Sunday, February 13

Quote of the day

QDB: Quote #301779

[Indogutsu] According to an "On This Day in America" calendar hanging on the wall in my office, Robert Fulton (the inventor of the steamboat) appeared before a House committee on February 14th, 1810 to explain the uses of torpedoes.
[Indogutsu] So to all of you who, for whatever reason, can't find love and feel left out and bitter on Valentine's Day, you can instead use this day to remember Robert Fulton and his contributions to undersea warfare.

Thursday, December 9

Moved to Library Grape

I've moved my blogging to the new Library Grape.

You might encounter a personal post here once in a blue moon, but EYAB is largely on ice.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 28

Thursday, November 18

The limits of the Wyden-Brown approach to state innovation

Alas.

If state CDH plans aren't allowed yet state single-payer is, their compromise is worthless to those of us on the right, and actually a step backwards.

Has the fed been a failure?

Alex Tabarrok:
2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Fed.  What have we got for our money? Surprisingly little.  Inflation is clearly higher in the post-Fed era as is price variability. Deflation is lower, although there is nothing to fear from secular deflation. Barsky, Miron, Mankiw and Weil did find that the Fed dramatically reduced seasonal interest rate variability. I have always found this result puzzling--money is easy to store and seasons are predictable so why aren't interest rates smoothed without a very elastic money supply? In anycase, it's not obvious that smoother rates are better, although there could be small gains. The big question, of course, is the variability of output. It used to be thought that output variability had decreased post-WW II but, as I pointed out in an earlier post, Romer's work (see also Miron) has shown that when measured on a consistent basis there is no substantial decline in volatility comparing pre-WW 1 to post-WW II. (Note that is generously giving the Fed a pass on the Great Depression!)

Selgin, Lastrapes and White have an excellent review of the empirical literature on inflation, output and other variables and conclude:

The Federal Reserve System has not lived up to its original promise. Early in its career, it presided over both the most severe inflation and the most severe (demand-induced) deflations in post-Civil War U.S. history. Since then, it has tended to err on the side of inflation, allowing the purchasing power of the U.S.dollar to deteriorate considerably. That deterioration has not been compensated for, to any substantial degree, by enhanced stability of real output. Although some early studies suggested otherwise, recent work suggests that there has been no substantial overall improvement in the volatility of real output since the end of World War II compared to before World War I. A genuine improvement did occur during the sub-period known as the "Great Moderation." But that improvement, besides having been temporary, appears to have been due mainly to factors other than improved monetary policy. Finally, the Fed cannot be credited with having reduced the frequency of banking panics or with having wielded its last-resort lending powers responsibly.

Quantitative easing explained

Bipartisan negotiation

Democrats want GOP lawmakers to give up their employer's healthcare

CBS:
A group of House Democrats has released a letter to Republican congressional leaders calling on them to announce which of their members will be forgoing their congressional benefit health insurance (which is subsidized by the government) in light of their party's opposition to health care reform overhaul legislation.
"If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk," four Democrats write in the letter, which is addressed to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader John Boehner. "You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don't happen to be Members of Congress."
This is sadly revealing--when did we decide the state should treat citizens as employees?

Perhaps we should also join Members of Congress in drawing government paychecks? I seem to recall Lenin getting here first.

Changing of the guard

Monday, November 15

Yglesias argues for raising the Medicare eligibility age to 70

I truly wish more people thought this way.

My deficit eviceration plan

Finally got around to playing with the NYT's deficit reduction app, and here are my results.

I choose all the domestic spending cuts, almost all the military cuts (kept the F-35 and Osprey), and the majority of health and social security cuts.  I extended all the Bush-era tax cuts, but added a carbon tax and reduced the mortgage interest rate deduction.  And I'm especially fond of the Bowles-Simpson plan that zeros out tax expenditures to broaden the tax base while lowering rates--though I would want to lower rates even further than their proposal (since I'm saving so much on the spending side).

Ah well, we must allow ourselves to dream from time to time. Now back to the bleak art of the possible...

Saturday, November 13

Napolitano interviews the Pauls

Saudi Arabia bans Facebook?

Slashdot:
gandhi_2 sends in a brief Associated Press piece on Saudi Arabia's blocking of Facebook. "An official with Saudi Arabia's communications authority says it has blocked Facebook because the popular social networking website doesn't conform with the kingdom's conservative values. ... He says Facebook's content had 'crossed a line' with the kingdom's conservative morals, but that blocking the site is a temporary measure." Some reports indicate that at least some individual Facebook pages can be reached from inside the kingdom. There hasn't been an official announcement; the source noted above requested anonymity. Earlier this year when Pakistan and Bangladesh banned Facebook, it was over particular content — cartoons of Mohammed — and the Saudi ban may prove similar once more details emerge.
Meanwhile, Turkey is more excited...



I chatted with a few Turks about this. It narrates the singer meeting his love on Facebook. He's one of those idiot celebrities who's disdained by most people in the country.

Friday, November 12

Why do people hate QE2?

Tyler Cowen:
[T]he libertarian right is having a hard time seeing the Fed as a relative ally over the last three years, which it has been. That admission implies an unappetizing shift in the goal posts for what is possible, and that sounds like a intellectual surrender to a lot of people I know. I think they are in denial. One alternative to acceptance is to view the Fed as sinister, which then leads you to fear anything they do, including QEII, their current major monetary policy initiative."

How to think about QE2

This post at Ezra's has a straightforward explanation.

Thursday, November 11

Make steak, not war!

Slashdot:
A study out of Canada claims that seeing meat actually calms a person down. From the article: "Contrary to expectations, a McGill University researcher has discovered that seeing meat makes people significantly less aggressive. Frank Kachanoff, who studies evolution at the university’s department of psychology, had initially thought the presence of meat would provoke bloodlust, believing the response would have helped our primate ancestors hunt. But in fact, his research showed the reverse is true."

Gary Johnson on drug policy

Obamacare and the War on Drugs

Commerce clause karma bites.

Culture matters

Rich, Black, Flunking:
The black parents wanted an explanation. Doctors, lawyers, judges, and insurance brokers, many had come to the upscale Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights specifically because of its stellar school district. They expected their children to succeed academically, but most were performing poorly. African-American students were lagging far behind their white classmates in every measure of academic success: grade-point average, standardized test scores, and enrollment in advanced-placement courses. On average, black students earned a 1.9 GPA while their white counterparts held down an average of 3.45. Other indicators were equally dismal. It made no sense.

[..] [Professor Ogbu] and his research assistant moved to Shaker Heights for nine months in mid-1997. They reviewed data and test scores. The team observed 110 different classes, from kindergarten all the way through high school. They conducted exhaustive interviews with school personnel, black parents, and students. Their project yielded an unexpected conclusion: It wasn't socioeconomics, school funding, or racism, that accounted for the students' poor academic performance; it was their own attitudes, and those of their parents.

Ogbu concluded that the average black student in Shaker Heights put little effort into schoolwork and was part of a peer culture that looked down on academic success as "acting white." Although he noted that other factors also play a role, and doesn't deny that there may be antiblack sentiment in the district, he concluded that discrimination alone could not explain the gap.

"The black parents feel it is their role to move to Shaker Heights, pay the higher taxes so their kids could graduate from Shaker, and that's where their role stops," Ogbu says during an interview at his home in the Oakland hills. "They believe the school system should take care of the rest. They didn't supervise their children that much. They didn't make sure their children did their homework. That's not how other ethnic groups think."
(reddit, 1200 comments)

Wednesday, November 10

Class injustice


A redditor comments:
I'm in Law School and this illustrates how bad the system is rigged to favor the wealthy, and literally nothing can be done to change it.

Just as an example: The Plea Bargain - which the homeless guy most likely took.

The plea bargain is supposed to keep the court free and moving along, but what it does to the poor who can't afford a lawyer, is forcing them to plea to charges they are likely not even guilty of simply because their lawyer doesn't have the time or money to fight them (PubDef)

The AIG guy has a lawyer who will bury the ADA in paperwork. The ADA knows this, but has to get this guy in jail, but the AIG guy lawyer is good, and knows that he can drag out a trial over the next 2-4 years... the ADA doesn't want to do this... he's got fucking murders to try, so he offers the AIG [just] 4 years for a far more heinous crime... and he takes it, because no matter how well his lawyer fought, 2-4 years later, he'd be doing 20... the state just doesn't have the resources to take rich people to jail for 20 years.
Another adds the sort of explanation I was more familiar with:
I think it is more of how the laws are written, the poor guys was probably charged a federal crime for stealing from a bank. That is usually a violent crime, and as such carries a minimum amount of prison time much higher than fraud that isn't a violent crime.

Tuesday, November 9

Darunde's Sandstorm on a toy trumpet


For once I agree with the top youtube comment:
At first I was like -_- then I was like ∙___∙!!! then I was like :D :D :D

Good news I suppose

Reihan Salam directs us to the latest UN Human Development Index statistics:
1. Norrway (4,676,305)
2. Australia (21,515,754)
3. New Zealand (4,252,277)
4. United States (310,232,863)
5. Ireland (4,622,917)
6. Liechtenstein (35,002)
7. Netherlands (16,783,092)
8. Canada (33,759,742)
9. Sweden (9,074,055)
10. Germany (82,282,988)
I won't pretend to know what this really means, but apparently the US is doing well.

Political theorist Jacob Levy tweeted (in jest)
New Human Development Index released. Wasn't HDI's whole purpose to have Canada and Sweden outrank US? Fail.
Hah. I suppose progressives can try to praise health care reform (though it hasn't taken effect and has nothing to do with these numbers yet).

Dueling sequiturs

point
counter point
You can quibble with the simplifications in both, but I maintain the second is far more accurate.

Monday, November 8

Texas judge gives 7 year old right to decide custody

A seven year old boy was at the center of a county courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy had a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulation requiring that family unity be maintained to the highest degree possible.

The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried and said that they also beat him.

After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him. After two recesses to check legal references and confer with the child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the Dallas Cowboys, whom the boy firmly believes are not capable of beating anyone.

Oh lordy. Perhaps the kid could teach them a trick play:

Sunday, November 7

"There will be caving with frosting and sprinkles on top"

Go here for my take on Obama's future triangulation and how I imagine the activist left will respond.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inkissition



In peaceful protest of the Catholic Church's stance against homosexuality and gay marriage, a crowd of activists staged a massive "kiss-in" session in front of Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday as he limbered through Barcelona inside his bullet-proof popemobile—on his way to a mass in the city's new basilica, the Sagrada Familia.

"The Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family ... the indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context of human life in its gestation, birth, growth, and natural end," the pope said at the mass.

Reuters has video of the kissing protesters.

(cross posted at Library Grape)

Draft Mitch Daniels

Yes.

He is way better than the GOP's current field.

My dream nominee would be Gary Johnson, but let's be real—there's no way he can overcome both neo- and social-conservative opposition.

Mitch Daniels will at the least have an outside chance of overcoming tea party populism.

I need to know more of how his foreign policy would contrast with Obama's before I could endorse him in the general. But let's also not get ahead of ourselves.

How to make a BLT

MMMMMMmmmm

Saturday, November 6

Pet notes

"TIL: I can use cats as a successful medium for anonymous, old-school communiqué. I also learned that their owners don't appreciate it. "



A redditor adds:
An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard; I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of. He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head; he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour. This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar, 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar, 'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 and he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?'

Rachel Maddow responds to Olbermann suspension



For my part I feel a bit of schadenfreude at seeing Keith off the air; he's as insufferable to watch as anyone on Fox News.

Yet as Rachel argues, MSNBC generally isn't quite so badly behaved. They have a foot planted somewhat further into the news business, periodically airing something informative or beneficially thought-provoking.

Fox, as we know, is almost wholly devoted to pandering its viewers' bias and stupidity. One might snicker that this is true of TV news in general, but clearly Fox takes it a mile further.

Row, row, row your boat


Not so gently down the stream.

A history of spending

Quote of the day

One of life’s little ironies is that, over the long run, people who are willing to admit they could be wrong turn out to be wrong a lot less often than people who aren’t: the same is true in polling. —Nate Silver

Florida school cancels "To Kill a Mockingbird" play

...because it contains a racial slur! Way to miss the fucking point. What are we banning next, Huckleberry Finn? The Catcher in the Rye?

I'm not sure how I feel about this



But I have to admit it's pretty trippy.

What an idiot



Silly professor! Stars only come out at night. LOL!

(reddit)

Friday, November 5

Scientists overclock people's brains

(Slashdot) Researchers at Oxford University found that inducing a small current in a subject's parietal lobe boosted their capacity for numerical learning:
"The current could not be felt, and had no measurable effect on other brain functions. As it was turned on, the volunteers tried to learn a puzzle which involved substituting numbers for symbols. Those given the current from right to left across the parietal lobe did significantly better when given, compared to those who were given no electrical stimulation. The direction of the current was important — those given stimulation running in the opposite direction, left to right, did markedly worse at these puzzles than those given no current, with their ability matching that of an average six-year-old. The effects were not short-lived, either. When the volunteers whose performance improved was re-tested six months later, the benefits appear to have persisted. There was no wider effect on general maths ability in either group, just on the ability to complete the puzzles learned as the current was applied."
So: some day in the future our kids may have electrical currents applied from right to left across their brains while they're at school? Sweet!

Interest rate WTF

Tyler Cowen:
What's in your wallet? Less if you use Firefox or IE and more if you use Chrome. Here from J-Walk Blog are interest rates for a car loan from Capital One if you use IE.
IERates
and here are the rates if you use Chrome:
Chrome
Consumerist: "Capital One Made Me Different Loan Offers Depending On Which Browser I Used"

Here's one commenter:
These are driven by statistics. I work in a group that does statistical analysis of web traffic, and any piece of information that is collected during a browser session is subject to analysis--including what browser you use. If statistical analysis of web traffic, correlated to account history, indicates that users of browser X are more likely to default or be a problem payer on a loan than users of browser Y, then that goes into the mix, and has absolutely nothing to do with the browser itself.

We analyze EVERYTHING: What bank your credit card is with, where you live, how many seconds you spend on each web page, how long your fargin' name is. Everything that can be analyzed IS analyzed, and correlations that give any 'lift' are folded into the lending process.
This could have flown under the radar if Capital One had decided to cache a history of previously-presented offers by IP address that expired after, say, six hours.

I doubt it was intentional, but the publicity this has generated on economics blogs must be good for them.

Quantitative Easin', ctd.



At Greg Mankiw's blog, a reader responds to the above with this ditty:
I heard it in the headlines
It's news all over town
We might be double dippin'
Green shoots have all turned brown

It's a balance sheet recession
With a housing overhang
But they've got a brand new program
And it will start you with a bang

And it's called, quantitative easing
They say results are always pleasing.
When liquidity all starts freezing
Just warm things up with quantitative easing

I will say it straight and simple
It's clear, just like a bell
There's some long term bonds to buy
There's some short term bonds to sell

Don't talk about the good times
Don't ask me where they went
Just move your inflation target
On up to three point five per cent

And it's called, quantitative easing
This ain't no joke, it ain't no teasing
When the GDP starts wheezing
Treat with a shot of quantitative easing

Good and magic things will happen
It might take a week or three
Unemployment plunging downward
Recovery shaped just like a V

You'll see Nobels at the Treasury
There'll be rock stars at the Fed
It'll take hair off of Krugman's face
Put it on top of Ken Rogoff's head

And it's called, quantitative easin'
This ain't no scam, so don't call no policeman
When the engine of commerce starts seizin'
Just add a quart or quantitative easin'

Show no mercy to the critics
Don't let no one stop your nerve
You can mock Ricardian Equivalence
You can laugh at the Laffer Curve

Tell that guy at the Minneapolis Fed
To shut up, or you'll break his legs
And if the Bond Vigilantes don't like it?
Well, they can go suck eggs

And it's called quantitative easin'
You know I say this for a reason
When the economy just sits there squeezing
Loosen things up with quantitative easing

Left Right, Left Right, Left Right, Left..Right...

Thursday, November 4

Fucking Magnets, How Do They Work?

(The meme, if you missed it) Perhaps this 1983 answer can satisfy:

Hayek vs. Keynes



Now, a sneak peak of the sequel from a gathering with The Economist.

But is Obama a Keynsian?

Sunday, October 31

A friend caught his wife naked with another guy recently

And he doesn't want to address it at all:
Friend lets New Dude move in with him and his wife. New Dude doesn't pay rent at the time because he's "trying to get on his feet." I think it's cool that they are trying to help New Dude out, especially since he doesn't speak English as a first language and doesn't have any marketable skills. Last week, friend told me he walked in on New Dude and his wife in the bedroom and they were both naked. He really doesn't seem to want to do anything about this. I brought up how f'ed up this is a couple times and he seemed uninterested in what I have to say, but I can tell he's been losing sleep lately and he's clearly losing a good bit of his paycheck to support New Dude. New Dude seems like a cool guy but I think it's messed up that my friend is going through this. It's only going to get worse. How should I approach my friend and get him to listen?

EDIT: I found a picture of New Dude to give you a better idea of the situation: http://imgur.com/NpCur.jpg
(reddit)

Halloween Has Become Too Commercialized!

Let's not forget the reason for the season.

Quantitative Easin'

Cartoon medley

Rotationplasty



(reddit, 350 comments)

Saturday, October 30

Looks like a real page turner



Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Baker Book House (1982)
Amazon: 1 of 5 stars