Monday, June 30, 2014

The Nanny Who Wouldn't Leave

Monday's Child

1.  Here we thought that trees and fungi were socialist.  Unless you are an actual biologist.  In which case you know there is no socialism in nature.

2.  Tracy Lawson (spouse of Bob, who married WAY better than Tracy did...) has a book coming out August 6.  Check it out!

3.  Running barefoot....good?

4.  I had meant to post this link to the post my friend Tony de Jasay had written in May, about the Pope.  So, belatedly, here it is!

5.  I am a little tired of having people tell me that, since someone somewhere receives money from the Koch Foundation, my views can be dismissed.  So you might try this:  When someone says they oppose fracking, you can just dismiss them as a front for Russian imperialism.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Three for all

An interrupted threesome last night led to bruises and broken bones for the participants and a national security risk for the New York Port Authority when the boat the orgy participants were fornicating on crashed into runway 22 of Laguardia Airport.
This story starts out as any other tale of sex gone very, very wrong. Two men meet a woman in a bar. All three are attracted to each other. The three decide to have sex. On a boat. While cruising on the water. Sounds romantic, what could possibly go wrong?
I liked the "hand-held rockets" bit.  There were two guys there; hand-held rockets are probably the reason they were so distracted. 

The Illusion of Privacy...

The illusion of privacy, online.

The link.

Can anyone ever really leave the internet? And if you had the choice, is that something that you'd want to do? After all, abandoning the connected world might help you reclaim some privacy, but even if you smashed your PC, burned your tablet and tossed your smartphone, you might still not be able to escape constant surveillance. In our three-part series How To Disappear, we're going to look at why you'd think about going offline, what you can do to tidy up your digital footprint and what happens to those who have made the leap into the darkness. 

More as the links become available...

Nod to Angry Alex.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Yogurt Tax

The District of Columbia is considering a "yoga tax," which is strange enough.

But Marion Barry is protesting the "yogurt tax," because yogurt is healthy and it's a breakfast food.  He does admit that it's a problem that 10 year old girls have "fully developed breasts," though, from the hormones in....wait, I'm lost.  I don't understand what fully developed breasts have to do with the burpee fence.

Monday's Child

1.  A classic selection problem.  Published in JAMA.  Amazing how little medical people know about basic statistics.  Does porn shrink your brain?

2.  So now there is a "prediction" of the weather, minute-by-minute.  That's what people actually WANT, of course.  When will it rain, exactly what minute?  Of course, the prediction are completely inaccurate, but the people get what the people think the people want.  This may explain our politics, also.

3.  The way we have students apply for financial aid appears to have the effect of "weeding out" those who actually need it.  This should one.  After all, as Bastiat said: "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."    The amazing thing to me is that Cass Sunstein acts like this is amazing. "We" don't actually want to help poor people, at least if by "we" you mean the craven state.  "We" want to help "us."  So, almost all financial aid goes to (relatively) rich people.

4.  That's....guilty, guilty, GUILTY!

5.  Pig...the dog.  Sweet, yet disturbing.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Left Gets A Pass....Again

So we hear a lot about the "anti-science" views of the conservative Right.  The folks who deny evolution to the point of claiming that Neanderthals and dinosaurs roamed the same earth, at the same time.

Fair enough.  That's pretty bad.

But why don't we hear about the anti-science views of the Left?  I don't mean just the market-deniers who believe in magic and think that a benevolent Lord called "DeState" will take care of them, either.

What about the Truthers?

The GMO-nuts?

The vaccine-deniers?

On the last of these, there is quite a funny video.  Dr. House (of Cards):

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Paying For College?

To paraphrase the dad of one of the YYM's classmates, Jessica.

"It's a debt trap, it's a suicide rap, we've got to stay debt-free until tomorrow, 'cause baby we're too young to borrow!"

A solution?

A statement of the problem.  I'm not sure that "college is expensive, so I was forced to film porn" is a tight argument, but the article is quite persuasive.

On the other hand, as Peter Lange has pointed out, tuition does not really cover all the "costs," either.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Full Contact Skydiving

It doesn't look that fun to me.  I wouldn't enjoy either the skydiving or the MMA parts.  Combining them would not be an improvement.  (Nod to Radley Balko, @radleybalko )


Tommy the Tenured Brit sent in this sign (click for a larger image):


1.  Would this be Allen Iversen's favorite golf course, or Michael Jackson's?  Or both?

2.  Why no apostrophe for possesive?  Is "childrens" just the plural of "children" in England?  I think "churrins" would be the correct form of that.

3.  The dog poop sign:  clearly an afterthought.  Perhaps they should allow practise after all.  And maybe learn how to spell "practice."  Allen Iversen could help with that.

Surfing Alone? The Internet and Social Capital: Evidence from an Unforeseeable Technological Mistake 

Stefan Bauernschuster, Oliver Falck & Ludger Woessmann Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: Does the Internet undermine social capital, such as real-world inter-personal relations and civic engagement? Merging unique telecommunication data with geo-coded German individual-level data, we investigate how broadband Internet affects social capital. A first identification strategy uses first-differencing to account for unobserved time-invariant individual heterogeneity. A second identification strategy exploits a quasi-experiment in East Germany created by a mistaken technology choice of the state-owned telecommunication provider in the 1990s that hindered broadband Internet roll-out for many households. We find no evidence of negative effects of the Internet on several aspects of social capital. In fact, the effect on a composite social capital index is significantly positive.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Detroit snapshots.

2.  VA doesn't allow "boyz in the hood."

3.  The fabulous Ms. C is a "private citizen" now.  Right.

4.  Black gold.  Texas UT.  A funding gusher.

5.  Maybe we are just going about this all wrong.  Maybe we should declare a "War on Education," and the result will be lots MORE education.  It has certainly worked that way for the "War on Poverty."


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy at Wrightsville Beach

Our annual two weeks at Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington, NC, are pretty much our favorite time of the year.

A local ad.  Hokey, as one might expect.  But it makes us happy.

Remy on VA: Perhaps the best Remy yet...

This is pretty savage.  Not unfair, but savage.  (I like the "one way" that we can be made to care about a soldier:  desert your unit under fire...)

There is an actual problem with government provided health care.  It doesn't really work, anywhere.  England and Canada have systems that allow "important" people to jump the endless queues.  And the U.S. just lets people die as a means of making the queue shorter.

My own view is that single-payer INSURANCE, or government FINANCING combined with private provision, may be the best we can hope for.  So, people who are using the VA crisis to indict tax-funded insurance are mistaken.  But the VA crisis is a perfectly legitimate indictment of those who want an English-style system.  It sucks.

UPDATE:  Some useful background:  VA system is NOT a test of ACA.  But if we aren't careful, we could move toward VA-type system.  Republicans need to make some actual proposals, instead of just being hopeless hypocrites.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

On the Musical Stylings of Steve Horwitz

Okay, so I recognize that I am Prof. Horwitz's "Newman."  As in the Seinfeld character.  The way that Jerry said "Newman," Horwitz says "Munger."

Partly because I have long mocked his love of Rush.  Of course, I am hardly alone in this.  Consider this "review" from a "Most Over-rated" list:

These Canadian Prog-Rock mouthbreathers have earned a place in the history books for humble conceptual retardation and for having the most prolific legion of apocolyptically prententious fans under the sun. This band grew into maturity and developed a fan base after having produced a number of records. The inclination of their fanbase seems to to tally with the period within which they began producing some of the most disappointing concept albums of all time. And singing about dragons or whatever. This just goes to prove that pot wasn't as unpopular in the 70's as you were led to believe. This band also excercise the right to gargantuan respite periods, due to band break-ups and so forth; much to the chargrin of their fans. In my experience (as Anglo-Canadian Prog Metal Ambassador and Correspondant), Rush fans are the jacket-and-jeans wearing, male equivalent of bagladies that are willing to kill in the name of Lee, Lifeson and Peart. Genuinely, this band started life with a great of potential. They went from "Funny/Peculiar" to "OHMYFUCKINGGODTHESE-GUYSAREFUCKINGHILARIOUS!" within a few small steps. 

Still, it was sort of cute.  It's hard not to sing along with a Rush song in the car, if the radio is broken and you have no way of changing the channel to the "All Yani, All the Time!" station.  Now Prof. Horwitz has launched off into new territories of tastelessness.  He has expressed the view that (wow) Steely Dan is "da bomb."  The Prof. has been heard crunching old fish bones and chortling about his Dan concert tickets: "Mine, preeeeecious.  All miiiiiine, precious."  Problem?  Yes.  Even "The Daily Kos" is right about "The Dan."

Personally, I'd be hard pressed to think of another major act that even approaches the sheer awfullness of Steely Dan. 

Their music reminds me of cottage cheese, tasteless and lumpy. And I don't like tasteless lumps. They natter. They noodle. Their music goes on and on and on with no discernable point or plot. And their singing?? Ay! yi! yi! A bandsaw hitting a hard wood knot sounds better. 

Here's the thing:  that quote is from...2005.  That's a long time ago.  Steely Dan has NOT gotten better in the last ten years.  Basically they are a tribute band that plays songs that their now geriatric fans listened to while smoking their first doobie. It all seemed deep.  But:  It wasn't the music that was deep; it was the doobies.  I'd rather listen to Lt. Dan. Tapdancing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rocket Science?

Apparently, the following true statements are much less obvious than I would have thought.

1.  If you give something away for free, the people getting the free thing will like it.

2.  If you take money from other people to pay for the "free" thing, some of them will complain.

3.  The people who once depended on selling the (now free) thing will get hammered.

Is this rocket science?  Apparently so, at least in NY.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Political Memoir Simulator

So, you can get a title for your own political biography, with this simulator.

Mine was below:

This is surprisingly insightful, for a computer simulator of political biographies.  Many of the men who go to Washington would like to think their careers focused on legislation.  But for a lot of guys that "career" was mostly focused on his dictum.  With thanks to Dan "Sincere Audacity" Drezner.

Say Something, Obama

A little slow.  I'm not sure this works.

But, check it out.  What do YOU think?  Effective?  Wishful thinking?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  The moral code of dogs...

2.  The YYM just moved back home.  "Temporarily."  Graduated from Duke in May.  Will keep you apprised...Not an isolated incident.

3.  "The Psychology of Human Misjudgement," By Charlie Munger (unfortunately for me, no relation)

4.  If an "error" is bigger than the combined GDPs of several countries, is it really an error at all?  Or something a bit more...sinister.

5.  Elena Boschi's thong was photo-shopped.  Still, she has clearly made more effort than most male politicos to stay in shape.  No Chris Christie signing ceremony looks that good, even if we stick to the real version...
(moremoremore!  Just for @anthonybullard )

Sunday, June 08, 2014

My Prediction? PAIN!

A group of English PhD students investigate the problems of common pool resources.

What could possibly go wrong?

More details....

Like Magic Mike

Like Mike: Ability contagion through touched objects increases confidence and improves performance 

 Thomas Kramer & Lauren Block
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, July 2014, Pages 215–228

Abstract: Magical thinking refers to irrational peculiar beliefs, including those that conform to the laws of contagion. We propose that touching an object that was previously touched by a high performer increases confidence via magical thinking (ability contagion) and improves actual performance among individuals high in experiential processing. A series of studies provides support for this main proposition. Our results cast doubt on an alternative explanation based on priming, and are obtained controlling for participants’ level of rational processing, motivation, and affect.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Short on the Court

Napoleon Complex: Height Bias Among National Basketball Association Referees 

Paul Gift & Ryan Rodenberg
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: Given the vast number of observations in a transparent environment, the interaction between players and referees in the National Basketball Association (NBA) provides a real-world laboratory that allows for observation and testing of implicit height-based biases (the so-called “Napoleon Complex”). Controlling for a plethora of referee-specific characteristics and including 4,463 regular season games from 2008 to 2012, we find that (i) more personal fouls are called when a relatively shorter three-person officiating crew is working and (ii) no more or fewer fouls are called when games involve relatively taller players. Such biases are probably not large enough to impact game outcomes but could affect gambling markets. Our findings support the conclusion that relatively shorter NBA referees officiate basketball games differently than their taller peers. The analysis spotlights an oft-suggested but rarely studied bias in a workplace where employees are heavily scrutinized and monitored.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Net Futility...

So, the "net neutrality" thing.  John Oliver gives an overview and some background.

Some problems with Mr. Oliver's (predictably) mushy view.

1.  I can imgaine hearing some guy in 1915.  "Our road system is not broken, and the guys who want to put up traffic signals are trying to fix that!  (Laughter)  There is no reason to allow innovation, or new ideas!  Our horse and buggy system is working just fine!  And it's fair:  everyone can operate at the same horse and buggy speed!  Unless EVERYONE can afford automobiles, no one should be allowed to travel faster than a horse and buggy can travel.  Road neutrality! Let's keep the road-net safe for the Amish!"  (Applause from the idiots who applaud that sort of thing).

2.  In airplanes, we have first class.  Hotels have suites.  The world won't end if there are different levels of service.

3.  But wait:  competitors will be at a disadvantage!  Yes, that happens all the time.  The makers of buggies, and whips, and saddles, and so on, were all hammered by the advent of the car.  There is no good reason to care about PRODUCERS.  We should care about consumers.  People want different things. 

If we allow producers to compete along the "faster service" margin, competition will spur faster service and lower prices.  And everyone will be able to afford faster service.  Outlawing competition along that margin will trap all of us at horse-and-buggy speeds.  The analogy is the phone system, under Ma Bell:  It "worked," but it worked by preventing competition.  Once alternatives were legalized, the system changed in ways no one could have predicted.  Now, landlines are fast disappearing.

I admit this is complicated.  The problem is that, as always on the John Stewart show, silly and superficial ideology is substituted for actual analysis.  The FCC is trying hard to "protect" net neutrality, not to eliminate it.  And the FCC should be our primary concern.  That is the real threat to the internet, folks:  The FCC is using net neutrality to try to control things.  Far from a benefit, they are the bad guys. 

One more such victory and we are lost

Congratulations people, we are back to square one.

Yes, there are finally now as many people working today as there were before the great recession began.

It only took 6+ years, way longer than any previous post-war recession, but at least there's one less bad thing to say about the economy now.

Here's the visual from the immortal Bill McBride:

Guest Post: JS

From JS:

Henny Penny and the Highway Trust Fund
In classic public choice fashion transportation infrastructure providers are clamoring that the Highway Trust Fund is going bankrupt and the message is echoed by the administration telling of the dire consequences of such insolvency.  Such urgent cries seem self-serving and ignore the much more mundane analysis of what individuals of our nation need to effectively transport themselves and the goods of our economy.

First, the gas tax is not going to expire and the congress while busy creating a crisis for what appears to be rent seeking purposes will extend spending authorization at least at a level of where receipts will provide, a 20% or 30% scale back of federal dollars is the real result, and each state while taking some time could determine if those expenditures where needed and raise sufficient revenue to address the cut back.

Second, let us look at one example of spending:
On May 21, 2014, in the midst of the potential impending doom, the US DOT provided $2.1 billion to build a 3.9 mile subway line to reach the heart of Los Angeles Metro underserved transit dependent users in Beverly Hills.  In the FEIS document prepared by the LA MTA and approved by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) they concede the project is “Low” in cost effectiveness, but how low the cost effectiveness is should take ones breath away. 
In the first phase a total of $2.6 billion in construction costs will be expended and $51 million in annual operating cost will be needed.  If the complete Purple line is built $6.2 billion in construction cost would be expended and $180 million in annual operating costs.  These expenditures are met with approximately 12,000 new daily riders in Phase I and 27,000 new daily riders with the complete system.  At current $1.50 ticket price and assuming no transfers, senior or monthly pass discounts and a 7% interest rate one can arrive at the following annualized Revenues and Costs:

If new passengers were required to pay required to pay a non-subsidized fare and no new riders left the system it would require an $80 ticket.  While not standard in transit planning, I am proposing that assessing the amount users pay as an important measure of the value received.  In many cases there may be justification for some subsidies for externalities, but a -98% return on investment seems difficult to justify.

From an environmental standpoint, the emissions resulting from external efforts to provide the needed subsidy would be on the order of magnitude of 0.035 Tons of GHG emissions per new Purple Line passenger trip and likely generated 16 miles of driving per new Purple Line passenger trip.  So even if the new transit were to have zero pollution, the pollution effects of the efforts to generate the needed Purple Line subsidy will far exceed the pollution of the no build, Bus Rapid Transit or Single Occupant Vehicles alternatives.

May be the more telling values are the professional services fees for the complete project of $815,000,000, when annualized is $57,000,000, versus the annual $10,700,000 in ticket revenue.  When your consultants are getting paid approximately five times more than the value the users are willing to pay, the incentives to get the value proposition correct don’t seem aligned.
My own assessment is that nationwide funding close to current levels using market mechanisms does not seem wholly unreasonable, but based on the example above we need to reduce the federal funding portion and allow the state and local governments make the tough tradeoffs so they feel both the benefit of the facilities and pain of the purse.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Santa Fe Update

1.  Weld the tail on the donkey.  This would be very exciting, blindfolded.

2.  What if they had an election, and (almost) nobody came?  Fortunately, Angus is on his way, to shore up that voting / participation number. 

3.  How strange.  Why should you be able to vote in a primary, if you are not willing to say that that is your party?  Parties are private organizations, folks.  If they say register, you have to register.  Or else not vote in the primary.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Matthew Effect

I didn't know that the "Matthew Effect" was a thing.  In particular, I didn't recognize the Bible reference.  But then I'm not a Biblical scholar like Angus is.

Anyway, it's absolutely a thing:

Seeing Stars: Matthew Effects and Status Bias in Major League Baseball Umpiring 

Jerry Kim & Brayden King
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract: This paper tests the assumption that evaluators are biased to positively evaluate high-status individuals, irrespective of quality. Using unique data from Major League Baseball umpires' evaluation of pitch quality, which allow us to observe the difference in a pitch's objective quality and in its perceived quality as judged by the umpire, we show that umpires are more likely to overrecognize quality by expanding the strike zone, and less likely to underrecognize quality by missing pitches in the strike zone for high-status pitchers. Ambiguity and the pitcher's reputation as a “control pitcher” moderate the effect of status on umpire judgment. Furthermore, we show that umpire errors resulting from status bias lead to actual performance differences for the pitcher and team.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Budget problems?  Well, "doo" something about it!

2. Nebraska woman in Texas?  Could it have been Sarah M?  Spouse of Chateau?  I expect not.  An impressive performance, nonetheless.

3.  My way, or no way.

4.  Some reporters torture a poor press staff person for the Prez.  I can't tell if she is serious, or desperately trying not to laugh herself.  Her thesis:  "The President does not give himself enough credit."  If there is ANYTHING the President does, it is "give himself enough credit"!

5.  Amar Bhide on wealth and income.

6.  Don Boudreaux on wealth and income.

7.  Skin in the game.  Ick.

8.  Cute.  I like that his only choices were "the good devil/bad devil thing."  Shouldn't there be a choice that doesn't actually involve the devil?  Still, good for him.

9.  This is why Mr. Overwater invented the internet.  Very cute.

10.   You can play with the baby.  Or you can play the baby, like a guitar.

11.  Fairtrade, yet again, shown to be simply a feel-good sham.  Or, worse.

12.  I can't believe people actually watch stuff like this.  It's just an exploding dorm, dropped straight down onto its foundation perfectly.  I can't believe I watched it three times.

13.  A whole new way to be a dumb criminal.  This is really, really dumb.

14.  Poor pup.  Though, poor passengers.

15.  Typical academic conversation on Skype:

A. "I still can't see you."
B. "Let me just try something."
A. "I'll just call you."
B. "Can you see me now."
(And other things "Academics Say")

17.  The Most Awkward Hug in White House History 

18.  Corrections officers in NM try to hold their licker.

19.  Have half of the unemployed given up?

20.  "Moneyballing" Obama's foreign policy.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The college degree premium and the Lucas critique

Bob Lucas showed us that relying on reduced form historical correlations to predict the effects of a new policy regime is likely to end in tears.

Yet this seems like exactly where we are going with government policy toward higher ed.

Historically, college degree holders earn more money and have lower unemployment rates than to non-degree holders.

So, in an attempt to increase earnings and employment, we are pushing for "everyone" to get a college degree.

Here's David Leonhardt from "The Upshot", after showing that the wage premium for a bachelor's degree has never been higher:

"Those returns underscore the importance of efforts to reduce the college dropout rate"


"At some point, 15 years or 17 years of education will make more sense as a universal goal. That point, in fact, has already arrived."

People, I know this sounds bad, but maybe it's because so many people drop out that the degree premium is so high.

Maybe if twice as many people got a bachelor's degree, the wage premium would fall dramatically.

Degree attainment and wages are outcomes of a complex, simultaneous structural socio-economic model. Making policy recommendations based on one reduced form relationship from that model without an understanding of the deep parameters is very bad science and the recommended policy is extremely unlikely to have the desired results.

It may seem strange for a college professor to be arguing that not everyone should be getting a college degree. But I have seen kids drift along for years, racking up debt and not human capital only to drop out and struggle. I have also seen thousands of kids make an economically unwise choice of major, get their degree and then struggle mightily.

Not all "colleges" produce that big premium and more importantly, not all majors produce a big premium, as I discussed in an earlier post.