Saturday, August 13, 2011

What a nice pup....

This dog is not really cute, but he is obedient.

And if you are really obedient, people will think you are cute anyway. That approach certainly works for me in MY marriage.

Miller Center Summer Institute

Back home now. Was in NY, at Columbia Law School, for Tikva-Hertog.

And then in Pasadena, for Miller Center. Amazing students, in both cases. Scary smart people, really interesting and accomplished.

There is a tradition (blame the Admiral, I expect) of "toasting" at the Miller Center.

These can get a bit rococo. But, in this case, even more. It was... It was.... well, I have pictures.

I did my usual shy, balanced, fair-minded discussion, in two lectures. Okay, actually, I was pretty tired, and I went full-out teller of ungentle truths, "you maggots need to get to work, nobody likes you anyway, you all suck!" on them.

At the dinner on Thursday night, the toast took the form of a male maenad (if you can be a male maenad; is that a "gonad," perhaps?), a frenzied follower of Bacchus.

He mounted the stage, which was a table. Now, this particular gonad was not a small gonad. So there was some question whether the table would be able to do its job here, adding dramatic tension.

Then, the gonad held forth, in quite an impressive Shakespearean form, about my outrages and errors of the previous day. The list was long (and, I should add, quite accurate).
We, as the British say, fell about. Well played, young gonad.

(Thanks for DS for the pix)

Happy Vladirday!

Root-toot-tootin' Vladimir Putin is at it again, this time diving for ancient urns in the black sea.
Here's the video:

Here's a slightly cynical account of his exploits:

"Diving in the Taman gulf, the Russian prime minister immediately found two amphorae that had been waiting for him since the 6th century AD at a depth of two metres," wrote the Novaya Gazeta newspaper in an editorial dripping with sarcasm. "He was lucky: in the same place, over the last two years archaeologists and divers of the Russian Academy of Sciences managed to find only a few pottery shards."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

carts, horses, and asses

Why do media outlets publish op-eds by politicians? This piece by Ed Rendell and Scott Smith is perfect for a Mungowitzian "grand game".

Apparently the US used to be "the world leader in infrastructure"! But sadly now we suck in infrastructure. It seems that the Chinese are eating our lunch in infrastructure.

The authors claim that, because we haven't spend enough on infrastructure, "China is now home to six of the world's 10 busiest ports—while the U.S. isn't home to one."

This is where the first two words of my title come in. I hate to break it to you Ed and Scott, but the US could spend trillions on ports and China would still have 6 of the world's 10 busiest ports and we'd probably still have none.

But that's because China has at least 3 times as many people as we do, China is growing at 8 to 10 percent annually, and China is the export king of the world. They don't have busy ports because just because they spent a lot of money on infrastructure!

If the authors really wanted US ports to be busier (as opposed to just wanting the government to spend more money), they should lobby their colleagues to pass the trade deals with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama.

And of course this masterpiece would not be complete without Ed and Scott making the sacred call for a national infrastructure bank. What politician wouldn't want a $500 billion slush fund to dig into come election time?

What the last word of my post's title refers to is left as an exercise to the reader!

Does Blogging "Help"?

LeBron takes up a question: Does blogging improve the professional rep of an economist?

And does blogging change policy?

I can answer the second question: YES. In quite a few instances, people who have read THIS blog have adopted a policy of not reading this blog. Or so I would infer from their comments.

Falling with style

Remarkable. Jet Man.

(Nod to DB, who of course wanted to know (1) if he could have one, and (2) if he could mount .30 cal Brownings on the wings.

So near but yet so far

LeBron points us to Daron Acemoglu writing at the HBR blog, saying that he makes "many good points". Indeed, I'd say of the 7 he makes, 6 are good to very good.

Focus on green technology, the next area that has the best promise of creating a platform for more innovation. Innovations in information and communication technology starting in the 1960s have had a transformative impact on the world economy by creating a platform upon which myriad other technologies and products could be developed. Green technology has the potential to cut carbon emissions, sure, but we also need to transform the way in which energy is delivered, utilized, and monitored. This necessitates innovation and significant investment not only in power generation but also in the electricity grid, in the transport system, and in homes and factories. The United States is lagging behind other countries in these activities. To regain leadership, we need both more and smarter subsidies to research in green technologies and a carbon tax that naturally encourages the use of cleaner technologies and triggers more research to seek such technologies.

First, what standard are we to judge the statement that green technology "has the best promise"? At least give us some reasons why. To me this is more of an article of faith to people than the product of any kind of cost-benefit analysis.

Second, Why does it matter where an innovation takes place? Ideas are public goods. If the Chinese figure out how to somehow make solar power cost effective, why shouldn't we just be happy and use the invention?

It's not about nationalism and competition between nations; innovation anywhere is good for every place that is able to absorb and implement it. It is the global amount of R&D and innovation that we should care about, not whether the US can "reclaim leadership", especially in an area where no one can make money without continual large subsidies.

About the only part of DA's quoted paragraph I agree with is that we should introduce a Pigouvian carbon tax. I'd like to do so in a way that's revenue neutral, but even if it isn't, a carbon tax is probably the simplest and one of the best things we can do for the environment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

nothing stops the honey badger when it's hungry!

It's not the bombs, but where they're hidden

Apparently Hamid Karzai doesn't have any problems with suicide bombers, he just wants them to not hide the bombs in their turbans:

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai met recently with members of the country’s clerical councils to get their assistance in persuading insurgents not to hide explosives in suicide bombers' turbans or in other religious or cultural symbols.

In the last five weeks, suicide bombers have killed the mayor of Kandahar and a senior cleric in the city with small amounts of explosives hidden in their turbans. In both cases, the bombers grabbed their victims before triggering the explosives.

It is believed to be the first time turbans have been used in suicide attacks.

A man’s turban has important religious and cultural significance and it is considered dishonourable to touch it.

Karzai met with clerics this week and pleaded with them to use their influence on the Taliban and other insurgents to dissuade them from using cultural or religious garments to hide explosives."

I certainly hope the president succeeds in this noble quest to get the bombers to go back to strapping explosives to their chests or putting them on women or in camel humps or whatever, and to convince them that they must always, always honor the turban!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

who's punk?

Great Jawbreaker cover by John Darnielle & the Mountain Goats!

Will politicians ever stop lying to the public?

People, maybe we should extend unemployment benefits yet again. The job outlook is bleak, unemployment is high, and lots of people are hurting bad. Maybe it's the civilized thing to do.

But could we please just stop yapping out the bald faced lie that unemployment benefits create jobs?


Obama and Pelosi were again claiming that yesterday. The closest thing to any analysis of why was Nancy's "it injects demand".

Today, Mark Thoma has found an economist to parrot the company line as well. He offers absolutely no analysis or evidence for the proposition.

You know why there's no analysis or evidence given? Because, even on the crudest of Keynesian grounds, its horse-hockey!

The proposed bill would affect around 1,000,000 workers and we'd be giving them a few hundred bucks a month for what, another year? so thats, say $300 x 12 x 1,000,000 or $3.6 billion passed out in 12 "doses" of $300 million each in a geographically diffuse pattern.

Yeah, I can see entrepreneurs all over the country rushing to hire new workers to handle the massive increase in demand created by this program.

It never seems to enter their heads that at the margin, subsidizing unemployment tends to create more unemployment. There are a lot of studies in economics showing that employment spikes at the time when unemployment benefits run out.

Yes, I know the benefits are small compared to a job. No I am not calling unemployed people lazy. I am perfectly willing to concede that the humanitarian case for extending benefits may trump the marginal incentives they create to postpone taking a job.

What I won't concede, what I'm very very tired of hearing asserted as if it was obvious, is that extending unemployment benefits will create jobs.

Obama and Pelosi remind me of that movie about the bus. It's like if they stop spending money at a certain high rate, they will explode.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Heroin is doing the heavy lifting

From the personals

MBM ISO 270 electoral votes for a 4 year relationship.

Turnons: electric cars, choo-choos, windmills, peas, taxing the rich

Turnoffs: tea, paperwork, take home pay, ratings agencies

GM Volt Fail

Wow. This is pretty devastating.

Look, we have a pretty good way of finding out whether a company is succeeding: stock price. Plenty of folks are saying that the auto bailout was a big success. Well, let's see! Now, sure, there is a recession. But is the recession WORSE than it was a year ago? So that can't be the reason that stock price is falling. The stock price is an evaluation of future profitability. And it does not look good...

And yet, we get idiots like this guy saying what a success it all was. There are plenty of other examples of half-wits saying auto bailout was a success because the administration SAYS it was a succes. (GAO says maybe not, but what do THEY know, bunch of sharp pencil idiots?)

Let's review:

1. MSM says bailout success, because Prez Obama SAYS it was a success, and why would he lie?
2. But no one wants to buy crappy cars now, just like they didn't want to buy crappy cars three years ago, or ten years ago
3. GM is tanking and is going to "need" another bailout.

We'd be MUCH better off directly paying all those workers their full salaries to stay home. The success of the auto bailout is a myth.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sun, Wind, Sprinkler Heads: No Excuses

Letter from Dutch Boy (Reds fan) on Yonder Alonso.

This is too funny. quote from yonder alonso, reds rookie left fielder, just recently called up. the upshot is that he hits like mother, but can't field worth shit. he's a trade chip. first start in left yesterday, he made an error, as expected. same today against the cubs, one error, and one homer. and then this funny after-game quote:

"I definitely should have caught that ball. Again, you have to live with it. First time in this stadium. I’ve never been here, it’s a little tough to play with the wind and the sun and all that. No excuses, really.”

(first time at wrigley, tough to play with wind. tough to play with sun. earlier in the statement he said he ran over a sprinkler head in the outfield before missing the catch. no excuses. really.) he needs crash davis to sit him down and review what to say in an interview. but boy can he hit.

Of course, since the guy is a terrible fielder, the Reds decided to move him to... third base! I love the Reds, they make me so happy.

Worst fielder in baseball history? According to KPC (and Dutch Boy) friend Jim Bouton, it was Dick "Slip me some steel" Stuart (I believe that is what Jim said, in BALL FOUR. Is that right?)


Some links where I said things, and other people wrote them down and put them on the internet.

1. Politico: On the President's 50th birthday.

2. Duke News Tip: WWE Smackdown!

3. Chinese news magazine San Lian Lifeweek: (Specific article here, on the budget deal) Entire mag

4. The Hill, about the debt ceiling vote.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that there have been other such instances in the past, and my poor record as a predictor of future events should impeach the value of future such predictions. An example, here, in Time. I actually said, "BHO is unelectable!"

Good one....and a fair point. No way you should make trades based on my predictions, and in fact you can likely make money by doing the opposite of what I suggest. I'd thank that brave commenter, but s/he showed the courage of her/his convictions by remaining anonymous. Not so brave after all...

Bruno's Idiocy Comes Home to Roost

Bruno Latour (who should have been a porn star, with that name. Far better than the intellectual pornography he sold as scholarship!) is surprised anyone took him seriously.

Okay, he's got a point. No one should have taken him seriously. He claimed that planes don't fly, that color tvs don't really work, and that nothing really is real. It's all socially constructed.

And somehow he got this from misreading Kuhn. (Don't just read on, that link is cool!). Latour wrote drivel like this. (Feel FREE to skip that link).

I have long been amused at how many people whose bizarre minds give them no hope of understanding science use Kuhn as a shield, saying there is no SUCH THING as science. Yeah, I hope that works out for you, pumpkin. Read some more French philosophers, by all means. And get hilariously hoodwinked by Dr. Sokol, of course.

Anyway, having sown the wind, now they can reap the climate change denier whirlwind. Far and away most Americans believe that climate science is fabricated, at least in part. Socially constructed, indeed.

And the response by Bruno Latour? Two parts, both delightful.

1. I never really meant that. Never meant what I said I meant, it was all just an intellectual exercise. Lighten up!
2. Besides, in spite of everything I said about science being socially constructed and unreliable, and measurement being impossible, we ALL KNOW that global warming is real, a fact, an undeniable truth.

Golly, Bruno, and you know

The answer, as always with the left, is that their feelings, their group-think intuitions, generally anything they happen to believe? THOSE are facts.

Actual facts? Things like prices, scarcity, logic, evidence? THOSE are socially constructed. Nice.