Sunday assorted links


I have fond memories of the old-fashioned elevators with an elevator operator and a folding metal door. We had them in the two old hotels in the small southern town I grew up in, and in the old state capital building (now a museum) when I worked there in the 1970s. Elevator operator, don't see many help wanted ads for them today. The Fairmont in San Francisco has an elevator in the high rise section of the hotel that is on the outside of the building and has a glass wall so you can see outside. The ride up is okay but the ride down is frightening because there's a pointed metal fence just outside the elevator, so when you look down as the elevator rapidly approaches the fence you have the sensation that you are being impaled on the fence. We rode that elevator up and down dozens of times. It helps that there's a bar on the top floor to take a break now and then for refreshments. Generally speaking, I don't care for elevators because I'm claustrophobic. People say the darnedest things in elevators, as though they don't notice there are other people in the elevator. That's why I have a rule never to speak on an elevator. I have the same rule for airplanes. People so the darnedest things to complete strangers on airplanes.

We have an elevator in the multi-story apartment we own here in Athens. But we never installed the folding metal door, so you have to stay away from the door since there is a moving wall that might snag your clothes (people die all the time in Athens from this). One of these days we'll install a safety door. Reminds me, the elevator needs servicing as it got stuck the other day (luckily I also carry my cell phone with me, another hazard as some folk have died when trapped inside with no means to call for help). Ah Greece, the land of 'caveat emptor'.

Brilliant! Because the elevator door was a folding metal door, anyone riding in the elevator looked at brick walls from floor to floor. For those wondering why the elevator needed an operator, there weren't buttons that the operator pushed, but rather a "lever" that would cause the elevator to move up or down (push it one way, the elevator went up, the other way, the elevator went down). I lived in the South, so all elevator operators were African Americans. At the state capitol, the elevator operator was first name friends with the politicians (including the governor) who rode the elevator.

I enjoyed using the ancient elevators in Doe library on the UC-Berkeley campus. They had the scissors-action folding metal grid for doors, but you could stick things (like body parts) through the grid while the elevator was moving, hence the reason for elevator operators in the early days (but not at the library). They also had current inspection certificates from the state inspector for such things, which always amazed me. They seemed so dangerous, if you were careless or dumb. I suppose a higher standard of intelligence was assumed in the old days.

#4: high marks for creativity, anyway.

#4 is the modern version of Gogol's (not Google's) "Dead Souls".

"This American Life" either covered this case, or one exactly like it. I couldn't find the man's name on TAL's website so I'm thinking the latter.

I get why the SEC wants this to stop, but it seems the way to stop it is to actually put into place rule changes that would stop it, not find out that people were doing perfectly legal things and then prosecute them.

Found it! It links to ProPublica's research.

Kinda related... as our society ages and the new business models centered around sidling up alongside old people and their bags of money comes into its own, I can't help but think of how large pension annuities, which are pretty common in the public sector, will encourage nursing homes or other caretakers to go to ridiculous lengths to keep someone (the meal ticket) alive, or to pull a "weekend at Bernie's" type scam. I'm sure it's happening already, just not sure how widespread. Maybe Steve Levitt can look into this.

"Wenxia Man, a San Diego woman and naturalized citizen" is a California woman. The MSM never stops lying. How about traitor who pretended to naturalize. She should be stripped of citizenship and put before a firing squad.

Don't understand media criticism at all. Article was quite clear about everything that you're complaining about. I guess you may have legit beef if you really like to kill spies, but that's not the media's fault.

Apparently we don't do that anymore. Last executions for espionage were 63 years ago. Citizenship would only be revoked if she were found to have lied when naturalizing.

How safe is that favela? Is she dodging bullets on a regular basis? Or is that just made up stuff by people who don't really know Brazil?

If it's like living in the south side of Chicago, I would not consider it a good decision, but if it's like living on the north side then sure, why not? I'm speaking purely from a personal safety basis. I'm sure Rio is an interesting place, and it certainly has a beautiful setting.

If she's a translator and tour guide is she still an economist?

ところで、in Japan, Ph.D. "economists" include both political economy academics who would be in political science departments in the U.S. and economists who use stats/modeling as in the U.S. I think the younger the economist the more they are mathematically inclined but no stats on that.

"I think the younger the economist the more they are mathematically inclined but no stats on that."

If only you weren't so old, Todd.

True. Still, it is interesting how econ departments are set up in Japan compared to the U.S. Maybe the U.S. is the outlier.

I thought the consensus is that the field of economics has been progressively marching off the deep end of excessive mathematicism for some decades already.

Sure, empirics are important and all. But all the fancy equations in the world will not get you the right answer just by virtue of having impressive mathematical developments.

Many entire economics programs have only one or two courses on economic history, which includes much of the philosophical and intellectual roots underlying core divisions and segments in the field. 50 years ago, no one could call themselves an economist without being able to discuss this canon thoroughly.

Noah Smith and David Romer do not a consensus make. How can something be "excessive mathematicism"? Too much logic in a paper? If the mathematics is wrong or doesn't actually convey information then it shouldn't be in a paper. Those who talk of "fancy equations" are usually those who don't understand them. You also usually don't get a "right answer" but instead are trying to get closer to understanding how something works in the economy.

With respect to Japanese econ departments, I'm just saying that some economists are what Americans would call political scientists who study the economy. I know that many political scientists in this area couldn't draw a supply and demand curve when discussing minimum wage or rent controls but could discuss Marx for hours.

And once more, I'm not saying anything about the economist in the article. I just thought I'd toss it out there that Japanese econ departments are a mix of economists and political scientists. I bet hiring meetings are a blast....

I'm speaking of being impressed by mathematical beauty regardless of being practical.

So ... you get a convergence process with dozens of variables and equations, involving all manner of heavy duty mathematical tricks, etc. Then, someone comes along and says "uh, that only applies in perfect conditions, and conditions are never perfect".

Or, the fact of the field devising ever-more-complex mathematical approaches, completely ignoring the fact that the first principles, steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and onwards, are routinely falsified. You see, a lot of those fancy models start with something (implicit or explicit) like "so ... we're going to assume that any complicating factors don't exist, except for maybe one or two, and we're also going to assume that all of these theoretical building blocks are correct.

Also, garbage in garbage out. What's the good of fancy maths and stats if you're crunching bunk data?

There are far more promising areas of exploration than the heavy duty maths, in my opinion. Of course, it is good that such forms of disagreement are generally of interest, not offense, in order to benefit from a greater variety of forward-moving efforts.

Consider the case of physicists though. At least they have an excuse. They're trying to figure out stuff that we cannot see or measure. Economists? Better to focus on what's in front of you instead of mathematical beauty.

2) I am a bit amazed that ubers are cheaper per passenger than buses, though it must depend on ridership. Ah, not just rush hour bus occupancy but daily average. Uber can do hourly surges better than buses that loop all day?

Having the spare capacity at work all day is surely an expensive way of dealing with hourly surges.

And in the case of suburban/exurban areas:

*If you're running a bus every 10 minutes, it's empty because you just don't have the population base to cover it,
* But if you're running it every hour, it's useless and thus empty because no one's crazy enough to wait an hour for the bus.

A bus packed full is a bargain, both for the riders and the people around it.

A bus with 1 or 2 people on it is really expensive, both for itself and traffic around it.

If your goal is "give poor people a way to get around," the proper way is to subsidize Uber or Lyft. If your goal is to create a jobs program that wastes resources, you kill Uber and Lyft.

Passenger cars ain't so bad cost wise compared to buses in the U.S.

Average passenger load in a conventional municipal bus is less than 10 people, and these buses average 2-3 miles per gallon of fuel. Average load in a typical passenger car is only 1.5 people, but cars get about 25 miles per gallon.

So cars are about twice as efficient as buses in terms of passenger-miles per gallon.

It's about breaking the transit workers union.

Simple solution: Privatize busses and end subsidies. No more empty busses and lower taxes.

I lived in a city (Tegucigalpa Honduras), and the bus service was great.

I lived in a city (Tegucigalpa Honduras) with a private bus system, and the bus service was great.

Well, the wkkely bribe to the gang lord not to shoot the driver and his family is built into the ticket price.

Oh, there would be plenty of empty buses. But they'd be sitting in parking lots, not clogging the roads.

Dublin, CA, is vey suburban, and relatively wealthy; most people can afford their own car, and only take transit to places where there's lots of congestion getting there or expensive parking. Mostly to their jobs in San Francisco.

I live in Cheshire, and people still curse the privatization of public transit.
A few weeks ago a bus line folded, and kids could not get to school.

#2 while I can see the argument from an "economic rationalist" POV (i.e. the city has a political duty to serve these areas, and this might be the cheapest way to do it). I don't see it ending well.

In a generation, these companies will be living off some deal with the authorities that keeps them as the exclusive providers of a service that, being subsidised, prices opposition out.

They are the taxi cartels/public transportation unions of the future.

In a generation I would say we could have a fully autonomous replacement, and then city owned? CityBike and CityCar.

Even with fully automated taxis, the taxicab cartel, the transportation unions, and a number of democrat politicians and True Believers will support requiring vehicle operators. Guaranteed.

See references to a "lack" of elevators operators above.

#6 Nostalgie de la boue is a thing in Japan, too. Wait till it's time for her child to go to school, she'll likely want to move back to Japan and take the child with her. It will be her husband's part then to work as a tour guide, or more likely a construction worker, assuming they are still married.

I doubt it. There's lots of Japanese in South America, in fact Peru's president Fujimoro is one of them. And in Japan she'll be ostracized for marrying a non-Japanese. Even Miss Japan is ostracized for having a black father (she's hot, again, mixed races > purebreds).

Miss Japan is run by a white liberal woman and is thus essentially for Western consumption, not indicative of Japanese sentiment. In fact, the idea is probably to "rub Japan's nose in diversity" and try to destroy the healthy sentiment resulting on the edges in this kind of ostracism. May her works perish.

Make that Peru's former president Fujimori. Current president is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. More of those dastardly right wing Poles taking over the world.

#4) The arbitrage here exists because the bonds are community rated. Rather than pricing the bonds based on the individual buyers' acturarial characteristics, the issuers are naively pricing them by grouping everyone together into inappropriate risk pools. The "death spiral" here could be avoided by eliminating the community rating.

Under community rating, there will continue to be this subsidization from "normal people" to known terminally ill. Interestingly, Obamacare proponents say that this type of subsidization is a feature, not a bug, when applied to health insurance rather than life insurance. So, which is it: is this hedge fund doing the "good work" of Obamacare and should be praised rather than criticized or do we finally admit that legally mandated community rating is grossly unfair?

Of course, this article ties very closely to the recent one by Megan McArdle []. Are health care providers regulated by the SEC?

If they are community rated, could I do this if I ever become terminally ill?

I like the idea of having access to health care if faced with a terminal disease. Especially if the euthanasia option is not available and things progress badly.

Matt Levine is one of the better combinations of smart and entertaining on the planet.

I lolled the moment I read California woman. I could bet she was Chinese. She wouldn't have had to be legal either, but that's Asian privilege for you.

#5 Was kind of interesting but they had to ruin it with the lousy climate agitprop. For the record here are historical sea level data for the Marshall Islands that should avert panic:

I downloaded the data from the source you cite, ran a regression and found a linear trend of sea level rise. It's not obvious to the eye on the graphs you cite. It's slow but not zero.

That's why honest researchers don't cherrypick data.

July was the 10th straight hottest month on record.

If you stick your head in the sand deep enough, maybe it will help to cool off?

Yep, been breaking 1916 records all summer.

Which data are you cherrypicking now?

The 12 hottest years on record are: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 1998.

Damn facts.

3. "California woman...." classic. At least the article states she was a "naturalized citizen."(No mention of where she was originally from, though the name gives it away.)

TC posted a story a few weeks ago of a naturalized Chinese guy who is alleged to have sold classified information to China. Somehow, he was allowed to work for the FBI, I'm sure in the interests of political correctness.

Chinese from China often have very strong feelings of national and cultural superiority, even after becoming citizens. Also, China has lots of vulnerable relatives it could use to influence them and zero ethics about using those relatives. It would be called horribly racist, but it also is very important to restrict naturalized Chinese citizens from anything close to national security. See Ghost fleet if you want a somewhat bad scenario. The very bad scenario is that the Chinese win a Ghost fleet type war.

There are also first generation Chinese who serve in our army in Afghanistan, and second generation who fought in Korea against Chinese soldiers.

And one spy completely negates their positive impact which is already very small because the Chinese American contribution to the military is possibly lower than the Muslim American contribution.

If one were to assume that the impact of those operations are positive, then that would possibly be true.

I gotta say however after eating all-you-can-eat shabu shabu the other night in Irvine, the Chinese contribution to California is definitely positive.

This is different from German Americans in 1939 how?

#4. Brilliant on the part of Eden Arc and foolish on the part of issuers. The SEC is pursuing this out of (leftist) moral distaste: a hedge fund profiting off of human death. Yet, both the hedge fund and the dead individuals estate is better off and the death was not caused in any way by the hedge fund. The violation alleged is a stupid one because in my opinion, the hedge fund and its director are the same person, taking the money out of the hedge fund isn't theft any more than an investment decision within the corporation is theft any more than taking from petty cash to be returned next week iaw contractual rights is theft. The SEC is grasping at straws because it doesn't like the aesthetics. Most leftists would agree eith the SEC's action for a myriad of bullshit reasons that ultimately boil downing to feeeeelings.

I wonder how she expected to buy the jet engine and drone. You don't just buy them on Amazon or eBay. Pratt & Whitney won't sell a fighter engine to just anybody with cash. I suspect this may be a typical FBI setup, like what they do with semi-radicalized Muslims who can be tempted with offers of explosives but otherwise never would have done anything -- some poor schmuck ends up with a long prison sentence for listening to an FBI informant and the FBI gets to add another tick mark to their scorecard.

I rather like a world where someone offering to sell or give you explosives forces you to wonder if you are being set up.

Naaaaa. The FBI never lures people into traps and then tells us what a lovely job they're doing to keep us safe.

I've been a fan of those elevator videos for years! Also bowling alley pin setting machine videos, old record changer videos, etc. There's an appreciation for mechanical things and people who work with their hands. It isn't always "autism."

As a preteen I spent weekends at the boys club. They had a six alley bowling area. Manual pinsetting. If you wanted to bowl you had to take a turn setting pins. You would set on the backstop with your legs spread and a foot on either side. Scary especially when someone rolled a fast ball. Luck was with me though and contrary to what we all feared I did father two children years later.

Yes it is.

That's why they call it 'autism spectrum'.

There should be tin medals for everybody who doesn't win at least a bronze. No awards ceremony, because that would cheapen the real medals. But at least give them something to take home so they can say to their children and grandchildren "I won that in the Olympics.".

But they didn't win it in the Olympics, they were given it in the Olympics. I'm not sure these top athletes need to be patronised.

I think I'd much rather a participation ribbon than a tin medal.

Or just keep the uniform. Not like it's going to be used again

Off topic:

The Tyranny of Excellence

#1 - I had no idea that elevators caused autism. I always thought it was vaccines.

#1 Dr. Temple Grandin (autistic college professor) - Stairway to Heaven

Comments for this post are closed