Assorted Links 2/15/10


Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution and Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide


Apparently This Is What Economics Does To People…

  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, February 18, 2010
  • The President’s Budget, February 23, 2010
  • The Defense Budget, February 26, 2010
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, March 3-5, 2010
  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • Sidewalk Accountability and Parking Property Rights – “Through the Mid-Atlantic, rules regarding sidewalk shoveling vary from the mere expectation of courtesy to fines up to $100 for homeowners and business owners who do not do the right thing. While these municipal rules vary in how well they encourage citizens to maintain sidewalks, this issue might be better dealt with at a neighborhood rather than a city level.
    . . .
    In another snow-related economic conundrum, vehicle owners struggle to protect their rights to parking spaces that they have laboriously shoveled. In Boston, drivers can legally save their cleaned spots with lawn chairs or cones, but no such official rule exists in DC. However, an unscientific Washington Post poll found that 76% of respondents favored the right to reserve parking spots, effectively suggesting that the effort of shoveling is worth a guarantee of property rights.”
  • How many people die from lack of health insurance? – “I agree with her conclusion:

    ‘Intuitively, I feel as if there should be some effect. But if the results are this messy, I would guess that the effect is not very big.'”

  • How Insurers Reject You: BlueCross BlueShield of Texas’ blueprint for denying health policies. – “The people who most urgently need Congress to pass health care reform belong to a different group. They’re the 9 percent of Americans who purchase health care for themselves or their families in the so-called ‘nongroup market,’ which is where most of the horror stories you’ve heard about health insurance tend to occur. On second thought, that’s not quite right. The people who most urgently need health reform are those who aspire to join the 9 percent, but can’t, either because no nongroup insurer will take them or because any nongroup insurer that will take them has priced its policy sky-high to offset some medical risk or another. Neither wealthy enough to pay for nongroup insurance nor poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, these spurned customers end up among the 15 percent of Americans who receive no health insurance at all. Should you lose your job and fail to find another, expect to purchase nongroup insurance or, worse, not purchase it. Together, these two groups represent one-quarter of the population.”
  • Bipolar or TDD? Asperger’s or autism spectrum? – “Asperger’s Syndrome and autism could become “autism spectrum disorders,” a change opposed by many Asperger’s advocates.”
  • TARP Panel: Small Banks Are Facing Loan Woes – “Nearly 3,000 small U.S. banks could be forced to dramatically curtail their lending because of losses on commercial real-estate loans, a congressional inquiry concluded.

    The findings, set to be released Thursday by the Congressional Oversight Panel as part of its scrutiny of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, point to yet another obstacle for the slow-moving economic recovery. The small banks being threatened by loans they made for shopping centers, offices, hotels and apartments represent a major cog in the U.S. credit system, especially to entrepreneurs.”

  • Unofficial Problem Bank List at 605 – “This is an unofficial list of Problem Banks compiled only from public sources.”
  • Why the House Democrats are about 100 votes short – “So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

    So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.”

  • Virginia: Pretty Darn Satisfied – “As it happens, Gallup has just produced a ‘well-being’ ranking for the 50 U.S. states (though using a different methodology). What I find interesting is that most Americans are satisfied with the quality of life that their state offers. There is some variation between states, but that variation falls within a relatively narrow range of 82.3% (North Dakota) and 69.0% (Nevada) in terms of percent satisfied.

    Virginia falls within the ‘high’ range of satisfaction and, indeed, is the only state east of the Mississippi River to do so. We are an outlier — most states with high well being are clustered among the northwestern plains and mountain states. The least satisfied, not surprisingly, are characterized by high unemployment and/or high poverty. Yet Gallup notes that the correlation between economic outlook and satisfaction is far from perfect. Remarkably, even as the recession deepened last year, satisfaction levels improved modestly across much of the country.”

  • The $555,000 Student-Loan Burden – “But as tuitions rise, many people are borrowing heavily to pay their bills. Some no doubt view it as “good debt,” because an education can lead to a higher salary. But in practice, student loans are one of the most toxic debts, requiring extreme consumer caution and, as Dr. Bisutti learned, responsibility.

    Unlike other kinds of debt, student loans can be particularly hard to wriggle out of. Homeowners who can’t make their mortgage payments can hand over the keys to their house to their lender. Credit-card and even gambling debts can be discharged in bankruptcy. But ditching a student loan is virtually impossible, especially once a collection agency gets involved. Although lenders may trim payments, getting fees or principals waived seldom happens.

    Yet many former students are trying. There is an estimated $730 billion in outstanding federal and private student-loan debt, says Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org, a Web site that tracks financial-aid issues–and only 40% of that debt is actively being repaid. The rest is in default, or in deferment, which means that payments and interest are halted, or in ‘forbearance,’ which means payments are halted while interest accrues.”

  • Just How Ugly Is The Sovereign Default Truth? How Self Delusions Prevent Recognition Of Reality – “Today we finally saw a crack in the 30 Year Auction. And as the crack belongs to an ever more brittle wall holding back trillions in debt just begging to be revalued to fair value, and to an unmanipulated supply and demand curve, more and more fissures in the smooth and fake facade of sovereign debt will soon appear, only this time not somewhere out of sight and out of mind like Greece, but in our own back yard. At that point the financial oligarchy will very much wish the Methadone had been administered sooner (roughly about March 2009, when we first suggested it). It will however be far too late, and the decades of self delusion will finally end.”
  • Schwarzman Says Kowtow to Banks or They Will Strangle the Economy – “Can someone shut these banking industry narcissists up?
    . . .
    The last thing the public should do now is turn down the heat on bankers. We have just been through the greatest looting of the public purse in history. We cannot relent until we understand how it happened and have put new rules in place to prevent its recurrence.”
  • How Long Is Long Term? – “It may be heretical, therefore, to note that in an investment sense, 10 years is not an eternity. Yes, as an alternative to the all-too-common focus on one-year returns or other short stretches, a 10-year measure provides welcome perspective. It’s apt to cover more than one market cycle and a variety of macroeconomic environments. We here at Morningstar often cite that period for such reasons. But for an individual investor, there are benefits to thinking far beyond a mere decade. How about 30 or 40 years?”
  • President Palin? – “Sarah Palin can be a dazzling performer. But she’s still capable of saying that Obama could improve his chances for reelection if he ‘played the war card … decided to declare war on Iran.’ Her articulation of political ideas remains remarkably thin. The Republican bench may be weak, but I don’t think it’s that weak.”
  • Scrappers: the financial crisis up close and personal – “Scrappers is an unusual, interesting and engaging film you won’t see down at the multiplex.
    . . .
    The film combines affecting portraits of the lives of the two scrappers, an interesting look at how global finance affects ordinary people, and an examination of the role and function of micro-markets and how regulation gets in their way. The movie is also a detailed picture of the south side of Chicago, and has a wonderful original score by Chicago musician Frank Rosaly.”
  • Intelligent, Respectable Women Across Globe Inexplicably Excited For Figure Skating – “As the 2010 Winter Olympics get underway, the prospect of watching figure skating and ice dancing in all their forms has inspired a surprising amount of giddy exuberance in otherwise levelheaded women worldwide.”


What is the Hexayurt?

  • Social Cons and the Lure of the Seduction Community – “We are overhearing a breathless conversation between tongue-clucking older women and disaffected young men. It is an orgy of confirmation bias, more vulgar–but perhaps more entertaining–than anything Allen can tell us about the depredations of modern dating.”
  • You Are More Likely To Read This Story Because Its Headline Contains No Punctuation – “Avoiding personal responsibility used to be clean and simple. Caught red-handed? The devil made you do it. End of story.

    But today we have a dizzying array of bogus blaming options. We can choose from rap music, movies, TV, video games, the Internet, Twinkies, genes, society, the neighbor’s kid, our upbringing, the booze talking, atheism, evolution, the definition of ‘is,’ planets, stars, lunar phases, the ever-vague and passive ‘mistakes were made,’ the economy, being an only child, not being an only child, and more. Just keeping track can exhaust the most adept excuse-maker. Call me extreme, but some days I wonder if it might be easier simply to say, ‘I made a mistake.’

    I saved the excuse that accuses my profession for last: ‘The advertising made me do it.’ If you fed your kids fast food until your spouse mistook them for the minivan, blew the budget on a video game system, or bought trendy clothes you didn’t need and that went out of style as you were paying for them, take heart. You can blame us slick advertising people and our so-called hypnotic work.

    Just one problem. No advertisement has the power to make you act against your will.
    . . .
    This is not to say that all advertising is ineffective (though much of it is). The right ads can boost a product’s sales. Conversely, the wrong ads can drive them down. Taco Bell’s experience with its spokes-Chihuahua illustrates both. Prior to introducing the pooch, the chain had enjoyed steady sales. When the Chihuahua came on the scene, his popularity soared, but sales plummeted. When Taco Bell switched to dogless commercials with close-ups of savory ingredients, sales rebounded. (Ironically, by ad industry standards the Chihuahua campaign was ‘highly creative,’ whereas its successful replacement was woefully lackluster.)
    . . .
    Ads that deceive also deserve mention. To find examples of legal but deceptive advertising practices, you have only to search through ads for alternative medicine, political candidates, diet plans, hearing aids, stock market predictors, multi-level companies, or subliminal self-improvement CDs, to name a few. Many such ads toe the legal line by placing qualifying language in small type that occupies five percent of the ad space, and using the remaining 95 percent to mislead. A five percent weasel does not unmake a lie.”

  • [Denied Tenure,] Professor Said to Be Charged After 3 Are Killed in Alabama – “Three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville were shot to death, and three other people were seriously wounded at a biology faculty meeting on Friday afternoon, university officials said.

    The Associated Press reported that a biology professor, identified as Amy Bishop, was charged with murder.

    According to a faculty member, the professor had applied for tenure, been turned down, and appealed the decision. She learned on Friday that she had been denied once again.
    . . .
    Officials said the dead were all biology professors, G. K. Podila, the department’s chairman; Maria Ragland Davis; and Adriel D. Johnson Sr. Two other biology professors, Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera and Joseph G. Leahy, as well as a professor’s assistant, Stephanie Monticciolo, are at Huntsville Hospital in conditions ranging from stable to critical.” There will be a few openings now.

  • Wheat Ridge High School Class of 1970 – “The reonion committee is working away planning the 40th reunion the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. Wheat Ridge, Colorado WRHS1970.com”
  • Common Market Food Co-op – “Common Market Food Co-op was a ‘new wave food co-op’ located at 1329 California Street in Denver, Colorado, from 1975 – 1980. It started as a buying club at the University of Denver in the late 1960s, and for a few years prior to moving to the old Safeway at 13th and California Streets, Common Market operated out of a small storefront on Champa Street.”
  • How do bar owners get you to drink more? – “They turn the music up:”
  • Google Brings the Power of the Pie Chart – “Google’s latest release, the Google Chart Tools, will make it easier for sites to show their users data in a meaningful, visual and interactive manner.

    These tools are broken down into two parts: image charts and interactive charts. The image charts work off a simple URL structure, defining all of the necessary characteristics through URL parameters. The interactive charts, while still relatively simple compared to custom creation, use a slightly more complicated Javascript library.”

  • Beautiful Gold, So-So Silver & Shameful Bronze – “But on the bright side, at least we get curling back on American television. Where it belongs.”
  • Why? – “The complete article discusses these frustrations and the work by DC politicians and bureaucrats to correct the problems, but nowhere does the author ask the simple question, ‘Why are DC residents required to obtain a license to lease their property to begin with?’
    . . .
    And I’d be willing to bet a week’s salary that there was actually nothing wrong with either the outlets or the smoke detector. As two cops have told me, they can pull over any car and find something that violates some law or code. So much for the rule of law.”
  • What you should look for in a marriage partner: – “Marriage isn’t all fun and games. In the past I’ve posted about marriage making you poorer, killing sex drive, and making you fat. So if you’re gonna do it, do it right. But how do you know who to marry? Should you just trust your feelings or pick the person who ‘looks good on paper’? Luckily, science has answers for us:
    . . .
    1) Find someone who you idealize and who idealizes you.
    . . .
    3) Guys, you want to avoid that whole ‘involuntarily celibate’ situation that men fear after years of marriage? Don’t marry a woman who is sexually submissive:
    . . .
    6) What about attractiveness and happiness? Everybody is happier when the wife is better looking than the husband is.”
  • The Death of Big Law – “Large law firms face unprecedented stress. Many have dissolved, gone bankrupt or significantly downsized in recent years. This paper provides an economic analysis of the forces driving the downsizing of Big Law. It shows that this downsizing reflects a basically precarious business model rather than just a shrinking economy. Because large law firms do not own durable, firm-specific property, a set of strict conditions must exist to bind the firm together. Several pressures have pushed the unraveling of these conditions, including increased global competition and the rise of in-house counsel. The large law firm’s business model therefore requires fundamental restructuring. Combining insights from the theory of the firm, intellectual property, and the economics of legal services, this paper discusses new models that might replace Big Law, how these new models might push through regulatory barriers, and the broader implications of Big Law’s demise for legal education, the creation of law and lawyers’ role in society.”


Domino’s Turns A Loss In A Lawsuit It Wasn’t Involved In Into A TV Commercial


The End, Perhaps, of Hitler Parodies

  • Top 10 Google Settings You Should Know About – “As the outcry over Google Buzz’s privacy has shown us, it’s smart to explore settings in Gmail, along with other places you’re sharing data with the search giant. Let’s take a look at 10 privacy, convenience, and annoyance fixers you should know.”
  • Free Speech on Campus: Michael Oren at UC Irvine – “Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States recently gave a speech — or at least tried to give a speech — at UC Irvine at the invitation of UCI’s law school and political science department. A group of students at UC Irvine, apparently all members of the Muslim Students Union , decided to try to stop the speech.

    The students came up with the following plan. They had been told that if they interrupted the speech, they would be arrested for disturbing a public event, so the students went sequentially, each interrupting the Ambassador once. Each student would stand up in the middle of the speech and start screaming out condemnation, which would trigger the wild applause of many other students in the audience. The student would then walk to the aisle to be arrested and escorted out by campus police. Once the Ambassador started again, the next student would go, resulting in a total of 10 interruptions to the speech and arrests of 11 students, 8 from UC Irvine and 3 from UC Riverside. The video is here:”

  • Top 10 YouTube Videos of All Time – “4. Jeff Dunham – Achmed the Dead Terrorist; 104,013,553 views”
  • Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it – “Near-term hotspots and the most vulnerable target

    MS: Broadly, what do you see happening within cyber warfare over the next few years?

    JC: Africa has a huge population of infected computers. I read one estimate a few months ago that they have about 100 million PCs scattered throughout the continent and maybe 80 percent of those are infected. Once broadband hits Africa, then you’ve got this huge opportunity for botnets to spring up. These mega botnets could conceivably dwarf Conficker or some of these other huge botnets.

    East Africa is another spot to watch. In Somalia, where piracy is lucrative and the area is so lawless, it’s such a chaotic environment. There’s a growth of religious extremists there as well. So you’ve got criminals with a huge pile of cash, these pirates, and then you have these radical extremists looking for ways to create havoc. Should their interests coincide, I would fear for very destructive Internet attacks.

    MS: Last question: Out of all this, what’s the thing that keeps you up at night?

    JC: The most worrisome thing to me is the vulnerability of the power grid. I just released a report on this — it’s Project Grey Goose’s Report on Critical Infrastructure — where I and my team of researchers document the problem. The Department of Defense has identified 34 critical assets to conducting its mission. Thirty-one out of the 34 are dependent on the public power grid.

    I know in my state of Washington, they tell us that if there’s an earthquake or some other natural disaster, you can expect no help for at least seven days. There will be no police response, no 911 response, no National Guard for at least seven days because they’ll all be busy protecting critical infrastructures. And so that’s what I worry about. The grid is so vulnerable. It would cause a lot of chaos here if somebody were to actually attack it.”

  • Critical Security Update for Adobe Flash Player – “Adobe Systems Inc. today (Feb. 11, 2010) released an updated version of its Flash Player software to fix two critical security holes in the ubiquitous Web browser plugin. Adobe also issued a security update for its Air software, a central component of several widely-used Web applications, such as Tweetdeck.

    The Flash update brings the newest, patched version of Flash to v. 10.0.45.2, and applies to all supported platforms, including Windows, Mac and Linux installations. Visit this link to find out what version of Flash you have. The latest update is available from this link.”

  • Less Lamp – The Only Lamp That You’re Actually Supposed To Break – “When you unbox the Less Lamp, you’ll find that it’s the absolute worst excuse for a lighting fixture, as it’s basically just a solid black egg. The idea is that you’ll use the included pick to poke holes in it. Heck, you can even break off the bottom portion of the egg to let out more light. As you can imagine, nothing this artsy-sounding ever comes cheap. This particular lamp will set you back $800. That’s right, eight hundred smackeroos for a lamp that you’re going to break immediately.”

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Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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