Assorted links


2. And by "Syria bans" you mean the terrorists ban,

You really like croissants, eh?

3. Placebo buttons

"dummy thermostats"


His new book ("You Are Now Less Dumb") looks interesting - is it in the Tyler pile?

"You Are Now Less Dumb"

What a nice anon, making sure that the Amazon commission goes to this website.

And considering that a disloyal reader such as myself would have merely published this link - (though an automatic conversion may occur after this text is posted) - it may mean that my estimate of just how lucrative book linking commissions are for the owners of this web site was on the low side.

Along with the distinct possibility that certain people have learned not to use their name when handling certain details in the comments section.

How 'bout just provide the link without all the conspiratorial exposition...for you, not for us.

Andrew' you have to admit it was a good catch by prior ... everyone's got their style (even you) in commenting. make me happy to see some range here (even when I disagree).

Pedestrian crosswalk buttons are a dumb example of a "placebo", at least to me. I'm well aware that many such buttons have no effect. But I press them anyway. It doesn't make me feel satisfied or in control; instead it feels like a chore. I press them because I never know for sure if the buttons are really disconnected, so the few seconds it takes to walk over and press the damn thing -- usually while I am waiting anyway -- is worth it, on the off chance that I save myself from being stranded for an entire light cycle.

When I deposit checks into an ATM, I usually write the deposit amount on the outside of the envelope. I know from experience that failure to write on the envelope usually has no effect -- the checks still get deposited correctly. But that doesn't make writing on the envelope a "placebo".

This. Why risk it? Lots of the pedestrian walk buttons are still hooked up.

When I deposit checks in the ATM, I always write the amount on the outside of the envelope to remind me what it is, so I can enter it into the ATM (I seal the envelope before leaving home). However, I never write the account number. I don't see the purpose of that -- it's on the deposit slip, and if the two were to disagree I want the deposit slip to take precedence.

Why are cheques so popular in America? I threw away my cheque book 20 years ago and simply refused to deal with anyone who insisted on a cheque ( the milkman! ). Never looked back.

I remember some elevators had a NS button that did nothing too. I was told that it used to trigger a "Non Stop" mode where the elevator won't attend to other calls. Not sure if true.

I think someone should design an elevator that really does come faster if you press the call button a whole bunch of times.

Why don't they have coin slots?

Non-stop mode does exist: for example, in a hospital it can be used to transport a patient without interruption.

I doubt if it was ever activated by a button alone. Normally a key is required. That's probably why the button did nothing.

What are we to infer from this endorsement about links that do not carry it?

3. Egad!

The fake thermostat IS a placebo. The crosswalk buttons that have been deactivated and left up are not because no one intended to placate the pedestrian. Neither is the elevator door close button.

I have heard that the whirring sound of an ATM machine is completely fabricated and designed only to satisfy impatient customers. I admit to liking the sound and to counting the "clicks" of the bills hitting the edge of the tray. Would it be different if it played the Jeopardy theme? What we DON'T want is the belief that the machine isn't working and we want cues to when to expect the money. That's because getting the money is very important to us, we don't want uncertainty about our transaction, and we want to be on guard of our surroundings when the cash comes out.

I don't respond to slot machine noises, but apparently many people do.

Humans are different from monkeys; we know that there is a mechanical device built for the purpose of satisfying our desires when we put money into it. Look at how violently people react when we don't get our Coke or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It isn't confusion that irks us, but anger at poor customer service.

Sometimes we get used to hearing a sound in legacy machines and come to associate it with correct functioning of the device. I remember reading that with improvements in engineering Bosch's washing machines got so quiet that people started to think they weren't as good as before. Apparently, the industrial designers then de-tuned stuff just enough to be the level of noise people expect. Possibly apocryphal.

yet sounds also have secondary values ... when I moved back to DC I was, as a pedestrian, quite afraid of Priuses which make so little noise. but, wearing head phones now evens out the auditory disadvantage. I think the article is spot on that is about our fantasy of control, there are few who embrace the randomness (or determined by others parts) of life. those little buttons may be placebos, but they have a real effect (on people).

Placebos masquerading as placebos.

I lived in an apartment with a placebo thermostat! The previous tenant (an elderly woman) had insisted constantly that she was cold. The manager installed a dummy thermostat. She never complained again - or so he told me as I was moving in and he explained that changing the thermostat wouldn't do me any good.

In a Japanese movie that thermostat might summon an undead tweener.

4. You can only be an @$$^0!_3 for so long before people leave and never come back.

Satellite is winning on the business philosophy of "We suck less than they do." That too has its limits when the returns of this strategy start to diminish.

3. Reminds me of when I was a crew member on the EC-135 Airborne Command Post. There was a rheostat which controlled the air conditioning in the cabin. The radio operators worked next to all the radio equipment and were always hot. The Battle Staff was always cold, and the two groups would fight over the temperature control. Unknown to either of the groups, we could and did override the rheostat in the cockpit and watch everyone fight over the deactivated rheostat.
The Battle Staff had the ultimate weapon however, they could lock everyone out of the bathroom.

"Staff had the ultimate weapon however, they could lock everyone out of the bathroom."

Until the radio operators peed on the battle staff? Escalation is a beatch.

#5 ... it's not clear whether the NSF decision is a good or bad thing because, with the NSF putting grants for political "science" on hold, maybe some fraction of political "scientists" will start doing more political philosophy

I don't think the new rule is supposed to be good or bad. I think it's mostly just Coburn fucking with people for the enjoyment of Oklahomans.

Is anyone harmed by this rule other than would-be political science grant recipients?

Richard Feynman

Yeah, we've gotten generalizations in the social sciences that are as useful and predictive as those in the "real" sciences. So, this is really dated. Oh well!

Folks with Downs are demonstrating they can live independently and contribute to society. of the arguments for retaining elective abortions beyond 20 weeks is that Downs is not diagnosed until 15 to 20 weeks and we want to retain the ability to terminate these individuals.

That rate is at 92% right now.

When I press the elevator call button, I like to press it ~100 times, Make the elevator think there are 100 people waiting to get on the elevator and therefore get to my floor faster...

About Ashok Rao's post on Larry Summers, I think the posters on his blog got it right. "So, okay, maybe Summers is a great economist. But, in practice, he has been mostly doing Bad Stuff (TM).

To my mind (, it comes down to whether you think he is a de-regulationist or not. Ashok Rao, writing beautifully, suggest that he might not be and/or is capable of adjusting his world-views.

To which I would reply that I would prefer someone who didn't get it wrong in the first place (it's not like deregulation had no detractors whatsoever) and, more importantly, even if Summers could intellectually grasp the problem(s) [most likely since no one denies he is 'brilliant'], how heavy would his friendships and close association with high level Wall Street management prevent him from doing the right thing?

Pissing off your buddies, your friends, your network in the name of the public good is... a rare thing.

"Friends, have you met this guy?" Salvatore Maroni

Oh, and I'm just guessing here that DC Deregulation and DC Regulation both end up causing N banks to become N-X banks.

I think Eric Roberts is an unfairly overlooked actor. I have liked him since 'The Immortals' (that's 1995).

Getting back to de-regulation, I remember being asked to write an essay (40 pages or whatnot) on deregulation and its consequences, increased risks etc in order to get into a competitive program by Universite Paris Dauphine (I didn't get in).

My conclusion was an image, saying banking deregulation was essentially switching to a far more powerful car - we could go faster (and in better style!) than before but the risks were multiplied - An accident, if it occurs, is far worse when you're travelling at 120 mph than when you're doing 50, all else equals... so it was down to the drivers - CBs and regulators - upping their driving skills to match their new powerful car - a more lightly regulated banking system.

I don't pretend that my essay was as brilliant or insightful as Summers' 1991 paper. I am just pointing out that, since I was asked to produce an essay on the subject by economic professors and that I, lowly student, could grasp the issue, it is clear that many people understood deregulation's associated risks. Thus, Ashok's point, while interesting, still isn't enough to sway me.

Frederic, Larry Summers – unlike Chuck Schumer – doesn't need to win an election so I think his relationship with Wall Street has a different power structure – he's in charge. It's not like he owes Wall Street a big debt for "consulting" or speaking fees. Nor will a monetary and regulatory policy as promoted in 1991 decrease his earning potential after his Chairmanship.

You may be right he's too "deregulatory" and I've misread this paper. But I really see absolutely no evidence that he is beholden to rich interests. Thank god we do not elect our central bankers.

In my opinion, some of those advocating for Summers are failing to distinguish between brilliance and good judgment. The latter directly contributes to one's tendency to "be right" on difficult/complex topics: arguably the qualities you'd want in a Fed chairman. Good judgment also requires cautiousness, open-mindedness, and humility. Brilliance and good judgment tend to be CORRELATED in the aggregate, but of course individual cases require individual examination.

Summers may be brilliant, but he has been wrong too many times, over too long a period of time in the past, on issues both big and small to say that he possesses good judgment. A brilliant mind can be frequently wrong (on big issues) due to hubris, simple prejudice or ideology, failure to seriously consider the opinions of others, etc.

Summers' great early academic work should certainly be considered when evaluating his candidacy, especially since nowadays he makes an effort not to speak too much about monetary policy. But since 1991 he has had ample opportunity to put economic ideas into practice over the course of his long subsequent policymaking/advising career. He has also continued to communicate economic views in words over this period, although infrequently. We have been able to observe his views and stances change - and not change - in response to different situations & a constantly evolving economy.

These decisions, statements, and shifts of position made under lights and pressure over the past 20 years say MUCH more about Summers' judgment and biases than the papers he wrote as an academic 20 years ago. And I argue that they say more about his likely performance as Fed chairman as well.

But wait! His defenders argue that Summers' past poor judgment was directly due to misguided economic/ideological views: it was a failure of ideology, not judgment. They argue that now that Summers' views have changed, his judgment will not fail anymore. As I note before, this line of reasoning makes no distinction between judgment and intelligence. I and many others would argue that there were plenty of wake-up calls he didn't heed (California's energy markets & Enron being one), and it took the biggest economic event in 70 years for him to shift meaningfully on that particular issue. In fact, we still do not know the degree to which his views on the impeachable good of the free market have changed. And we most certainly cannot be sure that his poor judgment, which I'd argue led him astray on other issues unrelated to deregulation, has disappeared.

To clarify:

Sometimes to be right you need to be bold. But Summers' boldness (hubris) has not, and I think will not, help him "be right" especially in the policymaking/Fed sphere

Judgment can improve with time, just as views/ideologies can change. I am sure that 2013 Summers shows superior judgment to 2003 Summers. But Summers' supporters are too optimistic and confident about the improvement of Summers' judgment, possibly because they lump in judgment with brilliance. Remember, their evaluation that Summers' judgment has improved is largely based on 1) Summers' brilliance, and 2) his changed views.

My position is that Summers' poor judgment in the past (as an indicator of future behavior) and hubris far outweigh his brilliance & creativity, considering the job for which he is a candidate. From what I can gather, Yellen has shown exceptional care and attention to detail over the years and is the clear pick.


I especially like the way you disentangle good judgement and brilliance.

Your point on brilliance and judgement is well taken, in fact I'm not even sure there's a correlation!

But much of his supposed bad judgement – as cited by the Left, at least – has to do with his advice to developing countries as member of a "Committee to Save the World". But his views on central bank independence, budgets, and such for developing countries were similar in his academic suggestions before hand. So I would not take these actions as a sign of shift in his opinions on developed countries.

As far as deregulation of American finance is concerned we should separate GLB – which in no way, contrary to what the left believes, caused the crisis – from CFMA. But I don't think Summers is against regulating derivatives, only against Brooksley Born's harsh stipulations. I also think 2007 did update his priors, and some people on the Left are just upset there hasn't been an explicit apology.

This speech is a good example of such a revision, I think:

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