Saturday, June 29, 2013

Your Blog is a PAC. Now Pay Up.

Amazingly, even after that horrible McCain-Feingold law got gobsmacked, we are still getting stuff like this. A case regarding...(adapted from source below)... Ed Corsi, an activist and blogger in Ohio. He called his blog the Geauga Constitutional Council, and he paid for the website and any printed material out of his own pocket. Ed's not rich, so he didn't spend much money. A local official who was criticized by Corsi's blog and pamphleteering didn't like what he was up to and complained to the Ohio Election Commission (OEC).

Too often such laws enable government officials to retaliate against critics by throwing them in legal quicksand. Ohio law defines a political action committee (PAC) as two or more persons if their "primary or major purpose . . . is to support or oppose any candidate." This sounds like the law was written so as to comply with the landmark Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo. In that case, the court said groups could be regulated as PACs only if they were "under the control of a candidate or [had] the major purpose" of expressly advocating the election or defeat of candidates.

Unfortunately for Ed, the OEC interpreted the law in a very strange manner. The OEC ignored the vast majority of his blogging on issues and local concerns. Their analysis, if you could dignify it with that word, could be summed up this way: you had people help you with your blog, so you have two or more persons. You endorsed a few candidates. Therefore, you are a PAC, and you violated the law by failing to register as a PAC and report all your activity.

 More after the jump

Friday, June 28, 2013

Further adventures in Summer School

My summer class is winding down, and I'm still enjoying it (except for the ungodly starting time). We had another class today where the Learning Catalytics software really came through. Students were clearly having issues on public goods and common resource problems, but were not very forthcoming, so we went into the questions I'd prepared on the topic.

These questions go to their phones, tablets, or computers, where they answer and then  I see on my laptop either the individual answers if I've asked for a graph or a short answer, or the distribution of answers if the question was multiple choice.

On the first three questions, the splits were almost even between correct and incorrect, so without revealing the correct answer, I had the students discuss their answers with someone who had a different answer. In each case this "peer-instruction" (I never call it that in class), got us to around 75-80% correct, at which point I showed the distributions to the class and we talked through the incorrect answers.

On the last couple questions, we were getting 85-90% correct on the first round, and the mood in the room had brightened visibly.

It doesn't happen like this every class, but several times this process has really gotten the class to a place we might not have reached without this tool.

Politicians from Another Planet

Our Favorite Headlines:

'I lost my virginity* to an alien holographic at the age of FIVE': Labour politician appears on TV to defend his claims of encounters with extra-terrestrials.  

That's a pretty long headline, but there was a lot to pack in there.

He notes that being repeatedly "taken" (eww!) by aliens does not interfere with his work as a left-wing politician. [Editorial comment:  We agree with that. Indeed, it may improve his performance, in several ways].  The story goes on: "Cllr Parkes, who also claims his 'real mother' is a 9ft green alien with eight fingers, said people only claim he is mad because they have not shared his experiences and that the encounters don't affect his work on behalf of Whitby residents."

* (You can lose your virginity to a holograph? If so, I guess I lost my virginity when I was about 12, to some forgotten story in National Geographic)

Nod to MK

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Markets in Everything: Spouse Broker

Florida man has sign in car window.  

"Looking for Wife.  (Phone number)"

Amazingly, women actually call the number.

But it's not for him.  He is just the middle man.

Nod to @PieFarmer, and of course to LeBron...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Obvious Solution

I'm missing something about the SCOTUS decision yesterday, on VRA.

The court (rightly) struck down the portion of the VRA that maintained restrictions that fall differently on different states.  And those differences demonstrably have no basis in actual misbehavior, or in fact any empirical data at all.

Yes, I understand the 15th Amendment says that Congress "shall have the power to enforce..."  But it's with "APPROPRIATE legislation."  The VRA as redone is not appropriate, and in fact it's clearly unconstitutional, for the reasons the court gave yesterday.  Two biggies:

1.  The 10th Amendment reminds us that certain rights belong to the states.
2.  The Constitution says, in Article I, Section 4, that the "time, place, and manner" of elections will be left up to the state legislatures.  Yes, it goes on to say that Congress can pass laws, like the one that coordinated Presidential elections, but that goes for all the states.  The Congress can't pick and choose, to say "We like this state, we don't like this state," without violating the 10th Amendment.  There has to be a reason.  A good reason.  A reason good enough to pass what judges call strict scrutiny.

So far, so good.  The court did the right thing.  But then they did something bizarre.  If you are going to say that Congress has to redo the section on deciding which states have to get pre-clearance to impose new restrictions or new rules, why in the name of sweet fancy Moses would you say "no states"?  They could have said, "Given the stakes, the current rules stay in place for a year, so Congress can change it."

But the obvious answer is this:  Congress can absolutely pass a law that says ALL states must pre-clear.  They passed a law that made unacceptable and unfounded differences in burden, so we'll strike that part down.  Then the SCOTUS should have said, "Until or unless Congress passes a new version of this section, all states have to pre-clear."  There is nothing unconstitutional about THAT.  The problem is the different burdens on different states.

The advantage of this is that, as a practical matter, the status quo is going to be privileged.  Saying that "No states have to pre-clear, but Congress can fix that", sounds fine, in theory.  But Congress can't find its own...well, knee with both hands right now.  The SCOTUS has set up a bitter and dangerous fight.  Go the other way:  make the status quo ALL states have to pre-clear.  Then, if Congress does nothing there is still a protection against state abuse by majorities.  And Congress is much more likely to do something, because there might be bi-partisan support in a majority of states to pass a new and more sensible law.

UPDATE:  Commenter notes "SCOTUS can't do that."  I should have been more careful.  SCOTUS cannot impose a new law.  But it is absolutely common either to stay the impact of a decision, or to impose by judicial order a reversion point when the elimination of the law itself would impose a harm worse than the harm being corrected.  So I am only proposing that the SCOTUS do this by judicial order, with a fuse.

If you read the VRA, and look at Section 4,  you'll see that the law says "(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which..."  It's the part after the "which" that was struck down.  So, the question is how to interpret that?  If you get rid of the part that describes the conditions, do you go to ALL states, or NO states?  You have to choose.  It's not obvious that NO states is required of the court.  They can say that by striking down the conditions on application of pre-clearance, that ALL states have to preclear, until Congress fixes the law.  That sort of thing happens all the time in election law.

So, commenter, your point is well taken, given what I wrote originally.  But I didn't mean "change the law."  I meant "change the temporary reversion point, by judicial order.

Let Them Try to Eat Cake!

A story of fibs and justice....from the LMM.

Alice Grayson was to bake a cake for the Baptist Church Ladies' Group in Tuscaloosa, but forgot to do it until the last minute. 

She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix & quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack for scout camp. When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured and she exclaimed, "Oh dear, there is not time to bake another cake!" 

So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake. She found it in the bathroom - a roll of toilet Paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfectly delicious.  (MORE AFTER THE JUMP)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Garbage and Class

Interesting.  Is recycling a luxury good?

A response to the exchange at Cato Unbound.

A Theory of Justice: The Musical

I bet that evil seductress Ayn Rand steals the show.  Though, she (born 1905) was a bit old for Nozick (born 1938), I would have thought.  That minx!

A Theory of Justice:  The Musical

Recycling Anecdote

News from the front: ...about five or six years ago while in Greensboro I took the garbage to the curb [regular and recycle]. This was around 5 am in the morning.  Around 8 am went back out to throw another item in the can when I see a Ford parked by my curb and a lady with yellow gloves going through my garbage. Yep! The garbage police. 

Well, she is going to write me a warning citation. How so? I threw an empty dried out paint can in the garbage. I said what the devil I'm suppose to do with the paint can? Well, she says on certain dates and times I can take such can to a particular address across town where they handle paint cans. 

So being the professional smart a*s that I am, I tell her go ahead and write the citation and I'll put it in the recycle can and they can recycle it. Apparently garbage police have no sense of humor. She goes over to the Ford gets on the radio and calls in the garbage SWAT. 

Not a minute goes by and her supervisor shows up in another Ford. He reads me the riot act. I couldn't stop laughing at these two and they were getting more and more angry. They asked me to take them seriously and that this was a serious issue. Told them when they finally get around to getting a real job I'd take them seriously. Turned around, and went back inside the house. Never did see those two nor the garbage police again...BUT...the lady did leave a warning citation tucked under the lid of the garbage can which was recycled as I had promised. 

Nod to WH.

Now, I understand that actual paint, liquid paint, is a problem.  It's hazardous waste, in fact.  But DRIED paint?  I'm pretty sure that there was dried paint on that broken pot I threw out last week.  And if it's the can that's valuable, we face again the problem that cleaning and transporting this garbage dwarfs whatever small value the material might have.

Economist Questions

AIER does an occasional post where they ask an economist to answer some questions.  Some of the questions are pretty serious, some more whimsical.

I gave it a shot. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rule #1 at KPC:

Don B on Immigration

Don Boudreaux on immigration....


A few friends whose opinions I hold in the highest regard have challenged me recently to reconsider my support for open immigration. Their challenge springs neither from the economically uninformed Luddite view that immigrants will steal ‘American jobs’ (or lower Americans’ wages) nor the worry that more immigrants will be a net drain, through their direct use of the existing welfare state, on the public fisc. Their challenge springs instead from the more plausible concern that immigrants will use their growing political power to vote for government policies that are more interventionist and less respectful of individual freedoms. 

This concern isn’t absurd (especially to those of us who believe that culture and rhetoric play a leading role in determining the actual law and policy of society and the performance of the economy). If too many people from countries less free and economies less dynamic than America come to the U.S. and then vote for the same policies that condemn their native countries to second- or third-world status – policies based chiefly on envy, zero-sum thinking, hostility to bourgeois pursuits, belief in secular salvation by Great Leaders, and mountains of plain old economic ignorance – then the very commitment to freedom that leads me to support open immigration might be inconsistent with the long-run maintenance of freedom.

His answer is interesting.  ATSRTWT 

Monday's Child

1.  This is just creepy.  Seriously.  Bad enough at a crematorium.  But a GERMAN crematorium?  What did they do with the shoes?

2.  Remarkable.  John Kiriakou's letter from prison.  Almost Gramsci quality, in its own way.

3.  Free the humans!  Ben Powell on immigration and trade.

4.  Gubmint concludes it would be better to prevent people from working....because there are RULZ, darn it!  Amazingly dumb rules, sure, but rules.

5.  The landlords from hell.  The reason?  Because SF "protects" renters.  The consequence, as Russ and I discussed at some length for such rules, is that preventing the price mechanism from working creates very large rents.  And since people can't buy or sell, they fight.  Markets are not the cause of the problem, but rather are the way to avoid the problem.  Suppress markets, and oppress the people.

6.  The enemy of markets is, for the most part, large corporations.  The government helps, but large corporations lead the way.

7.  My favorite mayor, my favorite topic:  mandatory composting.  This is a violation of 1st Amendment, folks.

8.  Father, 13 year old son hit HIO on same hole.  That's nice, 'cause now they can split buying the house a round back in the clubhouse.  Unless they BOTH have to buy the house a round....hmmmm.  Bankruptcy.  Unless they had HIO insurance.  Hey, WH, do you handle that sort of policy?

9.  Okay, so this is satire.  It is frighteningly accurate.  Phone call from George Orwell. He wants to know why you people didn't read his book.

10.  My student, with whom I am well pleased!  Bill English publishes his SECOND Am Pol Sci Rev paper.  And that's not easy.

11.  Clap is catching.  In fact, ovations are socially contagious, it appears.

12.  Warrior Princess...

13.  Absolutely fascinating article on the nature of obesity.  I just read (at the beach) Fast Food Nation, a remarkably tendentious and poorly researched piece of trash.  But I had assumed that there was at least some truth to the claim about fast food and obesity.  Maybe not...People eat more fast food, and people are getting fatter.  But marmosets and lab rats are getting fatter, too.  And they are on constant, controlled diets.  Do I know why?  I do not.  Am I skeptical of conspiracy theorists who think that there are bogeymen in the closet, selling french fries?  Yes, I am.

14. some pretty good company here!

15.  A gap in process:  one of those "human" mistakes.  Hee.

16.  Gazprom is promoting its status as a "green" company.  A bit of a lie, but okay, that's what giant corporations do.  What's interesting is that Gazprom appears to be financing front operations, or otherwise genuine environmental groups, as a means of suppressing shale oil.  And of course shale oil is the #1 competitive threat to Gazprom's lucrative monopoly.   It is a shame that it comes down to choosing which of two sets of profit-motivated rent-seekers to distrust more...But that's where we are right now.

17. Angus tweeted it. I'm just reporting it.  Your word for the day is "invigilator."

18.  Many of our Presidents are immoral crooks, because only an immoral crook would want to be President.  Starting out younger....

19.  Dan Drezner once called Mungowitz chopped liver.  So it is with some glee that I note that Dan Drezner is now chopped liver.  'Course he may go all fast zombie on that guy.  'Cause D-Drez is TOTALLY a zombie intellectual.  Or something like intellectual zombie.

20.  As usual, "small farmers" are just a stage prop for a Congress bought and paid for by large corporate food processors.  Distort incentives, make food more expensive, and raise the deficit, with zero benefit for the small farmers that members of Congress (mostly Repubs, but Dems also) claim they want to help.

21.  As good an example of a "just so" story as I've ever seen.  Plant has spines.  Sometimes (rarely) sheep get caught.  Dead sheep provide nutrients, when they decompose.  Therefore, plant has spines to catch sheep.  Phone call for Alex Rosenberg.

Headline Meme:

1.  Whitby Councilor Claims to Have Fathered Alien Child

2. Perhaps the single best example of the genre.  Unbelievably good.  Ready?
Woman dressed as vagina stops street fight between penis and man in Glastonbury
Story contains the line, "I could tell by his body language he was really upset."  Bless you, @muttface , that is quite a find.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Snowden and NSA

(1) what YOU don’t know can’t hurt YOU, 
(2) what THEY don’t know can hurt YOU, 
(3) THEY need to know what YOU know, 
(4) but YOU need not know that THEY need to know, 
(5) And YOU certainly do not need to know what THEY know,
(6) moreover, if YOU know THEY need to know, then the big WE can get hurt, so THEY can hide that, out of concern for YOU. 
(7) And mostly, we should all care more about the big WE than anything else. Especially, the big WE is more important than YOU, or YOU, or... 

Or so THEY say...

Nod to WH

Friday, June 21, 2013

You can call me Al

There's an old joke, what do you call someone who graduated last in his class at Med School?.....Doctor!

Now we can add, what do you call someone who graduated in the middle of his PhD. class in Econ at Harvard 6 years ago?.......I don't know, but it's not Associate Professor.

Interesting short paper from Vanderbilt on class ranking and publishing productivity at top grad schools.

Here's the abstract:

We study the research productivity of top Ph.D. programs in economics. We find that class rank is as important as departmental rank as predictors of future research productivity. For example, the best graduate from UIUC or Toronto in a given year will have roughly the same number of American Economic Review (AER) equivalent publications at year six after graduation as the number three graduate from Berkeley, U. Penn or Yale. We also find that research productivity of graduates drops off very quickly with class rank at all departments. For example, even at Harvard, the median graduate has only 0.04 AER paper at year six, an untenurable record at almost any department. These results provide guidance on how much weight to give to place of graduation relative to class standing when hiring new assistant professors. They also suggest that even the top departments are not doing a very good job of training students to be successful research economists for any not in the top of their class.

That's right, the median Harvard Grad has 0.04 AER equivalent papers at tenure time! Ouch.

Do departments concentrate all their resources on the top few students?

Is the talent pool in economics very shallow and schools are taking students who shouldn't be there just to fill up their TA slots?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My summer class (thoroughly modern Angus edition)

I'm teaching principles of micro this summer. 8:00 - 10:00 am daily. I know.

My text is Cowen & Tabarrok, which I like a lot, but I'm using a lot of other stuff as well.

The day before a topic, students watch a couple videos from the excellent Khan Academy series on microeconomics. I try to keep the total amount of video time here at 20 minutes or less. Then they take an online quiz over the material.

In class, I start with a mini-presentation introducing the topic and dealing with comprehension issues that the quiz may have revealed.

During the class period, we take breaks in the presentation for the class to answer, multiple choice, short answer, graphing, or essay questions that I deliver to them via their phones or tablets or laptops. The software I'm using here is called Learning Catalytics.

This way, students get instant feedback on what they are understanding and not understanding, and I get a chance to see right away how to shape the class time towards what is causing them trouble.

I really love this approach.

The Cowen & Tabarrok book comes with extensive online resources that I use a lot. Plus they get right to the point and don't mess around with a lot of extraneous stuff that principles students don't need or that isn't quite right.

The students like the Khan Academy videos, and they free me up from having to do a lot of numerical examples of where demand and supply and cost curves come from in class.

But the star I think is the Learning Catalytics software. When I have the right question prepared, it can really crack open the problem students are having and lead to a greatly improved level of understanding of the material.

This has happened both yesterday on the topic of externalities and today on the topic of economic vs. accounting profit. It just lets me see what they are thinking and how to better re-address the issue. I've also found students are more willing to speak up after we've done a question, displayed the results and discussed the answers.

Even with the 8:00 am start, I am having a blast and feel good about what we are learning.

The Minkey Didn't Have a Lishanz....

Pelsmin has found the perfect cinematic metaphor for Obamacare.  From Pink Panther.

Atlantic: Why Do People Have to Make Stuff Up?

I have found it interesting how many people have truly strange conspiracy theories about big money and libertarianism.

The other day I got a very angry letter from a colleague, claiming that the Koch Foundation was trying to take over NC politics.  I checked (by googling) the source.  And it was a fund-raising letter from Sen. Kay Hagan.  The point being that fund-raising letters by their nature are designed to use scare tactics, and have no obligation to be truthful.  I asked for evidence that the CGKF was trying to "buy" NC politics, and my colleague sent back something about Art Pope.  Ma'am, those are different people, and Art Pope lives in NC.  Lots of rich people (including my colleague who was sending these notes, by the way) had made contributions to NC politicos.

Now, the Atlantic has a piece wondering why people need to make up these bizarre stories.  The answer appears to be that folks on the left need, actually psychologically NEED, to think they speak for "the people."  They have never met the people, and they actually think the people are morons who need protection designed by smart leftists, but okay.  So when a leftist encounters someone they disagree with, their first instinct is to believe that the disagreer can't possibly ACTUALLY believe those things.  S/he must be getting paid.  And they must be getting paid by...the KOCHS.  Because the Kochs are everywhere.   (What about Soros?  Well, that money goes to leftists, and they are telling the truth.  So that money is not the same as the Koch money, which is for EVIL).

This argument gives two useful things:  1.  A bogeyman, a single enemy; and 2.  An explanation why someone might disagree (they don't REALLY disagree, but they are being bribed to pretend to disagree, with the claims of the left).  Since no smart, reasonable person could POSSIBLY disagree with a leftist, who cares so much about the people, and who knows the truth with scientific certainty.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Partly Empty, Partly Narrow

Following up the discussion over on Cato Unbound....

Garbage inspectors!  Who can count the human cost...

Happy Birthday to the LMM!!

Today is the LMM's birthday.  So of course she gets "happy birthday!" messages from all of the increasingly large number of doctors a woman her age (she's over 30) has contact with.  Not necessarily a happy things.

But, since her bithday is (and has always been) the same as Garfield's there is a always a Garfield cartoon waiting to cheer us up.  In this case, it only cheered ME up, though.

Click for an even more bifocalable image....

WTF? The NYT is en fuego

Why in the world has happened to the NYTimes?  They have started publishing subversive, crackpot stuff that I actually agree with.   The world turned upside down.

San Francisco's housing market.


The City by the Bay is going through one of its worst housing shortages in memory. With typical high demand intensified by a regional boom in tech jobs, apartment open houses are mob scenes of desperate applicants clutching their credit reports. The citywide median rental price for a one-bedroom is $2,764 a month, but jumps to $3,500 in trendy areas.

One reason for the shortage? Me. I’ve recently joined the ranks of San Francisco landlords who have decided that it’s better to keep an apartment empty than to lease it to tenants. Together, we have left vacant about 10,600 rental units. That’s about five percent of the city’s total — or enough space to house up to 30,000 people in a city that barely tops 800,000. I feel a twinge of guilt for those who want to settle in this glorious city but can’t find a flat. 

But after renting out a one-bedroom apartment in my home for several years, I will never do it again. San Francisco’s anti-landlord housing laws and political climate make it untenable.

The City by the Bay!  The City where there is NOWHERE to Sleep!

If you want to rock it old school, check out the famed Friedman-Stigler pamphlet on price controls.  Nearly 70 years old now, and caused a big kerfuffle at FEE when it was published.  (Thanks to WH for this last link!)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Books of Summer

The LMM and I are really, really boring. We go to the beach  Have been here at Wrightsville Dunes for 8 nights now, and have gone out to dinner exactly once (though it was fun, visiting with Aaron and Laurie King, and went to Bluewater)

That means I get some reading done.  With Kindle, you can read old stuff, new stuff, all sorts of things.

The good:

1.  The Code:  Baseball  Ross Bernstein.  Solid, interesting, but mostly stuff I knew.

2.  The Code:  Hockey  Ross Bernstein.  Fascinating, partly because I don't know much about hockey, but also because there is a lot going on behind the scenes.  Some of the chapters are good enough, in terms of institutions, to be used in the sort of class where you talk about Olson, Ostrom, Leeson, and Skarbek.  Really, really great.

3.  Three Nights in August  Buzz Bissinger.  The story of a series between the SL Cards and the Chi Cubs, in 2005.  Probably more, and deeper, stuff about how baseball works and how pitchers protect their teams than the Bernstein book.  But then maybe I just like it because it is a story of how the Cards beat the Cubs, back before the Cubs starting sucking so bad that this outcome is a near certainty.

4.  Havana Nocturne  TJ English.  How the Mob tried to run Cuba, and how Castro ran out the Mob.  As interesting and vivid a history as I have ever read, and gives one sympathy for poor Cuba.  Recommended by T. Pino; thanks!

5.  The Economics of Beer  Edited by Johan Swinnen.  A bit academicish, but some great stuff on beer's history and economics.  The chapters on beer in China, the largest beer consumer (total, not per capita) alone are worth the book.  And John Nye's chapter on beer and wine in England is a classic.

The Bad

1.  The Code:  Football  Ross Bernstein.  Can't blame Bernstein, and football is useful as the missing case in the instiutional story in his triloogy of "The Code" books.  Query:  What happens when there is no code, because players are allowed to cheat and take cheap shots, because they are wearing protective equipment that covers their entire bodies, especially their heads and faces?  Answer:  Football.  Hockey and baseball have codes to prevent violence.  Football just promotes violence, and that's all there is to it.  Boring, repetitive account of injuries and mayhem without form or control.

The Next

1.  Just got The Story of Spanish JB Nadeau and J Barlow.  Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language on earth, after Mandarin.  Why?

Monday's Child

1.  A Schumer in the White House?  A note:  I have myself never thought Chuckie Schumer is DUMB.  The problem is that he is evil incarnate  I'd like him MORE if he were dumb.

2.  Why does Prof. Angus get such excellent evaluations?  Now...we know.   Touchatouch-atouchaTOUCH me.  I want to be smarty.

3.  Why a lot of "educated" folks won't get hired.  Boiled down:  because expensive colleges offer a lot of fraudulent "Indignation Studies" majors that (1) serve faculty ideological hobbies, and (2) are essentially content-free, in terms of social value or analytical skills.

4. An interesting article.  This guy, publishing in DEMOCRACY, recognizes that Ayn Rand would hate a lot of the guys who claim that they love Ayn Rand, as a protection for their blatant rent-seeking.  He gets a LOT of things right.

5.  If it's true, it's pretty bad.  Not sure it's true, but....

6.  They hated it when GWB did it (and rightly so, let me add).  The difference is that the left trusts Obama when he abuses the power of the Presidency.  And apparently they assume (as every regime assumes) that they will be in power forever.  The Thousand Year Psych.

7.  Information Asymmetry problem solved!

8.  Tattoo-Gate ring available on Ebay!

9.  Happy "Father's" Day.  Gosh, that kid looks different. And this site...really?

10.  Affordable housing shortages are not solved by government action, they are for the most part caused by government action. You can see this documented on an almost daily basis by our friends at Market Urbanism.

SO much more after the jump...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

For Dads: Past, Present, and Future

Okie ego trippin'

1.  Can't resist the opportunity to brag that my JME article with Gordon Tullock has hit 1000 citations on Google Scholar.

2. On the either end of my citation list, one of the funnest and least cited papers I've ever written (and the best-titled paper I've ever written), "Arbitrage in a Basketball Economy", was featured in the WAPO Wonkblog this past week. Co-authored with the estimable Bob Tollison.

3. My paper with Aaron Smallwood on exchange rate volatility and trade was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of International Money and Finance.

4. Finally, my student and co-author, Norman Maynard, has accepted a tenure track job at the College of Charleston!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Social Pain

Can Marijuana Reduce Social Pain? 

Timothy Deckman et al. 
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming 

Abstract: Social and physical pain share common overlap at linguistic, behavioral, and neural levels. Prior research has shown that acetaminophen — an analgesic medication that acts indirectly through cannabinoid 1 receptors — reduces the social pain associated with exclusion. Yet, no work has examined if other drugs that act on similar receptors, such as marijuana, also reduce social pain. Across four methodologically diverse samples, marijuana use consistently buffered people from the negative consequences associated with loneliness and social exclusion. These effects were replicated using cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental designs. These findings offer novel evidence supporting common overlap between social and physical pain processes.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Friday, June 14, 2013


You may know the piece of computer jargon, "DWIM."

It's an acronym for "Do What I Mean."  Of course, computers can only do what we SAY; they really can't tell what we mean.  The LMM DWIMs all the time (yes, DWIM can be a verb).

I had just asked her to remind me to Skype with the EYM (he's in Chile) on Sunday at 4 or 5.

She wanted to display her virtuosity with computers (We saw "The Internship" last night, so we're feeling pretty post-millenial).  So, she woke up SIRI, and said, "Remind me to tell Michael to SKYPE on Sunday at 4 or 5."

Of course, the computer "brain" has no way of understanding what "4 or 5" means.  SIRI could do it at 4, or at 5, or at any specific time.  But "remind me later" is a DWIM move; no way SIRI can do that.

I was staying very quiet so I could eavesdrop on the resulting hilarity.  But SIRI just punted, and said she would "Remind you to tell Michael to SKYPE at forty-five," which doesn't mean anything.  A missed opportunity.

How Can This Be Illegal?

So, a guy gets a speeding ticket.

He pays the ticket, on time, with a valid check.

But he adds a bunch of obscenities and editorializing on the ticket form.  Not threats, just pissed off.

So...he is arrested?  Really?  This is clearly political speech, in the sense of a petition for a redress of grievances.  No question it is political, so fails the Miller Test on what can be prosecuted.

And no one even saw it, until the state decided to make an issue of things that would have just remained private.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Tip of the Data Spear

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Environmental Zeal, Icelandic Edition

An interesting fellow, Arnar Sigurdsson, writes from Iceland. And found my little piece on recycling.  He went from thinking that no one else KNOWS about recycling fraud, to realizing that everyone knows, but that they condone it because it's "moral" to do it, even if it wastes resources.

He published an op-ed in the newspaper there, and here is the link.  But unless you read Icelandic, you'll need the following (not very good, I admit) translation.  Here is the best I could do (blame me, not Arnar, for infelicities):

Recycling can be an example of Glori-free operation based on political orthodoxy, expert power and meinloku thought.

Recently article appeared with the title of "Half doubt about recycling dump." This is certainly a thought provoking fact the case for the fact that everyone should question the recycling of waste and the presence of recycling funds. (More after the jump)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Parable on Environmental Zeal

An email from BW in Logan Utah, reproduced in its entirety...

Issac Hammon’s restaurant wasn’t doing well. People in the community had many dining-out options and business volume at Issac’s restaurant was insufficient to break even, let alone earn a profit. 

But Issac had friends in local government, so approached them with a proposal. “Let’s mandate that every household in the community eat at my restaurant at least twice each month. With increased volume, I can cover my costs while keeping meal prices reasonable. This will benefit the community by creating more jobs and adding to tax revenues."  (More below the jump)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

El Candigato!

Hey, White House! Surveil THIS!

A nod to Angry Alex

Headlines That Tell the Story....

1.  TSA Agents Stop Chewbacca Actor Over Light Saber.  "Um, light sabers are not real weapons, they are special effects..."  "Hey, no way, fuzz boy.  I saw Luke's arm get cut off!  Get out of line."

2. Japanese teens are spreading pink eye by licking each other's eyeballs

3. FL deputy removes Doritos bag from deer's head

Angus and Mungowitz are the new Black

Wow!  Some respect, from the WP.  Sort of.  Libertarians are cool!

Of course, EJ Dionne is predictably idiotic.  I really think that there is no set of empirical facts that could make ol' EJD recant his fervent mancrush on Obama.  Yo, EJ:  Libertarianism is a DIRECTION.  You are trying to defend your guy by fabricating criticisms about what you imagine to be the DESTINATION.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The day the NSA sent Obama Mungo's internet profile

People, how did this internet spying thing stay secret for so long? It's not like Obama was hiding it even a little bit.

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  Free heroin in Vancouver.  Free.

2.  Bernanke's sense of humor...

3.  Don't drink and drive.  And don't eat and Tweet.

4.  Smartphones and Medical care...a video.

5.  Forbidden photos:  Secret shots of Hitler's bunker.

6.  I wonder if she actually believes this.  But then, I wonder if Sen. DF actually believes ANYTHING.

7.  Is it creepy that I want to go to see this, even though I have no children to take?  Maybe I can borrow Fundman's kid.

8.  Crony capitalism, thy name is "Republican."And again:  too close to the sun.

9.  It's gonna take a lot to take drones away from the state, There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do, Obama blesses the drones down in Africa, Gonna take some time to kill the  folks we neeeeeever have.

10.  Man.  Now the LMM wants to leave me for Rod Stewart.  And he's, like, 90.

11.  Why would a judge ignore the system of allocation, given how scarce transplants are?  Because he's a judge.  Not clear he can actually force his will, though.  Ugly little incident.

12.  The first rule of rent-seeking problems:  The more complex the rules, and the more powerful the rule enforcer, the more corruption you will get.  And Obamacare is going to be shockingly corrupt.

13.  Follow-up by my friend and colleague Bahar L., on her case in Turkey.

14.  Paper is a renewable resource.  Why the obsession with getting rid of it? 

15.  Okay, so the NYTimes may be a craven, cowardly, rag that is wholly owned by the Democratic Party as an outlet for propaganda.  But even the NYTimes can be honest, at some point.  This is going to leave a mark.

16. "Many development economists argue that poor countries can get richer if they improve their institutions, particularly the rule of law. The converse also applies: Rich countries can get poorer if their institutions deteriorate, particularly the rule of law. Today only lawyers think the United States has the world's best legal system...The chief business of the American people is no longer business. I fear it may be bureaucracy."

17.  The bikes of New York, and the rage of New York about the bikes.  Jon Stewart weighs in.

18.  Wind energy:  The Stupid Frontier.

19.  What could possibly go wrong with a program that makes it effectively impossible for U.S. companies to compete internationally? Some impressively paranoid speculation from Instapundit.

Headline Meme:

1.  NYC Mayoral Candidates Gets Rise Out of Wiener.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

So much wrongness in one tiny tweet

Con 2 súper cracks antes de la gran final!! Qué grandes que son!!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Is There ANYTHING That Could Persuade These People BHO is a Bad President?

This is funny enough, I suppose.  But I do wonder if all the people who said, "Obama has to wait until after the election.  Then....THEN he'll start doing the right thing!" still believe that.  At some point, you have to recognize that OBAMA is the zombie.

Thanks to Kevin Lewis

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Financial Journalism 101

Financial journalists are like NFL cornerbacks. They have a very short memory.

No matter what happens, they always have a facile explanation, and little to no concern if the explanation is logically consistent with the explanation for yesterday's events.

I read that the stock market decline yesterday was due to "preliminary bad jobs news" and "bracing for Friday's jobs report".

If the market had surged, it would have no doubt been because the bad news meant the Fed would not be ending its various asset buying programs (the "bad news is actually good news" gambit).

And people, if the market hadn't budged........??

That's right, investors had already "priced in" the news.

Nice work if you can get it and don't mind the smell.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The manufacturing renaissance will not be televised

Ouch! This morning's ISM report on Manufacturing activity was bad. A reading of 49 (below 50 indicates contraction), the lowest since mid 2009.

Here's a chart from the maestro, Bill McBride (clic the pic for a more illuminating image):

Plus the recent ADP jobs report indicated that 6000 manufacturing jobs were "lost" in May.

Come on Service sector! Only you can save us.

Don't Try to "Fix" It, Okay? I just need you to LISTEN, sometimes.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

"We theorize that..."

Apparently, "we theorize that...." means "I thought of this in the shower, and had the data, so I figured what the hell!"

Liberellas versus Konservatives: Social Status, Ideology, and Birth Names in the United States

Eric Oliver, Thomas Wood & Alexandra Bass 
University of Chicago Working Paper, April 2013 

Abstract: Despite much public speculation, there is little scholarly research on whether or how ideology shapes American consumer behavior. Borrowing from previous studies, we theorize that ideology is associated with different forms of taste and conspicuous consumption: liberals are more drawn to indicators of "cultural capital" and more feminine symbols while conservatives favor more explicit signs of "economic capital" and masculine cues. These ideas are tested using birth certificate, U.S. Census, and voting records from California in 2004. We find strong differences in birth naming practices related to race, economic status, and ideology. Although higher status mothers of all races favor more popular birth names, high status liberal mothers more often choose uncommon, culturally obscure birth names. Liberals also favor birth names with "softer, feminine" sounds while conservatives favor names with "harder, masculine" phonemes. These findings have significant implications for both studies of consumption and debates about ideology and political fragmentation in the United States.

The Night Watch, By Day, In a Mall

I liked this far more than I should have, I expect.

If you remember the piece, it was a famous study by Rembrandt, of light and shadow.  Called "The Night Watch," it was actually entitled "The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq," after the guy who commissioned it (Cocq?  One of the Koch Brothers, I bet!)   

With thanks to the LMM

Monday, June 03, 2013

It's Not Flipping Fair!

Not sure I actually believe this.  But, here you go.

"What he and his fellow researchers discovered (here’s a PDF of their paper) is that most games of chance involving coins aren’t as even as you’d think. For example, even the 50/50 coin toss really isn’t 50/50 — it’s closer to 51/49, biased toward whatever side was up when the coin was thrown into the air.

But more incredibly, as reported by Science News, spinning a penny, in this case one with the Lincoln Memorial on the back, gives even more pronounced odds — the [American] penny will land tails side up roughly 80 percent of the time."

With a nod to Jay Larson…


Like causes produce like effects, in politics as in physics.

President Obama gives the same answers President Nixon gave, and for the same reasons.  Once the President decides that illegal acts, if done by the President, are legal, simply because the President is doing them, you have become Nixon.  Amazing that Bob Schiefer, poor old guy, is the one who points this out.  Wow.

Nod to Angry Alex

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1. Victory through commercial sponsorship?: "The United States might not be the most popular country in the Middle East these days, but in addition to Chevrolet, [Arab Idol's] sponsors include Pepsi, Twix and Kentucky Fried Chicken"

2. It's really BAD that a Chinese company is buying Smithfield Foods, because....well, because it's really BAD!

3.  France worried that it will be swamped by English-speakers, because it is losing out on English-speaking students because it is so aggressively obnoxious to English-speakers.  Just reading this makes you realize how justifiably worried the French are to be French.  They are headed to a hard-earned and well-deserved irrelevance.

4.  Capitalism:  Laugh track, or last laugh?

5.  Prof. Fisher of Yale replies to socialist Stokes, on disappearance of interest rates.

6.  The folks at SCOTUS show a "remarkable outbreak of harmony."

7.  A man who takes spelling VERY seriously.

8.  US Political Polarization, Duke study.

9.  Tinfoil Hat on grant system, and on how it wastes resources

10.  Come the revolution, we won't need no stinkin' religion!

11.  Ripped from the pages of Atlas Shrugged:  I would not have believed this, but it's true.

12.  Gun Free Zone App:  really?

13.  Could Anonyman's generation be any more self-absorbed and solipsistic?  Answer:  No.  Some evidence.

14.  Taylor Swift bought a giant beach house, and walked around downtown, in the LMM's hometown.  In Westerly, this is the biggest thing since Roughie threw that putter through a car windshield.  Heck, maybe bigger.

15.  NASA seems to be dealing with the sequester just fine!

16.  Scott Adams delightfully trivializes P-Kroog.

17.  Peak Oil is peak idiocy, more idiotic every day.

18.  The Tiger Stripes of Enceladus (sounds like a Heinlein novel title, says Angry Alex)

Headline Meme:

1. Beavers attack people in Belarus 

2. Worrying New Trend Sees Diet-Conscious Drinkers Inhale Alcohol to Avoid Calories 

3.  N.M. driver drove drunk while having sex .    (Although, this story is NOT all contained in the headline.  It gets much better, reading the whole thing)

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Look Ma: I just fixed Social Security!

It was easy!

Here's what I chose to do:

 YOUR POLICY SELECTIONS                        % OF GAP CLOSED
Raise Age to 69 then index to Longevity                       39%
Index COLAs to "Chained CPI"                                   21%
Reduce Fraud and Overpayments                                   5%
Tighten DI Eligibility Requirements                               4%
Prohibit Applications above the Early Retirement Age   5%
Cover Newly-Hired State and Local Workers                9%
Apply the Payroll Tax to "Cafeteria Plans"                    9%
Diversify the Trust Fund to Increase Returns               20%

                                                                                   TOTAL 112%

Want to do it your way? You can use this cool app.

And, as always, you can tell me why I'm a dope in the comments.

Here's my heroic achievement in graphical form:

Trust Fund Projections 
Percent of Annual Benefits 

After Policy Changes