Christmas assorted links

1. 99 good news stories from 2018.  p.s. not all of them are good, though most of them are.  But prices going to zero for normal market goods and services usually is a mistake.

2. The seasonal business cycle in camel rentals.

3. David Brooks’s Sidney Awards, part I (NYT).

4. Should credit card companies be required to monitor or limit weapons purchases? (NYT, I say no and view this as a dangerous trend).

5. Should the EU enforce content regulations on streaming services?  (I say no and view this as a dangerous trend).

6. Solve for the equilibrium.


The world could use more Mormons. Merry Christmas

My father lived in Salt Lake in the 70s. Door looking was optional.


Love it it is an wonderful tool. Thanks for giving it to the world for nothing.

Reminds me of the joke where the millennial learns that people used to open their door to any stranger who knocked, and they suddenly understand why the 70s had so many serial killers.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I was surprised to learn that one of the reasons why Richard Ramirez, the serial killer called "The Night Stalker", was so successful was that he would simply climb into people's open windows at night.

Why were they open? Because at the time, something like 40% of the homes there lacked air conditioning. So unless they wanted to spend all night in an air-conditioned movie theater or 24-hour diner, to sleep at night in their sweltering homes they had to leave the windows open. (LA does cool down at night more than the humid cities of the eastern US do, but on the hotter summer days a heated-up building could still be unbearable at night.)

P.S. Of the comments to that tweet, I liked the one that said "Where's the dog?"

My sister has had a Southern California side door unlocked for 20 years. Probably more of us could do this.

So do I. I'm not going to publicize my address, and the one on my website is a post office box, in case any burglars are reading this.

I rarely if ever lock my door, at least not all of them. What’s the worst that is likely to happen?

I used to have your level of chill; then the criminals came. My recommendation would be to not wait.

In any case, locks are mostly futile.

Did an immigrant steal your television, hun?

Classy comment on Christmas.

Precisely my view. It is exactly an NPV problem. Add up all the savings in time and psychic energy gained over the years by not obsessively locking (and checking), and balance that against the loss sustained (if and when it comes). Update priors and change behavior accordingly going forward.

Is the equilibrium Mitt running for President in 2020?

'I say no and view this as a dangerous trend'

Welcome to a cashless world.

'I say no and view this as a dangerous trend'

Welcome to a world where not every one accepts the idea that they are destined to be merely consumers of content created in a foreign language.

I'd be more sympathetic to the second if Amazon and Netflix weren't wholly voluntary paid services driven, almost maniacally, by consumer demands. Apparently most folks in Europe prefer "content created in a foreign language" to what they already have access to in their own. Go figure.

#4 this already happens with marijuana. is it a dangerous precedent?

Well you have established that it is a trend. And that it is one that is progressing.

1. At first reading I saw some I had reservations about, but reading again today, scanning for "not good," I'm not seeing it. Especially if you believe Dan Wang that we should set goals for ourselves.

Below replacement birth rates are not good news.

No shit. The authors are psychos, as is Tyler for linking.

Many of these are obviously self-serving misrepresentations. For example, I'm unimpressed by China setting an environmental target. I'm also not moved by New Zealand ordering employers to give paid leave to their employees who are victims of one particular crime, no matter how trivial the harm.

That one might set up a perverse incentive.

On the New Zealand domestic violence leave, women's shelters and similar organizations have been advocating for paid leave for DV for well over a decade because their perspective, gained from experience, is that when a person is trying to get out of an abusive relationship, they are at their most vulnerable in numerous ways (financially, emotionally, certainly physically, etc). It makes sense by its own sort of narrowly focused logic, but the problem of course comes when you pull away and look at the big picture: if I get a gun pulled on me taking the subway home from work and then hit with a lead pipe, aren't I also traumatized and in need of leave to process this extreme threat to my life? That leaves aside the fact that DV, absent injuries, can be hard to prove, so like anonymous says above, it can create some perverse incentives.

37 is a question of half-full, half-empty glass. That 300,000 migrants have found jobs after two years in Germany is better than 0, but among more than 1 million in a country in full employment can be considered disappointing, especially since one of the argument of the government to accept all these migrants was that they German economy absolutely needed them.

39 is bad, as explained by Tyler. The government differentiating the taxes between some "moral" and some "immoral" products, according to a changing but always repressive morale is not a good thing,

I find 40 good news, but many can disagree with that.

45 is certainly bad news.

46 is opinion dependent.

47 doesn't make any sense.

64 Is fake news, see below. (69 probably as well, I didn't check)

37 - any marginal increase in jobs seems good, and we should not let the framing dissuade us.

39 - mainly harmless, and I would not want to get into any hairsplitting arguments about how A (mosquito spraying?) is public health and B (feminine products, toothpaste?) is not. Societies pay for public health.

45 - weird but harmless. I don't think anyone turns gay just because they suddenly hear that it is an option.

64 is imprecise, but it is part of a much broader trend, nay goal, of reducing GHG, and that is definitely better than "China says screw it."

37 - wrong

Great news honey, my boss gave me a raise of 1 cent! I know we were expecting a 10% raise but it's a marginal improvement!

#1 So let's see if I get it. Criminals getting away with crime in Malaysia is good, relevant news, but Brazil electing President Captain Bolsonaro and defeating corrupt Chinese-backed candidate Mr. Haddad is not. By dint of what?

4. Isn't the free market solution that credit card companies sell data to private contractors, and private contractors sell alerts to law enforcement?

Too many assume this needs coercion, or does not have a profit model.

Back to privacy law, if you really want limits.

Do you think it’s currently legal for a credit card company to sell your non anonymized purchase data ?

If so, you’re an idiot.

"Google’s new ability to match people’s offline credit card purchases to their online lives is a stunning display of surveillance capitalism in action."


"Data Sets Not So Anonymous

New research shows that it’s surprisingly easy to identify individuals from credit card metadata."

If they can, who can't?

Merry (Catholic, since it's a day late) Christmas!

Perhaps belonged on the weird painting thread?

4 - There's already plenty of things that are hard to buy with a credit card, or at the very least, where you are stuck with shady payment processors that will take a whole lot more money, therefore raising the price.

Imagine I want to sell rugs. I can buy a point of sale system from Square with very little vetting, and most of the effort will be renting the retail space. Online it's all even faster: I can set up an account with Stripe or Braintree in 5 minutes, buy a store website from a wide variety of vendors, and be up and running about as fast as I can make item descriptions and take item pictures.

But what if I want to sell vibrators? Perfectly legal porn? Weed in a legal state? Maybe just bongs, with no drugs whatsoever? a cryptocurrency marketplace? Offer loans? herbal remedies? Keys for games on Steam? All of those things are going to get closed by any of those payment processors immediately, even though all of those things are legal to buy in the US. The banks that they use just aren't OK with those items, and if I was going to sell those things, I'd need far more specific banking partners. I am not opening one of those stores quickly, and I might have to go with cash only sales.

All of those companies are also under constant threat of boycotts, from both other retailers and customers, regarding who they take money from. It's easier of all of them when they all act in unison, as it doesn't give many options for companies to go to the competition, but they get pressure individually until they shut people down.


He should introduce some bills to make the 47% pay some mother farking taxes!

So, you think I should be able to use a credit card to make an illegal transaction which the cc company can easily (i.e. "should") know is illegal? Prostitute? Murder for Hire? Drugs? Kiddie Porn? Could you be specific about what you think is a dangerous precedent and what should be ignored? I don't think cc companies should be expected to be part of law enforcement, and I've no idea if a 10 or 17 year old can have a cc account, but if the cc company knows the account is owned by a minor, should bar/liquor transactions be allowed?

3. (David Brooks' Sidney Awards) Brooks quotes Morgan Housel:
"If you fell asleep in 1945 and woke up in 2018 you would not recognize the world around you. The amount of growth that took place during that period is virtually unprecedented."

The second sentence isn't correct. If you compare the U.S. GDP per capita from 1872 to 1945 to 1945 to 2018, you get:

1872 to 1945: a 4.7 fold increase
1945 to 2018: a 2.8 fold increase

(A. Maddsion data)

1. Many of those good news are really good news. Some are good news or bad news or neutral depending on your political opinions. The biggest problem is that some are fake news. Here is one example.

"64. China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, revised its renewable energy target upwards, committing to 35% clean energy by 2030." The given link, Engadget, says the same. But the source of this link, a Bloomberg paper, says China "is aiming for renewables to account for at least 35 percent of electricity consumption by 2030". Electricity, not energy. Since electricity is around a third of total energy consumption, the news is off by a factor 3.

This is sad. I am not a climate skeptic, but as long as so many people (this mistake is standard -- a government member did it in rance just last week) defending strong action against carbon emissions are making such gross mistake, I understand those who don't take them seriously.

Journalists, academics and politicians constantly made this mistake when discussing the nuclear accident at Fukushima and now it is pretty common with renewables and climate change.

China is at around 35% renewable electricity generation at the moment. But China likes to soft peddle targets and then declare great success and/or allow for the need to tighten sloppy figures.

35% is installed capacity but actual renewable electricity generation is about 27%.

Also China seems to be increasing coal to liquids conversion.

I was probably thinking of installed capacity and I apologize for that as it's quite different from 35% renewable generation. Looking at the actual figures, I see Chinese renewable electricity generation in 2018 may have only been around 27% this year given their increase in electricity consumption this year. But given the scale of investment they definitely look on track to meet their 35% target.

In 2018 dollars, the U.S. GDP per capita was:

1872 $5,000
1945 $23,000
2018 $60,000

The good thing about life in 1872 compared to 1945 is that back then you didn't have to squander money on telephones, radios, movies, refrigerators, electric lighting, new clothes, indoor plumbing, cars or plane tickets (if wealthy).

4. Should credit card companies be required to monitor or limit weapons purchases?
Absolutely allowed to report gun purchases as long as the customers are warned. In fact, it is a great marketing ploy, I would grab one of those cards.

a. You jumped from marketing ploy to required pretty quick.

b. You can already set up alerts on most credit cards.

5. Why not? I'm sure most of Hollywood thinks we should be more like Europe, so let Hollywood get a taste of what it is really like. Canada can do this too, since "cultural industries" in Canada are exempt from NAFTA's national treatment provisions. Trudeau doesn't even have to cite "national security" to pull this one off.

6: Soon after he lost the 2012 election, Mitt Romney gave a speech to some conservative Christian college. His advice to them was to start their families early. He literally said “Have a quiver full of babies,” a direct reference to the quiverful movement which has as a goal the taking over of the United States by outbreeding everyone (though they are deep Christian and probably despise Mormonism). What amazed me is that he was quoted repeatedly in publications such as the New York Times yet none of the articles mentioned the reference- most likely because the writers never bothered to understand that which they had so little respect for.

Interesting. Not sure I mind that. Orthodox Jews do it too. The problem with both Orthodox Jews and "deep" Christians is that they believe silly made-up stories, not that they choose to be fruitful and multiply.

Maybe they just believe better silly made-up stories than everyone else?

Actually I find many of the teachings of Jesus to be superior to the appalling God of the Old Testament. But lambs and babies and virgins and resurrection have nothing to do with the historical Jesus and his valuable message. They are just adaptations of pagan silly made-up stories. And Jews, despite their loyalty to Yahweh, have done much good in the world.

#1 are you complaining about the free tampons for Scottish college students? What is the downside that you see? College students aren’t paying directly for their toilet paper either and I don’t think it has broken the economy.

Lack of toilet paper has somewhat larger and more consistent externalities than lack of tampons.

Re 4.
I think the question is more how that might be implemented rather then the flat out decline of the transaction by the processing platform. To some extent this gets to the "know your customer" requirement with the AML rules in place. Looks at the purchase patters, something the processing platforms already do for lots of reasons, doesn't seem unusually intrusive or costly for the industry.

As noted already, there are in fact a number of legal but regulated products and industries the seem to be blocked at the processing level and not at the authorization (issuer approval) stage. One could consider things like a processing system that has some element in the purchase message that indicates a successful back-ground check for such purchases.

This said, given that a number of these mass shooting cases also came with both existing awareness by law enforcement and concerned reports about the shooter, what really gets changed here?

A quick "work around" is simply buying some nice electronics or other easily resold items and putting them out on ebay or craigslist, then using the cash to buy the guns.

There will be value in identifying people that might need some help but I doubt we'll solve that with any large government programs or at some industry level regulation. The problem is really local and those in the effected communities should really do some soul searching. Almost all these people needed help and were looking for some form of acceptance they were not getting from those in the community. Maybe we should borrow the "it takes a village" mantra here too.

4. Yet another disgusting failure to distinguish between the probability of using credit cards to buy guns given that you are a mass shooter and the probability that you are a mass shooter given that you purchased guns with credit cards.

And considering that money is fungible, it is doubtful that credit is the decisive factor in most nefarious gun purchases. What's more evident is that people who intend to commit murder without surviving see a rational fraud opportunity.

Great points.
As a target shooter, I've probably purchased large quantities of ammo and a couple of firearms 3 or 4 times in 20 years. This is by no means rare behavior by avid target shooters or hunters.

The NY Times article also misrepresented the Pulse Night Club shooting. It should have clarified that while 50 were killed from gunshot, a couple dozen of those probably bled out over the several hours while the Orlando PD slammed coffee and donuts while deciding what to do.

Given that the coroner refused to specify which caliber guns killed each of the victims, it is also an unknown how many were killed by friendly fire.

#5. Like an analogy to certain activities at certain colleges, this sort of action is unlikely to push big American contact off the network. But it may hit world shows at the margins - Netflix in Europe may have fewer Japanese, South American, Turkish, Indian etc shows. No problem for the Europeanist world view, I suppose. God forbid that Europe freely engage in a world cultural dialogue.

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