Saturday, February 08, 2014

Opening Ceremony, Moscow, 1980

You almost certainly missed this.  The opening ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the one boycotted by the U.S.    The video:

The cool part starts at 1 hour 17 minutes, almost on the nose.  Totalitarian regimes know how to put on a show.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

Making sense of the jobs report

We had another head scratcher of a jobs report yesterday.

Only 113,000 new jobs but the unemployment rate fell from 6.7 to 6.6%.

Labor Force Participation must have fallen, you say.

Nope, it rose slightly from 62.8 to 63.0%.

BLS is on acid, you say.

Maybe, but the simple but weird fact that explains this is that new jobs and unemployment rates are calculated from two completely different government surveys!

Here's one of my favorite KPC posts from a couple years ago that explains this strange state of affairs.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Does Early Sexual Experience Affect Later Drinking Behavior? In Hamsters.

Um, hamsters?  Seriously. In hamsters.

Perhaps that can be the new tag line for scientists.  You know how you are supposed to add "in bed" after a fortune cookie?  So, your fortune cookie says  "You will soon come into a lot of money" and you add, "in bed!"  Hilarity.

From now on, medical studies have to end with "in hamsters" to make sure we all understand just how tenuous the conclusions are.

Early sexual experience alters voluntary alcohol intake in adulthood

John S. Morris, Zachary M. Weil, Randy J. Nelson

Abstract Steroid hormones signaling before and after birth sexually differentiates neuronal circuitry. Additionally, steroid hormones released during adolescence can also have long lasting effects on adult behavior and neuronal circuitry. As adolescence is a critical period for the organization of the nervous system by steroid hormones it may also be a sensitive period for the effects of social experience on adult phenotype. Our previous study indicated that early adolescent sexual activity altered mood and prefrontal cortical morphology but to a much smaller extent if the sexual experience happened in late adolescence. In humans, both substance abuse disorders and mood disorders greatly increase during adolescence. An association among both age of first sexual activity and age of puberty with both mood and substance disorders has been reported with alcohol being the most commonly abused drug in this population. The goal of this experiment was do determine whether sexual experience early in adolescent development would have enduring effects on adult affective and drug-seeking behavior. Compared to sexually inexperienced hamsters and those that experienced sex for the first time in adulthood, animals that mated at 40 days of age and were tested either 40 or 80 days later significantly increased depressive- but not anxiety-like behaviors and increased self-administration of saccharine-sweetened ethanol. The results of this study suggest that an isolated, though highly relevant, social experience during adolescence can significantly alter depressive-like behavior and alcohol self-administration in adulthood. hamsters.  How do they hold those red Solo cups in their little paws?

Nod to Kevin Lewis.  In hamsters.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


(I'm sure GWB never used the non-word "contradictoration."  But he should have, so I will).

There seems to be some confusion about marijuana.

First, the Democrats and some others who are pushing to legalize marijuana are trying to make tobacco illegal.  What's up with that?  Our President, himself a long-time smoker, favors this approach.

Second, the Republicans who opposed legalizing marijuana and want people to use less of it are now trying to lower the taxes on that same marijuana

Third, our President, also a long-time pot smoker, has said that he will never favor marijuan legalization.  Until he said that pot was "no more dangerous" than tobacco.  Let's suppose they are equally dangerous.  Then why has Obama cracked down sharply on medical marijuana

The point being that if they are equally dangerous, then why has Obama cracked down hard on legal prescription marijuana, advocated for legal recreational marijuana, and smoked tobacco while pushing to make tobacco illegal, or at least unavailable?

You know what?  Politicians are crazy.  Mr. Obama said "inhaling was the point."  I guess he just was using a metaphor for sucking.

How do you work this thing?

Look everyone, another Sochi toilet fail:

People, if crap like this can (can't?) happen, why do they even have a super-human dictator at all?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Hey look: The whole Federal tax system is progressive

We know that the Federal income tax is progressive, while the payroll tax is regressive, and that these are the main two sources of Federal tax revenue (around 81% in 2012).

The TPI has some interesting stats about the overall progressivity of the Federal tax system.

First, the lowest quintile (20%) of earners pay almost no Federal taxes. Their average income tax rate is negative and almost completely offsets their payroll tax rate. They earn around 4% of income and pay around only around 0.2% of Federal taxes.

Second, the highest quintile of earners earn around 53% of total income and pay around 68% of all Federal taxes.

Before seeing these numbers, I would have said that the regressive nature of the payroll tax makes overall Federal taxes much less progressive than the income tax. But it turns out that the overall Federal tax burden is (too my mind at least) still pretty progressive.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Sport Stats

The contract year syndrome in the NBA and MLB: A classic undermining pattern  
Mark White & Kennon Sheldon
Motivation and Emotion, forthcoming

 Abstract: We assembled National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball player performance data from recent years, tracking 3 year periods in players’ careers: pre-contract year (baseline), contract year (CY; salient external incentive present), and post-contract year (salient external incentive removed). In both sports, we examined both individual scoring statistics (points scored, batting average) and non-scoring statistics (e.g. blocked shots, fielding percentage) over the 3 years. Using extrinsic motivation theories, we predicted and found a boost in some scoring statistics during the CY (relative to the pre-CY), but no change in non-scoring statistics. Using intrinsic motivation theories, we predicted and found an undermining of many statistics in the post-CY, relative to both the CY and the pre-CY baseline. Boosted CY scoring performance predicted post-CY salary raises in both sports, but salary raises were largely unrelated to post-CY performance. The CY performance boost is real, but team managers should know that it might be followed by a performance crash — the CY “syndrome.”

 The Hot Hand Fallacy: Cognitive Mistakes or Equilibrium Adjustments? Evidence from Baseball 
Brett Green & Jeffrey Zwiebel
Stanford Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract: We test for a 'hot hand' (i.e., short-term streakiness in performance) in Major League Baseball using panel data. We find strong evidence for its existence in all ten statistical categories we consider. The magnitudes are significant; being 'hot' corresponds to roughly a one quartile increase in the distribution. Our results are in notable contrast to the majority of the hot hand literature, which has found little to no evidence for a hot hand in sports, often employing basketball shooting data. We argue that this difference is attributable to endogenous defensive responses: basketball presents sufficient opportunity for defensive responses to equate shooting probabilities across players whereas baseball does not. As such, prior evidence on the absence of a hot hand (despite widespread belief in its presence) should not be interpreted as a cognitive mistake -- as it typically is in the literature -- but rather as an efficient equilibrium adjustment. We provide a heuristic manner for identifying a priori which sports are likely to permit an equating endogenous response response and discuss potential implications for identifying the hot hand effect in other settings.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

I'm all confused....

I'm really confused.

The guy at the NRO, where I expect to agree, has this completely, bizarrely, wrong.  He really couldn't be more confused (though, as he notes in every column, he went to Harvard Law School,
(I wanted to use a nicer font, to capture the self-congratulatory joy felt by Mr. Shapiro) so the fact that he is confused is not all that surprising).

The guy at the WaPo, with whom I almost never agree, has it right, and the for the right reasons.  In fact, Eugene Robinson totally nails it.  I find that I agree with Eugene about half the time now.  Five years ago, zero.  I'm very confused.

Fortunately, my good friend Nick Gillespie does explain why.  Nice column by Nick

Monday, February 03, 2014

How Would Jon Stewart Play This?

Jon Stewart might start with this quote:

"'We are locked in a struggle with powerful forces in this country who will do anything to destroy the Second Amendment,' said Richard Venola, a former editor of Guns & Ammo. 'The time for ceding some rational points is gone.'" [Quoted in NYT]

(Host looks into camera, with a "Here we go again" look)  I mean...that's just SUCH B.S.  They are trying to scare people.  The quote above comes from this story, where a guy got fired for even considering the possibility of regulating firearms ownership.  Nobody is "after" your gun rights, folks.

Then cut to:

"Movie producer Harvey Weinstein announced for the first time on Howard Stern’s radio show that he is making a full feature drama to try to destroy the National Rifle Association...'I shouldn’t say this, but I’ll tell it to you, Howard,' he said. 'I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this head-on. And they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.'" [Washington Times]

(Host stares into camera, struck dumb, mouth flapping...Big laughs all around!)

That actually sounds pretty rough.  Is ol' Harvey going to kill someone, or just make them want to kill themselves?

Two more points:

1.  The reason ol' Harvey W gets to make a "full feature" movie expressing his personal political views is that the "Citizens United" case was CORRECTLY DECIDED by the Supreme Court.  This is going to be a 2 hour political ad, one that costs millions of dollars to make.  And the money is going to come directly from corporate treasuries.  And none of it will have to be reported as a political contribution.  Because CU was CORRECTLY DECIDED.  I'm not sure why no one understands this.  The Citizens United movie about Hillary was protected political speech.  So is Harvey's piece of crap movie.  That's what the CU decision was about.

2.  My own view on guns are actually very close to those of Dick Metcalf.  The 2nd Amendment says "well-regulated," folks.  So, I may agree, on the merits, with a lot of what ol' Harvey W wants to say.  And I certainly want to defend his right to say it.

Monday's Child

1.  As always, stuff you won't find at  flatulent cows start fire at German dairy farm.  Who loaned them the lighter?  How did they HOLD the lighter?  (UPDATE:  No fewer than 7 people sent me this.  I guess I have a (makes air quotes) "reputation.")

2.  Ken is a treasure.  A deeply buried, wrinkly, smelly, dirty treasure.  But a treasure.  This post is really, really useful.

3.  Not sure this is real.  But it's real fun.

4.  When a nation becomes an empire, the financial centers are less important than proximity to the court, and to the king's functionaries.  And the functionaries of "both" parties (HA!) are so self-important that if someone questions them they immediately threaten violence. 

5.  Afrobeerometer.   (Okay, that was MB's title, and I stole it)


Sunday, February 02, 2014

No Wonder Mungo was such a great chair

Interesting piece at VOX describing research done on how the citation history of a department head is correlated with changes in the publishing performance of the department down the road.

Here's the money shot:

My boy KG Mungowitz sits at around 5400 cites on Google Scholar.  I think Duke owes him some royalties or something.

Here's what the article says about some common departmental decision rules:

It is not unusual for senior administrators to select chairs who have either undergone a decline in research productivity or made fewer research-specific investments over their careers (McDowell, Singell, and Stater 2009, 2011). Our study suggests that this may be a mistake.

Hat tip to Mark Thoma

Super Bowl

If you are at the game, you can't watch the game on your electronic device, to make sure that all those people who want to send blurry selfies can get access to the network.

One has to have priorities.

I'm a little surprised, though:  Why go to the game if you are going to watch the game on your iPad?  Some possible answers (what do YOU think?):

1.  To watch the commercials
2.  To hear the commentary
3.  To see replays more accurately
4.  (Your answer here!)

Lagniappe:  This Budweiser ad is treacly, sickly sweet.   But it made me laugh.

Nod to Susan L. for both links.