Assorted links

by on January 16, 2014 at 11:50 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The best music journalism of the year?

2. Lars Svensson defends Sweden.

3. Are “booth babes” bad for business?  And the etymology of “brothel.”

4. Daniel Klein on how and where the word “liberal” originated (video lecture).

5. Egypt hires Washington public relations firm, then arrests them hours after arriving in the country.

6. Do the music companies benefit from streaming services?

7. Is the United States too corrupt for single payer health care?  And do Mini-Med plans continue to be legal?  Frankly, I am confused by that latter link and how it jives with everything else I have been told, both by program supporters and critics.

Dave Barnes January 16, 2014 at 11:55 am

Another problem with booth babes is if they are too good looking.
Males will be afraid to approach them.

Axa January 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Booth babes and grandmas are not opposite, they are complementary. For the people that care to go to the event you may contract the grandmas get the foot traffic and the “leads”. But for that thing called the Internet, who’s going to generate the clicks? Both Boing Boing and Tech Crunch links do not show pics from grandmas. Maybe all you need is half hour photo session with the booth babes for the web marketing strategy. While browsing you’re not intimidated by the too good looking woman. Gorgeous pic causes click, after click the geek gets all the technical data that may lead to a sale or not.

Kabal January 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Yeah, booth babes and grandmas as complements, and booth babes as loss leaders make sense.

One sees this in Taiwan’s betelnut shops as well–contiguous shops alongside the road have smokeshows (or, at least girls with the trappings of smokeshows when viewed from a distance) and grandmas next to each other.

Dan Lavatan January 16, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Tech Crunch has a Meg Whitman photo.

Anonymous January 16, 2014 at 12:25 pm

So true. As a shy, introverted male, I never approach booths with booth babes in the fear that they’ll start talking to me and I become a speechless idiot staring at their boobs. Even if the person showing the booth is a male, it’s much easier to talk to him (and approach the booth) if he’s a greasy-haired nerd rather than a well-groomed alpha male. Not because I’m attracted to him, but because I somehow become a little bit afraid in the presence of a very dominant guy.

TMC January 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm

“As a shy, introverted male”
Aw, come on. That’s not the Anonymous I know.

Someone from the other side January 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I wonder whether this isn’t simply a case of classic countersignaling – if you believe you can get away with the grandmas, you sure must be convinced of your own product.

David C January 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

He was looking at booth babes’ effect on business-to-business sales. If your target demographic is 18-29 yr old male consumers, then booth babes are probably still the best way to go. It depends on context.

awp January 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I think the problem is with the wording. What exactly do they mean by grandmas? The only similar events I have ever attended are car shows. I admit I would stop for a second to check out the young lady in the accompanying picture. However, the beautiful, conservatively (but sharply) dressed, 25-35 grandmas at the car show would be much more likely to get my business. Partly because of approachability and respectability, partly because I would want to avoid the crowd of 20 year old horndogs.

ChrisA January 17, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I don’t talk to the booth babies if I am actually interested in the product because I automatically think they are there for decorative purposes and would be unlikely to be knowledgeable or trained in what the product actually does. I look for the older person, conservatively dressed, since they are the one I am most likely to have a productive conversation with. But I do admit that I will spend time at a booth with a good looking saleswomen on it, even if I am not interested in the product. But I am unlikely to buy anything. If my experience is typical the boothbabies and grandmas are complementary. The grandmas serve the people who already have a serious interest while the babies get people to the booth with only a passing interest. So the sales rate of grandmas should be significantly higher, but the booth babies could still be worthwhile since their customers are entirely new.

Ed January 16, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Lars Svensson defending Sweden. He would, wouldn’t he?

jmo January 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

However, Svensson insists that Sweden’s case is different from other countries which have proven to have housing bubbles.

This time it’s different! Film at 11.

JWatts January 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm

“Krugman told SvD that over the last few years, “all the places where people said oh this is different, it’s turned out that no, actually it wasn’t. So, just on that general thing, I’d say probably it’s a bubble.””

I’d tend to agree with Krugman here. Of course we never know if it’s a bubble that’s going to pop anytime soon of course.

Roy January 16, 2014 at 2:21 pm

A lot of would be progressives, of the more informed sort of course, seem outraged at Sweden of late. It seems the recent slight liberalization there is seen as a personal insult. How can we emulate Sweden if Sweden has turned “into a neoliberal hell”

ummm January 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

if krugster says its a bubble then it’s def going higher

Mr. McKnuckles January 17, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Krugman’s pretty good in calling bubbles – e.g. criticizing fixed exchange rates, over-investment in SE Asia in 96

Yancey Ward January 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

On the Aaron Carroll link, if the employees choose the Mini-Med plans, they must pay the individual mandate penalty still, even if the employer is free of their mandate penalties by offering one ACA compliant plan.

JWatts January 16, 2014 at 1:11 pm

+1, that jives with what I’ve read.

JWatts January 16, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Oops, sorry should be jibes!

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Perhaps not. I’m awaiting a well-informed rejoinder.

I am frequently wrong and welcome correction.

PD Shaw January 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I agree as well. The difficulty is in distinguishing what norms a law expects to create from what remedies are available. There is no remedy against an employer who is offering an ACA complaint plan. There is a remedy against an individual who is not enrolled in an ACA complaint plan.

Chris January 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

re: mini-meds, the reason is ERISA — ie employer self-insured plans. ACA was intended to drive insurers away from actuarial pricing. ERISA health plans aren’t really “insurance” as such; just direct entitlement to healthcare benefits — so they’re largely unaffected by ACA rating regs.

note also: “Employees who pick the cheaper plan could have to pay the individual penalty—though that could still cost them less than signing up for the more expensive plan.”

Dan Lavatan January 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Of course, the employees can do self-employment work to adopt their own ACA plan (which they don’t use) and avoid the penalty.

Mini-med plans are also legal outside the US for overseas workers and such.

Yancey Ward January 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Also, on #7, I will point out that a lot of the Mini-Med plans of the past were banned by the ACA, but, unsurprisingly, were resurrected by a modest modification of their terms to get around the law.

For the company described in the WSJ article, I wonder how this works from a financing point of view. They seem to anticipate most of their employees (young and male- it is a security company) will choose the fixed indemnity plans. However, one would expect the ACA compliant plan to be vastly over-weighted with the high cost employees since the premium is capped at 9.5% of pay or less.

chuck martel January 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

The Adult Video News Entertainment Expo is going on right now in Las Vegas. That might be a good place to perform the study once again.

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm

7. The word is “jibe”, a nautical term meaning to make a course change by aligning fore and aft sails to the wind. More generally, two concepts are said to “jibe” when they are aligned together or properly aligned.

Jive means “deceit” in the most closely related context. Jive is often incorrectly used in place of jibe by those with hearing problems or ignorant of the origin and metaphorical usage.

It is delightful to study how sailing terms and military terms have come into common usage, their origins long forgotten and obsolete, for example “lock, stock and barrel,” the three parts of a flintlock musket.

AyeJay January 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm

The letters “v” and b” are also beside each other on a keyboard. Tricky.

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

And as sounds, V and B are closely related. They are so related, that in some languages a V is pronounced as B.

That explains how someone could mistakenly hear jibe as jive, but the two words, as far as I know, have very different etymological roots. It would be interesting to find out I’m wrong, and that the words were the same, diverged, and then came back together.

As a former attorney, etymology is a frolic of my profession. Metaphor is another frolic. Both are frequently misused to the defeat of law, logic, and equity.

Z January 16, 2014 at 2:27 pm
Brian Donohue January 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Damn! I wanted to insert a clever gibe, but alas…

Ricardo January 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Yikes, I have been using “jive” instead of “jibe” my whole life! Glad to be corrected.

There are people (and I am one of them) who, upon encountering bad grammar, cannot help but be annoyed. And then there are people who are annoyed by people who are annoyed by bad grammar. Unfortunately there are less of the former than the latter.

[Hahahaha! See what I did there?]

Mark Thorson January 16, 2014 at 7:15 pm

I suppose you may “run the gambit”, which is of course something I never do.

Ari January 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I just calculated for myself that streaming services cost me about same in my lifetime than buying almost everything I listen piece by piece (or CD’s), but streaming is a lot more flexible and convenient. Here are pros and cons of both sides:


50 years * $10 per month * 12 months = $6000
Very flexible. Sync what you need and stream the rest. Spotify Music App is almost perfect
Expensive switching costs, downside risk if streaming dies
Less stuff to have around, both physically and in bits. Yay.
Can’t impress anyone with your collection, bohoo

Statically owned music

$1 per song * 6000 songs = $6000
What you have is what you get. Hard to sell bad stuff.
Smaller switching costs to streaming than other way around
Overhead costs when bad songs can free-ride on better songs (at least on albums).
Extra stuff either physically or on hard drives
Can impress your friends and house pets with your collection, whee

Honestly, streaming is the future. I just hope it doesn’t die because of stupid IPR battles. Streaming should become major source of revenue for artists the more there are people who start using them. When there are few users, artists might feel getting ripped off but think about when whole world can afford Internet and streaming? Maybe not the whole world soon but at least the industrial world and some of the emerging countries.

One thing I’d truly appreciate to mitigate downside risk is to allow people to legally own songs after having listened them enough times over a number of years or whatever.

I’d also say Streaming improves quality of music, but it also makes the competition really fierce. You can easily find indie artists who produce quality but the elite will reap major revenue. Artists who just imitated badly something not available locally could extract rents before but not anymore.

I also hope the streaming costs stay reasonable. When I look at Amazon and ebook pricing, and how much it is over marginal costs, it makes me feel worried. Maybe all copyright should expire after some N of years.

The switching period will be rough for both artists and whatever rent-seekers exist in the industry. My guess that the rent-seekers will fight, and get clueless people to fight for their rent-seeking positions. Think about truck drivers and auto-autos.

Ari January 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Oh goddammit, I messed up formatting again because lists don’t work. Preview would be nice.

Z January 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Edit would be nice. Even crappy sites have an edit function.

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 1:11 pm

3. Am I comprehending correctly that the booth babes had one-third the contacts but half the number of (potential) sales? Even though their absolute performance is poorer, it seems they were relatively better at closing the deal.

Also, we don’t have information on how well either booth did in sales that were not instantaneous or positive impressions that nonetheless did not result in sales. I think it is too hasty to retire “sex sells.”

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 1:20 pm

5. Just like an arrogant journalist to believe that killing or repressing them is counterproductive. Either Egypt’s rulers know what they are doing or they don’t have instant and complete control over their smallest elements who didn’t get the memo.

Follows the same faulty reasoning that torture doesn’t produce reliable intelligence. It has no basis in fact, but it is worth a try if you are the potential victim.

Nick January 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Since when did it become socially acceptable to denigrate other people’s possessions? I grew up in a crappy house and went to a crappy high school, went to a crappy state school, and my first car was a crappy car. Why did I have those? Because that is the level of quality that I could afford.

I’m allowed to call my stuff “crappy,” but no one else is. Yet in the healthcare debate people seem to have no problem making normative statements, or at least statements heavily loaded with normative connotations, with respect to the level of health insurance that others can afford. We don’t make arguments about increasing CAFE standards by saying that we need to get rid of all those lousy 10 year old Chevys driven by the working poor, do we? Should we have a debate about improving higher education by shutting down all of the worthless community colleges across the country (or even better, online programs that suck)?

I understand that a writer wants to be terse when describing the plan (as well as signify their membership in a particular “in-group”), but someone is working hard to get whatever level of protection they choose to afford and to insult that is pretty disrespectful.

ummm January 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

A good article that validates the efficient market hypothesis, despite claims to the contrary by the likes of Shiller

I conclude that our stock markets are far more efŽcient and far less
predictable than some recent academic papers would have us believe. Moreover,
the evidence is overwhelming that whatever anomalous behavior of stock prices
may exist, it does not create a portfolio trading opportunity that enables investors
to earn extraordinary risk adjusted returns.

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

This is largely true, which is why I prefer index funds for my own portfolio and lead my clients in the same direction. Most of the value I add is tax alpha and improvements over naive diversification.

Apparently, though, some data miners make a fortune picking up pennies in front of steamrollers. They have the lightning fast high volume necessary to exploit minor mispricing. Although part of the EMT, people view this as predatory. One common misunderstanding of markets is that they ARE efficient as opposed to BECOME efficient. Any lingering inefficiency is either negligible or the result of a market failure that cannot be remedied.

Anthony Alfidi January 16, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Booth babes are effective in attracting attention. Expect to see complementary “booth dudes” as more women take executive roles and visit trade shows. It’s only fair.

Willitts January 16, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Why are you assuming symmetry in the reaction functions between men and women? I see no such symmetry in personal relationships, so why would there be symmetry in the aggregate?

What has fairness got to do with business?

beatus vir qui non sedit January 16, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Most men are quickly attracted to most women in the suitable age range, and most men are really attracted to the prettiest women in that age range. Most women are quickly attracted only to a few men at the peak of certain hierarchies, and quickly lose the attraction they feel when they sense that those men are of a low rank, at the beck and call of other men, no matter how high those men may rank in relative attractiveness. Hence, the reciprocal scenario you set forth will not work under current or near-future conditions. The reciprocity you speak of does exist, but only becomes evident in committed relationships, which have nothing to do with “boothbabedomery”.

Roy January 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm

3. Notice the constant was that they were substituting women for women. Also only one of the grandmas was a grandmother, the rest were probably just attractive women in their thirties and early forties. So they had Ajumma/MILF booth babes instead. Works well for me, but…

Also I suspect it depends on the industry. A mix of younger and older salesgirls (but always professionally dressed) and an older male to answer tech questions seems to be standard in the more lucrative parts of my industry.

Nikki January 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Wouldn’t #3 depend on the subject matter? Babes for status-signalling consumer products, professional attire and implied experience for B2B.

The Other Jim January 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

#3 was posted not because it is true, but because women want it to be true, and because certain types of men really want to give women the impression that they also want it to be true.

Is it true? Who knows. I really doubt it. Mileage will vary based on the business type, but the fact is that attractive people attract people. Sometimes you’d be better off with a pretty 40-year-old than a cheerleader, but that doesn’t really change the core issue at hand, now does it?

chuck martel January 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Keep track of the percentage of really attractive black babes used on billboard advertising. They’re attractive to everybody so they’re all over the place.

Farty Panties January 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

#3 is NSFW!!

Z January 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I looked over both links for what could make them not safe for work. I then concluded you must work in a convent.

Farty Panties January 16, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Indeed! I am nun with the above condition.

Floccina January 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm

7. Is the United States too corrupt for single payer health care? And do Mini-Med plans continue to be legal? Frankly, I am confused by that latter link and how it jives with everything else I have been told, both by program supporters and critics.

IMHO better questions are:

1. Is 18% of GDP to big to get to single payer.
2. At 18% of GDP does employers paying for health insurance still make sense.
2. At 18% of GDP does any third pay paying for most of healthcare make sense.

At 5% of GDP many arrangements can work that do not work at 18% of GDP.

Roy January 16, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Too corrupt? Or too responsive to public pressure?

This has been Mickey Kaus’s argument in favor of National Health for many many years, that in the US once a national system is set up, every disease and condition will get a lobby group together and make sure their issues are paid for.

I guess you could call democracy and an informed public corruption, but it reminds me of an Indian intellectual who once complained to me that a political party was buying the votes of a village by building a road connecting it to the local market town.

Adrian Ratnapala January 17, 2014 at 1:55 am

Of course that road building could well be a bad thing, depending on the specifics. Road building costs society a certain amount, and we hope the total benefit of the road is more than the total cost. However the people of a particular village and the politicians who get the road to them see only the benefit, and don’t care if the cost is far greater. Bridges to no where.

Roy January 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm

If you have ever travelled in rural India you would either see few to zero unnecessary roads.

In this particular case it was about 10km graded dirt with a single roadcut and gravel infills that replaced a foot track to a village of around a 1500.

lxm January 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Corrupt may be more off-putting than helpful.

Entrenched may be a better word.

The monopolies of the hospitals, the cartels of the doctors and the medical device suppliers siphon off lots of money. We do not have a free market in the medical industry and the medical industry likes it that way.

Profits first, patients second.

It’s the American Way.

Brandon January 16, 2014 at 7:28 pm

4. Give an economist a wheel, and he will reinvent it.

Thanatos Savehn January 16, 2014 at 8:34 pm

#4 Speakers who read PowerPoint slides to their audience should be waterboarded.

Steven Kopits January 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Yes, Klein’s a bit painful. But that’s an important topic. In essence, prior to 1914, the classical liberals and egalitarians cohabited on the left; with the social conservatives on the right. Thus, I believe liberal encompassed to an extent both liberal and egalitarian notions, with the liberals on the median voter boundary, and thus controlling the meaning of the word. With the rise of socialism, the liberals were forced from the left. The egalitarians kept the word, now with a new meaning, that is, egalitarianism. Krugman’s conscience of a liberal is really the conscience of an egalitarian. He’s by no means about personal liberty.

Meanwhile, during the communist period (to 1989), conservative meant both fiscally and socially conservative, and we use those phrases even today. A liberal, in the traditional sense, is really a fiscal conservative; most certainly not a social conservative. But they cohabited until 1989.

After 1989, in many countries, like Hungary, the liberals returned to their left origins. These are the fiscal conservatives, for example, who remember Clinton for reducing federal spending and balancing the budget. Meanwhile the Republicans became more socially conservative. This is what “compassionate conservatism” means: big spending paternalism. This would have kept the liberals on the left, but then Obama went all socialist, and suddenly the liberals had no place to go. Hence the rise of the Tea Party.

Now, many of the Tea Party faithful draw from a time when fiscal and social conservatives were on the same side, with Republicanism standing primarily for fiscal conservatism. So they tried to re-create the Tea Party as, in some sense, the pre-1989 Republican Party. Hence you see “Tea Party patriots” which is something of an anathema to a true liberal. Liberals are not about teams, they are about individual liberty. But it brings us up to date.

Organically, the Tea Party would seem to want to belong to the left today. If the Democrats went in a Clintonesque direction, this would happen and the Tea Party would fade quickly. On the other hand, if the left is going to be a socialist party, then the Tea Party will have to fight it out with the social conservatives for the soul of the Republican Party, and that’s where we seem to be today.

Another Tom (Though There Are Others) January 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Re #3, Alain de Botton, in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work:

“At the stand of the world’s second-largest engine manufacturer, I spent some minutes observing an unusually attractive young saleswoman with shoulder-length chestnut hair, dressed in a beige suit, who was biting the nail of her left index finger and crossing her slender legs whilst leaning against a large fan blade. She was not the first of her type I had seen that day, but something about her appearance left me thoughtful. I had until then believed that the vendors’ frequent and deliberate reliance on feminine appeal was merely a vulgar stratagem intended to win over airline executives, through an implicit suggestion that a purchase might bring them closer to intimacy with a sales agent. Now I began to see the matter differently: it seemed obvious that no order, however lucrative, would actually render these women available to buyers, so their presence on the stands took on a more poignant and commercially effective dimension. Their real function was to serve as a reminder of the unavailability of beauty to an overwhelmingly male, middle-aged and harried-looking base of customers. The women were goading the men to lay aside all romantic ambitions and to focus instead on their business and technological agendas. Rather than seductresses, they were in truth spurs to sublimation, and symbols of everything that the buyers would be better off if they forgot about in order to concentrate on the thousands of pieces of precisely engineered equipment arranged around the halls.”

chuck martel January 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm

The nearly infinite dimensions of the human thought process are responsible for the BS that Monsieur de Botton produces here, intimating that the promoters of the engine went through a similar process in using the attractive lady at its display. Life isn’t always that complicated.

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