Uncategorized

Assorted links

by on February 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Fritz is long land.

2. Dynamic pricing for ski lifts.

3. Can demographics affect inflation and monetary policy?

4. Bank of England says high-frequency trading is OK.

5. John Lanchester reviews Average is Over and Second Machine Age.

6. Strange lights on dwarf planet Ceres have scientists perplexed.

I’ve been receiving numerous requests for more of my “totally conventional views,” and someone asked me about HRC.  We’ve never covered her in the past, so why not?  But by construction of this series, none of what follows is at all new and probably there won’t be any discussion in the comments.  But with that in mind, I’ll offer up these points:

Hillary

1. Women are judged far more by their looks than are men, and Hillary’s are not right for the presidency.  She doesn’t seem composed enough, schoolmarmish enough a’ la Thatcher, and frankly many men, when they see her in their mind’s eye, imagine a voice saying “Look here, buster…!”  Her hair is not properly ordered for the Executive Office, and I suspect many Americans want for their first female President to appear somewhat ageless.  I am not suggesting any of this is fair or even an efficient form of Bayesian statistical discrimination, but it is a reality.

2. If not for factor #1, a healthy Hillary would be a shoo-in for demographic reasons, but as it stands her chances of winning are overrated.

3. A Clinton Presidency is the most likely of any, from the major candidates, to serve up significant and enduring market-oriented reforms.  She could bring along enough Democrats to work with the Republicans, and reclaim a version of the old Clinton legacy.  That said, her presidency also is more likely to effect change in the opposite direction as well, so the net expected value here is hard to calculate and still may be negative.

4. Given #1 and #2, and other gender-related factors, your opinion about Hillary, no matter what it may be, is less reliable than you think.  That suggests you should think about her less rather than more (sorry people for this post, what did Wittgenstein say about that ladder?), because I don’t think you’re going to see much of a payoff from grabbing here at that third derivative.

5. The willingness of the Clinton Foundation to solicit donations from foreign governments and leaders is corrupt, and yet mostly receives a free pass, in spite of some recent coverage on corporate donations.  I read recently they might stop soliciting donations “…if Hillary runs for President,” also known as “hurry up and give now!”  Arguably we would be electing a political machine as President of the United States, even more than usual.

6. Democratic intellectuals and operatives are quite unexcited — or should I say “fervently and passionately unexcited” — about the prospect of a Hillary candidacy.  The energy is already drained from the room, and they haven’t opened the door yet.

7. There is still the question of how the press, and the American people, might process any subsequent revelations about Bill’s “activities” since leaving the White House.

8. It will be hard to avoid giving the public “Hillary fatigue,” given how many years she has been in the public eye.  This is another reason why I think her chances are overrated, plus she will have to be very careful to carry herself in the debates just the right way, see #1 and #2 again.

9. It is easier to transcend race than gender.

Assorted links

by on February 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Measuring the quality of NBA defenders.  And digitalizing NFL players.  Both are interesting pieces.  And don’t ridicule Manny Pacquiao.

2. An interview with a guy.

3. Vermont, Gruber.

4. Paul Krugman on superstars and the economics of music.  I think of the era of the music superstar as having peaked in the 1980s or so.

5. Old photos of old economists, lots of them.  And the story behind the sale of the Kuznets medal.

6. Peter Railton on depression.

7. Tarkovsky films now free on line.

China pigeon markets in everything

by on February 25, 2015 at 9:21 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

This is also not new news, but it is new to me:

In May 2013, Chinese businessman Gao Fuxin set a new record, paying 310,000 euros ($351,000) in an online auction for a pigeon named Bolt, after Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

It seems also that the pigeons, before a race, are given performance-enhancing drugs.  But:

Expensive birds such as Bolt are simply too valuable to race. They’re put out to stud after being auctioned. “In pigeon racing, blood is everything,” says Mike Ganus, a breeder and racer in Granger, Indiana, who sells about 500 birds a year to China. “If you don’t have the genetics, you won’t have a winner, no matter what you do.”

The full story is here.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes:

The big problem is profitability. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time, a week or at most a few months. So profits have to be made on brief usage. Furthermore, any new antibiotics that might be developed to fight these drug-resistant bacteria are likely to be used very sparingly under highly controlled circumstances, to slow the development of resistant bacteria and extend their usefulness. This also limits the amount that can be sold.

Assorted links

by on February 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. State governments are pre-empting local government interventions.

2. There is no great snowplow stagnation!

3. Did intervention in Libya just make everything worse?

4. The Great Reset, in a single picture.

5. Critics of Greek austerity are basically asking for a free lunch.  You never hear them compare more aid to Greece to more aid for a developing nation, for instance.  And 7-11 charcuterie.

6. David Brooks reviews Hamilton, the musical.

Assorted links

by on February 23, 2015 at 10:35 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Modeling economic civil war and protection in Somalia, and why Islam has an advantage.

2. Witches of Chiloé.  And the price of condoms in VenezuelaReal world development indicators.

3. Greek debt/eurozone rap video, best is Merkel.

4. Why it is better to read on paper.  And there is no great beehive stagnation.

5. The values of different Nobel Prizes, market price data.

6. The most unhappy singles in China?

Ironically, given all the concerns about robots destroying jobs, Mr Tsuda said one of the main constraints on the market’s growth was a shortage of human engineers.

“To use robots — not just to make them — you need quite a level of engineering,” he said. “If anything, for us and the market as a whole, growth is held back by the number of engineers who can do that.”

From Robin Harding at the FT, there is more here.

Assorted links

by on February 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Unusual “review” of 50 Shades of Grey.

2. Markets in everything: the hippopotamus sofa.

3. The Greek artist who hacks the euro.  And here are fictional banknotes for the Hungarian euro.

4.”Do Not Cite or Circulate.

5. Eric Voegelin: “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!

6. What should Greece do now?  And Paul Krugman thinks the Greeks got an OK deal.

The Economist, referring to “six-party politics,” reports:

In 1951 the Conservative and Labour parties together scooped 97% of the vote; in May, opinion polls suggest, they will each win barely a third.

You will note that the UK has a fairly strict “first past the post” system, so if such fragmentation happens in their system perhaps it could happen anywhere.  A second Economist article offers a few hypotheses about why this is happening:

1. People are now used to shopping in markets, and on the internet, for exactly what they want.

2. Politics has become increasingly multi-dimensional; this article cites the possibility that a “libertarian-authoritarian” axis may be replacing “left-right,” or consider the issue of Scottish independence.

3. Perhaps current politicians are less skilled than Thatcher and Blair at attracting the allegiance of a broad cross-section of British society.

I worry that the general decline of discretionary government spending may make politics less stable (but also more interesting, not necessarily in a good way).  When there is plenty of spending to bicker about, politics revolves around that question, which is relatively harmless.  When all the spending is tied up, we move closer to the battlefield of symbolic goods, bringing us back to “less stable and more interesting.”  If that is a cause, this trend is likely to spread.  (In a new paper David Schleicher argues that electoral reform may not stop polarization and splintering.)

Arguably a good deal of American politics is a cloaked debate over whether a particular kind of Christian worldview ought to enjoy higher or lower social status.  Since Britain doesn’t have much religion, perhaps that is why they are fragmenting in so many other directions.  Exactly which British debate is supposed to be imposing the uni-dimensionality on the political spectrum?

Other links

by on February 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Behzod Abduraimov from Uzbekistan is the new piano sensation.

2. Against robot worries.

3. Can you tell whether it is you or your avatar talking?

4. More tweets about Amartya Sen, some even mention his daughter.

5. Every bridge in America.

1. The new Greek deal and trustDie Welt (in German) says that Greece has four months to get its act in order, otherwise prepare for an orderly exit.  Here is the comment of the Greek government issued at the end of the Eurogroup meeting, worth a read.  Here is a Rubens painting of Achilles.

2. Numerous sources suggest that without a deal, Greek banks would have been broke on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday there).  Given game theory, does this raise or lower your opinion of the quality of the deal that was cut?

3. Peter Spiegel notes on Twitter: “Morning after: still not sure why picked this fight. Got v little, & spent lots of political capital they need for 3rd progm negs”

4. The struggle resumes on Monday, with further negotiations required to define the actual substance of the policy reform part of the agreement.

5. It seems to me that if you put aside the talk, and the creative ambiguity on the primary surplus numbers, that overall Greece is on a shorter leash than before.  The Germans have shown credibly that they are willing to live with Grexit, Syriza showed it doesn’t have a Plan B, doesn’t have so much support within the eurozone, and it is revealed that Greek deposit flight is on a trigger-sensitive path at any moment.

6. Should you be afraid of dark matter?

Sam asks:

Given all the recent global currency changes, and other turmoil, what is the best vacation destination for American’s who earn dollars.

Is it possible that I/others can go somewhere previously unaffordable because of the changes?

The dollar is much stronger in many parts of the world these days.  But the currency of Ukraine has taken an especially steep dive as of late.  It’s down about 17% in the last two weeks and that is mostly for geopolitical reasons, not hyperinflation.  So go quickly, and avoid the East!  (Whoops!  Kharkiv too…)  I hear Kiev is lovely in February.

Given government shenanigans, it is hard to get a read on the true price level and real exchange rate in Argentina, but the country has offered incredible bargains during crises in times past, and our winter is their summer.  Brazil has become much cheaper, relative to the past, but it still feels more expensive than traveling in the U.S., for the most part.  But if you are convinced you must go there, try now.  Tokyo is much cheaper than people think, but that has been the case for quite a while.

In my opinion most of the eurozone is at about PPP right now for Americans, Berlin has the best bargains, maybe Paris the worst.  Spain and Portugal to me seem to have had a lot of unreported deflation.  Just say nein to die Schweiz, they let Scott Sumner down and now you must pay for that.

Mexico remains a tremendous bargain, with a rate of about fifteen pesos to one dollar.  The best food in Mexico only costs about $2.50 a meal to begin with, now it is cheaper yet.  Most of the country is quite safe, in Yucatan the murder rate is about as low as in Finland.

Assorted links

by on February 20, 2015 at 3:48 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What Chris Blattman has been reading.

2. How capital regulations are changing banks.

3. Yet more cruelty to robot dogs.

4. German performs iPad magic tricks; perhaps he also was negotiating with Greece.

5. The Greek agreement, annotated.

Oceanic average is over

by on February 20, 2015 at 1:41 am in History, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

The animals in the ocean have been getting bigger, on average, since the Cambrian period – and not by chance.

That is the finding of a huge new survey of marine life past and present, published in the journal Science.

It describes a pattern of increasing body size that cannot be explained by random “drift”, but suggests bigger animals generally fare better at sea.

In the past 542 million years, the average size of a marine animal has gone up by a factor of 150.

It appears that the explosion of different life forms near the start of that time window eventually skewed decisively towards bulkier animals.

Today’s tiniest sea critter is less than 10 times smaller than its Cambrian counterpart, measured in terms of volume; both are minuscule crustaceans. But at the other end of the scale, the mighty blue whale is more than 100,000 times the size of the largest animal the Cambrian could offer: another crustacean with a clam-like, hinged shell.

There is more here, and here is Wikipedia on Cope’s Rule.  Here is one possible explanation.  Does the Rule apply to dinosaurs?  I wonder if the risk-adjusted returns to species size also are going up.