Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bad Mojo

Yikes!! Anybody want to buy a pair of Thunder season tickets? I'll never be able to un-see this:

Two part question: (A) which country US or Spain has the worst unis? (B) which of the three Thunder players looks the silliest?

He hit himself with his rhythm stick!

You just can't go wrong with this story.

A 36-year-old Jacksonville man is accused of performing a sex on himself while driving south on Interstate 95 near Ormond Beach.  Ronald Ayers was charged with indecent exposure on Wednesday.

He denied performing the sex act, saying another driver who reported him to authorities misunderstood what he was doing while driving – using drum sticks to hit his steering wheel.

Some salient facts:  (1) It was apparently consensual.  (2)  The guy's defense, his DEFENSE, mind you, was that he had both hands off the steering wheel and was pounding the steering wheel with his drumsticks.  (3) The woman who claims she had a "clear view" was clearly not looking at the road, herself.

Reminds me of the old joke.  Woman calls police, says man is exposing himself in window of other apartment.  Police come in, she points, "See!  SEE!  It's disGUSTING."

Policeman looks.  "Ma'am, I don't see anything."

Woman.  "Well, of course not.  You have to stand on the chair, and use these binoculars."

Nod to Angry Alex, and with thanks to Mr. Drury for the title, which of course I adapted.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Escape velocity

We didn't reach it.

Revised numbers show GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2011 was 4.1%, which fell to 2% in the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile the initial estimate of second quarter 2012 growth is 1.5%.

At least the rate of decline is slowing!

Even though I have eyes to see and ears to hear exactly how crappy a candidate Mittens is, it's hard for me to think Obama can win with an economy this bad.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Off to the Great West....

Heading to Bloomington, IN for an LF conference on the Ostroms.  Sad, because they were both going to attend, but that didn't work out. 

Lin was actually planning grant proposals that would have started in Fall 2013.  She was pretty brave.

Then, to Portland, OR to visit my sister Kathy.  She is a veterinarian, and a big sailer.  May get out o the water a bit.

Then to Seattle, WA to give this talk, and to hang out with Tony Gill, Raoul, and of course the YYM. 

Then back on the redeye a week from Friday.  If you are in Seattle, it would be great to see you at the talk!

A match made in heaven

Bill Callahan's voice and Leonard Cohen's words.

You can hear Bill do a tremendous cover of "So long Marianne" right here.

Highly recommended.

How to be your own worst enemy

Ben Bernanke is his own worst enemy these days. He keeps insisting that the Fed is not out of ammunition and can do more to strengthen the economy, but to date, has not actually done anything "new" or "more".

Which leads to his ritual excoriation in the blogo/twitter-sphere.

And rightly so.

4 years on, we still have not reached pre-crisis employment levels.  High inflation is not on the immediate horizon, and growth and growth forecasts keep falling. If you can "do more", it's beyond time to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Ben Bernanke is an excellent economist and a smart man. So what is going on?

Continue reading below the fold

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Police Brutality, or Angry Mom?

Boy meets girl.  Girl invites boy home to her house, because parents are out.  The kids get busy.

Mom comes home early.  Nekkid Boy hides in closet. 

Mom is a cop, mom pulls gun, handcuffs Nekkid Boy.  (This sounds like a great premise for a porn movie, by the way! Cop Mom plus daughter on handcuffed Nekkid Boy action.)

But, no.  Instead, extremely angry Cop Mom tries to get handcuffed Nekkid Boy charged with forcible entry (of the house, of the house).

Not surprisingly, supervisors say that since the boy was invited by the daughter, this is not (in any sense) forcible entry.

Boy, no longer Nekkid, sues Cop Mom.

Judge, using repeated references to Jim Croce, says that the Cop Mom was reacting as a Mom, not a Cop.  Seriously, you can read about it here.  They even have a link to the decision itself.  Excerpt:

"Collier was an angry parent who happened to be in uniform, have handcuffs and a firearm, which she used for the private ends of scaring a young man she caught in bed with her daughter," Judge Carnes found.

"Although Collier did use the pistol that she wore as an officer, any adult without a felony record can lawfully possess a firearm (and tens of millions do)," the judge added.

"If the allegations are true, Collier's treatment of Butler was badder than old King Kong and meaner than a junkyard dog," Carnes wrote, returning to Croce's lyrics. "She might even have acted like the meanest hunk of woman anybody had ever seen. Still, the fact that the mistreatment was mean does not mean that the mistreatment was under color of law."

Only in Florida, folks!

(With thanks to Angry Alex.  And, to be fair, I think this could have happened in Missouri, also)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Goat Man of Northern Utah

Some people may just think this guy is crazy.

...a man hiking Sunday along Ben Lomond peak in the mountains above Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, spotted the person dressed like a goat among a herd of real goats. The person provided some blurry photographs to Douglass, who said they did not appear to have been altered.

Wildlife officials now just want to talk to the man so that he is aware of the dangers. There's no telling what his intentions are, Douglass said, but it is believed he could just be an extreme wildlife enthusiast.

"People do some pretty out there things in the name of enjoying wildlife. But I've never had a report like this," Douglass said. "There's a saying we have among biologists — You don't go far enough, you don't get the data. You go too far, you don't go home. The same is true with some wildlife enthusiasts."

But M. Kaan notes that this may just be a biologist who doesn't use no stinkin' equations.  That will result in the work being cited more, apparently, as noted before on this blog.

In any case, the real problem is the goat hunting season is coming up.  And the Bishop will have that bolt action .30-06 out of the gun safe.  Be careful, Goat Man!

Treading Water

So, on May 21, I said that the sky was falling, and I was bailing.  Took everything out of stocks, and invested in bonds.  Mostly in the TIAA-CREF's "inflation-linked" bond product.

On May 21, the DJIA was 12,450.  Today, it is 12702.  That's up about 2% since I ran and squealed.  DJIA has been higher, as high as 12,900, and as low as 12,100, since May 21.  But right now, it's just over 12700.  The inflation linked bond is up about 1.2% since May 21.

So, clearly, you are better off ex post if you stayed in stocks.  But I have been sleeping well.

Strangely Sensible

One of my pet peeves is people who start by saying, "I don't know much about economics."  Actually, I don't mind that; that's sensible.  But what I object to is when they take another twenty minutes and PROVE it.  They had me at "I don't know much..."  I was willing to believe them.

This is about as opposite as it can be.  This young woman starts by saying she doesn't know much about libertarians, except that they are juvenile and shallow.

Then, she concludes by saying:

 To be sure, there are plenty of reasons for a non-moral relativist to favor limited government.
1.  In the first place, government tends to be inefficient at most jobs.
2.  Also, a person living in a pluralist society might pragmatically recognize that a small, relatively neutral government is the most optimal of the realizable options.
3.  Finally, there is the deep truth that some level of freedom is necessary for human beings to achieve full moral maturity, and exercise the virtues.

(more below the fold)

On PSU Punishment....

A friend writes....

Ok, are you bothered by the NCAA action against PSU? I hate PSU and I hate Paterno even more, but this seems to be way over the top. Any punishment before the accused is allowed to put on a defense is wrong, but this punishment is “cruel and unusual.” I do  think Paterno and others made some serious mistakes, mistakes for which they should be held to account, and they are being held to account. BUT to destroy the football program and the school’s reputation is wrong. What Paterno did and is alleged to have done did not involve cheating at his sport. Where Spanier, the VP, the AD, Paterno and the BOT went way wrong was in trying to protect the PSU brand and reputation at all costs. This was their first instinct. Everything else became consciously secondary. All athletic programs with big reputations and “legendary” coaches are subject to this same mistake. As a member of the ******** here, I saw this up close 6 years ago. The first official meetings were focused on protecting the institution and its brand, rather than attempting to find out what if anything happened for which [university] needed to answer. (MORE BELOW THE FOLD)

"It isn’t easy to understand how the world works"*

And it doesn't help that we get bombarded with BS on a minute by minute basis:

"Tax rates were higher under Clinton than under Bush/Obama and things were better, so raising taxes now won't hurt economic performance."

"We tried stimulus and the economy was worse than the governments' "no stimulus" baseline, so fiscal stimulus doesn't work."

"We spend more on health care than some other nation does and get worse results, so if we adopted the system used by the other country we'd get better results with less cost."

These are examples of the common mistake of not taking other relevant factors into account. Using one bilateral comparison to determine causality is rarely going to be correct.

Consider the third example above. For the claim to have any shred of validity, we'd need to find a nation that had roughly the same population, income distribution, ethnic diversity, rates of obesity and exercise, diet, and probably a few other things as well. That ain't Sweden, or Singapore, or France.

But yet we hear it every day repeated as a killer argument for some alternative health care delivery system.

Then there are the claims that conflate average with marginal:

"Wages are higher in manufacturing than services, so we should subsidize increases in manufacturing jobs"

"Higher top tax brackets won't deter economic expansion because they only apply to the last money earned. The overall average tax rate won't go up very much." 

Averages just aren't relevant for economic decisions. To determine what kind of job is better, we need to study what are current hires in manufacturing earning compared to services. When deciding to expand production businesses compare the marginal costs and benefits of doing so.

Take heart, at the least the BS shot at you by econo-pundits is not as grossly ridiculous as that delivered by medico-pundits.

Take this recent gem: "If you sit a lot, you will have a shorter life expectancy" which is being widely interpreted as meaning "sitting will shorten your life!"

Did it never occur to these geniuses that sick people probably sit a lot more than healthy people??

And no, state of health was NOT a control in the meta-analysis that is cited in the articles. Only age and gender were used as controls. In other words, the statement is meaningless.

*title quote is from Larry Summers as discussed here by one of his former students, Miles Kimball.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gary Johnson

Went over to Charlotte with the EYM for some campaigning with Gary Johnson, ex-Gov of NM and now LP candidate for President.

Gary is a genuinely great guy.  We started out with the fun run (the (not) exciting start is in the video above, complete with police protection!).  It was supposed to be 5k, and that would have been nice, since it was unbelievably humid.  But for some reason the marked course was about 6.1k, and there were some tongues hanging out.  Really fun, though.  The EYM was way ahead of me, not surprisingly.

Then a luncheon, which was packed.  Lots of people, lots of excitement.

Then an anti-war rally.  Interesting collection of people.  Gary's speech was terrific, short, on-point, well received.

Later, at the cocktail party, I got a photo of Gov. Johnson and the EYM.

Then, the speech.  A very nice crowd.  All the speeches were good; Barbara Howe did a good job, also. 

Gary Johnson is the best Presidential candidate I have seen in my lifetime, in terms of issues and experience.

More Equations, Fewer Citations?

Heavy use of equations impedes communication among biologists

Tim Fawcett & Andrew Higginson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 July 2012, Pages 11735-11739

Abstract: Most research in biology is empirical, yet empirical studies rely fundamentally on theoretical work for generating testable predictions and interpreting observations. Despite this interdependence, many empirical studies build largely on other empirical studies with little direct reference to relevant theory, suggesting a failure of communication that may hinder scientific progress. To investigate the extent of this problem, we analyzed how the use of mathematical equations affects the scientific impact of studies in ecology and evolution. The density of equations in an article has a significant negative impact on citation rates, with papers receiving 28% fewer citations overall for each additional equation per page in the main text. Long, equation-dense papers tend to be more frequently cited by other theoretical papers, but this increase is outweighed by a sharp drop in citations from nontheoretical papers (35% fewer citations for each additional equation per page in the main text). In contrast, equations presented in an accompanying appendix do not lessen a paper’s impact. Our analysis suggests possible strategies for enhancing the presentation of mathematical models to facilitate progress in disciplines that rely on the tight integration of theoretical and empirical work.

Interesting.  I wonder if the same holds for economics and political science.    My five most cited works vary quite a bit. Two are books, with some equations, but mostly text.  The 1986 APSR is almost pure equations, and no emprical work, but we did try to make it accessible with the accompanying text.  And the 1989 and 1994 APSRs are mostly empirical, with some equations as estimations.

Angus's top five (we share the 1994 APSR, of course) is not terribly equation-heavy.  The largest one, the paper with Tullock in 1989, has nearly 1,000 cites (you think that's easy?  try it at home).  And Grier-Tullock 1989 is almost Hemingway-esque in its pared down simplicity and clarity. 

So, a conjecture:  obfuscating meaning with equations may help you get a paper published in the first place, especially at a lesser journal.  So the "survival test" is biased toward junking the paper up. But clarity and careful presentation help published papers have more impact.

What think you, folk?

Nod to Kevin Lewis