Tuesday, January 31, 2012

D-Bood Deals

Don Boudreaux gives some useful counterpoints to Robert Reich's class war screed.

D-Bood clearly has this right. To review:

1. By most measures, real wages are up slightly since 1976. If anything, these measures understate the actual increase in consumption by a lot. How much did your hipster OWS kid's MacBook Pro cost in 1976? How about his iPad? How about his MP3 player? (Hint: infinity, infinity, infinity). Stuff has gotten WAY better, and cheaper at the same time. Attempts to control for hedonics, quality change, and innovation are notoriously difficult. How would you build Moore's Law into a CPI adjustment, when it implies prices of computer power are constantly falling at a rate of more than 25% per year? But these clearly lead toward understating the effective real wage increase. Even if I only have a minimum wage job, I can save up and buy an iPod. In 1976, I could not.

So, for example, here is the cost of a 1-gig hard drive (picture for RAM same dynamic):
(The vertical scale is not linear, so the fall is even more dramatic. This stuff is nearly free. Enjoy your capitalism!)

Check this RAM chart out. It even freaked me out a little bit, and I'm an optimist already. Wow, does RAM ever get cheap!

2. Health care benefits have soaked up real annual gains of 4% or more, on average. If you include total compensation, not just wages, workers have gotten huge gains. (Of course, this is a problem, but it is a DIFFERENT problem than the one pointed out by Dr. Reich.)

3. It really is absurd that people think wages have not gone up, for John Smith the worker, hired in 1976. He makes a LOT more now (though he may have lost his job, which is a DIFFERENT problem than the one pointed out by Dr. Reich). Wages rise with job tenure, they just do. John Smith makes pretty good money now. The new guy just being hired, sure, he doesn't make much more than John Smith did in 1976, adjusted for inflation. Not sure why that is surprising, or even bad.

(UPDATES:  a.  Joe Thacker is right.  Immigration and women entering the work force are huge factors.  b.  On the video on YouTube, a commenter said something so true and funny I peed myself:  "I agree with this guy but it looks like he took 3 hits of acid before doing the vid."  Yes, friends, it is true that D-Bood is likely to be cast as the psycho-murderer, not the RCMP hero.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Theories of Voting

Jim Bob notes that if other people vote, it makes little sense to vote. But what if everyone thought that way? (1) They don't. (2) If they did, then I'd vote. But then so would they.

Corporate Avenger's view: Voting doesn't work.

Brits Eat Some Weird Stuff

So, visited Tommy the Tenured Brit. Ate kidneys, venison, baked-tomatoes-for-breakfast, and had a whole lot of pints of room temperature flat beer in little places the getting to which involved driving like hell in the dark on roads just wide enough for oxcarts, on the wrong side of the freakin' road.

But the oddest thing? The oddest thing was clearly the zombie shrimp dish at the Horse and Groom.

Okay, technically that's a zombie langostino, rising from beneath the pie crust to langost the whole earth. And, they didn't call it "zombie shrimp." They called it "Rabbit and Langostino pie." But wouldn't that shrimp give most little kids nightmares?

I liked it, a lot, however. Rabbit was pretty darned tasty, too.

thou pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense

When Robert Burns got mad, he got even:

Ellisland, 1791.

 Dear Sir:

 Thou eunuch of language; thou Englishman, who never was south the Tweed; thou servile echo of fashionable barbarisms; thou quack, vending the nostrums of empirical elocution; thou marriage-maker between vowels and consonants, on the Gretna-green of caprice; thou cobler, botching the flimsy socks of bombast oratory; thou blacksmith, hammering the rivets of absurdity; thou butcher, embruing thy hands in the bowels of orthography; thou arch-heretic in pronunciation; thou pitch-pipe of affected emphasis; thou carpenter, mortising the awkward joints of jarring sentences; thou squeaking dissonance of cadence; thou pimp of gender; thou Lyon Herald to silly etymology; thou antipode of grammar; thou executioner of construction; thou brood of the speech-distracting builders of the Tower of Babel; thou lingual confusion worse confounded; thou scape-gallows from the land of syntax; thou scavenger of mood and tense; thou murderous accoucheur of infant learning; thou ignis fatuus, misleading the steps of benighted ignorance; thou pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense; thou faithful recorder of barbarous idiom; thou persecutor of syllabication; thou baleful meteor, foretelling and facilitating the rapid approach of Nox and Erebus.


Source is here. Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

prophets of the marginal revolution!

"Whatever you say about the euro, it's a great insulator." ~Frank Buckley.

 He should know, he lives Dublin in a house made of over $1 billion of shredded Euro notes.

 Story is here.

 Hat tip to the OPMR.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Is this what austerity looks like?

The graph above shows Federal spending (in blue) and State and Local spending (in red). The gray shaded area is the NBER's dating of the last recession. The numbers are NOT adjusted for inflation

Federal spending is still than 30% higher than it was in January of 2007. State and Local spending is still around 12% higher than it was in January 2007.

Is this really austerity?

Can government spending really never come down? Isn't it over 2 years since the end of the recession?

Aren't all the people talking about fiscal drag and government spending cuts slowing down the recovery just arguing from accounting identities like they yell at the right wingers for doing?

Can we really run a trillion dollar deficit and bemoan austerity simultaneously?

They're not your father's manufacturing jobs

Here's an awesome anti-Yglesias screed where the author states the following:

I support high employment in manufacturing. The reason is that I believe that people are paid more if they work in manufacturing than if they work in other sectors.

And the following:

 People get something for nothing if they switch from employment in services to employment in manufacturing -- well the data show they lose big if they move the other way. 

 This guy is saying that there are, in his words, "labor market rents" in the manufacturing sector.

I think what the recent evidence shows though is that there WERE labor market rents in the manufacturing sector.

These rents came from the power of unions. But (1) they weren't a free lunch, as they were partly paid for by higher prices to consumers. (2) These rents are, to a large extent, gone. Virtually every story I've seen about new manufacturing jobs talks about the two-tiered wage schemes where the incumbent workers earn the higher wages and better benefits and the new workers get significantly lower hourly wages and weaker benefits.

 Globalization is bringing this about and it's not going to go away. "Labor market rents" to unskilled (and indeed many skilled workers) are not sustainable as more and more countries join the global system.

I see little benefit in glamorizing and subsidizing manufacturing jobs in a specific way, as they are more and more $15/hour positions with limited upsides.

Of course, I don't even agree with the general notion that the government should be actively planning where its citizens will work.

I do see a role for subsidizing basic research. I have views about subsidizing the acquiring of skills, but my position in academia probably makes them suspect so I'll just leave that alone.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kraft hates America

Did you know there were green tea Oreos? Mango & orange Oreos? Hollow, straw shaped Oreos you can use to drink milk?

Well there are, but they are not sold in the USA. They were developed in China (by Kraft) and have spread throughout Asia, even into Canada.

Look here dammit. I want a mango & orange Oreo and I want it now!

ps. better make it gluten-free though

Das boot

is exactly what Germany wants to give to what's left of the Greek government. Apparently installing an unelected "technocratic" government hasn't moved Greece very close to where Germany wants them to be so now they want to appoint a "budget commissioner" with veto power over Greek fiscal decisions. And they want Greece to pass a law saying that "first and foremost" all state revenues will go to debt reduction.

Read all about it here.

To me, this is Germany saying, "don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out" to their southern vassals.

In my opinion Greece should take them up on the offer and generously offer investors including the ECB, German & French banks, and the IMF a 100% haircut on their holdings of Greek debt.

Greece has more leverage in this situation than Germany seems to want to believe or at least admit.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ok, now vinyl is no longer cool


Because Target now sells turntables!



But I bet they won't carry this turntable:

More info is here, and no I don't own a piece of the company nor was I solicited to write about them, nor given any inducement to write about them. At KPC, we KIR (keep it real).

Not good

The advance estimate of real GDP growth for last quarter (2011 q4) is in at 2.8%. This is not so good in a number of ways.

First, "expectations" were for 3%.

Second, over half of the growth came from increased "inventory investment", i.e. the accumulation of unsold goods. 

Third, this number is subject to revision and the direction of revision is frequently downward.

Fourth, real GDP growth in 2011 was substantially lower than it was is 2010! 1.7% vs. 3.0%

Epic Fail!

Fifth, even if we discount points 1-4, 2.8% is a pitiful growth rate for a country coming out of a deep recession with a high unemployment rate and a depressed level of labor force participation.

President Obama should be thanking his deity every day for Mitt and Newt. They are the only reasons he's likely to win re-election with an economy this weak.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ewwwww! He Said "Lance the Boil"

Perhaps not the most felicitous metaphor...but it was heartfelt.

Re Beverly "Govnah Dumplin" Perdue deciding not to seek reelection: the very smart and comely Laura Leslie came over to the house for a bit. We got to talk politics on the back porch, with Hobo the Wonder Dog sniffing the camera.

War on Drugs

New and deeply weird video for the War on Drugs' song "Brothers":

The War on Drugs - Brothers from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

"I was just so relieved and so happy he didn't write a song about giraffes"!

News Tip on Bev Perdue

My thoughts on Bev Perdue's announcement today....

Three possibilities here. One is that this is engineered to make way for Dan Blue, the African-American state senator from Wake County. Perdue waited until now to make it harder for anyone else to enter the race. The fact that the primary is on the same day as the Constitutional Amendment on gay marriage assures a large black turnout. This could be the difference to get Dan Blue the nomination.

The second possibility--Interesting that Brad Miller pulled out of the District 4 fight with David Price yesterday. Could that timing mean something?

The final possibility, and the most likely, is this: just typical chaos and confusion in politics, and no one should read too much into the timing. Dr. Perdue was just too much of a liability in an important swing state, and the national party sent some senior folks to tell her to spend more time with her grandchildren.

The Fed is a bear

I read the Fed's latest announcements as a sign that they are very bearish on the US economy. They are saying two things. (1) The Fed funds rate will stay near zero at least through most of 2014, and (2) their inflation target is 2%.

The only ways I can see those two points being consistent with each other is if we have another recession or a sustained but pitiful "expansion" for the next 10-12 quarters.

I wouldn't want to be an incumbent from the President's party running for re-election in the 2014 midterms if the Fed "achieves" both of their announced objectives.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mexican electoral politics is getting interesting

It seemed like back to the future. The PRI looked like they had the presidential election locked up without even having to resort to unplugging the vote-counting computers and improvising some results. The PAN is very weak partly due to their failing drug war and the PRD has somehow again nominated El Peje, who has slipped into the twilight zone.

But now word comes that the PRI is losing part of its electoral alliance. The party of the Mexican teachers union (i.e. Panal) is pulling its considerable support.


Because of a grass-roots revolt inside the PRI over plans to put the union head's daughter and son-in-law up as Senate candidates.

When informed that this was no longer on the table,  Elba Esther Gordillo pulled her party out of the alliance (from her home in San Diego) and showed why Mexican Spanish is the greatest language on the planet by saying:

"Pues entonces, que se vaya todo a la chingada"

Hat tip to Aguachile via Greg Weeks!

Why must the Captain go down with the ship?

Poor Francesco Schettino. He tripped and fell into a lifeboat and now he's globally vilified and most likely headed to jail.

Do you question why it's the "law of the sea" that the Captain must be the last person off the ship in an evacuation situation?

This guy says the practice evolved as a way for Brits to show their superiority over "Latin people".

Chivalry at sea became an essential British ideal, and proof of the superiority of Anglo-Saxons (a category that included North Americans and most northern Europeans) over more panicky peoples from the south and east.

In truth, there is a strong economic reason for such a norm. It should encourage both (a) better accident avoidance and (b) a well thought out and well practiced evacuation plan.

After all, if I'm gonna be the last guy off, I have a big incentive to make sure that everyone gets off quickly and efficiently.

Phone call for Peter Leeson!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Still Sick From Return

Had hoped to be back up to speed by now. Spent four nights in England, in London and then visiting Tommy the Brit.

But got badly sick on plane back. That may be as (temporarily) miserable as you can get, outside of prison: nine hours with a bad fever, shivering, in coach, getting up every 20 minutes to puke (or pretend to puke, because your stomach insists). And then getting to &^$%*ing Atlanta and being greeted by the friendly staff of America's "Welcome home! Now bend over" customs.

Then four hours on the floor in Atlanta waiting for the flight that is (of course) delayed. Coach again, middle seat. Stewardess actually wakes me, incredulous that I don't want peanuts. No, ma'am, thanks very much.

Was in a near coma yesterday. Finally kept something solid down around 2 pm.

Today, I was feeling so bad I actually played Angry Birds. Had never played it before. Nice, because you can shoot a bird at those bad pigs and then take a little nap before your next shot. A nice quiet little game. I will never, ever play it again.

It would be good if my head stopped hurting. But the whole not puking thing is an improvement.

Tomorrow: England, Tommy the Brit, Harold. And, of course, the Cock.

Don't call me Shirley

Have you heard about New Mexico?

It's getting bigger!

Land of Enchantment indeed.

One day me and Mrs. Angus' dirt pile may be a whole ranch!

Lagarde vs. Lagarde

Chrissie, you got some 'splainin' to do!

 The head of the International Monetary Fund warned that in addition to cutting yawning budget deficits Europe needs to do more to promote growth and stop the crisis from spreading to the world economy. "It is about avoiding a 1930s moment, in which inaction, insularity, and rigid ideology combine to cause a collapse in global demand," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said before the German Council on Foreign Relations. "A moment, ultimately, leading to a downward spiral that could engulf the entire world," she said. 

 People, one of the most effective remedies for the "1930s problem" was for countries to exit the gold standard and devalue their currencies (you are allowed to agree with this even if you favor a gold standard by simply believing that they'd chosen the wrong parities). The situation in Europe is eerily similar. The PIIGS need to exit the Euro-zone and devalue their currencies! As far as I can see, the IMF is dead set AGAINST this proven remedy to "1930s problems"

 Instead, the IMF is actually a big part of the forced austerity movement! The IMF is part of the group threatening further payouts to Greece unless they do what? INCREASE AUSTERITY!!

The IMF is making Greek negotiations with private creditors much harder by refusing to take any haircuts on their own loans to Greece (the IMF's insistence on being paid in full makes the required private haircut to hit the IMF's 120% debt in 2020 target even harder).

 In other words, as is usually the case in a financial crisis, THE IMF IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

The only viable alternative to self defeating austerity is exit and devaluation. I believe that IMF economists know this, but the leaders of the organization are more concerned about French and German banks than they are about economic performance and living standards in Greece and Portugal, so we get these ridiculous & hypocritical lectures.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Economists at Sea

Economists at sea...

Fourth, we must acknowledge the intimate, inseparable relationship between politics and economics. Modern debates about who caused the financial crisis—­government or the private financial sector—are almost ­nonsensical. We are living in an era of money politics and large powerful interests that influence the laws and regulations and their enforcement. In order to catalyze the evolution of economics, research teams would benefit from multidisciplinary interaction with politics, psychology, anthropology, sociology and history.

This makes sense to me. But then I was never a good enough economist to get a job as an economist...

The culture that is Spain / Another one bites the dust

What the hell is up with Spain? Light bulls' horns on fire and enjoy watching them run around going nuts? To honor some "Saint"?

Well, one bull has done his level best to even up the score:

A flaming-horned bull trampled and fatally gored a man early Saturday during a festival in eastern Spain, an official said. Large balls of flaming wax are traditionally affixed to the beasts' heads before they are let loose to rampage through squares and narrow streets in such festivals. 

 the bull charged the man, gored him and then stamped on his head, causing him "irreversible injuries." 

Many towns in east and northeastern Spain celebrate feasts with "toros embolados," or "flaming bulls," which feature the animals racing around and shaking their heads as a reaction to flames or fireworks attached to or close to their horns. At these regional festivals, flaming-horned bulls are taunted and teased by rowdy crowds in bullrings, town squares or down streets.

C'mon bulls, you got a lot of work left to do!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Early to bed, never to rise?

"And yet while young men's failures in life are not penalizing them in the bedroom, their sexual success may, ironically, be hindering their drive to achieve in life."

 More here.


Bait & Switch

Here's some early footage of Lebron in action:


Hat tip to Mrs. Lebron.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One size fits all

In this excellent interview, Werner Herzog allows that all of his movies could have been appropriately given the same title: "Gazing Into The Abyss".

Austerity & Growth

There is a lot of discussion on the question of whether austerity is growth enhancing or not. While it's an entertaining debate, I get the feeling that the subtext is that European austerity only makes sense if it's growth enhancing, and I don't think that's true.

To my mind, Greece has two choices, default and devalue or continue on a path of ever greater austerity. Why they seem to be choosing option "b" is beyond my comprehension, but given they don't exit the system, what other option do they really have? Obviously they have no monetary levers. Obviously, they cannot borrow to finance further spending "stimulus". Obviously they cannot compel Germany to just pay up or the ECB to apply the monetary level system wide.  Obviously, they are not going to export their way to prosperity in the near term. So it's pretty much austerity uber alles for them.

Italy is in largely the same boat, except their borrowing rates have not hit Grecian heights due to ECB interventions. Their only options are austerity or exit.

As for the US of A, the idea that we are practicing fiscal austerity is risible. You can't even see austerity from where we are currently standing.

Alan Blinder channels St. Augustine

 You know, "Lord, grant me chastity, but not just yet"!

In today's WSJ, Alan writes, "it would be smart to borrow, say, another $500 billion this year and then pay for it, say, 10 times over, with $5 trillion in deficit reduction spread over 10 years—starting, say, in 2014."

People say this all the time, Blinder, Christina Romer, Mark Thoma, but it doesn't make sense. All Congress can commit to doing is what they actually do in the present. Does anyone really think the coming "draconian sequesters" on defense will actually happen?

The "cuts are coming around the corner" language is just boilerplate, designed to inoculate the writer from the charge of fiscal irresponsibility when they advocate increasing current federal spending.

Current Congresses cannot bind future Congresses. If they really want to cut spending, the only way to do it is to (sorry in advance) JUST DO IT in the here and now.

Don't hold your breath.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tumblr of the Day

Pizza Fractals!

Look, This is Not Complicated

Let's spell it out.

If you are invited to go on the Jon Stewart Show, you should go. It will be fun, Jon asks softball questions, it will be great, you will get to talk about your book

If, on the other hand, John Oliver, or Asif Mandvi, or Jason Jones, want to talk to you, just laugh at loud and hang up the phone. Do NOT talk to them. Do not do an interview. Do not even answer questions in writing. They already have an angle. They are smarter than you are, or at least they will seem smarter after they finish editing the interview.

Why do otherwise smart people convince themselves that they are going to be anything other than reamed? Froma Harrop is revealed here to be an unbelievable hypocrite and a self-important fool.
She just couldn't believe anyone could disagree with her, and be anything but a "terrorist." She even goes so far as to say that that was NOT a metaphor. She meant it literally: disagree with me, and you are a terrorist. Didn't we all make fun of George Bush when he tried that same stupid line?

Now, I have always just thought Froma Harrop was another economically illiterate lefty journalista. Given that she never took any actual courses in college, it's not her fault.

But.... it turns out she is actually a really, really scary lady. Thanks, Jon Stewart, and thanks to John Oliver! Don't ever call me, by the way. I won't answer, John O.

Lagniappe: From Wikipedia.... Harrop is the President of the National Conference of Editorial Writers. One project of the NCEW is the Civility Project, aimed at restoring civility to America's public discourse. Her position was criticized by the Wall Street Journal, which noted the contrast between this role and her comparison of the Tea Party to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. In her response to the criticism, Harrop stated, "I see incivility as not letting other people speak their piece." She subsequently deleted all the comments from the post and shut down the commenting feature of her blog.

On Computers / WiFi in Class

It is so important to this professor that people only pay attention to him in all his narcissistic glory that he forced the class into a smaller room....

JUST so there is no wifi

Wouldn't it have been easier to stay in the large class and ban laptops? Or make it possible to jam wifi somehow? It can't be hard.

Or, you could just let the students decide. As I argued before.

Lee Siegel Is An Idiot

You don't have to be an idiot to write for the NY Times.

But it helps. P-Krrog, for example, is certainly not an idiot. But he has to act like one to publish in the Times.

Being an idiot is the only qualification I can see for Lee Siegel writing a column.

Some analysis, from NO MORE MISTER NICE BLOG.

A lagniappe: Here is Mr. Siegel being an idiot on the Daily Show. Now that "Kim Jong Il Looking at Things" won't have any new entries, perhaps someone can have a blog entitled "Lee Siegel Being An Idiot." It would have daily entries.

9 ball, corner pocket!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hashtag of the day


Darned Tricky Numbers

Sometimes people wonder what kind of people want to write for the lefty bed-wetting press. Why would such a talented person want to "give" so much of themselves, taking a low salary just so they can speak truth to power? Those guys must be VERY good people....

Or perhaps they are just another idiot who got some fraudulent "______ Studies" major. And so they never learned how to calculate percentages or hold a real job. Now they blame the system for how much their little lefty lives suck.

An example:

Survey: Illegal Corporate Campaign Contributions Up 400%

By Alex Seitz-Wald on Jan 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

In 2009, just 1 percent of respondents to National Business Ethics Survey — a large industry study funded by major corporations like Walmart — said they had witnessed illegal corporate political donations. This year, that number quadrupled to 4 percent. Management-level employees at large, publicly traded companies were most likely to see the illegal activity, with seven percent of senior managers saying they had witnessed it.

If this guy had not majored in International Relations (at Brown, no less, the home of "Studies Studies"), he would know that this is:

(4-1)/1= 3

3 n.e. 4

But of course the actual numbers don't matter. It's the truthiness of the scare tactic that's important.

A complicating factor is that the Dems got FAR more corporate money than the Repubs in 2008. The problem for the left is not that corporations can give money. The problem is that corporations can give money to Republicans. THAT cannot be allowed.

Nod to Chateau

Fair Trade Frolics

This is just remarkable. Mr. Overwater did convince me of the importance people on the left attach to good intentions, regardless of whether the consequences are actually good. I think that is a big explanation of the popularity of "fair trade": I am paying more for this, an act of sacrifice and therefore of virtue. The fact that essentially none of the money actually makes it to the farmers is beside the point. I sacrificed, and therefore I am a good person.

But it's bizarre that people actually think the fair trade scam makes food healthier, or that it has fewer calories. Wow. You bedwetters believe that whatever lame secular god you worship will bless you with thinness, because you performed the good work of paying more for regular old coffee that happens to have a "fair trade" label on it.

The “Fair Trade” Effect: Health Halos From Social Ethics Claims

Jonathon Schuldt, Dominique Muller & Norbert Schwarz
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract: The authors provide evidence that social ethics claims on food packaging (e.g., fair trade) can promote the misperception that foods are lower-calorie and therefore appropriate for greater consumption. In Study 1, participants evaluating chocolate provided lower calorie judgments when it was described as fair trade — a claim silent on calorie content but signifying that trading partners received just compensation for their work. Further establishing this effect, Study 2 revealed that chocolate was perceived as lower-calorie when a company was simply described as treating its workers ethically (e.g., providing excellent wages and health care) as opposed to unethically (e.g., providing poor wages and no health care) among perceivers with strong ethical food values, consistent with halo logic. Moreover, calorie judgments mediated the same interaction pattern on recommendations of consumption frequency, suggesting that amid the ongoing obesity crisis, social ethics claims might nudge some perceivers to overindulge. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Romance is Costly?

Does the number of sex partners affect educational attainment? Evidence from female respondents to the Add Health (older version, ungated)

Joseph Sabia & Daniel Rees, Journal of Population Economics, December 2011, Pages 89-118

Abstract: We use data on young women from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to explore the relationship between number of sex partners and educational attainment. Using the average physical development of male schoolmates to generate plausibly exogenous variation in number of sex partners, instrumental variables estimates suggest that number of sex partners is negatively related to educational attainment. This result is consistent with the argument that romantic involvements are time consuming and can impose substantial emotional costs on young women.

Not sure this is right. Not directly a "cost," as much a correlate. Wasting time on promiscuity is dangerous and a sign of poor judgment, maybe also an artificially short time horizon. People with good decision making skills and a longer time horizon just aren't tempted to be promiscuous. This isn't sex, this is NUMBER of sex partners.

So, it's not, "Ya know, I could go to a bar, pick up a guy I've never met, and then do the bouncy-bouncy until daylight. But that would cost me too much time that I should spend studying for my PhD in physical chemistry. I would prefer to go out, of course, but I'll stay home." Rather, someone with ambition would just never consider doing those things. It's not appealing.

What I am trying to say is that the level of appeal of random hook-ups is the same for every woman, not that great. What differs is access to something else, an ambition for a career, which may come from having role models or parental encouragement from a young age. The hook-ups thing is just not that much fun.

Blogoverse needs Pritchett

Lant Pritchett is guestblogging up a storm about conditional cash transfers.

Check out these two excellent (albeit perhaps slightly contradictory) posts here and here.


Friday, January 13, 2012

A NOTY problem

Name of the Year. You can vote, America.

WARNING: NSFW. NSF anything, really. Utterly pointless. But if you read this blog, that must be attractive to you.

As our correspondent M-Ka notes, "I know from following your blogs every day, and listening to you on EconTalk, that you and Dr. Grier disdain both frivolity and low culture. But I do think you might like to promote this on KPC:

I voted for La'Peaches (check out the link to her), and Monsterville Horton IV (because of his obvious aristocratic status). And Vernon Lee Bad Marriage Jr. won his round!"

Thanks, M-Ka!

White Girl Problems

Okay, I'm not proud of this.

But if I need a pick me up, no more than twice a day or so (no, really), I just crank up Twitter and watch #whitegirlproblems . It's extremely rewarding. Some are likely serious, some are certainly not. But rewarding.

In five minutes, you will laugh out loud at least five or six times.

Things like:

I prayed for your forehead last night.

Pulled up to a stop light, blaring Lil' Wayne, & 2 black guys just broke up laughing.

If only I could unf**k you

So pale.... so pale

Kindle wouldn't connect to wi-fi, so I had to buy an actual book

Too busy to work on job applications

It's art, actually.

David Theroux: Secular Theocracy II

"Secular Theocracy: The Foundations and Folly of Modern Tyranny

As a reminder, here again is Part 1...

The full article with footnotes is here

Krueger on Inequality

This would be Alan ("Nominal") Krueger, not Anne ("Real") Krueger. The problem is that Alan is not adjusted for infliction (of nonsense).

His screed on inequality and its causes.

The slides for the speech.

The topic is an important one. Dr. K's presentation of the problem are interesting. Not sure why he decided to go all simplistic on the "causes," tho. This is complicated.

(Nod to E-Chris)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There is no great stagnation II (DJ style)

Check out these amazing turntable decks made from LEGOS! This one came from Germany and has a construction manual available here along with more pics:

This one is from the good old USA (more info here):

There is no great stagnation

Every single day of my life I thank the universe with Tebow-ish fervor that I was not doomed to live in an age when THIS was considered entertainment:

Let us now praise famous men

My main man, co-blogger, and friend of over 30 years, Mungowitz really outdid himself by sending me this *awesome*, nearly life-sized, David Freese world series bobblehead. 

Feast your eyes, people. Feast your eyes.

(clic the pic for an even more glorious image)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Che says, "Down with capitalist pigs! Buy my merchandise!"

umm....this kind of stuff happens all the time

Headline on Yahoo this morning condemning "human zoo" where indigenous people danced for tourists in exchange for food.

People, to different degrees, this happens all the time all over the world. Mrs. A and I have seen it advertised in Africa, Asia & Latin America. Heck it happens in Hawaii quite a bit!

I don't like it. We avoid such suggested outings, and have at times simply left our hotel when groups were brought in to perform. I feel like the people must hate doing it and that makes me embarrassed to watch/listen. (I have enjoyed gamalan concerts in Bali and traditional dance performances in Bali though (at places where you went and bought a ticket) so maybe I am a hypocrite here?) It is usually very hard to convince local people that you don't want to go to the "show".

But, food is good. Money is good. If the "performers" aren't slaves and choose to do their thing in exchange for the offered remuneration, how is it like a zoo? By my refusal to attend, am I sending people home to be hungry?

Every day, all over the world, millions of people voluntarily do things we generally consider unseemly or unsafe or undignified. This is one reason why, to me at least, global economic growth is still imperative.

Penn Jillette, Atheist

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I don't think you are TRYING hard enough

Fuel companies fined for their petty refusal to an additive in gasoline.

Look, the law says they have to do it. Stop fooling around, guys.

Of course, their lame excuse is that the additive does not actually exist.

The answer is that if your government is smart enough to imagine what it wants, the least you can do is actually make the stuff.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Hashtag of the day

People, check out the tweets at #ronpaultroofs

Here's one I especially liked:

"Ron Paul gave George Washington Carver his first peanut." 

and another:

"If you smoke like Ron Paul smokes, then you're high, like, every day."

Why Is This So Difficult?

Three suggestions about things you never say, or always say, or should say, to a potential mentor.

This week...THIS WEEK... I have gotten messages or had phone conversations that violated all three.

In particular, I suggested we meet at 10 am. Two different people wanting advice said, "No, that's too early for me. Can we do it some other time?"

Sure, we can do it during that time when I otherwise would have been writing you a pretty good letter of recommendation. Because now it is NOT going to be a good letter of recommendation.

Just read this. The guy has it right. And hopefully you are angling for being mentored by somebody WAY better than I am anyway, so it will actually matter!

Get your money out of PIMCO....

....because its CEO, the ubiquitous Mohamed El-Erian is a nincompoop!

Check out this gibberish in today's WSJ:

"Fat tails"—the technical term for the extremes of an outcome distribution—are risks for any global system that loses its anchors. Economies and markets function differently, companies and households feel unsettled, and policy measures become less effective.

Oh my. Where to begin.

First, "fat tails" is not a "technical term". The technical term is excess kurtosis. Fat tails is the colloquial, layman's term.

Second, fat tails is decidedly NOT a term for "the extremes of an outcome distribution"! The normal distribution is an outcome distribution. It does not have "fat tails". In fact it is the lack of fat tails in the normal distribution that lead so many models to go astray

How can this dude spew nonsense like this and get away with it? He's failing Stats 101.  It must be the 'stache.

Finally, the second sentence is even weirder than the first. I cannot make out what he is saying. Is he trying to say that recent events have changed the shape of the "outcome distribution"? Or that when we realized the outcome distribution had fatter tails than was previously thought, people changed their behaviors? The second interpretation at least makes some sense.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Americans Against Logic

Okay, so a tactical tip: If the Jon Stewart show wants to interview you, say no. Because not only will you be reamed, you will be complicit in your own reaming. I cannot understand how JS can find such self-important idiots. The Republican here... wow.
I think Republicans are hypocrites, yes I do.
I think Republicans are hypocrites, how 'bout YOU?

(Nod to Anonyman)

Faking It

The Economics of Faking Ecstasy, Hugo Mialon, Economic Inquiry, January 2012, Pages 277–285

Abstract: In this paper, we develop a signaling model of rational lovemaking. In the
act of lovemaking, a man and a woman send each other possibly deceptive signals about their true state of ecstasy. For example, if one of the partners is not in ecstasy, then he or she may decide to fake it. The model predicts that (1) a higher cost of faking lowers the probability of faking; (2) middle-aged and old men are more likely to fake than young men; (3) young and old women are more likely to fake than middle-aged women; and (4) love, formally defined as a mixture of altruism and demand for togetherness, increases the likelihood of faking. The predictions are tested with data from the 2000 Orgasm Survey. Besides supporting the model's predictions, the data also reveal an interesting positive relationship between education and the tendency to fake in both men and women.

So, I wondered a couple of things.
1. This would not apply just to het couples. Is it different for gay men or for lesbian women?
2. It took me a minute to realize that the "2000 Orgasm Survey" was referring to a year, not a benchmark.
3. I asked the LMM, "You never fake, do you!" She said, "Of course not! Then she went upstairs and closed the door, but I could still hear her laughing.

Lagniappe: Here is a video of the author presenting the above paper...

(Nod to Kevin Lewis, who never fakes)

Can Men and Women Be Just Friends

On the Utah State U campus, a team of crack investigators ask the question, "Can men and women 'just' be friends?"

Women say "yes." Men laugh at the very idea. Men are not good people.

Now, the Bishop and I know that married men can be just friends with women.

First, we fear our wives enough to know we had better not even think about anyone else.

Second, if we piss off our wives, we are going to be "just friends" even in our houses for several nights. "Honey?" "Don't touch me..."

(Nod to the Blonde, who is not surprised by any of this.)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Regulatory Capture Video

KPC friend Susan Dudley on regulatory capture. Nicely done, ma'am!

D-Bro Loses His Mind

David Brooks says this:

"If you believe in the centrality of family, you have to have a government that ... SUPPLIES WAGE SUBSIDIES TO MEN TO MAKE THEM MARRIAGEABLE." (ellipsis/emphasis added to make sure you don't miss it.)

You can look it up. He says that.

Thanks to Jim D for pointing this out. I had missed it. I thought it was just a run-of- the mill paean to Santorum. The collective values, the communitarianism, that's all fine.

But D-Bro raised it to a whole other level. We have to PAY men to get married. He actually comes close to saying, "If you are getting the milk for free, why buy the cow?"

Funny or Die

We need a new scare for funny.

This, for example, is veryveryvery funny, and outrageous.

But then this is even funnier.

And the commercial in that clip above, starting just after 3 minutes in, with Mike Tyson as Herman Cain...we need a new word. Mr. Tyson totally nails it.

Made me laugh, it did.

More good news

Wow! The December 2011 jobs report is out.  200,000 net new jobs. Pretty good. Unemployment rate falls to 8.5%. 

Good news for president O. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Surge Pricing

Tremendous example of the complexity of price as a moral principle and a rationing device. Courtesy of Reihan Salam.

Long, Huang Eat Pussy, Long Goes Down, Huang Hung

Wealthy Chinese man dies after eating poisoned stew made from slow-boiled cat.

A Chinese billionaire is dead after apparently ingesting some slow-boiled cat meat stew — though it wasn’t the cat meat that killed him.

Police in southern China have detained a local official on suspicion of poisoning the stew at the restaurant where the two were eating in Guangdong province on Dec. 23.

Agriculture official Huang Guang, billionaire Long Liyuan and a third diner were sharing a cat meat hot pot — a local delicacy — when Huang allegedly dropped some toxic herbs into the stew, the BBC reported.

Long, who ran a forestry company, was taken to the hospital after feeling dizzy and sick and later suffered a cardiac arrest. Huang and the third diner were hospitalized as well, though both survived.

According toFlickr user MowT the New York Times, Huang had apparently eaten some of the poisoned stew himself to avoid suspicion.

Police detained Huang on Dec. 30, after discovering evidence that Huang had embezzled money from Long.

Police initially took the restaurant’s owner into custody on suspicion of serving unsanitary food, according to the BBC. Long’s family, not believing he died simply of food poisoning, offered a $16,000 reward for information and insisted police keep the case open.

(Nod to the Blonde, who of course was mostly all excited about the title. I think she rented this movie last week.)

(UPDATE: Yes, I was thinking of Tom G. when I wrote this)

would you believe?

Would you believe me if i told you that, before roasting and eating that marshmallow, Kanzi the bonobo had (a) collected the wood, (b) built the fire (c) grilled up some burgers, and (d) ate them?

How about if I told you after he was done that he put the fire out with a bottle of water?

Well, it's all true!

Kanzi apparently lives in Iowa and to my mind is much more qualified for the GOP presidential nomination than any of the other "primitive creatures" who just left the State.

Okay, NOW You Can Kill Eagles (But Not Bats), To Show You Love Gaia

So, if all you are doing is building a factory that will create hundreds of jobs, and produce something people want to buy, you will be blocked by the Endangered Species Act. In fact, you may even have to close an existing golf course, because the nice froggies might not like it.

But if you want to build a "wind farm," which actually is a net loss of energy (counting the costs of construction and decommissioning), and produces almost zero jobs, then the feds will happily WAIVE the ESA. Kill all the eagles you want! (But not bats, apparently. Interesting.)

Now, in my view, the ESA is a death sentence, a stupid law that kills more creatures than it saves, by far. But still, if you believe the ESA works, why suspend it for such a marginal "industry" as wind?

Unless of course the whole thing is fake and all you really care about is the costly signal of worshipping Gaia, the Earth Mother? In that case, building an idiotic temple of wind and sacrificing eagles to Gaia actually count twice. We worship you, Gaia! And higher costs mean we love you more! Abraham was only willing to sacrifice his son. WE are willing to sacrifice eagles!

(Nod to the Blonde)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Great Essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It's in the Atlantic and it's called "Why do so few blacks study the civil war?"

It rejects the idea that the war was a tragedy; that is was a result of a failure to compromise, or of misunderstandings, the romanticizing of the gentlemanly southern generals.

Money quote:

For African Americans, war commenced not in 1861, but in 1661, when the Virginia Colony began passing America’s first black codes, the charter documents of a slave society that rendered blacks a permanent servile class and whites a mass aristocracy. They were also a declaration of war.

The final part of Charles Mann's excellent 1493 gives a good overview of the war between Europeans and slaves fought across the Americas.

Gun Control, Okie style

When faced with a home invasion, this Oklahoma woman, grabbed the family shotgun and pistol, called 911 for directions, and then shot and killed the person who kicked down the door to her home.

The intruders seemed to be targeting her house because her husband had just passed away.

Mrs. Angus and I go target shooting at a local firing range, and the gender mix there is easily 30% female.

By the way, Mrs. Angus is a pretty good shot!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

John D. Lewis

An energetic and compelling speech by my friend John Lewis, on July 4, 2009, in Boston. If you get to give a speech in Boston for the Tea Party on July 4, you are pretty cool.

And he was pretty cool. But John Lewis died this morning at 7 am. Esophageal cancer hammered him, as brave as he was. And he was very, very brave.

This is not a good day. I'd rather think of him like he was, on that day in Boston.

UPDATE: Two more good memories.

1. JDL's terrific lecture this fall in my "Econ for Non-Majors" class. Excellent talk on Greek and Roman views of exchange. He could barely speak. And yet there he was, bustin' it for the kids.

2. JDL's also terrific HuffPo piece on the deficit (Thanks to Dan Green for the reminder)

The Maurader

I'm going to guess that admiration for this car (and this clip) will largely be divided along gender lines.

(Nod to Herr Fuchs)

Not the Onion?

For our occasional "Not the Onion" feature...which of the following is a fake news story?

1. EEOC says that requiring people to have a high school diploma, or to be able to read, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. After all, idiots need jobs, too! And there are only 100 seats in the US Senate.

2. N. Koreans called on to provide "human shield" for Kim Jong (Big) Un. Presumably, the herd of shielders will also be available to be butchered for food, in case Big Un gets peckish. The story does also note that there is a "burning issue" of food shortage. What's a Big Un to do?

3. New Fox network reality show to choose candidate for President of Iraq. The winner will receive $1 million in campaign cash, and several truckloads of dates to use as bribes.

4. Solar plant in Idaho unable to generate enough power to supply even itself. Utility company is going to cut off electricity to so-called "power" plant, because they can't pay the bill for all the electricity they are using up in the process of not generating electricity.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Class dismissed

This sentence both confused and delighted me:

Many people, including me, have decided that the overclass poses the most serious threat today to the middle class in the United States because it markets the assertion that the underclass is the source of all our problems.

The author is Nancy Folbre, the source is the NY Times Economix blog.

I ran it through various translators and the best I could come up with was, I hate rich people and you should too. 

Anyone else?  Bueller?


Iowa: The Caucuses Mountains

I was on the Takeaway yesterday, with my pal Celeste Headley. She shamelessly promotes the (admittedly miraculous) fact that the D-Lions are in the playoffs.

And we also talk about Iowa. Click and play, if you want. It's about 7 mins.

Smiles: Fake? And can you tell?

Poker faces often have "tells;" so do smiles.

Spot The Fake Smile
(be sure to click the button to watch the smile.)

This experiment is designed to test whether you can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one. It has 20 questions and should take you 10 minutes. It is based on research by Professor Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California. Each video clip will take approximately 15 seconds to load on a 56k modem and you can only play each smile once.

In case you are wondering, they did it by taking real smiles that occurred spontaneously in interviews, or by telling the person to smile. Obviously you can't say, "Give us a genuine smile, now!"

Bizarrely, I got 18 out of 20 correct. Had a bit of luck, I expect. But that's better classification than I would have expected. Only missed two, one F that was a G, and one G that was an F.

How do YOU fare?

(Nod to the Blonde, who never fakes it)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Ballot Access Kerfuffles

A nice mess you have gotten us into this time, Stanley!

Gov. Perry, of Texas, is all upset because (gasp!) voters might not get to vote for the candidate of their choice! He failed to get the signatures required to get on the ballot in Virginia.

I have to agree with him. That's a dumb law, a ridiculous and arbitrary distinction on the ability to compete for office. Here is the complaint (from BAN, with thanks)

But then how come the Guv-meister has not said a peep about the fact that Texas, the state where I hear he has some pull, has made a complete hash of ballot access? Et tu, Ricky?

Some more background from Brian I, here...

it might take half the country

North Korea (i.e. Kim Jong Un) has called for its citizens to form a human shield around its leader (i.e. Kim Jong Un)!

Given that many North Koreans eat dirt and sticks, and that KJU looks like this:

I am wondering, how many North Koreans does it take to make a human shield for "The Great Consumer"?

I am waiting for KJU's catchphrase to come out. I loved his dad's: "Let's eat two meals a day"

Bien venido a la Selva

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Trying Blogsy on the iPad

This app claims that it's ez to do links, images, and embeds.  So lets give it a try. 

Here's a photo of a beautiful tree:

This post from LeBron caused Mrs. A to insist that I read the book called Beautiful Tree Forthwith

And here's a video Mrs. A took of me playing with Mr. 2T last year about this time. 

It's not exactly easy. The built in browser to find links is small and clunky. Images and embeds don't always go where you want them. But it's better than anything else I've seen for the iPad. If I could go on short trips with just the iPad instead of laptop and kindle, that would be great. 

To Prevent Abuse, Create a Cartel?

Anonyman sends this remarkable article. Excerpt:

While the Food and Drug Administration monitors the safety and supply of the drugs, which are sold both as generics and under brand names like Ritalin and Adderall, the Drug Enforcement Administration sets manufacturing quotas that are designed to control supplies and thwart abuse. Every year, the D.E.A. accepts applications from manufacturers to make the drugs, analyzes how much was sold the previous year and then allots portions of the expected demand to various companies.

So, to "prevent abuse," what the gubmint is doing is protecting cartel profits, even in a GENERIC drug. And of course if there is a shortage, that means that rich people who want to abuse the drug will still get it, but poor people who want to use the drug legally can just go screw themselves.

I would like to propose that before you work for the US federal government you have to pass a high-school level econ class. Is that too much to ask?

Rob Kendall Gets Sworn In

Now that Rob Kendall has been sworn in, he may get sworn at.

But for today, he is the newest member of the Brownsburg, IN town council, representing ward #3.

I enjoyed the part where the commenter compared the speech to the Gettysburg Address. The commenter said, "That was NOT the Gettysburg Address."

And so, it begins. But seriously, good luck to Rob! We need more ambiguously Libertarian Republicans in this world.

Don't know why, I love you like I do.....

Not So Much Predictions

I was going to call this predictions.

But it's more like "fun resources so YOU can make predictions." Here we go:

1. There are lots of models that predict share of two party vote in Presidential elections, based on the economy. Here is one that's fun to fool around with...

With plausible assumptions, that would imply that the Dems will get 49.7 -- 50.5 of the two party vote in November. Given the way the Electoral College "counts" votes, that would likely mean a narrow win for the Repubs. Of course that depends on who the Repub nominee is. But if you want to go strictly by the "economy determines whether incumbent Prez wins" theory, right now it's a toss up.

On the other hand, if there is 4% growth in the first two quarters of 2012, you would get a 53.5% vote in the states, and that is close to a landslide. So, the point is, to the extent the models matter, 2% growth and Obama loses. 4% growth and Obama wins in November.

This map is VERY fun for doing simulations, state by state, in Electoral College. (of course, the fact that I think that is fun may explain why I never had dates in high school)

2. Conference Board is predicting 1.5% growth for 2012. If that is right, then Obama loses. Again depending on who the Repub nominee is, of course.

3. Any prediction, based on any reasonable assumptions about the economy, predict that Repubs keep the House, and maybe even add a little to their majority. Redistricting will help here, because many state legislatures were taken over in 2010 election, and the winner redraws the maps.

4. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb) retirement puts the range of outcomes for the Senate at 51 D - 49 R to 47 D -- 53 R. But these are not equally likely. Most likely is 50 D -- 50 R, with VP Biden breaking tie votes in favor of Democrats. So, if I had to guess, Dems retain control of Senate, though only by the thinnest of margins.

5. Consumer confidence: on the economy, seems on the upswing. Still very weak. As long as the Euro is all covered with Greece, very scary situation. Our banks bought up a LOT of PIGS sovereign debt, with MF securities being only the most greedy. Other institutions are lined up like dominoes. World economy could get hammered here. That would be bad.

6. Congressional job approval is at its lowest level EVER, 11%. The House and Senate are each profoundly dysfunctional. But "we hate Congress, though we love our Congressman" is the old saying. The disgust with Congress rarely translates into voting out incumbents. Each election is separate, and based on personality and local factors. So the so-called "triple flip" where people vote against incumbents in Prez, House, and Senate races is very unlikely. People say they are mad, and then they line up and vote for incumbents.

7. Presidential approval is very bad also, but still in the mid 40% range. The difference is that we do vote on the Presidency, directly, in a way we do not on Congress. The rule of thumb is that if your negatives, of "disapprove" numbers, are above 45% you are toast. Right now, President Obama is toast, by that measure.

Oh, and happy new year, all you KPC fans! I am on leave until September, so I shall be blogging from many places around the globe, and I'm looking forward to it.