Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Markets NOT Capitalism?

Elasticity of Demand for Beer

Estimating the price elasticity of beer: Meta-analysis of data with heterogeneity, dependence, and publication bias
Jon Nelson 

Journal of Health Economics, January 2014, Pages 180–187 

Abstract: Precise estimates of price elasticities are important for alcohol tax policy. Using meta-analysis, this paper corrects average beer elasticities for heterogeneity, dependence, and publication selection bias. A sample of 191 estimates is obtained from 114 primary studies. Simple and weighted means are reported. Dependence is addressed by restricting number of estimates per study, author-restricted samples, and author-specific variables. Publication bias is addressed using funnel graph, trim-and-fill, and Egger's intercept model. Heterogeneity and selection bias are examined jointly in meta-regressions containing moderator variables for econometric methodology, primary data, and precision of estimates. Results for fixed- and random-effects regressions are reported. Country-specific effects and sample time periods are unimportant, but several methodology variables help explain the dispersion of estimates. In models that correct for selection bias and heterogeneity, the average beer price elasticity is about -0.20, which is less elastic by 50% compared to values commonly used in alcohol tax policy simulations. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday's Child Special: Year End Columns

Instead of a Year End post, I'll just post some posts by other people I find interesting.  Not say I'm endorsing, just saying they are interesting.

1.  David Collum.  And the video version.

2.  A year-end cartoon.  Have a very crony Christmas!

3.  Glenn Reynolds, in a happy mood.  Not. John Cochrane has some similar, and some quite different, views.

4.  A cartoon "year end" statement, all contained in three frames.  I have witnessed conversations almost exactly like this, with mutually assured incredulity.

5.  This is more like a "world's end" column, from Vero.  Meet the spender, same as the old spender.

6.  NC news roundup, from the Independent.

7.  From "THE ONION":  Our Annual Year.

8.  26 things you can do when you are drunk that you really can't get away with if you are sober.

9.  MathBabe (in the voice of Aunt Pythia) offers some year end advice that will...end your year.  Starts out fairly innocuously, and then goes seriously off the tracks.

10.  The Year In BAD Movies.  And in GOOD Movies. (Disturbingly, I haven't seen even ONE of the ten "best" movies in that list.  And I saw a LOT of movies.)

11.  Sure, it was not a great year.  But was it as bad as 1492?  Some perspective.

12.  Dave Barry's year end column

13.  P-Kroog and the "Year of the Weasel."  I assumed he was going to come out, and admit that he, P-Kroog, is a weasel.  No such luck.  But you heard it here:  P-Kroog is a weasel.

14.  The GOP?  They went disarray.  Or was it data-way?

15.  George Will says GOP is NOT in disarray.  In fact, 2013 was an annus mirabilis.

16.  Year end chart:  Worst loan creation EVER, coming out of recession.  Are we coming out of a recession?  No one is borrowing, because no one believes we are coming out of a recession.

17.  Best headline of 2013:  "Ice Breaker Gets Stuck Trying to Rescue Global Warming Scientists Trapped in Antarctic Ice."  A follow-up.  Now, this one cold snap doesn't change the fact that average temperatures are slowly rising.  (Very, very slowly:  zero increase in last 15 years.)  But I'm tired of people taking every WARM day as a sign of global warming.  Stop that, and I'll stop laughing at you on cold days.

18.  IJ's year end post.  Cops acting badly.

19.  If they are actually watching you, it's not paranoia.   Tin-foil hatters, unite!  Jon Stewart was brilliant on this, just brilliant.

20.  And...clearly the BEST year end statement of all:  mooning the future!  From Google Maps, sent by frequent sender M.K.  Worth reading the whole thing, and the comments.  Gold.

My own view of 2013:  The mayor of Toronto smoked it, Miley Cyrus showed it, and our President started to do it.  Let's hope the crack of 2014 is better!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The people's republic of Chipotle?

With a market cap north of $16 billion, I guess this isn't totally crazy, but it's weird to think that Chipotle is a sovereign county now!

No word yet on whether or not US citizens will now need a passport to enter the premises.

Oklahoma Doctors Against Obamacare

With thanks to WH.  To be fair, these Okies may be upset because their vending machines are under attack... I hope they learn a lesson 'bout messin' with a vending machine's jealous man.

If you are heading to ASSA....

A suggestion for interview technique if you are heading American meetings for Econ...  Hey, it worked for Dwight Lee!

Headline Meme

Absence of beer causes man to be stabbed with ceramic squirrel by furious wife.

Presumably she had told him to buy the beer earlier, but he had put it off.  No jury is going to convict her; it was justified squirrelicide.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

your doctoral thesis in a sentence!

Here's a great website where people describe their dissertations in a single sentence.

This is what mine would have been:

"Modeling the Fed as a bureaucracy subject to systematic political influence increases the accuracy of macroeconomic forecasts"

Not too many LOLs there, but that's the pithy essence. Please share your one sentence thesis in the comments!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Um....how, exactly?

A most excellent example of the headline meme.

NSFW, and actually pretty disgusting.  My question, and no doubt your question also, is....how?  How did this work, exactly?  How did he beat off the police while he...well, you know.

Nod to Angry Alex

Retraction Penalty

The Retraction Penalty: Catastrophe and Consequence in Scientific Teams 
Ginger Zhe Jin et al. 
NBER Working Paper, October 2013 

 Abstract: What are the individual rewards to working in teams? This question extends across many production settings but is of long-standing interest in science and innovation, where the "Matthew Effect" suggests that eminent team members garner credit for great works at the expense of less eminent team members. In this paper, we study this question in reverse, examining highly negative events - article retractions. Using the Web of Science, we investigate how retractions affect citations to the authors' prior publications. We find that the Matthew Effect works in reverse - namely, scientific misconduct imposes little citation penalty on eminent coauthors. By contrast, less eminent coauthors face substantial citation declines to their prior work, and especially when they are teamed with an eminent author. A simple Bayesian model is used to interpret the results. These findings suggest that a good reputation can have protective properties, but at the expense of those with less established reputations.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Miracle on Wall Street

Actually, it's no "miracle," it's just theft. (Nod to WH)


The "Get Enrolled!" "ad" for Obamacare.

1.  Did they actually think this was a good ad?  Is it a spoof?

2.  Is there any gay stereotype left out here?  Is this as offensive as it seems, to an outsider?  (That's not "out", but "outside"?)

3.  This seems to me to be a reasonable reaction.  But then I have never understood the ability of the left to suppress outrage at outrageous things done by "friends" of the left.

4.  Consider a heterosexual version of this ad, just as revealing and just as objectifying.  Would THAT be okay?  (No, it would not).  So why is it okay to treat gay people this way?

5.  Whatever else is true, these are some mighty attractive young folks.  Tommy TTB, what say you?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Death of Writing as a Career?

Interesting post, on FB of all places.

Richard Russo, "An Open Letter to My Fellow Authors"

What the Apples and Googles and Amazons and Netflixes of the world all have in common (in addition to their quest for world domination), is that they’re all starved for content, and for that they need us. Which means we have a say in all this. Everything in the digital age may feel new and may seem to operate under new rules, but the conversation about the relationship between art and commerce is age-old, and artists must be part of it. To that end we’d do well to speak with one voice, though it’s here we demonstrate our greatest weakness. Writers are notoriously independent cusses, hard to wrangle. We spend our mostly solitary days filling up blank pieces of paper with words. We must like it that way, or we wouldn’t do it. But while it’s pretty to think that our odd way of life will endure, there’s no guarantee. The writing life is ours to defend.


Nod to Pietro PC

Deficit Smaller Than Some People Predicted (But DEBT is Still Large and Growing)

Today's budget deficit, as seen from 2009.  

I like Bruce B., and sometimes agree with him.  But in this case his blind cheerleading for Obama is a little over the top.  Sure, yes, GWB was very bad.  But there are structural problems that Obama has not only done nothing to fix, but actually refuses even to mention. 

Those problems are (1) tax code/rates; (2) entitlement spending; (3) military spending.

(I'm not counting health care costs, though ACA is a disaster as well.  But Obama has mentioned it.  He lied about it, but he did mention it.)

Obama's policy (and Bruce B's defense of it) goes something like this.  There is an enormous iceberg ahead of us.  The previous president/captain steered us straight toward the iceberg, at very high speed. 

We changed captains, and now we are moving toward the iceberg somewhat more slowly.  But the current captain refuses even to discuss changing direction.  And he's trying to blame the previous captain.  Sure, the previous captain was a stone idiot.  But YOU are the captain now, Mr. Obama.  And bizarre, tone-deaf cheerleading from Bruce B. and the rest of the cast of the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party won't change that.  We need to change direction, not speed.

Build a Better Cardboard Box....

If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

If you build a better cardboard box, the world will watch it on YouTube.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Eve from Charles Bukowski

12 - 24 - 78

I suck on this beer
in my kitchen
and think about
cleaning my fingernails
and shaving
as I listen to the
classical radio
they play holiday
I prefer to hear Christmas
music in July
while I am being threatened
with death by
a woman.
when I need it -
when I need
Bing Crosby and the
elves and
some fast

now I sit here
listening to this
slop in
season - it's such
a sugar tit -
I'd rather play a game of
ping-pong with
the risen ghost
of Hitler.

amateur drunks run their cheerful
cars into each other
the ambulances sing to each
other outside.

News: Men are "Kind of Pathetic"

If women are around, men act differently.

I'm not sure it's really "pathetic."  It just means that evolution rewards offspring.  So taking risks of being injured, but buying attention and increased mating opportunities, even just in expected value, is an increase in fitness.  There's no fitness payoff to dignity, or living to 80.  Fitness is just more chances at the bouncy-bouncy.

Interesting, though, that men are so....well, responsive.

Risk and Human Perception of Risk

I have a good friend who I met once in DC for a baseball game.  We were going to park near my hotel on Capitol Hill, and Metro to RFK where the Nats played back then (the new park opened in 2008).

My proposal was just to leave my bags in his car.  He insisted that I should check my bags at the hotel, because "Capitol Hill is so dangerous!"  Now, this was 2006, long after 9-11; Capitol Hill was NOT dangerous, at all, especially not during the day.

He brushed aside my protests.  "You don't live around here.  I'm always reading about crimes and violence in the paper."  I asked how he could read about NOT crimes and NOT violence in the paper, since those things are never there.  The fact is that the crime rate (robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts) had fallen dramatically in the area, but that's not "news." (The comparison I was making is 2001 vs. 2006). 

Crimes and violence are news.  But no neighborhood in DC makes the top 25 "most dangerous" list.  Even though it's true "you always read about it."

More recently, I had a conversation with a staff person.  She says she never flies. I was sympathetic:  "Yes, the indignities of TSA and those cattle car planes are pretty bad."  She protested:  "No, that's not it.  I'm afraid of getting killed.  All you ever read about is all those crashes!"  Um....wow.  Yes, I suppose that's all you "read about."  Because "another 30,000 planes land safely" (the actual number of flights in the US each day) is not very newsworthy.  Flying is a ridiculously safe way to travel, compared to driving to work (which this woman does every day).

The fact is that the "epidemic" of school shootings is not an epidemic at all.  They are very infrequent, occur for essentially random causes, and are not even worth considering as a public policy problem.  Violence, deaths, injuries...almost any measure you can think has gotten much better, at the same time that we are obsessed with school shootings.

Would I be upset if my son, or someone I knew, were killed?  Of course.  Do I have the right to divert public policy discussions from real problems, like drunken driving or the insane war on drugs, because of a low-probability random accident less likely than a lightning strike?  Of course not.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nut, But not JUST a nut. Troll, but not JUST a troll.

Okay, so my man Windwheel is a nut.  But he's not JUST a nut.  And he's a ridiculous, scabrous troll.  But he's not JUST a troll.

He is also a performance artist.  It's NSFW, it's deeply offensive.  And you will have fun.  I'm sorry, you will never get that 20 minutes back.  But check it out.

The idea of Socio-proctology alone is worth the price of admission (i.e., free).

Monday's Child

1.  Which state has the worst drivers?

2.  Wrong answers may not be bad.  In fact, some are genius.  #2 is a joke I make all the time, and #7 and #8 are especially well played.

3.  Conservative marriage gap.   Single women are Democrats, but many become Republicans if they have daughters.

4.  I assume Angus has already investigated "And Vinyly".

5.  So rich folks really believed that "If you like your health care, you can keep it?" crap?  Somebody has to pay for all this.  And if we are going to give huge subsidies to the poor, who is going to pay for it?  You can favor this if you want, but why think it would be free?


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Real depreciations and exports

While I wasn't looking, my latest paper with my friend and Matlab coding genius Aaron Smallwood appeared in the JIMF:

Exchange rate shocks and trade: A multivariate GARCH-M approach
Kevin Grier & Aaron Smallwood.
Journal of International Money and Finance, Volume 37, October 2013, Pages 282–305

(ungated version available here)

We show that while positive shocks to the real exchange rate almost uniformly reduce exports in our 27 country sample, the effect is not symmetric. That is, negative shocks do not always create increases in exports and when they do the positive effect is notably smaller than the negative effect from increases in the RER.

Because we are using a non-linear model, a traditional, symmetric, impulse response function is not appropriate, so we use generalized IRFs to obtain these results.

The Dog House

NOBODY Gets Out of the Dog House.  Hey, Dualbag!

Nod to WH.

 At my house, the "Review Board" meets every day. And it only has one member. But otherwise this video is pretty much a documentary.

Return to the Dog House!

Stay out of the Dog House, with the "Manslater."

UPDATE:  The choices a young faces....a debt, or a penalty.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Heart-warming Okie Story

A heart-warming love story.

An Oklahoma man proposed to his girlfriend last week while an officer tried to arrest him on two outstanding warrants.
An officer spotted Justin Harrel of Elk City in a local park last Friday and discovered that he had outstanding warrants out of two counties for obtaining cash or merchandise by bogus check, according to court documents.
Police said Harrel resisted arrest at first.
"I advised Justin that he was under arrest and directed him to turn around and place his hands behind his back," the officer wrote in his police report. "Justin said, 'Steve, let's talk about this. Give me five minutes.'"
When the officer took him into custody, Harrel explained that he was about to propose to his girlfriend. He asked if he could go ahead with the proposal.
The officer allowed Harrel to complete the marriage proposal, and Harrel's girlfriend eventually said yes. Harrel then asked the officer to get the engagement ring from his coat pocket and give it to her.
The officer handed the ring to the girlfriend.

How do we know for sure this is a true Okie girl?  She said...yes!  And, now, ladies, he's taken.  For about 3-5 years, at least. 

Nod to the LMM.

UPDATE:  Ha!  A guy did the reverse Angus.  Grew up in OK, moved to OH (Sandusky, in fact).  Appreciates the props for Okie ladies.  

Down? This will help!

Sometimes, you just have that "Bah! HUMBUG!" feeling, this time of year.  You feel...well, like this:

But wait, there's hope!  These awkward family cards will cheer you right up.  Check it out. You'll be happy and wearing those plastic antlers in no time!

UPDATE:  What do dogs want for Christmas?  Hard to tell, but this might be it

Friday, December 20, 2013

Man Wins!

Why is the "news" that "Man Wins $1 million Picasso with $138 lottery ticket"?

Why isn't the news that 49,999 people won nothing at all with $138 lottery tickets?

After all, if you multiply 50,000 x $138 you get more than $6.5 million.  So the "news" is "Somebody makes $5.5 million from bunch of chumps."

Focusing on the winner makes it sound like such a great deal.  I suppose, if given the chance to buy the WINNING ticket, $138 is cheap.  I'll try that for the NC Lottery:  please sell me a WINNING ticket.  I'll pay double for that!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Annals of Shameless Self-Promotion

We Won the War on Poverty

A truly remarkable quote, from the NYTimes, of all places:

... the poor have made progress since the ‘60s as the nation’s living standards have risen. If poverty were defined based on what people bought in 1967, adjusted only for inflation, the poverty rate would have fallen to about 11 percent today, according to research by Jane Waldfogel and other researchers at Columbia University

But poverty is best measured relative to the actual living standards of our own society. By the standards of the 19th century, for instance, practically no American is poor. In comparison with Bangladeshis, there are precious few poor in the United States. 

A more nuanced analysis of the evolution of poverty and America’s efforts to combat it is not so consoling. Recent research on poverty suggests that government programs have done, in fact, a much better job than the headline statistics suggest. 

The reason the poverty rate has budged so little is that the job of fixing it has gotten harder. “The government is doing more to reduce poverty now than it did in the 1960s,” Professor Waldfogel said. 

Um....wait.  The reason the poverty rate has budged so little is that we keep moving the target.  If the income of the poor doubled, but the rest of the country tripled its income, we'd say the poverty problem had gotten worse, when in fact the health, income, and other measures of welfare have improved dramatically. That's...that's...Orwellian!

It may be fair enough to redefine poverty that way.  But the usual narrative is the poor are getting worse off as "the rich get richer."  Instead, the poor are much better off, and the market economy has delivered on its promises of ending poverty, by any consistent definition.  The only way to say that the poor are worse off is to assume that the poor are as obsessed with relative status as the envious intellectuals of the left.  (On which Dr. Nozick had some interesting things to say).

Nod to Anonyman

UPDATE:  We DID!  We DID!  We DID win the war on poverty.


So, Angus posts his music recommendations, and I post a Billy Joel video.  But that's about right, I guess.  Got to give Mr. Joel a little credit, here.  That was pretty brave, unless it was set up in advance.

Take This Town and Shove It

I left DC in 1986, for Texas.  I have never been comfortable in DC.

This fellow has some very trenchant observations.  Very. trenchant.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Angus' 2013 Music Picks

For me the list is split between great new music from old favorites and fantastic stuff from new (or new to me) bands.

Let's get to it.

My Bloody Valentine: MBV.

I never wanted Kevin Shields (third greatest Kevin after Kevin Durant and yours truly) to make another My Bloody Valentine album. Figured it would suck. Figured it would sour me on their earlier two. I figured wrong. It's a freakin' masterpiece. Clearly the best thing this year.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: II.

"Swim and Sleep like a Shark" is the best pop song of the year, and there are 4 other songs on this album that are mesmerizing. These guys are still on the way up for what they can do, but this is awfully good.

Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt.

More electric and in your face than "American Weekend". Katie Crutchfield is awesome. You would also be well served by checking out her twin sister's band, Swearin'.

Those are the three records I enjoyed and listened to the most this year. Now here's the next tier of good stuff:

Bill Callahan: Dream River
Kurt Vile: Walking on a Pretty Daze
The National: Trouble will find me

These three acts can seemingly do no wrong. Everything they've ever recorded is outstanding. Vile and Callahan are somehow still getting better, and the National continue to amaze me by not falling off a cliff.

Now let's head off the beaten path a little bit:

No Joy: Wait to Pleasure
Mutual Benefit: Love's Crushing Diamond
Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold
Speedy Ortiz: Major Arcana
These New Puritans: Field of Reeds

I'm not sure any of these guys will turn into Bill Callahan, but these particular works are terrific. No Joy is clean-up shoegaze, Mutual Benefit is immaculate folk, Parquet Courts is perhaps the best of this bunch, Speedy Ortiz is adorably weird and These New Puritans really impressed me with Field of Reeds. I've got to check their back catalog.

Finally, here's 4 things I listened to, liked a lot but haven't really fully absorbed. I think they might belong on the list, but I'm not sure.

Mazzy Star: Seasons of your Day
Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus
MIA: Matangi
White Fence: Cyclops Reap

Everything I said about not wanting Kevin Shields to revive MBV goes double for David Roback and Mazzy Star, but the new album appears to be quite good. Fuck Buttons are great but never topped their first album. I'm tired of MIA, but Matangi is actually pretty good. White Fence is Guided by Voices mixed with the 13th Floor Elevators.

The Big Clock Loves You!

The Big Clock love you, and wants what is good for you.  And, the Big Clock KNOWS what is good for you.  Some pix; click for an even Big Clockier image!

At Duke, the Big Clock watched over freshmen (I left the screen up; it's too noisy.  But Big Clock doesn't care; it still loves us):

And now, at BYU, Chris K send this photo:

Wait, the Big Clock at BYU?  That's....that's Big Love!  Yay, Big Clock!

If you want to use the Big Clock for an exam, just go to this web site and then turn on the Mr. LCD.  Nobody will be raising their hand to ask "What time is it?"  (You mean, NOW?).

The web site:  http://www.online-stopwatch.com/large-online-clock/http://www.online-stopwatch.com/large-online-clock/

Please send more pictures of the Big Clock!

"Severe Adverse Outcomes": She Beat Him Like He Stole Something

Not sure how they got this past IRB.  Clearly caused extreme physical danger for husband. An experiment.

...they found a couple who were willing to record their quality of life on a scale of 1 to 10. They told the man, who wanted to be happy more than right, about the purpose of the study and asked him to agree with every opinion and request his wife had without complaint, even when he profoundly didn’t agree. The wife was not informed of the purpose of the study and just asked to record her quality of life. 

Things went rapidly downhill for the couple. The man’s quality-of-life scores fell, from 7 to 3, over the course of the experiment. The wife’s scores rose modestly, from 8 to 8.5, before she became hostile to the idea of recording the scores. Rather than causing harmony, the husband’s agreeableness led to the wife becoming increasingly critical* of what he did and said (in the husband’s opinion).

After 12 days he broke down, made his wife a cup of tea (New Zealand is, after all, a Commonwealth country), and explained the experiment. At this point the Data Safety Monitoring Committee, as the researchers called it, stopped the study because of “severe adverse outcomes.”

*(Ed's Note:  Clearly this is right.  Often, the lady wants to know what you actually think, so she can correct you.  She doesn't know what you think, but it is clearly wrong.  Agreeing is very dangerous at this point.  Give her what she wants, before someone gets hurt!)

UPDATE:  The actual study.  

UPDATE II:  Windwheel's commentary is truly awesome.  Please do savor the comments.  Well beyond psychosis, he crosses into a realm of mystic lyricism.  As always, thanks for providing such excellent entertainment!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ant Hill Art

This is great in several ways.  If you have ever dealt with fire ants, you'll immediately recognize the joy of incinerating them.  The art is gravy.

Nod to Angry Alex

Flower Shell

From Nick Gillespie:

Shotgun shells loaded with seeds (have to be hard seeds, of course, but many are). 

A video:

A Good Guy with a Gun Stopped a Bad Guy with a Gun

So, the kid in Colorado bought a shotgun, and waited a pretty long time before going on his rampage.

None, yes, none of the proposed laws and restrictions on guns would have affected this at all.  No one has proposed that restrictions be placed on shotguns.  Obama himself was famously shown shooting one.  It was ridiculous, but that's the "safe" gun Mr. Obama wanted to be associated with.

What did work?  We all mocked the NRA's Wayne LaPierre for advocating an armed guard.  I did, too. It is not a great idea, and it's expensive.  But in this case, it worked

I still don't think that excuses the NRA's pigheadedness on perfectly plausible gun regulation.  I let my membership lapse, in fact, because the NRA is clearly trying to protect extremists and corporate stooges.  But in this case, you gotta say...LaPierre 1, Obama 0.

An Old, But Good, Joke

A man in northern Minnesota woke up one morning to find a bear on his roof.

He looked in the Yellow Pages, and sure enough, there was an ad for "Down South Bear Removers." He called the number listed and the bear remover said he'd be over within an hour.

The bear remover arrived, and got out of his van. He had a ladder, a baseball bat, a tranquilizer gun, and a mean looking, heavily scarred old pit bull.

"What are you going to do?" the homeowner asked.

"I'm going to put this ladder up against the roof, then I'm going to go up there, and knock the bear off the roof with this baseball bat. When the bear falls off the roof, the pit bull is trained to grab his testicles, and not let go. The bear will then be subdued enough for me to put him in the cage in the back of the van."

He then handed the tranquilizer rifle to the homeowner. "What's this for?" the homeowner asked.

"If the bear knocks me off the roof, you shoot the dog."

With a nod to WH.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Can this be the greatest "Headline says it all" Headline ever?

Man banned from every supermarket in Britain for masturbating in Sainsbury’s meat aisle

That is all.

You are welcome.
Hat tip to Liz Mair.

Confusion About Union Fusion

So, a vote at NYU.  Grad students fight their oppressors.

Except....grad students actually do very little of the grading.  VERY. LITTLE. of the grading, in most undergraduate classes.  It's just a myth.

Grad students are getting paid to learn.  And they are getting paid a lot.  Very few work ten hours a week on class stuff for undergrads, at least at Duke.

Don't get me wrong, I value my TAs very much.  And this semester I had four, and they graded all the papers for my classes.

But I graded the midterms and finals.  My TAs didn't.  It wouldn't be fair to ask them to do all that.  So for the last three days I have been grading 700 essay questions for exams from 300 students.  If the TAs were cut I would cut the papers, and the class would suffer.  The students get a lot from having smart TAs work with them on the papers.  But I would do all the grading of exams either way.

Faculty Prom

With thanks to MAG

Monday's Child

UPDATE:  The comments from "Windwheel" are marvelous.  NSFW.  But don't miss them.  The world needs more of that kind of craziness.  His....well, "blog" is the wrong word.  How about "His Web Site."  He is making a LOT of those delicious Troll House Cookies.   As a rule I try not to feed trolls.  But trolling is a techne, and Windwheel shows a certain excellence, I'll admit.  Well played, sir.

1.  This is a little icky.  Hard to say NSA is underfunded, if they can surveil WoW.

2.  This is pretty amusing, and shows a wonderful poetic sense of...something.

3.  My new cause:  "Free Rooster Monkburn!"  And get him his gun back, too.

4.  At first, I couldn't believe this could happen.  Then I noticed it was a United flight.  Ohhh...now I see.

5.  For Scott de Marchi.  Who shrieks at the very thought of roaches.  The new uber roach.  With love.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More Cats

Sorry about the cats and dogs theme.  But it is Sunday.  And the internet was created for cat videos.

Finally, in my defense, what happens on this video just after the 3:30 is pretty much the epitome of what Chateau and I thought was hilarious when we were in grad school.  And I expect we still think that.  I know I do.  Waaaaaaaaaaaah!

You Shall Not Pass! Or, Cats are Mean Jerks

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Made ME Cry

But then that's not hard.  Very sweet commercial.

It's making me cry again, just thinking about it. Nod to Susan L.

Friday, December 13, 2013

guaranteed income vs. open borders

I thought I'd muscle in on Mungo's turf and post about a guaranteed income for all Americans.

In principle, I'm in favor. Shall we say $12,000 / year  for every American 18 and over?

But as always, the devil is in the details.

(1) Is this going to add to our current mish-mash of "safety net" programs or replace it?

Obviously, I'd like to see it replace the current set of arrangements. I would think many libertarians would love this. Reduce paternalism, shrink the size of the state, what's not to like? If we used it to replace the current system, it wouldn't even be all that expensive. If we also phased out social security, we could up the annual guaranteed number to maybe $16,000 or so?

(2) Can a guaranteed income be compatible with significantly increased immigration?

In other words, if we allow more immigration must we restrict the guaranteed income program only to citizens for fear that masses of people would show up just to collect the 12 large and sit on their butts?

But I think there is a fundamental unfairness of collecting taxes from people to pay for a "universal" program that excludes them.

And, even if we did limit it to citizens, would we still fear that masses of people would show up, wait to become citizens, and then collect the 12 dimes and sit on their butts?

We could only allow increased immigration for higher skilled immigrants for whom $12,000 would not be a magnet, but that really reduces the incredible poverty-fighting power of allowing increased numbers of low-skilled immigrants.

If a guaranteed income program was an addition to existing safety net programs and required choking off immigration, I am not sure it would be worthwhile, no matter how attractive it is to me in the abstract.

Urban skiing...And Crow tubing.

All that space in Detroit is useful for urban ski bums.

Of course, in Russia, the crows do the same thing. What about scarecrows, you ask?
 A Russian reversal:  In Soviet Russia, crow scares YOU!

Nod to MK

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You can't make Chicken Salad out of Chicken Shit

The hopeless pile of hypocrisy that is the Republican party is spinning up a storm on the latest budget deal. Here's one such attempt at alchemy from the National Review.

It's full of LOLZ, but here's the craziest part of all:

"70 percent of the sequester remains in place in those two years, and after those two years the entire sequester remains in place."

This of course is 100% stupid.

They are modifying the sequester right now after it being in place ONE YEAR and this guy is assuring us that it won't get touched again in all the many budget deals that will have to be struck over the next 8 years.

Either he's a dope or he thinks all his readers are dopes.

People, the current deal isn't for 10 years. Once you establish a precedent of going back and undoing the sequester, it will just become easier and easier and easier to undo more and more and more of it.

I would love to wager the author, Yuval Levin, $1000 on whether or not this deal will be the only legislated change to the original sequester over the next 8 years, but I think he is actually smart enough to know that he's full of it.

Hat tip to LeBron.

Taking On the Ivy League

It is possible to do better on education.  Even in higher ed, where the U.S. is pretty good, it is possible to do MUCH better.  An interesting video with some ideas on how.

Also...the Minerva Project

Nod to the Ward Boss.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BSS: Pretty Interesting Talk

Is the USA the "Microsoft of Nations"?  He is leaning toward "yes."  He does not mean it as a compliment.   (I took a shot at this kind of thing, a while ago.  But BSS is great, here).

Like An Alien Invasion

This looks like an alien invasion, of loose white spaceships.

Nod to Susan L.

Grace Hopper Explains All

Grace Hopper explains the nanosecond.  She was a rear admiral, a tough old broad.

ACA Penalty is Really a form of "Minimum Wage"? Grand Game

I'm not sure this fellow could be more confused.  For one thing, he parrots the bizarre canard that the minimum wage has fallen, withered, etc.  But that's only because he selects a purely strategic point of comparison.  He says:

The minimum wage has been allowed to erode substantially. I earned $1.25 an hour while in high school in the mid-1960s; if that amount had grown at the same rate as per capita personal income, high school kids and others would now be earning $20 instead of $7.25.

Now, check this out:

In 2005$, the minimum wage is up more than 50% since 1947 (it has doubled since it was established).  Now, that's fine, because productivity is up.  But it's just nonsense to claim that overall the minimum wage has "eroded," just because you want to pick the highest historical point as a comparison.  The minimum wage is MUCH higher than it was, in real terms, over the post-WWII era.

More importantly, he actually claims that the ACA penalty on employers who do not pay for insurance is a "minimum wage."  Seriously?  That would only be true if you think that the worker should not receive the pay, and it should go to the state instead.  Oh....wait...I guess he does believe that.  What matters is that those evil corporations have to PAY more.  He doesn't actually care if the workers RECEIVE the money.  Calling that a "minimum wage" seems...confused.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Interesting, and Revealing

So, this is an interesting case.  In Wisconsin.  In Madison, WI, in fact.

An excerpt:

Snugglers contend touching helps relieve stress. But Madison officials suspect the business is a front for prostitution and, if it's not, fear snuggling could lead to sexual assault. Not buying the message that the business is all warm and fuzzy, police have talked openly about conducting a sting operation at the business, and city attorneys are drafting a new ordinance to regulate snuggling.

"There's no way that (sexual assault) will not happen," assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said. "No offense to men, but I don't know any man who wants to just snuggle." 

The asst. D.A. doesn't say that there are no men who like to snuggle, she just says she hasn't met any.  Gosh, Jenn.  How's that dating going for you?  Not so well?

UPDATE:  Snuggle house is closed by prudery.

UPDATE II:  Japan is much less uptight about this.

Monday, December 09, 2013

People Want Compromise, But Not on Actual Issues

As always, what people mean by "compromise" is "do what I want."

Because, after all, each of us thinks s/he is reasonable, and is the "center" of the universe, and hence of the electorate.

"is" not "was"

The generally reliable LeBron messes up this morning by proclaiming that "The Sequester Was A Really Good Idea"

But the truth is that the Sequester still IS a really good idea.

People, I love the sequester. We are actually getting a slowdown in the rate of military spending (and perhaps an actual cut this coming year). We are actually getting a slowdown in the growth of overall Federal Spending. The deficit is coming down, and the economy is finally showing some signs of life.

Alas, it appears that it lasted exactly one year. Yikes. Even Gram-Rudman lasted longer than that!

Next year, according to the budget control act, discretionary spending was supposed to be $967 billion. But now Paul Ryan appears to be signing off on $1.05 trillion. After all, what's $38 billion among friends? They may even put 2015 up to $1.05 trillion as well which would be another $19 billion or so.

Remember that while in some years some numbers did go down temporarily, overall spending rose a fair amount under the terms of the Budget Control Act (sequester). But we could only take one year out of the 10 before the charade of discipline disintegrated.

At least maybe this will shut the yaps of all the "stimulus now, discipline later" advocates. It is nigh unto impossible for any kind of long term budget discipline to last.

Heck, this is not even a future congress undoing the actions of a previous congress. It's the same stupid bunch of hacks that enacted the thing!

So please pay no attention to the "offsetting cuts down the road", that's just smoke for the marks. Spending discipline is again over, the Republicans stand for absolutely nothing, and even Tyler has gone over to the dark side.

Monday's Child

1.  This is so cool.  It may be real, or it may not actually work.  But it is SO COOL.

2.  The biggest advantage on-line shopping has is the absence of parking and then waiting in line to buy stuff.  That's a pretty big advantage.  Blaming it on taxes is a little silly.

3.  Once the stuff is there, the Pope wants to pretend it got there by magic.  You can't redistribute a surplus that doesn't exist, there, Papa.  Why not praise the surplus and now advocate good Christian charity, instead?

4.  Delta is ready when THEY are.  You, not so much.  (In case you forgot the old jingle)

5.  Millenial narcissism.  Not universal, but it happens a lot. STFU and get a job, folks.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

These Kids Are Pretty Cool

I have 124 students in my "Economics for Non-Majors" class.  (Syllabus, if you are interested).

15 of them are athletes, including three from the most excellent woman's soccer team, which made the NCAA tournament and went pretty deep, which is pretty cool.  Lots of the others have done some amazing things.

But I thought I'd share this performance by one of the students in the class, Antje Lang, a sophomore.  This was at the Duke Coffee House this fall.  It's an informal setting, and the recording is just ambient, not remixed or fixed in any way.  It is, nonetheless, quite lovely.  (Here is a different set, with some of her own songs, btw).

Friday, December 06, 2013

Grand Game: $15 edition

Just delightful.  Many unintentional self-parody moments.

Enjoy them all.

Nod to @rbcaples

Angels We Have Heard on High

This is why Mr. Overwater invented the internet.  So we can watch stuff like this.  (No, there are no cats in the video.  Sorry.)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

They came in like a wrecking ball?

Nice piece in the New Yorker about an incredibly active group of session musicians in the 1960s and 70s who called themselves "The Wrecking Crew":

If you’ve heard the Crystals (“He’s a Rebel”), Jan and Dean (“Surf City”), Paul Revere and the Raiders (“Kicks”), Simon and Garfunkel (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”), the Association (“Windy”), the Mamas and the Papas (“California Dreamin’ ”), Frank Sinatra (“Strangers in the Night”), the Monkees (“Last Train to Clarksville”), Herb Alpert (“A Taste of Honey”), Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ”), or Sonny and Cher (“Bang Bang”)—not to mention the “Batman” theme, the “Mission: Impossible” theme, the “Hawaii Five-O” theme, or the “Born Free” theme—then you’ve heard the Wrecking Crew. When producers called musicians, these were the musicians who got called first.

Among their members were such future luminaries as Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, and Jack Nitzsche.

One of the members' kids is running a kickstarter to fund release of a movie about the Crew. From that page I learned that:

For six years in a row, the Grammy Award for "Record of the Year" was recorded by Wrecking Crew members. Just look at this list!

Herb Alpert &the Tijuana Brass in 1966 for "A Taste of Honey"
Frank Sinatra in 1967 for "Strangers in the Night"
The 5th Dimension in 1968 for "Up, Up and Away"
Simon & Garfunkel in 1969 for "Mrs. Robinson"
The 5th Dimension in 1970 for "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and
Simon & Garfunkel in 1971 for "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What are "we" for?

Anyone who aspires to speak for libertarians is frustrated.  Anyone who claims to speak for libertarians is vilified.

And perhaps rightly.  We don't think much of that whole "we" thing.

But, I had a piece at the Freeman, about "What Are We For?"

Adapted from my keynote address at the Libertarian National Convention in 2008.

Hunger Games and Learn Liberty

Loose Balls

People, meet the Silna brothers, Ozzie & Daniel. Last year they received $19 million from the NBA, and have in sum received a total of around $300 million from the Association.

They don't play on any team, or coach, or have a concession contract, or run a medical facility. No, they are the ex-owners of the Spirits of St. Louis, a long defunct ABA franchise.

When the ABA went under in 1976 and was partially absorbed by the NBA, the Spirits were left out in the cold. But the Silnas negotiated a settlement of a smallish lump sum payment plus 1/7th of the "visual media" revenues generated by the 4 ABA teams who made it into the NBA (Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers) IN PERPETUITY.

In 1982, the NBA had a chance to buy them out of the deal for $8 million paid out over 8 years but refused!

And, just this year, a judge ruled that the NBA has to pay them a share of the League's internet and NBA TV revenues as well.

Here is a great article about the situation. And here is a NYTimes article about it.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

It has a strange allure

Wow. Thomas Frank namechecks Mission of Burma AND totally goes off on American Higher Ed. I don't agree with it all, but I agree with a lot of it and it's an essential read.

Here's one slice to get you started:

Paying $250 for a textbook is more like it nowadays; according to one economist, textbook prices have increased 812 percent over the past thirty-five years, outstripping not only inflation (by a mile) but every other commodity—home prices, health care—that we usually consider to be spiraling out of control.

The explanation is simple. The textbook publishers use every trick known to the marketing mind to obsolete their products year after year, thus closing off the possibility of second-hand sales. What’s more, textbook publishing is a highly concentrated industry—an oligopoly—which means they can drive prices pretty much as high as they feel like driving them. Meanwhile, the professors who assign the textbooks and who might do something about the problem don’t have to pay for them.

The charmingly naive American student is in fact a cash cow, and everyone has got a scheme for slicing off a porterhouse or two.

BK: Thanks for Liking Us! Now Go Away

BK in Norway (what is it with Norway?  Remember this?) is trying to get rid of Facebook fans.

If you'll just un-like them, you'll get a free Big Mac.  Yes, from McDonalds.  Nod to @GabrielRossman

Monday, December 02, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Phone call for Dr. Skarbek:  Academic labor practices similar to drug gangs.

2.  Satellite at LaGrange Point maps path of comet.  And what a LaGrange Point is.

3.  If we can't fix this, we can't anything.  But then, maybe we can't fix anything.

4.  The Munger diet:  Red wine and also lots of nuts. Okay, it's actually the Susan L. diet, but I'm going to borrow it.

5.  If you think everything is "about" race and gender, you will find this offensive.  If you think people who think everything is "about" race and gender, you will this even MORE offensive.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Separate Cycling Lane?

Money, Status, and the Ovulatory Cycle 
Kristina Durante et al.
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract: Each month, millions of women experience an ovulatory cycle that regulates fertility. Past consumer research has found that the cycle influences women's clothing and food preferences. But we propose that the ovulatory cycle has a much broader effect on women's economic behavior. Drawing on theory in evolutionary psychology, we hypothesize that the week-long period near ovulation should boost women's desire for relative status, which should alter women's economic decisions. Findings from three studies show that near ovulation women sought positional goods to improve their social standing. Additional findings revealed that ovulation led women to seek positional goods when doing so improved relative standing compared to other women, but not compared to other men. When playing the dictator game, for example, ovulating women gave smaller offers to a woman, but not to a man. Overall, women's monthly hormonal fluctuations appear to have a substantial effect on consumer behavior by systematically altering women's positional concerns, which has important implications for marketers, consumers, and researchers.

Menstrual Cycle Effects on Attitudes toward Romantic Kissing 
Rafael Wlodarski & Robin Dunbar
Human Nature, December 2013, Pages 402-413

Abstract: Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been previously found to affect female mate preference, whereby women in the late follicular phase of their cycle (i.e., at higher risk of conception) prefer males displaying putative signals of underlying genetic fitness. Past research also suggests that romantic kissing is utilized in human mating contexts to assess potential mating partners. The current study examined whether women in their late follicular cycle phase place greater value on kissing at times when it might help serve mate assessment functions. Using an international online questionnaire, results showed that women in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle felt that kissing was more important at initial stages of a relationship than women in the luteal phase of their cycle. Furthermore, it was found that estimated progesterone levels were a significant negative predictor for these ratings.

Nod to the estimable Kevin Lewis

Friday, November 29, 2013

Oklahoma is hiring in Time Series Econometrics!

It has been suggested to me that our ad in Job Openings for Economists is unclear, but we are hiring at the assistant level for Time Series!

Pay will be in the 6 figures (and is negotiable), teaching load is 2/2, start up funds, initial course load and summer support are negotiable, there is travel money available and we have a PhD. program and a funded seminar series.

If you are a time series person please consider applying! Operators are standing by.

If It Bleeds, It Leads

Interesting.  We are not really interested in helping people we could help.  We direct aid based on many people have already died.  Tell me again how government is "rational"?

The Number of Fatalities Drives Disaster Aid: Increasing Sensitivity to People in Need 

Ioannis Evangelidis & Bram Van den Bergh 
Psychological Science, November 2013, Pages 2226-2234 

Abstract: In the studies reported here, an analysis of financial donations in response to natural disasters showed that the amount of money allocated for humanitarian aid depends on the number of fatalities but not on the number of survivors who are affected by the disaster (i.e., the actual beneficiaries of the aid). On the basis of the experimental evidence, we discuss the underlying cause and provide guidelines to increase sensitivity to people in need.

Nod to Kevin Lewis, who is in fact rational.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Collateral Damages are Actually "Extra Savings"

My old article, "Bosses Don't Wear Bunny Slippers" is used in a number of business programs.

Never thought that it would turn out that "Deans Do Wear Bunny Slippers."  But it is true that colleges would be a lot cheaper without all those pesky faculty.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another one bites the dust

Here's a great holiday themed "headline says it all" article.

Thanks to @tofias!

I got your headline right here (NSFC)*

Mungo's not the only one who appreciates a headline that make any subsequent text superfluous.

Check out this Humdinger!

*= not safe for church.

Headline (NSFW)

As has been noted, I love the sort of headline that one enjoys reading for the sake of the unexpected connections it delivers.

Ideally, there is really no need to read the story at that point, because you pretty much have the picture.  Of course, you DO read the story, because it's fantastic.

This may be the best example of the genre I have ever seen.  It is NSFW, of course, but then it wouldn't be, would it?

With thanks to @muttface , from MuttBlog

Monday, November 25, 2013

Basic Income

Tyler Cowen on basic income ("guaranteed income", as he calls it):

Must a guaranteed income truly be unconditional?  Might there be circumstances when we would want to pay some individuals more than others?  Many critics for instance worry that a guaranteed income would excessively reduce the incentive to work.  

So it might be proposed that the payment be somewhat higher if low income individuals go get a job.  That also will make the system more financially sustainable.  But wait — that’s the Earned Income Tax Credit, albeit with modifications.

Might we also wish to pay more to some individuals with disabilities, perhaps say to help them afford expensive wheelchairs?  Maybe so.  But wait — that’s called disability insurance (modified, again) and it is run through the Social Security Administration.

As long as we are moving toward more cash transfers, why don’t we substitute cash transfers for some or all of Medicare and Medicaid health insurance coverage benefits, especially for lower-value ailments?  But then we are paying more cash to the sick individuals.  That doesn’t have to be a mistake, but it does mean that an initially simple, “dogmatic” payment scheme now has multiplied into a rather complex form of social welfare assistance, contingent on just about every relevant factor one might care to cite.

You can see the issue.  Whether on grounds of justice, practicality, or just public choice considerations (“you can keep your current welfare payments if you like them”), we should not expect everyone to be paid the same under a guaranteed annual income.  And with enough tweaks, this version of the guaranteed income suddenly starts resembling…the welfare state, albeit the welfare state plus.  Unemployment insurance benefits wouldn’t end.  More people could get on disability, and without those pesky judges asking so many questions.

He's right, as far as this goes.  The Basic Income idea is a bit like the Fair Tax idea:  both try to smuggle in reforms that would actually solve lots of problems, but only if we can assume that the "clean" proposal is implemented.  Fair Tax-ers assume that the Congress really, really will accept getting rid of the Income Tax.  (Implausible).  Basic Incomers assume that the Congress really, really will accept losing all discretion over who gets extra cash and benefits.  (Very Implausible).

But there are other advantages of consolidation and transparency.  If the system were equal, and unconditional, it would get rid of a lot of incentive problems.  Sure, Congress might not pass that, probably wouldn't.  That's a problem, but it's also a problem with the current system.  Any large-scale reform would at least break up the existing coalitional structure.  That's not bad.

Monday's Child

1.  Why worry about fracking?  Ethanol policies have been far more destructive, and no one complains about THOSE.

2.  This is interesting, I suppose.  But neither Heinlein nor Calhoun were libertarians.  Not even close.  (Though The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is plausibly a libertarian novel).  As for Calhoun...um...no.

3.  Dr. Warren has a new idea:  Give away more money.  Wait, that's actually not a new idea.  Never mind.

4.  Mean girls.  It's biological.

5.  Never punt, and never kick off.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Economics is Hard, When You Draw Inferences From Residuals

Matt Iglesias showing once again that economics is hard.  At least, it seems hard for him.  Because he has been saying some remarkably ill-informed stuff lately. Here, he argues that "corporations" should pay more.  And in fact,  Matt (being smarter than anyone in business) recognizes that if they paid more, they'd make more money.  Presumably, Matt could take this insight and start his own business, and grossly overpay workers.  If he's right, he could make a FORTUNE, I'm telling you.

Problem:  Far from falling, total cost of employment has been rising, sharply.  Corporations have NOT been saving money by squeezing labor.  The "productivity wedge" that everybody whines about (see below) is real enough.  But it is due to our inability to come up with a sensible health care policy, and regulatory accounting rules that give substantial disincentives for hiring full time.

chart productivity hourly compensation

What is squeezing labor is enormous costs for medical care, pensions for older workers, and regulations that make hiring workers prohibitively expensive. You say workers are not getting pay increases? That's true. But those evil corporations are getting labor cost improvements, either.

For some reason, people ignore the second graph.  It is expensive, and getting more expensive, to hire workers.  The first graph simply assumes that all the "extra" profit from productivity gains is going to corporations.  But it's not true.  You can look it up.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mourning Becomes Electra

And the Senate becomes the House.

This is interesting.

This is interesting, and also insightful.

The problem was not the filibuster, which actually was a problem.  The Repubs were abusing it, their obstruction was bad and dangerous.  That's all true.  However, if the Senate rule is that the rules are whatever a simple majority says the rules are....that's worse.

The U.S. is NOT a democracy, if by democracy you mean simple majority rule.  The dodge that "no, it's a republic" is true enough, but the real point is that many of our institutions are explicitly designed to prevent majorities from imposing their will.

An extremely insightful video, with a remarkably handsome commentator.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Department of Shaky Logic

Prof. Iglesias concludes that free trade makes workers better off.  Because the SHARE of total income going to labor is falling.  Here is his "logic."

Presumably, having labor have a bigger share of income makes workers better off, right?  The simple solution would be to destroy all capital.  Just blow it up, burn it, return to the stone age.  Then labor would have 100% of national income, because land would be basically worthless, also.

Of course, this is a problem.  Because (1) capital is a good thing, and raises the marginal product, and therefore the wages of labor, while at the same time (it's just accounting) reducing the TOTAL share of income labor receives, and (2) lower prices from higher productivity more than make up for the "decline" in labor's share of income.  The REAL wage skyrockets, and workers are clearly better off.

So Fantastic: Best Grand Game EVER

Got this email.  Here is the email (redacted to protect identity):

Remember, when you are grocery shopping, check out where your produce, fish and seafood come from, among other items. I never understood the logic of buying apples from Chile, blueberries from Mexico, shrimp from Thailand and -- heaven forbid -- fish from China when all of those can be found here in the US.

If you shop at Costco or any of the big warehouse stores, be sure to check your labels there too. They are notorious for selling imported goods. Pass it on!

S**** E******* (561) 254-****

And here is the informative expose video that you can't afford to miss!  (With thanks to Joel)


Bed Mandate

We have written about this before.  But it's pretty remarkable.

"In the past five years, Homeland Security officials have jailed record numbers of immigrants, driven by a little-known congressional directive known on Capitol Hill as the 'bed mandate.' The policy requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep an average of 34,000 detainees per day in its custody, a quota that has steadily risen since it was established in 2006 by conservative lawmakers who insisted that the agency wasn’t doing enough to deport unlawful immigrants. But as illegal crossings from Mexico have fallen to near their lowest levels since the early 1970s, ICE has been meeting Congress’s immigration detention goals by reaching deeper into the criminal justice system to vacuum up foreign-born, legal U.S. residents convicted of any crimes that could render them eligible for deportation. The agency also has greatly expanded the number of undocumented immigrants it takes into custody after traffic stops by local police...With federal spending on immigration detention and deportation reaching $2.8 billion a year, more than doubling since 2006, the mandate has met growing skepticism from budget hawks in both parties, particularly after DHS officials told Congress during the 'sequestration' debate in April that the agency could save money by lowering the bed mandate to 31,800 and relying on cheaper alternatives to jails. But House Republicans successfully pushed back, set the mandate at 34,000 detainees and ordered ICE officials to spend nearly $400 million more than they requested." WaPo.

Apparently, the whole thing is really due to the fact that Robert Byrd  hated brown people.  (You know how they are...all..brown.)  Actually, there is another explanation.  The prison-industrial complex makes a fortune out of running these "hotels" for their desperate guests.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Bill Murray, A LONG Time Ago

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I can't call you sugar, cause sugar never was so sweet

The US government is a welfare agency for farmers with an army! Take the case of sugar (please). This year, the government spent over $100 million buying up sugar to "support" its price. However, producers made so much that the price was somehow not high enough to repay the annual loans they get from the USDA. So the growers just default, to the tune of $171 million!

And and and and and and.... they get to BORROW AGAIN from the same program for next year, como si nada! So far the USDA has issued another $86 million in loans, sometimes to companies that had just defaulted.

Like Amalgamated Sugar. Defaulted on $17 million this year, borrows $18.8 million for next year. This isn't like the World Bank giving new loans to countries so they can pay off their old loans.  That's fresh cash with no strings.

And and and and and and... experts expect the producers WILL DEFAULT AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

It's not a bug, it's actually a feature of our insane farm policies.

Goin' All Columbo...

Remember how near the end of the show Columbo would be about to leave, and then he'd turn around and say, "Just one more thing..." and then ask a pretty hard question.

I don't know if this is a hard thing or not.  But I sure don't know the answer.  So, "Just one more thing" for NC's Moral Monday warriors.

The Moral Monday folks have been going nuts that the NCGA has required people to get an ID to be able to vote.  Now, other states (including NY, where the NY Times lives, and the Times has been criticizing NC, which I ALSO don't understand) already have requirements like that.  Because they are worried about vote fraud. In fact, the ID requirements in NY are MORE stringent than the NC ID requirements.  But NC is somehow acting badly, and NY is a liberal bastion.  I don't understand that.  No fewer than 34 states have ID laws, but NC is acting badly.

But that's not the strangest thing.  The strangest thing is Ventra.  Look at the requirements to ride a BUS....we're not talking about a game, not talkin' about a game, we're talking about a BUS, just to ride a BUS, you have to go through all this crap and give all this information.  If poor people can't get an ID because it is too much of a burden, how dare Chicago impose this kind of burden just to ride the bus.

Now, I would have thought that poor people are more likely to ride the bus than wealthy people, who have cars or take cabs.  Where are the Moral Monday folks in Chicago?  Could it be because the city is owned by the Democrats?  Could it be because the "outrage" by the Moral Monday folks is pure political posturing?  Could it be that they don't actually care at all about the poor, or the outrageous burden that is being placed on people just to ride the bus, in Chicago?

So, just that one more thing.

(This post dedicated to my friend Bruce C., and his NYTimes subscription, which he values more than life itself).