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July 28, 2015

"Income Inequality, Beltway Style"

Neal B. Freeman:

In Washington, and marbled throughout its pricy suburbs, there’s income inequality of a different sort. The richest counties in the country — Fairfax, Montgomery, Loudon, and the rest — are now clustered in the metro Washington area. They’re rich not because D.C. has just emerged as the Silicon Valley of the East or the North Dakota of the South. The D.C. region produces few new products, few new services, but it is rolling in boomtown money, nonetheless. Its faux prosperity is generated the old-fashioned way: by state coercion. The central government takes money from the folks “back home” and spreads it around the lobby culture, creating a fix-and-favor economy so prosperous that it outstrips all — literally, all — of the productive communities “back home.”

This situation can’t be politically hygienic.

"I, Nutella"

"I, Pencil" reprised.

Nutella is a stirring example of globalization and spontaneous order in action.

"Why privatizing marriage would be a disaster"

Interesting argument. My guideline is that societies should be very careful when "fixing" long-established, widely-accepted institutions.

"Our poor sleeping habits are filling our brains with neurotoxins"

Yet another reason to get your sleep: lack of sleep may foster Alzheimer's.

"Heart over Mind: The Death of JFK, Jr."

In this piece Eric Nolte, an "airline captain for a major carrier,"  makes two fine points. Here's one:

When the waves closed over the watery graves of Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law, calls began to arise for greater regulation of private pilots. But there were already plenty of regulations on the books to cover every facet of Kennedy's last flight. As I asked my friends, how would the government restrain anybody from getting in their cars and driving off a cliff? How does one regulate common sense? And more to the point, what are the hazards of granting government the power to attempt such regulation of horse sense?

We live in an era when most people assume that every new problem is properly open to solution by government regulators. Implicit is the belief that the regulators have enough power, information, and wisdom to meet any new challenge.

Young Kennedy's pitiful death illustrates some of the issues that arise from the question of government regulation and the hugely vexing and misunderstood question of the major political tension of our age: the questions of the political primacy of the individual versus the state, and the very purpose of government.

July 27, 2015

"Suggested Texts for the University of Chicago Ph.D. Economics & Finance 1st-Year Courses 2014-2015"

Alexander K. Zentefis, a Ph.D., student at the U. of Chicago, recommends books for graduate study in economics. Useful for undergraduates thinking of going, beginning graduate students, maybe even faculty planning courses.

Also useful for those folks: John Cochrane's eight links to writing resources.

"Pension Funds Burn Cities as $1 Trillion Shortfall Set to Grow"

To quote what the psychiatrist, Dr. Krakower, chillingly tells Carmela Soprano: "One thing you can never say: You haven't been told."

(Transcript of part of the scene here; video clip here. One of the absolutely best scenes of the show.)

Related: You might think they'd know better by now. But noooooooo! "The Dangers of Pension Obligation Bonds". (With extra nice touch: this unanticipated problem is due to a fix to an earlier problem.)

Also related: "Chicago's Financial Fire: The city faces trouble from every direction."

Also related: the private sector, no surprise, is smarter.

The stunning improvement in business and family balance sheets is arguably the most impressive and under-reported characteristics of this U.S. recovery (see chart). The latest government statistics indicate that the private sector has massively deleveraged following the debt binge from 2000 to 2008.

"Pension doomsday: How will Illinois pols cope with this crisis?"

Editorial, July 24, Chicago Tribune:

More bad news for Chicago (and Illinois) taxpayers arrived Friday morning in a 35-page, double-sided packet. On one of the last pages: "The entire Act is void."

. . .

The state is in a grotesque stalemate over its finances. Gov. Bruce Rauner, Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan can't agree on much of anything, let alone a pension strategy. Even a compromise offered by Cullerton and supported by Rauner that would give pensioned employees a choice on how to reduce their benefits doesn't appear likely to pass constitutional muster, given the courts' rulings. In this state, under these unambiguous decisions, you can't willingly negotiate away a constitutional right.

Words to remember

From a review of Nina Teicholz's The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Donald J. McNamara in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2015:

This book should be read by every nutritional science professional as a guide to risks of hubris and the unquestioning belief in whatever the conventional wisdom of the day is and to the consequences of basing public policy on belief as opposed to evidence of positive, beneficial effects. All scientists should read it as an example of how limited science can become federal policy, which may, in in the long run, be harmful when the basic tenets of science, skepticism, and consistent questioning are set aside to appease the powerful voices convinced that we must do something (even if we do not have the proof that that something is the right something).

(Sorry, no link because the piece is behind a paywall.)

"Hillary Clinton's economics: Suddenly it's 1947"

It is rather amazing how much affection today's Liberals have for the U.S. of 50 to 60+ years ago.

You can understand why that confidence was strong in Clinton's early years. The United States had just won a world war and was facing not the widely predicted resumption of the Depression of the 1930s but the surging postwar prosperity that is still fondly remembered by many.

"We must drive steady income growth," Clinton said, as if that were as simple as popping those new automatic transmission shift levers into "D." "Let's build those faster broadband networks." Which private firms were doing until a Federal Communications Commission network neutrality ruling demanded by Barack Obama. We must provide "quality, affordable child care," as if government were good at this.

"Other trends need to change," Clinton said, including "quarterly capitalism," stock buybacks and "cut-and-run shareholders who act more like old-time corporate raiders." This sounds like a call to return to the behavior of dominant big businesses in the early postwar years, when they worked in tandem with big government and big labor — and faced little foreign competition or market discipline.

"The Perfect Scientific Crime?"

The author makes a good point. (Read the article for the supporting case.)

An almost undetectable fraud would be to conduct a real experiment, and involve other people in it, but to control data management yourself, and substitute convincing fake or edited data for the real measurements. 

Related to science's current problems: "Top 10 ways to save science from its statistical self".

July 26, 2015

"What the ‘Times’ Got Wrong About Nail Salons"

Former Times employee seems to have exposed massive incompetence by his former employer

Boy, am I glad we have all those fine professional journalists at the Times protecting us from the scummy right-wing bloggers.

(Link via Marginal Revolution.)

"The Ten Essential Jerry Episodes of 'Seinfeld'"

Especially if you're new to the glories of Seinfeld, it's a fine list.

Or if you prefer Kramer--the "hipster doofus"--to Jerry, here's a list of his ten essential episodes.

"Why mosquitoes bite some people and not others"

One more reason not to be fat.

July 25, 2015

"Phil Jackson, NBA's Lord of the Rings, Faces Ultimate Test: Saving the Knicks"

He's chasing a dream of the old days with Red Holzman. That's kind of sad--you can't go home again--but I wish him luck.

"Cinema Sins: No movie is without sin."

Short videos of mistakes and implausibilities in movies.

July 24, 2015

"James Brown - The T.A.M.I. Show (1964) - Full Set"

The Godfather of Soul at the peak of his form. (Though some might argue for "James Brown, Live at the Apollo".)

First link courtesy of Michael Greenspan.

Just in the nick of time . . .

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary is tomorrow of one of the Most Important Events ever, the day Dylan Went Electric!

I know it's kinda important--at least to some elderly people--but do we really need a whole book? I don't; I'm content to have read the review.

"The 4-month hell of being turned into a Victoria's Secret angel"

Not good (or sustainable): 1300 calories/day.

Much better:

But health matters to me more than appearance and I’m happy with the way I look. I’ll probably keep doing weights but I’ll give heavy dead-lifts a miss. And despite the fame and fortune they enjoy, I’m happy to be back in my old routine – and not having to worry about how I look in my underwear.

July 23, 2015

"360 Camera | Eiger North Face – Summit"

Almost like being there, only less nerve-wracking and a whole heck of a lot safer.

Related: "Ueli Steck High-speed clumb [sic] on Eyger". Game me the willies just to look at it. No ropes.

Links via Gizmodo.

"Then and Now (30 Photos)"

Made me laugh. And sigh.

"Here are the 11 cheapest Greek islands for sale right now"

Get 'em before they're gone.

"Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature"

You know the drill: guess. Go ahead, guess.

July 22, 2015

"The Wright Brothers: Even More Badass Than You Thought"

Not completely true: I, at least, always thought they were badass.

"Seven conservative mistakes"

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post offers good advice, I think, to my team.

"Book Review: Tom Stossel's 'Pharmaphobia'"

"Yet, despite the book's extraordinary well-documented and indisputable examples of real progress, the negative impact of the "anti-innovation"  industry—which has used every trick in the book to slow progress—becomes just as clear. By far, the most potent weapon in the arsenal of the conflict-of interest-movement is the fabrication of the myth that the process that leads to innovation is inherently dishonest and corrupt."

Two on baby names

"Here is the most popular baby name in every state".

"Hipster baby name generator".

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