Friday, December 16, 2011

Mancur Olson Lives!

Maybe it's because it's raining hard, and I have to give an exam.

On a Friday night. 7 - 10 pm.

To 80 students. It's an essay exam. It's 1/2 mile away, and I have to carry all the stuff over there, and carry it back, in the rain. Then two days of grading.

Maybe that's why I'm a little incredulous at this story.

Professor requires students to bring snacks to class, or he refuses to teach.

But then I saw this little gem:

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Parrott defended his teaching methods. He said he could understand why some students would be frustrated about the missed class time, but that people should view his requirement as a valid pedagogical choice.

A graduate of Cal State's Chico campus, Parrott said that when he was an undergraduate, courses had 12 to 20 students, and those in a class formed close ties among themselves and with the professor. "Those days are long gone," Parrott said. The course in question is supposed to have a maximum of 42 students, although this year he has 52 in the section that skipped snack last week. That makes it hard for students to connect. So does the nature of Sacramento State's student body. "It's a commuter rat race. Students drive in and go home and never connect with their fellow students," he said.

Enter the snack requirement: Parrott said that he's teaching students to work together to set a schedule, to work in teams to get something done, and to check up on one another, since everyone depends on whoever has the duty of bringing snacks on a given week. Typically, no individual should be involved in preparing the snack more than twice a semester, he said.

As the class gets larger, seems like it would be easier to take turns on the snacks, yes? But of course, as Olson showed, it actually gets HARDER to solve the collective action problem, even though the group has more resources than it did before.

Now, out into the rain....

Not the Onion: Lucy In the Sky, With Vulvas

Not sure this is real. A little far-fetched.

But, school kids have been told they can't make hand gestures when they sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, little star."

Given that the British Sign Language gesture for female genitalia is a diamond or triangle shape, it is believed that the gesture was accompanying the line 'like a diamond in the sky', which is known to have caused confusion in the past.
You can see, in this video, the "offensive" hand sign at about 1:18. has it caused confusion, exactly? Did the deaf children think that someone was claiming there was an upside down vulva in the sky? I mean, sure, that would be scary, but I can't imagine that is what they thought.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Disclosure is Not as Good as You Think

New report from IJ, and KPC friend David Primo.

Disclosure: not as good as you think.

From Our Man Koopa, in the Field

Koopa writes from India. Koopa is from Noo Joisey, you understand. But grandma still lives in India, and Koopa is visiting. He had five marriage proposals (some of those were from women, I believe) in his first day on the subcontinent. He writes:

1.2 billion people. Women are everywhere. Hook up law of numbers was born here, except for the cultural desire not to display affection or sex in public. They STILL don't even kiss in the movies. Which is funny - I saw an Indian movie where the actor and actress were acting proper, not kissing, very chaste.

Then a commercial came on for chocolate condoms. I laughed myself silly. The commercial was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. The condoms come in a cookie box (no foil packets).

What a place. I should point out that Koopa is an American citizen, has a Duke law degree, and even I have to admit he's pretty cute.

Grand Game: U Mass Amherst PERI Edition

I hesitate to put this up, surely it is a satire or hoax. But I think these folks are serious.

They are going to take all that "excess" liquidity, and make the world better.

Starting with the financial collapse and Great Recession of 2008-09, the U.S. economy has been experiencing the most severe and protracted employment crisis since the 1930s Depression. As the employment crisis has proceeded, U.S. commercial banks and large nonfinancial corporations have been building up huge hoards of cash and other liquid assets. This study examines the impact on job creation of mobilizing these excess liquid assets into productive investments within the U.S. economy over the next three years.


(Nod to @milesoftrials )

Thursday, December 15, 2011

President to Sign Indefinite Detention Bill

He is going to sign the thing.

He is not capable of telling the truth, because he literally cannot tell true statements from falsehoods. His speeches are just applause lines strung together.

I give you... George Hussein Busbama!

UPDATE: My friend Stefan D has this quip, on FB--"Well it's not like the detention is's just indefinite. I would think the detainees would enjoy the guessing..."Will I get out tomorrow?" Every day is like Christmas Eve."

Initial Jobless claims fall!

"Only" 366,000 this past week. Slowly but you know what-ly, the American economy is rising, perhaps just in time to get hammered by the Euro debacle, but rising nonetheless. Good news for President Obama.

Gilligan! Hold the Mayo!

Two grad school colleagues made good.

Tom Gilligan at UTexas

John Mayo at Georgetown

I'd try to make myself feel better by saying I knew them, but they'd both deny it. Because Angus and I...we've got stories.

(nod to Chateau. He's got stories about Angus and me)

Links: Video Games

1. Is Skyrim an economic disaster?

2. Bearded dragon playing ant video game
. May not be real, but pretty funny.

3. Worst game of all time: Big Rigs--Open Road Racing. Although the packaging of Big Rigs states that the main objective of the game is to race their Big Rig to safety in order to deliver illegal cargo being carried by the vessel, while avoiding the local police force, in actuality, there are no police in the game, and no such objectives are presented within the game itself. Much of the game instead centers on the player racing their truck against fellow drivers to the finish line; however, the player's computer-controlled opponent vehicles have no AI and never move from the starting position. In addition, due to a lack of collision detection, there are no obstacles to negotiate within the game, and the laws of physics can be violated frequently.

(Nod to SdM, Anonyman, the Ward Boss, and the Blonde)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Caption Contest!

This is Joel Rosch, Sanford Institute faculty and closeted libertarian.

Caption contest!

Peace on earth, goodwill to men!

Yes, I'm pretty sure they are ALL stuffed!

Mike Tyson Does Herman Cain Spoof

This amused me. It is disrespectful, and possibly racist, but it amused me.

As Anonyman notes, "he had me at Pizza Pthursday"

Why do the Dutch hate Christmas?

Look at the Netherlands; twice as rich but almost twice as stingy as Poland. Stingier than the GERMANS (who are almost twice as stingy as the French)! Big ups to the Irish!

(clic the pic for a more Scroog-ian image)

Tall, smug and stingy is no way to go through life, son.

Hat Tip to Tim Harford's Twitter Feed.


Castrating Lambs Can Make You Sick

So, this news story says "castrating lambs with teeth can kill you."

That doesn't make any sense to me. I thought ALL lambs had teeth.

Oh...wait. You mean.... EWWWWWWW!

Nod to the Blonde. Next time she calls Bob Lee her "little lamb" I'll know what she is actually thinking.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Financial Incentives and Student Achievement

Financial Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from Randomized

Roland Fryer, Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2011, Pages 1755-1798

Abstract: This article describes a series of school-based field experiments in over 200 urban schools across three cities designed to better understand the impact of financial incentives on student achievement. In Dallas, students were paid to read books. In New York, students were rewarded for performance on interim assessments. In Chicago, students were paid for classroom grades. I estimate that the impact of financial incentives on student achievement is statistically 0, in each city. Due to a lack of power, however, I cannot rule out the possibility of effect sizes that would have positive returns on investment. The only statistically significant effect is on English-speaking students in Dallas. The article concludes with a speculative discussion of what might account for intercity differences in estimated treatment effects.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Hiding the Sausage....

The story of how the for-profit colleges survived the threat of a major federal crackdown offers a case study in Washington power brokering. Rattled by the administration’s tough talk, the colleges spent more than $16 million on an all-star list of prominent figures, particularly Democrats with close ties to the White House, to plot strategy, mend their battered image and plead their case...The battle got so testy that Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who has led Congressional hearings into the colleges, got into a heated exchange with Mr. Stein, the Education Corporation investor. The senator said that during a hallway conversation after lunch in the Senate dining room, Mr. Stein promised to 'make life rough for me' if Mr. Harkin kept up his attacks. 'I took it as a threat — it was one of the most blatant comments ever made to me in my years in the Senate,' Mr. Harkin said. [NYT]

It appears that it was easy to find Democrats who would sell out the poor people they care so much about, as long as the Democratic elite gets paid. They must be so proud to have Michael Miliken on their side...

Lists of Note: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The list is here.

You likely already know the resulting video...

Had not noticed the Anarchist A on the cheerleader unis before.

Random Observations on the EU crisis

Even if Draghi could wave a designer wand and make the Greek & Italian sovereign debt mountains go away, the Greek and Italian economies would remain horribly uncompetitive even vs. France, let alone Germany.

You know your central bank has little credibility when the market reaction to a promise to lend banks Euros at 1% for 3 years is to push bank stocks sharply down!

Saving the Euro is not the same thing as saving Europe.

There are actually worse things than countries expeditiously exiting the Euro zone; we may see some of them fairly soon.

It's hard for me to see how much blame falls on Germany. They reformed their economy and became super-competitive. People act like that was somehow nefarious.

Thug Story

Wow. Just... wow.

You can presumably identify the cameos here. Pretty impressive cast. I kept looking for that SMOKIN' hot Bruce Majors, but didn't see him.

You'll want to look at this.

My Guy Bill English Explains the Crisis of Liberalism, In a Nutshell

Gamebill gets a quote in the WSJ. And he's right, of course.

A Silver Lining in Europe; And the political lesson for America. Kaminski, Matthew. Wall Street Journal (Online) [New York, N.Y] 09 Dec 2011

European Union leaders are gathered in Brussels for yet another emergency summit, this time to consider a Franco-German plan for fiscal union. After each previous try to stop the bleeding in the past 18 months, markets saw through the palliative and drove up debt costs.

Yet the fog of crisis obscures what's already changed in Europe. A new social-political bargain has started to form. Though not advertised loudly, the solutions on offer, from Ireland to Italy, all scale back the reach and size of the state. This mental and political shift predates the Greek meltdown. The three Ds-- spiraling debt, unsustainable demographics and looming depression--just hastened the reckoning....

Step back to see a bigger picture. The European model isn't pinched by Greece but rather by two related phenomena. In a world of global competition and free trade, EU countries have failed to keep up. Taxes and regulations needed to cover generous unemployment benefits and pensions have sapped their growth and scared capital away, in turn impairing their ability to meet these costs without huge debts. As Princeton historian Harold James notes, "The redistribution game becomes a lot harder to play in an open economy."

Globalization's other byproduct, immigration, changed the look of Europe. Social safety nets were built in postwar boom years when countries were younger and more homogenous. Relatively few people drew on unemployment benefits or other help, and those who did were the familiar neighbors of those who picked up the tab and considered it their obligation. Political scientists call this "social trust." New arrivals from North Africa and Turkey changed that and put economic strains on the welfare system...

There's a lesson here for America. President Obama insists that the U.S. isn't in similar straits, and he has a point for now. Yet our public debt surpassed the euro zone's in 2008, and now touches 100% of GDP.

In a paper presented at a Witherspoon Institute conference this week, German finance ministry official Ludger Schuknecht, who previously headed fiscal policy surveillance at the ECB, notes that the U.S. increase in its size of government over the past decade was on par with those of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and the U.K. All the others have tried to rein it in, he writes, but the U.S. "stands out as the country that seems to be quite oblivious to the need for adjustment over the near future." Americans can't say the Germans didn't warn them...

But the terms of debate have to shift here, as they did in Europe's success stories. American reformers, in the words of Harvard political scientist Bill English, need "to make the moral argument that you should spend federal monies to pay for poor children's meals and not fluff union pension schemes."

Insolvency may be a symptom of many Western democracies, but democracy isn't the problem. Voters, who aren't stupid, are as likely to reward as to punish leaders who take the necessary hard steps.

I had not thought of Angela Merkel as a "fluffer" before, but of course that's right.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Grand Game: San Francisco Edition

A truly remarkable cavalcade of idiots, ideologues, and squishy thinkers. A parade of sports and horribles. Hard to believe they are serious, but then lefties are always serious. Wrong, but serious.

I won't spoil it for you. But don't miss the consequence where the company can't even bid on government contracts because now their costs are too high. Presumably we will soon have a set aside to assure that the halt and the lame of SF get their "fair chance" at being the high bidder yet still winning the contract.


(And nod to Anonyman)

Podcastrians: Profits, the Verger and other Stories

My main man Russ Roberts and I vigorously podcastrate the idea of profit, illustrating it with three pedagogically useful stories.

At least, *I* think they are useful stories.

The (Minsky) Empire Strikes Back!

Hyman Minsky is like the monster in a horror movie. You think it is gone... but no. It keeps coming back, over and over...

When Credit Bites Back: Leverage, Business Cycles, and Crises
Òscar Jordà, Moritz HP. Schularick, and Alan M. Taylor
NBER Working Paper No. 17621
November 2011
JEL No. C14,C52,E51,F32,F42,N10,N20

ABSTRACT This paper studies the role of leverage in the business cycle. Based on a study of nearly 200 recession episodes in 14 advanced countries between 1870 and 2008, we document a new stylized fact of the modern business cycle: more credit-intensive booms tend to be followed by deeper recessions and slower recoveries. We find a close relationship between the rate of credit growth relative to GDP in the expansion phase and the severity of the subsequent recession. We use local projection methods to study how leverage impacts the behavior of key macroeconomic variables such as investment, lending, interest rates, and inflation. The effects of leverage are particularly pronounced in recessions that coincide with financial crises, but are also distinctly present in normal cycles. The stylized facts we uncover lend support to the idea that financial factors play an important role in the modern business cycle.

(Nod to A-Denz, who knows things)

Musical gifts: Box Sets and Reissues

As I noted yesterday, there are some truly fantastic box sets / re-issues out this year (and early next year). Here are my favorites:

#1. Neutral Milk Hotel's self-released vinyl only box set.

This is the present of the year. I bought it for myself the day it was announced. Damn thing still hasn't arrived.

#2. Domino Records is re-releasing Palace Music's (Will Oldham) first five albums in digital, cd and vinyl formats.

These are killers. If you don't own "Viva Last Blues" you have holes in both your record collection and your soul.

#3. A company called Dust to Digital (and somehow NOT Revenant Records) is releasing a 5 CD John Fahey box set in an LP sized package.

As LeBron would say, this is self-recommending.

#4. 5 Throbbing Gristle albums have been re-mastered and re-releasedin CD, Vinyl, MP3 and FLAC formats!

Big ups for the high quality digital format. Even the faintest of hearts should try "20 Jazz Funk Greats" or "Greatest Hits"

These are fantastic trippy, sound collage-y albums that stand the test of time and still feel great today. Vital.

#6. 4AD's "house band" This Mortal Coil, also gets the box set treatment.

I'll get this one just because. It's a great gift for a goth significant other!

By the way, if you don't own a record player, it's way past time to get one. I'll post soon on some affordable options.

Monday's Child is Full of Links

Car thongs

Egging on weight loss

Chinese ghost cities: too much housing, in the wrong place, but they can't stop building

Technology makes humans incompetent. "Error chains" seem impossible. Of course, they are rare, and by focusing on "what happened?" after a crash we are selecting on an unlikely event. Still...really? THAT'S what happened? Wow.

Steve Jobs statue in Hungary. Not because he "gave back" (because he pretty much didn't). But because he made cool stuff people wanted to buy.

Nod to Anonyman and Susan

Jon Stewart:: Twice as Nice

On indefinite detention...
without trial...
of American citizens...
captured and charged in the US.

I give you--Mr. Stewart: “When the war on terror ends, and terror surrenders, and is no longer available as a human emotion, you’ll be free to go.”


Let's hear it, bedwetters: Your guy Obama can't be better than GW Bush if he is NO DIFFERENT from GW Bush. This is truly an epic fail. Obama has zero principles, and zero policy interests. This is popular, and so he is for it. Screw the Constitution.

For the record, this legislation clearly violates the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments. Combine that with the "enhanced interrogation" techniques likely to be used on prisoners while they are being detained, indefinitely, without trial, without hearing the evidence against them, without even a full hearing before a civil court, and you have a violation of the 8th Amendment also.

Oh, and there's this, from Article III, Section 3 of the main Constitution, without any stinkin' amendments to worry about:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Testimony. Two witnesses. Not indefinite detention without charges. Jeez.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chain Kidney Transplants are Not Truly Voluntary

Over at EE, a post about kidney "sales" through chain donations.

Not the Onion: Grand Game Self Service!

Grand Game Time! Smart people do it in the comment section...

Brazilian woman wins legal "right" to surf porn and masturbate at work.

Excerpt: Ana Catarian Bezerra, 36, suffers from severe anxiety and hypersexuality - something that makes her "compulsion orgasmic," reports

A single mother of three children, Bezerra works as an accountant - a seemingly buttoned-up profession for such a buttoned-down condition, reports

In the past, Bezerra would need to masturbate as much as 47 times a day. Her physician, Carlos Howert, has prescribed her a "cocktail" of tranquilizers to help curb her condition. Now she only has to masturbate around 18 times a day, according to Guanabee. One word? Yikes.

Bezerra had to take her employer to court last April, where she won. Now, she will get 15 minute breaks every 2 hours where she can surf porn and get her release, AOL reports.

Don't get too excited though - remember that this is in Brazil, and here in the U.S. there are no court-mandated masturbation breaks available.


This would have been excellent news for Anonyman. He was laid off for three months a while back. Turns out that in Brazil his activities during this time would have counted as "employment," and he could have gotten paid for it. Now THAT is progress!

Angus' 2011 Best Music Guide

Here's my version of the best albums of the year.

1. Peaking Lights: 936

This is druggy drone-y dubby and delicious! "Hey Sparrow" is one of the best songs of the year.

2. Twerps: Twerps

One of two band from OZ on the list. They coulda been in the Paisley Underground. "Dreamin'" is the killer track.

3. Kurt Vile: Smoke Rings for my Halo. This guy is the bizzle. Strong record from top to bottom. Here's "Jesus Fever"

4. Tune-Yards: Who Kill

Gotta love Merrill Garbus. She is movin' on from the territory that MIA has abandoned (no they don't sound anything alike). Here's the video for "Bizness":

5. The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient

Kurt Vile's Philly friends have put out a great great record. Here's "Baby Missles"

6. Moon Duo: Mazes

Stoned out, droned out, sublime fuzz from San Francisco. Here's the video for the title track:

7. Air Waves: Dungeon Dots

A tad uneven, but the high points are just terrific. My favorite song is "Knock-out":

8. Dom: Sun-Bronzed Greek Gods

It's a cheat. This came out in 2010, but I didn't catch on to it til this year (so it's not on my 2010 list and it has to be memorialized somewhere). I've put the "Living in America" video up elsewhere so here's "Jesus":

9. Eddy Current Suppression Rings: So Many Things

This is kind of a cheat because, though it was released this year, it's a compilation album. But I just discovered these guys and have to give them the props they deserve. Here's the title track:

It's been a tremendous year for box sets and re-issues too. I'll post about that very soon.

Happy Listening!