Monday, September 30, 2013

Schooling ain't learning!

Today is the official launch day for Lant Pritchett's new book: The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain't Learning.

You can buy the book here.

You can read about it here.

While governments in the developing world have indeed managed to increase school enrollment rates substantially (as they were advised to do by rich country aid agencies and the MDGs), the payoff has been muted at best because of the often low to non-existant level of actual education available in the schools.

Development advice and aid often focuses inappropriately on the inputs at the expense of the outputs (though the RCT nation is changing this), perhaps nowhere more strongly though than in education.

To me it's another example of "cargo cult" development (Lant is much more polite, well, ok a little more polite, and calls it "isomorphic mimicry"). Build a straw airplane and balsawood control tower and wait for the cargo to fall from the sky.

Of course in education policy it can be even worse as the balsawood control tower is frequently staffed by un-accountable, un-dismissable, personnel.

Lant doesn't write in development-speak (the isomorphic mimicry phrase not withstanding). You'll have no trouble figuring out what's on his mind.

Both Mrs. Angus and I plan to use this book in our teaching and we highly recommend it to anyone interested in education policy and development.

(This post also appears at Cherokee Gothic).

Duke in Romania!

Emi Socaciu visited a couple weeks ago, and we had a great time.  And now, his son is dressed the real men dress:

"Eight months ago, Congress ordered the Obama administration to eliminate a stark example of federal government waste: more than $500 million a year in excessive drug payments being sent to dialysis clinics nationwide. But in a demonstration of just how hard it is to curb spending in Washington, more than 100 of the same members of Congress who voted in January to impose the cut are now trying to push the Obama administration to reverse it or water it down." NYTimes article

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday's Child

1.  This football story sounds like the premise for a feel-good movie.  But not a very good one.  Better story when it's true, though.

2.  Well, of COURSE they spied on him.  You can't trust those, "tolerance, peaceful protest, nonviolence" types.  They are basically terrorists, right?

3.  Cash for clunkers?  Thai style.

4.  Papa Smurf, the actual man with blue skin, passes away.

5.  Local gotta love local government.  A "bollard?"  And they want to put something over them?  Golly.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grand Game! Real Estate Edition

Grand Game, Grand Game, Whatchoo Gonna Do?  Whatchoo Gonna Do When They All Read You?

This guy is some piece of work.  It turns out that the reason that real estate is expensive in San Francisco is not the bizarre web of restrictions on new building, or the requirements that people not sub-let, or the requirements that existing houses must be preserved at all costs.  The shortage is entirely the product of an artificial restriction imposed by dumb regulation.  But our boy wants to blame...greed! Check it out:

San Francisco has struggled to rehouse those who lose their homes. Scott Wiener, who chairs the city’s Land Use and Development Committee, says: “The number one challenge in the city is housing affordability. It’s not surprising that when you have a growing population and don’t build new housing, you see an explosion in house prices. In the last decade we’ve added at least 50,000 new residents to San Francisco, and produced very little new housing.”  (Editor's note:  The "speculators" would have loved to build new housing, but the law prevents it.  Not the state legislature, but the city of SF).

Though he doesn’t much care for the start-up douchebags, Redmond blames not individual tech workers for the current crisis, but property speculators and the lawmakers who have let them take advantage of their precious commodity: space. 

“If we had a major earthquake in San Francisco, the water mains all broke, and some guy showed up with a water truck and started selling water for $10 a gallon, people would be pissed,” he says. “That guy would be ridden out of town; he’d be attacked with sticks and pitchforks. But that’s what the real estate people are doing right now – and they’re getting away with it.”

Nice.  This fellow even gets in a shot in about price-gouging.  (Think about it:  If someone took in water after a major earthquake, they'd be more evil than someone who sits at home and says, "Someone should DO something!"  Really?)

 It's a tour-de-force of economic illiteracy.  I'm going to assign it as a class homework.  ATSRTWT

With a grateful nod to Brad H.  You were right, buddy.  This is awesome.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome

This has to be a hoax.  Such a great story.

You may have a beer belly, and not even drink.  Wow.

Maybe it's legit...  If a Duke microbiologist confirms it, it MUST be true, right?

UPDATE:  Tim Worstall confirms the tale.  Strange but true.  (The tale, not Tim Worstall).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dean Greco: The All Day Breakfast Party

Released soon:  the MOVIE!  100 Signatures.


Republicans Are Hopeless Hypocrites

A surprisingly fact-based and useful article in WaPo, by David Fahrenthold.  Worth reading in full.

"To assess what the first six [budget battles since 2010] accomplished, The Washington Post tried to measure the government in four different dimensions: federal expenditures, federal workers, federal rules and federal real estate. The first two were down, slightly. The third was way up. And in the fourth case, the government itself wasn’t sure what happened...The administration now counts 226 separate programs that aim to promote education in the 'STEM' fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Many overlap, according to outside audits. Some overlap substantially. This year, the administration proposed to consolidate them in the name of efficiency. The number should shrink, they said. All the way down to 110. Even in the deficit-obsessed House, many legislators thought that might be too few. 'A little overlap and a little duplication may not be bad,' said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), whose appropriations subcommittee considered the White House plan. Wolf said the White House didn’t have good data on which of the 226 worked and which didn’t. So why take the risk of cutting a good one? 'I would rather err on the side of not doing something that puts us behind' other countries, Wolf said. Other legislators worried about institutions back home — museums, schools, hospitals — which got grants from this maze of overlapping programs. If it got simpler, they might get nothing. So the House said no. The Senate did too. The idea fizzled." [Washington Post]

Is this why I hate Republicans?  It's not the only reason, of course.  But, yes. Partly because if there is any evidence, it's that the whole "STEM crisis" is actually a hoax anyway.  Republicans just want to make sure they don't give money to POOR people.  Giving away money to rich people and corporations is no problem at all.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

You Retard

This story is so fantastic, it's fantastic.  Here it is:

EDMONTON – A family has made its peace with Coca-Cola after discovering what appeared to be an offensive message printed on a bottle cap. 

Doug Loates had complained to the company after his daughter and her husband in Edmonton found the words “You Retard” under the cap of a bottle of Vitaminwater. Loates was initially unhappy with the company’s first attempt at an apology but says the second attempt from David Thomson, a vice-president with Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, was more personal and he accepts it. 

The company has cancelled the promotion that paired randomly generated English and French words on the lids of bottled water. Loates found the message on the cap particularly offensive because he has a daughter who is developmentally delayed. 

A company spokesperson has explained that the problem was the word lists for each language were approved separately and that in French, “retard” simply means late.

You may recall that folks in Duke's Lit Department accepted entire papers generated using this technique.  Then, much too "en retard," they realized their mistake.

Nod and much love to most observant MK.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My life, and welcome to it

Here is a conversation, virtually verbatim, that I have at least once a week.

Usually, I "cheated" on her.  Now, I wouldn't mind if *I* dreamed about cheating on her.  She might plausibly blame me for that. But it's HER dream.  I get the blame, and none of the fun.  It's not right.

Why are Texas college professors so damn happy this year?

This is amazing. I recently saw 2 different rankings from surveys about best colleges / universities to work for.

 One was in the Chronicle, and it had 11 Texas schools,  including 3 of the top 4!*

The other was in Forbes, and of 25 schools, 6 were from Texas including 2 OF THE TOP 3!

The first list had Abilene Christian, Angelo State and Baylor at the top, the second had Texas Tech and Texas.

Did the State of Texas give out huge across the board raises this year? Is Texas just a happy happy state? Have higher ed employees in Texas fallen victim to the Stockholm Syndrome?

OU made the Forbes list at number 16.

I have to say of all the universities I've worked at or visited, the best was CALTECH (which is number 18 in the Forbes survey), and OU is tied for second with CIDE in Mexico City.

The CALTECH experience was awesome. They paid me more than I asked for. They leased a car for me (I made the payments, but they handled all the details). They would give you money to go to a conference IN ADVANCE (I mean meal money and such). I was only a visitor but got to pick my classes and teaching times. They were tremendously generous with entertaining speakers and picking up the tab for large parties to go to dinner. There were seminars all the time, interesting people visiting, or in residence, always someone around to argue / discuss ideas with. I got a ton of work done, learned a lot, and just generally had an amazing year.

Robin and I also had a fun and productive time during our year visiting at Duke (thanks again, super-Mungo!) But CALTECH was Shangri-la.

What was your favorite workplace and why? And please also share any thoughts about what could be in the water in Texas!

*thanks to loyal KPC reader Gerardo for pointing out that the first list is alphabetical!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Honey do's and Honey don'ts

I was not aware of how much political clout US beekeepers possessed.

Here's a fascinating story about "food fraud", aka tariff evasion, in the honey market.

Here are some of the impressive bits:

After U.S. beekeepers accused Chinese companies of selling their honey at artificially low prices, the government imposed import duties in 2001 that as much as tripled the price of Chinese honey. Since then, little enters from China legally.

and this:

The raid on the ALW office on North Wabash Avenue occurred seven months later, after U.S. honey producers had warned Commerce and Homeland Security that companies might be smuggling in cheap Chinese honey. Low prices made them suspicious.

People its a very sweet deal indeed when you can get the government to create a monopoly for you and also get it to go after any "cheaters" with "armed federal agents, all wearing bulletproof vests."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I got your warrior princess right here, bud

In a simply stunning display of cluelessness, avarice, and ugly american-ness, Mindy Budgor is cashing in on the hospitality of the Masai people.

One of the commenters at the link above provides some spot on perspective to Mindy's self-absorbed story:

"This is a very wonderful article. As an African man who became a full professor in an American university in just two weeks, I appreciate Mindy's struggle. I was visiting the University of ** when I asked a young man named Josh how many African professors there were. Josh, who was a prince in his own suburb in New Jersey, exclaimed: "None, of course. It would be too hard for you Africans." We must change this, I insisted, and asked what I had to do to become a full professor. "You must shotgun a sixpack and toke on a bong," he said. "But you can't do that. You are too weak and will be wasted in no time." I told my parents I was being sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education to become a professor, then I went to Josh's dorm room, where I spotted a six-pack. I immediately shotgunned every beer. "Give me a bong now, " I said, amazed at my own audacity. He did so, shocked by my perseverance. I managed to hold in my coughs, although my lungs were bursting. Later I took part in the Saturday night ritual where I danced the "Full Professor Dance." This is why I sympathize with Mindy and applaud her remarkable book. I look forward to spearing lions with her on the Serengeti soon."

Now, it does usually take more than 7 years to "dance the full professor dance", but it doesn't involve adult circumcision or lion spearing.

At least not in my case.  Mungo??

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Not as many happy returns.  For REI, that is.

2.  Poverty porn.  It's an industry, and a lot of rich people are getting richer from it.

3.  Imagine there's no logic.  I wonder if you can.  ACA wipes out wide variety of private insurance plans.  That would be okay, if we were going to single-payer.  But we are not.

4.  Okay, so maybe drones really ARE worthwhile, after all.  Drone buzzes the Queen Bee, in Germany.  Apparently it was a "Pirate Party" stunt, protesting drone observation of citizens.  Me gusta.

5.  Interesting piece by Brendan Nyhan on scandals, scandal coverage, and the effects on voters.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wiping Out Chavismo?

There are so many things to like about this story.

We think sometimes about the face of socialism, but it turns out the problem is cleaning the other end.  How can you have a toilet paper shortage?  And, if you DO have a toilet paper shortage, how can you believe that nationalization of the toilet paper factory is going to make things BETTER?  Excerpt:

The Venezuelan government has taken over a toilet paper factory to avoid any scarcity of the product. 

The National Guard has taken control of the plant, and officers will monitor production and distribution. Earlier this year officials ordered millions of toilet rolls to be imported to counter a chronic shortage. 

Last week President Nicolas Maduro created a special committee to tackle the problem, which the government blames on unscrupulous traders. The government ordered the temporary occupation of the Manpa plant in the northern state of Aragua, state-run Radio AVN reported. In a tweet on Thursday, Venezuela's Vice President, Jorge Arreaza, said authorities would "not permit hoarding of essential commodities, or any faults in the production and distribution process." 

Nod to Tommy the Tenured Brit

More on the story, sent by Anonyman...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Buy a house, get a parking space!

I hear Mariachi static on my radio
And the tubes they glow in the dark
And I'm there with her in Ensenada
And I'm here in Echo Park 

Parking spaces!
Off the stree-eet!
I think I'm gonna see it...
'Cause I'm all strung out from searching
For a place to park this Prius.

Or something like that.

Nod to NC Mistress, and apologies to the legendary WZ

Fade into New?

Wow. Mazzy Star is coming back with a new album!


You can stream it here. Judging from the first song, it's pretty good.

I've been a big David Roback fan since Rain Parade, Opal, & the early Mazzy Star recordings.

They are even touring.

Apropos of very little, check out this amazing J. Macsis cover of the Mazzy Star classic, Fade Into You:

ACA: A Jobs Bill for Wealthy Democrats

So, this should surprise exactly no one. The point of ACA was never to take care of sick people, or poor people.  It was to line the pockets of rich campaign contributors to the Democrat Party.  And it's working out very well, for them.

The amazing thing is that our President seems genuinely to be confused between insurance, and health care.  I found this remarkable.  Is he proposing a new program, actual provision of health care?  Surely he recognizes that ACA is an insurance program, right?  As more and more units drop out of the system, health care is going to be sharply rationed.  Maybe that's a good thing.  But you can't possibly believe that ACA is going to increase health CARE options.  It will provide a way to pay for now sharply rationed* health care after all the private options disappear.  Will that be good for poor people? 

Why would it be? As usual, Frederic Bastiat had the model we need to understand what is going on.  From Angry Alex:

"When under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices. Now, is it the most unfortunate who gains from this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating." (Source)

*Yes, health care is rationed now, and has to be.  But now it is rationed by price.  Soon it will be rationed by queueing.  If that were intentional, and had been explained, okay.  It isn't, and it wasn't.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talk Like A Pirate Day!

In honor (if that's the right word) of "National Talk Like a Pirate Day,"  this sing-along.  Four minutes of your life you will never get back.  The Clintons said that the impeachment was "a vast right wing conspiracy."  This is just...well...

Avast!  Just make sure you don't say, "Aye!  Avast!" 

And a video...

Blame the LMM, she sent it to me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tale of the (non)Taper

The FOMC announced that QE will continue for the time being. No cutting back on the monthly asset purchases.

Check out these graphs:

Stock prices and bond prices both went vertical with the announcement.

I wish the next Fed chair a hearty "good luck" with their exit from QE and clean up the Fed's balance sheet policy. They are going to need it.

In case you ever wondered why Mungo is in Political Science and Angus in Economics....

Here is the explanation in one convenient chart (clic the pic for an even more enlightening image):

That's right folks, Mungo was just TOO HOT for economics (and conversely, I not hot enough for political science).

At least I'm hotter than a math professor!

Hat tips to cblatts and jwolfers.

In the near future, this is going to come up...

We laugh at some of the things that "doctors" did in the 19th century.

I bet that 100 years from now, this will be one of the things they laugh at US about.


Researchers found pairs of human twins in which one was obese and the other lean. They transferred gut bacteria from these twins into mice and watched what happened. The mice with bacteria from fat twins grew fat; those that got bacteria from lean twins stayed lean. 

The study, published online Thursday by the journal Science, is “pretty striking,” said Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, an obesity researcher and the dean of the Harvard Medical School, who was not involved with the study. “It’s a very powerful set of experiments.”

Michael Fischbach of the University of California, San Francisco, who also was not involved with the study, called it “the clearest evidence to date that gut bacteria can help cause obesity.”

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hey Mungo: Here's another reason to hate solar!

Firefighters complain that solar panels on the roof make it more dangerous for them to do their jobs:

Interestingly, the article does not give a single example of a firefighter being injured from a solar panel.

This Dog Must Know Skippy

Nod to the LMM

Discussion of Kant Leads to Gunfire

This is the way that philosophy disputes are actually ALWAYS resolved:  justice lies in the interests of the stronger handgun.  Thrasymachus said that, I think, or something close to it.

In Russia, gunfire breaks out over debate about Kant.

Best line:  "It was not clear which of Kant’s ideas may have triggered the violence." 

At a guess, let's go with thesis four of "Idea for a Universal History..."  Don't you agree?  Here it is:

The means employed by Nature to bring about the development of all the capacities of men is their antagonism in society, so far as this is, in the end, the cause of a lawful order among men. 

By “antagonism” I mean the unsocial sociability of men, i.e., their propensity to enter into society, bound together with a mutual opposition which constantly threatens to break up the society. Man has an inclination to associate with others, because in society he feels himself to be more than man, i.e., as more than the developed form of his natural capacities. But he also has a strong propensity to isolate himself from others, because he finds in himself at the same time the unsocial characteristic of wishing to have everything go according to his own wish. Thus he expects opposition on all sides because, in knowing himself, he knows that he, on his own part, is inclined to oppose others. This opposition it is which awakens all his powers, brings him to conquer his inclination to laziness and, propelled by vainglory, lust for power, and avarice, to achieve a rank among his fellows whom he cannot tolerate but from whom he cannot withdraw. Thus are taken the first true steps from barbarism to culture, which consists in the social worth of man; thence gradually develop all talents, and taste is refined; through continued enlightenment the beginnings are laid for a way of thought which can in time convert the coarse, natural disposition for moral discrimination into definite practical principles, and thereby change a society of men driven together by their natural feelings into a moral whole. Without those in themselves unamiable characteristics of unsociability from whence opposition springs-characteristics each man must find in his own selfish pretensions-all talents would remain hidden, unborn in an Arcadian shepherd’s life, with all its concord, contentment, and mutual affection. Men, good-natured as the sheep they herd, would hardly reach a higher worth than their beasts; they would not fill the empty place in creation by achieving their end, which is rational nature. Thanks be to Nature, then, for the incompatibility, for heartless competitive vanity, for the insatiable desire to possess and to rule! Without them, all the excellent natural capacities of humanity would forever sleep, undeveloped. Man wishes concord; but Nature knows better what is good for the race; she wills discord. He wishes to live comfortably and pleasantly; Nature wills that he should be plunged from sloth and passive contentment into labor and trouble, in order that he may find means of extricating himself from them. The natural urges to this, the sources of unsociableness and mutual opposition from which so many evils arise, drive men to new exertions of their forces and thus to the manifold development of their capacities. They thereby perhaps show the ordering of a wise Creator and not the hand of an evil spirit, who bungled in his great work or spoiled it out of envy. 

Just reading that, you want to go shoot somebody.....

UPDATE:  Turns out it was "The Critique of Pure Reason."  That was my second guess.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Mr. Big feels all empty inside.  He gets some advice.

2.  Just put a monkey in charge, as long as the monkey is trained.  The Atlantic.

3.  This is fascinating.  What is it with UNC Profs and a near total incapacity for self-awareness?  Prof. Frampton thought he was a hottie, and this lady thinks....I'm not sure what she thinks.  But she clearly thinks she should be allowed to drive drunk.  I'm sympathetic to the legal challenge, I suppose.  Still, it takes some huevos to defend oneself in that way.

4.  Pravda article on Putin and Obama.  Hilarious, and accurate, sometimes.   Hilarious when it's inaccurate, and sad when it's accurate.

5.   A well-regulated militia.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Sport, or Bunching Mungo's Boxers

Fun article on how rooftop solar panels are the new granite countertops.

Look. Insulation is fundamental. It's still a LOT cheaper than solar. Three inches of insulation underneath the slab is a very cost-effective way to save on energy bills (if you live in a place with cold winters). Having an airtight building envelope is also an extremely cost effective way to save on energy.

But as the article points out, a 3KW rooftop system is less than $15K installed, and the article forgot to mention you get a 30% Federal Tax Credit as well.

So roll the cost into your mortgage, get the tax credit up front, and enjoy much lower utility bills.

You are "cash flow positive month one".

Mrs. Angus and I are doing exactly this in Santa Fe. Because our house will super-insulated, air-tight, and fairly small, we are only doing a 2KW system (we will have a separate thermal solar hot water system as well). We get a 10% state tax credit to go with the 30% Federal. We will be getting like $7 / square foot of tradeable state tax credits from the Build Green New Mexico program. We also dispense with the nastiest part of residential solar, the batteries and storage, by having our system be grid-tied. That is, we sell our power to the utility company, and they sell power back to us at a lower rate.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Genuinely Strange Stealth Chipotle "Ad" for Scarecrow App

Kasparov on Syria & Putin

People, I love Twitter. Feast your eyes:


You no doubt know of the famous "dancing horses," the Lipizzaners.

Well, every morning, the amazing Skippy Squirrelbane does a dance, too.  He stands straight up, and moves his front paws up and down, and then jumps straight up, all the time staying on his hind legs.  (This is his, "OMG!  Dog food, again!  YAY!" dance).


(Tanzi is not impressed, though she does say "jalo!" to Paco and Plutie.)

Mar-Cats in everything...

Only a matter of time:  Econ LOL Cats.

From @cconko , via LeBron.

This one is a beauty: 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Seriously? We Have Been Doing This?

I'm astonished the government has been operating this clandestine program.

No, not NSA spying.  That is not surprising. 

I mean the subsidies from NASA to billionaire owners of corporate jets.  You didn't know?  See what I mean?

The lagniappe?  After sucking down all that heavily discounted jet fuel, now Google is encrypting, so the NSA can't spy on them any more!  It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I'll take "Things that are not compliments" for $800 Alex....

From a Non-Putin Portion of the NYT:

 Jill Demling, entertainment editor of Vogue,...has pronounced Mr. Westbrook the “Kate Moss of the N.B.A.” 

Um..... Because he's promiscuous?

Or because he has an eating disorder?

Perhaps a coke habit?

 Jeez Jill, don't throw my boy under the bus like that!

Or did Kate Moss wear lensless glasses, make commercials with JVG, and not pass to KD enough?

Hat tip to LeBron.

Unhedged economists are vulnerable economists

People the econ job market is pretty good. So it seems surprising that the University of Florida is defunding, and thus effectively killing, their PhD program in Econ as reported here.

But, it is perhaps not so mysterious when you consider the unhedged financial position of that department. As the article points out, it generates a lot of credit hours and tuition money from its classes, but most of those hours come in the Arts and Sciences College. Meanwhile, the Econ department is in the business school.

So its revenues accrue to one accounting unit while its costs are borne by another. No wonder the department has shrunk from 38 to 11 and there are plans to shrink it further still to 6!**

This is a classic case of unhedged risk, the academic equivalent of a firm who earns its revenues in Pesos but pays its costs in Dollars.

Note that the department was offered the option of moving to Arts & Sciences, "where, deans say, the Ph.D. program might have survived. The faculty voted not to move because, they say, the liberal-arts college has its own financial problems, and they were concerned about salaries, research budgets, and teaching loads."

My department at OU was in the B-school back in the day and faced a similar situation. They decided to move (or got kicked out, depending on who is telling the story) to A&S and our program lives to this day!

**Mrs. Angus says that if she was one of the 11, she'd be very careful about accepting a drink or any food from the B-school dean!

Hat tips to PrisonRodeo and RKG

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

There is no great stagnation: speed eating edition

Bakers bake bread, scientists write crap

Phone call for Dr. de Marchi:  correlations exist, and can be used to publish "science."

Dr. Allison said that the true relationship between eating breakfast and body weight, if there is one, was still an open question. But observational studies that tout an association between the two are churned out “just about every week,” despite doing nothing to actually test or prove the claim.

“At some point, this becomes absurd,” he said. “We’re doing studies that have little or no value. We’re wasting time, intellect and resources, and we’re convincing people of things without actually generating evidence.”

As for why the subject has created something of an echo chamber of observational research, Dr. Allison said that unlike randomized controlled trials, which are expensive and difficult to carry out, sifting through large sets of observational data to find tantalizing associations is fairly low cost and easy to do. “Just like bakers bake bread, scientists write papers,” he said, “and we get rewarded for writing and publishing papers.” 

Nod to Anonyman

Monday, September 09, 2013

Entropy is Everywhere

"O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand."

"Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders than the arguments of its opposers."

William Penn circa 1700

"They are cheap. They don't want to pay taxes because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could," 

 "I'm a college professor. If I find out you're a closet racist, I'm coming after you. OK. This country still is full of closet racists."  

"I absolutely don't mean to offend you.  Even if you are a Republican, I don't mean to offend you in this class." 

William Penn circa 2013

Monday's Child

1.  The state "markets," but private firms "advertise."  The difference?  Advertising is bad, and needs to be regulated, or outlawed.  The state just provides information.  Really.  That's what they say.

2.  In the German election:  Fiat money!

3.  Rush has a new children's book.  And it's #1....before it is released.

4.  The President made a mistake when he said "red line."  Perhaps "we" (whatever that means) should have protested then.  But it would take 75k troops to achieve the objective of securing the chemical weapons in Syria.  If we aren't going to do that (and I hope we are not), what exactly are we doing?

5.  I'm not sure this is true, by any means.  But if it's  "NSA works with tech companies to insert intentional security weaknesses into software."  Phone call for Tom Schaller:  You must be very proud of your President, bud.

All Hail Serena

Congrats on her 17th major championship. Only 1 away from Chrissy and Martina! After she served for the match twice in the second set and was broken each time, I thought she was doomed, but she crushed the Shrieker in the third set.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Mungowitz in Australia

So, I had a little trouble with the law in Oz, and got arrested.  It was all a misunderstanding.  But they had some trouble getting me in the car...

All right, so, no, that wasn't me.  But I could imagine doing that. Thanks to TG for sending that.

If Grandma had wheels we could end this recession!

People, I just can't take it anymore. I can't stick my fingers in my ears and cover my eyes and avoid dealing with the "lack of government jobs is holding back the recovery" BS any longer. The one that pushed me over the edge was from the usually excellent Neil Irwin at Wonkblog (hat tip to Mark Thoma):

 One of the reasons for quiet optimism about the economy over the last few months has been the possibility that state and local governments have finished their long retrenchment and that government hiring might soon contribute to job creation. 

 Never mind. 

 From July 2008 to January 2013, the sector shed more than 737,000 jobs. Had the jobs merely been maintained, the unemployment rate would be as much has half a percentage point lower. Indeed, the state and local pullback is one significant reason that this recovery has been weaker than those in the past.

 Gentle readers, I humbly submit to you the case that in all likelihood, it's the weak recovery that has caused the state and local pullback, not the other way around!

We have had a much worse recession than previous ones, along with a crash of housing prices. State and local governments are fully funded by tax revenues, and at the local level, property tax revenues are a big factor.

So it's entirely likely that the size and nature of this "great recession" has caused state and local government employment to be very weak compared to previous recoveries.

Irwin (and countless others) are making the same mistake as taking Rogoff-Reinhart's numbers and claiming high debt slows growth, when there is a clear case for the opposite view, that slow growth creates high debt.

Exercises like, "if this sector had done this, then the economy would have done that" are just meaningless. They are the equivalent of "if grandma had wheels she'd be a bicycle", but with fancy charts.

Causality is not inherently ideological, though appeals to causal problems often seem to be.

Friday, September 06, 2013

And you want to be my latex salesman.....?????

Angus and Thomas More

Angus makes a fair point.  If the President is going to pledge war, perhaps we should have protested then. 

Well, I made a mistake then, because I thought the international community would respond.   And that was the "we" in question.  So, I'm protesting now, because the "we" can't be the U.S., acting alone.  And the reason is law.  From my good friend Chris Nelson, at Arizona, the suggestion that we check out "A Man for All Seasons," and the rule of law.

Just so you have the program, and know the players:  Assad is the devil here.  And Obama is considering cutting down the law to get at him... So, for Hutter, the scene from "A Man for All Seasons."

Thursday, September 05, 2013

It's An EconTalk Extravaganza!

The Butler symposium, "Capitalism and the Good Society," is up at EconTalk.  Epstein, Munger, Sidelsky circus, with Russ Roberts as ringmaster.

It's really LOOONG, of course, but the individual parts are interesting, and different.  And the HD version of it is really quite beautiful filmed, as you would expect from genius-boy John Papola doing the production.

In which I tell:
1.  The Pig story
2.  The Shopping Cart story
3.  The Unicorn story
4.  The Bleeding story

So, story time!  (And ya gotta love Skidelsky's sox...)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

the EYM brings it!

Great piece by the EYM describing the recent NYU "secret" concert.

I would LOVE to take the drugs that inspired someone to book How to Dress Well and Danny Brown on the same bill.

Was also happy to read that Speedy Ortiz is still alive and working.

between assad and a hard place

I am really confused, so I thought I'd try to work things out in this post and get some help from our always astute commenters.

Months ago BHO said chemical weapons were a red line and warned Assad not to use them.

Recently, according to BHO, Assad did just that.

Now, virtually everyone I know is going nuts, vociferously objecting to a strike against Assad.

I don't get it. To me, if you are against US military retaliation for the use of chemical weapons, the time to go nuts was months ago when BHO said what he said.

Given that he said it, with no take back, what the hell else is he supposed to do but strike Assad?

Now sure, he's making a complete bollox of it, and it is likely to be militarily weak and ineffective, but really, he has no choice but to do it. What's he supposed to do, say, "LOL, I was just kidding. Gas away, my friend."

So I don't understand why people waited until now to go nuts.

Maybe they think BHO is pulling a Bush-Cheney and fibbing about the use of chemical weapons?

God help me, but I think that's unlikely. BHO clearly doesn't really want to do this, so I think the evidence is likely pretty strong (NB: Jeff Sachs disagrees).

Maybe people think that BHO and by extension US foreign policy already has zero credibility, so it doesn't matter if BHO walks this back?

Certainly many people I know are 140 character mocking the argument that US credibility is at stake. But BHO has also told the ayatollah that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. If he doesn't follow through with respect to Assad, it certainly won't help his efforts to keep the ayatollah out of Club Nuke, will it? And that's a club we don't want the ayatollah in, do we?

So while I would not have ever gone about it the way BHO has, I do think that chemical weapons use deserves a strong sanction (not necessarily military though), and given where BHO has put us (see post title), I think he has no choice but to strike Assad.

BHO should have had a response prepared for this eventuality before he ever talked about the red line.  He was reckless and arrogant to think his words would not be tested. But it is what it is and we are where we are......

What's your solution? Tell me in the comments.

Roubini, Roubini, Who's Got the Hot Tub?

Wow.  I'm not so sure that Nouriel has this right, about "brains."  It may just be "money."  Still, an insight into life in NY, for the crust of the upper crust.

Story,.. of Dr. Doom's Giant....Hot Tub

Thanks to Anonyman, who basically lives the same way.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Monday, September 02, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Lumpy Brits taking off their knickers and supporting (or protesting, it's hard to tell) tigers in the zoo.

2.  As the EYM notes, a strong title here.  And then some strong claims.  If nonsense can be strong.

3.  This is tough.  You have to feel bad for the kid.  Yet, as the DA notes, "I would have shot him."

4.  The top ten "best cities" in the world to live in.  Before you look, think of your own favorite five cities.  I predict little overlap.  For me, there was one:  Vienna.

5.  This talks about this.  Russ and I thought that was interesting enough that we did this.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Pick your poison

From the inimitable Zach Weiner:

"Microeconomics successfully describes situations that never occur. Macroeconomics unsuccessfully describes situations that occur constantly."

Or as I like to tell my students, Micro has right answers to the wrong questions, while Macro has wrong answers to the right questions.

To me, this makes Macro the obvious choice of best field. But maybe that's wrong?

Broken Window

On Monday I taught this in my "Econ for Non-Majors" class (syllabus here, if you are interested...)

And used this very fine video, from the Dub-MOE.

A student noticed this, as he was walking out.  It was parked just outside the classroom.  Click for an even more deadweight loss image...

Apparently Krugman and his boys are trying to go around creating prosperity again....  After all, he proposed this.