Monday, December 31, 2012

Quotes for life

The ONLY disability in life is a bad attitude.--Matthew Jeffers via Peter King

Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath. Instead, we had creeping gradualism. Now, our only weapons were broom handles. The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.--Kitty Werthmann 

When we try to eliminate bad things via more laws and top-down policies, it just creates a more capricious and unjust world. The solution is not more laws, but fewer. --Eric Falkenstein

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quotes of the day

The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.--William Gibson

If you can stay light and stay loose and stay relaxed, you can play at the very highest level, as a baseball player or as a human being.--Bill Murray

The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit -- replacing what works with what sounds good.--Thomas Sowell

Now obviously booze and guns aren’t the same kind of thing (even if they are regulated by the same federal bureau). But there are some similarities.--Ross Douthat

The level of taxation ultimately determines the size of government since no government can continue to spend substantially more than its revenues. Greater government spending may help stimulate an economy coming out of a major recession, although the absence of any clear stimulus to the economy from the Obama stimulus package raises serious questions about the ease of stimulating an economy with fiscal policy. However, the level of federal government spending also has major direct effects on an economy, such as through spending on medical care, defense, and subsidizing the production of ethanol. Greater government spending also tends to crowd out spending by the private sector on consumption and investments.--Gary Becker

... there’s a very good reason Bill Gates is not going to succeed Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway that is not in the book, and it has to do with the increasingly visible disintegration of the so-called “Wintel” duopoly that spelled mega profits for many years at Gates’ baby. That disintegration is occurring—slowly but surely—even as you read this virtual column, and it is visible in stores across America. Just today we visited a prosperous mall in a prosperous city in America—a mall filled with post-Christmas holiday shoppers taking advantage of the post-Christmas sales that make this one of the busiest shopping days of the year. And at a little after noon, we counted a grand total of 38 shoppers at the Microsoft store…and 280 customers at the Apple store.--Jeff Matthews

As a normative matter, [Robert] Bork argued that the antitrust laws should have one goal and one goal alone, namely, the maximization of consumer welfare, which Bork equated with allocative efficiency and thus total economic welfare.  To be sure, other scholars embraced a "total welfare" approach before Bork did.  In particular, and as I explained in this article, Harvard-school economists Edward Mason, Donald Turner, and Carl Kaysen also embraced "total welfare" as an exclusive goal of antitrust regulation.  However, Bork's work differed from the work of these scholars in two ways.  First, Bork expressly linked "total welfare" and "efficiency" to "consumer welfare," whereas the Harvard School had not employed the latter term, choosing instead to focus only on "efficiency" as the appropriate goal.  Second, unlike these Harvard scholars, Bork offered a legal defense of total welfare/consumer welfare as an antitrust goal. --Alan Meese

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Best fake commercial, evah, and boy, can Jean-Baptiste Say sing!



Via Greg Mankiw.

Quotes of the day

... common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before you reach eighteen.--Albert Einstein

Yeah, [life before winning a record lottery jackpot] was a lot easier then.--Jack Whittaker

The comfortable society is not necessarily the good society, and while a future that promises mass idleness and mass isolation might be more stable than demographic pessimists suspect, that doesn’t make it a future where I’d particularly want to live, let alone one I’d feel happy bequeathing to my daughters and generations after them.--Ross Douthat

Five years ago, the United States' budget deficit equaled 1.5 percent of GDP and its national debt stood at 36 percent of GDP. This year, the deficit will exceed $1 trillion, or seven percent of U.S. GDP. Over the same period, the debt ratio has doubled to 73 percent of GDP. --Martin Feldstein

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quotes of the day

Showtime does not exist to make shows you want to buy on iTunes; it makes shows you want to watch in order to get you to buy a subcription to Showtime.--Megan McArdle

 A ... key to understanding [Nassim] Taleb is that he has a French post-modern tendency to write to impress rather than explain. He provides hundreds of loosely related anecdotes, reminding me of the Talmud quote that 'when a debater’s point is not impressive, he brings forth many arguments.'--Eric Falkenstein

Most of the D.C. boom is from lobbyists and PR people, and others who are retained to influence what the government does. It's a cold calculation: You're likely to get a much better return from an investment of $1 million on lobbying than on a similar investment in, say, a new factory or better worker training. So Washington gets fat, and it does so on money taken from the rest of the country: Either directly, in the form of taxes, or indirectly in the form of money that otherwise would have gone to that factory or training program.--Glenn Reynolds

... prior to 1993 Asian enrollment had often changed quite substantially from year to year. It is interesting to note that this exactly replicates the historical pattern observed by Karabel, in which Jewish enrollment rose very rapidly, leading to imposition of an informal quota system, after which the number of Jews fell substantially, and thereafter remained roughly constant for decades. On the face of it, ethnic enrollment levels which widely diverge from academic performance data or application rates and which remain remarkably static over time provide obvious circumstantial evidence for at least a de facto ethnic quota system.--Ron Unz

You have the life that has unfolded for you, and I the life that has unfolded for me, and all of us have a very simple and terrifying responsibility, which is simply to answer the question, as Victor Frankl would say, that our lives are asking us.--Tony Woodlief

Life isn't always bad

It's actually, incredibly good.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

California is saved from bankruptcy!

According to the EIA, the Monterrey Formation, which covers an enormous chunk of Southern California and terminates near Santa Barbara, has 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable crude — four times as much as the Bakken formation in North Dakota.
Read the whole thing at Business Insider.

Poem of the season

And my vision
That I’m living
Is to see two more daughters
Getting married
Dance at their wedding
And then
hoist that Lombardi
Several times
 
By Chuck Pagano

Friday, November 09, 2012

Quotes of the day

I can’t believe I’ve turned into a typical old man. I can’t believe it. I was young just minutes ago.--Maurice Sendak

Much cyclical unemployment involves a waste of time and productivity, but the social cost is especially severe for the long-term unemployed. Unfortunately, the past several years has seen a dramatic rise in this group, not only in absolute numbers, but also as a fraction of all unemployed workers. This social cost of long-term unemployment has received insufficient attention from the media and during this presidential campaign.--Gary Becker

Yes, Obama had a big handicap in the lackluster economy.  Luckily for him, Mitt Romney had made a stupendous pile of money in the very industry that people blame for that lackluster economy.  On that stupendous pile, he paid a tax rate which struck people as absurdly low.  He pushed every button for folks who feel broke and terrified while the very rich sail along just fine. Obama could hardly have had a better opponent if he had ordered him from central casting.  My mother, aka The Swing Voter, delivered an extensive rant on the subject of Mitt Romney's taxes this morning.  I suspect that a more modestly wealthy Republican governor would have taken her vote.--Megan McArdle

In a political system such as China’s, those below imitate those above, and political struggles at the higher levels are replicated at the lower levels in an expanded and even more ruthless form.--Yang Jisheng

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Intrade vs. the polls

Four-and-a-half years ago, I did some work on the predictiveness of polls versus prediction futures; specifically, Zogby versus Intrade during the presidential primaries.  I found the pollster to not only be less predictive, but that its data coverage and timeliness to be lacking, against the continual trading and pricing features of Intrade.

While my new job has kept me from choosing a different pollster to measure against Intrade (back then, I thought about Rasmussen, but I think now it might have been FiveThirtyEight)*, I've been checking out the action on Intrade's Obama Ohio futures trading throughout the day.



While Romney has a mathematical shot at winning the election while losing Ohio, I think that scenario is highly unlikely.  As you can see, it looks like Ohio is slipping away from him.

May the odds be ever in your candidates' favor.

*As of 740pm EST, Rasmussen is calling "Obama: 237 - Romney: 206 - Toss-up: 95" while Nate Silver forecasts "Obama: 313 - Romney: 225".  As far as Ohio goes, FiveThirtyEight is saying its 91% for Obama, while Rasmussen says 49% vs 49%.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Quote of the day

On the campaign trail, President Obama talks about Mitt Romney’s tax proposals, Mitt Romney’s investments, Mitt Romney’s binders, Mitt Romney’s dog. But when it comes to his own thinking, he is curiously laconic, and confines himself to slogans and platitudes. Occasionally, however, the mask slips, and the president tells us what he actually believes. 
...
Imprisoned in medieval notions of profit and competition, President Obama is unable to share [Adam] Smith’s optimism about the future. Instead he channels the pessimism of the English clergyman-turned-economist Thomas Malthus.
...
Modern liberalism is not the first political philosophy to rest its case on doom and gloom, and it is unlikely to be the last. But until liberals offer more compelling evidence that the era of heroic growth is indeed at an end (and has not been merely artificially depressed by excessive government interference), the reasonable observer will hold with Francis Bacon: we know too little about future possibility to be justified in the adoption of a dogmatic glumness. Bacon, when pressed for “forecasts of the works that are to be,” replied “that the knowledge which we now possess will not teach a man even what to wish.”

Francis Bacon was an American-style optimist ahead of his time. Barack Obama is a Malthusian pessimist trying to be president of the wrong country. After four years of his melancholy leadership, Americans are ready for some sunshine. 
That's Michael Knox Beran.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This map isn't very encouraging



Source here.

UPDATE:  Cav's family is doing fine.  We lost power shortly before 9pm, mostly likely due to this.  While well supplied, we were able to snag a hotel room not far away, where we are grateful for power and plumbing.  Back to work tomorrow.

Bubble watch: K-12 public schools

Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students. 
Read the whole thing.  Via Glenn Reynolds.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Obama & Romney

I've taken some heat from friends and co-workers for not watching any of the presidential debates (although I watched the VP debate with great interest).

I did watch President Obama's and Governor Romney's remarks at last night's Alfred E. Smith dinner, and I got a lot more utility out of it than any of their debates.  I'd have to give the Most Gracious nod to Obama, although both of them found grace for each other and some self-deprecation for themselves.



Ohio tightens a bit, on 3 days of higher-than-usual trading volume.

Here's a nice summary map of Intrade state-by-state predictions, currently giving the win with 281 electoral votes to Obama, vs. 257 for Romney.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tony Woodlief has a point

Once people get worked into a frenzy about the goodness of their leader—be he a former oil man who promises to whip the daylights out of the terrorists, or a former community organizer who promises free medical care—they get impatient with people who question their man, and impatient with restraints on his power.

Thus do so-called conservatives back radical expansions of federal power in wars against drugs and terrorists, and thus do so-called liberals restrict the meaning of the word “choice” to the extraction of unwanted fetuses. We’ll do so much good for you, each tribe tells us, if we can just have some running room.

To which the Founders would reply: we shot and bombed and bayoneted a whole pile of guys for talking that way.

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The world's first libertarian?

That would be Samuel, the Old Testament prophet, circa 1050 BC: 
This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.
BCWUW4: Be careful what you wish for.  And God told you so.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NAACP leadership finally supporting Dubya

... Washington Bureau director of the NAACP Hilary Shelton sees it differently. Mr. Shelton says the lower standards for minorities reflect what President George W. Bush once dubbed the "soft bigotry of low expectations": "It's, what do they say? 'Soft bigotry of low expectations," said Shelton. "They're really letting the educators off the hook playing it this way. We have to challenge our educators to meet the standards of every child."

Source here, via Ed Driscoll.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tonight, Joe Biden has helped me

teach my 11-year-old how crooked our elected leaders can be.

Thanks!  That's actually worth something.

And apologies to my kids' generation for the debt we are passing to you.

Photo link here.

UPDATE:  The deficits are not primarily due to military spending in the Middle East (the surge commenced in the first few months of 2008), and we are following Japan, Greece, Ireland and Italy into the abyss:

 Graph sources here and here.

UPDATE:  A smile is an instinctive gesture of submission. Often the submission is mutual, as when two friends exchange smiles or when Maestripieri's strangers break into small talk on the elevator. But when a man uncontrollably smiles at a potential or actual adversary, it is a show of weakness.


I try to avoid, or at least minimize, political party alignment (since I'm not a member of one). But this video is the prima facie type of work that Jon Stewart does, sort of a "presented without comment" type of deal.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Intrade futures after the first 2012 presidential debate

I will not be watching any of the debates, save the VP debate next week.  However, I read up a bit, and this one was my favorite, although it did bring to mind:  who fact checks the fact checkers?

Overall, President Obama's odds moved back closer to parity.  Here is the 60-day chart of how he's traded at Intrade:


and here is the less liquid, but well correlated Ohio prediction futures contract:
I guess that polling data surfacing over the next week will impact prices further, viewership for the second debate will be higher, and Obama, having digested some much needed humble pie, will perform better.

Romney is still trailing far behind.  Should he overtake in not only Ohio, but also Florida and Virginia and one other state where Obama is polling better, he can win the thing.  My gut tells me that Virginia will be the toughest--lots of wealthy government elites live in the northern part of the state, and they will be voting for the incumbent for sure.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pick me up in the middle of a tough week

A lot of bumps and bruises from work, and I'm about to go another round with the IRS.

I remembered this story, which I posted last year.  There was an update, which really helped me get perspective:




Also, here is a better video of his performance than the original post.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Psalm 2012

A psalm of Cav, inspired by Psalm 23, a psalm of David.

The LORD is my banker, I lack nothing.

       He makes me save into insured accounts,
he leads me to capital preservation strategies,

       he releases me from my greed, envy and materialism.
He guides me along tax-advantaged paths
       so I can give even more to Him and to others in poverty.

Even though I walk
       through the valley of the shadow of tail risk,
I will fear no evil,
       for you are with me;
your offering documents and track record,
       they comfort me.

You prepare a budget for financial freedom before me
       in the presence of my overextended neighbors and Keynesian policymakers.
You anoint my community with Walmart;
       My retirement accounts are overfunded.

Surely, your goodness and love will follow me
       all the days of my life,
and I will be a beneficiary of your trusts and estates
       forever.


Quotes of the day

Who would have thought that Hollywood environmentalists would find themselves aligned with Persian Gulf oil barons? --John Carney

The [Iranian] Fars News Agency, which is close to Iran’s powerful Republican Guard Corps, posted its version of the report on its English-language Web site under the same headline used by The Onion for the original four days earlier: “Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad To Obama.”--Robert Mackey

[Warren Buffett] thinks of cash as a call option with no expiration date, an option on every asset class, with no strike price.--Alice Schroeder

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living off-peak

I try to avoid crowds and lines whenever I can. I don't want to go to a World Series game ever again, nor a concert, no matter who is playing, even if I am being hosted as a business client.

Now, I prefer watching that type of stuff on HD with the inexpensive beer that I bought from the grocery store (or, even better, that Mrs. Cav bought from Costco).  Waiting on line feels like wasting time, time I don't have, time that feels valuable to me now that I am in the second half of life.

I like being in Manhattan during long weekends, when it's easy to get a table at restaurant or hail a taxi.

I like taking the kids to Disney World during the less crowded times of the year, and will plan going to Epcot or Magic Kingdom over Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom based on which park is offering Extra Magic Hours, and also employ strategies on where to take the first ride, which way to traverse through each park, how to optimize priority attractions using FastPass, etc.  And I try not to fly on Fridays, Sundays, or Mondays.

So I was really glad to read this:

Via Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There:
  • Best time to get a human being on the phone when calling a company's customer service line: As early as possible (lowest call volume)
  • Best day of the week to eat dinner out: Tuesday (freshest food, no crowds)
  • Best day to fly: Saturday (fewer flights means fewer delays, shorter lines, less stress)
  • Best time to fly: Noon (varies but pilots say airport rush hours coincide with workday rush hours)
  • Best time to have surgery: Morning (4x less likely to have complications in the morning than between 3-4PM)
  • Best time to exercise: 6-8PM (body temp highest, peak time for strength and flexibility)
  • Best time to have sex: 10PM-1AM (skin sensitivity is highest in late evening)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quotes of the day

Consensus isn’t the same thing as excellence.--Andy Greenwald

Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America—just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer's.--Marty Makary

The Emancipation Proclamation destroyed the south's best hope for victory – foreign recognition. From then on they would have to look to their own armies for victory.--Joshua Horn

At least when the Pharisees bragged about their piety and how much they gave to the Temple, they actually performed the rituals and gave money. Leftists brag about how compassionate they are and then don’t give much from their own time and pocket books.--Shannon Love

The group that Marx loved, the non-elite working people who create value and have that value transferred to the bourgeoisie, are the main supporters of the Republican Party, and most likely to hate any of the words associated with Marx like “socialism” or “communism” or "Obamacare."--Half Sigma

When an equation is correct, mathematicians call it ‘beautiful.’ A true equation is beautiful because it is elegant and uncluttered with mistakes or unnecessary steps.--John Polkinghorne

Saturday, September 22, 2012

From recording in a Honda Fit to playing on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Maybe America and it's Dream are not dead yet.  Hat tip to my favorite electric bassist.

Story here.


Quotes of the day

Too much schooling is a bad thing.--Eric Falkenstein

Some claim that what sets us apart from other animals is our use of tools. Au contraire. Even sea otters -- a species that has neither reached the moon nor invented the beer cozy -- use stones to crack open the shells of their prey. No, what makes us unique is our staggering imagination and creativity, mostly when it comes to ostensibly obeying laws while utterly circumventing their spirit. We are homo loopholeus.--Patrick Hruby

... the startup job creation rate has collapsed during the last three years and actually fallen lower in 2011 than ever before. I’ll ask: Why did the IRS start cracking down on companies that hire American contractors in 2009?--Tim Kane

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Obama reelection chances looking pretty good right now


I can't get excited about this election. The only thing I am pumped for is the VP debate. I hope Ryan's maturity and intellect are properly benchmarked by the nation against the incumbent. The last VP debate was a bit of a draw.

Chart here.

Quotes of the day

... if a male writer wanted to “analyze” gender differences by using a combination of misleading statistics about women, unscientific snapshots of particular men who seem like real go-getters, and musings about how men are adaptive and resilient and possess greater vision, he’d rightly get slapped down for shoddy thinking and poor journalism. What say in the interest of gender equality we hold Rosin to the same standard?--Tony Woodlief

Medical care is famously immune to the usual market incentives; the patient has little reason to make a cost-benefit tradeoff. Doctors and hospitals hardly do either; indeed the opposite seems to be the case. Matters are made all the worse, ironically, by the continual improvements in medicine – improvements which often treat what was previously untreatable, and which improve on existing treatments but at a higher cost.--Rick Brookstaber

I've done several types of work over the years but I don't know another as counterintuitive as startup investing. The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas.--Paul Graham

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama declared, “I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China . . . because we refuse to make the same commitment here.” Given what’s really happening in China, he may want to think again.--PATRICK CHOVANEC

I was asked whether the new Fed policy will enable Obama’s big spending plans for his second term.  I doubt it.  The policy initiative is too small to decisively impact growth or the deficit, but large enough to take away support for further fiscal stimulus.  Obama will be forced to adopt Simpson/Bowles-style austerity during his second term.  There’s no longer any point in even wasting keystrokes on Mitt’s plans.  He’s done—put a fork in him.--Scott Sumner

How much inequality is enough?

Some interesting reading over at Freakonomics, with Justin Wolfers, Alex Tabarrok and the US Census Bureau.

Still, income inequality was less pronounced in 1988 Soviet Union, with 70% of the population's income between 75 and 200 rubles per month.  I'm not in front of Bloomberg right now, but using the 30-to-1 current FX rate and factoring in the 1000-for-1 redenomination back in 1993, this is $2 to $6 per month, which can't be right.  I'll have to check on that, although, given the new job this year, blogging has been difficult.

My thesis is that wealthy nations have high income inequalities and impoverished nations don't.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan might not be a good pick

But maybe he is the best.

At least I think so, when reminded of this Megan McArdle piece.

A bit more honest, intelligent, and realistic than all the rest?

Will Smith more libertarian than he thinks



Via Ed Krayewski.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quotes of the day

High frequency traders are very sensitive to cash flow (note Trading Machines shut down pretty quickly after not finding a niche), so they aren't building palaces based on unrealistic expectations like, say, California or or NYU journalism majors.--Eric Falkenstein

... the 93% increase in JPMorgan VaR from Q1 2011 to Q1 2012 is solely due to the sudden "realization" that the world's biggest bank by derivative holdings (at just about $73 trillion) is in reality nothing but a glorified hedge fund.--Zero Hedge

[Peter] Orszag’s [compulsory voting] proposal and others like it are potentially harmful solutions to a non-problem. There is no evidence that nations with compulsory voting are, as a result, better governed than those where voting is voluntary. As Tim Cavanaugh points out, the former category includes many states such as Argentina, Lebanon, Egypt, Congo, and others that are hardly paragons of civic virtue. By contrast, one of the few democracies that has even lower turnout rates than the United States is Switzerland, which is widely considered one of the best-governed nations in the world. ... More generally, we should spend less time worrying about turnout and more about whether those who do turn out actually understand what they are voting on.--Ilya Somin

Obama campaigned as a consistent critic of the Bush administration’s understanding of executive power — and a critic with a background in constitutional law, no less. But apart from his disavowal of waterboarding (an interrogation practice the Bush White House had already abandoned), almost the entire Bush-era wartime architecture has endured: rendition is still with us, the Guantánamo detention center is still open, drone strikes have escalated dramatically, and the Obama White House has claimed the right — and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, followed through on it — to assassinate American citizens without trial.--Ross Douthat

I really dislike fawning Keynesians because I used to be one when I was a TA for Hyman Minsky back in college ... In contrast to the Keynesian vision of us all trying to figure out how to spend our endless vacation, there's Eric Hoffer, the enigmatic philosopher who appeared out of nowhere around 1934 in California at age 34 ... A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding, and so those unhappy with their own meaningless affairs will focus on minding other people's business. Hoffer noted one must not merely provide for those without meaning in their lives, but provide against them, because in a democracy and market economy their preferences will have power. Those who see their lives as inferior and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom, and this can cause a Republic to fall to a democracy, and ultimately a tyranny. ... In other words, Hoffer describes the essence of the Liberal desire to micromanage society into perfect equality at the expense of liberty. A coalition of intellectuals and the underclass, both of whom feel unappreciated. We haven't figured out a good outlet for these do-gooders, or a good way for those without a purpose to find life rewarding, so they continue to plague us with their plans and angst. That's a realistic vision of society, a future problem that is real yet potentially soluble.--Eric Falkenstein

Walmart often faces strong local opposition when trying to build a new store. Opponents often claim that Walmart lowers nearby housing prices. In this study we use over one million housing transactions located near 159 Walmarts that opened between 2000 and 2006 to test if the opening of a Walmart does indeed lower housing prices. Using a difference-in-differences specification, our estimates suggest that a new Walmart store actually increases housing prices by between 2 and 3 percent for houses located within 0.5 miles of the store and by 1 to 2 percent for houses located between 0.5 and 1 mile.--Devin Pope & Jaren Pope

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The godfather of global warming is emancipating himself

It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion.  I don’t think people have noticed that, but it’s got all the sort of terms that religions use … The greens use guilt. That just shows how religious greens are. You can’t win people round by saying they are guilty for putting (carbon dioxide) in the air.--James Lovelock

Monday, June 18, 2012

Paul Krugman spanks Paul Krugman, again

David Henderson has the latest swats here.

Quotes of the day

I have no doubt some people can predict infrequent events, ... Yet it's pretty hard to validate objectively, and in my experienced is best done via observing all the little good investments someone has made for 10 years, something that is impossible to do in scale. The idea that if you can predict infrequent events you can do very well for yourself is true enough, but that's a lot less useful to know than if rare events are unappreciated in general, which turns out not be be true.--Eric Falkenstein
It would have been hard to know the wisdom of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman or Matt Ridley or Deirdre McCloskey in August of 1914, before the experiments in large government were well begun.  But anyone who after the 20th century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing 19th-century proposals for governmental action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives is not paying attention.--Deidre McCloskey
If the essence of tragedy is essentially good people being caught up in a vicious dilemma that make it impossible for them clearly to distinguish the virtuous from the disastrous choice, Greek voters are, today, experiencing a very real, very personal tragedy.--Yanis Varoufakis

On September 27, 1986, the US Senate voted by a lopsided margin to overhaul the tax code to the benefit of the extremely rich. The act, the second of the two major Reagan tax cuts, was written by Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Democratic Representative Richard Gephardt of Missouri, and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on October 22, 1986. It was the first major alteration in US tax law in 40 years.
...
The law cut the income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans from 50 to 28 percent, while simultaneously increasing the tax rate on the poorest citizens from 11 percent to 15 percent. Tax brackets were reduced from 15 to four, and the top corporate tax rate was slashed from 46 percent to 34 percent. The law included a bevy of other measures punishing the poor and low-income workers, including abolishing interest deductions for debt on consumer loans such as credit cards and tightly restricting deductions for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA).
...
The 74-23 Senate vote saw 33 Democrats vote in favor of the bill, many of them leading liberals, including senators Kerry and Kennedy of Massachusetts, Gore of Tennessee, Leahy of Vermont, Biden of Delaware, Proxmire of Wisconsin, Glenn of Ohio, Moynihan of New York, Lautenberg of New Jersey, and Harkin of Iowa. Only 12 Democrats, together with 11 Republicans voted against the bill, which was championed by the Reagan administration.--unattributed

Younger blog readers who rely heavily on the NYT for  information might be under the impression that the 1980s tax cuts for the rich were enacted due to the evil Republicans.  Actually, almost every single developed country cut its top MTR during the 1980s and 1990s.  And liberal Democrats in America also supported the cuts.  The past is another country—you had to be there to understand.--Scott Sumner
Photo link here.

Iceland did almost everything right

They stiffed the bank creditors to avoid aggravating the moral hazard problem, just like the textbooks recommend.  In the eurozone the bank creditors are being bailed out.  They relied of fiscal policy to address S/I and debt issues, and let monetary policy address AD, just as the New Keynesians were recommending in the 1990s.  In the eurozone they combined tight money with reckless deficits.  And now Iceland is growing fast and the eurozone is stagnating.

I do realize there are tricky issues involved when analyzing the GDP of a country with 310,000 people.  One big aluminum smelter could probably have an impact on GDP.  I’d focus on the fact that their GDP is up about 12% from 7 years earlier.  That’s not great, but they clearly aren’t in a depression.  I seem to recall that Britain’s GDP is flat over the past 7 years, and some of the weaker eurozone members have done even worse.

I realize that people will say that Iceland is special, it doesn’t count,  Just as Australia doesn’t count and Sweden doesn’t count and Poland doesn’t count and Israel doesn’t count and Argentina doesn’t count, and all those countries in the 1930s that just happened to start recovering after they left the gold standard don’t count.  But still, it’s one more data point.

That's Scott Sumner.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Imagine that the only sport America cares about

... is basketball. Football and baseball don't matter; the whole country is completely invested in the NBA. Now imagine that there's a World Cup for basketball that is 10 million times more important than the Olympics or the world championships. Now imagine that Durant, LeBron, Melo, Dwight, and Kobe went to this World Cup, turned out not to be as good as we all thought, played mediocre college-level ball, and finished eighth while releasing a flurry of sex tapes with reality-TV stars. Now imagine that this happened for 16 straight years. You're getting warm; you're still not hot. 

That's Brian Phillips, helping Americans understand how the English feel about their soccer team.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quotes of the day

... there has to be a predetermined balance between artists and engineers.--Chris Ryan

Music does sometimes kick a door open inside the mind, but it also sometimes insulates the house, secures it from all wayward feelings and thoughts. And when a song does seem to kick a door open, we frequently listen to it over and over again until it loses its power and all of its passion is spent.--Mark Edmundson

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

JPMorgan lost $2 billion, one hundredth of the losses so far on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

JPMorgan rolled the dice, betting that the U.S. economy would improve — essentially a bet on Obama's economic agenda. That bet went south.  ...

But the losses at JPMorgan were borne not by the American taxpayer, but by JPMorgan. The losses also appear to have been offset by gains so that in the last quarter JPMorgan still turned a profit.

This is the way the system should work. Those who take the risk, take the loss (or gain). It is a far better alignment of incentives than allowing Washington to gamble trillions, leaving someone else holding the bag.--Mark A. Calabra

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Quote of the day

People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck—especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.--Michael Lewis

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

To achieve a real recovery

..., government policy should focus on individual incentives to work, produce and invest. Central here are tax rates and regulations, including especially clarity about future policies. In a successful policy package, the government would get its fiscal house in order and make meaningful long-term reforms to entitlement programs and the tax structure.

The Obama administration seems to think that individual incentives and serious fiscal reforms are of no great importance and policy should emphasize Keynesian-style demand stimulus (public works, prolonged benefits) along with bits of industrial policy (loans and grants to "green" energy companies). This approach has failed for three years.

That's Robert Barro.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Quotes of the day

The world is not organised along rational lines.--Matthew Engel

Regardless of your thesis about what a victory or defeat for Greek leftists would do in the financial markets, having better information about the electoral outcome is sure to be valuable. Someone might just make “the best trade ever” in the next two weeks—all thanks to Greece’s restriction on freedom of the press.--John Carney

It is easy to sympathize with the hostility to the many banks that behaved (in retrospect) so foolishly in ways that damaged everyone else as they took on excessive risk in their quests for greater profits. One can understand also the general reaction against capitalism and “market failures” since commercial and investment banks were in the past a leading example of capitalism at work. Yet anyone concerned about the welfare of the poor and middle classes should resist the temptation to attack competitive private enterprise and capitalism- monopoly or crony capitalism should be deplored. This is only partly because “government failure” also contributed in an important way to the financial crisis as regulators did not rein in the asset explosion of banks and households. Indeed, regulators often encouraged lending to lower income families to buy houses with low down payments, large mortgages and ballooning interest payments.  The main reason to be concerned about the attacks on competitive capitalism is that it has delivered during the past 150 years so much to all strata’s of society, including the poor.--Gary Becker

Every technology has its own logic. Facebook “wants” us to log in a lot and to interact with each other – hence the ability to “like” posts, to comment, to “like” comments, and the constant stream of notifications about all of this. This is sinister, but less insidious because it is so brazen. Facebook the technology has metaphorical wants that reflect the entirely non-metaphorical strategy of Facebook the company.--Tim Harford

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Reading is fun, not mental

... the lowest reading-level result on any writing sample that I tested came from people I am certain are the dumbest writers on the internet: the folks who left comments on Yahoo! Sports articles. They wrote at a 3.3 grade level.--Ben Blatt

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Martin Feldstein

a man who changed the world (via Tim Kane).

What should the CEO-to-worker pay ratio be?

I'm glad it's down from 400-to-1 to 200-to-1, but it still seems high.  Maybe it can get down to 100.  I'm fine with Steve Jobs trading at 400, but it seems much for a middling CEO to be taking down $20 million or more.


Source here, via Greg Mankiw.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Joe not only gets sports or life

He gets Diaper Genies:
I’ve long been unreasonably annoyed by movies and sitcoms that show clueless fathers who have no idea how to change diapers … maybe this is true somewhere, like for fathers in the 1940s or whatever, but I don’t know anyone who ever had any problem with it. Take off diaper … wipe butt … put on diaper. Really not complicated. The tough part, as any parent knows, is emptying the “Diaper Genie” which is supposed to suppress the smell of these diapers but actually has a patented smell-amplifying system that makes the short string-of-diapers smell like a skunk eating limburger cheese in a landfill.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quotes of the day

Two years ago we invested $250,000 in Instagram. Thanks to the spectacular vision and effort of Kevin Systrom and the Instagram team, the investment will be worth $78,000,000 when the Faceboook acquisition closes.--Ben Horowitz
... sometimes patience is the way to go.--Mike Reiss
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.--Aristotle

Not ready for higher ed

I just spent a beautiful spring weekend walk with my 11-year old arguing over whether Wall-E is a better film than High School Musical, or Up than The Avengers.

Oh, and apparently, all opinions are equal.  (I agreed and affirmed that all people are equal).

Someone please remind me why is 'education' so important?  I'd rather spend all this accumulated college savings on something more worthwhile, maybe helping the world instead of letting it sink under its own elitist, status-seeking weight.

Image link here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quote of the day

Be polite, be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.--unnamed Marines

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quotes of the day

I rather think that the division of labor created philosophy. That is, when you choose a profession or some important avocation it supposedly is a better means to an end, but what end? Is it merely to be rich? I doubt that is really so prevalent because to have such a nakedly self-interested goal is not necessarily in the best interest of neighbors, and they would not trust or like such people.
...
we have a lot of existential angst as we try to figure out 'why' we want to build a bridge or have five kids, and it's usually some greater good, not merely one's power and pleasure.  Real satisfaction in life often comes from advancing such higher purposes, imagined though they may be.
...
So, Adam Smith was correct to note the division of labor as a crucial step in human development, but he actually underclubbed it: it didn't just give rise to the industrial revolution, but also to the strange fact that humans think about thinking, meaning, and a sense of self.  The division of labor didn't create consciousness, but it did make us ask why we do what we do, and so lead to a higher level of consciousness.--Eric Falkenstein

American universities have been criticized because many of them engage in high-level competitive sports that involve heavy recruitment of student athletes. Since students and alumni like rooting for their school’s teams, these are perfectly appropriate activities for universities, aside from a couple of major problems. One is the exemption that the Supreme Court has granted to the obvious cartel-like behavior of the NCAA that uses its power to severely restrict compensation to student athletes, especially those in football and basketball. Universities should be forced to pay competitive prices for these athletes, not the much lower cartelized prices that the NCAA enforces.
...
Having taught for almost all my adult life at American universities I am well aware of their many limitations. These include faculty who cater to students by easy grading and telling jokes, faculty who engage in vicious battles over trivial issues, faculty and administrators who are afraid to take stands against political correctness and the latest education fads, alumni and other donors who are cultivated for large gifts that really do not help a university’s mission, and so forth. Nevertheless, on the whole, American universities do an excellent job of providing up to date and diversified education for students of varying abilities and interests. Many of their “failures” are the result of bad incentives provided by federal and state support and regulation of university programs.--Gary Becker

There is no doubt that Ben Bernanke’s views on zero-bound policy have changed over time.
...
Once, he called targets for long-term interest rates a “policy I personally prefer”; later, he “agreed 100%” with opposition to that policy. Bernanke once advocated a 3-4% inflation target for Japan; as Fed chair, he says “that’s not a direction that we’re interested in pursuing.” Bernanke has also abandoned his early proposals for currency depreciation and for money-financed tax cuts. More generally, he no longer argues that a central bank can easily overcome the zero-bound problem “if the will to do so exists.”
...
At one level, the primary reason for these changes is also clear: Bernanke was influenced by the work of the Fed staff, as summarized in Vincent Reinhart’s June 2003 briefing to the FOMC. By 2004, Bernanke was coauthoring papers with Reinhart that advocated the same zero-bound policies as the briefing. These policies were communication about the federal funds rate, quantitative easing, and shifts in the Fed’s holdings of short-and long-term securities--exactly the policies that the Bernanke Fed has followed since 2009. In sum, Bernanke’s views about the zero bound changed greatly between 2000 and 2004, but they have been consistent since then.
...
The puzzle about this history is why Bernanke so quickly and completely dropped his previous views and adopted those of the Fed staff. We cannot be sure, but social psychology suggests two possible factors: groupthink and Bernanke’s shy personality. These two factors are complementary. An atmosphere of groupthink pervaded the FOMC in 2003, discouraging anyone from questioning the views of the Fed staff. As a shy person, Bernanke may have been especially reluctant to suggest unpopular policies.
...
If this interpretation of history is correct, it has implications for the design of monetary-policy committees. A committee is likely to explore a greater range of options if the causes of groupthink are avoided, as Sibert suggests. Ironically, as Fed Chair, Ben Bernanke has moved the FOMC in that direction. Bernanke does not dominate policy discussions as Alan Greenspan did. He has reduced the emphasis on consensus, tolerating three dissents from FOMC votes. He has also reduced the Committee’s insularity, for example, with news conferences in which he explains policy decisions.
...
The history described here also has implications for the choice of people to serve on policy committees. It suggests that decisions are influenced not only by policymakers’ expertise and opinions, but also by their personalities. Outspoken “bulldogs” may be more likely than shy people to contribute new ideas to policy debates.--Laurence Ball

Speaking of ludicrous

... here are the players the Patriots picked before Brady in 2000, when they had to forfeit their first-round pick to the Jets for having signed Bill Belichick:

OL Adrian Klemm (round two), RB J.R. Redmond (round three), OT Greg Robinson-Randall (round four), TE Dave Stachelski and DL Jeff Marriott (round five), and CB Antwan Harris (round six.)

It wasn't until after 198 players had been drafted that the Patriots finally decided to take Brady.

Feel free to return now to reading all those articles about which players are the top prospects and which teams should take them.
That's Jim Donaldson.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

James Hamilton canes Joseph Kennedy

If Representative Kennedy knows a way to go out and produce another barrel of oil somewhere in the world for $11 a barrel, he would do a world of good if he would actually go out and do it himself, as opposed to simply asserting confidently in the pages of the New York Times that it can be done. People with far more modest fortunes than Kennedy inherited are out there using their resources to try to bring more of the physical product out of the ground.

And many, many more would be attempting the feat if it were remotely possible to produce a new barrel of oil for anywhere close to $11.

If you want to prove me wrong, Mr. Kennedy, then don't talk about how easy it is to produce more oil-- just go do it.
Read the whole thing here.  Here's a nice photo of Rep. Kennedy with the CEO of Citgo:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Karl Smith takes a switch to Mohamed El-Erian

and a two-by-four to the Fed:
Central Banks don't have direct control of wars but they do control recessions. Thus its natural to think that the goal of central banking is to produce growth, prosperity and financial health.

However, on a basic level its not. If the economy is running at maximum employment and the prices are moving in a steady and predictable fashion then the central bank has done its job. What happens to growth is ultimately not the Fed's concern.

Consequently, when folks like myself point out the ongoing abject policy failure of the Federal Reserve and the absolute nightmare that is the ECB, our complaint is not about growth, it is about employment.
Read the whole thing here.

I'm wondering if Smith feels that a flattening of the curve towards short term rates is what the Fed should be shooting for. It's not all in their control.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quote of the day

... if faith teaches us anything, it should be that our nostalgia is for an ideal we can only find after accepting, and passing through, the brokenness of a fallen world. Any other approach, in art or in life, is a form of denial.--Gregory Wolfe

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quote and video of the day

You're a grimy little pimp. As soon as I raise my hands, I warn you, it shall be too late to run.--Lane Pryce, to Pete Campbell

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eric Falkenstein is so right and so funny

[Jonathan] Haidt ends this book where he notes he read a book by Jerry Muller titled Conservatism, and the author noted that conservatism was not based on mere orthodoxy, but rather, the idea that encouraging respect, self-reliance, and loyalty were actually a reasoned method to help communities prosper, and their individuals to obtain more satisfactory lives. This reasoned defense of conservative values floored him, because he saw it was, at the least, intellectually defensible and could be argued in good faith. That he came to this conclusion in 2008 highlights the bubble the poor guy was in.--Eric Falkenstein

Talk show transcript excerpt of the day

Larry King: What, Professor, puzzles you the most? What do you think about the most?
Stephen Hawking: Women
Larry King: Welcome aboard.
Source here.

Take out your sociological goggles and look around

In our society, smart, hard-working, conformist kids go to old-fashioned brick-and-mortar colleges. Their elders expect them to do so. Their peers expect them to do so. They feel like losers in their own eyes if they don't go.

The normativity of conventional education isn't a passing phase. College attendance is a central tenet of our society's secular religion. A student who scoffs at all these expectations probably has a serious problem with authority. Would-be employers treat him accordingly.
That's Bryan Caplan. And this is a doozy:
Middle class jobs will no longer require college only after middle class kids can no longer afford college.

What fails more than markets? How about regulations ...

John Carney reports:
Friedman and Kraus argue that regulation—especially regulation of bank capital under Basel II and similar rules in the U.S.—led to a homogenization of balance sheet assets across the banking system. Risk weighting loaded the dice in favor of buying the assets regulators viewed as safe—especially mortgage backed securities—and as a result the banking system as a whole was over-exposed to mortgages and lacked diversity.
...
This last point is especially crucial and not well understood. One of the advantages of a free market system is that different businesses can adopt different business strategies. In fact, competition encourages diversity as executives attempt to gain advantage over rivals in the face of an uncertain future. Disagreement among capitalists strengthens the system because it reduces the cost of errors. Some firms win, others lose, and the damage of bad bets is contained and balanced by the benefits of good bets. Regulations that impose one view on business create systemic risk, Friedman and Kraus argue.

Gary Becker, on controlling campaign finance ... as well as other manifestations of special interests, such as lobbying and volunteering

Sharp restrictions on campaign contributions would make more sense if monetary contributions were the only major force that shapes who wins elections and the policies goverment officials support.Yet that is very far from the situation that prevails in American politics, and in the politics of most other democratic nations. One reason for this is that interest groups can often avoid the intent of restrictions on campaign contributions through other ways to influence political outcomes. For example, many industries hire lobbyists and spend other monies to try to persuade legislators, regulators, and others in important political positions to subsidize their industries, or to reduce the taxes on their industries, or to gain other advantages.

It is not only business that is active in these ways since, for example, unions of government employees use political clout to obtain generous pensions and health plans for their members. The tight budgets that are currently being imposed on many national and regional governments-such as the Greek government and state and local governments of the United States- have induced government unions to fight hard to keep their pension and health benefits, and to limit any reductions in these benefits. Similarly, unions of public school teachers have spent considerable money and time to defeat efforts to introduce school vouchers and many other changes in public school systems.

Candidates who galvanize enthusiasm with their oratory and political positions induce many supporters to spend considerable time working to elect these candidates and to promote policies the candidates favor. Time spent by supporters is often as effective and “corrupting” as money spent influencing political outcomes and policies. This is probably especially true in the age of the Internet and other methods of mass communication. Supporters of a particular candidate may spend a lot of time on political issues through blogs, Facebook and other social networks, and through other forms of mass communication. Radio, television, and Internet stars, such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill Moyers, and Matt Drudge, not only affect the views of followers, but also how active they are in supporting conservative or liberal policies.

These reflections lead me to question whether it is wise to control one form of interest group politics; namely, direct and indirect monetary contributions to political campaigns, in an environment where other types of interest group politics are important and are only weakly controlled.
Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quotes of the day

... with this trade the Jets are getting a relatively fair-priced backup quarterback, with playoff experience, who they can work with and hopefully develop at his own pace. While Tebow will not be confused with Tom Brady anytime soon, I don't think he's as far off as many of his doubters say, though he will only get there — if he ever does — through his effort and the passage of time. For now, the Jets simply hope and expect him to be a serviceable and not overly expensive backup for a few seasons and that is it; Tebow is a clear upgrade over the aged Mark Brunell, who was jettisoned after last season, and Greg McElroy, a seventh-round draft choice out of Alabama, as well as free agent signee Drew Stanton. If Peyton Manning teaches us anything, it is that every team must have a plan if their starting quarterback goes down. But Tebow also gives the Jets an option: There remains a chance that Tebow, over time, fills in some of the holes in his game and develops into what some still think he can be: great, as a quarterback.
...
The most important thing to remember about football strategy is that there is no such thing as Platonic ideal football; there is no right or wrong way to do things, and the game is governed by a few simple things: the size and speed of the players, the geometry of their arrangement on a football field, and, above all else, pragmatism — what is good is simply what works. And what works is what is simple. --Chris Brown

[Jonathan Haidt's] moral foundations fall under six broad headings: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity.  What Mr. Haidt has found is that all Americans—left, right and center—are strongly (if not equally) moved by the first three moral foundations. Both liberals and conservatives "care" when they see harm, but liberals care more: They are more disturbed by suffering and violence. Conservatives are more concerned with fairness, defined as getting what you deserve. And both sides champion liberty, though they have very different notions of the likeliest oppressors.  ...  Even as our rival moralities "bind" us together, he concludes, we should be aware that they "blind" us too.--Gary Rosen

Photo link here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Economics of the Hunger Games

here, via Greg Mankiw.

A non-fictional excerpt:
If you plot per capita income in the Americas today, you see a clear pattern with the United States and Canada ahead, the southern cone around Chile and Argentina in second place, and the middle portion much poorer. It turns out that if you turn the clock back about 500 years, the pattern was reversed. The places that are rich today were poor then, while those that are poor today were generally rich in the past.

I predict I will be in the theaters with my 11-year-old in the next couple of weeks.

Photo link here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quotes of the day

Your hands should not, together with the face,
be drawn with the brush
You reveal them in your work
And hide them in the painting.--François Malherbe

It is difficult to say what will happen for Google, but a good dose of self-doubt that they are somehow above it all is a good place to start. Oh yes, and Facebook, if you are listening, all of the above applies to you too.--Joshua Gans

In China, the year is traditionally divided into periods based on the moon’s orbit around the earth and the sun’s path across the sky. This lunisolar calendar is laden with myths and celebrated by rituals that allowed Chinese to mark time and make sense of their world. So too the modern political calendar in China. It takes shape around the mysterious workings of the Communist Party, which rotates its top leaders every decade at a Party Congress, a comet-like event that awes onlookers as a portent of change and renewal. The next congress is set to take place in the fall of 2012—the 18th occurrence in the party’s 91-year history—and is already being associated with unusual phenomena. The most spectacular was last week’s eclipse of Bo Xilai.--Ian Johnson

Monday, March 19, 2012

Quote of the day

Yeah, [I like Obama:] I’m living in London and I’m socialist. What do you expect?--Elle MacPherson, former supermodel, and current policy expert

Every large public school system has many excellent and good teachers. Unfortunately, every public school system also has really bad teachers who cannot be fired. Some miss many classes, others do not know the materials they teach, while others do not really try to teach, and prefer to joke around or mainly give their opinions. They should be fired, but they cannot in part because of the tenure system. Having the power to get rid of the bad teachers would improve everyone’s teaching, partly by raising the incentives and morale of other teachers.
...
Teachers’ unions are the major force opposed to abandoning the tenure system, as they are the major opposition to pretty much every major school reform that has ever been suggested- including charter schools, school vouchers, and evaluations of teacher performance. They are an important hindrance to improving the quality of teaching and the performance of students.
...
I oppose teachers unions and the tenure system for teachers (including university teachers) partly because they are especially detrimental to the education received by students from low income and more disadvantaged backgrounds.--Gary Becker, some dude that is much less famous than supermodels

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Quotes of the day

... over the past two generations China has been emerging not from aMarxist, but from a feudal state. Indeed, if one were to take Marx'sview, China could only arrive at communism through capitalism, andonly arrive at capitalism through feudalism.--Rick Brookstaber

A new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) claims that defense spending in Asia this year is set to overtake that of Europe for the first time in centuries.--Walter Russell Mead

Providing “for the common defense” is one of the primary reasons our Founding Fathers ordained and established the Constitution. Moreover, they clearly wanted the defense imperative to be unmistakable, so they put it in the Constitution’s very first sentence, the Preamble. Later, in Article I, Section 8, they gave Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes” and “to borrow money on the credit of the United States” in order to fulfill the imperatives.
...
In short, the Constitution first tells us what to do (defend the country), and then tells us how to pay for it (tax, and borrow on credit). Could the founders have made it any clearer? Maybe, just maybe, if they’d said it something like this: “The president and the Congress must defend this country; to do that properly, Congress must maintain the country’s good credit, and must tax and borrow as necessary.”
...
Notably, the Constitution does not say, “Defend this country, unless it would require Congress to borrow money.” No, our founders wrote it to say precisely the opposite—a point that should be obvious to everyone, not just Constitutional originalists.--Steve Conover

The CSS Virginia, a.k.a. the Merrimack, makes a splash

A couple of splashes, actually, 150 years ago today.

She meets the USS Monitor, tomorrow.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Quotes of the day

If it had not been for Jefferson Davis recognizing Lee's value and putting him in important positions of leadership, the Confederacy probably would have ended several years sooner. --Joshua Horn

Is it me, or does Robert E. Lee look a lot like another southerner, this one of our time, Ben Bernanke?--Cav

The 'Greatest Generation' built things like Hoover dam and created a country of unprecedented prosperity and universal education; then, as if to prove that failure is endogenous, raised the greatest generation of naive, self-absorbed whiners in the History of Man.--Eric Falkenstein

Since life is a dream, we argue (with plausible but erroneous logic) that politics must be an encounter of dreams, in which we hope to impose our own.--Michael Oakeshott

Chart of the day: Registered Dems fading

Source here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quotes of the day

If you can't sell 'em, rent 'em.--agent Paul Larson of Coldwell Banker Burnet, via Mark Perry

... our own regulatory ingenuity ...somehow or other, always manages to backfire.--Richard Epstein

Bernanke's change of mind reflects his shy personality plus groupthink.--Bryan Caplan

Many mediocre minds are impressed by famous colleagues, graduate degrees, Harvard, or equations. Those people aren't worth impressing. While such signals are correlated with good ideas, they are neither necessary nor sufficient for a good idea. When someone emphasizes these signals, however, that should lower their credibility among thoughtful people because it suggests bad faith, a preference towards pretentious irrelevancies. I've seen this a lot, hiding behind equations. It often works because one does not want to sit down, understand what all the variables mean and how they are measured, etc. I just don't feel impressed at all by such equations because my Bayesian prior is they merely have a bad idea in equation form, so I don't give them the benefit of the doubt even when I'm lazy and have not enough time to evaluate their math.--Eric Falkenstein

We’ve seen from Republicans in–particularly Republicans in the House, but with Republicans generally, that they don’t want to be part of any plan that raises taxes at all. The president’s budget has $1 of revenue for every $2 1/2 of spending cuts.--Jack Lew, White House Chief of Staff and former Budget Director

Contrary to Mr. Lew’s assertion, the President is proposing at least $1.20 of tax increases for every dollar of proposed spending cuts. The President’s budget locks in historically high spending levels and relies more on tax increases than spending cuts for the limited deficit reduction it proposes.--Keith Hennessey
Photo link here.

What economists REALLY do

Source here.

New found freedom for a New Yorker

is flying through Texas, down I-10, at 74 mph, which is under the speed limit.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Just got fooled again: unemployment actually RISING

Tyler Durden figured it out:
as chart 2 below shows, people are not retiring as the popular propaganda goes: in fact labor participation in those aged 55 and over has been soaring as more and more old people have to work overtime, forget retiring), and you get 159.4 million: that is what the real labor force should be. The BLS reported one? 154.4 million: a tiny 5 million difference. Then add these people who the BLS is purposefully ignoring yet who most certainly are in dire need of labor and/or a job to the 12.758 million reported unemployed by the BLS and you get 17.776 million in real unemployed workers. What does this mean? That using just the BLS denominator in calculating the unemployed rate of 154.4 million, the real unemployment rate actually rose in January to 11.5%. Compare that with the BLS reported decline from 8.5% to 8.3%. It also means that the spread between the reported and implied unemployment rate just soared to a fresh 30 year high of 3.2%. And that is how with a calculator and just one minute of math, one strips away countless hours of BLS propaganda.
Statistics are like a bikini. What they present is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.--Aaron Levenstein