Monday, April 30, 2007

Mannion To The Ready

by Ken Houghton

Need to deal with the time between S3 and Shrek3 and the film of HP5 and HP7?

Starting Thursday, May 24th (mercifully, the first day after sweeps), head over to Mannion's Place for The Last Throes:
Highly touted but low rated drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which has been on hiatus since mid-February, will return on NBC Thursday in place of ER on May 24 at 10 p.m. ET....

It is not expected back next season when NBC makes its fall 2007 prime-time schedule announcement (at New York City’s famed Rockefeller Center) on May 14.

Can't wait for the inevitable reaction from Ken Levine as well.

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Blog Post Outsourced!

by Tom Bozzo

To Dani Rodrik's new-ish blog (h/t The Street Light):
Imagine some change in the economy leaves Tom $3 richer and Jerry $2 poorer, and I ask you whether you approve of this change. Few economists, regardless of their political and philosophical orientation, would be able to give a straight answer without asking for more information. [True; snip. M]ost of us [i.e., non-economists] would care about the manner in which the distributional change occurred--i.e., about procedural fairness. The fact that the shock created a net gain of $1 is not enough to conclude that it is a change for the better.
Economists of many stripes tend to like the pie-increasing changes on the theory that the extra pie could, in principle, be redistributed to provide everyone with more pie (leaving aside the thorny question of the 'optimal' portions of pie). Of course, when there's no mechanism to efface a serious redistribution of the pie, it is not unlikely to be considered small comfort that the other guy could give you back your two slices of pie, were he less of a pie-hogging jerk. [*] This led various blogiversal commentators to dub the improvement-with-redistribution concept as a 'fallacy,' not at all without reason.

Back to Rodrik:
[This] clarifies... why the archetypal man on the street reacts differently to trade-induced changes in distribution than to technology-induced changes (i.e., to technological progress). Both increase the size of the economic pie, while often causing large income transfers. But a redistribution that takes place because home firms are undercut by competitors who employ deplorable labor practices, use production methods that are harmful to the environment, or enjoy government support is procedurally different than one that takes place because an innovator has come up with a better product through hard work or ingenuity. Trade and technological progress can have very different implications for procedural fairness. This is a point that most people instinctively grasp, but economists often miss.
People also may recognize that procedural fairness shortcomings increase the likelihood that the additional piece of pie may be a lobbyist's fiction or the like.

Kash Mansori notes approvingly in the Street Light post that Rodrik files his post in a category of "Economists' blindspots." It's a good one, indeed, to which we might eventually add something along the lines of, "Not even trying to resolve the contradictions." Cf. the NPR interview with Vivek Wadhwa this morning on outsourcing and the "engineer shortage," in which Wadhwa notes with concern trends towards outsourcing increasingly high-level tasks (while also making it clear that the private incentives favor hollowing-out), undermining arguments along the lines of, "Don't worry about outsourcing, it just means that we're retaining (indeed, specializing in) higher-valued intellectual property creation jobs."


[*] Madisonian FYI: LMNO'Pies' "pie bites," available at the Westside Community Market when LMNOPies [site layout really screwed up in Mac Firefox?!] makes an appearance, are really good.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's Even Worse than Josh Said

by Ken Houghton

Via Duncan Black and Josh Marshall comes the Washington Post's "Is Iraq Lost?" letters.

Josh , trying to be evenhanded, notes:
In fairness, WaPo also quotes two others saying, in effect, "not yet." But both also suggest that the answer turns on just how much in the way of resources the U.S. is willing to sink into the conflict, which -- given the obvious limits on such resources -- is just a way of ducking the question.

So who are the two "ducking the question"? One, Paul Rieckhoff, was an Army platoon leader in Baghdad in the early part of the war. (That is, he hasn't been there since 2004.) The other,Kanan Makiya, is cited as an "Iraqi scholar who supported the U.S. invasion." Their statements in full:
Not yet Some people will say the Yankees have lost if they're down in the eighth inning. They'll get in their cars and leave. But some people will stay until the last pitch. It's not lost until we collectively decide it's lost. The question is, how much are you willing to pay? [Reickhoff]

It's up to you The Iraq war is lost or won if the American people choose to lose or win it. With the way things are going at the moment, I perfectly understand why they might choose to give up on the war. But that is not because the war is inherently unwinnable by a country as great and rich and powerful as the United States. [Makiya]

Reickhoff, in short, was there when the Mission was Accomplished—and then some. But now it's the bottom of the eighth and the Yankees are losing by several runs. The last time we saw this scenario, they brought in Mariano Rivera. Which that worked really well.

And Iraq scholar Makiya? Turns out he was born in Iraq, but doesn't live there and hasn't for a long time. (He's a professor at Brandeis and founder of The Iraq Foundation back in 1991.)

So he's not exactly an unbiased observer. In fact, he wrote this piece for the Guardian in February of 2003:
The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities.

The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government.

The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition, and is guaranteed to turn that opposition from the close ally it has always been during the 1990s into an opponent of the United States on the streets of Baghdad the day after liberation.

The bureaucrats responsible for this plan are drawn from those parts of the administration that have always been hostile to the idea of a US-assisted democratic transformation of Iraq, a transformation that necessarily includes such radical departures for the region as the de-Baathification of Iraq (along the lines of the de-Nazification of post-war Germany), and the redesign of the Iraqi state as a non-ethnically based federal and democratic entity.

The plan is the brainchild of the would-be coup-makers of the CIA and their allies in the Department of State, who now wish to achieve through direct American control over the people of Iraq what they so dismally failed to achieve on the ground since 1991.

I couldn't have said it better myself. However, I long ago realized that, in the Augean stables, there may be a chance of finding a pony, but it's not good odds, even if you beat the first set, that it's still a live one.

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Hogging about Externalities and Process

by Ken Houghton

My prediction for the series stands, though I admit being optimistic again after last night's 2-1 Double OT victory.

Indeed, I wouldn't be blogging this at all except to highlight this Note:
The game drew 19,040 fans, the Devils' first sellout of the season.

because it dovetails into Tom's two discussions of cars.

More later.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Racing to Stay in Place, Even in the Good Old Days

by Ken Houghton

From a book on Business Process Management changes:
Flash forward [from 1970] to 1985. The median household income was around $23,618, more than double what it was in 1970 ["around $8,700"], although the cost of living more than kept pace with a 277% increase.

The short version is that, within estimation error, the median income was no more valuable in 1985 than it was in 1970.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Bulls**t on "Bulls**t Jobs"

by Tom Bozzo

So Stanley Bing's #1 (ad executive) and #2 (agent) are low-hanging fruit. On to #3 — allergist?!
[Job description:] Inject placebos to offset hypochondria in children

$$: Low to mid-six figures, if you're serious about it.

The upside: Not a whole lot of death.
Evidently, Bing didn't see the trouble Jerry Seinfeld got into over "Pimple Popper M.D." Not bulls**t:
Anaphylaxis is an acute, potentially fatal syndrome characterized by urticaria, bronchospasm, and hypotension as well as other symptoms. Approximately 84,000 cases of anaphylaxis occur in the Untied States each year, with 840 deaths. [Footnote omitted.]
As a long-time allergy sufferer (going through an acute attack thanks to drywall compound dust, thanks), I just say to Mr. Bing, [cough], assh**e [cough].

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Tell Us Another One

by Ken Houghton

They don't have "Hedge Fund Manager" on the short list, but the glorious and respectable CNN in cooperation with fellow TWX property Fortune, excerpting from a book by Stanley Bing published by non-TWX-property (Murdoch-owned) HarperCollins, reports that Economist is among the top fifty b*llsh*t jobs:
Generate conflicting opinions

$$: Academics make professors' salaries, in the high five or low six figures. Those who work for Wall Street firms or other fiduciary institutions can make enough to force Eliot Spitzer to sit up and take notice.

Skills required: Write very poorly, or at least so obliquely that no matter what happens in reality, the theories and prognostications you offer can never be called wrong, exactly.

The upside: People think you're brilliant, and you may be!

The downside: Your mother leaps off the side of a cruise ship when her retirement account goes south.

The dark side: Your ideas are adopted by the ruling class of a third-world nation, who then use them to exterminate the entire middle class.

There are so many inaccuries in that writeup that Roberta Rogow may lose her greatest claim to fame:
Meanwhile ace reviewer John Clute was poring delightedly over his latest task, being Futurespeak: A Fan's Guide to the Language of SF by Roberta Rogow (Paragon House $24.95). `This entry has more mistakes than words,' he marvelled:

SLANS (literary): Superhuman successors to homo sapiens in a series of stories by A.E.van Vogt, beginning in 1925 with Galactic Lensman....

Credit Where DueIt Gets Worse Department: The writeup on "Blogger" is Just too Precious:
$$: Relatively small, but prospects for high-paying bullshit job in the future are virtually assured.

I'm ready for My High-Paying Bullshit Job now, Messrs. Bing/Murdoch/Parsons. Can start immediately.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Annals of Excessive Compensation

by Tom Bozzo

To crack the ranks of the top 25 hedge fund managers in 2006, you would have needed to take home $240 million. The top dog made $1.7 billion.

Quote of the Day honors go to J-Brad. [*]
“There is some question as to what the hell they are doing that is worth” that kind of money, said J. Bradford DeLong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “The answer is damned mysterious.”
Darn straight.

From the industry side, Jim Dunn of Wilshire Associates is quoted as saying he's happy to pay for 'alpha,' the return independent of the 'market' that hedge fund managers supposedly extract from thin air (justifying their extraordinary compensation).

Well, here's where #3 on the list ($1.3 billion in earnings last year) got his alpha, per the Times:
Mr. Lampert ... has $11 billion of his $14.6 billion ESL fund in the retailer Sears Holdings. Last year, Sears stock rose and with it, Mr. Lampert’s fortune by about $1.3 billion.
Can someone explain to me why that isn't just a canny stock pick? Who's paying hedge fund fees for let's bet the farm on Sears?!

Kudos to Jenny Anderson and Julie Creswell of the NYT for reminding their readers that managers' compensation structure means that they can earn extraordinary compensation in return for middling returns on large funds. We remain mystified as to why massive entry hasn't competed away the obvious excesses of the traditional hedge fund fee structure. Maybe Susan Athey can answer that one.

[*] Should we economists give each other nicknames like that? Uh, maybe not.

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Dept. of Read the Whole Thing

by Tom Bozzo

Lance Mannion on Harry Reid, Broderella, and the Lost War.

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Your Bottom May Vary?

by Ken Houghton

The generally-astute Calculated Risk posts "When Will the Housing Market Bottom," which is one of those parlor games like predicting nine of the past five recessions.

The proximate goat is Hank "All the signs I look at" show "the housing market is at or near the bottom," Paulson, who one presumes is driving with his seatbelt these days.

The most curious part, though, is this counterintuitive graphic, which indicates that the last bottom of new home Starts and Sales was in 1991.

I fully realise that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I know a lot of people who bought on Lon Gisland in 1988-9 who spent until two or three years ago, at best, before they could get their purchase price back. And a former professor's father bought his San Diego area home ca. 1979-80 (two years before the previous bottom) and watched a precipitous drop after that.

Now, as CR notes, he's not analysing existing home sales, so that may have something to do with it. But, judging by the graphic, The Way to Bet appears to be that building hits bottom several years after it would in a fully-rational world.

Or am I missing something Really Obvious (as usual)?

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Broken Clocks and Ranger Optimism: reviewing Burnside

by Ken Houghton

Three days later, Scott Burnside matches my prediction for Ottawa and New Jersey.

I now feel safe to make plans for Game Seven in the Swamp.

His optimism about The Berubes, on the other hand, appears based on his opening paragraph.
The Rangers have once again become the darlings of Manhattan, advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

When your standard alternatives are The Cablevision-subscribers-are-paying-for-this-mismanagement Knickerbockers (whose lottery pick will likely go to the Bulls) and The 110ers (who now need to play .708 baseball for the rest of the season to match the prediction that they would play about .680 for the season), the Berubes look golden.

It's optimism, though, to expect that to translate to three wins.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Rich Guy Sez "Taxes Are Capitalism"

by Tom Bozzo

OK, so it's Michael Bloomberg, advocating a Londonesque congestion charge for driving in some parts of Manhattan. But here's how Sara Kugler of the Associated Press quoted him:
"Using economics to influence public behavior is something this country is built on — it's called capitalism," Bloomberg said. "Tax policy influences you to drill here and mine there, and grow this and live here and do that."
To think, all that class warfare for nothing.

Addendum: But seriously, folks, this post should not be read as disparaging the concept of instituting tax-like charges to encourage commuters to internalize the full costs of their choice of transportation mode. As may be discussed at greater length in a future post, undoing entrenched patterns of subsidization (some so entrenched as seemingly not to be recognized as subsidies) is key to rationalizing transportation systems for a world where neither fuel nor emissions are necessarily cheap.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Can Bufallo avoid playing a road game outside of the NYC area?

by Ken Houghton

The seedings are set. Burnside's first-round pick against the Swampers has once again gone down in flames, with the final game producing only one even-strength goal. The seeding, not to mention my optimal scenario, would not have the Sabres play a road game outside of the NYC area unless they reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

BUFFALO (1) v. NY Rangers (6). As noted previously, the Sabres didn't look fast against the Islanders. But I'm more inclined to attribute that to the team they played also being fast. Against the clutching, aging Berubes, expect a return to form.

But what the Berubes lack in speed, they make up for, sometimes, in scoring ability. The bad news is that, during the regular season, they scored precisely as many goals at the Sabres gave up.

The two teams split four games in the regular season, with the visitor winning all games, but their last meeting was December 1st. And Ryan Miller is not the alternating goalies that Bob Hartley used. Look for the Rangers to take two games at most; I'm expecting a sad but proud MSG after elimination in Game Six.

OTTAWA (4) v. New Jersey (2). My heart says this goes seven, and Brodeur wins the final game.* But the Senators are a stronger team than Tampa Bay, got some rest, and have some history to avenge. I would love to be wrong here—the Devils are starting to score, and Brodeur hasn't given up an even-strength goal in nearly three games—but Ottawa in six appears the way to bet.

*My heart also feels strange about Dany Heatley now that he's not playing for the Thrashers, but this isn't a Bertuzzi thing by any stretch—more cheer that he did not become another Vladimir Konstantinov. It's nice to see him able to play at all and the possibilities the Thrashers had when I was in grad school are nearly a hockey-career-generation past.


Friday, April 20, 2007

NY-area Professional Hockey Update

by Ken Houghton

No, I didn't expect the Berubes to sweep the Thrashers.

I had been thinking all week about writing a post about my naivete in taking Scott Burnside at his word in this post when he said they one thing I wanted to hear:
With Brodeur having played in 78 games, the theory is that, at some point, he will begin to wear down. It's more wishful thinking on the part of opponents than a real theory, though. Even if it does happen, don't expect it to happen in the first round.

I noted at the time that they were "Burnside's words, not mine," but I believed them.

For most of Games 2 and 3, and for the second period of Game 4, Brodeur looked human.

Since then, he's been Brodeur. And tonight he reminded everyone why, even those who would pick Roberto Luongo around whom to build a team (due to the age difference), there's no better right now.

As the Anonymous commenter said in the previous post, "Not to mention that [Burnside] takes shaky TB goaltending tandem to out duel Brodeur in game seven at The Swamp." That would have to happen now for the Lightning to take the series. Not currently the way to bet.

As for the series involving two New York State teams, I've noted elsewhere and before that I will never begrudge Buffalo getting a break from the officiating. But it would have been nice to see them have to go another game or two, since my best-case scenario right now has the Sabres playing every game in the first two rounds in the State of New York. As a friend who has managed to watch their games said, though, "I thought Buffalo was a fast team during the regular season, but the Islanders [played] right with them."

The future is encouraging.


The Car and Energy Hog Societies: Nature or 'Nurture?'

by Tom Bozzo

(Maybe first in an occasional series.)

There's much to like about Jim Kunstler's takedown of Thomas Friedman's Sunday NYT article on the Brave New Green World. You could almost feel sorry for The Mustache. The article's overriding message that the world economy needs to green-up, and pronto, is certainly valuable — especially given the NYT's bizarre history of overplaying global warming skepticism.

Kunstler is dead-on that there's an underlying wrong-headedness to Friedman's piece that outweighs the positive messages, though, at least with regard to the implications for energy-related policies. Emblematic of this is Friedman's assurance that Americans will not need to "radically alter our lifestyles," and in particular his declaration that "We are who we are — including a car culture."

Inevitability and immutability arguments should be recognized as having little economic content. The factoid that the supposedly immutable often will give way to adverse price changes is part of the secret to the Big Bucks (or at least some fish-in-a-barrel shooting) for the econ profession. Marketing gurus such as Clotaire Rapaille may tell automaker clients that our lizard brains want to drive cars that are an M1A2 on the outside and the Drones Club on the inside, but come high gas prices and people buy Toyota Yarises anyway.

That Friedman's assertion is in exactly the next paragraph after a description of how our "culture" results from the combination of cheap oil and federal highway construction money (something Kunstler explicitly and frequently recognizes) just highlights the underlying economic emptiness. The cheap oil underpinning of the car culture seems to be on its way out; as the price tags soar for road construction projects that offer little real hope of untangling traffic snarls (see, e.g., Stephen Karlson here and here), policy makers and politicians might get a clue that there are higher-valued uses for the money.

This is just to say that durable infrastructure investments like suburbia may seem like they can't go away, but you need only turn to this article from Friedman's paper recounting the extent of the depopulation of the city of St. Louis (and lots of other mostly rust-belt cities) to see that ain't so.

Next: Our wacky views of transportation modes.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Just for Fun

by Ken Houghton

via mochi-tsuki, whose Passover Peeps post should be referred to Bitch asap.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

National Public Softballs

by Tom Bozzo

Were this another blog, we might call this "Why oh why don't we have a better press corps (Steve Inskeep Edition)."

In this morning's interview with Douglas Feith, Visiting Professor and "Distinguished Practitioner in National Security Policy" [*] at Georgetown, Feith laid out a scenario of the U.S. getting a 1-2 punch from Saddam's WMD and connections with terrorists. Inskeep follows up by asking whether that scenario "assumed too much." A real journalist might have mentioned, say, the non-existence of the WMD or the claimed links to Al Qaida. Eventually, Feith raises his voice an octave and asserts "No, there weren't" to the suggestion that analysts differed with the intelligence his office manufactured; after some high-and-fast talking [**], Inskeep obtains an admission that opinions differed as to the degree of threat. Bravo.

Alas, Inskeep didn't ask the bestest question of all: "Tommy Franks once called you the 'f***ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth.' Are you?"

[*] Which surely deserves some institutional award for Violence to the Plain Meaning of Words.

[**] The one time I heard Greg Mankiw on NPR, he was talking really fast in service of proffering an explanation for how Bushist economic policy makes flowers bloom in the Spring or suchlike.

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Smoke-Free Wisconsin?

by Tom Bozzo

Huzzah, a statewide ban on smoking in public places has been introduced in the legislature with bipartisan (and geographically diverse) sponsorship and support of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, various state tourism associations, and the usual groups who actually care about peoples' health. Among groups that don't, the Appleton Post-Crescent notes that the Restuarant Association's move leaves the staunchly opposed Tavern League of Wisconsin holding the bag. Shucks. No comment there or in the Cap Times from the other perennial candidate for Least Public-Spirited Lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, though their "strategies for a tobacco-free workplace" page would not seem to offer much hope to the TLW.

Meanwhile, a smoke-free fish fry in Poynette might happen in our lifetimes...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Republican Self-Immolation Watch (Tommy G. Thompson Edition)

by Tom Bozzo

Slightly shorter Tommy Thompson:
I love money, just like the you money-grubbing Jews!
Verbatim Tommy Thompson, speaking at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington D.C.:
I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money. You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that.
Via Barry Orton at WaxingAmerica.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

What Investment Bank Professionals Do for Fun at Work

by Ken Houghton

Conversation a few days ago:

"You know what someone should do? Launch a takeover bid for Barclay's."

"Aren't they bidding to take over ABN Amro?"

"Exactly. So most of the hedge funds are short Barclay's."

"And long ABN."

"So they would get squeezed on both sides."

As it turns out, that might have been the right strategy. Wonder how much exposure Jim Hamilton's pension fund has??

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Note to Sociology Pals

by Tom Bozzo

George Akerlof invokes your discipline a few times in "The Missing Motivation in Macroeconomics", in the AER deposited in my mailbox today (contents page with viewing options), but adapted from the Presidential Address at this past January's AEA meetings. Based on joint work with Maryland's Rachel Kranton (who taught me some I-O back in the day), "norms" are the "missing motivation" in microfoundations-based macroeconomics (*).

I would imagine few sociologists would find this shocking. Critique of Economics Methodology 101 is that economists love themselves their H. economicus beyond reason (often true). An advanced (and also largely true) version is that some economics — especially microfoundations-based macro — doesn't so much describe how the economy works but rather how hypothetical economies comprised of fully rational actors work, and at least some economists fail to notice the difference. See, e.g., Wisconsin's Daniel Hausman for additional details.

Part of the problem is with the mathematical methods that are the bread-and-butter of "neoclassical" economics. The "classic" microfoundations-of-macro models were cleverly set up so that equilibria existed and could be characterized with the use of math that may look easy or difficult depending on your frame of reference. That gives way to extremely difficult or impossible math if, say, consumption is subject to social externalities — e.g., Jane Mangement Consultant drives a BMW in part because Bob Management Consultant drives a Mercedes. (This also has implications that right-leaning economists find politically unpalatable). There's a tendency to push off really problematic stuff (in the sense of not being susceptible to proving "theorems") to the "fuzzier" social sciences.

Update 4/18/07: Brayden King picks up the gauntlet here, at, showing why Orgtheory got its 'thinking blogger' award; see also the contributions from Brayden's co-bloggers in the comments thread.

(*) I.e., behavior of the economy as a whole derived from models of optimizing or rational agents' behavior.

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Two Notes, courtesy of Jeremy

by Ken Houghton

  1. As part of my MiL's birthday celebration Saturday, we made a hegira to The Other Mouse. Pictures of the near-six-year-old at Skee Ball to follow.

  2. A quick glance through the entertainment for BratFest produces acts closing on Saturday and Sunday nights that are giving me flashbacks: Marty Balin and Orleans. I suspect this does not bode well for their local appeal, though (unlike Crawfish Fest here) it seems reasonable to assume that the music is not necessarily the event's main attraction.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Last (I hope) word on Imus

by Ken Houghton

The basketball team has continued to be the only classy thing about the whole episode, and it may well have cost us a governor, though that can't be blamed on Imus or Rutgers, but rather...well, let Jim MacDonald at Making Light explain.

My last word follows from Mark Cuban's:
Now for one last comment. If the Imus show was on HDNet would I have fired him ? Hell no. I would have expected him to apologize, but he would have kept his job. Firing him would just get him a job on HBO.

And I fully expect that Imus (and, unfortunately, 'The I-Man') will end up on HBO or Sirius or XM or some other non-public airwave.* Which is fine; there are enough straight white males on the public airwaves trying to make other SWMs feel superior to others as a substitute for accomplishing anything themselves.

Let's see him survive in the private sector. As with the comedians Mannion and Mahablog were discussing, there's probably a demand; the question is whether it will produce a return on capital, or is already mature and declining. I know which way I would bet.

Let's see if Mark Cuban decides to put his money where his mouth is.

Note to readers: I've deleted several comments in the thread below by mutual agreement between Gary Farber, Bill Patterson, and me. If you've arrived here via a link at, I commend Patterson's forthcoming Heinlein bio for all the information provided in the deleted comments and much, much more.

*Assuming he doesn't just decide that, at age 67, he can take some time for his charity and his second family. (He appears to have forgotten his first, a la Robert A. Heinlein.)

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The Honor is to Be Honored

by Tom Bozzo

Drek honored us with a "Thinking Blogger" tag. Thanks, Drek! There's nothing we like more than blog homework, as the "award" is a thing-called-meme. Since Drek contributes here from time to time, and I sometimes add my two cents over there, this could pretty quickly degenerate into a circle jerk. [*] I'll try to avoid a visit to One Infinite Loop in naming some thinking bloggers who don't blog here.

Also, if you're a blog pal and your blog doesn't appear in the list below, there's surely a good explanation. Maybe you put your blog on double secret probation and we never got the password for some reason. [**]

Anyway, here goes, in alphabetical order:

Blue Monster. Dan Myers does the "Wisconsin Ideas" blog style [***] all the way from South Bend! Hey, anyone can embed a mostly funny YouTube video on urinal selection conventions — how many can follow it up with Actual Research Blogging? I don't know that I needed to be reminded of a certain class of power ballad, though. (As a sign of increasing age, or maybe an index of the suckitude of what little contemporary pop music I hear, stuff like Guns N' Roses that I despised back in the day now are occasional guilty pleasures. But I draw the line with Journey.) Dan should be a shoo-in for the defunct-and-deleted (RIP) Pub Sociology's slot in the "Learning is Fun" section of the Fafblog! blogroll, such time as the Faf-gang returns to the four puny dimensions of our limited perception. A bit heavier on the learning than Dan's or Jeremy's, not that there's anything wrong with that. From a blogeontological perspective, Orgtheory strikes me as the sociosphere's closest thing to the major econoblogs — a la DeLong or Marginal Revulsion Revolution.

WaxingAmerica. The blog of former Madison mayor Paul Soglin and UW telecommunications professor Barry Orton works several valuable angles: the Wisconsin Wingnut Watch, analysis of City of Madison policy issues, and the most in-depth coverage of telecom regulation issues affecting the state. You may not see eye-to-eye with Paul on the city policy stuff all of the time, but you shouldn't disagree with him without figuring out why.

Whiskey Fire
. Thers is too big to meme, but he makes fun of Ann Althouse so some of us don't have to, except when he doesn't, and thus should earn Suzanne's gratitude. [****] Usually. And, Altmouse fans (you know who you are), see here. Elsewhere, Thers provides useful perspective on the Duke Lacrosse Scandal scandal, and observes the dangers of letting Republicans fiddle with higher education accreditation rules.

Xtinpore. Prior my extended busy period at work/blog funk, I'd gone so far as to try to recruit proprietor Xtin to round out the hypothetical Marginal Utility basketball team, to serve as the Marginal Utility European Correspondent, and to be the all around Philosopher Queen of our Whole Sick Crew. Hope springs eternal, but meanwhile check out her blog! While there has been a flurry of updates lately, the life of a proto-academic makes for some lengthy gaps at times. But that's why there's RSS. Check out the Best South Park Avatar Ever, consider that the northern hemisphere Moon is all wrong from some frames of reference, and wonder what it's like to have a thesis adviser you'd call Professor Agent Smith — as a term of endearment.


[*] Just as soon as I typed the linked term into the Google search box, I figured I should add "band" to the search string or I was going to get unpredictable results.

[**] Ahem, Tonya. [*****]

[***] Loosely put, a blog where the content, for the most part, is not overtly scholarly, but the perspective is observably warped by one's academic background. Jeremy Freese's Weblog is the archetype.

[****] Decorum may prevent me from asking "how 'bout that Jessica Valenti business" at the housewarming of Condo di Nina.

[*****] Or, tailor a story to your particular circumstances. [******]

[******] Don't forget that this is a blog "meme" and should be taken with the appropriate level of seriousness.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Brad DeLong Presents a Pearl of Wisdom

by Ken Houghton

The classical finance assumptions were never reasonable first-order descriptions of investor behavior; the most that was ever claimed was that they were reasonable first-order descriptions of those components of investor behavior that did not cancel themselves out. [typo corrected; emphasis mine]

The whole post, in context, is here, and serves as a cautionary tale.

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Vonnegut, Again

by Ken Houghton

Leave it to the boy from Kansas to summarize the ex-Hoosier better than this ex-Hoosier ever will.

Go Read Brad Denton on Kurt Vonnegut at Eat Our Brains.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Information than a Graduate Seminar in Economic History

by Ken Houghton

Thoma posts Galbraith on Bartlett. Bartlett responds. Discussion ensues.

Go. Read. Especially the comments continuing the discussion.

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The Way It's Going, No One Knows

by Ken Houghton

As with Mannion, the full post will take me a while to write (even in the context of my legendary procrastination abilities).

But I note that Vonnegut's work for the NYT (as well as reviews of his work)—including "Torture and Blubber," the piece mentioned by d of LG&M in his appreciation —are available without a TimesSelect subscription here (probably only free for a limited time).

Jessica of Indexed posts 1,000 words.

(POST UPDATED, likely with more to come. And so on.)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Home Re-destruction Diary

by Tom Bozzo

While the new-house market is imploding, we've been doing our bit to prop up residential investment down in the basement. So far, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House moments have been relatively few. Indeed, the only asbestos-containing material we came across was the stuff we already knew about, which is not bad for a 77-year-old house that's seen renovations of widely varying quality — though there are still finishes to pick out.

"Mr. Blandings," by the way, is the greatest housing economics movie ever made. Blandings (Cary Grant [*]) is a Manhattan ad executive who makes around $15,000 a year — lots for 1948 — and shoulder room is tight in the apartment he shares with his wife, two daughters, and their cook/maid. He gets the idea of joining the nascent postwar exodus to Connecticut suburbia, and hijinks [**] ensue as he's rooked into spending (against the advice of attorney Melvyn Douglas) roughly $30,000 on what turns out to be a large center-hall Colonial and the 30 acres of land more-or-less in the "sticks" (which are not so sticksy that there isn't a train to the city) on which the house is located. Suggested lesson: Distrust conventional wisdom regarding the housing market.

Anyway, for family members, friends, and/or the voyeuristic, some rough-stage construction pix are below the e-fold.

Here's how we took posession of the basement. Painted foundation walls, cheesy ceiling tiles, totally inadequate overhead light fixtures. The stuff belongs to our predecessors — add bookcases, TtFTE, and lots of LEGO and subtract furniture for our decor.


Reverse angle. Power and telecom was sent to their computer via cords run under the rug.

Future built-in work area. Power and comms are conveniently at counter height.

Seven wires for phone, data, TV, and audio. Power sold separately.

Duct relocation (compare second photo) cost a surprising fortune, but no more bonking my head.

The new, super-efficient, super-quite tankless hot water heater that will supply portions of the house with hydronic radiant heat, plus replace an older domestic hot water heater. Eligible for the federal energy efficiency income tax credit! (We'll take such discounts as are available.)

The brains of the new hydronic system.

Water heater deathmatch! The old unit (left) is advertised as consuming 30% more fuel than the tankless heater. The indirect unit (right) is basically a huge, really well-insulated thermos bottle.

All done!

[*] While Fred Thompson's just-disclosed health problems may rule him out of the Republican presidential nomination race, the slightest Grant-ward thought should make pundits who had been swooning over Thompson's movie star appearance seem extra foolish.

[**] Relationship-threatening disputes over finishes, etc.

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Mamas, Do Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Health Economists

by Tom Bozzo

According to John Cawley and Michael Morrisey ("The earnings of U.S. health economists," Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 26 [2007], No. 2., 358-372), the mean annual earnings of health economists surveyed in 2005 was $119,499. Among the not-overly-surprising details, non-academics outearn academics (with median earnings of $118,500 and $100,000, respectively) and holders of actual economics PhDs make more than holders of "other academic doctorates."

Holders of doctorates in other social sciences, don't despair. A possible way to close salary ranks with Those Darn Economists is to get out of "The Academy." Among non-academics, the economics PhD doesn't command a statistically significant premium over other doctorates. [*] However, to get on the real gravy train probably requires sufficient quantitative skillz to get on the expert-witness circuit. [**]

[*] Assuming, it stands to reason, that your doctorate gets you in the door in the first place.

[**] Or, maybe, get a business school job; Cawley and Morrisey find that B-school assistant professors are lavishly compensated. In a fascinating W$J article from a couple weeks ago on the Law and Economics Consulting Group, the firm's econ professor founder claimed that a few dozen of LECG's experts pull down mid-six-figure salaries. Making corporate executive-level pay at a publicly-traded consulting firm may, however, require certain ethical compromises — e.g., testifying on the tobacco company's side in tobacco-related litigation.

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On the whole, I'd rather be a Clerihew

by Ken Houghton

In Honor of National Poetry Month, with thanks to The Fox Herself:

If they told you I'm mad, then they lied.
I'm odd, but it isn't compulsive.
I'm the triolet, bursting with pride;
If they told you I'm mad, then they lied.
No, it isn't obsessive. Now hide
All the spoons or I might get convulsive.
If they told you I'm mad then they lied.
I'm odd, but it isn't compulsive.
What Poetry Form Are You?

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And Now For Something Else

by Ken Houghton

Heard from the bathroom, the Eldest Daughter singing to herself:
Dot is cute and Yakko yaks
Wakko packs away the snacks
While Bill Clinton plays the sax

The glories of Netflix are not to be understated.*

*I note for the record that it appears that the series is being released in chronological order. Would be nice if the packaging had said so.


In Case You Missed It II: Eight Days a Week

by Ken Houghton

It was inevitable, but the key is how naturally it fits in.

Ms. Erin O'Brien has a guest post at Eat Our Brains.

This is probably grounds for adding another day to the calendar week. Or doubling down on a rotating basis.

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In the Case You Missed It (Rutgers)

by Ken Houghton

The General puts the faces to the 'nappy-headed hos'.

Two press releases in my inbox last night, one from the President of the University, the other from one of the leaders of our local (Newark) campus.

If the people at WFAN/CBS/MSNBC are hoping this is going to go away two weeks from now, I expect they are wrong. But, as I noted below, they're only in it for the money anyway.

Meanwhile, catch Jemele Hill's column at ESPN, which concludes
But none of this has anything to do with Imus, whose apology I can't accept or take seriously. Imus has become a Hall of Fame broadcaster using race-baiting, offensive tactics. He is routinely offensive to people of color and women, and if he needs to lose his job to understand that there is no place for that, so be it.

As a society, there are times when we need to stand together against indecency and cruelty.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Dick Cheney of Daughterhood Speaks

by Ken Houghton

In my continuing attempt to move from depressive back to manic—or, perhaps more accurately, catch up on some blog reading while the new system at work runs more slowly as the old one—I finally caught up with this piece from a bird and a bottle* on Caitlin Flanagan, who says:
I’ve never had an abortion, and at this point in the game, I never will. Nor do I have daughters, so this is not an issue that will affect my own life in any immediate way.

Going to the article, we find that
Caitlin Flanagan is the author of To Hell With All That (2006). She is at work on Girl Land, a book about the emotional life of pubescent girls.

I note for the record that Flanagan, per another bio, has twin boys.

However, I do know some things about what she wrote that make this father of two daughters tremble:
  1. Her claim that "[a]n ultrasound image taken surprisingly early in pregnancy can stop me in my tracks...a beating heart, a human face, functioning kidneys, two waving hands that seem not too far away from being able to grasp and shake a rattle [emphasis mine]" is dubious.

    Kidneys begin functioning in month three, while hands are not well-formed until Month Four. An ultrasound at 14-16 weeks is not really "early" in the pregnancy, and certainly not "surprisingly" so.

  2. Flanagan seems to believe that men have no role in or reaction to the abortion decision.

    Let's quote her again:
    Nor do I have daughters, so this is not an issue that will affect my own life in any immediate way. [emphasis mine]

    As noted above, Flanagan has twin sons. She has just declared that they will never be affected "in any immediate way" by an abortion decision. In Flanagan's world, abortion is a Women-Only Issue. Men have no involvement, and no responsibility.

  3. Flanagan will never adopt, but holds up adoption as a 100% certainty.

    All they are asking, in a societal climate in which out-of-wedlock pregnancy is without stigma, is that pregnant women give the tiny bodies growing inside of them a few months, until the little creatures are large enough to be on their way, to loving homes.

    Nor do I have daughters, so this is not an issue that will affect my own life in any immediate way.

    and see if you can come to any other conclusion than that Caitlin Flanagan, who could certainly afford it, would never consider adopting a daughter, even if it were a way to give one of those "little creatures" a "loving home."

    This is Risk Management at its most pernicious: you take the Risk (carry the child to term, be threatened with prosecution if anything goes wrong, and then give it up for adoption) and Flanagan will do the "management" (bemoaning the fact that one more child didn't get a "loving home," while not providing a solution).

  4. Finally, let's look Flanagan's Amanda- (and Bean-) approved punch line:
    And a thousand arguments about the beginning of human life will never appeal to me as powerfully as a terrified pregnant girl desperate for a bit of compassion.

    Got your back on that one, girl. It's a Noble Sentiment. Just to be clear, that's the compassion that she can't get from her parents or your son or you, as the mother of that son, right??

Flanagan comes across as if she regrets not having been a brood mare. Consider the hinted twinge of "regret" in her declaration that she doesn't have daughters (though, as noted above, she expresses no willingness to adopt one), as if she had "other priorities."

Does Flanagan believe that her life writing "about the conflicts at the very heart of modern life—specifically, modern domestic life as it is lived by professional-class women" is somehow incomplete comnpared to those "discontented mothers and regimented wives"?

Is she someone who thinks that "being unafraid to take on self-indulgence and political correctness" is really "seeing things that a woman ain't supposed to see"?

Are her "witheringly funny observations about the sexes and their discontents" something she compares "subtle whoring that costs too much to be free"?

You know where I'm going with this, don't you, tbogg readers?

*found via Bitch, whose blog, following up to Tom's post below, needs to provide a feed that Google Reader recognizes, from my selfish POV.

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I Keep Getting Pulled Back In

by Ken Houghton

This is for Max.

I wasn't going to do this—as I said below, others have covered this ground, well—but the homemade CD I brought for the car today refused to play anything past Track 1, so I had to shift to the radio. And since my normal listening station was doing Yeshiva League Sports Updates (like regular sports updates, but with more cliches), I was left flipping between Whoopie, the Rock of New Jersey, and New York's Classic Rock station (if Classic Rock were limited to White bands).

And Jim Kerr,* who should know better, started talking about Imus.

Defending Imus.

Defending dialog of which Ron Allen of MSNBC rightly notes:
But I still can't forget those words: "nappy headed hos," and then more banter about "jigaboos and wannabes." Where did that come from? How could Imus -- and don't forget his producer -- feel comfortable enough to think that's funny? How could they not anticipate a firestorm? When people speak that way publicly, it makes you wonder what's said, and felt, in private?

If you say the words out loud rather than just listening to them or reading them, each carries even more power. And they strike at the heart of the negative images that so many people have fought so many battles to rid our culture and society of. When I hear those words, I think of people I know -- the insults they endured, and more importantly, the injustices along the way. We're reminded that some of America's most horrible history -- history we hope to leave in our past -- happened during our lifetimes. We're reminded of parents and grandparents who combed and brushed our tightly curled hair.

Kerr* inadvertently let slip the whole reason for the fooforah:
It's radio's Spring Sweeps time.

Imus is getting a lot of free publicity. It's probably the first time people are talking about him in several years.

Kerr* presented the other BS defences: he's doing comedy, he's been humiliated enough, he's tried to make things right with Coach Stringer and her players,** he's really, really sorry and it will never happen again (this was, after all, only the 47th time, give or take a few). UPDATE: And, of course, he attacked the character of Imus's attackers.

UPDATE: Via Dr. Black, Imus appears to be getting tired of making fake apologies, or, as he calls it, "playing."

I was going to do a furious post about that this morning—I'm reprogramming the radio, removing Q104.3 from autosets—but then I saw the comments of another MSNBC-affiliated professional . Al Roker:
Don and his wife have done a lot of good things—raising money for charity, including a ranch for children suffering from cancer and blood disorders.

Yet, Don Imus needs to be fired for what he said. And while we’re at it, his producer, Bernard McGu[i]rk, needs to be canned as well. McGu[i]rk is just as guilty, often egging Imus on.***

The “I’m a good person who said a bad thing” apology doesn’t cut it. At least he didn’t try to weasel out of this by hiding behind alcohol or drug abuse. Still, he said it and a two-week suspension doesn’t cut it. It is, at best, a slap on the wrist. A vacation. Nothing....

Don Imus should do the right thing and resign. Not talk about taking a two-week suspension with dignity. I don’t think Don Imus gets it.

That's an understatement. Imus has been on a Glorious Tour: yesterday, Sharpton. Today, Today. Imus can, and probably will, spend the two weeks of his "suspension" appearing all over the place, receiving scale and keeping himself in the spotlight. Roker again:
After watching and listening to him this morning during an interview with Matt Lauer, Don Imus doesn’t get it. Maybe it’s being stuck in a studio for 35 years or being stuck in the 1980’s. Either way, it’s obvious that he needs to move on. Citing “context within a comedy show” is not an excuse.

He has to take his punishment and start over. Guess what? He’ll get re-hired and we’ll go on like nothing happened. CBS Radio and NBC News needs to remove Don Imus from the airwaves. That is what needs to happen. Otherwise, it just looks like profits and ratings rule over decency and justice.

Roker declares that the best case is that Imus gets a new job elsewhere. And declares himself the "victim," while the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team—which performed beyond all expectation, doesn't have a senior on it, and has been the only classy thing about this entire roundelay—has to wonder how they got shunted and shamed and became pariahs for coming within one game of a National Championship.

*UPDATE: Corrected, and my deepest apologies to Pat St. John for the initial mistake.

**He'll get the chance, privately, which is another indication that the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team and their coach have more class and style than Imus ever will, and that the remark is, if anything, even more over the line than it was when uttered.

***This has been underemphasized. It was McGuirk, after all, who first irrredemably described the Rutgers team as "some hard-core hos," and continued by describing the game as "The Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes" If anything, Imus's initial response was a downplaying of McGuirk's statement.

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When Zombie Robots Attack!

by Tom Bozzo

Has anyone else noticed that some of their RSS feeds (possibly including this site's feed, but also observed by me w/r/t such blogs as Angry Bear, Alicublog, and LGM) have been failing to properly update over the last few days? The problem seems to disproportionately affect Blogspot blogs, which is normally a clue, but it could also be a manifestation of a periodic glitch whereby the otherwise highly useful NetNewsWire does stuff like periodically forgetting the sort order for certain subscriptions.

Handing over blog-article fetching to a cyberdog has helped me pretend to keep track of far more blogs than traditional web-surfing would allow, but the downside is the tech going awry while my attention is directed elsewhere. Or should I just be contracting this net-related function out to the Googleborg, too?

Update: Seems to be a NewsGator problem being passed on through the intertubes to NetNewsWire, possibly exacerbated by Bloggering of the feeds — normally non-fatal feed errors are messing with the updates for some reason.

More Update: Problem solved. An upshot is that I've spread my list of RSS feeds a bit more broadly over the feed-reading universe, though Mac-using friends may note that NetNewsWire remains my preferred RSS reader.

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A Mathematician Looks at the Yankees, Misses the Pitching

by Ken Houghton

I wasn't going to blog about this, but it keeps coming up (this time as a link from the article Mannion cites here).

I have no love for the Yankees. But even I don't want to see them treated this badly in the popular press, especially not when it will likely become impossible by, say, 3/4 of the way (120 games) into the season.

(The full projected standings are here, for the curious. Note that their prediction requires that the AL be 16 games over .500 in Interleague play.)

I don't disagree much with Scott, who notes correctly that there are greater weaknesses in Boston and Toronto than in previous years. But when he says
The biggest caveat is that they have an old and/or injury-prone finesse rotation, but I think they'll win more than 100.

I have trouble getting around the first part of that to the second.

Last night produced the first win by a Yankee starter this year, six games in. But it's worse than that: last night was the first time a Yankee starting pitcher went more than five innings. (And the guy who went five, Kei Igawa, gave up seven runs.)

Now, I'll grant you that it's early in the season, but the pitching staff as a whole (hole?) is ninth in Batting Average and 10th in ERA. I don't care how many runs you score, that's a deep hole to dig out of.

Worse yet, the year they won 114 games, more than 60 of them were at home. (114-54 = 60 from this table.) A roster with three aging right-handed starters (Rasner, the youngest by far, is 26) is not built to win 3/4 of its home games.

Could they end up 30 games over .500 (96-66)? Possibly. Forty over (101-61)? If the breaks all go their way. Fifty over (106-56)? Not the way to bet.

The oddsmakers put the Yankees at an Over/Under of 97.5 wins. Bukiet is predicting 12.5 more, almost a 13% increase.
While Bukiet is the first to admit he’s not a baseball expert, in five out of the past six years, he says that his model has produced more correct than incorrect predictions.

“I thought it was neat that you can do just as well as the so-called experts,” he said.

We'll see. It just remains Not the Way to Bet.

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by Ken Houghton

Dr. Black (who lives in the city of my birth) posts video from TDS discussing the glories of my "home state" (determined as "the place where you graduated from High School").

Fortunately, I can't see it. So I can't swear it's John Oliver reacting to Mike Pence's comparison of shopping in Baghdad to shopping at a flea market in Muncie or Columbus or Richmond. But I've shopped in two of those three, and have at least one high school classmate who lives quite well in the third. So when
[Pence] expressed regret Tuesday about a comment he made, saying it had been taken out of context as he tried to explain how a market his delegation visited in Baghdad reminded him of a flea market in Indiana.

we understand that he, as with Senator McCain, is going to misspeak occasionally. But when he continues:
He said he never intended to give the impression that Baghdad was as safe as Indiana. Pence said he meant the card tables and shops reminded him of a flea market in his home state.

it's difficult not to notice that he didn't mention "euchre tables" in any clip. But he did update his blog, and sell the notes to USA Today:
We milled around for more than an hour. I told reporters afterward that it was just like any open-air market in Indiana in the summertime. I didn't mean that Baghdad was as safe as the Bargersville Flea Market; I just meant that that was what it looked and felt like: lots of people, lots of booths and a friendly relaxed atmosphere.

It's the friendly, relaxed atmosphere that only "a squad of military security" can supply, perhaps, but that's another context.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Alternative History, or One Reason People Like Hillary

by Ken Houghton

Via Brad DeLong, Ezra Klein in the Los Angeles Times indirectly explains one reason why people like Hillary. Doing some selective but not inaccurate editing:
It wasn't so long ago that President Clinton's proposed reforms suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of moneyed interests and Republican opportunists.

The initiative was placed under the control of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ira Magaziner. Neither had the political experience to safely shepherd a reform of this magnitude.

It's worth saying here that although the U.S. has a very inefficient healthcare system when evaluated with traditional metrics such as the health outcomes of the populace or the costs of care, it is unquestionably the finest in the world at generating profits. There's a lot of money sloshing around, and quite a bit of profit to protect.

So the face of Health Care Reform was basically Hillary Clinton. And she lost to the "alternative," Managed Care:
Today, of course, it's clear that managed care has failed. After cost growth was effectively arrested in the mid-1990s, patients rebelled against being managed, and insurers decided that passing on the costs of unlimited care was less trouble than holding them down. Moreover, the same anxieties over spending growth and the precariousness of coverage that first burst onto the scene during the 1991-92 recession are now constant companions, even in periods of economic expansion. Since 2000, health premiums have shot up by 87%. Wages, of course, have not followed.

That may be why a recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 90% of Americans said they thought that the healthcare system needed either "fundamental changes" or to be "completely rebuilt." The last time the poll recorded such desire for reform was in January 1994. Indeed, according to the poll, 62% report themselves willing to pay higher taxes for universal coverage.

So what we have, in the collective memory, is an initiative led by Hillary that looks a lot better than what we have now.

In short, it appears that Hillary was ahead of her time.

People may not have long memories about policy details, but they remember the Grand Ideas. And they especially remember them when the alternative has been as dystopic as the current system.

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Rutgers Achievements, Update

by Ken Houghton

I didn't comment on the no-way-I-lose Women's College Basketball Final (Rutgers v. Tennessee, won by Pat Summit's team), in part because I had class and by the time I got home, it was clearly going to be Tennessee's day.

That said,
  1. It's good to see C. Vivian Stringer's team get some recognition. Unlike that other Rutgers sports team, which loses money when it does well, the Women's Basketball team has been competitive for years.

  2. About the Imus discussions, I have nothing to say that Angry Black Bitch didn't already say better, despite having none of those characteristics.

Except to discuss this, which hadn't happened when she wrote her post, and especially:
"Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far," Imus said on "The Al Sharpton Show."

Gee, ya think??
"Here's what I've learned: that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it," he said on his show, which is nationally syndicated to millions of listeners. "And because the climate on this program has been what it's been for 30 years doesn't mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that."

That's good, because I'm not certain I understand what he just said, unless it was "My producer and I may not be here five more years."
"I'm not a white man who doesn't know any African-Americans," he said.

Some of his best friends? Maybe not, if all he could cite was his ranch where "[t]en percent of the children who come to the ranch are black."
Imus said he hoped to meet the Rutgers players and their parents and coaches, and that he was grateful for the appearance on Sharpton's nationally syndicated show.

"It's not going to be easy, but I'm not looking for it to be easy," Imus said.

That's good. Because if this is the best he can do, in the forum where he had the best chance to redeem himself and time to prepare, then he's going to have to have more interesting guests than Joe Lieberman to survive much longer, no matter how much Howie ignores him.

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Scott Burnside Does It Again

by Ken Houghton

I mentioned earlier that Scott Burnside holds low expectations for the New Jersey Devils. But I never expected to see something this skewed.

Understand, I believe the Lightning are going to be a dangerous team for New Jersey to face. But there's a rule of reviewing that your summary follows from your analysis. Let's check Burnside's analysis:

  1. The Devils' sick bay. Burnside notes that the Devils are healthy and together for basically the first time all year, ending with "but their durability and productivity will bear a close watch."

  2. Patience, patience, patience. His conclusion: "The Devils ranked first in the NHL in fewest penalties taken per game (10.1 minutes), so beating them five-on-five will be crucial for the Bolts." No discussion of the Lightning.

  3. Scoring, anyone? This is really a recapitulation of the first point: "With the aforementioned top point producers still hobbled, it'll be up to young guns Zach Parise (31 goals to lead the team) and Travis Zajac (17 as a rookie) to shoulder more of the load." The way they've been doing all season. In fact, it will be up to them to shoulder less of the load.
    1. And about that other point? "The conference's No. 1 seed, Buffalo, scored almost 100 [92, actually] more goals than the Devils." Yes, that would be an issue, if they were playing Buffalo. Also an issue would be that Buffalo gave up half-a-goal more each game (41 for the season). If they were playing Buffalo.

      They're not. They're playing Tampa Bay which scored 37 more goals than the Devils [which means 92-37 = 55 less than the Sabres, making the above comparison even sillier] but also gave up 60 more [3/4 of a goal a game].

  4. The Brodeur factor. This is an outright rave, as it should be:
    Effervescent Brodeur is coming off a sensational season that saw him establish a new record for wins in a season (48). He finished third in save percentage and goals-against average while playing more than any other netminder in the league. With Brodeur having played in 78 games, the theory is that, at some point, he will begin to wear down. It's more wishful thinking on the part of opponents than a real theory, though. Even if it does happen, don't expect it to happen in the first round.
    Burnside's words, not mine. Compare to:

  5. Who's minding the net? The Devils enjoy the ultimate in netminding stability with Brodeur, but the picture is a little bit fuzzier for the Bolts. Coach John Tortorella isn't one to coddle his players and has been known to call out any and all, including his goaltenders, a habit that has not endeared him to the netminding fraternity.

So, of the five points, the first might be a speculative negative for NJ; the second is a clear NJ win; the third, if it were placed in the context of Round One and not Round Three, is advantage-NJ, the fourth is an Unqualified Rave for NJ, and the fifth is a data-backed Speculative Negative for Tampa Bay.

So what is Burnside's conclusion (after a Wishful Thinking Key Matchup, a recapitulation of "The Devils Are Injured! The Devils Are Injured!" and an indifferent review of the Lightning's defence?
Given the Devils' injury problems and the attendant paucity of scoring, it might not matter that the Lightning have the worst penalty-killing record of any playoff team. Everyone says goaltending trumps scoring in the playoffs. We take the contrary view here and like the Lightning's superior offense to carry the day. Tampa Bay in seven.

Burnside did the same thing last year, neglecting to consider the Special Teams play of the Devil's opponent in his analysis. This year, he casually mentions it, without noting the magnitude (The Lightning were the worst team in Penalty Kill Percentage in the entire Eastern Conference—including those who didn't qualify for the playoffs—and second-worst in the league, ahead of only the Kings. No wonder the nicest thing he can say about their defence is that "underappreciated defenseman Dan Boyle [-5]" scored a lot)

Unless we conclude that Burnside is blinded by some previously-unrevealed hatred of Lou Lamoriello, the conclusion doesn't follow from the data presented.

The only remotely good news is the suffering of others: if Burnside is correct, the team of at Scott at LG&M and the team of Professor Berube at Crooked Timber (the referenced post is here) will be Unhappy in Seven as well.

But I'm rooting for Scott's team (especially considering their opponent) and wouldn't be surprised to see The Professor's boys playing the Sabres in the second round.*

*Wouldn't be happy; it would mean all of Buffalo's first eight wins [and any losses] would come in New York State, making them formidable in the Conference Finals. Then again, since they are the Old Team, I wish them All the Best. For now.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Now we know why she's dating Justin Timberlake...

by Ken Houghton

Bidding fair to the be the Late-Period Linda Ronstadt of her generation (which I do not mean as a compliment; think the period of all those covers where the listeners are screaming "Stop Her Before She Kills Again*"), one of Lance's somewhat favorite women is releasing an album of covers:
Even Scarlett Johansson feels the need to weigh in with a record called Scarlett Sings Tom Waits.

Be afraid. Be VERY Afraid.

*Be very happy this link is to a 30-second sample. Either I'm looking out for you, or no one wants to make (especially) the fourth track on this album available for listening. If you really feel a need, here's the Rhapsody link.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Video Clip

by Tom Bozzo

(It doesn't feel like a "palate cleanser" after a week of vacation.)

So when exactly did saxophones fall out of favor for semi-alternative bands?

The English Beat, "Save It For Later." This was on the first CD I bought (and one of the relatively few I no longer have), back in early 1985.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Belated Blogging: Great Moments in Computer Programming History

by Ken Houghton

Both Rob at LG&M and Mr. Trend at Alterdestiny (among others, including Randy Paul at Beautiful Horizons) discussed the 25th Anniversary of the Battle for Antarctic OilMalvinas War.

And no one has yet discussed the Exocet missile:
In 1982, during the Falklands [sic] War, Exocets became famous worldwide when Argentinian Navy Super Etendard warplanes used them to destroy Royal Navy's HMS Sheffield on 4 May and sink the support ship Atlantic Conveyor on 25 May. As well, an Argentine-converted land-based truck fired an MM38 Exocet (previously dismounted from the Argentine corvette ARA Guerrico) that damaged the HMS Glamorgan on June 12.

At the time, this was said to be a programming error of major proportion: essentially, since the Exocet was made by an Ally (the French), British defence systems identified it as "friendly."

As noted (h/t Teresa, in an incredible summary post at Making Light) here at Rule #1, " Friendly fire - isn't."

(coming as soon as I can access it, if it's available, an embed of the video for the Kinks's video of "Do It Again," which features an underground passenger reading the Sun with the headline "Argies Sink Three Ships," iirc)

Tom adds: See below, go to 4:46 — the video starts about 3-1/2 minuts in. It's "Argies Hit Three Ships."

Note for D.C. readers, you can see a bust of General Belgrano outside the Argentine embassy on Connecticut Ave., north of Dupont Circle. He's the namesake of ARA General Belgrano (née USS Phoenix), sunk by the submarine HMS Conqueror 25 years ago next month.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When the Going Gets Tough, the Pros—Try to Help?

by Ken Houghton

The NYT continues the attempt to confusing "bubbles," subprime, and default:
EMC Mortgage Corp., specialist with a $78 billion portfolio of subprime loans -- for homeowners with weak credit -- this week launched a 50-person team it calls "the Mod Squad." Members will spend an unlimited time on the phone with troubled borrowers, sifting through their bills to compute a workable monthly payment. In an industry that often rewards workers for getting off the phone quickly, the team is preparing to speak to just three people a day.

"You can't just run this like a call center; it needs to be run like a counseling center," said John Vella, president and CEO of EMC. Right now, $2.14 billion in mortgages, 2.74 percent of EMC's portfolio, is in default, up from 1.93 percent a year ago.

So the issue is subprime loans?
Lenders have long modified loans for homeowners facing job loss, illness, divorce or a death in the family. But with many borrowers across the country struggling to keep up with mortgage payments, mortgage companies increasingly are prodding anyone who's having trouble making payments for any reason to give them a call. [emphasis mine]

Tell me another one.

Buried in the 9th and 10th graf:
Loose lending standards followed by lax modifications can merely delay a problem, [former Fannie Mae chief economist Thomas] Lawler said. He pointed to the raft of modifications done in the manufactured housing business in the mid 1990's, when easy credit led to a wave of defaults and reposessions.

"If people had known what the servicers were doing, red flags would have been raised; but by the time people knew what was going on, it was too late," he said.

So what is EMC going to do?
Vella said he hopes the Mod Squad will be able to modify up to 2,000 loans a month; six months ago EMC only modified about 400 loans a month.

EMC has hired an increasing number of contractors over the last three months to knock on the doors of shaky borrowers and drop off fliers asking the home owners to call the company. Last month, the contractors visited 3,000 properties.

The Mod Squad is planning a six-city tour; it hopes to attract struggling homeowners to information and counseling sessions with offers of $100 gift cards to Home Depot Inc. The number is (877) 362-6631.

But the interesting thing is where the "six-city tour" will be. From their press release:
The EMC Mod Squad will begin their six-city national road show in Dallas tentatively scheduled for May 4th and 5th, partnering with the local Consumer Credit Counseling Service. The team will also meet consumers in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Cleveland.

Only one of those cities (MSP) can—arguably—be claimed to have a "housing bubble." Take a look at the graphic from Jim Hamilton at Econbrowser.

I live in what might be called a "bubble" area (NJ). So do Brad DeLong (CA), Lance Mannion (NY State, though I would argue Lance's area isn't exactly bubblicious), and Susan Palwick (NV), to name three bloggers who deserve some traffic.

People in Ohio and Michigan (two of the three states with the highest foreclosure rates) don't know from bubbles, as save_the_rustbelt at AngryBear* reminds us. (ADDED: And even more specifically here, in the comment thread to that post)

As Hamilton notes, citing Felix Salmon:
[I]f anything the opposite appears to be the case: the states that are now experiencing the highest mortgage delinquency rates are the ones where the previous real estate appreciation had been the most modest.

which may mean the bubble has not yet popped.

Or maybe there are "ripple" effects when income inequality increases.**

More at a later date.

*now apparently a Group Blog

**The alternative, that there has been a noticeable recent increase in divorces and untimely deaths in the Bible Belt relative to the rest of the country, may be worth checking as a null hypothesis, but I doubt it's the way to bet.

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