Saturday, December 29, 2012


Wow.  David Schmidtz has totally blown up, gotten big, become famous, etc.  The problem is, you know what happens when you get all famous?  This.

Looks a lot like this, doesn't it?  I'm just sayin'...

Fortunately, David is a kind and benevolent ruler.   And all that stuff where Dave insists that Jerry Gaus call him "Chancellor"?  It doesn't mean anything, I'm sure.


We Can Do This, But It Makes Warming Worse

Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship Over the 20th Century

Alan Barreca et al.
MIT Working Paper, December 2012

Adaptation is the only strategy that is guaranteed to be part of the world's climate strategy. Using the most comprehensive set of data files ever compiled on mortality and its determinants over the course of the 20th century, this paper makes two primary discoveries. First, we find that the mortality effect of an extremely hot day declined by about 80% between 1900-1959 and 1960-2004. As a consequence, days with temperatures exceeding 90°F were responsible for about 600 premature fatalities annually in the 1960-2004 period, compared to the approximately 3,600 premature fatalities that would have occurred if the temperature-mortality relationship from before 1960 still prevailed. Second, the adoption of residential air conditioning (AC) explains essentially the entire decline in the temperature-mortality relationship. In contrast, increased access to electricity and health care seem not to affect mortality on extremely hot days. Residential AC appears to be both the most promising technology to help poor countries mitigate the temperature related mortality impacts of climate change and, because fossil fuels are the least expensive source of energy, a technology whose proliferation will speed up the rate of climate change.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

The nonsense math effect

The nonsense math effect

Kimmo Eriksson, Judgment and Decision Making, November 2012, Pages 746–749

Abstract:  Mathematics is a fundamental tool of research. Although potentially applicable in every discipline, the amount of training in mathematics that students typically receive varies greatly between different disciplines. In those disciplines where most researchers do not master mathematics, the use of mathematics may be held in too much awe. To demonstrate this I conducted an online experiment with 200 participants, all of which had experience of reading research reports and a postgraduate degree (in any subject). Participants were presented with the abstracts from two published papers (one in evolutionary anthropology and one in sociology). Based on these abstracts, participants were asked to judge the quality of the research. Either one or the other of the two abstracts was manipulated through the inclusion of an extra sentence taken from a completely unrelated paper and presenting an equation that made no sense in the context. The abstract that
included the meaningless mathematics tended to be judged of higher quality. However, this "nonsense math effect" was not found among participants with degrees in mathematics, science, technology or medicine.

Interesting.  Reminds me of this famous wannabe incident... Though from the other side, in a way.  Sokal was using fake words to fool lit people.  Eriksson is using fake math to fool social scientologists.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Friday, December 28, 2012

Upon further review......

I finally found the perfect KPC holiday picture:

(clic the pic for an even more career-ending image)

No real change in GDP, but we both ate s**t

Keynes and Krugman are walking down the street and see dog droppings.

Keynes says to Krugman: "I'll pay you $20,000 to eat those."

Krugman thinks about it, decides he really wants a car, and eats the droppings.

They continue walking, then Krugman sees some other dog's droppings up ahead and says to Keynes: "Same deal: I'll pay you $20,000 to eat that."

Keynes didn't expect Krugman to take him up on his bet earlier, and he really needs the money, so he agrees.

Then Krugman says to Keynes: "We both have the same amount of money as before, but we both ate a lot of s**t."

Keynes replies: "Yeah, but there was $40,000 in stimulus to the national GDP."

Nod to Sid K.

Wind Power Fail

Measuring the Environmental Benefits of Wind Power

Joseph Cullen
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, forthcoming

Abstract: Production subsidies for renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, are rationalized due to their perceived environmental benefits. Subsidizing these projects allows clean, renewable technologies to produce electricity that otherwise would have been produced by dirtier, fossil-fuel power plants. In this paper, I quantify the emissions offset by wind power for a large electricity grid in Texas using the randomness inherent in wind power availability. The results indicate that one MWh of wind power offsets negligible quantities of SO2, less than one lb of NOx, and less than half a ton of CO2.  Only for high estimates of the social costs of pollution do I find that the value of emissions offset by wind power are greater than the renewable energy subsidies used to induce investment in wind farms.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

American Poetry and Private Real Property

American Poetry and Private Real Property

Eric Rawson, Journal of American Studies, forthcoming

Abstract: This article examines the ways in which American poetic practice and thematics map a conception of private real property as it has developed uniquely on the North American continent. I explore how the Land Ordinance of 1790, the Preemption Act, the Homestead Act, and other land-use policies shaped a conception of the developing landscape as divisible into a vast agglomeration of private enterprises mediated primarily by the transfer of title deeds. The impact of private real property beliefs and practices, I argue, has shaped both the practice and the reception of American poetry (and other cultural products) for at least the last 150 years. I incorporate the insights of cultural geography – particularly the work of John B. Jackson, Carl Sauer, and Scott Freundschuh – to understand how the last century's building practices and the reorganization of the landscape, particularly in western metropolitan areas, find imaginative expression in poetry. Although mine is not a law-in-literature approach, I contend that modern/postmodern poetry operates in a way that depends on the very exchange values of the late capitalist property system it often critiques.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Economics: Older Authors, More Original Data

Six Decades of Top Economics Publishing: Who and How?

Daniel Hamermesh
NBER Working Paper, December 2012

Abstract: Presenting data on all full-length articles published in the three top general economics journals for one year in each of the 1960s through 2010s, I analyze how patterns of co-authorship, age structure and methodology have changed, and what the possible causes of these changes may have been. The entire distribution of number of authors has shifted steadily rightward. In the last two decades the fraction of older authors has almost quadrupled. The top journals are now publishing many fewer papers that represent pure theory, regardless of sub-field, somewhat less empirical work based on publicly available data sets, and many more empirical studies based on data assembled for the study by the author(s) or on laboratory or field experiments.

I wonder if this is because the revolution in economics methods changed publication in the 1950s.  Or was it just the new emphasis on publication, at all, that has now reached steady state?  If that's true, then the new distribution is what we should expect, and the bias toward younger authors and low-hanging fruit data sets was short-lived.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Penn and Teller on Gun Control

This is worth watching. As always, Penn and Teller make some good points, some not as good points, and some things are just wrong.  But it's interesting and well done.

UPDATE:  I found this, over at Popehat (thanks, Patrick!).  Disturbing on two levels.  First, the presumption of doctors to think they have expertise on constitutional matters.  Second, relatedly but still separate, the imperialistic tendency of medical mavens to try to treat any action they don't like, for whatever reason, as a "public health" problem.  Ick.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

1.  NY Times has nothing better to do than troll-comment-post left coast bagelries.

2.  This is disturbing.  Because instead of complaining about the hundreds of innocent people our government intentionally kills in drone strikes, we get upset about dozens killed at random by crazy people.  Apparently it's important to focus on chance, rather than intention.  If you want the original video, it can be found by clicking bottom left of the redo.

3.  G. Weeks on Latin American corruption.

4.  The 4th Amendment applies to everyone.  Unless you are poor.  Then apparently the state owns you and your stuff, and can search whenever it wants, without cause.  Because you are poor, and they are giving you money.  Can you tell me again why it's better to be dependent on the state than to have a job?

5.  Pete B on microfoundations.

6.  Can you define "assault rifle"?  The NY Times can't.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Surprise

My wife and I have been married for more than 26 years.  To each other.

Over that time the LMM and I have solved the problem of Christmas present anxiety, the problem you have when you aren't sure what to get the other person, even though you know that person very well, because you have already gotten that person pretty much everything that person has ever expressed an interest in.

Our solution has some humor to it.  Each of us, for years, would choose things each liked, for ourselves, and then provide said thing to other person, not wrapped.  Other person would wrap it and hide it away until the time was right.  And both would feign pleasure and surprise at tree-and-present time, Christmas morning.

But that got old.  So now the LMM takes it one more step.  She buys stuff for herself, and wraps it herself, and then puts it under the tree and opens it herself.  I never see it, until Christmas morning.

This year I asked if I could see the jewelry I got her.  She said, "No, that will spoil the surprise."  To be clear:  That's MY surprise.  At seeing what I got HER.

And the fact is that I take great pleasure, and am genuinely surprised, on Christmas morning.  So, as usual, even though things may sound a little cockeyed at our house, the LMM is right, and all is well.

(I'm pretty sure Shirley will back the LMM up on this, in terms of logic.  Right, Shirl?)

Nothing to add

Nothing to add to this little gem.  The headline says it all, but it's worth savoring, like fresh hot pancakes on a cold winter day.

Why Does Canada Have a Maple Syrup Cartel?

Nod to Tommy the Tenured Brit.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: Sovereign Debt

From Chapter IV of "A Christmas Carol"

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.
``Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,'' said Scrooge, ``answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?''
Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
``Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,'' said Scrooge. ``But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!''
The Spirit was immovable as ever. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.
``Am I that man who lay upon the bed?'' he cried, upon his knees.
The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.
``No, Spirit! Oh no, no!'' The finger still was there.
``Spirit!'' he cried, tight clutching at its robe, ``hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?''
For the first time the hand appeared to shake.
``Good Spirit,'' he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ``Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered budget plan, one that raises taxes and cuts spending!''  

John Taylor's version here...

Nod to WH

SMBC Christmas Theater

Is there a Santa?  SMBC Theater has the answer.  Well, an answer.  A twisted answer.

Merry, merry Christmas!

UPDATE:  I'm pretty sure But there is no child. James wears the body of a small child, so you feel like there is a bigger cast.  Seems happier that way...

Merry Christmas Y'all

(Clic the Pic for an even more festive image)

Monday, December 24, 2012

SMBC Christmas Theater

Have you ever wondered what happened to Scrooge AFTER his conversion to goodness?  Is goodness and charity all it's cracked up to be?  And what would happen if Tiny Tim could show the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future the consequences of what they had done?  Well, NOW YOU KNOW.

Robustly and exuberantly NSFW.  But full of the Christmas spirit.  Sort of.

And, there's a bonus "Hand to Mouth," a cooking show.  Sort of.

Monday's Child is Full of Links!

1.  The new museum in Amsterdam is a bathtub museum.  Not a museum about bathtubs, but literally a museum shaped like one.  (Nod to Dutch Boy)

2.  The idea of MISspelling something is modern.  The difficulty of spelling in English is ancient.

3.  An objection to the ability of markets to get the rate of time discount "correct."  My question:  as compared to what?  Compared to legislators with a two year time horizon (okay, six in the Senate, right after an election)?  Why don't people make fun of the "efficient governments" hypothesis?  The libertarian argument is not that markets are perfect, it's that politicians are even more short-sighted.

4.  Not easy going from very poor to post-college success.  Families are pretty good at forgiving failure.  It's what they expect.  If your mom, dad, and uncles all failed to break out, then it's okay that you didn't.  What's hard to handle is success.  Poor kids have no one to tell them how to handle that.  And for the family back home, it feels like rejection.  In the south, "Gettin' above yer raisin'."  Or in more urban vernacular, "She's a Tomasina.  She ain't keepin' it real."

5.  The 12 Days of Development.  (Nod to Marc B.)

6.  If everything is abundant, nothing is scarce.  KPC pal Zach Weiner on economics.  As always with Zach, you start to laugh, and then say...."Wait..."  Zach once sent me an original of one of his drawings, which I had admired, and I took the drawings to get them framed.  The guy at the frame shop was in awe:  "You got these from Zach Weiner?  I used to...." (he paused for emphasis) " Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal EVERY DAY."  I asked why he stopped.  "Oh, after I stopped I wasn't quite as suicidal."  That's the sort of story where either you ask more questions, or you don't.  I didn't.

2nd Amendment Fail

Wow.  My impression is that Robert Parry was once a legitimate journalist. But he's totally phoning this in

How about some Grand Game, 2nd Amendment history Fisking edition?

Here ya go.

The Real Rationale for the 2nd Amendment, That Right-Wingers Are Totally Ignorant About

Mr. Parry may have a point about Washington, at that particular point, but there was a rebellion.  The overall truth is more complicated.  Here is a nice collection of quotes that express the views of many of the other Founders on the 2nd Amendment.  

With a nod to Michael H., for picking out this gem.

Republican HQ

This may be photoshopped.  But I think not.  The wires in front of the sign, and the fact that a friend claims to have taken the picture himself, not "got it as an attachment from a friend of ... "

In any case, a nice metaphor.  Do click for an even more tumble-down image.

With a nod to SDM

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hobo Down

Hobo is gone.  He was our sweet old dog friend.  Just an amazing friendly personality, quiet and calm.  A nobility.  He had trouble breathing, and we took him to the emergency (vet) hospital.  They took x-rays.  Poor guy had almost no lung function, cancer everywhere.

The YYM and I held him as his last breath, unlabored because they had him on oxygen, went out.  That's the third time I have seen a dog put down.  Something goes out of the world, something is gone.  Call it spirit, spark, electrical impulses, whatever you want.  But it's remarkable.

Two pix of Hobo when he was young.  Loved to nap in the sun, even then.  Note the stick in his mouth.  He was playing dead, waiting for me to try to grab the stick so he could run away.

And Hobo loved the YYM.  YYM called Hobo his "little brother."  Sweet.  Here they are in July, 2001, just  two months after we got him. (Hobo, not the YYM).  Hobo is having a little nip of ear.  Yum!

Hobo had been scheduled to be euthanized, at the pound, in early 2001. He was "aggressive," and nobody would take him.  But the lady who worked there said he was a great dog, and thought he was just scared because he was always being moved around.  So we took him home, because he had the most interesting and expressive eyes.

At the end Hobo just mostly napped in the warm sun.  And of course I was happy to join him.  His muzzle and the fur around his eyes had gone totally white, by the end.  We had him eleven years, and he was part of our family.  Goodbye, old friend.

UPDATE:  From comments....Oatmeal, and the paradox that is dog


This is a bit dry, but interesting.  And it has the line, "Munger just doesn't sound like a good word."  Nice.

Plus, I'm a thumb-biter.  Wow.

I had no idea...

There is this epic poem, quite famous.  I didn't know it, though.  The battle of Maldon, it is.

And there are people who make movies with Lego figures.  Didn't know that, either.

So, here is a Lego movie about the epic poem, with old English subtitles.  In comments, people are whining that it should be read in old English, with modern subtitles.  And you think economists are weird.