Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Will Wilkinson on makers and takers

Maybe the best thing I have read so far about the whole 47 percent business.

Though a comedian on NPR did say something to the effect that if he had known there would be all this math, he never would have started paying attention to politics.

Via MR


PDD = partisan differentiation disorder.

Hat tip: An economist friend on Facebook

Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6

The Michigan defense played quite well, but not well enough to cancel out a really, really (really, really) sloppy game by the offense. Live by Denard, die by Denard, it seems.

This will likely drop Michigan out of the top 25. The good news is that much of the rest of the Big Ten continues to play poorly (e.g. Iowa losing to Central Michigan and Illinois getting routed by Louisiana Tech), so bowl eligibility should not be a problem. coverage here.

Technical change in food delivery

Naysayers aver that technical change is slowing down, but how can that be so when great inventions like this voice-activated single-kernel-shooting popcorn maker keep appearing?

Think of the productivity gains at department meetings alone!

Hat tip: a hungry Charlie Brown

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Assorted links

1. North Face, meet South Butt.

2. UM promotes paternalism and intolerance.

3. John Scalzi on how to be a good commenter.

4. Supplier induced demand: prostitution sting edition.

5. Coase theorem failure.

Hat tip to someone on #1 ... who was it? Hat tip on #5 to Charlie Brown.

Technical change in the reproductive health sector

... comes (ahem) to a hospital in China.

And it's hands free!

Friday, September 21, 2012

More on the 47 percent

1. A nice piece from the NYT Economix blog on the voting habits of those who do not pay income tax.

2. Matt Welch at reason does some debunking.

3. Nick Gillespie at reason on the good news: both campaigns and the media who love them can avoid talking about anything serious for a few more days.

4. A good political overview from the Economist.

I await the happy day when the election is over and we can return to the usual, marginally lower, level of inanity.

Addendum: Matt Welch link fixed. And a very nice piece from Steve Chapman.

Uncle Bonsai kickstarter project

Only a few hours left to help Uncle Bonsai - my favorite folk group - out with their children's book / CD project on Kickstarter.

I will confess that I am distracted both by the idea of a personal concert - $3,000 is much less than I imagined such a thing would cost - and by the idea of getting a personal recording of a song of my choice for only $500. There are a few UB songs that I recall fondly from my college days that they have never, to my knowledge, recorded. One is "Visible Panty Lines", which they would perform with some tubes that were used to represent the panty lines. Others were very funny covers, including "Wild Thing" and "You Light Up My Life".

Sadly missing from the list: a reunion concert complete with former member Ashley.

A cool toy I had completely forgotten about

Spirograph also has a wikipedia page, complete with math.

Hat tip: Tom Headrick on Facebook

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gladwell on Sandusky

As one expects, this Malcolm Gladwell piece on child molesters is well-written and interesting and informed by the literature.

What I think is missing is any notion that Type II errors have to be balanced against Type I errors. Gladwell is all about Type I errors - failing to conclude that individuals are child molesters when they actually are - and not at all about Type II errors - falsely concluding that individuals are child molesters when in fact they are not. Both types of error are very costly in this context.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Washington 52, Portland State 13

In the world of survey sampling, PSU stands for "primary sampling unit". In the world of college football victories for pay, it apparently stands for "portland state university".

The main take-away is that the defense really is a lot better than last year. That's good news.

Seattle Times coverage here.

Next comes the not so happy part of Washington's schedule: Stanford on Thursday, Sept. 27, then Oregon, then USC. Ugh.

Michigan 63, Taxachusetts 13

I felt a bit old while watching this game when I realized that my youthful enthusiasm for blowouts in favor of my preferred team is fading away. I can remember having a discussion with my father about this when I was about 12 in which I argued in favor of blowouts and he argued in favor of close wins. I have now come over to his position. coverage of the one-sided affair is here.

Tom Sargeant bank commercial

This is pretty cool because it doubles as a commercial and a response to the critics (mostly in the press) who have blamed macro-economics for not predicting the Great Recession.

Will a Heckman commercial be next?

Hat tip: Ken Troske

Secret Romney video

Mother Jones feigns shock at the "secret" video of remarks by Romney at a campaign fundraiser.

 I the only one who finds it obvious that this was deliberately released by the Romney campaign?

What one might call the moral hazard problem (or perhaps the mass corruption problem) of people voting themselves treats at the expense of others is hardly new, and Romney both overstates it as it applies to the poor and is too narrow about it as it applies to the middle class. It is also hardly limited to the blue team. For example, all those folks who work at defense contractors and in the military (and their families and friends and neighbors) do not vote for the red team because of they have concluded that an imperialist foreign policy is best given their deep study of history and international relations theory.

The rest of the video seems surprisingly unshocking, despite Mother Jones' reaction. Romney and Obama both employ expensive, vaguely (or maybe not so vaguely) sleazy election consultants. Both of them avoid serious intellectual discussion of issues, and for good reason: doing so is optimal given the decision problem that they face. And everyone knows that winning the long term affections of the "Hispanic vote" is very important for both parties.

So, other than bromides, all you have is meat for the red team base. What do all the pundits say? That this election is all about mobilizing bases. What do I conclude? That Mother Jones is implicitly doing the bidding of the Romney campaign by publicizing the video.

I predict that a similar Obama video emerges soon.

Hat tip: multiple blue team friends on Facebook.

Smoking and restaurants

I don't agree with the mandatory smoke-free policy but I do agree with this new study by Helen Levy.

Like the real thing, but better ...

James Earl Jones reads Justin Bieber.

Hat tip: Arthur Robson

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Attack ad compilation

Via the Atlantic, a short compilation of political attack ads starting in the 1950s.

Even if you already know that attack ads are nothing new, the compilation is interesting because it shows how the technology of television has improved over time, it shows that people in the past often thought differently about particular candidates than we do now, and because it illustrates other historical changes. As an example of the last of these, can you imagine a blue team candidate using the term "God's children" without irony, as Lyndon Johnson does in one of the ads in the compilation?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Goolsbee on the Daily Show

The extended play version of Goolsbee's Daily Show appearance is here. There are some bits of rather loose empirics at times, perhaps unavoidable given the context, but it is always fun to watch economists on the show.

Movie: The Queen of Versailles

What a fascinating documentary!

Originally intended to be the story of the building of the largest private home ("Versailles") in the US, the financial crisis turned it into a much more interesting story when it came along and upset the process.

The NYT offers both a review by A.O. Scott - a bit more positive than I would be - and another, perhaps even more interesting, piece on the post-movie lawsuit by David Siegel, the patriarch of the family building the house and the boss of the world's largest privately held time-share company.

And it was extra fun to watch it in Ann Arbor, complete with hoots and hissing when David Siegel announces that he is responsible for the Bush II presidency and mirth at the many (many) instances in which the Siegels show off their astoundingly bad taste in everything from boob jobs to burgers.


Mean streets of Ann Arbor?

An reporter does a party patrol ride-along and confirms that Ann Arbor is pretty darn sedate, even on a Saturday night after a home game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thomas Szasz, RIP

Jacob Sullum has some words on the passing of Thomas Szasz.

Movie: The Intouchables

This is what one would watch on a highbrow, French version of the Lifetime channel, if there was such a thing. A.O. Scott walks the thin line between "pretty nice" and "wow, I've seen all those cliches before", which is exactly where to walk with this movie.

Recommended as being very good conditional on genre.

Bizarre conspiracy theory parody (I think)

This is PG-13, which may be a feature, or a bug.

I don't remember where I found this as it was a couple of weeks ago. Maybe Cheap Talk?

Biden and the biker chick

Click through just to look at the faces on the two biker guys.

Kinda creepy all around, seems to me.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown


The New Yorker delivers a surprisingly gentle mocking to the prudes at Facebook.

Hat tip: Ken Troske

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Roback model not to follow

From the Journal of Political Economy to insulting everyone who suffered under communism by equating them with the people who celebrated "Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day".

An indefensible waste of human capital, I would say, though I suspect Dr. Roback would disagree.

Hat tip on the Chik-fil-A piece: Mel Stephens

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Michigan 31, Air Force 25

Michigan was lucky to get out of this one with a win. The article makes lots of excuses, but the fact of the matter is that the team was over-rated at the start of the season. Hopefully last week's debacle at Alabama and this week's squeaker at home will put an end to the media hype and get the team focused on working hard to get better.

The most interesting bit is perhaps the adjustment to the defense that involved putting in a freshman who had been on an option team in high school and so was experienced at defending it.  The defense did become noticeably better towards the end of the game; apparently that was why.

At least now no one can say that the Alabama loss had much of anything to do with the one-game suspension of the starting running back. He did almost nothing yesterday.

Like Washington, Michigan has an easy one next week, playing Massachusetts in the Big House.

Interesting ways to lose your job

From the Daily Mail, the sad story of a Chicago executive who lost his cool, lost his job, and lost his lawsuit.

I would have thought that they covered this in the first week of busyness school.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

A British view of Tim Tebow

How To Spend It considers religious extrovert Tim Tebow, but prefers Peyton Manning in the end.

LSU 41, Washington 3

To be honest, this is about what I expected. LSU was in the national championship game last year for a reason and the Huskies were playing them on their field. Not a good recipe for success, especially not in the second week of the season with a young team.

My views about the likely outcome for the season, somewhere between six and nine wins, have not really changed. If anything, the defense played a bit better than I expected against LSU, particularly given that they were on the field most of the game due to Washington's offensive woes. If this had been last year's defense it would have been 70-3.

Perhaps the real bad news yesterday was the play of UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and the lowly beavers, who upended Wisconsin in Corvalis. Suddenly the second half of Washington's schedule does not look as easy as it did a week ago.

Next week Washington plays Portland State at home. Given the situation with the PAC-12 network, I expect I will be listening rather than watching, which is irritating. I sent an email to the Comcast regional pooh-bah last Wednesday but have yet to receive a reply. Hard to imagine why so many people dislike them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I spent yesterday morning taking part in a panel on US active labor market programs put on by the American Enterprise Institute in DC. This is the first time I have ever done a sort of think tank policy "event" - all the AEI folks called it the "event" - in my career.  It was more fun than I expected.

You can watch videos of the event at the AEI web page and on the C-Span (another first for me) web page. AEI excerpted my comments comparing the cost information available at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, where I worked in high school, with that typically available about job training programs in a separate video snippet. This made me happy because my Farrell's reference got cut by the editors of the WIA book chapter I posted about a few days ago.

Not counting moderators, the following people spoke: Steve Davis, Larry Katz, Harry Holzer, me, Gary Burtless, Paul Decker, Betsey Stevenson, and Ken Troske. Five speakers wore dark suits, two, Larry and Gary, wore summery light suits, and yours truly, who does not own a suit jacket, wore a short-sleeve dress shirt and a tie. I am not sure what model explains the sartorial variation.

I was impressed that AEI, which is usually labeled center-right, put on a panel where most of the speakers were democrats. Indeed, three of the eight speakers are former chief economists at DOL under democrat presidents: Katz, Holzer and Stevenson. Perhaps the explanation is that, at the end of the day, the speakers agreed on nearly every point. This is one of those areas where, at least for marginal changes, it is the economists versus the politicians and (more deeply) the self-interested stakeholders.

Regular readers know  that I pay attention to social networks. Among the panelists, there are many connections: Ken and I went to college and grad school together. Paul and I have known each other for years; we met when we were both consulting on program evaluations in Canada. These days, he is occasionally my boss when I consult for Mathematica. Steve Davis was on Ken's dissertation committee at Chicago and, as I recall, employed Ken as a research assistant. Harry and I are working on a paper together. Betsey is now my colleague at Michigan. Oh, and the AEI moderator for my panel worked at the NY Fed with one of my graduate students. Academic economics is a small world., particularly once you condition on being interested in job training programs.

The lunch at AEI was as good as I remembered from the one other time I had been there, back in my Maryland days, despite being surprisingly healthy.

It will interesting to see if anything comes of this effort.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Washington 21, San Jose State 12

Washington's first game of the season was a lot closer than it should have been. That's the bad news. The good news is that the defense looked much improved from last year.

Seattle Times story here.

Next week: LSU in Baton Rouge. Ugh. I am unsure of the point of putting LSU on the schedule.

The other bad news is that Comcast is not carrying the Pac-12 network in Ann Arbor, as well as many other places. Given that they provide hundreds of channels of worthless drivel, this seems an odd choice, particularly given the long-standing rivalry between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten..

Shooting fish in the DNC barrel

Reason's interviewer demonstrates what you really already knew: (1) most people hold large numbers of mutually inconsistent political views and (2) that is even true of people at a political convention whom you might have thought would have devoted more CPU cycles to trying to be consistent.

Being pro-choice only in cases where you might actually make the choice but not in other cases is a bit like wanting free speech only for people who agree with you (and there are many on both teams who hold essentially that position). It truly is amazing that we have any freedom at all.

The red team would, of course, have done no better if asked, for example, to account for the inconsistency inherent in believing that the post office and other domestic bureaucracies are hopeless failures while the military bureaucracy can be expected to successfully transform backward autocracies into liberal societies in a deacde.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Assorted links

1. Some bits and photos on the history of course registration at Michigan. I always loved picking courses - so many cool choices, but tempered with the frustration at not being able to take all the ones that sounded interesting. Sort of like seminars and conferences, I suppose.

2. Size matters at the Fed's Jackson Hole symposium.

3. Where the college students are - from Atlantic Cities.

4. Organizing the school day morning. This is new for us - tomorrow is Elizabeth's first day of kindergarten.

5. Interview with Maggie Gyllenhall on Salon.

Dan Drezner on being a Sunday morning pundit

This does not sound like something I would like.

PDD Illustrated

Partisan Differentiation Disorder (PDD) illustrated with Star Wars characters.

Via Tom Headrick on Facebook

Katie Rophie on children and their invisible mothers

The starting paragraphs of Katie's fine essay:
If, from beyond the grave, Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, I am afraid she would be very disappointed in us. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted toddler running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favourite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some earnest future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about “the construction of women’s identity” at this particular moment in time?
Many of these women work. Many of them are in book clubs. Many of them are involved in causes, or have interests that take them out of the house. But this is how they choose to represent themselves. The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafés and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when fresh-scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes. Which is not to say that I don’t understand the temptation to put a photograph of your beautiful child on Facebook, because I do. After all, it frees you of the burden of looking halfway decent for a picture, and of the whole excruciating business of being yourself. Your three-year-old likes being in front of the camera. But still.
Good stuff - and real feminism, not WCTU tracts rewritten with post-modern jargon, which is much of what passes for feminism these days.

Movie: Dark Horse

Dark Horse is sort of a love story about two very awkward people. At times hilarious, at times brutal, at times painful to watch, but overall worth a look.

I did not like it quite as much as A.O. Scott in the NYT.


Doonesbury on Congress

Hat tip: Charlie Brown