Month: August 2020
3. Laura Deming: “What is the most important US law that seemed really insignificant when originally passed?”
4. Clinical trials are coming along slowly (NYT).
Toronto just beat Brooklyn 150-122, and an ESPN headline for another game reads “Mitchell’s 51 upstage Murray’s 50 in classic duel.” Toronto is also a team with a sometimes iffy or stagnant offensive, especially in the half court set. So why are so many points being scored? I see a few hypotheses:
1. It is harder to commit fouls, since referees can hear every slap, push, and grunt. That in turn favors the scorers.
2. The players are still somewhat out of shape from the long layoff, and perhaps that favors offense over defense. (A’ la Leontief, might the defense quality be determined by the “most out of shape” player?)
3. The absence of a live crowd demotivates the defense more than the offense? Similarly, perhaps the absence of home court effects demotivates the defense more?
4. Playing every other night is exhausting for all but the top players. Defense is more or less evenly distributed (you can’t leave anyone totally open, unless it is Charles Jones), but offense is concentrated in a smaller number of top scorers. Differential stamina effects thus favor the offense.
5. Good offense beats good defense anyway. Due to the absence of late night partying, boozing, “frolicking,” etc. we are seeing better, purer forms of both offense and defense, and that on net helps the offense.
6. Lack of travel and consistency of courts favor the offense more than the defense.
What else? And which of these are true?
The available data seems to meet the bar for an EUA.
I found this Adam Rogers Wired piece insightful and the best single treatment so far, and also interesting more generally on RCTs:
“Fifty thousand people have been given a treatment, and we cannot know whether it worked or not,” says Martin Landray, one of the leaders of the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapies (or Recovery) Trial in England, a large-scale, multi-center, multi-drug randomized controlled trial that showed that the corticosteroid dexamethasone saved the lives of Covid-19 patients and the autoimmune drug hydroxychloroquine did not. (That 50,000 number was from a few weeks back, just after the plasma preprint came out.)
The main arguments against the decision from Trump/FDA seem to be “do RCTs” and “convalescent plasma isn’t shown to be so great.” But those points have it exactly backwards. Patients for trials are extremely scarce right now, and if convalescent plasma is not the highest probability big winner (and I suspect it isn’t), you won’t want to waste scarce patients on doing the RCT. Moreover, if you can’t get the RCT done with 98,000 or so patients, maybe you’re just not up to doing it period! (Please do think at the margin.) In the meantime, convalescent plasma does not seem to involve harms or risks, and it may offer some benefits. So why not let more people have easier access to it?
And might there be a tiny chance that American citizens demand stronger payment incentives for the relevant supplies here and also for other treatments?
If all people have is “do RCTs and CP isn’t shown to be so great,” I don’t think they have begun to engage with the arguments. And additionally politicizing the FDA is definitely a real cost to be reckoned with, but the Twitter noise I am seeing from public health experts seems oblivious to the fact that the FDA’s ex ante risk-averse stance was politicized to begin with (which is not necessarily a bad thing, but yes this is a basic fact — “politicization for me, but not for thee,” etc.).
1. Fredrik deBoer, The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice. A well-written, highly intelligent book, inveighing against various aspects of the current meritocracy, and how they contribute to what the author calls “social injustice.” People who do educational policy, or who think about inequality should read this book. But ultimately what is his remedy? I would sooner attack homework, credentialism, and bureaucratization than testing. And yes, IQ is overrated, but the correct alternative view emphasizes stamina and relentlessness in a manner that I don’t think will make deBoer any happier. To lower the status of smarts, in the meantime, I fear is not going to do us any good.
2. Chris Ferrie and Veronica Goodman, ABCs of Economics (Baby University). Is this for a 5 or 6 year old? It seems good to me, though perhaps the part where they teach “Nash equilibrium” is a stretch. I say calculus should be available in the fifth grade, stats in the eighth grade, so full steam ahead.
3. Christopher I. Caterine, Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide. Did you realize that most of the supposed advantages of academia, such as control over your own time, do not exist to the extent they once did? The advice in this book, such as about how to prepare your resume, seems correct to me, although that it needs to be given does not convince me of the marketability of these academics in the private sector or indeed anywhere at all.
4. Robert D. Putnam, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. A fact-rich, well-reasoned and indeed reasonable take on numerous American trends, most of them related to social solidarity. A good book, provided you are not looking too hard for what the title and subtitle would seem to promise.
5. Greg Woolf, The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History. A very useful introduction and overview to its chosen topic, a good and readable book for urbanists who are looking for general historical background.
Notable are two new books on liberalism abroad. The first is Ingemar Stahl: A Market Liberal in the Swedish Welfare State, edited by Christina and Lars Jonung, and The Hand Behind the Invisible Hand: Dogmatic and Pragmatic Views on Free Markets and the State of Economic Theory, by Karl Mittermaier, with other contributions, concerning South Africa, and free on Kindle at least for the time being.
3. Jordan Schneider and Tanner Greer dialog over China, Taiwan, etc., recommended, two EV winners by the way.
5. WSJ covers monoclonal antibody treatments, one focus of Fast Grants I might add. Some of the drugs might be available by the fourth quarter, if they clear testing.
Here is one excerpt:
I’ve moved on from being a researcher. I’m an advisor to Microsoft’s senior leaders about geopolitics and macroeconomics. So, my whole outlook has changed quite a bit as a result of that.
In Taiwan, we’ve come to work extremely closely with Audrey Tang, their digital minister who’s just a remarkable person and, honestly, a much more interesting subject than me. She has been using quadratic voting for administering national hackathons—where people get together and try to create technological solutions to social problems.
Audrey has used quadratic voting to score those competitions and she’s also used another idea that we’re very into, called ‘data coalitions’ or ‘data cooperatives’—they’re sort of data labour unions—to organize those services. Taiwan’s response to Covid was, to a large extent, driven by these civic technology developments and they were the most successful country in the world. They had the lowest infection and death rate and the smallest impact on their economy. A lot of that was related to their harnessing of these civic technology approaches.
Here is the Five Books link, interesting throughout.
Jason Crawford at the Roots of Progress points out that we used to have a lot of ticker-tape parades. The most famous was perhaps the Victory Parade of World War II but we used to have many parades to celebrate technological and cultural milestones. There were huge celebrations, for example, when the final spike of the transcontinental railroad was nailed, when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, and the Statute of Liberty dedicated. In the 1920s and 1930s there were big celebrations for aviation pioneers including for Charles Lindburgh, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes and that tradition continued in the 1960s and 1970s with multiple parades for the astronauts:
During the early space program, there were also several NYC ticker-tape parades for astronauts—not just the Apollo 11 heroes, who went on a world tour after the Moon landing, but missions before and after as well:
- 1962, March 1 – John Glenn, following the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission.
- 1962, June 5 – Scott Carpenter, following the Mercury 7 mission.
- 1963, May 22 – Gordon Cooper, following the Mercury 9 mission.
- 1965, March 29 – Virgil “Gus” Grissom and John Young, following the Gemini 3 mission.
- 1969, January 10 – Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders, following the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon.
- 1969, August 13 – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, following Apollo 11 mission to the Moon.
- 1971, March 8 – Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa, following Apollo 14 mission to the Moon.
- 1971, August 24 – David Scott, James Irwin, and Alfred Worden, following Apollo 15 mission to the Moon.
One of the last big ticker tape parades was in November of 1998 for John Glenn and the astronauts of Space Shuttle Discovery but since then the number of such parades has declined.Why? Has the number of accomplishments worthy of a parade declined? Or have we become complacent or even cynical about progress?
Jonas Salk famously turned down a ticker tape parade for the creation of the Polio vaccine but there was excitement and celebration around the world. When the time comes, I hope that we will enthusiastically celebrate science and the success of a COVID vaccine.
The AEA emails me this (web version here):
The AEA suggests that employers wait to extend interview invitations until Monday, December 7, 2020 or later.
Rationale: the AEA will deliver signals from job candidates to employers on December 2. We suggest that employers wait and review those signals and incorporate them into their decision-making, before extending interview invitations.
…The AEA suggests that employers conduct initial interviews starting on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, and that all interviews take place virtually; i.e. either by phone or online (e.g. by Zoom). We also ask that all employers indicate on EconTrack when they have extended interview invitations (https://www.aeaweb.org/
Rationale: In the past, interviews were conducted at the AEA/ASSA meetings. This promoted thickness of the market, because most candidates and employers were present at the in-person meetings, but had the disadvantage of precluding both job candidates and interviewers from fully participating in AEA/ASSA sessions. Since the 2021 AEA/ASSA meetings (which will take place Jan 3-5, 2021) will be entirely virtual, we suggest that interviews NOT take place during the AEA/ASSA meetings to allow job candidates and interviewers to participate in the conference.
Perhaps not surprisingly, they don’t offer much economic analysis of this recommendation. I have a few remarks, none of which are beyond the analytical acumen of the AEA itself:
1. This proposal could well be a tax on the more conscientious departments, which will abide by the stricture while the more rogue departments jump the gun, giving them a relative advantage in finding job candidates.
2. It is common practice for the very top departments to make phone calls to advisors early, well before Christmas, and in essence tie up their future hires before the rest of the market clears (even if the ink on the contract is not dry until later on). Whatever you might think of this practice, have any of those departments vowed to stop doing this? If not, is the new recommendation simply an exhortation that other departments ought not to copy them, thus giving them exclusive use of this practice? And did the AEA — which essentially is run by people from those top schools — ever complain about this practice?
3. In the more liquid market, as this proposal is designed to create, the better job candidates are likely to end up going to the more highly rated schools. That is the opposite of how the NBA draft works — this year the Minnesota Timberwolves (a very bad team) pick first. So maybe the more liquid market is best for the most highly rated schools — is that obviously a good thing?
4. Many job candidates don’t get any early offers at all, and this is likely to be all the more true with Covid-19 and tight state budgets. Aren’t they better off if the market clears sooner rather than later? Then they can either move on to other jobs searches, take jobs with community colleges, look for postdocs, or whatever. Why postpone those adjustments? Is their welfare being counted in this analysis? Aren’t some of them the very neediest and also most stressed people in the economics job market?
5. Let’s say instead the market is done sequentially, where first you “auction off” the candidates in highest demand, ensuring that say a department rated #17 does not tie up an offer (fruitlessly, at that) to one of the very top candidates. Won’t that #17 school then bid harder for the candidates one tier lower, thus making that part of the market more liquid? I know it doesn’t have to work out that way, but surely that is one plausible scenario?
6. In finance, there are some results that you get less “racing” behavior with batched rather than continuous trading auctions. Again, that doesn’t have to be true, but surely it is no accident that many high-frequency traders oppose the idea of periodic rather than continuous securities auctions? What exactly are the relevant conditions here?
7. Would many economists recommend that say the top tech firms not make any offers before a certain date, so as to keep that labor market “more liquid”? What exactly is the difference here?
8. Might it be possible that a permanent shift to non-coordinated interview dates, and less temporally coordinated Zoom interviews and fly-outs, would permanently lower the status and import of said AEA?
I do not wish to pretend those are the only relevant factors. But here is a simple question: does anyone connected with the AEA have the stones to actually write a cogent economic or game-theoretic analysis of this proposal? Or does the AEA not do economics any more?
Anxiety increased from 5.12% in 2008 to 6.68% in 2018 (p<.0001) among adult Americans. Stratification by age revealed the most notable increase from 7.97% to 14.66% among respondents 18-25 years old (p<.001), which was a more rapid increase than among 26-34 and 35-49 year olds (differential time trend p<.001). Anxiety did not significantly increase among those ages 50 and older. Anxiety increased more rapidly among those never married and with some college education, relative to their respective counterparts. Apart from age, marital status and education, anxiety increased consistently among sociodemographic groups.
That is from a new paper by Renee D. Goodwin, Andrea H. Weinberger, June H. Kim, Melody Wu, and Sandro Galea.
You should be spending a significant portion of your time pondering these data, because it is one of the very most important social trends today, as it also helps to explain many other social trends.
Via the excellent (and calm) Kevin Lewis.
6. High injury risk in the NBA bubble (NYT).
Billions of dollars in federal funds earmarked for boosting nationwide Covid-19 testing remain unspent months after Congress made the money available, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In April, Congress allocated roughly $25 billion for federal agencies and states to expand testing, develop contact-tracing initiatives and broaden disease surveillance.
According to HHS data, only about 10% to 15% of that total has been drawn down, meaning the cash has been spent or committed to various efforts…
Of the $25 billion, some $10.25 billion was sent to states and U.S. territories in May to expand testing and develop contact-tracing programs at their discretion, but as of Aug. 14, just $121 million of that pool of funds had been drawn down.
Fast Grants it ain’t. Here is the full WSJ article by Scott Patterson and Sarah Krouse.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
So far the data are fragmentary, but they indicate that parties, bar-going and after-hours fraternization — not athletic practices — have been the major risks contributing to Covid-19 clusters among young people of college age. For all the talk of banning athletics, how about university regulations banning all alcohol consumption (including off-campus) for all registered students, under the pain of academic suspension? [NB: more schools have started trying at least partial versions of this since I wrote the column.]…
There is the risk that football players and other collegiate athletes will bring the virus home to their parents and older relatives. Still, that danger seems to be at least as high if they are bored and going out drinking, compared to practicing and trying to secure their place on the team. It simply is not obvious that athletics create a new risk.
Under the current system, student athletes can opt not to participate, just as many NBA players have elected not to play in the league’s “bubble.” While there are social pressures to go ahead and play, they are no different than the pressures to socialize more generally. Yet there are no calls to ban young people from socializing, even though that too is clearly a dangerous activity — perhaps the most dangerous activity — in terms of Covid-19 spread.
There is much more at the link.
Feldman probably was the most important American composer of his generation, he interacted with the leading NYC painters of his time, and it turns out he is a splendid writer as well. His observations are to the point, often with a Nassim Taleb kind of sting. Here is one bit:
Recently in the Sunday papers an article about Messiaen appeared in which a great virtue was made of his political “disengagement.” Reading this article, we learn how deeply religious this composer is, how much he looks forward to his vacations in Switzerland, how proud he is of Boulez, and how involved he is with bird calls. Can we say man is really disengaged? His chief occupation seems to be this disengagement. There is something curiously official in the way his interests and views are described — as though nothing could now disturb all this.
But he has nothing to worry about, that chap in Tempo. He’s going to have it all. Pitch relationships, plus sound and chance thrown in. Total consolidation. Those two words define the new academy. You can tie it all up in the well-known formula, “You made a small circle and excluded me; I made a bigger circle and included you.” A kind of Jonah-and-the-whale syndrome is taking place. Everything is being chewed up en masse and for the mass…
It may seem strange to call Boulez and Stockhausen popularizers, but that’s what they are. They glamorized Schoenberg and Webern, now they’re glamorizing something else. But chance to them is just another procedure, another vehicle for new aspects of structure or of sonority independent of pitch organization. They could have gotten these things from Ives or Varèse, but they went to these men with too deep prejudice, the prejudice of the equal, the colleague.
More books should have sentences like: “[Virgil] Thomson disliked me on sight, as a youth, and it’s never changed.”
The full title is Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman,” edited by B.H. Friedman.
I think Feldman two greatest works are For John Cage, and also String Quartet #2, which is about five hours long. This year I have been listening to the Philip Thomas 5-CD set of Feldman’s piano music more than just about any other CD. It is not the very best Feldman, but it is some of the best Feldman to listen to, if only because the pieces typically are shorter.
…it looks like Avi Loeb (Harvard astronomer) is writing a book that will argue that we have been visited by aliens.
Harvard’s top astronomer lays out his controversial theory that our solar system was recently visited by advanced alien technology from a distant star.
In late 2017, scientists at a Hawaiian observatory glimpsed an object soaring through our inner solar system, moving so quickly that it could only have come from another star. Avi Loeb, Harvard’s top astronomer, showed it was not an asteroid; it was moving too fast along a strange orbit, and left no trail of gas or debris in its wake. There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization.
2. “A German university is offering “idleness grants” to applicants who are seriously committed to doing sweet nothing.” Is this news? Why don’t they at least make them walk some dogs?
4. More on Oumuamua.
5. Are older, more classic books less likely to be manipulating you? And is that good or bad?