate demand.

Undoubtedly geography and environment play an important role in shaping an economy, no matter what the level of natural resources and human determination. Siberia has untold mineral wealth beneath its frozen tundra. Yet it's the frozen tundra that makes them difficult to extract. On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates has vast oceans of oil under its sands that are extremely easy to access. As a result, the UAE has soaring skyscrapers and hotels shaped like sailboats, while Siberia has, well, snow and an economy that ranks 51st in the world.

As climate change progresses, weather and accessibility to clean water will have important impacts on economies. Climate change is one of the great levelers among countries. All countries need to be able to grow food and ship goods. The increasing severity and frequency of floods and storms may wipe out crops and destroy roads and bridges. Likewise, a lack of water for growing populations in some areas will also become a problem that nearly every country will have to face.

In the meantime, trade policy has had a great effect on both poor and rich economies, and not always for the better. When the push for "globalization" began in the 1980s, American businesses shipped jobs and then entire industries overseas into low-priced labor markets. The result of outsourcing has been that the economies of China and India have surged, while the U.S. economy has stagnated and wages have dropped.

Last but not least, the level of education and accessibility of health care affect the vibrancy of a nation's economy, which cannot thrive in the long term without a healthy and intelligent workforce. Here the U.S. suffers, as its education rankings have sunk to 36th in the world, right next to Poland and Estonia. Similarly, Although the U.S. has the most expensive health care in the world, the World Health Organization ranks it 37th for effectiveness, which is about as effective as Costa Rica's health system (which is not near as costly).

It appears that gaps between some of the richest and poorest economies are gradually closing. China was once a fountain of cheap goods for America's insatiable consumers, yet now the country owns much of America's debt. Countries with high populations of young people like India are surging in economic power, while America's aging infrastructure, high deficits and continued outsourcing drain its buying power. It will be interesting to see what country will be the economic "superpower" in another ten years.