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?