pushmedia1
1.31.2007
  Heh.


I love that I'm Catholic. I can post funny pictures of the pope and write "heh" as the caption. It's like the N-word for black people, but this is H-word (in the context of a funny picture of the Pope) for Catholics. Or something.

My pope was a Nazi... Heh.

UPDATE: Anybody else feel like this dude and Dilbert are talking about the same thing?
 
1.27.2007
  Of highways and lung capacities
Rich people live further away from highways. Children of rich people have better health care. Children with better health care have higher lung capacity.

This does not imply "this study shows there are health effects from childhood exposure to traffic exhaust ...," and it certainly doesn't beg a policy prescription like "..regional air quality regulations may need to be adjusted based on local factors, including traffic volume."

I once lived 50 yards from a major freeway for two years. Exhaust from the freeway was never a concern. If anything, the noise was my biggest complaint.

(Note: I haven't accessed the study itself yet. Perhaps the researchers controlled for income, but nothing in any of the stories I read online suggested it. They did appear to control for 'general health' but what does that mean when you testing for a health outcome?)
 
1.26.2007
  Hillary?
Should I?
 
1.20.2007
  Truth
Implicit in the Global Warming Advocates' (give yourselves a name people!) stance is humans are somehow, inappropriately, above nature. For example, their dogma, their "truths", includes "Over consumption is a serious problem." If all was right, humans would live as one with nature. At the same time, they insist that Science is their basis, and thus deny they have a normative stance. They speak the truth, be damned if your not in on the consensus.

The high priests of environmental science... err, objective, unbiased scientists have had the truth revealed to them... err, have run experiments that confirm anthropogenic climate change.

Consumption is bad; Science tells us so.

What do the Advocates mean by consumption anyway? Is over consumption of organic soy milk bad? How about hemp Green Peace t-shirts? No, of course not. They mean "bad" consumption like driving SUVs and eating at McDonald's, stuff that's not "one with nature". Never mind biodiesel, another favorite of the Advocates, destroys rain forests. Never mind the production of organic milk results in worse treatment of dairy cows (I know this from first hand experience).

We're suppose to swallow the Advocates' world view because they hide their normative views on their position of man in nature behind the seemingly norm-free arena of Science.

Man is evil; science tells us so.

The Advocates should be honest with us. They should admit they're trying to hoist a normative world view on the rest of us. To the Advocate, the road from global warming science to "over consumption is a serious problem" is a short one. And it is a short road for someone traveled so far along Pantheistic Avenue.

To the rest of us, it is a very long road indeed.
 
  Facts on global warming
The national geographic society has some interesting facts on global warming. IMHO, they shouldn't mix forecasts in with facts, though. A forecast isn't a fact (although I suppose that there is such a forecast is a fact). I haven't come across a 'facts of climate forecasting' FAQ, yet. My own sense is that if the complexity of the global climate is anything like the complexity of the economy (and I suspect its orders of magnitudes more complex than the economy), forecasting far into the future is very, very hard.
 
  When weathermen attack!
Weathermen should get their licenses revoked if they don't believe in man-made global warming.
If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval.


This is her latest post on the subject. Here's video from the weather channels "climate code" program, "the climate code where we give you the facts about climate change so you can connect the dots and make a difference."

and...

When weathermen get attacked!


(h/t Media Blog)
 
  Dialogue concerning the Exchequer
Very neat:
Just as those who walk in darkness and grope with their hands frequently stumble, so many sit there who seeing do not perceive, and hearing do not understand.

and I know there's a few economics writers that should take this advice:
"Of those things which thou demandest it is impossible to speak except in common discourse and in ordinary words."

"But," said he, as if aroused to ire, -- for to a mind filled with desire nothing goes quickly enough, -- "writers on arts, lest they might seem to know too little about many things, and in order that art might less easily become known, have sought to appropriate many things, and have concealed them under unknown words: but thou dost not undertake to write about an art, but about certain customs and laws of the exchequer; and since these ought to be common, common words must necessarily be employed, so that style may have relation to the things of which we are speaking. Moreover, although it is very often allowable to invent new words, I beg, nevertheless, if it please thee that thou may'st not be ashamed to use the customary names of the things themselves which readily occur to the mind, so that no new difficulty from using unfamiliar words may arise to disturb us."


and a commenter at Volokh mentions the similarity between the linked passage and Xenophon's Oeconomicus. I don't really see the connection except they're both old texts and they both talk about economics/finance. The medieval dialog is more a hands on description of the goings on of the treasury and the Socratic dialog is more philosophical. In any case, Oeconomicus is worth reading anyway:
Critobulus: Yes, but we agreed that, however little a man may be blest with wealth himself, a science of economy exists; and that being so, what hinders you from being its professor?

Socrates: Nothing, to be sure, except what would hinder a man from knowing how to play the flute, supposing he had never had a flute of his own and no one had supplied the defect by lending him one to practise on: which is just my case with regard to economy, seeing I never myself possessed the instrument of the science which is wealth, so as to go through the pupil stage, nor hitherto has any one proposed to hand me over his to manage. You, in fact, are the first person to make so generous an offer. You will bear in mind, I hope, that a learner of the harp is apt to break and spoil the instrument; it is therefore probable, if I take in hand to learn the art of economy on your estate, I shall ruin it outright.
...
Well then, Critobulus (Socrates replied), what if I begin by showing you two sorts of people, the one expending large sums on money in building useless houses, the other at far less cost erecting dwellings replete with all they need; will you admit that I have laid my finger here on one of the essentials of economy?

Critobulus: An essential point most certainly.
...
Socrates: What, then, if I exhibit to you a third contrast, which bears on the condition of domestic slaves? On the one side you shall see them fettered hard and fast, as I may say, and yet for ever breaking their chains and running away. On the other side the slaves are loosed, and free to move, but for all that, they choose to work, it seems; they are constant to their masters. I think you will admit that I here point out another function of economy worth noting.

Critobulus: I do indeed--a feature most noteworthy.
...
Socrates: If it goes ill with the sheep we blame the shepherd...
...
All this I relate to you (continued Socrates) to show you that quite high and mighty people find it hard to hold aloof from agriculture, devotion to which art would seem to be thrice blest, combining as it does a certain sense of luxury with the satisfaction of an improved estate, and such a training of physical energies as shall fit a man to play a free man's part. Earth, in the first place, freely offers to those that labour all things necessary to the life of man; and, as if that were not enough, makes further contribution of a thousand luxuries. It is she who supplies with sweetest scent and fairest show all things wherewith to adorn the altars and statues of the gods, or deck man's person. It is to her we owe our many delicacies of flesh or fowl or vegetable growth; since with the tillage of the soil is closely linked the art of breeding sheep and cattle, whereby we mortals may offer sacrifices well pleasing to the gods, and satisfy our personal needs withal.

And albeit she, good cateress, pours out her blessings upon us in abundance, yet she suffers not her gifts to be received effeminately, but inures her pensioners to suffer gladly summer's heat and winter's cold. Those that labour with their hands, the actual delvers of the soil, she trains in a wrestling school of her own, adding strength to strength; whilst those others whose devotion is confined to the overseeing eye and to studious thought, she makes more manly, rousing them with cock-crow, and compelling them to be up and doing in many a long day's march. Since, whether in city or afield, with the shifting seasons each necessary labour has its hour of performance.
...
Up to a certain point I fully followed what you said. I understand, according to your theory, how a bailiff must be taught. In other words, I follow your descriptions both as to how you make him kindly disposed towards yourself; and how, again, you make him careful, capable of rule, and upright. But at that point you made the statement that, in order to apply this diligence to tillage rightly, the careful husbandman must further learn what are the different things he has to do, and not alone what things he has to do, but how and when to do them. These are the topics which, in my opinion, have hitherto been somewhat lightly handled in the argument. Let me make my meaning clearer by an instance: it is as if you were to tell me that, in order to be able to take down a speech in writing, or to read a written statement, a man must know his letters. Of course, if not stone deaf, I must have garnered that for a certain object knowledge of letters was important to me, but the bare recognition of the fact, I fear, would not enable me in any deeper sense to know my letters. So, too, at present I am easily persuaded that if I am to direct my care aright in tillage I must have a knowledge of the art of tillage. But the bare recognition of the fact does not one whit provide me with the knowledge how I ought to till. And if I resolved without ado to set about the work of tilling, I imagine, I should soon resemble your physician going on his rounds and visiting his patients without knowing what to prescribe or what to do to ease their sufferings. To save me from the like predicaments, please teach me the actual work and processes of tillage.
...
And they are surely right in their assertion (I replied); for he who does not know what the soil is capable of bearing, can hardly know, I fancy, what he has to plant or what to sow.

But he has only to look at his neighbour's land (he answered), at his crops and trees, in order to learn what the soil can bear and what it cannot.
...
At this point in the conversation I remarked: Tell me, Ischomachus, if the details of the art of husbandry are thus easy to learn, and all alike know what needs to be done, how does it happen that all farmers do not fare like, but some live in affluence owning more than they can possibly enjoy, while others of them fail to obtain the barest necessities and actually run into debt?

I will tell you, Socrates (Ischomachus replied). It is neither knowledge nor lack of knowledge in these husbandmen which causes some to be well off, while others are in difficulties; nor will you ever hear such tales afloat as that this or that estate has gone to ruin because the sower failed to sow evenly, or that the planter failed to plant straight rows of plants, or that such an one, being ignorant what soil was best suited to bear vines, had set his plants in sterile ground, or that another was in ignorance that fallow must be broken up for purposes of sowing, or that a third was not aware that it is good to mix manure in with the soil. No, you are much more likely to hear said of So-and-so: No wonder the man gets in no wheat from his farm, when he takes no pains to have it sown or properly manured. Or of some other that he grows no wine: Of course not, when he takes no pains either to plant new vines or to make those he has bear fruit. A third has neither figs nor olives; and again the self-same reason: He too is careless, and takes no steps whatever to succeed in growing either one or other. These are the distinctions which make all the
difference to prosperity in farming, far more than the reputed discovery of any clever agricultural method or machine.
...
Such, Socrates, are the ills which cause a house to crumble far more than lack of scientific knowledge, however rude it be.
...
After a pause, I added: I am turning over in my mind how cleverly you have presented the whole argument to support your thesis: which was, that of all arts the art of husbandry is the easiest to learn. And now, as the result of all that has been stated, I am entirely persuaded that this is so.

Ischomachus: Yes, Socrates, indeed it is. But I, on my side, must in turn admit that as regards that faculty which is common alike to every kind of conduct (tillage, or politics, the art of managing a house, or of conducting war), the power, namely, of command--I do subscribe to your opinion, that on this score one set of people differ largely from another both in point of wit and judgement. On a ship of war, for instance, the ship is on the high seas, and the crew must row whole days together to reach moorings. Now note the difference. Here you may find a captain able by dint of speech and conduct to whet the souls of those he leads, and sharpen them to voluntary toils; and there another so dull of wit and destitute of feeling that it will take his crew just twice the time to finish the same voyage. See them step on shore. The first ship's company are drenched in sweat; but listen, they are loud in praise of one another, the captain and his merry men alike. And the others? They are come at last; they have not turned a hair, the lazy fellows, but for all that they hate their officer and by him are hated.
...
For if I rightly understand this blessed gift, this faculty of command over willing followers, by no means is it, in its entirety, a merely human quality, but it is in part divine. It is a gift plainly given to those truly initiated in the mystery of self-command. Whereas despotism over unwilling slaves, the heavenly ones give, as it seems to me, to those whom they deem worthy to live the life of Tantalus in Hades, of whom it is written "he consumes unending days in apprehension of a second death."
 
1.19.2007
  Empty


Lyrics
 
1.16.2007
  Neat.
 
1.15.2007
  Open source governement?
John Bellinger, State Department Legal Adviser ("the top lawyer at the Department of State"), is blogging about Guantanamo at Opinio Juris.
 
  The problem with behavioral economics
One more small point. It's an obvious point, but too often forgotten. The way that someone speaks in a given context -- including the context of the phonetics lab -- is not a fixed and invariant property of their individual essence. It's a way of behaving that depends not only on who they are, but also on what they're saying, where they're saying it, why they're saying it, and who the audience is. Among other things.
-- Language Log

Similarly, because someone has funny preferences in the economist's lab, wagering with small dollar amounts for example, doesn't mean they have funny preferences in general. Economic behavior "in a given context is not a fixed and invariant property of their individual essence."
But in general, in order to understand behavioral measurements from human groups, whether biologically or culturally defined, we need to think about what the contexts were, and how the people interpreted and responded to them. And whatever we learn about the group effects, we need to remember one of Martin Luther King's other memorable phrases:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
 
1.12.2007
  Nomination for Best Post of the Month
Best Post of the Month in the Economics Category?
Popperian falsification is just a special case of the Bayesian view: if the likelihood P(data|model) is zero (indicating that the data is impossible given the model), P(model|data) is zero, regardless of the prior. But the Bayesian approach offers some sort of a weighted preference among all the models that haven't been refuted yet, balancing the Ockhamist preference for simplicity through the prior and the desire for accuracy through the likelihood.
 
  Un-fucking-believable
Can you believe this guy? Someone please tell me that steroids rots your brain... at least then, he'd have an excuse. Jezus H. Chriminy.
 
  Erotic fantasies of an economist, part 1
President Bush vetoes this bill, gets on TV and announces an initiative to increase the earned income tax credit .

(Why?)
 
  News from Iraq
The reaction in parliament to Bush's speech:
Despite being concerned about security developments, the people were very interested in learning about the new strategy of president Bush but since the speech was aired at 5 am in Baghdad, the morning has seen a rush to radio and TV to find out what the president had said.

A few hours later a flood of comments from Iraqi politicians filled the media here and maybe the earliest and most interesting argument was the one that took place between Abdul Kareem Al-Inizi of the UIA (from a branch of the Dawa party that split from the original Dawa of Jafari and Maliki) and Mithal al-Alusi during yesterday's session of the parliament.

Al-Inizi said "Iraq is not an American state and Bush must consult with us before making such decisions about sending troops…" to which al-Alusi responded by saying "We have an elected prime minister and he was consulted…you and others like yourself wouldn't be sitting here had America not helped us. They are trying to protect this democracy and they possess what they can offer to help us with the security situation, but what do you have?? Cut the nonsense, ok? Do you think the parliament wants to vote about this? Fine, let's ask everybody if they want such voting…"

There was only silence in the hall after this and no one said another word about voting.

Iraq the Model is great for the inside view of things in Iraq. The writers there are generally pro-America/government/optimists, but I wouldn't call them stooges. If you're looking for other points of view inside Iraq, here's a post at another great site that links to various Iraqi reactions to Saddam's execution.
 
1.10.2007
  Bush said this?
To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.

-- Bush

Best. Idea. Evar!
 
  Brad Delong
Most of the time I wonder why I read Prof. Delong's weblog. His political commentary is just bad and I suspect he writes heated rhetoric just to encourage the passions of a generally unthinking and sycophantic commentaria (I'm sure there's a word for those people that comment on particular blogs but why use existing words when you can invent your own). I just don't understand why anyone would want to be an economist's groupie.

And then, every so often, there's a great economics post or turns of phrases like these:
So no, reasonable people could not argue that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression.

The furthest I will go is to agree that reasonable people can argue over whether reasonable people could argue that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression.

Damn you Prof. Delong! I'll take my finger off the unsubscribe button... for now.
 
  Discounting asteroids
A footnote in this good discussion of discounting:

Similarly, discounting for opportunity costs is also inappropriate if one is comparing outcomes that cannot be invested. For example, although money can be invested and (perhaps) be used to save future lives, a life itself cannot be "invested" to offset or negate lives lost in the future. Consider the following thought experiment: Two asteroids are threatening to collide with earth. The smaller asteroid is projected to collide with earth in 10 years, killing a few hundred people. The larger asteroid is projected to collide with earth in 1000 years, killing a few billion people. NASA can blow up one of the asteroids, but not both. If future deaths were discounted at the market interest rate, blowing up the small asteroid may be judged to be more worthwhile. However, defending that choice with an opportunity cost argument requires an account of how the people who are saved from the smaller asteroid can be "invested" to compensate for the much larger loss of life that will later occur when the larger asteroid collides. It is difficult to understand how that would work. (The people who are saved by preventing the impact of the small asteroid could, through reproduction, create more people, but it would be strange to interpret this as compensation for the later loss of life.)


(I'm not sure why the interpretation in the ending parenthetical is strange. Comparing the lives of actual living people to hypothetical not-yet living people isn't strange.)

Wouldn't the technology that NASA invents in order to blow up the first asteroid be used to build better technology to blow up the second asteroid? "Blowing up an asteroid" isn't consumption and I don't see why there's any problem with time preference for technology.

Rhetorical note: if the hippies (I kid!) want me to care about this whole save my great grand kids from the CO2 monster thing, they should engage my inner geek. They shouldn't be asking for "reductions in consumption" (boring!) they should be asking for "investments in crazy mind blowing biosphere-engineering gadgets." If they mention robots and drilling holes to the planet's core, I'm so in.

The industrial-military complex folks got us geeks behind the cold war by, literally, promising the moon. And look, now we have Teflon to show for it.
 
1.09.2007
  Patella Femoral Syndrome
Other causes for patella femoral syndrome include weak quadriceps muscles, injury to the knee, obesity and overuse. Initial treatment involves reducing inflammation and re-establishing the proper alignment between the knee cap and its groove. Rest is used for the painful swollen knee until symptoms improve. Stair climbing and squatting are avoided. Ice and anti-inflammatory medications are also used to decrease inflammation. Treatment is directed at strengthening the thigh muscles of the inside of the knee and stretching of the tight muscles and connective tissues of the outside of the knee. Malalignments of the flat feet are corrected with shoes with good medial arch support or through the use of orthotics. Hip rotation is improved through stretching exercises.

--- Yale med

The doctor told me I should also try core strengthening exercises... maybe join a palates class. And there are these exercises to strengthen the inner thigh.
 
1.06.2007
  Why democracy (again)?
Government power is not necessarily abused more often than personal power, but when the abuse does come, it's a lulu. At work, power over the whole supply cabinet is concentrated in the person of the office manager. In government, power over the entire mi litary is concentrated in the person of the commander-in-chief. You steal felt tip pens. Hitler invades Poland.

--- P.J. O'Rourke
 
1.05.2007
  Why democracy?
I believe in democracy because I distrust the elites. I distrust the elites because I believe that self-deception is widespread, and the elites are particularly skilled at it. Accordingly, I believe that it is important for those in power to have the humility of knowing that they may be voted out of office.

-- Arnold Kling
 
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