Friday, August 31, 2012

Grocery Store Performance Art: The LMM

The LMM goes to the grocery store quite a bit.  She eats mostly brocolli, and so has to buy brocolli twice a week or so.

Went to the Harris Teeter near our house, and ....

They had always  had signs at registers about donating to United Way.  Never had a cashier ask me about it. Now at the end of the register area, there was a 2 litre bottle of Harris Teeter coke with a pre printed laminated sign on it saying, "If your cashier does not ask you if you want to donate to United Way, please except this 2 litre bottle of HT coke."  (my emphasis!)  Couldn't believe it.  Manager was bagging my groceries.  I pointed it out to him and said that was very embarrassing.  He acknowledged  it was. Cashier immediately asked me if I wanted to donate. I had watched the two people in front of me and she hadn't asked them.

Then, she returned to that Harris Teeter (to. buy. more. brocolli.)  And saw this:

Instead of changing one word, they had redone the sign as Ernest Hemingway might have said it.  The checkout person did NOT ask the LMM to donate.  UNTIL she saw the picture taking.  THEN, "Do you want to donate to United Way?" Heh.

UPDATE:  I have NEVER been able to spell brocoli....brokolley....broccoli.  Perhaps I should apply to Harris Teeter for a job!

Hippo In Pool? Sad Ending

So, the hippo in the pool story was pretty cute: 

The young hippopotamus plopped into the pool on Tuesday at the Monate Conservation Lodge north of Johannesburg. The pool is big enough for the hippo to swim but it's eight feet deep with no steps and "there's no way he can come out," lodge manager Ruby Ferreira told The Associated Press on Thursday.

A game capture team will sedate the hippo and lift it out of the pool with a crane, said MuIsabel Wentzel of South Africa's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Much of the water has already been drained to make the extraction easier. A veterinarian will be present during operation hippo extraction on Friday.

Except, the poor guy didn't make it:

...a game capture team had been waiting since Thursday for a veterinarian to show up to tranquilize Solly and oversee the operation to hoist him out with a crane.

By early Friday, the hippo was showing signs of stress and was no longer able to stand in the pool, which had been drained of most of its water in preparation for the rescue.

Lying in the murky, feces-strewn water, he emerged occasionally for air, sighing anxiously as he gazed at journalists gathering around the pool.

“He was not as perky this morning, more agitated, like he was irritated. I think because he wanted to get out of the pool,” Ferreira told South Africa Press Association. “We’ve been waiting for the vets and I think they were just a bit too late.”


Not the Onion: Stupid Gun Fears Edition

Really?  The kid is DEAF.  He uses American Sign.  His name sign "looks like" he is holding his hand like a gun."  Why in the world do you idiots want to make a little deaf kid feel bad?

The parents of a 3-year-old deaf boy from Nebraska say his preschool told them he must change the way he signs his name because it looks like a finger-pistol...The family of pre-schooler Hunter Spanjer said officials at the Grand Island Public Schools told them the manner in which the boy signs his name is a violation of its “weapons in school” policy. They claim they were told Hunter had to modify the way he signs his moniker to comply with the school's zero tolerance code against weapons in school.

I have a "sign" for the nuts who have taken over our schools.  It involves the sign of me grabbing my private parts, wiggling around a lot.

Apparently, the school is now denying everything.  But the ACLU found enough cause to take up the case, on behalf of the boy.

Lying, Cheating, and Introduction to Congress

So, people are surprised that Harvard students are cheating.  Really?  I'm not.

Harvard students don't always see an actual professor.  Harvard is a place where many of the world's best (perhaps the very best) students go to be taught by many of the world's angriest (perhaps the very angriest) graduate students.  Yes, the faculty are fantastic.  But the only place you will ever see some of them is on the faculty web page.

NOT surprisingly, then, given the atmosphere, cheating is rampant.  I suppose this should upset people, but it doesn't.  The undergrads are Harvard are so smart, so worldly, so bright and interesting that they can function as their own educational facility.  They don't always have faculty, but they don't need them.

There is one place, however, where cheating should clearly not upset people.  In fact, it ought to be required.  The course?  Introduction to Congress:  where cheating is part of the learning.  After all, if you don't cheat, you don't really understand government in action.  These kids are clearly destined for a success in politics.

Nod to Angry Alex

re-writing history

The following quote is from Acemoglu & Robinson's blog:

 This is not to deny that ideology and ignorance play a role in the fates of nations. For example, clearly, if European leaders at Maastricht knew the problems that single currency and implicit bailout guarantees to financial markets on sovereign debt of peripheral countries would create, they would not have opted for it, instead choosing another path to increasing integration in Europe.

 I don't think this is right at all. Plenty of economists (both liberal and conservative) were pointing out that Europe was not an optimal currency area and that the single currency wouldn't work.

Instead, I'd say arrogance and over-confidence often play important roles in the fates of nations and the Euro is a prime example.

Other examples? What gets us into trouble more often, ignorance or arrogance?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Helium Markets

This is a strange story.

First, the Congress apparently decided to privatize helium producing "mines" in 1996.  I hadn't realized that the helium industry was a state-owned enterprise in the first place.  Was it really necessary to nationalize the inert gas industry, when we already have an inert Senate?

But, okay, fair enough, we privatized the industry.  But the federal government still sets the price?  According to this article, that's the case.

The problem is that very few new producers have entered the "industry."  That may be because there are not many underground stocks of pressurized pure helium.  But it also may be because THE FREAKIN' FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS STILL SETTING THE PRICE.

Economics is hard, but it's not THAT hard.

You ain't seen nothing yet

We are headed for a world where most production can be done efficiently without very many people. Either smart machines will do it by themselves, or communications technology will massively raise the scale at which that the best people can practice their trade.

In other words, we are headed for a new gilded age where owners of capital and labor market superstars will be producing a massive chunk of the economic pie. The exact percentage? Shall we say 90?

Our politicians are, as usual, fighting the last war. It's nuts to worry about getting manufacturing jobs back, because as a first approximation, there won't be any in 10-15 years.

I can think of two possible outcomes for the rest of us.

 One is that we are all on the dole, happily chewing qat or plugging into the Matrix of amazing alternate reality experiences available to us.

The other is that we form an army of personal service providers to the ultra rich. I specialize in fingernail care, you focus on toenails. Uncle Chester vacuums out bellybuttons, and so on.

Unless we get fully functional personal assistant robots who can pass the Turing test.

Then it's the Matrix for all of us non-elites.

People, how do you want to spend your time in a world where meaningful work is not really an option for most of us?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bernanke Will Be Watching You

Angus may already have linked this, but I couldn't find it in a minute of looking.  In any case, worth doing again....

With a nod to Matt Y.

Mr. Bad Example

RJ Gordon has written a "new" paper. It's basically The Great Stagnation (with no cite) without the happy bits.

In it, he gives, and Paul Krugman repeats, a very weird example:

A thought experiment helps to illustrate the fundamental importance of the inventions of IR #2 compared to the subset of IR #3 inventions that have occurred since 2002. You are required to make a choice between option A and option B. With option A you are allowed to keep 2002 electronic technology, including your Windows 98 laptop accessing Amazon, and you can keep running water and indoor toilets; but you can’t use anything invented since 2002. Option B is that you get everything invented in the past decade right up to Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad, but you have to give up running water and indoor toilets. You have to haul the water into your dwelling and carry out the waste. Even at 3am on a rainy night, your only toilet option is a wet and perhaps muddy walk to the outhouse. Which option do you choose?

There you have it people. Case closed. We are all doomed because....we have already solved the fundamental problems facing humanity (at least for the top 80% of people in developed countries)??

Really? That's supposed to make me feel bad about the current era? I get the meat & potatoes and the carmel frappacino too?


Just turn this around and you can see how dumb it is. Suppose we had the internet of today but no running water. How long do you think it would take to invent it? An hour? A day? Then we'd get its implementation funded on kickstarter in no time flat.

Our only real snags would be the decades of environmental studies required by the government and the protests of the United Brotherhood of Night Soil Workers.

What Gordon's paper does for me is remind me that we in the rich world should (yes, I said should) be more focussed than we are on our fellow humans who still live without "the great inventions".

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Virginity Cream

Some products require explanation.  Others do not.

Presumably "virginity cream" is in the latter category.

But then there is the question of why anyone would think a cream would restore....that.  Or want it to.  Sounds like some folks need some "idiot cream," fast.

Got to admit, the video is straight up BOSS.

With thanks to Kindred W., who knows me too well, apparently.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Yes people it's the LeBron tripleheader. Markets in Everything, The Culture that is Japan, & There is no Great Stagnation all in one post.

Without further ado, I give you the Japanese Toilet Motorcycle!

Words of wisdom from Jim Hamilton

In a very nice post at Econbrowser, Jim describes Fed actions over the last 5 years and ends with this:

"My view is that the Fed never had the power, and lacks the power today, to solve our primary economic problems. However I believe it did have the power, and successfully exercised the power, to prevent our problems from becoming even worse."

That, in my view, is pretty much exactly right.

It's Crony Clean!


Update on Chinese Solar

If someone wants to subsidize an industry, why not let them?  They are giving you free stuff.

In the case of solar panels, not really USEFUL free stuff, but free stuff.  China having a little trouble.

Reminds me of one of the readings we had for the LF this past weekend in Utah (hey, Bishop!  We missed you! At the hot tub!):  Bastiat's "Petition of the Candlemakers." 

Enjoy.  One of Bastiat's best.

And major props to Bob Lawson and Amy Willis for putting on such a great conference.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Aaargh! Monetary policy is not "tight"

It is certainly true that the nominal interest rate is not a sufficient statistic for the stance of monetary policy, but a low interest rate is NOT somehow prima facia evidence of tight policy!

Let's take an example of how the nominal rate alone is not enough to infer the stance of policy.  If the interest rate is 10% and inflation is running at 20%, the real interest rate is -10% and policy is not tight. If that same 10% interest rate is paired with a 0% inflation rate, then policy would be very tight indeed (real rate of 10%).

So the nominal rate does not in general accurately guide us to a conclusion about monetary policy.

But now consider our current situation. Inflation is around 2%. The Fed has pushed short term rates to around zero. The short term real rate is negative. 10 year government bonds are yielding around 1.6%, so that 10 year rate is slightly negative. According to the email spam I constantly get, 30 year mortgage rates are something like 3.5%, so the real cost of funds to buy a house is 1.5%. That's not negative, but it is low.

Real interest rates that are negative to very low = monetary policy is not tight!

Could monetary policy be even looser? Maybe.

Would it help? Maybe.

If by QE3 the Fed could get mortgage rates down 50 basis points without raising inflation, making the real cost of funds to buy a house fall to 1% would that solve our economic problems? If the Fed could raise inflation expectations to 3% while somehow keeping nominal rates where they are, would that solve our economic problems?

As LeBron pointed out, the costs of trying and failing don't seem to be so high, so why not give it a try? Just don't expect too much.

And please stop railing about tight monetary policy in the US.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

If this won't do it, what will?

People, I believe that if we could somehow get this video seen by everyone in North Korea, it would be game over.

This video is totally made of fabulous! I can't recommend it highly enough (hat tip to Mrs. A).

collateral damage

So a disgruntled ex-employee waylays his former boss, puts 5 in his head and takes off. He's followed by two cops. The killer turns on the cops with gun drawn and the cops kill him.

Good work, right?

Well, what if I told you that 9 people were wounded in the second shooting, all of them by shots fired from the police, who squeezed off 16 shots in around 8 seconds?


Should we be congratulating them or castigating them? My view is in the labels, tell me yours in the comments.

Friday, August 24, 2012

One way or the other

Readers of this blog know that I've been a big fan of gridlock. It's kept my taxes from rising for quite a while now. But I'm starting to think that it's not a good long term strategy.

I'm starting to think the country needs to go one way or the other. All out or all in.

We either need to embrace big government and try to make it work, or get to a more minimal state.

America is now the Laodicea of modern democracies, and it's not working. I believe we'd get better overall economic performance if either party could put through their agenda and keep it in place.

Many on the left play down the importance of policy uncertainty, but I think it's real and important. The last 3 years have shown that.  I also think both parties contribute to this uncertainty. It can't just be pinned on Obama.

The big government path is pretty clear. A bit more re-distribution, a LOT more regulation, maintaining and expanding at the margin existing social programs. More and more areas of life become areas where people have a right to consume in excess of what their private incomes can afford.

The small government path is not so obvious. Axing Homeland Security, Amtrak, and the Post Office is not going to shrink Federal spending very much. The amount of cutting to entitlements needed to get spending to say 15% is a tough sell when you consider our demographics and the values of the median voter. There has to be a strong case made for why after the transition, America will be a better place with a smaller Federal Government.

Just invoking the mantra of "entrepreneurship" isn't going to get the job done.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Linkulus maximus

1. Great long-read about the mystery monkey of Tampa and how (s)he stirred up the inner anarchist of the locals.

2. Calming the student debt crisis hype.

3. College grads face hard times.... IN CHINA!

4. Romney is as an alpha male chick magnet (funniest thing I've read this week).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tomato / Tomahto

It's being reported that an old lady "ruined" an Italian fresco by trying to restore it.

I can only assume that by "ruined" they mean "made awesome".

Here's the before and after:

From a tired old Jesus to a towel-armed manimal, just like that.

A star is born!

Podcastration: Parasites

Got to talk to some of my favorite people:  Zach Wiener, of SMBC fame, and Kelly (Wiener)Smith, a really cool biologista and general science nerd-punk.

The theme, as Kelly put it, is this:  "how people parasitize economies and how parasites economize people."

The podcast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All aboard Obama Motors

Obama General Motors, is not doing too well. When it went public again in November 2010, the stock price was $33.00. It's around $20 today. The Dow has risen significantly over this same time period (almost 30%), so the stock is a real dog.

GM is also still losing market share. They had a US market share of 20% in 2011, so far this year it's running at 18%.

How you like them Volts, 'Merica?

If the President is re-elected we may well be able to refer to GM as "the company so nice, Obama bought it twice!

All this and much more at this link.

Hat tip to Chris L.

Sergio loses even when he wins

Yesterday, Sergio Garcia won his first PGA tour event in 4 years along with $936,000 in prize money. Sergio won with a local guy as his caddie having separated from his regular caddy the week before.

Here, let Jon Wall tell you about it:

Garcia came into the week without a caddie on his bag, after parting ways with Gary Matthews following the PGA Championship. Looking for someone with local course knowledge, Garcia decided to give Faircloth a try for the week. The move turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both player and caddie, as Garcia went on to win his first PGA Tour event in four years, and Faircloth walked away with the flag on the 18th green -- the winning caddie usually takes the flag as a tournament keepsake -- and a once-in-a-lifetime story he'll be able to tell his grandkids one day. Oh, and another thing: a five-figure payday. Garcia earned $960,000 for his win, and considering caddies usually receive 10 percent of the paycheck for a win, the substitute loop could stand to make $96,000 for four days of work. There's a good chance Faircloth couldn't make anywhere close to that much on the local circuit. Ever. While Garcia wouldn't divulge how much he'd get for the win, he did say, "he's not going to get what a normal caddy would get because his job was fairly easy."

Wow. "his job was fairly easy". Dude you haven't won in 4 years. His job was Herculean!

So the cup-spitter finally gets a win and celebrates by stiffing his caddy.

There's a word for that, and I'm pretty sure it's "douchebag"!

What went so wrong?

Ezra Klein wrote a nice piece yesterday arguing that the big problem in the recession was housing debt and the central failure of Obama's economic policy was ignoring this big problem.

Here's his synopsis:

The precise nature of the administration’s misunderstanding was that the key problem was household debt, and until that problem was solved the economy couldn’t recover. But while it had a clear strategy for attacking bad debt in the banking system, and a clear strategy for attacking the fall in consumer spending, it never had a clear strategy for reducing housing debt.

He then points out that there are really no politically viable solutions to "bad" housing debt.

And indeed, what occurred was the bursting of a massive bubble in housing that left us much poorer than we thought we were. And since houses are relatively non-liquid assets, and often the main savings vehicle for many households, that bursting has long lasting ill effects on the economy.

I agree that ex-post, it's a very hard problem to solve and stay in office. Ezra talks about the massive forgiveness paid by the taxpayer approach. The other extreme is the get tough, foreclose like crazy, put it all behind us ASAP approach. We muddled through somewhere in between, though closer to option II than option I.

The best policies here are ex-ante and preventative. Looking back, perhaps the Fed should not have kept rates so low for so long, setting off a desperate search for yield that engendered a massive demand on Wall St. for mortgages to repackage. Perhaps the rating agencies should not have granted AAA status to synthetic instruments that they did not understand. Perhaps regulators should not have turned a blind eye to the blatant level of fraud that was occurring in the mortgage market. When a whole category of loans is referred to as "liar loans", that might be a problem down the road.

And of course, none of these policy failures can be reasonably laid at President Obama's door, but as Ezra points out, they are a factor in this pitiful recovery which undoubtably will hurt Obama in November (I don't agree with Ezra that Obama has no other significant economic policy failures, but I'll save that for another post).

It was often said that the role of the Fed was to take away the punch bowl just as the party was getting started. That clearly did not happen, nor did any of the other regulatory agencies or politicians show any inclination to get the country to drink responsibly.

So here we are. What do we do?

Krugman and Eggertsson have a new paper arguing that in our current predicament (which they, like Ezra attribute to excessive private debt) more government borrowing and spending is a very effective policy tool.

As I see it, this path seems unlikely to be taken without a Democratic sweep of the election.

So here we are. What do we do, or stop doing? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Matt Yglesias: Amnesiac

In an otherwise sensible post explaining how capacity utilization is back to normal while industrial output lags behind trend, Matt says something truly remarkable:

"This highlights the very real and very high costs of achieving economic recovery by simply letting things run their course."

Wait, what?

Maybe Matt and I are subjects in different simulations, but I don't think that's what happened at all.

What about the nearly $800 billion stimulus?

What about bailing out GM?

What about "cash for clunkers"?

What about cutting the payroll tax for two years?

What about extending the Bush tax cuts?

What about the repeated extension of unemployment benefits?

"Simply letting things run their course" is about the last thing that's actually happened in the past 4 years.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is Political Science Crumbling?

There's a great word you likely know, but don't use very often.  It's metonymy.  Synechdoche is similar, but it literally means a part for the whole, or the whole for a part.  So "boots on the ground" is synedoche (boots meaning an infantryman, the part standing for the whole), and "US beats China in the finals!" is synedoche (two teams were playing, not the countries, so the whole is standing for the parts).

Anyway, metonymy is a little different, where a symbol or feature stands for something else.  "The Oval Office said today...."  means that the President issued a statement.  The Oval Office is not part of the President, but rather is associated with the President, and can be used to symbolize him.

This picture suggests the metonymy we find in the title for this post:
 APSA headquarters at Dupont Circle:  The apocalypse?  No!  Not now, not if my main man John Aldrich is the new President!  It's morning again in APSA.

With a nod to Anonyman...

Markets in Everything / The Culture that is Japan

Non-price competition in the Japanese fast food market has lead to some interesting menu items at American based chains.

Here's the $16 foie gras burger from Wendy's:

and Pizza Hut's "pigs in a blanket crust" pizza:

many more exotic entrees can be seen at the link above.

I wonder if good old price competition (4 whoppers for a nickel!!!) is outlawed/discouraged in Japan, or if the Japanese consumer somehow finds price competition unseemly? My money is on the former.

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus!

Get thee to a university

On average, there has pretty much never been a better time to hold a college or advanced degree.  Here's some amazing graphs from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

The first deals with the recent recession and current "recovery" (clic the pics for more glorious images):

College and Advanced degree holders suffered no net job loss in the recession and have gained 2 million jobs in the recovery. Those with some college suffered moderate job loss in the recession and have just about returned to square one during the recovery. Those with High school diplomas or less lost almost 6 million jobs during the recession and have not regained any of those in the course of the recovery.

The next graph shows that the recession just exacerbated what is a longer run process:

Since 1989 we've seen negative job growth for those with HS or less, and since 1995 a de-coupling of job growth between the some college and college grad or more.

The report also claims that the wage premium for a college or advance degree has held steady in the face of these trends.

So a whether it's just signaling, or whether it's gaining human capital, higher education is more important than ever for economic success in modern America!

Oh and by the way, yes I know that I'm a university professor and stuff like this is very good for me and the future of my profession.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Catch me if you can

LeBron links to a study claiming the economic benefits of the single currency accrued mainly to Greece, Portugal & Spain.

I decided to look at the issue through the lens of real per-capita GDP via Angus Maddison's dataset and take a longer view than just the post-euro period.

Here's what I found (clic the pic for an even more wonkish image):

Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece were all growing fast relative to Germany (and France which is not on the graph) well before the introduction of the Euro. Ireland and Spain take off somewhere around 1990 and the intro of the Euro in 2000 does not speed up their trajectory. Portugal actually falls further behind Germany in the Euro era. Greece is the only country of these 5 whose catch-up to Germany accelerates with the intro of the Euro.

The data used can be found here.

It is also interesting to note that Greece, Portugal & Spain surged relative to Germany from 1960 - 1974, then stagnated till the end of the 1980s.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I don't think I'll be seeing this movie...But not because I believe it to be false.

"Halfway through a special screening of 'Compliance,' the deeply unsettling new film from writer/director Craig Zobel, a woman stood up, yelled out, 'Give me a f*cking break,' and walked out of the theater. As the film progressed, other women joined her...'Compliance,' shown on Tuesday night at a special screening and panel put together by Psychology Today, is not a Holocaust drama or a gory war film or a Lars Von Trier genital mutilation-fest. It is a psychological thriller grounded in an almost documentary level of reality and will probably hold up as one of the most well-paced, brilliantly acted films of the year. It was also, without a doubt, the most uncomfortable film experience of my life...Further compounding the psychologically disturbing nature of 'Compliance' is the fact that it is based almost entirely on true events...In Zobel's version, Dreama Walker stars as Becky, a blond, teenage employee of 'Chickwich,' a fictional fast-food restaurant in Ohio, and Ann Dowd stars -- in an epically nuanced, Oscar-worthy performance -- as her well-meaning manager, Sandra. Early in the film, Sandra receives a call from a man claiming to be a local police officer named 'Officer Daniels,' who explains that Becky has been accused of stealing from a customer. Officer Daniels then instructs Sandra to remove Becky's clothes, her belongings, to help him 'find the money,' and then -- well, it just gets worse from there...At the panel following the screening, psychologist Stanton Peele suggested anyone might do the same thing in a similar situation. Though when the audience was pressed -- 'How many people in this room think they would have gone along with this scenario if they were present?' Peele asked -- no one raised their hands...Another man suggested it was a matter of 'IQ,' and that anyone with a 'high IQ' wouldn't fall for it." [Lucas Kavner, Huffington Post]

"High IQ"?  That guy is an idiot, whatever his IQ is. The Milgram experiments showed IQ has basically nothing to do with it.

The YouTube trailer...

I tell my students that if I had been born the son of a wealthy white slave-owner in the south in 1840, I'm sure I would have supported slavery.  I hate the fact that that is true, but it almost certainly IS true.  And my students would have done the same thing.

If you think you are immune from this need to comply with orders from authorities, you are just wrong.  Some people resist, but not very many.

Nod to Kevin Lewis...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The NCAA and Fed: Two Organizations People Love to Hate

John C. makes some comparisons I had not thought of.  Interesting.

Both the NCAA and the Fed have a problem of commitment.  And they use threats to try to get what they want.

Sweet Fancy Ethanol!

Our good friends on the left side seem to worry about corporations buying the election, with money from their treasuries.  Fair enough, that would be a problem.  But isn't it also a problem that our President is buying the election, with money from the US treasury?

I assumed that this was a hoax, when I first read it.  Prez O has decided that farm prices are "too low" (compared to what?  Is it really bad for poor Americans if food prices fall?  WTF?)

(more below the fold)

The hole in Robert Samuelson's head*

A true "public good" is a strange beast. It is among other things, non-rivalrous, meaning that one person's use of the good does not reduce the amount of the good available for another person to use (unlike a hamburger).

So, if more people consume the good than before, it doesn't reduce the amount of the good available for use by the previous consumers.

Thus, the quantity of the good does not have to rise in proportion with the population in order to keep per-capita consumption constant.

National Defense is often given as an example of a pure public good. Our nuclear stockpile does whatever it does for each of us no matter how many of us there are. Our aircraft carriers do whatever they do for each of us no matter how many of us there are.

Thus, we should not automatically fear/rail against policies that might cause real defense spending per capita to fall. What really matters is total defense spending.

This brings me to Robert J. Samuelson in today's WaPo. In describing a proposal to limit growth in defense spending to the rate of inflation after 2023, he writes, "Defense cuts could verge on unilateral disarmament".

People, can I get a YIKES? Thank you.

Now, it may be that future events would make us want to collectively consume a greater level of defense than we do now in real terms. It is also in my opinion foolish to claim that anyone today has any influence on how the Congress of 2023 will allocate our money.

But defense spending could fall in per capita terms (or in percentage of GDP terms) without reducing the amount of defense we have.

In fact, spending could fall in per capita terms and we could all be better defended!

Total real spending could rise while per-capita real spending falls and we'd each have more defense to "consume".

Note that this is true of any other government provided public good and partially true for any government provided partially public good (goods that are semi-rivalrous, like roads).

The "any fall in real spending per capita is a cut" meme is just not necessarily true, especially when it comes to government provided goods.

Robert J would be very lucky to get the "gentleman's C" in Econ 101.

*In the print version of the WaPo, Samuelson's piece is titled "The hole in Ryan's Medicare Plan", which is what inspired the title of my post.

Our Debt is Overhung

 And we are in deep Minsky Koo, it appears.

Public Debt Overhangs: Advanced-Economy Episodes since 1800

Carmen Reinhart, Vincent Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2012, Pages 69–86

We identify the major public debt overhang episodes in the advanced economies since the early 1800s, characterized by public debt to GDP levels exceeding 90 percent for at least five years. Consistent with Reinhart and Rogoff (2010) and most of the more recent research, we find that public debt overhang episodes are associated with lower growth than during other periods. The duration of the average debt overhang episode is perhaps its most striking feature. Among the 26 episodes we identify, 20 lasted more than a decade. The long duration belies the view that the correlation is caused mainly by debt buildups during business cycle recessions. The long duration also implies that the cumulative shortfall in output from debt overhang is potentially massive. These growth-reducing effects of high public debt are apparently not transmitted exclusively through high real interest rates, as in eleven of the episodes, interest rates are not materially higher.


Debt, Deleveraging, and the Liquidity Trap: A Fisher-Minsky-Koo Approach

Gauti Eggertsson & Paul Krugman
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

In this article we present a simple new Keynesian–style model of debt-driven slumps — that is, situations in which an overhang of debt on the part of some agents, who are forced into rapid deleveraging, is depressing aggregate demand. Making some agents debt-constrained is a surprisingly powerful assumption. Fisherian debt deflation, the possibility of a liquidity trap, the paradox of thrift and toil, a Keynesian-type multiplier, and a rationale for expansionary fiscal policy all emerge naturally from the model. We argue that this approach sheds considerable light both on current economic difficulties and on historical episodes, including Japan’s lost decade (now in its 18th year) and the Great Depression itself.

With thanks to Kevin Lewis

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Santiago: Good, Bad, Strange, and Really Bad

Did some restauranting.  With the EYM here in his new home, Santiago.  Los Condes, actually.  Some quick thoughts.

1.  Tiramisu.  Really, really good pizza.  Everything is good.  Everything.  Pricey, but good.  Service is good.  Room is beautiful.  It's good.  That's what I'm saying here:  Good.

2.  Fragola.  Dessert place.  Again, beautiful, all good.  But the kuchen de nuez may be the best dessert I have ever had.  All time, no qualifications.  The best.  Astonishing.  More generally, though, you simply cannot go wrong with Fragola.

3.  Black Rock Pub.  Odd.  Strange, in fact. In a very good way.  The publican is a bear of a man, an Aussie.  Loves beer, loves to talk about beer.  Has big selection of Chilean artisenal beers, more than you will find....anywhere, actually.  Interesting some of them are not that great, though some are.  His philosophy:  If you can buy it at Jumbo, we don't carry it.  You'll like it.  Happy Hour prices are good, and Happy Hour lasts until 22:00 (it's Santiago...)

4.  "Fresh"  Empanadas at Lider.  (Lider is mid-scale grocery store).  Not health food.  And bad, in a way.  But also good.  Still warm.  Tasty, comfort food.

5.  Astoria.  Comida Peruana.  VERY expensive, by Chilean standards.  We had trio de cebiches (outstanding).  Then the EYM had a turbot entero (a whole turbot, a flounder-like fish, huge, with skin and head still on.  Vegetables, some cooked seaweed, and a chaufa on the side.  Excellent.  I had, as always, the skewers of corazon (beef heart), which came with some slightly mashed roasted potatoes.  The food was great.  For dessert, we had custard/quinoa and ice cream combo.  Sounds weird, was delicious.  And espresso.  But, do NOT go to Astoria.  The service was TERRIBLE.  Not sure why, in Chile, where there are "guards" everywhere and thousands of people paid to do basically nothing, this place couldn't get decent help.  Our waitron was awful:  ranging from hostile to indifferent to inattentive.  The delivery of dishes was just rude.  We had to beg to get her to let us order anything, and when we did it took a very long time to get.  The worst (it's a bad sign that I was timing it, but I was, at this point) was the dessert.  We ordered dessert and espresso.  The dessert came 12 minutes later.  Fair enough, not fast, but okay.  The espressos came 22 minutes AFTER THAT, and were cold.  32 minutes to get espresso.  Then, $97 for the two of us, and we had just one drink, a pisco sour (which was very good, by the way).  So, the food was fine, but the service was so terrible and rude it ruined the experience.  And for the money, there are lots of Peruvian places (La Mar, El Chelan, etc.) that are better.  Do. not. go. to. Astoria.  Awful.


1.  Why is the world's largest corporation buying fake poop?  Note the pictures, it's impressively realistic.

2.  Paul Ryan looks to be Romneycorp's answer to the "Just a bunch of rich out of touch guys" attack.  I had not considered that angle, but it may work to some extent.

3.  Good scientist!  You get a badge!  If they tried something like this in comparative politics journals, let's just say that the total number of badges awarded would be.... none.

4.  Several interesting posts on energy economy from Mark Perry.

Nod to Angry Alex, and the Blonde

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma, Chameleon

Investing in Karma: When Wanting Promotes Helping

Benjamin Converse, Jane Risen & Travis Carter
Psychological Science, August 2012, Pages 923-930

People often face outcomes of important events that are beyond their personal control, such as when they wait for an acceptance letter, job offer, or medical test results. We suggest that when wanting and uncertainty are high and personal control is lacking, people may be more likely to help others, as if they can encourage fate’s favor by doing good deeds proactively. Four experiments support this karmic-investment hypothesis. When people want an outcome over which they have little control, their donations of time and money increase (Experiments 1 and 2), but their participation in other rewarding activities does not (Experiment 1b). In addition, at a job fair, job seekers who feel the process is outside (vs. within) their control make more generous pledges to charities (Experiment 3). Finally, karmic investments increase optimism about a desired outcome (Experiment 4). We conclude by discussing the role of personal control and magical beliefs in this phenomenon.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  Honey badger, schmoney badger.  The Okie Porkypine is the one what don't care.  Don't mess with the Okie Porkypine.

2.  Is higher ed being left behind, not just in terms of technology but also quality?

3.  Epic Crowd-failing.

4.  From Politico:  Amtrak is making progress on the issue [losses in food and beverage business], but Boardman admits it’s a long slog. “Food and beverage is important to our customers, and it’s very tough to make it profitable,” he wrote.

Amtrak President Boardman's job of running a $4 billion annual expenditure business seems to be impaired by his misunderstanding of what customers value or pricing to translate customer values into profit.  (ED's Note:  It is a little hard to understand why something that customers value and which is essentially a pure private good can, by definition, not be profitable...)

5.  Amtrak's "Fact Sheet."

Thanks to J.L., Angry Alex, J.S., and Jackie Blue.

Hitler Finds Out Ryan is GOP VP Candidate

The "Hitler Finds Out ____" is pretty played out.  Usually, it's enough just to hear the premise; you don't need to watch the thing.  You know, "Hitler Finds Out the DC Metro Closes at Midnight," "Hitler Finds Out Chicken Tikka Masala is Not Really an Indian Dish, But Was Invented in London," that sort of thing.

But this version, about Paul Ryan, is pretty funny.

football vs. football

Nice piece in NY Magazine by Will Leitch on the morality of football. Quick quote:

Forget your own kid playing football. The ­question is whether anyone’s kid should.

Here's the full medal count from the Olympics. What single medal do you think created the most joy in the home country of the winner(s)? My money is on Mexico's gold in men's soccer!

And speaking of medals, the first medal revocation has taken place. A female Belarusian shot-putter has lost her gold medal for juicing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Wow, Jimmy Buss really played rope-a-dope with Laker nation.

As of mid June he was lowering expectations of the faithful, telling them not to expect any major moves in the off season beyond an attempt to re-sign Ramon Sessions!

Now the Lakers have a projected starting lineup of Steve Nash, Kobe Bean, Pau Gasol, MWP, and Superman! With Antwan Jamison coming off the bench.


In the NY Times, Howard Beck estimates that the Lakers will be paying around $70 million of  Luxury Tax for the 2013-14 season. I guess he's assuming that Dwight Howard signs a max contract with LA (as of now Howard can walk after the upcoming season), but that's a big number. Remember that the alleged salary cap figure for next season is $58 million!

Yet I still don't see the Lakers getting by my Thunder.

OK people, will Dwight sign long term with the Lakers? Will Jimmy Buss really pay that much to the league? How far will the Lakers go next year?

I know that you know where to tell me.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

With the EYM in Santiago!

I made it.  My back was very sore (bulging/borderline herniated disc, it's not clear just what is going on).  But I made it.

Extremely long line in immigration/customs.  The Santiago airport has two peak load times, early morn and late evening.  The morning is bad.  Four or five large flights all arrive within 20 mins of each other.  And there are 8 functioning passport control stations.  We're talking about 1,000 plus people all waiting for some very calm and placid public officials here.  Took an hour to have immigration control person spend all of 20 seconds on my passport.  Ugh.

Then stood outside a door that was only about 50 meters from the door where my taxi driver was standing, with a sign with my name on it.  A bad equilibrium, for another 30 minutes.

Still, I made it, and now the EYM are going out for a coffee and pastry.  Then, 2 pm we are heading for Cafe Tiramisu for some very nice pizza.

Tomorrow, lunch with el Decano.

Be kind rewind

Chartist surrealism appears in online medical journals too! LeBron links to the following amazing chart of "excess health care spending growth".  The article in the New England Journal of Medicine defines "excess" growth as the difference between the growth of health care spending and the growth of potential GDP (no word if this is "real" potential or "nominal" potential GDP).


Just to summarize, they are taking a totally unobservable and made up variable and using it to define another unobservable and totally made up concept, that of "excess" health care spending.

Shouldn't excess spending be defined as wasteful spending, like unnecessary tests or surgeries or inefficient record keeping?

Doesn't health care have to be paid for out of actual GDP? Can you tell your doctor, look, the output gap is 13%, so I am only paying 87% of this bill.

How can anyone define the correct path of health care spending? Must it be a constant portion of GDP? Why? Why couldn't preventative care and lifestyle adjustment make health care shrink as a proportion of GDP? Or conversely, why couldn't some amazing but expensive breakthrough cause optimal health care spending to soar as a percentage of GDP?

Include Me Out? So, only 98% now?

Loyal reader AB sends the following email:

Was it something I said (or wrote)?  Think you'd enjoy...  After being "invited" by MoveOn to protest at Romney appearance here, I responded I would attend IN SUPPORT of Romney.

Withing minutes I received the following.....

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 4:56 PM
Subject: You've been removed from "We Are the 99%!" event
To: ******

The host of "We Are the 99%!" -- a We are the 99% -- has removed you from the list of attendees for this event.
--The Political Action Team

Friday, August 10, 2012

Robert Reich Haiku

Tim Worstall gives a nice paraphrase of Robert Reich's view of the world.

I was just disappointed that Tim didn't realize that he had very nearly written a Reich haiku.  So I finished it for him.  Enjoy, Tim!

RR Haiku

I like time off, see?
So millions must take time off
To be more like me

When people were shorter and lived by the water

Check out these amazing black and white photos from Buzzfeed.

Which shot of a little kid smoking do you prefer and why?

Or maybe those aren't little kids at all?? Maybe that's just a VERY BIG CHICKEN?

Macroeconomic Surrealism

Wow. I am old and have already seen too much in my career, but this morning I was treated to a Dali-esque display of Macro.

Witness this blogpost, which graphs two completely unobservable and totally made up variables against each other and uses their correlation to castigate the Fed.

The first variable is "Aggregate demand uncertainty" and it is none other than the newly constructed index that has so riled up the progressive blogosphere.

The second is "Potential Nominal GDP" minus actual Nominal GDP.  I have been on record elsewhere criticizing measures of potential real GDP  but this is even stranger.

Wouldn't potential nominal GDP always be infinite? Can't the Fed always raise the price level a little bit more?

Isn't this a fake variable that doesn't even make sense in theory?

Anyway, it turns out that these two constructed versions of unobservable variables are negatively correlated. Check it out:

If two fake variables explain each other in a graph, does it make a sound?

People, the author of the post in question didn't make up these stinky variables; Potential Nominal GDP is on FRED for Pete's sake! He just used them to go all Luis Brunel on us.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

German Miracle From No Copyrights?

Was Germany's phenomenal growth partly caused by an absence of copyrights and patents?

Der Spiegel thinks so.

I'd paste it here, but it's copyrighted!

Markets in Everything: Tennis Pass Edition

Sharp-eyed reader DC sends this link.



A steep price increase for most permits required to play tennis on New York City's public courts has changed the game, pricing out thousands of players while creating shorter wait times for those who can afford to pay.

The Parks Department first served up higher fees for public tennis in 2011, doubling the prices paid by players between the ages of 18 and 61. Single-pay passes for an hour of court time jumped to $15 from $7, while season passes rose to $200 from $100.

Far fewer tennis permits have been sold under the new prices, according to data from the Parks Department. Sales of season passes for most players slipped by 40%, with 7,400 sold in 2011 as compared to 12,400 in 2010. (Only about 6,800 passes had been sold by the end of June 2012 to players purchasing unlimited court time for the year.)

Sales of single-play passes for this group of adults took a big hit as well, dropping by nearly a third from more than 40,000 for the 2010 season to about 27,000 last year.

Preliminary numbers through June show about 9,700 passes sold, though the Parks Department cautions that third-party vendors are still reporting sales and the number will rise.

Some longtime players say they made the decision that the cost is just not worth it. Christopher Farber, a freelance photographer living on the Upper East Side, no longer splurges on the season pass and has instead cut back his matches to about two a month, opting for single-use permits instead.

"I feel like $100 is a threshold," said Mr. Farber, who in the past played about 50 times a year at the courts in Riverside Park with partners he found through the website Craigslist. "I'm freelance and kind of get by every month, but even at $100 I can see myself buying a pass for the summer.'"

Interesting.   Tennis courts are most emphatically NOT a public good.  They are a club good, and can easily be provided as a club good (non-rival up to congestion point, but cheap to exclude).  Should the government even be in this business?  And if so, what is the "correct" price?

Iceland. Handball. Silver. Penises. For Dad.

It's hard to know how to describe this story.  There are just so many good parts.  And, no, I'm not making this up.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum ....was moved several years ago to immortalize the victorious handball players in an unusually raunchy sculpture called The Icelandic National Handball Team. The sculpture consists, basically, of a bunch of silver penises pointing at the ceiling in a kind of wild-mushrooms-waving-in-a-field effect.

1.  Okay, so there's an Iceland Phallological Museum, to start with.  It contains either actual penises, or representations of penises, of ALL the creatures found in Iceland. I did NOT know that.  I did not WANT to know that.  I expect to have nightmares about that.  ("Ah!  A butterfly penis!  Enlarged 10,000 times!")

2.  That statue is to honor the "handball" team.  A double entendre, or did the artist really see those heroes as just a bunch of dicks?

3.  And the artist, who is female, claims she didn't have any particular model for the highly idiosyncratic and anatomically correct peni.  She just  "made them from experience."

4.  Finally, the artist made this sculpture to honor her father.  What dad's heart doesn't glow at the thought of his daughter making a bunch of erect silver penises fashioned after an entire men's handball team?

With deep gratitude to reader M. Kaan, who knew that this link need to go to KPC, and NOT to .

Motherless Brooklyn

"It's amazing to me that we let humans drive cars."Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Well this will draw hellfire from LeBron, but I absolutely hate the idea of a driverless car.

To me, it's just one more intrusive regulation. One more freedom gone.

As a technological innovation, it's really weak beer isn't it?

We have seen the future and it's not flying cars or teleporters, it's people yoked together on a virtual leash.

The system will only really "work" (and by work I mean control us) if everybody is using it, so eventually it will become mandatory.

Google is a freakin' tool for big brother. Just look at the quote. Whatever happened to "don't be evil"?

Maybe the highway patrol unions and the makers of radar detectors can team up to fight this in court and get it squashed!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

McKayla is not impressed

more here

Markets =/ Crony Capitalism

That cutey, Steve Horwitz, has a nice video, new at Learn Liberty

Grand Game: Western Politcal Science Association

I actually thought this was a spoof.  No one could seriously mean this, as an invite to participate in a political science conference (the Westerns).  To be clear:  it's not a meeting of lefty nuts, it's a meeting of professional political scientologists.

Since the passage of the Taft Hartley Act in 1947, the US has seen steady erosion in [protections for workers]. Workers in the US and Europe bear a greater and greater burden for the social goods provided by their society and receive fewer and fewer benefits while those who have benefitted most from the triumph of capitalism have begun to knock down the reforms achieved in the 20th Century. Hopes of spreading the improved human condition to the global south have foundered on a reconstructed mercantilist and neo-colonial international trade regime that has resulted in exploitation of workers in lesser-developed nations and vast environmental degradation.

Is democracy up to this challenge? Can the free-market global economy again be brought into line with the goals of improving the conditions of humanity? Are our institutions, nation-states, international compacts, and ways of thinking up to this challenge, or will the latter part of the 21st Century more closely resemble the late 19th than the late 20th? While the WPSA welcomes proposals on all political and governmental questions of interest to the discipline, in 2013, we would like to pay particular attention to domestic and international inequality, its causes and its consequences, and whether democratic institutions are up to the task of addressing either.

But it appears to be serious.  Wow. 


With a nod to the Bishop.

Mars Schmarz

Maybe I'm the only one, but I do not give a #^#$% about the latest Mars rover.

Well, actually I do.  I dislike it and wish we'd stop wasting money on crap like this.

People, have we not been getting photos of Mars from rovers since 2004? Is this not old hat? Will we ever find Mars' "good side" and get the photo we've been looking for?

This latest photo shoot cost $2.5 billion (about a billion over budget). Apparently we want to find out if life ever existed there.

Of course life existed on Mars. Has NASA never watched Bugs Bunny?

Why is the JPL the lucky recipient of a seemingly permanent, federally funded, high wage, full employment program? They've been on the gravy train long enough!

And they say that political science research is useless and should be defunded! While that may be true, it's way way way better than the NASA-JPL cabal.

Up His Nose!

It's the classic story, almost trite because you hear it so often.  Boy meets Lego Tire.  Boy shoves Lego Tire up his nose.  Lego Tire stays there three years, in his sinus cavity.  Lego Tire is covered with mold, causes near constant illness.  Doctor removes Lego Tire.  Dad says "gross!" but secretly thinks, "cool!"

Boy and Lego Tire are reunited.

Everyone is happy.  Three years?  Yikes.  Mom and Dad are a little embarrassed.  But I'm sure Dad really is secretly proud.  I would be!

Reminds me of Cheech and Chong's "Up His Nose..."

"We can't go out on the street without the yunkies and schvartzes....Keep the change!" Sure, yes, offensive. It was the '70s.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

7,000 extra page views per day, 4 days?

Anybody have any idea what could have caused this?  We got 7k+ extra page views per day, for four days, and then it stopped.

Extremely lame denial of service attack?  Bots looking for emails to harvest?  Some readers with extremely short attention spans?

Angus and I have no clue.  Very odd.  Never seen anything like it.

Beliefs and Actions

Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates

Azim Shariff & Mijke Rhemtulla
PLoS ONE, June 2012

Though religion has been shown to have generally positive effects on normative ‘prosocial’ behavior, recent laboratory research suggests that these effects may be driven primarily by supernatural punishment. Supernatural benevolence, on the other hand, may actually be associated with less prosocial behavior. Here, we investigate these effects at the societal level, showing that the proportion of people who believe in hell negatively predicts national crime rates whereas belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates. These effects remain after accounting for a host of covariates, and ultimately prove stronger predictors of national crime rates than economic variables such as GDP and income inequality. Expanding on laboratory research on religious prosociality, this is the first study to tie religious beliefs to large-scale cross-national trends in pro- and anti-social behavior.


Support for Redistribution in Western Europe: Assessing the role of religion

Daniel Stegmueller et al.
European Sociological Review, August 2012, Pages 482-497

Previous sociological studies have paid little attention to religion as a central determinant of individual preferences for redistribution. In this article we argue that religious individuals, living in increasingly secular societies, differ in political preferences from their secular counterparts. Based on the theory of religious cleavages, we expect that religious individuals will oppose income redistribution by the state. Furthermore, in contexts where the polarization between religious and secular individuals is large, preferences for redistribution will be lower. In the empirical analysis we test our predictions in a multilevel framework, using data from the European Social Survey 2002–2006 for 16 Western European countries. After controlling for a wide range of individual socio-economic factors and for welfare-state policies, religion plays and important explanatory role. We find that both Catholics and Protestants strongly oppose income redistribution by the state. The cleavage between religious and secular individuals is far more important than the difference between denominations. Using a refined measure of religious polarization, we also find that in more polarized context the overall level of support for redistribution is lower.


Nod to Kevin Lewis for the references

Monday, August 06, 2012

Optimistic Predictions are Garbage

I'm not a bear.  I would like for things to get better.  Really.

But, this is not good.  Garbage is falling off very fast, just like export orders.  It could be that this means the recycle-topians are actually doing good work, but what it really means is that the economy is in the dump, because we are not buying stuff.

Click for a more trashy image.

How to make $$$ selling drugs!

With thanks to Angry Alex, who passes on this gem pointed out by Radley Balko.

On the other hand....drugs in Russia.  Pretty bad, depressing story.  I guess in (ex)Soviet Russia, drugs do YOU.

Lagniappe:  Imagine what Michael Phelps could have accomplished if he had not done those bowls!

Who needs economic freedom? After all, you can VOTE!

Wake Up! It's a Truck!

Would I have done this?  Yes.
Would the repurcussions have been worse.  Yes.
Would it have been worth it?  YES.

Amusingly, this was done I-40, just west of the RDU airport.  So it would work pretty well, only a few miles away.  And the LMM always sleeps in the car...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Gimme back my bullets

The Fed fired its bullet. The bear wasn't scared. And the bullets may be blanks, anyway. But the point is that there is no secret gun. Or so says Sy Harding...

My dinner with Raoul, in trendy Ballard

So, had a great time visiting Raoul.  (Also known as "Mr. Joy."  Pictured before here at KPC).

We visited the Ballard Locks, and salmon run ladders.  Amazing.

Drove at least half an hour looking for a coffee shop.  Now, remember, this is Seattle.  There are more than two coffee shops.  Per block.  But Raoul has standards.  I have to admit the coffee was pretty fine.  Notice that the word "Starbucks" is not coming up here, as an alternative.

Then to the brew pub, the Jolly Roger Taproom.  Beers were very fine.  Get the onion rings, called "Smokers."  Top three onion rings all time, for me.  Smashing.

Then to dinner.  I was going to describe the place, The Walrus and Carpenter.  But that wouldn't really capture the ambiance as well as this NYTimes review.  On the other hand, the food was really, really great, not expensive, and the servers were so hip they almost weren't hip, just naturally cool.  Since the restaurant is in Ballard, you have to be pretty hip just to get in.  I would never have made it, but Raoul talked to the staff and they let it slide.

I had six really remarkable oysters, from the al la carte menu.  It's printed daily, in case the oyster-nazi doesn't "like the look" of anything, and says, "You!  Can't have these oysters!"  Our visit, there were seven types of oysters, ranging from Samish Bay Sweets (mild) to Baywater Sweets (strong and briny, from Thorndyke Bay).  The other five were sorted in order of less mild to more briny, in between.  Except the oyster-nazi had apparently said, "No!  No Baywater Sweets! I don't like the look of them!"  The waitron actually told us this, then took a marker and marked through the Baywaters so that even idiots like us would understand that the oysters were not available.  (I'm not making fun of the server, btw.  Anyone who sees Raoul and me out on the town will NOT think, "There go some geniuses!")

The W&C is quite careful about its food, as the Times article notes.  My favorite part was the notice on the menu (remember, this is an oyster and seafood restaurant) that "Oysters and other shellfish are prepared in our kitchen."  Can't be too careful, I suppose.

Anyway, I had the Hammersleys, from nearby (!) Hammersley Inlet.  Very nice.  Extraordinary, in fact.  Came with a very mild shaved fresh horseradish, and an acidy citrus topping, on the side.  I used them.  Yum.

We basically did the tapas thing, ordering bread and butter, toasted almonds (a huge, spicy portion, still warm), simple sliced tomatoes with salt and olive oil (tremendous).  Excellent bread, as it should be, but it was.

Talked about our families.  Many college faculty have "interesting" families, I think.  Raoul and I are no exceptions.

A great night.  Raoul took me to the airport, to get ready for my 11:50 pm redeye.  Thanks, Seattle, that was great.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

LeBron speak with forked video on macro

I've never seen anything like this before.  LeBron dishes on different macro-economic theories.

The thing is, the video is itself hyperlinked.  So, you can click WITHIN the video to go to any of the four embedded videos, and then return to the top.

Plus, the explanations are really good.  I just can't get over how much Tyler sounds like John F. Kennedy in inflection and accent, though.

Seattle Food Quick Hits

Several nice meals in Seattle.  A quick review of four of them.  This is pretty long, so I'll continue below the fold.  In the meantime, here is the YYM at Safeco.  Mariners have overcome their sadness at losing Ichiro by playing their best ball of the year.  Pretty fun, beautiful place.

Food reviews below...

Suppose 2001 Were a "Summer Blockbuster"

If 2001 were advertised now, as a "summer blockbuster," would you go see it?

Funny part is the comments.  They don't seem to get the fact that this is a MOCKERY of current ads, not a celebration of them.

With a nod to my guy John O.

Expressions entirely relevant for these trying times

"The trend is your friend till the bend at the end" (hat tip to Noah S.)

 "It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end"

 "Bulls make money, bears make money, hogs get slaughtered"

 "Both teams played hard my man" (Rasheeeeeeeeed!!)

 Give me more in the comments!!

Friday, August 03, 2012

le deluge

Wow.  This totally sucks.  Really, really sucks.

Three sigmas.  We don't like three sigmas.

I killed the party again

Here's a tremendous video for one of my favorite Jens Lekman songs, "Black Cab". Jen's is on tour this fall; I'll catch him either in DC or Dallas!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Wow!! Doug Hibbs basically calls the election for Mittens!

Here is the money quote:

"according  to  the  Bread  and  Peace  model  per  capita  real   income  growth  rates  must  average out  at  nearly  6  percent  after  2012:q2  for  Obama  to  have  a   decent  chance  of  re-­‐election."

You can get to the whole paper from here (and obviously a hat tip goes to Brendan).

Beyond this bombshell, the paper is well worth reading as Hibbs excoriates his competitors for using ad-hoc and ex-post dummy variables as well as endogenous approval ratings as explanatory variables in their vote-share equations.

The Koreas at the Olympics

In response to my Grantland Olympic piece with LeBron, a few people have asked why we didn't specifically discuss  the Koreas. Maybe I'm missing the question, but the basic economic model seems to explain them very well.

From the 2000 games to date (including what has happened in London), North Korea has won 20 total Summer Olympic medals, while South Korea has pocketed 101.

South Korea has almost twice the population of the North (48.5 million to 22.6 million) and a per-capita income that is more than 15 times greater ($31,700 to $1,800).

Of North Koreas 20 medals, 15 have come in weightlifting and judo. These are examples of the "easy-pickings" sports we discussed in the piece. South Korea is also strong in tae-kwon-do and archery.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Olympic fever

If you like NBC's tape-delayed coverage, you'll love this.

Here's me and LeBron's Olympics "preview" piece for

Private education for the poor?

Mrs. Angus and I greatly enjoyed "The Beautiful Tree" by James Tooley and have become very interested in the potential making private education available for the poor especially in areas where the public school system has failed them.

So I was happy to see that the Oxfam Blog "From Poverty to Power", was hosting a debate on the merits of private schooling for the poor.

Arguing in favor is Justin Sandefur from the Center for Global Development.

Arguing against is Kevin Watkins from Brookings.

Public education is a real problem in many parts of many poor countries. While enrollment rates are rising, as called for by the Millennium Development Goals, achievement (i.e. actual learning) is often quite poor. Even Watkins concedes this point.

your aging rap star round up

1. Dr. Dre is in dutch with Jacque Rogge and the IOC for giving away free headphones to Olympic athletes without giving the IOC a taste.

2. Snoop Dogg is banned from Norway for two years! For possession of weed! Really! Unlike his ban from the UK, which he fought and got reversed, He will not be filing an appeal, "his lawyer said. "[Snoop] can live with the decision."" Actually Snoop got hassled in Norway last year for bringing in "too much money". I don't get it, if he can't bring money to buy weed and he can't bring weed, what the hell is he supposed to do?

3. Gore Vidal is dead.