Assorted links

by on April 9, 2014 at 12:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What happens when you conduct a census of the Mexican educational system?

2. Monopsony in motion, MP3 file, a song by the Anarchist Econometricians of A.  What do you know about them?  And Felix Salmon on Wonkonomics.

3. Can robots solve the Malaysian mystery?

4. Do poverty traps really exist?

5. An early history of cryptocurrencies.

6. A watch for blind people (mostly being bought by the sighted, note “you can check the time in a social or work setting without appearing rude.”)

7. Medicare average is over.

1 Adrian Ratnapala April 9, 2014 at 12:17 pm

#5: Please change the “https://” to “http://”. At least my firefox cannot verify the certificate.

2 Adrian Ratnapala April 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

And then be aware that you are using an unencrypted site, that uses JavaScript and CGI. Kinda like MR.

3 charlie April 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Honestly, today, I’d rather be using anything that doesn’t use SSL.

4 Michael B Sullivan April 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I assume this is in reference to Heartbleed. Note that there is no particular danger to users of https sites that do not require a login/otherwise accept non-public information from users.

It may — very temporarily — be the case that submitted private information is safer across http than https, today. Hopefully fixes for Heartbleed will be very quickly rolled out.

5 Silas Barta April 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

You mean like most sites you visit?

Unless you want to keep secret the content at that link, encryption is pointless here; anyone else can go to the same link and see what you read, and you have to reveal the endpoint to snoopers as part of your connection.

6 Adrian Ratnapala April 9, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Yes I mean like most sites I visit.

As far as I can tell there is no need for SSL on either site.

7 prior_approval April 10, 2014 at 1:56 am

This site does not need Javascript – I turn Javascript off on all systems I own.

Not only does it disable adsense (and google analytics in a broad sense), you avoid that utterly moronic cut and paste added text – (See more at: added to every cut and pasted text in the comment section seems like a practical joke, April 1st is over – though who knows, maybe it is just another one of Prof. Cowen’s takes on an amusing prank, as it is pretty silly to think anyone would seriously consider this an effective SEO strategy)

8 dangerman April 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Anyone want to give us the spoiler for the poverty traps one?

9 RM April 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm

7. I am not sure about the link to “average is over.” I have always interpreted :”average is over” to mean that there will be a dichotomy between people/stuff at the top and people/stuff at the bottom. The release of Medicare data may actually drive all payments to the average.

On a related note, while I generally applaud the release of government data, the release might actually drive average payments up. The current distribution is probably skewed to the right, but when all those below the average see that there is room to increase payments–even as those at the top are embarrassed into reducing their bills–the net effect could be to increase the average within a narrow standard deviation.

10 responsible D April 9, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I’m wondering if that was a tongue-in-cheek reference. Those at the top in this instance seem to be the ones who have elite skill in gaming the Medicare payments system. I guess they’ve learned to work well with computers?

11 R. Pointer April 9, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Isn’t this just a normal occurrence in all markets. Pareto distributions are the norm.

12 dbp April 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm

#3. “The latest search area identified by authorities in Australia stretched some 26,000 square miles. Covering that amount of territory with the robots would take months, possibly longer.
Dana Yoerger, a senior scientist at Woods Hole, said that before the robots can be launched searchers must pinpoint the correct patch of ocean to check.
“You certainly have to be within a hundred miles” to have much chance of locating the wreck, Yoerger said, itself a pretty large area.”

The total area within 100 miles of any given point is about 31,000 square miles. Deploy the robots!

13 Brett April 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

1. The Mexican education system is what happens when your government’s primary focus vis a vis the teacher’s union for decades is making sure that they show up and vote/protest/mobilize for your political regime, not educating students. Put that on top of Mexico’s higher corruption and you get the nightmare that is Mexico’s teacher’s union, where you can sell/buy positions, pass them on to family members, and so forth. The ones in the southern, heavily indigenous states are the worst (as mentioned) – the teacher’s union down there is more like an anti-government militia.

14 So Much For Subtlety April 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Didn’t we just have a thread where someone pointed out Haiti provides as much schooling as Italy did in 1958?

It is absolutely amazing that a country like Egypt can have a quasi-socialist revolution in 1956, it can have outright socialism since 1962 or so, and yet something like 30-40% of school leavers cannot read or write.

This is not rocket science. All it takes is commitment – and a basic level of honesty in government services.

Admittedly they have problems because they have to teach children in what amounts to a second, and dead, language rather than the dialect of the Cairo region. As does Haiti I guess. Apart from the fact French is not dead. But then so did Italy in much of the country I guess.

15 Brett April 9, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Like I said, it’s often because they’re ostensibly there for one reason (teaching), but in practice they’re also being pushed as a bulwark of an autocratic regime. Teachers usually represent a somewhat educated, literate, organized group, which makes them dangerous to dictatorships unless they get co-opted and controlled.

16 So Much For Subtlety April 10, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Well Nasser’s model was the Soviet Union. Which may have murdered tens of millions of people, but it did manage to teach the survivors to read. Which is why I associate socialism with an interest in universal literacy. Can’t love Big Brother if you can’t read his collected works. Literacy can easily be a bulwark of a socialist regime.

Teachers are not remotely dangerous to dictatorships. Authoritarian governments perhaps, but totalitarian ones? No. Most of them were run by former teachers for a start – Pol Pot and Mao Zedong being two good examples.

17 Adrian Ratnapala April 9, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Is a language actually dead if people millions of people learn it and use it to communicate with each other? I am curious, what dialect of Arabic is used on international media like Al Jezeera etc? Can it be readily understood in all Arabic-speaking countries?

18 So Much For Subtlety April 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm

That is a good question. The Arabs are determined to make Modern Standard Arabic – basically a dumbed down version of Classical Arabic – their pan-Arab common language. So virtually all the news is done in MSA. Pretty much all political broadcasts are done in MSA. But you can’t tell a joke in it. Egyptian TV does the news in MSA and then virtually everything else switches to the dialect of Cairo.

I think if you aren’t telling each other jokes in it, it is a dead language. Even if millions of people claim to speak it.

It is a strange situation where you have to teach children from textbooks in MSA but then you have to explain to them in dialect what they mean. But of course it is massively political.

19 ChrisA April 9, 2014 at 9:35 pm

The interesting thing to me, is not that agents like Mexican teachers exploit their position as public employees, but that it does not happen more often. I think generally speaking public employees in developed countries such as the US, West Europe, Japan etc actually do try to do a good job and the public provision of services in developed countries, while not as optimized as they would be if they were private, actually do OK. Corruption is also a lot less than I would have expected from a self-interested point of view. I am thinking of entities like the NHS and BBC in the UK, the VA, Immigration Services, etc in the US and so on. So I understand a little of why those of a statist mind, such as many Democrats, are so outraged when libertarians invoke public choice issues to argue against state intervention and state solutions . To Democrats its as outrageous and insult as for a Tea Party member, who is told he is racist, because some the policies proposed by the Tea Party could be detrimental to certain racial groups. But, to take a Oakshottian conservative approach, we cannot really know what the reasons are for this restraint in public services so we have to be careful in setting up new government power structures. Where there is corruption elsewhere in the system, such as in autocratic states like Egypt, or in Mexico political system, this is very likely to be encouraged elsewhere in the system. Only a fool or saint could remain uncorrupted in those systems and most people are neither.

20 So Much For Subtlety April 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm

I am not sure I would agree with you about the public systems in the West. The US provides plenty of examples of public teacher Unions putting their members before the students’ interests. Which is why so many young urban males graduate unable to read and write. Just try to get a teacher fired for sexually abusing a child – and a child is at much greater risk in the State sector than in the Catholic Church system.

The best example of this is Michelle Rhee’s attempt to reform the teaching system of Washington DC. When she started firing non-performing Principals and teachers, the Unions started kicking up a fuss. But when she said she was going to close non-performing schools, even the parents protested. The mayor who backed her was then voted out. The Teachers and parents united in preferring the children be illiterate than safe government jobs were lost.

Apart from the teachers unions, there is now clear evidence of massive political corruption in the IRS. The BBC cannot be trusted to give anyone to the right of the Greens a fair hearing. So we are all moving down that Mexican path.

21 ChrisA April 11, 2014 at 12:26 am

@SMFS- I didn’t say there wasn’t any corruption and favoritism in the west, just that there was less than I would have thought (and certainly less than in Mexico or Egypt say).

22 Donald Pretari April 9, 2014 at 8:58 pm

#4…I’m assuming wars, ruthlessness of dictators, natural disasters, etc. are factored in as Political Economy or some other category. In that sense, just studying the parameters listed, the authors seem to have a point. The Poverty Trap, as a pure economic concept, isn’t all that useful. However, the basic insight that starting in abject poverty matters still seems useful.

23 April 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm

For more information on CHARACTERS UNITE, visit charactersunite.

First I’ll talk about various prostate issues men experience over 40.
Are they computer or fax savvy or do they do prefer snail mail or interoffice memos.

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