Saturday, February 04, 2012

The culture that is Japan

or, high art in low places.

People, we have a long way to go to catch up with the Japanese. Feast your eyes:

many more great ones here.

It's Hilarious to be an Idiot

It's an anti-intellectual wave, sweeping America.

Urope.  I liked that one.


Kevin Durant was amazing last night. His line, 36 points (on 24 shots), 10 boards, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals, was impressive. But his repeated clutch plays at the end of the game were eye-popping. A three to give the Thunder the lead for good. A leaning jumper as the shot clock expired to extend the lead. Clutch free throws. A shot block and a key rebound.

He did all of this despite being exhausted (he logged 44 minutes and playing the entire second half).

Durant and James Harden owned the 4th quarter and the Thunder won a game in which they were clearly outplayed in the first 36 minutes.

Not sure what KD will have in the tank for tonight's game in San Antonio, but Mrs. Angus and I really enjoyed watching him play last night.

By the way, have you seen Durant's latest commercial?

Friday, February 03, 2012

Whatever you do, don't be yourself!

Great essay in Inside Higher Ed on how "just be yourself" is horrible advice for academics going out on the job market.

Immortal line: "Sorry Academics; you suck at interviewing".

Mrs. Angus and I very very much emphasize to our students that they absolutely should NOT be themselves and spend a month or two before the job market working with them to project a professional persona. We run them through multiple rounds of practice interviews and practice job talks.

We were lucky this year to each have an excellent student on the market, each of whom had a full dance card at the AEAs and now have multiple campus visits. In fact, both are out on campus interviews right now.

Hat tip to RKG.

poco a poco

243,000 net new jobs in January (including 50,000 in manufacturing), November & December of 2011 figures revised up by 60,000, unemployment rate down to 8.3%. Details are here.

Not too shabby.

Net new jobs in the private sector were 257,000 so not only is employment rising but its composition is slowly shifting away from government and toward the private sector. In the last 12 months there has been a net job loss in the government sector of around 275,000 jobs

The net jobs figures for the last three months, after revisions, stand at 157,000 203,000 and now 243,000.

It will be interesting to see how the "austerity is killing us" people will spin this.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

If Public, ALWAYS Public?

Once something is public domain, is it always public domain?

Not if the Supreme Court says it's not.

Argument for decision:  reciprocity.  Presumably, easier to get other countries to recognize our copyrights if we recognize theirs.

Argument against:  WTF?  The only reason to grant a monopoly is to encourage new works.  These are all old works, by definition.

(Nod to BC, who has sharp eyes for a cool issue)

Romeo was restless

"Romeo was restless, he was ready to kill. He jumped out the window cause he couldn't sit still. Juliet was waiting with a safety net. He said "Don't bury me cause I'm not dead yet"."

Replace "Romeo" with "Cassanova", "the window" with "of Clemson University", "sit still" with "eat Chiklfil-a", "Juliet", with "Auburn University" and suddenly Elvis Costello becomes relevant again!

You know, now that I think about it, "Mystery Dance" is a pretty apt title for the recruiting process in college athletics.

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus.

Mac McCorkle has a little fun with Chronicle Reporter

My good friend Pope “Mac” McCorkle is having a little fun with the reporter from the Chronicle.  Here are the money quotes, from me and then his “refutation.”

“They don’t want a candidate who is going to hold [President Barack Obama] back,” Munger said. “Bev Perdue is a clown—she should have never been governor. The only reason she won was the tsunami of Obama’s campaign in North Carolina.”
But the unpopularity of an incumbent governor would not likely affect an incumbent president, said Pope McCorkle, visiting lecturer at the Sanford School of Public Policy, who worked as a consultant with Perdue’s 2008 campaign.  “[Perdue] had a better shot of winning than is commonly assumed,” McCorkle said. “She got more votes than Obama in 2008. The idea that her victory is solely attributable to Obama doesn’t hold water.”

Now, Mac is a smart guy, and knows full well that that is nonsense.  I laughed out loud when I read what he said.  There is just no necessary relationship, none at all, between the vote totals and whether Perdue would have won without Obama’s coattails.  The reason is straight ticket voting.  At least 2% of the folks who went to vote for Obama ended up voting for Perdue straight ticket, but did not vote for Obama at all because of the quirky NC rules.

  • Democrats: 46 % of all registered voters, but 58.76% of the straight ticket votes cast went to the Dems (1,283,486 total straight ticket votes) 
  • Republicans:  32% percent of registered voters,  40.4%  of straight-party votes (881,856) 
Democrats from the national party (not the Perdue campaign) organized the straight ticket get out the vote campaign.  They handed out cards, and told people (as they were getting off busses paid for by George Soros and his Wall Street pals, Obama fans all) how to vote straight ticket Democrat. (In NC, it takes two votes to vote straight ticket. If you just vote straight ticket, you cast a vote for Gov, but not for Prez.  That's not what you meant, but that's what you did).

I watched this happen, dozens of times, at different polling sites.  Those folks getting off the bus had NEVER HEARD of Bev Perdue.  They were there to vote for Obama, and when some Dem functionary handed them a card explaining how they should vote, straight ticket D, they did it.

Those numbers, 58% of straight ticket votes, and 1.28 million straight ticket votes cast, are by far the largest ever in NC history.

Now, consider just how lame Mac’s “refutation” is.  If I’m right, and the straight ticket votes from the Obama turnout machine were the difference in the race, then it would be IMPOSSIBLE for Bev to get fewer votes than Obama.  Make it simple:  suppose every Obama voter voted straight ticket.  And a few others voted for Bev.  Then Bev got all those straight ticket votes, and a few more.

That’s basically what happened.  Bev “beat” Obama by four thousand votes.  Statistically a tie.  But without Obama and the straight ticket votes, Bev would have gotten wiped out by Pat McCrory.  On election day, when far fewer people voted straight ticket, Pat “won” easily.  On election day, the votes looked like this:
  • McCrory 952,000
  • Perdue 783,000
But on the early, mostly straight ticket voting, with all those busses paid for by Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup pulling up to the early polling places, here is how it came out:
  • McCrory 1,038,000
  • Perdue 1,351,000
In other words, Perdue built up an early lead of 300,000 because of all that straight ticket turnout for Obama.  In a normal year, with average turnout and average straight ticket voting rates, Bev would only have gotten 1,000,000 early votes, and would have lost the election by 250,000 votes or more.

The only way for me to be wrong is if the reason for all that historic straight ticket voting, and higher turnout, had NOTHING to do with Obama.  And that doesn’t pass the laugh test.  Consider this headline in the HuffPo:  "EarlyVoting Numbers Climb in NC, Mostly the Work of ObamaVolunteers."  That darned right wing HuffPo...

Obama volunteers. Not Perdue volunteers.  And Perdue only won because of early voting.  Perdue couldn't possibly have gotten fewer votes than Obama, because all those early votes were for BOTH.  Perdue loses, without Obama.  And my friend Mac is laughing at that reporter, for not asking better questions.  Good one, Mac.

Low voltage

Obama motors is having trouble with their signature product.  Chevy sold 603 Volts in January. Their sales target for 2012 (45,000) has been dropped. Last year they sold around 8,000 Volts.

More info is here, and the hat tip goes to Mark P.

Has the $7,500 tax credit for buying one of these bad boys expired? Or has America run out of Volt-less rich people?

Or maybe people don't want their cars to double as fireplaces?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

We Get Letters: Campaign Finance

Chateau writes:

Here's something to chew on:  When Obama set a precedent for campaign funding by breaking his promise in 2008 to accept public funding for the general election he may have done more than Congress or “reformers” ever could to reduce the impact of SuperPACs in the 2012 general elections. 

The public funding option in 2012 would constrain a campaign to roughly $90 million in total spending, a tiny fraction of the $1 billion the president hopes to raise privately for his campaign.  If the Obama campaign could only spend $90 million we can only imagine how much money would flow into SuperPACs to make up the difference.  Don’t for a minute think that there will be no SuperPACs supporting Obama, but it is the case that we will hear relatively far more directly from the campaign than from 3rd parties this fall (a good thing for our democracy, I believe, to hear more from candidates directly).  The same goes for the GOP, whose candidate I cannot imagine agreeing to public  funding. 

Bottom line:  If you don't like what SuperPACs are doing to election messaging then (have yet one more reason to) be happy that the public funding system has collapsed…

Great Little Economics Story for Class

From Tommy the Tenured Brit, an example.  I have adapted it for teachers of Econ 101: This is a fine little problem to give in class, complete with video. The essentials:

  • Bridge revenue is tax-free, by law
  • Bridge toll is 80 pence, for multiple passages per day
  • Bridge revenue is 2,000 pounds per week in the busy summer, less in winter. About 80,000 pounds per year
  • Owner is responsible for upkeep and repairs on bridge and toll machinery, cost 15,000 pounds per year
  • Bridge "comes with" cottage, land, and fishing rights
  • The bridge just traded hands at a price of 400,000 pounds.  

1.  What is the implied discount rate (assuming that the bridge (with repairs), the tolls, and the tax break are all perpetual)
2.  Now assume that tax break is eliminated, the discount rate is the same as for #1, and that the effective average tax rate on the owners is 40%.  What would be the predicted change in price, or the capital loss the owners would be stuck with?
3.  Are the owners making a supernormal return because of the tax break?

Unless I have got me sums wrong, the answers are:

1.  16.25%
2.  New price would be 243,750 pounds.  So the tax break is worth 156,250 pounds
3.  Of course not!  The tax break is the reason that the bridge was worth 400k instead of 243k pounds.  But the implied rate of return is the same, because the tax rate is capitalized into the value.

Now, then, let's talk about capital gains taxes on investments in new plant and equipment, SHALL we?

Alejandro & the Idea Machine

Check out this amazing video of one of my favorite artists (Souther Salazar) setting up one of his pieces for a show:

more work from Souther can be seen here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

D-Bood Deals

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

D-Bood clearly has this right. To review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 30, 2012

Theories of Voting

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

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

Brits Eat Some Weird Stuff

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

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

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

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

thou pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense

When Robert Burns got mad, he got even:

Ellisland, 1791.

 Dear Sir:

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


Source is here. Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

prophets of the marginal revolution!

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

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

 Story is here.

 Hat tip to the OPMR.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Is this what austerity looks like?

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

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

Is this really austerity?

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

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

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

They're not your father's manufacturing jobs

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

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

And the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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