Friday assorted links

by on November 27, 2015 at 10:24 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Claims about pho.

2. Mitch Albom in Haiti.

3. How CRISPR actually will prove useful.  And “We’re going to see a stream of edited animals coming through because it’s so easy…

4. A list tracking student demands from around the country.

5. “The study was conducted in the RAND StoreLab (RSL), a life sized replica of a convenience store…

6. John Wallis on Doug North.  And Kevin Bryan.  And Martin Sandbu on North.

Following up on my earlier post on Syria, Alexander Burns sends me this very interesting email:

Dear Professor Cowen,

Thanks for your reply tweet regarding your Marginal Revolution post on modelling Syria / Islamic State. I enjoy your books and blog.

I’m writing a thesis at Australia’s Monash University that synthesises Jack Snyder’s work on strategic culture / strategic subcultures with Martha Crenshaw and Jacob Shapiro’s work on terrorist organisations. Two recent presentations:

1.       Mid-Candidature Review Panel slides: http://www.alexburns.net/Files/MCR.pptx

2.       Monash SPS Symposium Presentation on Islamic State: https://t.co/Ju11zvFBSP

Several weeks ago I discussed Islamic State with my Mid-Candidature Review panel whilst also reading Gary Antonacci’s Dual Momentum Investing and the Dan Zanger interview in Mark Minervini’s Momentum Masters interviews book. It struck me that Islamic State were like momentum traders for several reasons:

(1) Islamic State have grown rapidly in foreign mujahideen; control of parts of northern Iraq and Syria; and have grown in power projection capabilities. This dynamic is very much like successful momentum traders have worked in a financial markets context using Jesse Livermore’s trend-following approach, William O’Neil’s CANSLIM system, or Paul Tudor Jones II’s speculative activity in Eurodollar and foreign exchange markets.

(2) Islamic State have to-date survived aerial bombardments and have exploited a range of weaknesses in their enemies (e.g. jihadist beheading videos as psychological warfare against the Iraqi Army; Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria; and alliance manoeuvers around the Assad regime and the Syrian civil war).

(3) Events like the capture of Mosul, Iraq; combat experience in the Syrian civil war; involvement in oil black markets; and the proclamation on 29th June 2014 of a worldwide caliphate have momentum-like qualities, particularly in terms of creating the psychological climate for nation-building.

(4) Islamic State has outperformed their peer jihadist groups in their growth and ideological impact.

(5) Islamic State’s use of social media to amplify ideological propaganda is more hypermodern and sophisticated than other terrorist groups.

(6) Their rapid growth has led to spillover effects such as the refugee crisis in Europe.

(7) The Western media’s concerns about Islamic State — and their cultural impact — feel like the 1998-2000 part of the 1995-2000 dotcom speculative bubble, albeit in a counterterrorism context.

(8) Your perspective on Islamic State as hypermodern may also be relevant to the proto-Marxist work on accelerationism and postcapitalism (Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ Inventing the Future; Steven Shaviro’s No Speed Limit; and Benjamin Noys’ Malign Velocities): contemporary terrorist groups operate in a different political / technological / ‘average is over’ context.

With his permission I reproduced the email as is, though added in a few extra paragraph breaks for ease of reading.

Thanksgiving assorted links

by on November 26, 2015 at 10:17 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1.  Robust monetary rules.  And American Airlines stops accepting Argentine pesos.

2. Can France integrate its Muslims?

3. Dr. Seuss and comparative advantage.

4. “If Pleistocene megafauna — mastodons, mammoths, giant sloths and others — had not become extinct, humans might not be eating pumpkin pie and squash for the holidays, according to an international team of anthropologists.”

5. John Cochrane on health insurance churn.

6. Why Turkey shot down the plane and who will be the biggest losers (good, analytical piece, NYT).

7. Chris Mooney on the global warming “pause.”

I can’t say I understand this FT article so well, but I suppose that is the point.  Which are two groups/persons implicated in buying oil from ISIS, or otherwise enabling such trades to take place?

First, Syria.  Or is that “Syria.”

Second, the head of the world chess federation, namely Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: “he is best known for his belief in aliens — he has repeatedly recounted an instance when he was abducted in 1997 by “people in yellow spacesuits”.”  And this:

Mr Ilyumzhinov has a diverse business empire, stretching from sugar to banking, and a network of contacts to match. He regularly meets the Dalai Lama, and he played chess with Libyan president Muammer Gaddafi shortly before his overthrow.

He also has been working with the Syrian central bank.  Here is NYT coverage, here are other sources.  As the old Haitian proverb states, if you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on…

Wednesday assorted links

by on November 25, 2015 at 12:53 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Book hotel in Japan.  That is book used as a noun, not a verb.  And good photos of Porto, Portugal.  Zach Lowe: how small can the NBA go?

2. The world’s largest cloning factory, guess where?  Yesterday my paper copy of the FT printed on its front page the pun “Factory to turn out 1m cows a year as China raises steaks in cloning research,” though I cannot find it on-line.  And “Biologists induce flatworms to grow heads and brains of other species.

3. “Why, then, is 29-year-old Laurence the only full-time forensic pollen analyst in the United States?

4. Schmalensee and Stavins survey the history of cap and trade programs (NBER).

5. What do we know about ultra high net worth individuals?  And Republicans prefer politicians with deep voices.

6. Henry Aaron argues that ACA is still doing OK.

Greg Ip on why safety can be dangerous

by on November 25, 2015 at 3:44 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Greg Ip presented his new book Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe at Mercatus/GMU, with an emphasis on financial crises and a bit on forest fires too.  I was the moderator, and the commentators were Alex J. Pollock and Jared Bernstein.

The video and short summary is here.  My previous review of Greg’s book is here.

Douglass North links

by on November 24, 2015 at 8:28 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. David Henderson on North.

2. A Fine Theorem on North.

3. Michael Sykuta on North.

4. NYT obituary of North.

5. Henry Farrell on North.

6. Dan Klein on North.

7. Art Carden on North.

8. Arnold Kling on North.

9. Ryan Avent on North.

10. Check Barry Weingast’s Facebook page, I believe the post on Doug is open.

11. John Nye on Doug North.  And yet another take from Nye.

If there are new good links on North, I’ll addend them tomorrow morning, so check back if you are interested.  He was a frequent visitor at George Mason and also at Mercatus, so many of us will miss him very much.

Tuesday assorted links

by on November 24, 2015 at 1:52 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Interview with James Poterba.

2. South Korean zombie companies?  And good WSJ survey piece on premature deindustrialization., and the Dani Rodrik paper again, revised (pdf).

3. How agriculture shaped human DNA (NYT)

4. The market-oriented reformist wins in Argentina.

5. Anne-Marie Slaughter on the Wilson School renaming controversy (not my views, by the way, but she has run the Wilson School and worth reading how she sees the world).

6. “At 12:45 p.m., a window pops open on a system called FedTrade and plays a sequence of musical notes—F-E-D—to open trading, traders said.

7. Why are engineers more likely to become terrorists?

Monday assorted links

by on November 23, 2015 at 12:13 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Liquidity premium > carrying costs, all of a sudden.

2. Debt to gdg ratios, and the distribution of how they change (China fact of the day).

3. The aging of the NPR audience.

4. Why doesn’t NYC know where its subway trains are?

5. “Lord’s Prayer advert banned before ‘Star Wars’…In a snub to the Church of England, an advert that was planned to coincide with the new film “The Force Awakens,” has been rejected by most UK cinemas due to fears it could be offensive.”  I call that one Ross Douthat bait…

6. The age-related savings glut is about to reverse.

Sunday assorted links

by on November 22, 2015 at 4:32 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Is the last known antibiotic beginning to fail? (speculative)

2. An Amish marathon runner.

3. Austan Goolsbee is blogging again, this time on the Bernie Sanders budget.  And Kling on Summers.

4. The robotic cat companion.

5. “…patients with acute, life-threatening cardiac conditions did better when the senior cardiologists were out of town.” (NYT)

Saturday assorted links

by on November 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Is there hope for America in men’s tennis?

2. Mary Gaitskill by the book.  I am enjoying her new novel The Mare.

3. Hardball questions for the next debate.  And Corey Robin on Woodrow Wilson.

4. American landlords seem to prefer refugee tenants.

5. 13 women who transformed the world of economics.

6. How breweries survived the age of Prohibition (pdf, job market paper from UCLA).

7. Why recent productivity growth is taking a scary form, shedding inputs rather than increasing outputs.

Friday assorted links

by on November 20, 2015 at 11:20 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Arnold Kling’s books of the year.  And Scott Sumner outlines his forthcoming book on the Great Depression.

2. “Arguably the least appreciated resource for Islamic State is its fertile farms.” (noisy video at that link, sorry, but the content is interesting)

3. Historical estimates of Chinese gdp.  And where in the world is the greatest economic exposure to China?

4. Who says education is just signaling?  Only bird brains?

5. “Some teams are accusing other teams of cheating, but there’s no cheating because there’s no rules,” (the culture that is curling).

6. Clickhole does the great stagnation.

7. Do welfare programs make people lazy?

UnitedHealth may exit the provision of ACA plans:

The nation’s largest health insurance provider, UnitedHealth Group, dealt a blow to the Affordable Care Act on Thursday when it warned it may stop offering coverage to individuals through public exchanges after taking a big hit to the bottom line from disappointing enrollment and the law’s unexpected effects.

The insurer’s withdrawal from the Obamacare exchanges would force some 540,000 Americans to find coverage from another provider.

UnitedHealth (UNH) downgraded its earnings forecast, bemoaning low growth projections for Obamacare enrollment and blaming the federal health care law for giving individuals too much flexibility to change plans.

People who purchase insurance through the public exchanges are typically heavy users of their plans, draining insurers’ profits, analysts say.

In a sharp reversal of its previously optimistic projections, UnitedHealth suspended marketing of its Obamacare exchange plans for 2016 — which the company has already committed to offer — to limit its exposure to additional losses.

“We see no data pointing to improvement” in the financial performance of public-exchange plans, UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley said on a conference call, though he added that “we remain hopeful” the market will recover.

The move comes amid indications that insurers are absorbing steeper costs than they expected from plans offered to individuals through the public exchanges, which are purchased online.

The average premium for medium-benefit plans offered to 40-year-old non-smokers is set to rise 10.1% in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

…Even though UnitedHealth wasn’t a major player yet on the ACA exchanges, the fact that it priced plans conservatively and entered cautiously made its statements more significant, said Katherine Hempstead, who heads the insurance coverage team at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“If they can’t make money on the exchanges, it seems it would be hard for anyone,” Hempstead said.

But that is not all the news.  There is also:

In many Obamacare markets, renewal is not an option

Shopping for health insurance is the new seasonal stress for many

Health care law forces business to consider growth’s costs

Many say their high deductibles make their health insurance all but useless

and my own Obamacare not as egalitarian as it appears

All five are from the NYT, the first three being from the last two or three days, the other two from last week.  They are not articles from The Weekly Standard

To put it bluntly, I don’t think the mandate part of the bill is working.  These are mostly problems which decay and get worse, not problems which self-correct.

On UnitedHealth, here is commentary from Megan McArdle.  Here is Bob LaszewskiHere is Vox.

Thursday assorted links

by on November 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Glenn Loury on the recent troubles at Brown.  And should Princeton still use the Woodrow Wilson name?

2. Henry Rowen, economist and former head of Rand, has passed away.

3. A deaf couple discuss their marriage.

4. There is no great ketchup stagnation.

5. Intergenerational mobility in the Great Depression (pdf).

6. John Cassidy on the economics of Syrian refugees.

Wednesday assorted links

by on November 18, 2015 at 2:21 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “King says the bear was calm, but the workers tranquilized him for safety reasons before carefully removing the can.

2. Bill Simmons interviews Obama.

3. “Yet as forbidding as Europa’s surface may be, just a few kilometers below lies the largest ocean in the known Universe.

4. Caplan reviews Garett Jones The Hive Mind, and more here.

5. I like it when “it’s complicated.”