Saturday, June 04, 2011

Links and Links

Spontaneous order in Alabama: talk radio and aid announcements in Spanish

Tanning beds, no question. And other stuff with Bob Lee.

Darned microphone. Republicans broadcast "secret" meeting into press room...

Peak Volts? Limited supply of ridiculous car allows dealers to get their own charge from tax credit...

Docs and Glocks in FLA: I like the part about over-ruling the state bird.

Surely this is a hoax? And don't call me Shirley.

Are you experienced? Facebook: arbiter of what can be said, and how.

Make your own jokes: solar iKini made from many "waffer thin" panels

Finally, no gag, just gift: Free hugs (video, work safe)

(Nod to Angry Alex and the Blonde)

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Grand Game: Medical School Edition

A truly remarkable proposal: make med school free, but make specialties really, really expensive. Read it here, comment you know where. My own view: If you think doctors are maximizing the following function:

Income = f(x) + $155,0000 (Where x is choice of specialty)

Then the same x will maximize the following function:

Income = f(x) + $0

In other words, it cannot be true that the choice of specialty will be affected by the fixed cost of attending med school in the first place.

The other part of the argument is that we need to charge for studying specialties. For some reason, our brave authors assume this is a fixed choice: "There are nearly as many doctors enrolled in specialty training in the United States (about 66,000) as there are students in United States medical schools (about 67,000), the forgone stipends would cover all the tuition costs."

I have news: if this cockeyed plan is implemented, those numbers will change, quite a bit. And only the people with specialties will have those big debts. Which will mean elective MRIs for everyone; papa's got debts to pay!

Fear Your Cell Phone, Eat Your French Fries...

An excellent point. We make up stuff to worry about, things that there is little evidence that we should fear. But we eat french fries and smoke when we KNOW those are dangerous.

"Radiation — from power lines, microwave ovens, cell phones, and (went there) nuclear power — has always occupied outsized concern in the public mind relative to its true health impact. Meanwhile, our collective choices and private behaviors on so many matters display rather astonishing neglect of basic public health concerns." [Harold Pollack, TNR}

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

NC Budget Hardball

My friend Bob Geary at Indie Week notes that Gov. Bev has come out swinging hard and effectively.

On the other hand, my friend Jim Morrill from the N&O says that Repubs smell victory. They are hoping to override Gov. Bev's veto on the budget.

My own view is closer to Mr. Geary's. (To be fair, Mr. Morrill makes no predictions himself, merely citing the Repub conventional wisdom). Bev is doing some fine work, politically. And the Repubs only seem to talk to people who agree with them. That kind of "my whole family and staff agree with me" polling may just reach up and bite 'em on the butt.

Gov. Bev is generally not a very inspiring stumper. But she actually cares about this issue, particularly education (whether she understands it is a different question). And the Repubs would make a big mistake to ignore her genuine speaking ability on issues she cares about. Yes, she will oversimplify and distort. Yes, she only has one effective emotional tone, and that's mad grandma-style indignation. But she will also make a lot of people mad at the Republicans. This is not over.

Regulation is Not Kosher

RL sends an interesting article, about Israeli and Palestinian meats.

Excerpt: In a recent report, the state comptroller wrote that the cost to Palestinian importers of importing refrigerated fresh meat is about 10% of the cost to their Israeli counterparts. What is the reason for that gigantic difference? Two reasons, says the comptroller: the high cost of kosher slaughter abroad, and a 190% tax Israel imposes on imported fresh meat. No such tax is applied to meat imported into the Palestinian Authority.

For instance, a Palestinian importer pays $1.55 per kilo of fresh fillet, while the Israeli importer pays $11.80 for the same cut of meat: 7.6 times more.

The answer to the problem: get rid of the stupid law. (Yes, this is usually my answer to problems, but it would work!) If Israel is a secular state (and in some sense it has to be), why not allow import of all (safe) meat, and then let kosher butcher shops do the work they have done for thousands of years? Under the current system, consumers pay too much, and eat meat that is not only not kosher, but of unknown and possibly unsafe origin.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

You are Canadien, Not You Are?

The Ward Boss shares this column on American hockey rubes.

I have been asked by The Seattle Times if, as a Canadian, I might offer pointers on hockey "to American rubes," which, I would point out, is a direct quote from The Times reporter, not me. I can't speak to the reporter's characterization of his own countrymen in this case. I use the term "American rubes" only after my regular cavity-search at the border.

I would also say that I find it quaint that Americans, rube-ish or otherwise, believe the stereotype that they have of Canadians. Just because we live in igloos does not mean we all know something about hockey. This would be akin to me randomly phoning up someone in Seattle and asking them, "Hey, you're an American. Give me pointers on military intervention and the overthrow of oil-rich autocracies." I would never presume to typecast people in a country as great and diverse as the U.S., and I'm sure most of you are engrossed in many other pursuits, such as monster truck rallies.

I don't even mind being mocked by Canadians anymore. For years, their bizarre fear of free speech and aggressive local content codes surprised me. But they mostly avoided huge bailouts of criminals, by mostly avoiding a huge economic collapse, by mostly having a sensible economic policy (no FNMA, no FHLMC) in the first place.

Oooh, look. The monster truck rally is on TV. Gotta go.

Darn that center!

President Obama's "Beast" gets high centered at the Irish Embassy. No wonder he gave up appealing to the center, it reaches up and grabs him, keeping from doing what he wants...

(Nod to JS, who got it from here)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That Cute Ben Powell Schools Us on Immigration

Koch brouhaha--My take

I went all Boudreaux on the Koch controversy in Florida, published an op ed today in the Tallahassee Democrat, link here but behind paywall. But you, lucky KPC reader, get it fast, fresh, and free!

Koch brouhaha is hardly news in academia

Florida’s universities, and media, are in an uproar about the Koch Foundation’s “strings” on grants to FSU’s Economics Department. But I’m not sure why.

As chair of Duke’s Political Science Department for the past ten years, I have competed for dozens of grants, large and small. And I have dealt with the reporting requirements of funders including the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and George Soros’ “Open Society.”

These organizations, not surprisingly, want to make sure their money is spent legally and fruitfully. But the media has been shocked that "information on publications, presentations, courses taught, students supervised and outreach activities'' was to be provided by recipients of Koch grants.

Look: that’s boiler plate. It’s essentially the same requirements that are imposed on any operating grant I have ever dealt with. There are two kinds of grants: endowment and operating. Endowment contributions go to a university’s investment principal, and all that can be spent is the income from that principal. In 1995, Yale returned $20 million to the Bass family, when the donors wanted control over hiring tenured professors. Princeton finally settled—in 2008—a lengthy lawsuit brought by the Robertson family over a $900 million endowment for support for the Woodrow Wilson School. Universities generally reject strings on endowment gifts.

But operating gifts are different. Most foundations give operating gifts exclusively. Endowment gifts produce investment returns, while operating gifts are spent directly. If I get $100,000 to spend on my Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program at Duke, then I spend the whole $100,000 during the term of the grant.

And then I have to file an annual report. How was the money spent? Was it effective? What is the evidence that it had an impact? How can I justify a future renewal of this money? Operating contributions come with strings, because they are spent directly, and then evaluated immediately.

I grew up in Central Florida, and still feel a strong kinship with the state. Full disclosure, though: I accepted operating contributions from the Koch Foundation last year. We used it to bring in outside speakers, including a New York Times columnist and an expert on economic development in Africa, for my classes in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Duke University.

There were strings. As one condition of the grant, we distributed questionnaires to find out if students thought the speakers added learning value to the class. I did not have to get permission from Charles Koch, mind you. What the Foundation wanted to know was whether the students, the customers if you will, thought that the money was well spent, in terms of their own individual educational goals.

And well spent it was. I had 60 students, and got the highest evaluations I have ever received. The chance to have in a variety of experts, with direct experience to challenge students from across the ideological spectrum, was an enormous help.

I have studied the grant process used by the FSU economics department. There was nothing unusual, or underhanded, about what went on in Tallahassee. The funds were operating donations funds, not endowment. But I am concerned, as a long time Florida resident, about the media maelstrom. Why is it that even a hint of real intellectual diversity--the kind that represents differences in ideas--is seen as being so problematic at our state universities?

Michael C. Munger, PhD
Professor of Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy
Director, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program
Duke University

For an alternative view, see (for example) the DK....

For Don Luskin's view, see the WSJ article...

Prisoners' Dilemma

The problem, as I often tell my students, is that the fact that the PD has a dominant strategy is more determinative than they think.

The reason is that it does NOT depend on guilt or innocence. Think about it: knowing that I go free if I rat you out, but that I get the death penalty if you rat me out, has NOTHING to do with who did what, if in fact either of us did anything. Barring a joint defense, it's tough to resist.

The problem is that prosecutors don't care. A conviction means they win, and can get reelected. And then, to get parole, the guy has to admit guilt yet again, even if he is innocent.

Downside? Our prisons have a lot of innocent people in them, particularly the ones who can't afford real representation. A new book....

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday's Child is Full of Links

Advice to the newly tenured.... including how to stay out of government. (Nod to Angry Alex)

Natural rights? How would we know? A right is the power to do something; property is the power to do it exclusively, to prevent others from using the thing also. Hobbes thought we all had too many rights, or liberties, in the state of nature. Must the state by its nature restrict "natural" rights? And don't we want it to, for the reasons Hobbes gave? (Nod to Anonyman)

Ohio State cheats, gets caught, acts surprised, fires coach. Yawn.

Mormon Spring Break?
"Next weekend, hundreds of young singles will descend on a small North Carolina beach town for a rowdy weekend of late-night partying and anonymous hookups — not unlike your average episode of Jersey Shore. The difference? Instead of well-muscled guidos on the hunt for one-night stands, the shores will be teeming with Mormons searching for their future spouses. Welcome to Duck Beach: host to the most bizarre spring break on the planet." Proving once again that men can act like complete idiots, even if they have nothing but a chocolate milkshake to drink. (nod to Kevin Lewis)

He...PRUNED...a shrubbery! He must be...made of wood? NO! A WITCH! Kill him. Or, in Charlotte, fine him $100 per branch pruned. Really. (Nod to the Blonde)

Is Sex Work? A Memorial Day Post

This gone 'round the interwebs three or four times, so you may have seen it. But I laughed...A bit of military humor, on Memorial Day.

Is Sex Work?

A U.S. Marine Colonel was about to start the morning briefing to his staff. While waiting for the coffee machine to finish its brewing - the colonel decided to pose a question to all assembled.

He explained that his wife had been a bit frisky the night before and he failed to get his usual amount of sound sleep. He posed the question of just how much of sex was "work" and how much of it was "pleasure?" A Major chimed in with 75-25% in favor of work. A Captain said it was 50-50%. A lieutenant responded with 25-75% in favor of pleasure, depending upon his state of inebriation at the time. There being no consensus, the colonel turned to the PFC who was in charge of making the coffee. What was HIS opinion?

Without any hesitation, the young PFC responded, "Sir, it has to be 100% pleasure." The colonel was surprised and, as you might guess, asked why.

"Well, sir, if there was any work involved, the officers would have me doing it for them." The room fell silent.

God Bless the enlisted man.

And God Bless all our men and women in uniform, around the world, and since the beginning. For my own part, a remembrance of Captain Herbert Munger, 100th Infantry Division. On a morning in November, 1944 he was riding in the lead six-wheel drive armored car racing northeast after retreating German forces. The company hit a roadblock ambush, with machine guns and sighted in mortars. The second car was disabled. (Then) Lt. Munger got out of his (undamaged) car, got the wounded out of the disabled car, got the platoon turned around, and escaped the trap without loss of life. And so, sometimes, God Bless the offers.

He got a Bronze Star. I ended up with a father.

DSK Fail, Francophonies Fail

Okay, so this has been building up for about a decade. In me, I mean. Listening to all my leftoid friends worshipping France. We need something like their system of government, their culture, their possession of an actual political left, to protect the workers from those big mean capitalists. Well, Maureen Dowd, of all people, put it rather brilliantly in the NYT yesterday.

(The title of the article, "Cherchez la femme," was opaque to me. After reading an explanation, still not sure what Ms. Dowd was going for with that title. There was no woman affecting a man's behavior here, only a rape. And the story is about Christine Lagarde, who is impressive, but... Intriguing.)

Anyway, the article does a fine job of laying out the issues. I do want to emphasize just two things:

1. How can you socialist-lovers defend as "socialist" a society where the phrase "troussage de domestique" is common? And where it is used seriously as a DEFENSE of a man's actions? As Ms. Dowd puts it:

The journalist Jean-François Kahn said he was “practically certain” that DSK was not trying to rape the Sofitel maid, but was merely engaging in “troussage de domestique,” lifting the skirt of the servant. Jack Lang, a former government minister, cracked, “It’s not like anybody died.”

So if a rich man employs a poor woman, he is simply entitled to lift up her skirt? And as long as no one dies, he can actually physically enjoy her, against her will? No wonder all you lefites love France. This is Bill Clinton's idea of heaven, because you can say "So what?" instead of having to lie to the grand jury. And your wife, instead of making up some absurd "great right wing conspiracy," can proudly say that she admires your seductive prowess? (Though you francophones will have to explain to me how forcible rape is seduction...)

(Hilarious, this bit from FT. Nice arse, indeed.)

2. Capitalist elites have rich tastes, but they expect to pay for it. Socialist elites have tastes at least as rich, but think they are entitled to take, by harnessing the state's coercive force if necessary, because they "serve the people." $50k per month apartment? $3,000 per night suite? And this guy is a man of the people? The case reveals not just the hypocrisy of protecting male sexual predators in France, but also protecting the political predators who call themselves socialists. I think that part of the story is underreported. National Review hits on it, but that hardly counts among the "real" media you lefties take seriously.

Here is one honest person of the left, I'll admit.

UPDATE: Anonyman sends this tidbit. The title of the article could be expanded to ANY socialist organization, including our own Congress. And before you guys go all, "He's not a socialist" out of your little reflexive talking points, I have to point out that DSK calls HIMSELF a socialist. So go argue with him.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Food Deserts

An interesting map, and an interesting concept: The USDA lets you view "food deserts," or "low income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people who are far from a grocery store."
Link to map

Usually the complaint from you lefty bed-wetters is that corporations are too greedy. But the cool thing about this case is that you must believe corps are not greedy enough. Right?

Because the premise of this whole idea of food deserts is that it is perfectly possible to open a grocery store, and make money, in these neighborhoods.

The only reason that no one does open those potentially profitable grocery stores is... racism! Those greedy corporations won't open grocery stores. I admit it's heartbreaking to hear problems like those described in this video. But listen to the diagnosis: racism. Racism, racism, racism, from greedy groceries.

Logic fail! Greed is the enemy of racism, folks. In fact, greed is the enemy of all discrimination. Branch Rickey, who famously "broke the color line" in beisbol by hiring Jackie Robinson... was an even more famous skinflint and miser. My man Branch was no social crusader. BR signed JR because blacks could be paid less, for much higher performance, in that era of the color line.

And in fact for at least a decade after that, the average stats were higher, and the average pay was lower, for black baseball players.** GREED!You better recognize, folks.

Of course, I may be wrong. The grocery companies may be leaving money on the table here, in those "food deserts." And it is easy to prove me wrong, friends. All you arrogant, condescending lefty public sector nannies have to do is leave your protected job and go out and start a grocery store. According to your own world view, you'll be making big profits, AND helping the community. Of course, if you feel bad about the profits, you can always donate the $$ to Pres. Obama's campaign fund....

(Nod to Kevin Lewis for the link...)


Pascal, Anthony H. and Leonard A. Rapping (1972) "The Economics of Racial Discrimination in Organized Baseball", in RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN ECONOMIC LIFE

Scully, Gerald. (1974) "Discrimination: The Case of Baseball," in GOVERNMENT AND THE SPORTS BUSINESS