Assorted links

by on May 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Via Chris F. Masse, how large is the Chinese art market really?

2. The economics of HBO, and conditioning on a collider.

3. Good analysis of Spanish debt restructuring; “Should there be some form of Spanish sovereign bond restructuring, the amounts required to recapitalize the banks would be astronomical.”

4. Is the multi-year, multi-volume biography dead?

5. Banana battles, and how is America’s helium crisis developing?

Donald Pretari May 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I’m trying to figure out if we didn’t know all this in early 2009: http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/two-graphs-that-tell-it-all-on-spain/
I think we did.

ptuomov May 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm

I recommend that Tyler Cowen will spend some time better understanding the situation in Spain. It’ll be a fun and, given the amount of misinformation on the web and even analyst reports, illuminating report. For example, the following questions might be interesting to explore:
- What was Spain’s current account deficit in 2007 and what will it be in 2012? How are Spanish exports doing?
- What fraction of Spanish residential mortgages is non-performing? What might be the factors that cause that number to be what it is?
- What fraction of the officially unemployed 25% of the work force actually works in the unofficial sector? Is the Spanish labor force growing faster or slower than the population in working-age cohorts?
- Have the foreigners been net buyers or net sellers of Spanish real estate since 2009?
- What fraction of Spain’s biggest bank’s, Banco Santander’s, total assets are Spanish residential mortgages?
- When the Spanish government recently bailed out a bank, did they bail out Bankia, BFA, some combination of the two, or something else?

Peter May 13, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Robert Caro, the pre-eminent practitioner of the very, very long form, has just published, to much tada-ing, the 712-page “Passage of Power,” the 10-years-in-the-making fourth volume of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, a project that began in 1974. The fifth and final installment is yet to come.

That strikes me as an act of extreme self-indulgence, and other than some university libraries I cannot imagine who would bother to buy a copy.

Ranjit Suresh May 13, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Right. Except that it’s sitting atop the New York Times bestsellers list for nonfiction.

Ayn Rand May 14, 2012 at 2:10 am

Hey, liberals need a really long book that they can claim they read for street cred too.

affenkopf May 14, 2012 at 2:33 am

If you had read Caro’s previous volumes you would know that his work is very far from hagiography.

Greg G May 14, 2012 at 8:01 am

Good riddance to this style of biography. The most valuable skill in writing biography is knowing what to leave out not allowing us to relive an entire life in real time.

Thelonious_Nick May 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

I see what you mean I suppose there may be world-historical figures for whom a five-volume biography might be appropriate, but I’m pretty sure LBJ doesn’t fit the bill.

CC May 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm

“This cartoon is probably the best ever expression of the “piracy is a customer service issue” thesis”

Indeed. Valve has been saying this for years.

cthulhu May 14, 2012 at 12:23 am

I thought that Gabriel had a good insight that the core reason for HBO welding itself to the cable companies is that it is just a piece of a media conglomerate, and HBO’s gain (from, e.g., selling HBO GO subscriptions to non-cable subscribers) would be its parent company’s loss. But it seems to me that finer grained control of one’s television entertainment will keep growing, and that eventually somebody like HBO will realize that if they set the terms of the market now, they will benefit in the long run. Of course, this may simply be wishful thinking on my part; contemplating my cable bill does that to me…

Adrian Ratnapala May 14, 2012 at 1:28 am

I might have been able to respond intelligently this, but I keep being distracted by mental images of what happens when Cthulhu gets upset by his cable bill.

At least HBO is not parsing HTML with regexes. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1732348/regex-match-open-tags-except-xhtml-self-contained-tags

cthulhu May 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm

“I keep being distracted by mental images of what happens when Cthulhu gets upset by his cable bill.”

Tentacles are definitely involved…

Rahul May 14, 2012 at 4:13 am

Have we passed Peak Helium?

joshua May 14, 2012 at 7:00 am

The article did a good job describing the US politics around helium, but left me wondering about how much helium is left on the planet, if different parts are profitable to extract at different prices, how likely it is we could find a substitute for helium in medical uses (Human breath seems to work Ok for the balloons). And surely there is helium in space?

Bob Knaus May 14, 2012 at 7:17 am

Plenty, yes, no, yes but large glowing ball you see in the sky is too hot to touch.

bluto May 14, 2012 at 8:54 am

As I understand it, Helium usually found along with Natural gas (it comes/came bubbling up from the earth’s core and was caught by impermeable stone layers along with the gas) so I’d suspect given the large gas fields announced more could be captured but not at prices competitive with the subsidized rates that the US charges for gas already in storage.

Mike May 14, 2012 at 10:19 am

If it is not profitable to buy and store helium now, doesn’t that mean we don’t really have a crisis?

bluto May 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I believe the crisis thesis is, helium once released can’t be recaptured, and due the US below market sales of the stuff, we’ll likely release most of what will ever be available. If the subsidized helium lasts until most of the newly discovered natural gas are drilled, the concern is that additional new resources won’t be as easily tapped.

Varun May 14, 2012 at 4:46 am

This is a prime example of how a good name for an concept speeds us faster. We’ve all run through the logic that Rossman (and Pearl) talk about, but my god having “conditioning on a collider” as a term makes thinking through it and applying it so much faster.

Thanks for the link Tyler, it is definitely one of the highest cognitive return articles you’ve linked to.

Varun May 14, 2012 at 4:49 am

Err…I meant “This is a prime example of how a good name for an concept can speed up thinking” above.

joshua May 14, 2012 at 7:33 am

5. The helium article has predictable comments that the industry should have been privatized, and another predictable comment about a “Republican devised deregulatory scheme.”

Regarding the first, I am unclear on whether or not there is still a private industry. Obviously it would be dealing with a crippled distorted market due to the government’s pricing error, but if the government is only selling one third of the world’s helium, where is the rest coming from? And surely the private industry is anticipating a coming boon if the government is about to run out of it.

Regarding the second, I’m wondering what was the alternative to selling it? Still hoarding it? Or are we just imagining a fantasy world where government doesn’t make errors like the one it made about the selling price? Both parties have had years to correct that error.

Mark Thorson May 14, 2012 at 9:35 am

It’s my understanding that helium comes from radioactive decay, so the supply is renewed over time, though it’s a very long time.

When I took organic chemistry in college, I learned that in the U.S. helium is used as the carrier gas for gas chromatography, but everywhere else in the world people use argon. That’s because the subsidy drives down the price of helium in the U.S.

Be careful if you want to hoard helium — it diffuses through tank walls. A gas cylinder full of helium will lose its pressure over a year or two. That’s because helium has the smallest molecular size. It’s a noble gas, so unlike hydrogen it’s monatomic. Like hydrogen, it only has electrons in the 1s orbital, but with double the nuclear charge the 1s orbital is pulled much closer to the nucleus.

eddie May 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Just keep it in the same bottles you use to store universal solvent.

Ray Lopez May 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Test post…am I being censored? Nah, only Greg Makiew and Brad DeLong have shut their blogs to me! Re “Robert Caro” the famed LBJ multi-volume biographer who spent his life researching his subject: you could say, as a chess player, Caro-Kan, get it? Like the openining–Caro-Kann!

Ray Lopez May 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm

All is well…it’s not censorship….whew!

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