Month: January 2016

It’s all about women in the South

Wow!! Remember that increasing death rate among middle-aged non-Hispanic whites? It’s all about women in the south (and, to a lesser extent, women in the midwest). Amazing what can be learned just by slicing data.

I don’t have any explanations for this. As I told a reporter the other day, I believe in the division of labor: I try to figure out what’s happening, and I’ll let other people explain why.

That is from Andrew Gelman, there is more at the link.

south

Anti-GMO Research Under Fire

Nature reports that some of the research most-cited by opponents of genetically modifying crops appears to have been manipulated. In particular, images appear to have been altered and images from one paper appear in another paper describing different experiments with different captions.

Papers that describe harmful effects to animals fed genetically modified (GM) crops are under scrutiny for alleged data manipulation. The leaked findings of an ongoing investigation at the University of Naples in Italy suggest that images in the papers may have been intentionally altered. The leader of the lab that carried out the work there says that there is no substance to this claim.

The papers’ findings run counter to those of numerous safety tests carried out by food and drug agencies around the world, which indicate that there are no dangers associated with eating GM food. But the work has been widely cited on anti-GM websites — and results of the experiments that the papers describe were referenced in an Italian Senate hearing last July on whether the country should allow cultivation of safety-approved GM crops.

Tuesday assorted links

The Indian market for sleep

Does any city have a more stratified sleep economy than wintertime Delhi? The filmmaker Shaunak Sen, who spent two years researching the city’s sleep vendors for a documentary, “Cities of Sleep,” discovered a sprawling gray market that has taken shape around the city’s vast unmet need for shelter. In some places, it breeds what he calls a “sleep mafia, who controls who sleeps where, for how long, and what quality of sleep.”

…Like many of this city’s businesses, sleep vendors are both highly organized and officially nonexistent. In Mr. Khan’s neighborhood, four quilt vendors have divided the sidewalks and public spaces into quadrants, and when night falls, their customers arrange themselves into colonies of lumpy forms. Some have returned to the same spot every night for years.

…Mr. Khan, who has been here for eight years, says he extends credit for regular customers to a limit of 100, or occasionally 200, rupees. (Several shivering men, who had spent the night around a smoldering fire nearby, snorted in disbelief upon hearing this.) He considers boundaries between vendors so sacred that he will not step across them. He makes regular payments to the police and street sweepers so they do not disturb his sleepers, and he maintains close relations with the local pickpockets so that he can tell them whom not to rob.

I wish I knew more about the market structure, coercive control, and ease of entry and the like.  Nonetheless an interesting story from Ellen Barry at the NYT.

The intellectual origins of Ted Cruz?

When Cruz was thirteen his father brought him to Rolland Storey, a kindly and charismatic septuagenarian who ran a conservative foundation aimed at teaching youth about economics and government.  Storey educated his pupils about the brightest minds of free market economics: they pored over Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, and marveled at Frederic Bastiat’s denunciations of socialism as legal plunder.  A veteran of vaudeville, Storey liked to re-create constitutional conventions and assign students to play delegates in mock debates.  Many of his students were gifted, but none could keep up with Cruz in terms of passion and inherent ability.  Thrust into some of the momentous scenes from world history, the thirteen-year-old was perfectly at home.

That anecdote is from McKay Coppins, The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House, a fun read with lots of background information I did not know.

I will never forget the time Gregory Rehmke took me to meet Rolland Storey in Houston.  But that is a story for another place and time…

Very good sentences for MLK day

…it is remarkable to consider that 1/6 or 1/5 of total U.S. growth in income per worker may be due to greater economic opportunity. In short, reducing discriminatory barriers isn’t just about justice and fairness to individuals; it’s also about a stronger U.S. economy that makes better use of the underlying talents of all its members.

From Timothy Taylor, that is for women and blacks over the last fifty years, and does not even measure gains for other disadvantaged groups over time.

Are queens more warlike?

There is a reason chess evolved the way it did:

…we find that queenly reigns participated more in inter-state conflicts, without experiencing more internal conflict. Moreover, the tendency of queens to participate as conflict aggressors varied based on marital status.

Among married monarchs, queens were more likely to participate as attackers than kings. Among unmarried monarchs, queens were more likely to be attacked than kings. These results are consistent with an account in which queens relied on their spouses to manage state affairs, enabling them to pursue more aggressive war policies. Kings, on the other hand, were less inclined to utilize a similar division of labor.

This asymmetry in how queens relied on male spouses and kings relied on female spouses strengthened the relative capacity of queenly reigns, facilitating their greater participation in warfare.

As Chris Blattman tells us, that is from “A new paper, Queens, by Oeindrila Dube and S.P. Harish.”

Monday assorted links

1. The Hillary Clinton autism plan seeks to diagnose everybody: not a good idea.

2. “In June 2015, officials in Wisconsin changed the rules on therapy animals after a woman walked into a fast food restaurant with a baby kangaroo.”  Link here.  Photos you are not expecting, recommended, it’s not Thanksgiving.

3. David Warsh reports on the AEA meetings.  Chris Bertram reports on Ferrante.

4. The European Commission will launch formal “rule of law” procedures against Poland.  A sign of a broken system…both of them.

5. Claims about fraud in tennis (speculative), and pushback from Djokovic and Federer.

What I’ve been reading

1. Robert Trivers, Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist.  A wild memoir, full of tales of bipolar, murders in Jamaica, study at Harvard, marijuana, knee symmetry as a key variable in sprinting success, and the Black Panthers.  It has sentences like “Best way to put it, nobody fucked with Ernst Mayr.”  From one of the leading evolutionary biologists, recommended if you are up for the offbeat and the exotic and not obsessed with coherence.  Burial instructions are included.

2. R.W. Johnson, How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The Looming Crisis.  A stunning yet deeply pessimistic book about why the country is doing so badly.  The rot seeps more badly than I had realized.  The corruption, collapse of the legal system, and dismantling of the use of the government public to spend on public goods all are out of control and getting worse.  Recommended.  A bit idiosyncratic, but conceptual and original throughout.

3. C.L.R. James, Beyond a Boundary.  Many people consider this the best book on cricket ever written.  I cannot judge that, but it is a stellar sports book, colonialism book, and most of all a Caribbean Bildungsroman (Trinidad), definitely recommended to anyone with interests in those areas.  Beautifully written, I read this one to prepare for Kareem.

4. Timur Vermes, Look Who’s Back.  I don’t usually read books with “the Hitler gimmick,” but this recently translated German novel caught my eye in a London bookstore.  Imagine that Hitler comes back (an unexplained plot twist), no one believes it is “the real Hitler,” and he is given his own TV show as a kind of crank celebrity imitator.  It’s an interesting meditation on the commercial trivialization of evil, and how the modern world can process virtually any kind of message.  Relevant for American politics today, I even laughed at some parts and I don’t usually find novels funny.

5. Amiri Baraka, SOS Poems 1961-2013.  Is he actually one of America’s better poets?  Imagine a mix of Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, and the Black Panthers.  Truly original and full of energy, here is his NYT obituary.

6. James Baldwin, Collected Essays.  My favorite Baldwin, not the novels.  The biggest surprise in here is his film criticism, most of all the short essay on Bergman, or on Porgy and Bess.  Here is an Atlantic piece appreciating Baldwin as a movie critic.  Or how about this sentence?: “He [Langston Hughes] is not the first American Negro to find the war between his social and artistic responsibilities all but irreconcilable.”

The truth about Chinese rebalancing toward services

The optimists point to the rise in the share of services in nominal GDP, and the corresponding decline in industrial sectors, as shown in the above left graph. Measured in current prices, the rebalancing appears to be well underway, with the share of industrial sectors falling from 47 per cent in 2011 to 40 per cent now.

However, almost the whole of this rebalancing in nominal terms has occurred because of a large drop in the relative price of industrial products compared to services. In real, inflation adjusted terms (above right graph), there has been no rebalancing whatsoever in the past decade taken as a whole (though there has been a percent or two in 2014-15). The needed shift in real resources – labour and capital – out of the moribund sectors has therefore barely started.

That is from the excellent Gavyn Davies, file under “Ouch.”

Addendum: Scott Sumner comments.

Sunday assorted links

1. The culture that is Dutch: “Militarism on rise in Netherlands! A full 24% of Dutch now say they’d fight to defend their country (up from 15%)”

2. Are liberals or conservatives more simple-minded?

3. Schelling conventions in the London Tube.

4. I thought The Revenant was mostly dull, and it reminded me too much of The Man in the Wilderness, which I saw when I was nine years old.  They even stole from Lucas and the ice planet Hoth cut the belly open scene.

5. “Interesting to see “The Social Network” movie in 2010 end with ‘ is now valued at $25 billion’. Today, market cap is $280b.”  Tweet here.

6. New York values, booth version.  They don’t do this in Iowa.

Filipino doughnut markets in everything

The Filipino restaurant Manila Social Club, in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, just made a splash with a confectionary creation that makes people crazy: a shiny, $100 doughnut covered in 24-carat gold.

There is more from the WSJ here, via Samir Varma.  If nothing else, it makes the other prices on the menu seem reasonable…

donut6f-1-web

Here is another account.

What’s going on?

The vigorousness of the Taiwanese election cycle puts to rest the myth that somehow the Chinese do not have the cultural capital for democracy.

DanC wrote to me:

Could the desire of the Saudis to have an IPO for Aramco be a way to hedge the risk of a revolt?  Future revenues only have value to the royal family if they remain in charge.  The greater the threat of ISIS, or some other group, causing a change in government, the greater the desire to sell some of their land locked assets today.

Me from September:

I say watch for who is exposed to the sudden weekend ten to fifteen percent devaluation.  Lots of other EM currencies have gone down by about that amount, why should China be so different or immune?  The Chinese government isn’t going to spend trillions of dollars on fighting a losing battle in the currency wars, they are simply waiting for the right time for this to happen.  Don’t be caught off-guard.

I still think Ted Cruz will be the Republican nominee, as for some while he has been focused on becoming President and he has the requisite level of talent.  Many Democrats are underestimating how rapidly he will be able to shift to the center.  Hillary calling him a flip-flopper will set peoples’ minds at ease, not turn them against Cruz.

I’m glad we played it cool with Iran this time around but let’s be clear — it’s them playing us, not vice versa.

India just celebrated five years without polio.