Friday assorted links


3) If there actually are quantifiable excess taxpayer costs associated with this practice, then the members should be required to pay them. Otherwise, it's a bit stupid to make a big deal of it. However, given most members are quite wealthy, I think the practice itself is usually signaling rather than thrift.

It really depends on how these offices smell.

The entire story is one big WTF on, like, thirteen levels.

Beginning with why the Democratic Congressional Black Caucus decided that THIS was their big issue, and including the notion of Paul Ryan taking daily "hippie baths" in the sink down the hall.

Yeah, it seems like a terrible issue for them. It comes across as petty, it draws attention to something that Republicans arguably want attention for doing, and it plays into a narrative about Democrats wanting to regulate everything and dictate how people live their lives.

I hope they keep it up.

Got me wondering, in order to be philosophically consistent, shouldn't conservative politicians actually be spending as little time in the office as possible? If it cain't git done in an eight hour day between planting seasons, then maybe it'aint worth a-doin. He governs best who governs least, right?

My guess is, there must be something embarrassing a couple layers deeper into the onion, and this is just the opening salvo.

Yeah, that is probably a widely shared perception, but it is DC everyone motives are questionable. Focusing on the substance of the concern, hard to completely dismiss if there are in fact unnecessary costs.

What costs, though? A slight increase in electricity or water use? It doesn't seem that the people trying to make political hay out of this issue have been able to identify any meaningful costs they are incurring.

That's why I said they should quantify them. I really don't know what all it might include. If there is something really significant, like additional night security, it might add up.

If it provokes an exasperated response from some of the members being criticized, some word or phrase in that response might well be spinnable as racist, privileged etc.

... something does smell fishy about this

Congressmen are notorious for voting themselves extravagant personal benefits and perks, at taxpayer expense.
Why not free lodging facilities at Capitol Hill ?

They already have fancy/low-cost dining facilities, health/fitness centers, fantastic medical care facilities, etc.
How did they miss giving themselves fancy dormitory facilities (??)

(suspect House & Senate leaders do in fact have bedrooms discreetly connected to their luxury office spaces)

Makes me think there's some average-cost-of-living metric that the sleeping-in-the-office crowd is dragging downward. One could imagine a hypothetical attempt to raise congressional salaries (which haven't changed since 2009), which might be based on some kind of congressional-cost-of-living-increase-since-2009 metric to get it passed through the ethics committee. This could be an attempt to get them out of their office & incurring housing expenses, resulting in an increase in the congressional-cost-of-living-increase-since-2009 metric, which could then justify a congressional pay increase.

(pure conjecture on my part)

Actually I was wondering if the couch surfing squatters were already gaming some sort of stipend system, pocketing the housing allowance, and then flying home on the taxpayer's nickel every weekend to sleep in their own bed.

But the article made it sound like that's not the case.

There's no stipend now, which I found a little surprising, to be honest. Though many do fly home almost every weekend, which itself costly. Not clear if subjecting themselves to bad living conditions in DC contributes to that. More likely, it's fundraising.

congressmen get a modest $3K tax deduction for personal living expenses away from home. also, over $1M a year for office/staff/travel expense. 2017 base salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.

ordinary cngress persons can buy nice fold-out couches/beds for their office, with their office allowance. Nice bathroom/shower facilities are available free in Capitol basement... anytime they want to freshen up

On his way out, Chaffetz was arguing for a ~$30,000 living stipend for all members of Congress. I don't really disagree with his reasoning, though it is an added cost.

In the UK, MPs did once have an allowance to rent a place in London. Maybe they still do -- but the reason I know this is that it blew up as a big populists fracas a while ago. That is: living allowances can be visible in a way that is subject to political pressure in a way that smaller perks are not. Luxury dorm facilities in central DC, surrounded by armed guards etc would be highly visible.

Republicas could get around this by proposing non-luxury dorms, that don't take much floor space. A 100-bed "coffin hotel" or shared dorm or something. And then offer to pay rent. The ideas of Paul Ryan leading a bunch of people living like Spartan communists appeals to me somehow.

So Congress is trapped in the 18th century. There's no reason those parasites need to meet in one place. At home they have access to phones, magic and land line, fax machines, email, twitter, facebook, etc., the same communication methods that they use in DC. Home is where they belong, where they are easily accessible to their constituents instead of their fellow solons and battalions of lobbyists. The US capital, in fact, all capitals, is a rejection of modernity in favor of preferential treatment in isolation. Juneau, Alaska is the capital of capitals for this particular travesty.

Thinking about it with my #metoo cap on, also seems like there’s is potential for inappropriate behavior for a person in a position of authority to hold business meetings where he or she also sleeps and dresses.

My #metoo cap is thinking they might actually get into less trouble bunking down at the office than being out on the town at night. From a practical standpoint they also save on commuting time in a town where the traffic is probably nuts.

This story goes nicely with the one a few days back about San Franciscans opting for a dorm lifestyle

You hook up with staffers not "out on the town" . Bar hookups are so 20th century.

Also, a lot easier to kick someone out of your cot after the hook up than out of your hotel room.

Or maybe all 100+ of them are jerking off on the toilet. Whatever their sexual behavior is, it's disquieting. They really should get their own rooms.

I dunno, I am having fun picturing Sen Ryan and a dozen of his BFFs having one long sleepover party. They do Ouiji seances to conjure up the ghost of Ronald Reagan, they play Pin the Tail on the Clinton, they tell scary stories about a socialist mummy, they argue about who is Trump's best friend this week. All while wearing their Stars & Stripes or Confederate Flag fleece jammies and with NASCAR sheets on their cots.

Ah, great point. This living situation pretty much guarantees there are members jerking off in the Capitol (whether it's the office, the shower, toilet). THAT is the letter they should have written. Gross.

Thinking about it with my #metoo cap on, also seems like there is potential for inappropriate behavior for a person in a position of authority to hold business meetings where he or she also sleeps and dresses.

Don't some top biz execs have showers and a place to bunk down at their offices?

Corruption is when someone works too hard and spends too much time at the office. Following the CBC's logic, here's a good way for employers to avoid paying overtime: make workers work so many hours that they have to sleep at work and count "free rent" as part of their pay.

Along with charging rent for people that sleep at the office, we should also make homeless people that sleep in their cars pay property tax because they're using their cars as houses. After all, Congresspersons are charged for parking. (Btw, those Congresspersons *also* have offices. So, a member with an office+parking pays for parking while one with just an office does not pay for parking. I'm not sure why that is unfair.)

6) The English-ASCII advantage was brief, and it may take another hundred years for us to know how crucial. At the time it seemed it was, but maybe not anymore. "Chinese Python" is a thing ..

The overwhelming message in that link is that almost all coding is done in Latin characters with standard English-based programming languages.

I don't expect that to change any time soon, due to the international nature of the software market and software developer job market. The issue is not technical barriers (which are easy to solve) but the need for people to communicate with each other.

I was thinking longer term. What will matter next is what Chinese universities teach, starting .. it doesn't even have to be now .. over the next 30 years.

Of course in 30 years we might expect arbitrary translation from one human/computer language pair to another. It cuts both ways, non-English languages become more common on the internet and in tech, as auto-translation improves.

Fair enough. I have argued that machine translation will have a transformative impact in other contexts, but I wasn't thinking about it when I wrote the above comment. We are not there yet, but you are probably right that this will eventually change software development.

Actually, translating code between (human) languages is a relatively easy problem that is well within the reach of current technology. The only thing missing is tools to support this for developers.

More generally "when will the Chinese stop learning English" is a more reasonable question than 10 years ago.

'is a more reasonable question than 10 years ago'

Well, when will the world that uses English for much of its international trade decide to learn Chinese? This would include the entire English speaking world, the EU, essentially all of South America, and likely some significant parts of the Middle East and Africa.

Network effects are interesting, and Chinese ideographs are not really a superior form of communication (though useful in being able to be understood by two people who share no spoken language in common).

#4: it's probably as much about not wasting meat that's gonna go bad without refrigeration as it is actually generating a net contribution margin.

My first though was: every time they open the fridge, they get a couple degrees closer to breaching the food safety limit.

A policy of staying open no matter what has great PR value. And it might actually do some good in the context of a disaster. I'd say it's probably some combination of marketing and genuine altruism (adjust the balance as appropriate to your level of cynicism).

If it was just about PR value and altruism in a disaster, why not just give the food away? Why charge anything at all? I'm not saying neither of those things matter, but the desire not to have to chuck several hundred bucks worth of frozen food in the trash is definitely a factor, too.

Without power, how do people pay?

Straight cash, homey.

I’m a cuck!

"If it was just about PR value and altruism in a disaster, why not just give the food away? Why charge anything at all? "

Waffle House's margins are notoriously tight. These are not high end restaurant's. They consistently go out of their way to cater to emergency personnel and blue collar workers in general.


yup, WaffleHouse has an unusual corporate culture that helped it endure long term. Being open-all-time is a big part of that.

They are small restaurants -- does not take much of a emergency electric generator or bottled water supply to keep them going; natural gas for cooking is usually available even in bad hurricanes.

I was an information geek since well before the internet. These days, as I research topics of personal and professional interest, and now have instant access from my home to government and academic reports, acrgis maps, and scanned books, I remember some times back in the dark ages, when I would call the 1-800 numbers printed on consumer products to get information. Or call and ask a librarian.

Can you find the circa 1970 Newsweek columns of Friedman, Samuelson, Galbraith,... on the Internet?

I have an idea where to look for them, but the libraries are not nearby, and I'm not sure I can get in to use them.

What is worse, copyright law changes since 1980 that supposedly make such copyright material more available, makes it nearly totally unavailable. Ie, if 1970 copyright law were still in effect, I believe Google would have it all and a million times more.

It's a mixed bag. Some great stuff is readily available, searchable, downloadable. Other stuff is maddeningly unavailable. And increasingly much of interest is behind paywalls. It depends on the business model, and on the level of zealousness is enforcing copyright.

#3 Because they have everything else fixed already.

2. On a recent trip in Vietnam , had to take a Uber a couple of times and was surprised when the 2 Wheeler Option also came up a long with the 4 Wheeler Option.

4. Is it hurricane season yet? We lose power for days. And people too (from evacuations). Waffle House, known locally as Awful House (the food really is awful, even the eggs), doesn't do what several local restaurants do, which is feed the first responders, and after they have been fed, then feed the few, the proud, the idiots who don't evacuate. And the food is excellent, I can attest (as one of the few, the proud, the idiots who don't evacuate). Natural disasters bring out the best in people. Not that they deserve it. This being an economics blog, I mention that our community, to provide an incentive for people to evacuate, warn residents that water and sewer service will be turned off. That also is a disincentive for eating at Awful House (for the reason one might suspect).

The few, the proud, the panicked calling 9-1-1 at the peak of the storm....

Just joking, I often wonder if I would evac.

I've been through a storm or two where I didn't evacuate. And while interesting as a first time experience, the novelty wears off without internet access, electricity, or running water.

4. Waffle House takes advantage of a circumstance where it's a de facto monopoly across the entire restaurant business. Good on them for finding the niche.

2. Taxes are higher in China than in Vietnam.

Tax revenues get spent faster than received, and in stable political economies, paying workers to deliver benefits to those paying taxes.

The number one benefit to business of good economic policy is lots of customers with lots of money to spend.

But every customer with lots of money to spend is a very costly worker to employers. The trick is focusing employers on collecting money from customers, not on the paying of workers. Economies are zero sum. Converting from walking to bikes to mopeds to cars requires paying more and more to workers who buy more and more and more. Government is basically the only way to force paying workers more so workers can afford to spend more.

5. The writer uses “anti-immigrant” to describe a guy who favors legal immigration. One of those phrases, like “massive share buybacks,” that signals erroneous thinking.

They describe the party he belongs to as anti-immigrant IIRC. Not him.

Agree, as if there is no difference between anti-immigration and anti-illegal immigration.

To him is there?

4: it was good to see the article cited the Waffle House Index of disasters. This article suggests that the index may have some endogeneity: what sort of disasters has Waffle House prepared for and what ones is it less prepared for? Loss of water, loss of electricity -- what about employees unable to get to work? There are no Waffle Houses on the west coast AFAIK, so they may be less prepared for earthquakes than for say hurricanes and tornadoes.

1: What the article fails to tell us is how this data trove was indexed: how did a librarian or user find the card that had the answer to a given question? E.g. if I wanted to know what's the oldest bridge in Winnipeg, it's easy enough to guess that at some point I'd want to look under "b" for bridges. But then what? Look under "o" for "bridge, oldest in Winnipeg"?

6: This article also frustratingly fails to describe how the various typewriters actually worked. The early ones evidently had one key for each Chinese character, with a predictably massive and hard-to-use result. The article hints that later typerwriters allowed the typist to create a character much like a 20th century American typewriter let the typist create underlined characters by typing a letter then backspace then underline, but fails to say what the later typewriters actually did, beyond using predictive text.

Also the reference to Cinderella's sisters cutting off their toes was unfamiliar to me. Not surprisingly, it's in the Grimm Brothers' version of the story -- I guess British children get the Grimm version and American children get the Disney-fied version?

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