Month: September 2006

We are Iran

Here is the UK cover for a book on Iranian bloggers:
Your screen is OK, the image has lots of white space.  Here is the US cover of the same book:


Are U.S. covers in general more literal?  Here is the the source; the fascinating blog is devoted to discussing book covers.  Here is the UK-US comparison for David Mitchell’s excellent Cloud Atlas.  Here is the Turkish cover of Freakonomics.  Here is an iPod ad from the Czech Republic.

Live as a conservative?

  • Charlie Daniels Band—Essential Super Hits of Charlie Daniels Band
  • Clint Black—Greatest Hits II
  • Craig Morgan—Craig Morgan
  • Daryl Worley—Have You Forgotten?
  • Kid Rock—Devil Without a Cause
  • Lee Greenwood—American Patriot
  • Michael W. Smith—Healing Rain
  • Toby Keith—Unleashed


  • The link is from Jason Kottke.

    The saga continues

    According to, a chess news Web site, at the start of today’s game, Mr. Topalov sat down to play while Mr. Kramnik went to his private area and sat down outside his private bathroom, demanding that it be unlocked.

    Chessbase reported that the organizers refused his request and after an hour, the game was declared forfeited in Mr. Topalov’s favor.

    Here is one story.

    Moscow 1941

    When the storm broke, people turned to Tolstoy: "During the war," wrote the critic Lidia Ginzburg, "people devoured War and Peace as a way of measuring their own behavior (about Tolstoy they had no doubt: his response to life was wholly adequate).  The reader would say to himself: Well then, so what I am feeling is right: that’s just how it should be."  War and Peace was the only book the writer Vasili Grossman had time to read while he was a frontline correspondent, and he read it twice.  It was broadcast on Moscow Radio, complete, over thirty episodes.

    That is from new and noteworthy Moscow 1941: A City and its People at War, by Rodric Braithwaite, recommended.

    Markets in deaf embryos

    What do you think of this?  Consumer sovereignty anyone?

    Several U.S. fertility clinics admit they’ve helped couples deliberately select defective embryos.  According to a new survey report, "Some prospective parents have sought [preimplantation genetic diagnosis] to select an embryo for the presence of a particular disease or disability, such as deafness, in order that the child would share that characteristic with the parents.  Three percent of IVF-PGD clinics report having provided PGD to couples who seek to use PGD in this manner."  Since 1) the United States has more than 400 fertility clinics, 2) more than two-thirds that answered the survey offer PGD, and 3) some clinics that have done it may not have admitted it, the best guess is that at least eight U.S. clinics have done it.  Old fear: designer babies.  New fear: deformer babies.

    Of course Nick Bostrom will push us one step further and ask why the status quo bias?  Aren’t we all "deformed" compared to the Uebermensch of the future?

    Department of Uh-Oh, a continuing series

    After each move Mr. Kramnik immediately heads to the rest room and from it directly to the bathroom.  During every game he visited the relaxation room 25 times at the average and the bathroom more than 50 times – the bathroom is the only place without video surveillance…

    Should this extremely serious problem remain unsolved by 10.00 o’clock tomorrow (September 29th, 2006), we would seriously reconsider the participation of the World [chess] Champion Veselin Topalov in this match.

    Here is the story.  Kramnik is leading 3-1; with the exception of his B x f8?? move in game two, his tactical play has been uncannily accurate, and indeed computer-like, at key moments.  Or maybe he has learned that new style by playing with computers.  Here is my previous post on the topic.

    Hire Ben Casnocha

    Seth Godin…posed
    an idea I call "Real Life University."  Seth questioned whether four
    years in a place that teaches how to be normal filled with students who
    are looking for a degree helps me.  He wondered aloud whether two years
    on the road traveling in different cultures, and two years reading
    books and meeting mentors, would be a better experience.

    From that point forward my opinion on the matter became clear: I
    want to spend four years of my life learning.  I don’t want to graduate
    from high school and just start more businesses.  After all, business is
    only kind of interesting.  I want to learn.  I want to explore.

    "Real Life University" – four years of reading and exploration,
    guided by a "board of trustees" of advisors and mentors – became a real
    idea I refined and held in my back pocket.

    Here is the post, here is Ben’s blog.  Here is Ben’s bio.  Here is Ben on his GPA and why not every good college will take him.  Tomorrow Ben will tell us where he will go in a year’s time.  But should he spend four years of his life at a college?

    Hire Ben, in a job with real possibilities; if need be give him a "pre doc" to just sit around.  If need be, give him part of the year off.

    Ben is a living test of whether college education signals the dedication of students to hard work.  If Ben does not get or indeed even start his degree, does it mean he is undisciplined?  And yes you can see a potential source of worry toward the end of his second paragraph from above.

    I have met Ben and he is very nice.  I have read Ben’s blog.  I spent three minutes with Ben, but I will bet my reputation as a judge of talent that Ben will be a future star of some kind.  He is already a star.  And someday he will own you.

    Hire Ben Casnocha, and test economic theory in the process.  Contribute to building a data set for the economics of education.

    I’ll give you all an update a year from now.

    By the way: I have always thought that the peer effects of college were the
    biggest problem with the idea; ideally the smart kids should be sent to
    a college full of adult students, if only this were possible.

    Nobel Prize predictions

    The Economics prize will be announced October 9.  Here are speculations from last year.  Here are further plausible picks.  Gordon Tullock deserves it.  I predict Eugene Fama and Richard Thaler as deserving co-winners for their work in empirical finance.  Fama will win it for first proving (1972) and then disproving (1992) CAPM, the Capital Asset Pricing Model.  Thaler will win it for developing behavioral finance and a better account of how irrationalities manifest themselves in asset markets.  Kenneth French, a co-author of Fama’s, might be a third pick.  My greatest fear is that they pick Lars Svensson (I believe he is Norwegian, but still that is not a bad name for winning a Swedish prize), and somebody asks me to explain his work.

    I believe I have never once predicted this prize correctly.  Last year I said Thomas Schelling, the co-winner with Bob Aumann, deserved the prize but might not ever get it.  What do you all think?

    Addendum: Chris Masse points me to bookie odds on the Peace Prize.

    What are psychopaths?

    Psychopaths cannot process clues of context very easily:

    The key deficit in psychopaths, he [Newman] says, is an inability to process contextual cues, which makes them oblivious to the implications of their actions, both for themselves and for their potential victims…

    Newman has published several studies showing this inability to consider peripheral information.  In 2004, Newman reported in the journal Neuropsychology one study in which subjects were presented with mislabeled images, such as a drawing of a pig with the word "dog" superimposed on it.  Newman’s researchers timed how long it took them to name what they saw.  They found that people in the control group — non-psychopaths — were confused by the mislabeled images, while the psychopaths answered swiftly and barely noticed the discrepancy.

    "Although it is somewhat counterintuitive that superior selective attention be associated with psychopathology, it is consistent with the importance of incidental contextual and associative cues for regulating behavior," Newman wrote.

    The main point of the article, with which I agree, is that we should feel sorry for psychopaths.  Here are Robert Hare’s results on psychopaths.  Here is a summary of some neurological evidence.

    Addendum: Speaking of neurology, here is Will Wilkinson on whether neuroeconomics implies paternalism.

    GMU’s Space Tourist

    The amazing Anousheh Ansari grew up in Iran coming to the United States only in 1984 without speaking any English.  With her husband and brother-in-law she started Telecom Technologies in 1993 selling it just a few years later for half a billion dollars.  She used her share of the proceeds to help endow the Ansari X-Prize and also to become, just 10 days ago, the first female space tourist.  She has been blogging from space.  Today, she returns to Earth.

    The GMU connection?  She earned her degree in electrical engineering and computing from George Mason University.

    Europe at the Crossroads

    In face of these issues, it is difficult to understand why half the EU budget is still devoted to subsidizing agriculture…

    That is from Europe at the Crossroads, by Guillermo de la Dehesa.  Contrary to what the above excerpt may indicate to some, this is not a "Europe-bashing" book.  It is perhaps the best short, comprehensive overview of the European economies, their strengths, and their problems.  Matt Yglesias makes good points about Scandinavia and competitiveness, but I cannot agree that the main problems of France and Germany are macroeconomic in nature.

    What has mattered to economics since 1970

    We compile the list of articles published in major refereed economics
    journals during the last 35 years that have received more than 500
    citations.  We document major shifts in the mode of contribution and in
    the importance of different sub-fields: Theory loses out to empirical
    work, and micro and macro give way to growth and development in the
    1990s.  While we do not witness any decline in the primacy of production
    in the United States over the period, the concentration of institutions
    within the U.S. hosting and training authors of the highly-cited
    articles has declined substantially.

    That is from Kim, Morse, and Zingales; here is the paper.

    The economic effects of immigration

    and Watt argue that as more immigrant women serve in household
    positions, more high-skilled native women are therefore available to
    join the labor market, driving down relative wages among high-skilled
    workers and reducing the disparity in wages between low- and
    high-skilled workers.

    Here is the paper, and that is via Greg Mankiw.  I’ll say it again: it is not frequently enough recognized that the gender of immigrants is a major policy issue.  Female immigrants bring fewer problems than do male immigrants, and they encourage the male immigrants to behave better, but of course they also, in the longer run, mean a greater demographic shift in favor of the immigrants and their culture.