Friday, November 30, 2012

Electoral College

Richard Posner on why the Electoral College is worth keeping.  Excerpt:

There are five reasons for retaining the Electoral College despite its lack of democratic pedigree; all are practical reasons, not liberal or conservative reasons...[I]f the difference in the popular vote is small, then if the winner of the popular vote were deemed the winner of the presidential election, candidates would have an incentive to seek a recount in any state...[A] solid regional favorite, such as Romney was in the South, has no incentive to campaign heavily in those states...Voters in toss-up states...are likely to be the most thoughtful voters, on average (and for the further reason that they will have received the most information and attention from the candidates), and the most thoughtful voters should be the ones to decide the election...The Electoral College restores some of the weight in the political balance that large states (by population) lose by virtue of the mal-apportionment of the Senate decreed in the Constitution [because] winner-take-all makes a slight increase in the popular vote have a much bigger electoral-vote payoff in a large state than in a small one...The Electoral College avoids the problem of elections in which no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast.


Nod to Kevin Lewis

Thursday, November 29, 2012

You Publish, or I'll Perish

Okay kids, sorry to harsh your mellow.  But I am sick and tired of writing letters of recommendation for promising young scholars who have given me nothing to work with.  I say that I will write the letter, and then I look at the CV and think.....FiretrUCK.  What am I going to do with this?

Academics is a simple business.  If you write every day, three pages or more, you will be successful.  You can be successful other ways, for sure (write one truly brilliant paper every other year, and publish it in Econometrica or AER).  But that's hard.  There is nothing hard about writing three pages per day, every day.  Except that apparently no one, NO ONE does it.

Some facts:

It takes two journal articles per year to get tenure.  Good journals.  Not great journals.  If you can publish in great journals you can get away with fewer publications.  But barring consistent genius, you should assume you need two journal articles per year to rest easy.

To do that, you have to have three papers out at journals at all times.  Four would be better, but never less than three.  Since your articles are going to get turned down 2/3 of the time, that means you need to have only two new papers per year (assuming that your portfolio of "work at journals" turns over once every six months, and each time one of the three gets accepted).  What I mean is that you only have a 1/3 success rate, and you get back two responses each year on your three articles.  Two of them get accepted, and you write two new ones.  You are writing the new ones while the ones out there are being considered by reviewers, for six months.

More after the jump ==>

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is Divorce Unnecessary?

The LMM sends this, via email...


A nice, calm and respectable lady went into the pharmacy, walked up to the pharmacist, looked straight into his eyes, and said, 'I would like to buy some cyanide.' The pharmacist asked, 'Why in the world do you need cyanide?'

The lady replied, 'I need it to poison my husband.'

The pharmacist's eyes got big and he exclaimed, 'Lord have mercy! I can't give you cyanide to kill your husband. That's against the law! I'll lose my license! They'll throw both of us in jail! All kinds of bad things will happen. Absolutely not! You CANNOT have any cyanide!'
google-site-verification: google9319ed2385f9a38b.html
The lady reached into her purse and pulled out a picture of her husband in bed with the pharmacist's wife.

The pharmacist looked at the picture and replied, 'Well now, that's different. You didn't tell me you had a prescription."

Eddie Izzard: Death Star Canteen

A funny, angry transvestite...
With thanks to Angry Alex

Afghanistan or Oklahoma?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Elevator Prank

Sometimes I see pranks that would work on me.  The sort of stuff Ashton Kutcher did, in "Punk'd," for example.

But this?  I would be startled, for sure.  But I would laugh and say, "Now how did you get in here?"  Because otherwise it's an actual ghost.  And that seems unlikely.

Still, quite amusing to see the reactions.  And I'm afraid that if this happened to the LMM there would be loud noises...

With thanks to @BillLumaye

Wow! A Grand Game From Heaven!

I have always claimed that it is impossible to make a "national defense" argument for trade protection for U.S. sugar producers.  But this guy does just that.  And his argument....I pause with a sense of enormous respect for his courage.... his argument is that without trade protection for U.S. sugar producers, the price of sugar would be....too high!  Because there would be an OSEC (Organization of Sugar Exporting Countries, modeled after OPEC).  Seriously.  He says that.

You have got to read this for yourself.  A brilliant piece of work.  Grand Game, people!

A Conservative Case for Sugar Tariffs.

Monday, November 26, 2012

EYM and the Santiago Giants

The EYM is teaching down at UDD, in Santiago de Chile, or in Los Condes, actually.

He found a "gringo beisbol" team to play on, the Santiago Giants.

The EYM is the very dirty one, on the left.  Apparently they had fun, though there were tensions when they played the Venezuelan team.  Those Hugonos have little use for imperialist gringos.  And, yes, that is the foothills of the cordillera in the background.  Early summer down there, like late May here.  But those little hills still have snow.  Very, very pretty.

Your Thunder draft pick update

As part of the Harden trade, the Thunder received a protected first round pick from the Toronto Raptors. If it turns out to be one of the top 3 picks or worse than the 14th pick, the Thunder would have to wait at least another year to get the pick.

Obviously, the dream scenario would be for it to be the number 4 pick.

Right now, the Raptors are tied with Detroit for the second-worst record in the NBA with a .214 winning percentage. The Whizzers are winless, and Cleveland is 1/2 game better than Toronto (notice how all the truly pitiful teams are in the East).

Kyrie Irving's injury is a bit of a plus for the Thunder as it might help push Cleveland below Toronto.

Yes, I know that there is an element of randomness in the lottery, but it looks like, at this early point in the season, the Raptors might be too crappy for the Thunder to get their pick this year.

The Culture that is Football: Mutant Ninja Edition

"I was doing what I usually do, moseying to the locker room and meandering around. Naturally, I just wanted to step back, but I did the righteous thing and I stepped up. I caught him, I saved his life, I tapped into my inner superhero, which I do have. I'm usually a ninja, but my Spidey-senses told me he was going to take a fall, so I saved his life. He owes me his first-born or something. Actually I don't want that. Maybe a sandwich or something."

 ~Martellus Bennett describing his post-game heroics

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Frampton comes full circle

Ex-UNC prof Paul Frampton has now been convicted of drug running in Argentina and sentenced to 4 years, 8 months.

Earlier KPC coverage of this story can be found here.

He claims he was scammed by a babe. But the prosecution says he texted said babe gems like: "I'm worried about the sniffer dogs".

Confirming my previous allegation that Frampton's drug of choice is LSD, he hopes to serve his time in a friend's apartment.

That's not how they roll, homie.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Looks Just Like Me!

Interesting.  Men fool themselves, because it's adaptive.  And it's not like the woman is going to say anything... "Yes, honey, he has your nose! And so did the mailman!"

Fathers See Stronger Family Resemblances than Non-Fathers in Unrelated Children’s Faces

Paola Bressan & Stefania Dal Pos
Archives of Sexual Behavior, December 2012, Pages 1423-1430

Abstract: Even after they have taken all reasonable measures to decrease the probability that their spouses cheat on them, men still face paternal uncertainty. Such uncertainty can lead to paternal disinvestment, which reduces the children’s probability to survive and reproduce, and thus the reproductive success of the fathers themselves. A theoretical model shows that, other things being equal, men who feel confident that they have fathered their spouses’ offspring tend to enjoy greater fitness (i.e., leave a larger number of surviving progeny) than men who do not. This implies that fathers should benefit from exaggerating paternal resemblance. We argue that the self-deceiving component of this bias could be concealed by generalizing this resemblance estimation boost to (1) family pairs other than father-child and (2) strangers. Here, we tested the prediction that fathers may see, in unrelated children’s faces, stronger family resemblances than non-fathers. In Study 1, 70 men and 70 women estimated facial resemblances between children paired, at three different ages (as infants, children, and adolescents), either to themselves or to their parents. In Study 2, 70 men and 70 women guessed the true parents of the same children among a set of adults. Men who were fathers reported stronger similarities between faces than non-fathers, mothers, and non-mothers did, but were no better at identifying childrens’ real parents. We suggest that, in fathers, processing of facial resemblances is biased in a manner that reflects their (adaptive) wishful thinking that fathers and children are related.

Nod to Kevin Lewis


1.  When motorboating turns deadly.  On the other hand, not such a bad way to go...

2.  Nail house.  Even I think this is a simple case of eminent domain, folks.  If we are going to ask the state to build roads, it has to be able to take property at gunpoint.  It's the nature of state provision.  If you don't want violence, don't choose the state.

3.  Twitter obits for Larry Hagman.

4.  Hector "Macho" Camacho died.

5.  Surprisingly honest whining from Gallup.  We all know that pollsters need to be able to lie and say the race is too close to call.  It's good for pollsters, 'cause they get paid.  And, it's good for democracy, because the lie increases turnout.  When rat bastards like Nate Silver break the gentleman's agreement and actually tell the truth, it's bad for business and bad for the country.  In short, analysts who tell the truth are "overfishing the commons," and need to be stopped.  Wow.

6.  Paul Cantor on the Elizabethan surveillance state.

7.  Peter Suderman's "17 Theses" on WalMart critics, storified by @lachlan .  Me gusta ...

Nod to Angry Alex, Chris A, and the EYM

The culture that is Japan

Ah Japan, the land where adult diaper sales now outpace baby diaper sales!

Hat tip to John Aziz.

Friday, November 23, 2012

But, Wait...

Human mortality improvement in evolutionary context

Oskar Burger, Annette Baudisch & James Vaupel
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 30 October 2012, Pages 18210-18214

Abstract:  Life expectancy is increasing in most countries and has exceeded 80 in several, as low-mortality nations continue to make progress in averting deaths. The health and economic implications of mortality reduction have been given substantial attention, but the observed malleability of human mortality has not been placed in a broad evolutionary context. We quantify the rate and amount of mortality reduction by comparing a variety of human populations to the evolved human mortality profile, here estimated as the average mortality pattern for ethnographically observed hunter-gatherers. We show that human mortality has decreased so substantially that the difference between hunter-gatherers and today’s lowest mortality populations is greater than the difference between hunter-gatherers and wild chimpanzees. The bulk of this mortality reduction has occurred since 1900 and has been experienced by only about 4 of the roughly 8,000 human generations that have ever lived. Moreover, mortality improvement in humans is on par with or greater than the reductions in mortality in other species achieved by laboratory selection experiments and endocrine pathway mutations. This observed plasticity in age-specific risk of death is at odds with conventional theories of aging.

I'm trying to think why age at mortality has anything to do with evolution.  Evoluntion involves mutations for variance, and then natural selection to "choose" among variants.  But, wait.... the only variations that matter are those that are relevant for the number, health, and fecundity of offspring.  How old (or how happy) you are when you die doesn't matter much.  And it doesn't matter at all if you if it doesn't increase the number of offspring (do 65 year old men really have children?  I know they could, but...), or the health of your offspring (do 80 year old women take care of great grandchildren?)  (more  after the jump...)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How to ensure a happy thanksgiving

WKRP Turkey Drop

A remembrance of the WKRP "Turkeys Away" episode.  For T-giving, from KPC!

With thanks to @radleybalko ...

A youtube excerpt, about 13 mins.  A bit jumpy, but a great show.  And you get the punchline at the end:

Apparently some basis in reality, from Yellville, AR.  Also home of the "Miss Drumsticks" Beauty Pageant.

Create inclusive institutions and call me in a century!

Daron Acemoglu may well be the pre-eminent economist of our time.  Acemoglu and Johnson (along with other coauthors) have written massively cited and highly influential journal articles.

But their overarching theory in "Why Nations Fail" just won't wash, at least for prediction and policy.

Full disclosure: I have not read the entire book (give me a break here people, "reading the book" is a very over-rated strategy)!

But, I have read and taught their papers and followed the review and counterattack cycle that reached its peak this week with their diatribe against Jeff Sachs.

There are two basic problems for the relevance of their theory:

1. Mrs. Angus and I show that across countries from 1960 - 2000, "institutions" are converging, while output is diverging.

2. Institutions move slowly while in most of the world growth, even in the medium term, is volatile. See "The anatomy of start-stop growth" or "growth accelerations".

So, "inclusive institutions are necessary (and sufficient?) to sustain long run growth"is just not a very relevant or helpful statement for poor countries or policymakers over a 5 - 25 year horizon.

"Create some inclusive institutions and call me in a century", is not going to get you appointed as chief economist at any IFI anytime soon. Nor will it get you elected in a developing country.

Nor should it.

60 knots.... in a SAILboat

About 70mph, powered only by wind.

If you think it looks like it's can actually fly.  That's not so good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Regulating Lobbyists? Maybe Not...

You Owe Me

Ulrike Malmendier, Klaus Schmidt

NBER Working Paper No. 18543
Issued in November 2012
NBER Program(s):   HC   HE   LS
In many cultures and industries gifts are given in order to influence the recipient, often at the expense of a third party. Examples include business gifts of firms and lobbyists. In a series of experiments, we show that, even without incentive or informational effects, small gifts strongly influence the recipient’s behavior in favor of the gift giver, in particular when a third party bears the cost. Subjects are well aware that the gift is given to influence their behavior but reciprocate nevertheless. Withholding the gift triggers a strong negative response. These findings are inconsistent with the most prominent models of social preferences. We propose an extension of existing theories to capture the observed behavior by endogenizing the “reference group” to whom social preferences are applied. We also show that disclosure and size limits are not effective in reducing the effect of gifts, consistent with our model. Financial incentives ameliorate the effect of the gift but backfire when available but not provided. 

Bret Stephens

I don't always agree with Bret Stephens.  But he nails so many things in this post...well, it's good.  That's what I'm sayin', it's good.  Excerpt:

Can we, as the GOP base, demand an IQ exam as well as a test of basic knowledge from our congressional and presidential candidates? This is not a flippant suggestion: There were at least five Senate seats in this election cycle that might have been occupied by a Republican come January had not the invincible stupidity of the candidate stood in the way.
On the subject of idiocy, can someone explain where’s the political gold in demonizing Latin American immigrants? California’s Prop 187, passed in 1994, helped destroy the GOP in a once-reliable state. Yet Republicans have been trying to replicate that fiasco on a national scale ever since.
If the argument is that illegal immigrants are overtaxing the welfare state, then that’s an argument for paring back the welfare state, not deporting 12 million people. If the argument is that these immigrants “steal” jobs, then that’s an argument by someone who either doesn’t understand the free market or aspires for his children to become busboys and chambermaids.
And if the argument is that these immigrants don’t share our values, then religiosity, hard work, personal stoicism and the sense of family obligation expressed through billions of dollars in remittances aren’t American values.

Why is there CORN in my Coke?

The lovely and talented Dr. Diana Thomas shares some extremely valuable info on sugar, and why there is corn in your co-cola.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Africa for Norway

We noted before that there were some problems in Norway.  The whole butter was terrible.

Now, though, help is on the way.  Via the EYM....Africa for Norway!  As the young man says, "Have you SEEN what is going on there?"  Pasty white herring eaters need our help!  Can't you give?

Endogeneity & Furiousity

This morning, Tim Harford tweeted me over to this post by Owen Barder, along with the message that it,  "should make me furious".

It didn't.

The post complains that, "we (the US) waste our food aid budget". It shows that, in 2010, We sent $5 million in official food aid to Cambodia, but $3.5 million of that was actually paid out to US shippers.

The implication is that we have a fixed food aid budget that is exogenous, and if we could just stop wasting it on shipping (by sourcing the food closer to Cambodia, for example) the aid would be more effective.

Another way to look at the situation though, is to realize that the food aid budget is actually endogenously created in the sausage factory that is Congress.

US shippers and farmers aren't going to lobby for a food aid budget if they don't benefit from it. If shippers and farmers don't lobby and give contributions then the food aid budget will be smaller.

How much smaller? That of course is an empirical question, but given that Cambodians don't vote or lobby (as far as I know at least), zero is not a crazy guess as to the size of the food aid budget without the support of US shippers and farmers.

After all, when you ask the American people where to cut the budget, their first instinctive thought is "foreign aid", which many on them imagine is a large chunk of US expenditures instead of the pittance that it is.

Why does the OECD allow these freight costs to be counted as "aid"? That is a separate question, but in the elaborate kabuki dance of special interest money, it appears to be necessary that money flows not be plainly labeled.

A budget item simply giving money to shippers and farmers is perceived as unlikely to survive, so we call it aid and our pals go along with it. Either because other countries are doing the same thing, or because the OECD knows that calling a spade a spade might end up reducing, rather than increasing the actual amount of aid that is delivered.

We all know that the most effective use of $5 million in aid money is to simply give the money to the people who need the aid. The best our political system can do is, from the $5 million, get $1.5 million in in-kind aid delivered. And then of course the political system of the receiving country takes over, so the amount that actually gets to the intended recipients is going to be a fraction of that measly $1.5 million.

Yet we as a people continue to demand that our political system run more and more of our economy.

Corporations and Politics

Corporate Politics, Governance, and Value Before and After Citizens United

John Coates
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, December 2012, Pages 657–696

How did corporate politics, governance, and value relate to each other in the S&P 500 before and after Citizens United? In regulated and government-dependent industries, politics is nearly universal, and uncorrelated with shareholder power, agency costs, or value. However, 11 percent of CEOs in 2000 who retired by 2011 obtained political positions after retiring and, in most industries, political activity correlates negatively with measures of shareholder power, positively with signs of agency costs, and negatively with shareholder value. The politics-value relationship interacts with capital expenditures, and is stronger in regressions with firm and time fixed effects, which absorb many omitted variables. After the shock of Citizens United, corporate lobbying and PAC activity jumped, in both frequency and amount, and firms politically active in 2008 had lower value in 2010 than other firms, consistent with politics at least partly causing and not merely correlating with lower value. Overall, the results are inconsistent with politics generally serving shareholder interests, and support proposals to require disclosure of political activity to shareholders.


Corporate Policies of Republican Managers

Irena Hutton, Danling Jiang & Alok Kumar
University of Miami Working Paper, December 2011

This paper examines the relation between the personal political orientation of firm managers and corporate policies. Motivated by the theory of behavioral consistency, we conjecture that Republican managers who are more likely to follow conservative personal ideologies would choose more conservative corporate policies. Consistent with our conjecture, we find that firms with Republican managers have lower levels of corporate debt, lower capital and R&D expenditures, less risky investments, but higher levels of dividend payouts, higher retained earnings, and higher profitability. Republican managers are matched with firms that have conservative political environments, but even among those firms, higher levels of managerial conservatism are associated with more conservative policies. Further, around managerial turnover including CEO deaths, corporate policies become more conservative as managerial conservatism increases. In addition, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, corporate policies of Republican managers become more conservative as aggregate uncertainty increases. Overall, we show that Republican managers maintain and implement less risky and more profitable policies but the choice of lower R&D expenditures may dampen innovation.


Nod to Kevin Lewis

Joel Slemrod Roast

Joel Slemrod is a famous economist.  And he got roasted pretty effectively, for winning the Holland Award.

With a nod to Bob S.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How to live without irony

I guess we are having a little "How to live without [FILL IN BLANK]" meme here at KPC.  This morning, it was how to live without pain (and the claim that you need it).

Because the EYM just linked to a truly fantastic piece in NYT on "How to Live Without Irony," on hipsterism.  (Spoiler alert:  doing without irony may be even harder than doing without pain...)

The EYM's own connection to hipsterdom is conflicted:  he understands things I miss, but he has a custom sticker for his computer that says "No Factories, No MacBook Pros!"  (If you have to ask, go ask a hipster, in a coffee shop, about the sticker on his MacBook Pro that says, "No Farms, No Food!")

An excerpt.  But it's all good.  I'm not sure how much of it is ironic.  Which is of course precisely why it is good.

Born in 1977, at the tail end of Generation X, I came of age in the 1990s, a decade that, bracketed neatly by two architectural crumblings — of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Twin Towers in 2001 — now seems relatively irony-free. The grunge movement was serious in its aesthetics and its attitude, with a combative stance against authority, which the punk movement had also embraced. In my perhaps over-nostalgic memory, feminism reached an unprecedented peak, environmentalist concerns gained widespread attention, questions of race were more openly addressed: all of these stirrings contained within them the same electricity and euphoria touching generations that witness a centennial or millennial changeover.


UPDATE:  I should note, for context, that to calibrate hipsterhood you need only look to Kindred or Garrett (neither of whom use their actual first names).  Of course, each would deny his hipster credentials.  Proving he IS a hipster, because that's what they do.

Tofe, on the other hand:  Actually NOT a hipster.  But he can hang with them, a sort of "hipster hag" deal.

Ease Her Pain... Not

Hard to imagine living without pain.  Many people think they would prefer it.

But suppose you had never felt pain, and didn't understand the concept.

This young woman has a genetic mutation that prevents her from feeling pain, though she can feel warmth or coolness.  The problem is that boiling hot things only feel warm, not painfully burning hot.


The girl who feels no pain was in the kitchen, stirring ramen noodles, when the spoon slipped from her hand and dropped into the pot of boiling water. It was a school night; the TV was on in the living room, and her mother was folding clothes on the couch. Without thinking, Ashlyn Blocker reached her right hand in to retrieve the spoon, then took her hand out of the water and stood looking at it under the oven light. She walked a few steps to the sink and ran cold water over all her faded white scars, then called to her mother, “I just put my fingers in!” Her mother, Tara Blocker, dropped the clothes and rushed to her daughter’s side. “Oh, my lord!” she said — after 13 years, that same old fear — and then she got some ice and gently pressed it against her daughter’s hand, relieved that the burn wasn’t worse.       

Her last name is "Blocker."  Wow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Morons on Parade! Rolling Jubilee....

I wanted to wait a bit, before posting this.  It's obviously funny, but I wanted to see if it was INTENTIONALLY funny.  Apparently not.  These folks are as serious as debt.

With thanks to S. Wilson...  

Are Roads Public Goods?

Economists tend to think of the role of government as (1) enforcing contracts, adjudicating disputes as a neutral referee, and providing an infrastructure in which the transactions costs of exchange are low, and (2) acting to correct "market failure" through regulation or direct provision in the case of public goods.

A "public good," as Angus has pointed out a number of times, has two features (or, from a pure market perspective, "bugs").  These are (a) non-rivalness in consumption and (b) costly exclusion.

"Non-rivalness" means that the good is not subject to consumption or being "used up."  If I turn on my radio, that does not reduce the amount of radio waves available for you to listen to.  If the radio signal is broadcast, everyone in the range of the broadcast can listen.  It does not cost more to broadcast radio signals in a city compared to the country, because consumption is non-rival.

"Costly exclusion" means that much of, all of, or even more than the price that could be charged for the good or service would be dissipated by trying to collect the charges.  Radio seems like a "costly exclusion" good, though it is possible to encrypt the signal so that only someone with decoder can listen.  (By and large, commercial radio "solves" this problem by inverting the market:  listeners are the "product" and advertisers pay for access to eardrums.  One ad crowds out another, and it is easy to exclude would-be advertisers who don't pay.  The other model, of quasi-public goods and no commercials, may be solved with voluntary provision, as I argued in this NPR "Planet Money" segment.  Tote bags and coffee mugs for all you good contributors!)

Now:  the question, since we have the setup.... Are roads public goods?  The answer is quite difficult, and there is no one-size-fits-all correct response.  (More after the jump...)

Grand Game: Road Kill Time!

A disclaimer at the outset:  This is "satire."  It's WV, so it could be real.  On the other hand, I had no idea that it was illegal to eat stuff you ran over in the first place.  Yes, you can't take deer that way (though I've been tempted!), but if you hit a squirrel and want ya some stew, what's the problem?  It's fresh, and already tenderized, so you can put away that mallet.

But apparently the legislature of WV wanted to make honest women (and men) out of its citizens, and validate the already widespread (?) practice of taking those little delicacies home to the fam.

This is a KPC GG opportunity, though, because of the description, and quotes.  They attached "ryders"?  Really?  Big rental trucks, to make sure no wildlife survives that frantic scurry or waddle across the highway?  Wow.

Special bonus (LMM:  Do not watch this):  A roadkill cartoon.

UPDATE:  Is VA reacting to WV?  By using this "don't tread on me!" metaphor?  So, something like "don't run me over and then put me in the trunk to eat later?"  Why else would VA rip off this South Carolina symbol?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

some things never change

Back in NOLA (we used to live here) for the SEA meetings. My cab from the airport was old, blasted soul music, and going over a bump was like jumping onto an under-filled waterbed. Plus the cabbie seemed to have no idea that traffic on I-10 ALWAYS comes to a stop near the causeway and had to slam on the breaks leaving skid marks on the pavement. I felt like I'd never left.

Today, after a morning session, I walked down to Jackson Square with a friend, got a snack and sat beside the river and talked a while on a beautiful sunny day. I felt like I'd never left.

In many ways, New Orleans is a wonderful city.

Gearing up for the afternoon sessions now...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Progress at the Fed

I am a forward guidance skeptic. At heart, I'm an "expectations channel" skeptic. But, if the Fed is going to give forward guidance, having it be based on benchmarks rather than the calendar seems clearly better to me.

The idea is rather than saying, "rates at zero til 2015", to say "rates at zero til unemployment falls to X% or inflation rises to Y%".

Of course, picking X and Y is not an easy task. Bernanke might think X=7 and Y=2.5, while Krugman might be more of an X=4 and Y=10 kind of guy.

Charles Evans is given credit for pushing this path, and Janet Yellen, the Fed vice chair seems to be a recent convert.

Obama's re-election gives the Fed a lot more breathing room to experiment with these non-traditional policies, so I give Yellen political astuteness points for holding her fire until after the election.

I still don't see benchmark forward guidance as anything remotely resembling an effective medicine to cure the economy, but it is a better form of guidance than calendar guidance, even though all the caveats about time consistency, binding future Feds, and political pressure still apply equally.


Showing all the skillz that made his debt crisis resolution plan such a rousing success in the 1980s, James A. Baker the III graces us with an editorial on reaching a fiscal grand bargain.

In the piece he points out that, "it is very difficult to create effective mechanisms for spending constraint. That is because one Congress cannot bind the actions of future Congresses."

So far so good JBIII! Looks like you've been reading your KPC. So we've got to do it simultaneous and up front, right? All a Congress can get done is what they themselves can do.

Well his next paragraph starts, "I propose an enforcement mechanism linking the revenue increases and spending cuts that make up the grand bargain"



Are there somehow multiple competing ghost writers on this piece?

Does JBIII think he has the super-power of binding future Congresses?

Will the WSJ really publish anything by anyone who knew Ronald Reagan?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Fetish of Manufacturing

Great column by John Kay at the FT.


Physical labour incorporated in manufactured goods is a cheap commodity in a globalised world. But the skills and capabilities that turn that labour into products of extraordinary complexity and sophistication are not. The iPhone is a manufactured product, but its value to the user is as a crystallisation of services.


Got this email from a colleague at another university

I continue to be impressed by the crosswalk situation on University Avenue by A_____ Hall. Top down planning dictated that a crosswalk be emphasized with a prominent sign that cars yield for pedestrians. It is like California in the extreme. A pedestrian steps off the curb and cars screech to a halt as far as the eye can see. It is often difficult for cars to move down University Avenue without many starts and stops. Sometimes a single pedestrian holds up 20 to 50 cars or more.

Prior to the prominent sign and crosswalk we had a bottom-up system of pedestrian crossing and car movement along University.  This was the case for decades. Pedestrians moved in and out among the cars and the cars moved in and out among the pedestrians.  It was seamless as each pedestrian and each driver looked out for the other. Pedestrians did not want to be hit by the cars and the drivers did not want to hit the pedestrians. As far as I know there were almost no accidents, certainly less than what we must have today with all the starting and stopping of automobiles.  Not to mention the environmental costs and car wear and tear.  It was a perfect example of how an emergent system ordered human activity far better than the top-down planner.

Q:  but doesn't someone have to be in CHARGE?

A:  No.

Too Many Deer

Too many deer!  NC allows hunters to take SIX deer, and four have to be non-antlered.  We are trying to hold down the population, here.

Article on the dangers of too little hunting.  If I don't harvest the deer, and respectfully put the results into my freezer, Bambi's momma is going to be coming through your windshield at 45 mph.

I'll be taking the Mauser K-98 out to the property this weekend.  Because I am such a public-spirited fellow. Gamebill went out last weekend, and saw some deer, but couldn't take a clean shot.  I imagine Joel will be out there with me this weekend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rational Voting: R=PB-C+D

Well, I think even Angus will have to admit that voting is rational, under THESE circumstances, from my hometown of Orlando, FL.

If the alternative is that your wife will chase you in the car, and run you over for his "lack of voter participation."  She gave it to him right in the ol' "C" term, good and hard.

Check out her mug shot.  I would have done WHATEVER that wife told me.  But then, now that I think of it, I already do whatever my wife tells me.

Thanks to Tommy the Tenured Brit...

Uptalk: I mean, do you KNOW?

Gender in Jeopardy! Intonation Variation on a Television Game Show

Thomas Linneman
Gender & Society, forthcoming

Abstract: Uptalk is the use of a rising, questioning intonation when making a statement, which has become quite prevalent in contemporary American speech. Women tend to use uptalk more frequently than men do, though the reasons behind this difference are contested. I use the popular game show Jeopardy! to study variation in the use of uptalk among the contestants’ responses, and argue that uptalk is a key way in which gender is constructed through interaction. While overall, Jeopardy! contestants use uptalk 37 percent of the time, there is much variation in the use of uptalk. The typical purveyor of uptalk is white, young, and female. Men use uptalk more when surrounded by women contestants, and when correcting a woman contestant after she makes an incorrect response. Success on the show produces different results for men and women. The more successful a man is, the less likely he is to use uptalk; the more successful a woman is, the more likely she is to use uptalk.

The Grand Game: Ox y Moron Edition

Really nothing complicated here, folks.  Just have at it.

I do have one question, I guess.  How many pigs would there be in the world if we stopped eating them?  Answer:  very few.  They don't give milk, their skins aren't really useful, and they don't lay eggs.  Is it really obvious that it is better for pigs never even to be born, than to be raised for food?

It is possible to answer "yes," if the quality of life in industrial farming is self-evidently so bad that a reasoning pig would want to commit suicide.  (I should note that, for this reason, Angus generally selects free range meats.  I do sometimes, but Angus is pretty consistent.)  But since the pig would not exist if there were no demand for pork, it can't always be true that the pig would have been better off never being born at all.

The decision to be a vegan really comes down to (1) a choice about the environment, because raising meat uses too many resources, (2) a choice about health, because the person believes animal products are unhealthy, or (3) a choice about the morality of killing animals.  Choices (1) and (2) are at least logically coherent, and though I don't agree I honor people who make that choice.  To choose #3, you have to be profoundly solipsistic.  Your moral vegan smugness is more important than the existence of pigs.  There is no way that it would be better to kill all the pigs forever, and to never allow pigs to live, than to raise them under humane circumstances and then eat them.  Domesticated pigs exist only because humans have been eating them, for five thousand years.

And the oxen in the example above?  How could they have been more free range?  That was humane, friends.  Goodness, people are amazing.  The moral smugness of PETA-philes is more important than the actual lives of animals.

Nod to Anonyman.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The World's Toughest Bridge

This bridge is right next to campus here at Duke.  I have seen these incidents twice, with my own eyes.  And heard them with my ears.  Very, very, very loud, and violent.  Cool.

With thanks to WEH

The Problem is NOT That This is Fraud

I'm with Fundman.  The problem is NOT that this is fraud.

The problem is that it's probably an accurate reflection of how people voted.


Veteran's Day

Thanks to the vets who provided service--in all of messed up places we have sent people brave enough to try to serve the rest of us--thanks so much!

A special Vet's Day puzzle:  Who is this?

As he himself says, ironically, "Heroic Soldier of the Republic, June, 1967, right near the end of Basic Training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Happy Veterans Day!"  And notice he doesn't really look any different now...

And, an old joke, and my own tribute to my father, who managed to live through November of 1945.

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  Secure passwords.  Something like "NudPicsofHilClint69" should be safe!

2.  Punchinello. It is an evil video.  You will not be able to get the song out of your head.  And the cookie jar with moving lips in the background?  The stuff of nightmares.  The LMM sent me this, as a memory from her childhood.  It explains a lot, actually.

3.  The Dem votes => seats shortfall is not just gerrymandering.  It is gerrymandering, but it is not JUST gerrymandering.  The real problem is an unhealthy, almost religious, concentration of Democratic co-cultists.

4.  No one was sentenced to death in NC this year.  Good for us.

5.  Inmate claims he was beaten nearly to death, and then guards deleted the video.  Of course, he could be lying.  But we can't really know.  Because the guards really did delete the video.  Not getting sentenced to death is not that great if the guards can execute prisoners with impunity, just for recreation.  (Yes, that's an unfair characterization.  Being a prison guard must be terrifying.  But surely the solution is to have fewer people in jail in the first place.  Fewer laws, please.)

Nod to Angry Alex

The Blue Blob: The Driftless Area

I did NOT know this. And now you know it!


 There’s a big blob of counties where Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois come together, which are solid blue [on the Electoral College map].  Why is that?  These are counties with farms and small towns, there are basically no cities of any size.  The biggest city is Madison, population 200,000, which is the big blue county in south central Wisconsin, on the eastern edge of the blob.  I grew up in Madison, but I don’t have a clue as to why those counties further west are blue.  I always assumed western Wisconsin was exactly like north-central and eastern Wisconsin—full of corn and dairy farms, and small towns with one church and 4 bars.  Counties full of people with northern European backgrounds.  Everywhere else in the Midwest the farm areas went for the GOP, except that strange blob that overlays parts of 4 states.  A few of those counties may have small cities with a few manufacturing firms, but look how uniform that blue area is.  There is obviously some difference that explains this, and now I feel like we should have been taught in school that southwestern Wisconsin is really weird.

Or perhaps we were taught in school, and I wasn’t paying enough attention.  There is in fact something weird about southwestern Wisconsin.  The glacier that covered North America during the Ice Age missed this area; indeed it went completely around it, leaving it hillier than normal for the Midwest.  It’s called the “Driftless Area.”  If you grew up on the coasts you’ve never heard of this area, because nobody on either coast finds the American Midwest to be at all interesting. They rather go visit Paris or Bali.

A nod to MAG.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gray Lady Down

The following are actual quotes from the actual Sunday New York Times. The names have not been changed to shame the guilty:

A child care book I read as a new mother encouraged parents not to dread nighttime feedings, but to embrace them as another chance to nurture their babies. We should view the fiscal cliff the same way — not as a disaster to be avoided, but an opportunity to be embraced.

 ~Christina Romer

 A quarter of those who voted in El Monte and a third of those who voted in Richmond would voluntarily impose new taxes on themselves to protect their children and themselves from sugar-sweetened beverages. I find that downright encouraging.

 ~Mark Bitman

 Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, with seven forced fumbles and two interception returns for touchdowns, will troll the backside of Chicago’s defense

 ~Judy Battista

I vote Romer as most tone deaf, Bitman as most delusional, and Battista as most unintentionally hilarious.

"Trolling the backside of Chicago's defense"?

"Hey Erlacher, my grandma has better glutes than that!"

God I hope this paper never folds, what else would I do on a Sunday morning?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Iron Baby

The internet was created so you can watch videos of a baby fighting a stuffed toy.  You're welcome!

And thanks to Pelsmin.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Immigration reform?

Sean Hannity and John Boehner both say they now want to tackle immigration reform.

Cool beans. Welcome to the club lads.

What should this reform look like?

1. an easy path to citizenship for current "illegals"

2. all college diplomas earned by foreigners come with a green card stapled to them

3. a massive (triple? quadruple?) increase in the amount of visas for skilled workers

4. make the process for getting green cards and becoming citizens faster and cheaper

5. a gradually increasing flow of "unskilled" immigrants from around the world

What am I missing? Tell me in the comments.

It would be awesome if a side benefit of Mittens' drubbing was real reform.  But, I am not holding my breath.

I like EVERYTHING about this

I like everything about this web site / blog.  Mostly this particular post, which is a work of genius, but overall.... outstanding.  I don't agree with everything, but I like everything.  Something to make everyone uncomfortable.

Well, maybe not  everyone.  Tommy the Tenured Brit might enjoy the guy in the jeans.  That guy in the jeans, even *I* think he's pretty hot.

The point is that the author of that post is a real conservative, almost an extremist conservative.  He wonders if perhaps Rush Limbaugh is not sound on fundamentals.  If even that guy voted for Gary Johnson...well, then the Republicans have their heads so far up their voting boxes they can't even see a sliver of daylight.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

WTF? I mean, WTFingF?

Fatherhood and Managerial Style: How a Male CEO’s Children Affect the Wages of His Employees

Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezső & David Gaddis Ross
Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract: Motivated by a growing literature in the social sciences suggesting that the transition to fatherhood has a profound effect on men’s values, we study how the wages of employees change after a male chief executive officer (CEO) has children, using comprehensive panel data on the employees, CEOs, and families of CEOs in all but the smallest Danish firms between 1996 and 2006. We find that (a) a male CEO generally pays his employees less generously after fathering a child, (b) the birth of a daughter has a less negative influence on wages than does the birth of a son and has a positive influence if the daughter is the CEO’s first, and (c) the wages of female employees are less adversely affected than are those of male employees and positively affected by the CEO’s first child of either gender. We also find that male CEOs pay themselves more after fathering a child, especially after fathering a son. These results are consistent with a desire by the CEO to husband more resources for his family after fathering a child and the psychological priming of the CEO’s generosity after the birth of his first daughter and specifically toward women after the birth of his first child of either gender.

Nod to Kevin Lewis...

Letter from Hugo Chavez

I have been waiting for a long time, months and months, to publish this little letter that came into my possession.  I had to wait long enough, and indefinitely enough, so that it would be harder to determine just who was the recipient.

A person who is on the faculty at a universidad in Venezuela applied for funding to travel abroad to a conference.  The funding was granted, and the person asked his/her bosses to approve the trip.  This was the letter that came back (I typed it out from a paper original, so forgive the lack of proper accents, and the misspellings):

Republica Bolivariana De Venezuela            (DATE)
Estimada y estimado compatriota
Tenga un saludo cordial y Revolucionario!
    Cumplimos con informarle que su solicitud no puede ser ni sera procesada por diferencias de pensamientos.  Esto es debido a que su proposito de estudio no servira para el beneficio de la nacion.
    Personas de su familia presenta expediente contra la revolucion, por lo tanto, debemos cuidar a la nacion de sus intenciones.
    Le recomendamos que enmiende su vincula con el Estado soberano para poder confiar en las intenciones y proposito de su preparacion en el exterior del pais.
    Sin mas que agregar, se despide ante de Comision Administracion de Divisas (CADIVI)

(Two Truly Enormous Quarter Page Signatures, Obviously Proud and Important Dignitaries)

Now, in my not very good Spanish, here is the (a?) translation.  (After the jump)

BEFORE THE JUMP UPDATE:  Got an email saying that the letter is a hoax.  So, don't go saying "I read this on the internet, so it must be true!"  It may not be.  I'm going to leave it up, though for its truthiness value...

Whoops I did it again!

You know who really won Tuesday's Presidential election?


More people (myself included) voted for Nobody than for any other candidate.

These results show that Nobody has a clear mandate.

Wouldn't it be great if Nobody showed up for the inauguration?

Hat tip to Andrew for the great pie chart.

If Demand is Too High....Charge LESS!

Some innovative thinking from Florida, on higher education.

We'll subsidize the degrees that people already want by charging lower tuition, and tax the degrees that are not popular by charging higher tuition.

Or, is it that employers want people with these degrees, but students don't want those degrees?  They prefer useless degrees, and the state is trying to use Pigouvian taxes to get people to want what the state wants them to want?

Either way, I had not heard of price discrimination on tuition, based on the opposite of desirability of the degree.

With thanks to Chateau...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

FEMA Closes, Due to Weather

After the Election: Five Things I Think Are True

1.  Barack Obama is a pretty bad president.  Not apocalyptically, George W. Bush bad, but bad.  And he will be remembered as a bad president.

2.  Barack Obama is a pretty effective candidate.  Certainly better than Mitt Romney.  But then George W. Bush was a pretty good candidate, too.  Bush was a failure as a President, and Obama's failures have much (though not everything) to do with his being coopted by the defense-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex.  There are ways in which Obama is no better than Bush, because he is no DIFFERENT than Bush.  Obama lied about Gitmo, no wars, and drug policy.  Just flat lied.  As a candidate, you can do that.  As a leader...well, he got away with it.  Because....

3.  Romney is the Republican Kerry.  They are both even from Massachusetts.  Kerry was richer, of course, because he slept his way to great wealth.  But in both cases there was a weak, largely ineffective incumbent who had some campaign skills and was not afraid to lie in order to win. And in both cases, the Kerry / Romney character in this little play lost a race he should have won.  And lost a race that a competent campaigner would have won easily.  If you think I am saying that this makes Obama the Democratic George Bush... I'm not ready to be THAT insulting.  Obama is only incompetent and woefully uninformed about policy, and the way economies work outside of Chicago.

4.  Gary Johnson did NOT cost Romney the election.  There is no story you can tell, even assuming 100% of Johnson voters would have voted for Romney (which is asinine!), where Romney could win the Presidency.  Maybe Florida.  But not Ohio.  Romney lost this by being a goofball, not because of Gary Johnson.

5.  Now, it is quite true that I wish that Johnson had gotten 5%, and that the race had been close enough that Johnson did plausibly cost Romney the election.  Because I still don't think the Republicans get it.  They think that people actually agree with their bigotry, their religious prudery, and their barbaric foreign policy.  And they got enough votes this time to allow them to continue to believe that.  Darn it.

The Best is Yet to Come

For those playing at home, that's around a 2.5% drop so far this morning.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day Ritual

It's Election Day!

And since I do go out and vote, unlike some trolls, it's important to have a ritual.  First, watch a beautiful man sing a truly terrible '80s song:  Europe gives us "The Final Countdown."

And, then, since I already had a colonoscopy this year, I go to the dentist to get in the mood.  With any luck, I'll need some drilling work done!

Check the results tonight!  I'm hoping Barbara Howe beats 3.5% in NC, and that Gary Johnson passes 1% nationally.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The election blues

We are besieged by messages about voting. It's our duty, don't you know. It's important, right?

After all, people will proudly parade around tomorrow wearing inane "I voted" stickers and buttons like they've accomplished something.

The closest we get to a negative message is some folks saying you shouldn't vote unless you are informed.

I'm here to say it's ok. If you don't want to vote, don't worry about it. It's not your duty and it's not important.

And I'd say that the more informed you are, the harder it should be to get out and vote.


Drone strikes, the TSA, the Patriot Act, Messiah complexes, the War on drugs, idiotic trade policies, idiotic immigration policies, a huge bloated military, arrogant intervention into areas where it doesn't belong, bills that run thousands of pages long, big policy changes slipped into law via reconciliation, an almost complete unwillingness to face some aspects of reality.

These are not bugs. These are not the flaws of one particular party. These are bi-partisan FEATURES of the Federal government in the 21st century, and few if any will change based on the outcome of this election.

About the only thing this election will settle is where our government will most keep sticking it's illegitimate nose.

The authoritarian streak in Washington grew under Obama and will continue to grow whether it's Obama II or Mittens at the helm.

So tomorrow, I'll be getting quizzical looks and hostile remarks from folks who see my home-made "I Didn't Vote sticker".

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Our "leaders" missed the Econ 101 Prereq

Lots of basic classes have prerequisites.  Why not public office?  As in, you can't be governor of a state unless you have taken (and PASSED) basic economics.

Anonyman sends this delightful tidbit:

Drivers in New Jersey faced 1970s-style gasoline rationing imposed by Gov. Chris Christie, while in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the Defense Department would distribute free fuel from five mobile stations. But that effort backfired when too many people showed up.

Rationing makes sense, given that Gov. Christie has decided to prevent the price system from allocating resources.  Like all Republicans, his authoritarian and life-arranging instincts come out in times of crisis, and like all Republicans he'll make up crises if he has to, justify state control of pretty much everything.  But at least that's possible.

Governor Cuomo just has no conception of how things work, though.  Knowing that people really, really need this stuff, we'll...give it away for free!  What could possibly go wrong?  We don't NEED no stinkin' rationing.  Except that if the price is zero, the costs of non-price rationing are very high.  There is no saving, and there is no reason to believe that the people who need gas actually get it.

And Mayor Bloomberg?  Completely hopeless, a statist to the core. 

Officials said they were trying to get help where it was needed. “One of the problems is that when you have lots of different agencies, it takes a while for them to get coordinated,” Mr. Bloomberg said at his briefing, adding that he understood how high the tensions were in the Rockaways. “Somebody this morning screamed at me that they could not get coffee.”

Because they were waiting for "lots of different agencies" to "get coordinated" to provide coffee.  If only there were a system that would allow people to get the things they need without those things being provided by government.  We use that system every day during normal times, and we get lots of stuff from groceries, gas stations, and drug stores.  But when there is an emergency, we use a whole dog's breakfast of different laws to prevent the market system from helping us when we need it most.

Lincoln Logs

I don't watch SNL, I just rely on Twitter to tell me what's good, and this is GOOD!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Scarcity is the Problem. Price Rationing is One Answer

So, I've been getting quite a few incredulous, scornful, and even insulting emails from folks who object to the idea that prices should be allowed to rise to "solve" the gas problems in the northeastern U.S.  The majority of my argument has been to claim that price will (1) induce people to buy less, thereby leaving some for everyone else, instead of the first few people in line getting all of it at an artificially low price; and (2) induce other people to find ways to supply more, by  renting generators and rushing gas to the stricken area.

Obviously, I think this argument is persuasive, and even sufficient.

Suppose, though, that you aren't convinced.  And a lot of you aren't convinced (I'm thinking of YOU, Hutter!)  Let's do this your way.

More after the jump...

Gas Gouging!

Great video.  There's nothing complicated here.  We prevent markets from working, by restricting price.  And then we blame markets for failing, because at that price there's a shortage.  Amazing.


Contagion Meme: Is Mental Health/Disease Communicable?

Social contagion of mental health: Evidence from college roommates

Daniel Eisenberg et al.
Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: From a policy standpoint, the spread of health conditions in social networks is important to quantify, because it implies externalities and possible market failures in the consumption of health interventions. Recent studies conclude that happiness and depression may be highly contagious across social ties. The results may be biased, however, because of selection and common shocks. We provide unbiased estimates by using exogenous variation from college roommate assignments. Our findings are consistent with no significant overall contagion of mental health and no more than small contagion effects for specific mental health measures, with no evidence for happiness contagion and modest evidence for anxiety and depression contagion. The weakness of the contagion effects cannot be explained by avoidance of roommates with poor mental health or by generally low social contact among roommates. We also find that similarity of baseline mental health predicts the closeness of roommate relationships, which highlights the potential for selection biases in studies of peer effects that do not have a clearly exogenous source of variation. Overall, our results suggest that mental health contagion is lower, or at least more context specific, than implied by the recent studies in the medical literature.

I don't know about this "contagion" thing.  First murder, now mental health?  Phone call for Jonny Anomaly...

UPDATE:  John Thacker's comment is what I meant.  Jonny Anomaly is working on just that problem.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Price Gouging as a Rationing Device: Sandy Edition

Zoe Chace did a nice job with this, I thought.  I wish she would have given a little more of my explanation, but the stories are good.  She gets it.

What Money Can't Buy, Because It's Illegal to Buy

John Goodman has a nice piece on markets and on stuff we don't like, though we can't explain why.

Some people on the left have an aversion to money, as reflected a lengthy list of goods and services they don’t think should be exchanged for money. Some people on the right have an aversion to unconventional sex and recreational drugs.

You might think that these two groups of people are very different. Certainly there is a difference in the activities that they abhor. Beyond that, they have something in common: a visceral desire to outlaw activities that disgust them.

I would only note that the term “moral” is often a thinly disguised attempt to erect a cloak of ethical justification around what people really want to do: outlaw behavior they don’t like.

Nod to Angry Alex

Bad Analogies Cause Even Worse Science

Homicide as Infectious Disease: Using Public Health Methods to Investigate the Diffusion of Homicide

April Zeoli et al.
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract: This study examined the spatial and temporal movement of homicide in Newark, New Jersey from January 1982 through September 2008. We hypothesized that homicide would diffuse in a similar process to an infectious disease with firearms and gangs operating as the infectious agents. A total of 2,366 homicide incidents were analyzed using SaTScan v.9.0, a cluster detection software. The results revealed spatio-temporal patterns of expansion diffusion: overall, firearm and gang homicide clusters in Newark evolved from a common area in the center of the city and spread southward and westward over the course of two decades. This pattern of movement has implications in regards to the susceptibility of populations to homicide, particularly because northern and eastern Newark remained largely immune to homicide clusters. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings, as well as recommendations for future research, are discussed.

Suppose murder were like a rutabaga.  Then, it would be mostly dirty and underground, with a green leafy top.  And you could stop murder with herbicide.  If murder were like a rutabaga, that is.  It's not.  But then it's also not an infectious disease.  As Röyksopp  put it, "brave men tell the truth; the wise man's tools are analogies and puzzles."

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Thursday, November 01, 2012


It has happened to every dog owner.

It happened to us here in the woods.  Hobo saw a deer and was gone in 30 seconds.  He was gone for almost a day, coming back all bedraggled.

But, could have been worse. He could have done it in a park in London, and I could have been caught on video, yelling at him.

Thanks to Richard S. 

Poor Little Rich Kids

Is Growing Up Affluent Risky for Adolescents or Is the Problem Growing Up inan Affluent Neighborhood?

Terese Lund & Eric Dearing, Journal of Research on Adolescence, forthcoming

Abstract:  Community studies indicating that affluence has social-emotional consequences for youth have conflated family and neighborhood wealth. We examined adolescent boys' delinquency and adolescent girls' anxiety-depression as a function of family, neighborhood, and cumulative affluence in a sample that is primarily of European–American descent, but geographically and economically diverse (N = 1,364). Boys in affluent neighborhoods reported higher levels of delinquency and girls in affluent neighborhoods reported higher levels of anxiety-depression compared with youth in middle-class neighborhoods. Neither family affluence nor cumulative affluence, however, placed boys or girls at risk in these domains. Indeed, boys' delinquency and girls' anxiety-depression levels were lowest for those in affluent families living in middle-class neighborhoods.

After the Zombie Apocalypse: Estate Tax Implications

While members of our do-nothing Congress bicker, we are faced with a real problem:  What are the estate tax implications of the zombie apocalypse?

I mean, are they dead, or undead?  Do lost body parts count as "partially included assets," or something else?  And how do you figure the unified credit if I blow up my zombie uncle's head, and then get the gold teeth?  Are those heritable, or are they gifts?  The IRS has no answers.  And you can't very well ask your accountant, if he looks like this:

But Professor Chodorow has answers.

With thanks to the LMM, who doens't really like zombies very much.

Save the Balls!

The "save our balls" campaign from Bucky Balls.  Those little magnetic balls, you know.

Are we really going to outlaw everything in the world that's poison, or small?  If so, Harry Reid's brain will be outlawed, on both counts.

Nod to Anonyman


Lockhart's Lament

Raoul sends this nice bit.  It contains a link to "Lockhart's Lament," which is worth reading at length.  You have likely read it before (I did), but it rewards new study.

Background from Keith Devlin:

Lockhart is a mathematics teacher at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He became interested in mathematics when he was about 14 (outside of the school math class, he points out) and read voraciously, becoming especially interested in analytic number theory. He dropped out of college after one semester to devote himself to math, supporting himself by working as a computer programmer and as an elementary school teacher. Eventually he started working with Ernst Strauss at UCLA, and the two published a few papers together. Strauss introduced him to Paul Erdos, and they somehow arranged it so that he became a graduate student there. He ended up getting a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1990, and went on to be a fellow at MSRI and an assistant professor at Brown. He also taught at UC Santa Cruz. His main research interests were, and are, automorphic forms and Diophantine geometry.

After several years teaching university mathematics, Paul eventually tired of it and decided he wanted to get back to teaching children. He secured a position at Saint Ann's School, where he says "I have happily been subversively teaching mathematics (the real thing) since 2000."

He teaches all grade levels at Saint Ann's (K-12), and says he is especially interested in bringing a mathematician's point of view to very young children. "I want them to understand that there is a playground in their minds and that that is where mathematics happens. So far I have met with tremendous enthusiasm among the parents and kids, less so among the mid-level administrators," he wrote in an email to me. Now where have I heard that kind of thing before? But enough of my words.