Sunday, July 31, 2011

Genius: no more beer until a compromise is reached

Of course, it's Eric Falkenstein:
The key to ending an impasse is to have something really annoying but not catastrophic happen while the impasse occurs. Default was the current topic in Washington, but this is pretty severe. As was done over 2000 years ago in Lysistrata, a crisis should focus on something both more and less pressing at some levels, in this case have a clause that says 'no more beer until a compromise is reached.' That would provide the same incentives but not affect our credit rating.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Quotes of the day

... I had no idea I was landing in Heaven.--Chad Ochocinco

No, college athletics is not ABOUT the players. College athletics is FOR the players, but that's a different thing, and that's a distinction we don't often make. College football only works on this grand scale, I believe, because it's about the colleges. The alumni connect to it. The people in the town connect to it. The people in the state connect to it. People are proud of their connection to the University of South Carolina and Clemson, they are inspired by Alabama and Auburn, Penn State and Notre Dame and Stanford, they identify themselves through Missouri and Wisconsin and Florida and Texas A&M. The players matter because they chose those schools, they play for those schools, they win for those schools and they lose for those schools too. Everyone, of course, wants them to be the best players available, and some are willing to cheat the current system to get those players. But soon the players move on, and the love affair continues, just as strong, just as vital. The CONNECTION is what drives college football. Otherwise, without that connection, it's just football that isn't nearly as well-played as the NFL.--Joe Posnanski

This particular Red Sox roster was already risking a no-win situation with its Yankee-like payroll (north of $163 million), Yankee-like winter splurge (spending $296 million and sacrificing two blue-chip prospects and a first-round pick to acquire Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez) and general resemblance to the Yankees (never a good thing). What's less gratifying than following a woefully underachieving team with woefully overpaid players? (Cut to the Mets fans nodding wistfully.) As if that wasn't enough pressure, with the Bruins and Celtics poised for prolonged playoff runs and the always-competitive Patriots looming in September, the Red Sox were threatening to become the Fredo of the Boston sports family for the first time since 1985. ... This could be the most well-rounded Red Sox team since 1975 in terms of star power, breakout guys, star-crossed guys, whipping boys, washed-up guys, up-and-comers, aging vets, out-of-nowhere guys, offensive explosions and just about everything else you'd want from a 162-game season. There's been real entertainment value in every sense, good and bad. Can you put a price on that? (Thinking.) Oh, wait, you actually can. The price was $163 million.--Bill Simmons

As a general rule, it's bad when a player says he couldn't turn down the money. And then laughs.--Bill Barnwell

The only reason we need to lift the debt ceiling, after all, is to pay for spending that Congress has already authorized. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, we’ll face an absurd scenario in which Congress will have ordered the President to execute two laws that are flatly at odds with each other. If he obeys the debt ceiling, he cannot spend the money that Congress has told him to spend, which is why most government functions will be shut down. Yet if he spends the money as Congress has authorized him to he’ll end up violating the debt ceiling. As it happens, the debt ceiling, which was adopted in 1917, did have a purpose once—it was a way for Congress to keep the President accountable. Congress used to exercise only loose control over the government budget, and the President was able to borrow money and spend money with little legislative oversight. But this hasn’t been the case since 1974 ...--James Surowiecki

Some economists advocate further large fiscal stimulus packages in order to compensate for what is considered insufficient aggregate demand for goods and services by consumers and investors. Yet we already had close to a trillion dollar badly designed stimulus package, tax credits for first time homebuyers, a senseless “cash for clunkers” program, and other federal programs that have not had any clear sustained effect on moving the economy forward.  It is obvious now that forecasts by some economists in President Obama’s administration that these programs would reduce unemployment to under 8% were far too optimistic. Although little consensus exists on what in fact was achieved by the major $800 billion stimulus package, I do not know of convincing evidence that it accomplished a lot in reducing unemployment and raising employment. So it is hard to be optimistic that an additional stimulus package would be designed better or work any better, and of course, it would add to an already large fiscal deficit.--Gary Becker

 In effect, today’s standard economic methods make the distant future count for almost nothing. And those who always thought this seemed hopelessly naïve turn out to be right.  The important point, Geanakoplos and Farmer emphasize, is that everything about discounting depends on what assumptions you make about how variables fluctuate with time. A fixed interest rate doesn’t work. And neither does the strong exponential discounting to which it leads -- even though most economists continue to use it.--Mark Buchanan

I’m deeply, deeply disappointed with CFL bulbs. I replaced pretty much every regular bulb in the house with CFLs, but they’ve been failing at about the same rate as ordinary long-life bulbs, despite the promises of multi-year service. And I can’t tell any difference in my electric bill. Plus, the Insta-Wife hates the light.--Glenn Reynolds

... in the long run, the India-China relationship will do more to shape our world than virtually anything that happens anywhere else.--Walter Russell Mead

I’m my own worst critic and if I don’t pull off what I think I wanted to do in my head, then I won’t be a happy girl.  I’ve got Tony [Bennett]’s voice right in my ear and that’s so much for me that I can’t look up and see Tony the person as well. I sound so stupid but it’s hard.--Amy Winehouse

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote of the day

I believe you're going to see a very great NFL over the next decade and I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was. Thank you.--Robert Kraft

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The First Battle of Bull Run

150 year ago this week.  Largest battle up to that point in the Civil War.
Bull Run Battle was lost by us not from want of combination, strategy or tactics, but because our army was green as grass. ... [It] was one of the best planned battles of the war, but one of the worst-fought. Both armies were fairly defeated, and whichever stood fast the other would have run.--General William Tecumseh Sherman

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heading out for my annual two-week leave

Blogging will be light during that time.

Kyrie Eleison (or 'Peace Out' as my 10-yr-old might say. Remind me why school is so important ...)

Chart of the century: Grades (is that a bubble?)

Source here.

Quotes of the day

I was really surprised, because I remembered [Kyle Chandler] as this fresh-faced, boyish, charming young man. And here he was looking like one of the Baldwin brothers after a hard weekend.--Peter Berg

A group of German banking associations to EU banking officials conducting ‘stress tests’ to see how many European banks are in trouble: “Given the tense situation which already exists in money and capital markets, we believe publishing the results with the present level of detail would exacerbate the sovereign debt crisis. ”Translated into English that means, “If the public ever finds out what a mess we are in, they will panic. So shut up.”--Walter Russell Mead

The limited consumer and mortgage financing in China means that china will not have a US-style financing problem, and the large amount of reserves means that China won’t have a Korean-style financing problem, but no one has ever seriously argued that those are the kinds of risks China faces. What matters is the level of debt, whether or not its growth is sustainable, and the kinds of contingent structures that are embedded. I would argue that all three measures are worrying.--Michael Pettis

As former Senator Phil Gramm once told us, never take a hostage you're not prepared to shoot. Republicans aren't prepared to stop a debt-limit increase because the political costs are unbearable. Republicans might have played this game better, but the truth is that Mr. Obama has more cards to play. The entitlement state can't be reformed by one house of Congress in one year against a determined President and Senate held by the other party. It requires more than one election. The Obama Democrats have staged a spending blowout to 24% of GDP and rising, and now they want to find a way to finance it to make it permanent. Those are the real stakes of 2012.--WSJ Editorial Board

First, the relationship between government debt and real GDP growth is weak for debt/GDP ratios below a threshold of 90 percent of GDP. Above 90 percent, median growth rates fall by one percent, and average growth falls considerably more. We find that the threshold for public debt is similar in advanced and emerging economies. Second, emerging markets face lower thresholds for external debt (public and private)—which is usually denominated in a foreign currency. When external debt reaches 60 percent of GDP, annual growth declines by about two percent; for higher levels, growth rates are roughly cut in half. Third, there is no apparent contemporaneous link between inflation and public debt levels for the advanced countries as a group (some countries, such as the United States, have experienced higher inflation when debt/GDP is high.) The story is entirely different for emerging markets, where inflation rises sharply as debt increases.--Reinhart and Rogoff

[Obama appointed] Chairman [Erskine] Bowles found that, to get three Senate Republicans to support a net tax increase, he needed to repeal an expensive new health program, tick off the trial lawyers with malpractice reform, establish a pilot program for Ryan-Rivlin style Medicare reform, and place a cap on total health spending. He needed to increase the eligibility age not just for Medicare, but also for Social Security, and he needed to slow Social Security spending growth through changes to the benefit formula. He needed to tick off government worker unions by prospectively repealing their special exemption from Social Security. And he needed to agree to tax reform that would raise total revenues while dramatically lowering top individual and corporate rates. President Obama has been unwilling to make any of these changes, and yet suggests Republicans are being unreasonable for not agreeing to net tax increases. The President refuses to discuss changes to the trillion dollar new health entitlement he and Congress created last year. He refuses to discuss changes to Social Security beyond a CPI correction. He insists that top tax rates go up. He attacked Paul Ryan for his long-term Medicare reform and refuses to consider it. At least as important, Bowles & Simpson offered a long-term fiscal solution in exchange for this net tax increase, under which spending would never have exceeded 22% of GDP and deficits would have quickly dropped below 2% of GDP and eventually reached balance. That’s too much spending (and too high taxes) for my taste, but it’s qualitatively different from and far superior to the President’s proposal, which is to trade permanent tax increases for only a temporary slowdown in government spending growth and budget deficits.--Keith Hennessey

There is some machine moving now that I do not understand, and I won’t be the one to stop it. I have chosen this particular person, only ever, with whom to try for a child. Goodbye to the possibilities of knee tapping. Goodbye to all of that. If I am to become a father I have no choice but to forget everything outside of this room. And to produce.--Paul Ford

Infants seem to perceive reliable adults as capable of rational action, whose novel, unfamiliar behaviour is worth imitating. In contrast, the same behaviour performed by a previously unreliable adult is interpreted as irrational or inefficient, thus not worthy of imitating.--Diane Poulin-Dubois

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is gold money?

No, it is a precious metal.  At the 4:59 mark.

Shells were used in ancient China. Let's use shells, as its got a longer chart than gold, Representative Paul.

For a (relatively) light read on monetary shocks, the Depression and the gold standard, I like this piece by Scott Sumner.

Quotes of the day

Having the best show on network TV is kind of like being the best crunk dancer at a Genesis concert. ... I suspect Breaking Bad will be the least remembered of these four shows [The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad] and will probably be the least influential over time. Yet there's one profound difference between this series and the other three, and it has to do with its handling of morality: Breaking Bad is the only one built on the uncomfortable premise that there's an irrefutable difference between what's right and what's wrong, and it's the only one where the characters have real control over how they choose to live. ... If the president tells a reporter your TV show is his favorite, it's de facto political, regardless of the premise or the creator's original intent. Barack Obama's loving The Wire is a little like Amy Carter adding the Sex Pistols to the White House music library — it shouldn't mean anything, but of course it does. Whenever a president (or even a senator) is asked about what they like to watch on television, they know their answer will be perceived as symbolic of who they are and what they represent. This is why there will never be a modern U.S. President who will not define himself as a sports fan.  ... The central question on Breaking Bad is this: What makes a man "bad" — his actions, his motives, or his conscious decision to be a bad person?--Chuck Klosterman

[Sheryl] Sandberg says she eventually realized that women, unlike men, encountered tradeoffs between success and likability. The women had internalized self-doubt as a form of self-defense: people don’t like women who boast about their achievements. The solution, she began to think, lay with the women. She blamed them more for their insecurities than she blamed men for their insensitivity or their sexism.--Ken Auletta

A good economy causes liberal arts majors, not vice versa.--David Burge

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.--John Adams

... never forget that the fundamental mission of science is to question. The less an individual scientist knows about the factory or the materials and tools she is working with, the less she will be able to challenge what she is doing and how. Notwithstanding their stated missions, it is well known that—organizationally at least—bureaucracies exist primarily to defend, expand, and replicate themselves. Bureaucratizing existing scientific paradigms—like the tens of billions being spent at CERN to test the Standard Model of particle physics—only tends to ensure they are that much more difficult to challenge and overthrow. If it is to fulfill its social function, science cannot afford to become sclerotic. If science does not carry an institutional mandate to both allow and encourage challenging it at the root, it is no longer science.--Epicurean Dealmaker

In just about every other team sport,  ... down in the final minutes, you have Montana throw to Rice, you put the ball in the hands of Kobe, you try whatever you can to get the ball or puck to Messi or Ovechkin. But if Albert Pujols ain’t coming up in the ninth, Albert Pujols ain’t coming up in the ninth, and there’s nothing you can do about it.--Joe Posnanksi

If You Can’t Calculate NAV, You Shouldn’t Trade The Instrument.--Kid Dynamite

Even a misunderstanding of small technical questions--like the need for a CBO score, the vulnerability of bills to amendment, or the time it takes to whip votes--lead people outside of Washington to frequently underestimate the difficulties of doing the "obvious" thing.  On the flip side, it's also clear to me that many people in Washington are living in a bubble where procedure and politics often shut out common sense. I know I'm losing valuable intelligence about what's happening in the financial sector, because I'm simply not marinating in it every day. On that same call, I heard an analyst made a point about proposed 14th Amendment bypass of the debt limit, which was so obvious that I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it: to wit, even if the Treasury simply went ahead and issued more debt, who was going to buy these instruments of dubious legality? And at what price? Yet all the DC people I'd seen writing about the "14th Amendment Solution" had focused on the legality of the move, or the political fallout; no one had thought about, like, finding customers for the debt.  ...  I had an email exchange with someone about the legitimacy of the 14th amendment route, to whom I pointed out that it didn't seem very practical, and he replied "practicalities aside . . . "  Practicalities aside?  Who cares whether it's constitutional for the Treasury to issue bonds no one buys?--Megan McArdle

I think that Intrade should get ready to tee up some impeachment markets on these 14th Amendment auctions.--Cav

Pick up any household electronic -- a phone, a remote, or a laptop -- and it could contain minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country where armed rebel groups connected with crimes of rape and murder profit from trade of these minerals. Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold mined in the eastern part of the DRC are said to finance the armed rebel groups that contribute to the ongoing violence in the country.--Erin Banco

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.--Siddhartha Mukherjee
Photo link here.

Cartoon of the day: Do not talk about Fight Club!

Source here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quotes of the day

Approximately 3,000 scientific articles are published per day – roughly one every 10 seconds of a working day. We can now expect that these papers will, each year, cite around five million previous publications. And the rate of production of scientific papers is quadrupling every generation. (All these estimates are based on data from the Institute for Scientific Information.) The percentage of human knowledge that one scientist can absorb is rapidly heading towards zero. This side of a new Dark Age, there will never be another Da Vinci. ... funding new ideas that matter is almost certainly getting more and more expensive. By itself that fact need not be too disturbing: we can afford to spend more on science, and there are more qualified scientists across the world than ever. But it also suggests that scientific and technological innovation is, more than ever before, an organizational problem – and an organizational problem to which we have probably devoted too little attention.--Tim Harford

The great majority of immigrants all over the world, both legal and illegal, move for economic reasons: to find jobs that pay a lot more than they can earn in their origin countries. For example, the average illegal immigrant in the United States from Mexico appears to earn about three to four times what he would earn in Mexico. This is why virtually all the illegal (and legal) immigration is from poorer to richer countries. Immigration increases when poorer countries are hit by recessions and financial crises, and by internal conflicts that make life there dangerous and more uncertain.  ... Expansion of legal immigration would be good for America, and it would also further cut down the number of illegal immigrants by enabling more of them to come legally and gain the many advantages of legal status.--Gary Becker

We need (low) inflation to prevent (high) inflation.--Scott Sumner

If a Reaganite was president and doing aggressive supply-side policies, you can be sure the WSJ would be demanding easier money to help facilitate growth, just as they asked for easier money when Reagan himself was president and inflation was 4%. Recent conservative hysteria about inflation is completely at odds with their relative silence during the Bush years, when inflation was higher than under Obama, and the dollar plummeted in value (it’s been fairly stable under Obama.)--Scott Sumner

In practice behavioral insights are applied mainly to increase the scope and scale of government, which presumably is staffed by unbiased administrators. Consider than Al Gore cozied up to ethanol when he was trying to be President but now agrees it was counterproductive, and like the sugar cane quotas created a permanent policy that cost merely tens of billions in waste. Such are the results of presumably high-minded objectives, all twisted by the absence of competition.--Eric Falkenstein

Alas, Rawlsian justice is radical egalitarian redistribution of wealth and even esteem, infringing on a lot of freedom of contract by other people merely because they happened upon having more stuff (the Rawlsian condition that forced redistribution should not hurt the least advantaged person basically makes it moot, because the least advantaged person in any society is a miserable wretch not helped nor hurt by anything). A Rawlsian utopian would equally reward, in all ways, the person who sits looking at butterflies all day and he who plays great basketball, the CEO and the janitor. This doesn't generate Sweden (prosperous and equal) rather, illiberal hell-holes like Cambodia and Russia at their worst.--Eric Falkenstein

Just hours after President Obama told lawmakers it was time to “eat our peas” and reach a deal on the deficit, the First Lady was spotted doing just the opposite. Mrs. Obama was seen indulging this afternoon in a colossal 1,556-calorie meal at the Shake Shack, according to the Washington Post, which spotted the First Lady at the newly-opened D.C. diner. The First Lady, a well-known advocate for healthy living and child nutrition, reportedly ordered a ShackBurger, fries, chocolate shake and a Diet Coke.--Mary Bruce

Despite his well-documented and extensive injuries, Yao scored the most points of any center between 2002 and 2009. The Lakers might have been out one of their championships had Yao stayed healthy in 2009. Shortly after Yao guided the Rockets to what would be his only playoff win in a series against the Portland Trail Blazers, he dominated the opening game of a second series against the Lakers with 28 points and 10 rebounds (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had a combined 24 points). In the third game of the series, team officials diagnosed Yao with a sprained ankle. Further tests revealed a fracture. He would play in only five more games the rest of his career.--Jonathan Abrams

Why am I the only one not nervous?--Yao Ming, before a team drug test

The sheer variety of available drugs and the hedonism of our popular culture make it unlikely that we can find a simple, practical and clean solution for America’s drug problem. We manage alcohol reasonably well in this culture, I suppose, but “passive drinking” is a lot worse than passive smoking. Tens of thousands die of the results of alcohol abuse every year and many of alcohol’s victims are innocent: children and spouses of alcoholics who are neglected and abused, drivers and pedestrians unlucky enough to get in the path of a drunk driver and so on. I’ve known brilliant students whose alcoholism got them expelled, promising writers who drowned their talents, couples ripped apart by the effects of excessive drinking and people whose lives were blighted by the consequences of a parent’s addiction to booze. For some people alcohol is a light refreshment and social lubricant; for others it spells ruin and death. As more drugs become legal and widely available, many more Americans are likely to succumb to addiction and abuse.--Walter Russell Mead
Photo links here, here, here and here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

You say you’ll give me eyes in a moment of blindness

After they finish their concert in Nashville, Bono spots a blind guitarist in the crowd, invites him up, and they do a song for the blind man's wife.

How can I not love this band? There are 28 players who have cranked out 3,000 hits in the majors, but I am not sure there are another 4 who have cranked out such poetic, spiritual art for 3 decades. Via Stephen Lamb.

Another shot:

U2 at Vanderbilt University's Dudley Field, final encore "All I Want is You", July 2nd, 2011 from djb on Vimeo.

And another:

Friday, July 08, 2011

Quotes of the day

The first thing you should do in an emergency situation — once you know it's safe — is smoke a cigarette.--Paul Petzoldt, legendary mountaineer

Captain Bernanke is piloting the USS Nominal Income through the Mediterranean. Suddenly a stiff wind starts blowing off the coast of Greece, threatening to drive the ship onto a dangerous shoal. The captain adjusts the wheel so that the ship is able to maintain its heading. We are safe. For now. A year later the strong wind again blows off Greece, once again threatening to drive the ship off course. But this time the captain fails to react. “We’ve already tried doing steering, once is enough.” “Lots of people criticized my steering last time. They pointed out that the path of the ship didn’t change very much.” “Steering is no panacea, we need to do something about the wind and the shoal.”--Scott Sumner

... a surplus basically represents the government sucking money out of the economy ... The Clinton surpluses didn't protect us from any calamity, and the attendant boom in private sector leverage is what ultimately smashed the US economy. Why do we want to go back to that?--Joe Weisenthal

With lessons learned from the 20th century’s tougher decades, including the Great Depression of the ‘30s and the Great Inflation of the ‘70s, America entered a period of unprecedented economic stability and growth in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Not only were 47 million jobs created, economic growth was more stable than ever before in American history. Economic policy in the ‘80s and ‘90s was less interventionist in comparison with earlier 20th century decades. Attention was paid to the principles of economic and political freedom: limited government, incentives, private markets, and a predictable rule of law. Monetary policy focused on price stability. Tax reform reduced marginal tax rates. Regulatory reform encouraged competition and innovation. Welfare reform devolved decisions to the states. With strong economic growth and control of government spending the budget moved into balance. As the 21st century began many hoped that applying these same principles to education and health care would create greater opportunities and better lives for all Americans. But economic policy went in a different direction.--John Taylor

As a member of a coop board I have learned that the building I live in frequently spends months and even years simply trying to get questions answered from the city about how to proceed with needed repairs. Rich people and established businesses can survive this kind of thing; small businesses with no capital cushion and untrained, perhaps poorly educated proprietors cannot — but these are the only people who can generate the jobs the urban poor so desperately need. The combination of a tangled thicket of regulations that interact with one another in unpredictable ways and a bureaucracy that for whatever reasons cannot manage the process in a timely way is a massive job killer. The number of small enterprises that have not started, of small businesses that have given up on expansions or on simple repair jobs deferred is incalculable but large. Our cities are strangling themselves in red tape; we need to a better job of balancing the legitimate need for safety and health regulation with the need to promote enterprise and the kind of jobs that our fellow citizens can actually get.--Walter Russell Mead

If a budget deal is reached, officials will undoubtedly boast about how much their deal “reduces the deficit.” They will use numbers like $1 trillion, $2 trillion, or even $4 trillion of deficit reduction. You should be wary of such numbers, which are easily gimmicked. In theory it seems easy to calculate such a number:

If there is no deal, over the next 10 years total deficits will be X.
With a deal, over the same timeframe total deficits will be Y.
Therefore, the deal will reduce deficits by X-Y.

The trick is that X is not well defined, and so X-Y is suspect.--Keith Hennessey

Every time a new study comes out, people on both ends of the political spectrum are quick to seize on it as proof of their prior beliefs. But in this area, the proof is usually messy. It rarely tells us exactly what we wanted--and expected--to hear.--Megan McArdle

I'm a fan of VaR, having set up a VaR for KeyCorp's trading operations in the 1990's, and found it immensely useful as a monitor on our positions. Yet, for risk capital, or the risk of the bank in total, it was irrelevant. The assets relevant to this calculation are usually quite small as a percent of total assets (<5%), and often part of market-making operations that generally have pretty flat exposure to big factors like interest rates or the S&P500. Thus, in the past crisis the big 7 US money center banks showed an average daily VaR (99%) of about $120MM in early 2008, and then through March 2009 lost about $7T (trillion) dollars in market cap. Being of 1000x smaller magnitude highlights its irrelevance.--Eric Falkenstein

Statistics are like a bikini. What they present is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.--Aaron Levenstein

The markets will utimately discipline the politicians, if they don't discipline themselves.--John Malone, on CNBC

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Intrade Spread Of The Day: NFL Lockout vs. Debt Ceiling

There is currently an implied 9% greater chance that the NFL Players Association and the owners can agree to end the lockout, than the likelihood that Congress will agree to increase the debt ceiling, according to Intrade contracts, each event by the end of August.

Quotes of the day

All great spirituality is subversive ...  We have the audacity to stand in the middle of the world and weep over the false idols of culture, the power, the money, the sex, the fashion.--Don Miller

I’m a firm believer that I can only lead others to the extent that I can lead myself. To that end, I’m constantly challenged to wrangle my thoughts and emotions and drive them to produce purposeful results.--Geoff Webb

Derek Jeter is wildly overrated. And Derek Jeter is wildly underrated. Perhaps no player has ever been so effusively praised for great defense with so little evidence of great defense to show. Twice, perhaps three times, he should have won the MVP Award and did not. ... There's a reason for this, I think. Jeter -- like Rose -- has been inescapable. If you are a baseball fan, you must have an opinion about him. His game is out there. His baseball soul is exposed. You can like him or dislike him, admire him or object to him, but you cannot ignore him.--Joe Posnanski

I can solve the deficit in 5 minutes. .. If debt exceeds a % of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.--Warren Buffett, on CNBC this morning

Both [Colin] Farrell and Bullseye were Irishmen with terrified eyes brought to America by rich men thanks to lethal skills and an equally lethal inability to control them.  ... his is the rare Hollywood fairy tale told in reverse. We began with the boring prince. Here before us, at last, is the far more interesting frog.--Andy Greenwald

Explanations of how Greece got in this mess typically focus on profligate public spending. But its fiscal woes are also due to a simple fact: tax evasion is the national pastime.--James Suroweicki

... soccer fans can now rest assured that women are less likely than men to fake on-field injuries, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center published in the July issue of the journal Research in Sports Medicine.--Science Daily

Doing good stats means exercising a pathological interest in the story that might have been missed. Doing politics can seem to mean a near pathological interest in telling us why your story was right all along.--Michael Blastland

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Cartoon of the day: Statistics

Source here.

The History of English in 10 minutes

here, via Abraham Piper.

Interestingly, the King James Version (chapter 4) precedes the age of science (chapter 5).  Back then, it was about seeking Truth, not anything like today's "social science".*

Altogether, a lot more fun than the usual historical rigmarole.**

*Here's a topic to discuss amongst yourselves:  "social science" is neither social nor a science.

**1736, "a long, rambling discourse," from an altered, Kentish colloquial survival of ragman roll "long list or catalogue" (1520s), in M.E. a long roll of verses descriptive of personal characters, used in a medieval game of chance called Rageman, perhaps from Anglo-Fr. Ragemon le bon "Ragemon the good," which was the heading on one set of the verses, referring to a character by that name. Sense transferred to "foolish activity or commotion" c.1955, but known orally from 1930s.

Chart of the day: regulatory spaghetti

Via Eric Falkenstein.

Quotes of the day

Private equity firms do create value, albeit with a heavy assist from financial engineering. Mr. Lee himself marveled on his blog at the ultimately successful restructuring Silver Lake undertook at Skype.  The perception is otherwise. Imagine if Lawrence H. Summers had joined Blackstone or Carlyle instead of recently becoming an adviser to the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He would be called a sellout akin to Peter Orszag, who left government service to become a vice chairman at Citigroup.  This brings us back to l’affaire Skype. Mr. Lee can be blamed, but instead it is Silver Lake that is vilified. The reason is that Silver Lake is not playing by venture capital rules.  Yet the private equity firm is being blamed for doing exactly what private equity firms do and what is expected of them. In this light, Silver Lake is not “evil. “ Silver Lake is not even acting illegally or immorally. If Mr. Lee had hired a lawyer for an hour, he would have learned of his dilemma.  Name-calling aside, this is all about all about what people think of the industries and venture capital’s innate fear of private equity methods. V.C. and P.E. just may not be right for each other.--Steven Davidoff

It can be cathartic to witness somebody powerful throw a big tantrum, but it's also deeply embarrassing. It becomes even more embarrassing when that person is no longer powerful.--Molly Lambert

You should go work for a real bank.--Jamie Dimon, to a Citigroup banker at the World Economic Forum in Davos

In a post-industrial economy, drug dealing is not the only occupation where wages disproportionally skew towards the top 1%. The odds are stacked against Millenials, whether they strive to be football players or lawyers. Admittance into a top-14 law school, like a scholarship from a top-10 college football program, is the culmination of a lifetime of striving. Of the over 100,000 high school seniors who play football, fewer than 3,000 sign Division I letters of intent. Similarly, the top 25% in Harvard Law’s 2009 class had an average GPA of 3.95 and a LSAT score of 175, which puts them in the 99th percentile of the over 100,000 test takers each year. Yet, despite overcoming nearly impossible odds, each group still has the toughest test of their lives ahead of them — each other. NFL teams rarely draft players not at the top of the depth chart, even at powerhouses like Texas or Oklahoma. And even at Harvard or Columbia Law, “Big Law” firms — those with the coveted $160,000 starting salaries — don’t reach too far below the median class rank when selecting first-year associate. As you go down the ranks, the odds only decrease. NFL players from non-BCS conferences were usually top-tier starters in college, while top-50 law schools typically send only 10-25% of each class to “Big Law”. And just as there are always a few DII and DIII players in the draft each year, students from tier 2 and tier 3 law schools occasionally beat out graduates of elite schools for jobs. But “small school” success stories are the best of the best — collegiate All-Americans, the top 1% of their class in law review.--Jonathan Tjarks

There are almost no Americans left who have either the painfully developed musculature or the painstakingly acquired knowledge to rapidly harvest a field without damaging the crop. To my mind, that's a good thing: Americans don't have these skills because they have better alternatives. But really, it doesn't matter whether it's good or not. The people who blithely assert that we could always get Americans to do this job by paying a higher way are wildly underestimating what's involved in becoming a skilled picker. It is not something you learn to do of an afternoon. If we shut out the immigrants, we will see a lot more ruined crops.--Megan McArdle

Andrew Gelman, a statistics professor at Columbia and an amateur name-ologist, argues that many parents want their boys to seem mature and so pick classic names. William, David, Joseph and James, all longtime stalwarts, remain in the Top 20. With girls, Gelman says, parents are attracted to names that convey youth even into adulthood and choose names that seem to be on the upswing.--DAVID LEONHARDT

... [Chris Mooney] spun the survey to focus on the fact that the disagreement polarized the hierarchical-individualists and communitarian-egalitarians alone, and concludes that 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. Yes, Mr. tendentious English major without an understanding of standard errors, it is.--Eric Falkenstein

Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes. Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets. Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible. Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn. For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.--Heather Vogell

The story of the person who kills for love is almost always more compelling than the person who kills for money. I didn't write about the Mafioso in [Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence] because that's a different phenomenon. Those are people who entered a lifestyle where killing people is just a necessary part of what they do. ... "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" is very, very interesting. It's false, and extremely arrogant, and very dangerous. That's not a real way to think about the world. This concept of eliminating the impossible — we could never do that. The whole idea of Sherlock Holmes is dangerous because it encourages people to think that — if they're intelligent enough — they could put all the pieces together in absolute terms. But the human mind is not sophisticated enough to do that. People are not that smart. It's not that Sherlock Holmes would need to be twice as smart as the average person; he'd have to be a billion times as smart as the average person. ... We continually become less tolerant of actions that lead to death. The human race has been in a long struggle to eliminate murder. And we will succeed. ... There will always be occasional exceptions, but we're involved in a long struggle against murder, war, famine, disease — and we move forward more than we move back. And you can only understand this if you look over the sweep of centuries.--Bill James

President Lyndon Johnson and the “best and the brightest” who staffed his administration led this country into three quagmires. By far the most famous, but perhaps not the most expensive and dangerous resulted from LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War. More than 50,000 Americans and many more Vietnamese died as a result of that policy; our country was bitterly divided in ways that still weaken us today, and the economic cost of the war was immense. It contributed to the wave of inflation that shook the country in the 1970s and in addition to the interest on the debt from this ill-starred venture we are still paying (as we certainly should) pensions and medical costs for the vets and their spouses. The Second Great Johnson Quagmire now destroying the nation is the Medicare/Medicaid complex. These entitlement programs are the biggest single financial problem we face. They dwarf all the Bush-Obama wars; they make TARP look like small change. They not only cost money we don’t have — and are scheduled to cost inexorably more until they literally ruin the nation — they have distorted our entire health system into the world’s most bloated and expensive monstrosity. Thanks to these programs, we have a health system that marries the greed of the private sector to the ineptitude of government, and unless we can somehow tame these beasts America and everything it stands for could be lost. (Note, please, that by comparison Social Security can be relatively easily reformed to be solvent for the next 75 years. The New Deal, whatever its shortcomings, was almost infinitely more realistic and sustainable than the Great Society.)--Walter Russell Mead

This NFL lockout is so much fun!--Bryan Allain

The way I see it, if the fans vote for Charlie Sheen to start in the outfield, Michele Bachmann at short and Rupaul at first base, then baseball should do its best to make that happen. I think the game is for the fans, completely and entirely, and I wish they would have fans vote DURING THE GAME on who to pinch-hit, who to bring in from the pen, when to hit and run and so on. The complaint I've heard that the fans should have voted Jhonny Peralta over Derek Jeter at shortstop because he had a much better first half feels to me like arguing that a kid should serve broccoli at a birthday party instead of cake because broccoli is s better for you. Jhonny Peralta has been a mostly dreadful player for three years. It's wonderful he had a great 76 games this year. But why does that obligate me to vote him into the All-Star game? Arguing that fans were somehow misguided for choosing the most popular player of the generation to start at shortstop over Jhonny Peralta seems to me like an anti-argument, like arguing that the All-Star Game should not be fun at all. ... Andrew McCutchen isn't in the All-Star Game and I can't even say why. Michael says it best: It feels like a clerical error or something. Clerical errors are no fun at all ... which gets us back to the All-Star Game problem in the first place.--Joe Posnanski
Photo link here and here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I am unsure if this is good news or bad

Josh Margolin reports, via Bess Levin:
President Obama is desperately putting his Wall Street stock in an unlikely old buddy.

The beleaguered president has recruited former Goldman Sachs head honcho Jon Corzine to shore up re-election funds from the banking industry, which is furious over Obama's financial regulations.

Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey who was blasted out of office by Republican Chris Christie in 2009, has attended secret meetings with the president and has been working on Obama's 2012 campaign for months, The Post has learned.

The Democrat, who now leads Manhattan-based brokerage MF Global, has been tasked with scraping up the very little banking-industry support Obama can still get.
Corzine was exposed as a system QB after leaving Goldman, and I don't think he has much influence for raising funds. But I shudder to think about him as our next CEA chair, Treasury Secretary, or gulp Fed chair.  Image link here.

Video of the day

He’s not the biggest, he was never the strongest, he’s not the fastest, he was overlooked — went in the sixth round. With that being said, all of the intangibles a quarterback is supposed to have, they overlooked with him because it was burned from the inside of him.--Ray Lewis
NFL Network's #1 player of 2011.

Lewis--no slouch himself, the greatest player of the maybe greatest defense ever--goes on later:
That's what makes great players great players. The unselfish plays. And when I saw that play [from Superbowl XXXVIII] I said 'wow'! That's how simple he makes the game. The game ain't hard to him. It's like The Matrix where it slows down. It's poetry.

Quotes of the day

Imagine that the arguments triggered by the Hindenberg disaster were about the fire extinguishers and parachutes that airships should carry, rather than about the design flaws that might cause them to ignite. Unfortunately, today’s debates about banking reform have just this character.--Amar Bhidé

A new study by the Cultural Cognition Project, a team headed up by Yale law professor Dan Kahan, shows that people who are more science- and math-literate tend to be more skeptical about the consequences of climate change. Increased scientific literacy also leads to higher polarization on climate-change issues.--Freakonomics

Here is one of my first posts on global cooling, from 4 years ago.--Cav

I recently watched an overwhelmingly liberal audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival shift uncomfortably in its seats as Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, offered his own explanation. For several years Professor Haidt has probed what he calls the moral intuitions of liberals and conservatives. I find his conclusions compelling. It has come to this: you need a psychologist to make sense of US fiscal policy. Prof Haidt finds that liberals are driven mainly by intuitions about fairness (who gets what) and harm to victims. Conservatives are guided by those intuitions too, but also by intuitions about loyalty, authority, and purity (including bodily purity). These are not views so much as deeply embedded moral impulses. They are often wrapped up in religion, or lack of it. Transgressing them is a kind of sacrilege. In the US, differences in these moral-psychological foundations are very marked. The more progressive you are, the harder you find it to understand the claims of loyalty, authority and purity. The more conservative you are, the more indispensable those claims appear to be. This matters because US politics, especially at the conservative end, is powered by the energy at the extremes. Why did the Aspen audience squirm? Because Prof Haidt also notes that the wider conservative spectrum of moral intuitions is the global norm. Those conservative impulses are nearly universal across world religions and cultures. Secular liberals are the anomaly.--Clive Crook

We have to tell people what is happening here. I’m frankly embarrassed to be a member of a community where 41 percent of pregnancies are terminated.--NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Doctors are silly.--Tim Harford's child

Statistics are like a bikini. What they present is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.--Aaron Levenstein

Is there a “shortage” of primary care physicians relative to “shortages” of specialists? I am doubtful for several reasons.--Gary Becker

Miss America is all finished product and no process, and contemporary viewers tend to crave the exact opposite. The pageant ethos of perfectibility seems as quaint, these days, as the “Miss” honorific.   ... for the most part, the young ladies of 2011 played it safe. Contestants barely speak for the first half of the show, and it’s hard to stand out when you’re one of several dozen women grinning silently in taffeta.  The exception was Miss Nebraska, who performed her piano glissandi with some violence, spoke forcefully about WikiLeaks (“When it came to that situation, it was actually based on espionage”), and shared her intention to be a Supreme Court justice. Watching the pageant, I was struck by her attractiveness, quotability, toughness, faith, and ambition. As weird and unfashionable as pageant standards may seem, Scanlan’s ruthless beauty-queen comportment feels immediately familiar in 2011, when political candidates are held to a standard of faultlessness that only a doll might plausibly meet (women candidates in particular). Transport Scanlan from her Miss America context into the political arena and the anachronistic pageant armor seems, suddenly, a shrewdly contemporary asset.--Molly Young

Last Sunday, in the Wimbledon final, the succession happened again. This time, Novak Djokovic did to Nadal what Nadal once did to Federer, taking the match, and the championship, 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3. After a year of picking the Spaniard off in smaller tournaments1 while piling up an overall record of 47-1, Djokovic finally beat the king. As with Nadal-Federer, the key wasn't just that the younger guy won, but that the loser lost despite playing really good tennis. Over the first hour or so of the match, Nadal's first-serve rate was 91 percent. During the middle phase of the match, when Djokovic started dictating every rally, Nadal sometimes hit three or four shots in a row that could have been winners against any other player. Each time, Djokovic managed to keep the ball in play en route to a winner of his own. Because Nadal was so solid, all the pressure fell on the mind of Djokovic. Could the younger player hold up against the inevitable onslaught from the proven champ? Djokovic's win took tennis to a very high plane — someplace noticeably better than Nadal's near-best. It was as perfect a symbolic coup as you could stage. Not only will Djokovic be no. 1 when the new ATP rankings come out, he validated his astonishing year by seizing the crown from the (former) best player in tennis in the biggest match in the sport. ... the Federer-Nadal rivalry has confounded our normal assumption that greatness, wins, and dominance are all inextricably linked. ... We're looking at the possibility of a greatness equation in which, measured by overall results, Federer > Nadal > Djokovic, but measured by dominance, Djokovic > Nadal > Federer > Djokovic. It's as if math looked at all the talent at the top of the men's game right now and spontaneously burst into flames.--Brian Phillips

Whom do professional athletes deserve to date?--Carles

To me, [Peyton Manning]'s the greatest of all-time.--Tom Brady

Catching up to the reality already faced by many of its members, the nation’s largest teachers’ union on Monday affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country. ... But blunting the policy’s potential impact, the union also made clear that it continued to oppose the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core part of the federally backed teacher evaluation overhauls already under way in at least 15 states.--Sharon Otterman

Interestingly, New York City's per capita transportation emissions are remarkably low among American cities, largely because it has the lowest share of commuters in personal automobiles of any large American city. It would be possible to account for these pollution externalities, to some extent at least, by taxing them. But at the moment, fuel taxes are too low to cover road maintenance, to say nothing of the costs of automobile pollution. As a result, there are too many cars on New York's streets. ... Now, if drivers paid for all the costs they impose on others, then it might be worth asking what the optimal level of bike lanes to have is and discussing whether the lanes themselves are subject to rising congestion and need to be priced. Of course, if drivers paid for all the costs they impose on others, there would be fewer drivers complaining about bike lanes and more people using them. As things stand, given that cyclists help alleviate some of these externalities (a cyclist takes up dramatically less road space than a car, doesn't use on-street parking, does not emit ozone, and does not contribute to climate change) it seems quite sensible to allocate a larger share of New York's roadways to lanes for cyclists. From an economic perspective.--The Economist

Google is fighting a multi-front war with a host of tech giants for control over some of the most valuable pieces of real estate in technology. Whether it’s social, mobile, browsing, local, enterprise, or even search, Google is being attacked from all angles. And make no mistake about it, they are fighting back and fighting back, hard.--Semil Shah

A man and his mega receipt
Gave rumor mills all kinds of heat
Whose eight-figure sum?
He’s kept himself mum
But I think it’s Peterson, Pete.--Kevin Roose
Photo link here, here, here and here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th of July

Thanks to all who came before and who gave to those coming after.

I hope we do likewise.

Photo link here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Quotes of the day

It’s one thing to gamble with money- it’s quite another to gamble with your heart.--Bess Levin

I'd compare the "leading man" position to the NFL's quarterback position — we need 32 starting QB's every year regardless of whether we actually have 32 good ones, just like we need 40 to 45 leading men every year regardless of whether have 40 to 45 good ones. That makes Reynolds someone like Alex Smith: he's a no. 1 draft pick, he has all the tools, you can easily talk yourself into him being good … and then, six games into the season, you realize that you're not making the Super Bowl with Alex Smith. Here's where sports and Hollywood diverge: In sports, we're constantly assessing everything from both a small-picture and big-picture standpoint. Success is measured through wins and losses, playoff games, conventional statistics and advanced metrics that become more complicated every month. If you believe Jose Bautista is having a better 2011 season than Adrian Gonzalez, and I believe the opposite, there's a really good chance we can figure out an answer. In Hollywood, success is defined by awards shows, box office grosses, word of mouth and the fee for your next movie. That's it.--Bill Simmons

I'd say if you put together the best team you could find of hitters who DID NOT get 3,000 hits would beat the team of players who DID get 3,000 hits.

Team with 3,000 hits:
1B: Stan Musial
2B: Eddie Collins
SS: Cal Ripken (or Jeter soon)
3B: George Brett
LF: Ty Cobb (or Rickey or Yaz)
CF: Willie Mays
RF: Hank Aaron (or Clemente or Kaline)
C: None (Ivan Rodriguez only one with 2,500 hits)

That team is amazing. But look at the non-3,0000hit team.

Team without 3,000 hits
1B: Lou Gehrig
2B: Joe Morgan (or Hornsby)
SS: Honus Wagner
3B: Mike Schmidt (or A-Rod)
LF: Ted Williams (or Barry Bonds)
CF: Mickey Mantle (or DiMaggio)
RF: Babe Ruth
C: Johnny Bench (or Yogi)--Joe Posnanski

Chart of the day: ignoramuses

Source here, via Steve Randy Waldman.