Friday, February 17, 2006



I don't comment on my work on this blog, but I would like to say something about standard business practices. I worked in the private sector and if I didn't return phone calls to anyone, let alone someone with the government, I believe I would have faced serious consequences and if it was persistent I would have been fired. Apparently this area of the country doesn't do business like that, because I get many people who unapologetically simply refuse to acknowledge your phone calls, let alone return them. Apparently they think that if they don't respond you will just go away. I've got news for those takes more time to avoid me then it does to respond to me. This has been a public service announcement.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


It's like Christmas

I have a new 400 page economic document I get to read through. It is just like Christmas. For those of you equally enthralled, here is the annual economic report of the President. I have to say that regardless of how you feel about the policies of this administration, the annual reports have been great primers for people interested in economics. They have been so good in fact, that I often wonder if the administration is actually reading the report it puts out. I can only hope that this year's report is of the same quality as previous years. I will let you know in about a week.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Funeral Services

As some of you may know...I toyed with the idea of being a funeral director as my chosen profession for awhile. This got me involved in "necronomics" as it is sometimes called. Death and death services are fertile grounds for interesting study and I'm always suprised that they don't get more attention. In any case, this paper "State Casket Sales and Restrictions: A Pointless Undertaking?" goes to a fundamental point of pricing services. If somone is buying an end output or service, the relevant price is the total price and not the component price. I remember back when I was taking Antitrust classes arguing vigorously for extending monopoly power to secondary product lines if possible for some services and products. The reason is simple...the demand for the end product or service is whatever it is and thus the price that they are willing to pay is not determined by the pricing of the various components since most customers don't really care about the inputs into the good and only the output that they are receiving. If a company has monopoly in one input area but not another, it doesn't change the price that they can ultimately charge the consumer, but it might change the allocation of inputs by distorting the true rate of technical substitution and thus create inefficiencies in the production of the product. In any case...I think the paper is pretty interesting so I thought I'd share.


Sunday Night appears Dick Cheney shot a fellow hunter this weekend. Prepare for him to be the posterboy for gun control in the coming months.

In more interesting reading is a paper from the University of Chicago that is pretty interesting. "Should We Aggregate Mental Hospitalization and Prison Population Rates in Empirical Research on the Relationship between Incarceration and Crime, Unemployment, Poverty, and Other Social Indicators? On the Continuity of Spatial Exclusion and Confinement in Twentieth Century United States (January 2006)"

Have fun reading.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


On my way out

I'm about to head out for appointments, but I thought I would share this. Via geekpress. It is safe for work, but if someone walks up behind you they might think you are a bit weird. Especially the bunny rabbit.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Why you would never want to face an economist in a Reality TV/Gameshow.

Gladly, I'm not the only Economist watching a reality tv show. Glen over at Agorophilia is watching Survivor and has this post on the dangers of not knowing basic probability theory.



Via Newmark's Door I was directed to this post at Tightly Wound. ...this conversation is hilarious. I think I will be checking in on this blog fairly regularly if this post is any indication of content.

"And since he is four and has my tendency toward hyperbolic overstatement, we have emotionally fraught rides home like this:

Boy: I wanted to see the doggie!
Me: You'll see him tomorrow.
Boy: Nooooo! I wanted to play with him today!
Me: I weep for your loss. (Sarcasm, the last refuge of the tired and edgy)
Pause. Boy doesn't get it, so he changes tactics.
Boy: I want to go to outer space!
Me: Well, when you grow up and get your college degree in science or engineering, maybe you can.
Boy: Nooooo! I want to go now!
Me: You can't go now.
Boy: Why?
Me: Because they don't make space suits in your size. Only grownup sizes.
Another pause, followed by a deep wailing cry:
Boy: First I can't play with the doggie, and now I can't blast off into outer space! THIS IS THE MOST DISAPPOINTING DAY EVER!
Preach it, brother.

Via geekpress...not all placebos are equal. Story here.

I'd also like to point out that the one game show that I'm currently watching and having a hard time not watching despite all its flaws is Beauty and the Geek. I don't know why I watch this show. I mean the women lie through their teeth and the guys...well the guys are pretty cool by my standards so the fact that they are considered geeks is a bit troublesome. (From this season my two favorites are already being ripped to of them wearing a shirt saying "I put the stud in study" and the other writing in red paint that looks like blood on the wall of a room in an interior design competition.) Also, the girls as a general rule aren't really that attractive. So far each season (a total of two) there was only one girl that I really found myself interested in. First season was this girl. 2nd season is this girl.

I also have to wonder how many times they hit the contestants over the head and told them..."It is not a gameshow...refer to it as a "social experiment." A social experiment? It is a show that appeals to the lowest common denominator. It's main source of appeal is that everyone watching can find someone that they feel superior too. And watching I get more and more bitter. Exchanges like the one where one of the girls tells the guy who asks what she would do if one of them came up to her and asked her out responds by saying something like, if you approach with confidence then you could get somewhere. It is a lie. Take it from a guy who has approached many many women with quite a bit of confidence and well situated in the knowledge that I'm the best looking guy in the room. It doesn't matter how you approach the woman if you aren't insanely successful, i.e. wealthy, or over 6 feet tall with a moderately decent build.

Anyway...that's all I wanted to say today...catch ya all later.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Couple of news stories

Kenya won't accept food supplement because it is used in dog food and is "culturally insensitive." Okay, here is all I have to say about you think someone who is starving cares if the donation is "culturally insensitive?" Link here.

On another note...there is this article about Justice O'Conner with this nice little excerpt:

"In speeches she sometimes tells the story of a ranch hand from her childhood who got arrested so often after drinking that he ran for and got elected as justice of the peace so that he'd have easy access to jail."

I don't know why, but I find that story particularly appealing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Woman serves 12 years and Appeals Court declares she comitted no crime.

Via How Appealing there is this interesting court decision. I find several things fascinating about this decision.

It begins "Petitioner spent 12 years in prison for conduct that is not a crime." Okay, they have my attention. But then get this "because she had previously been convicted of three felonies and one gross misdemeanor - all fraud related - she was sentenced as a habitual criminal to five life sentences."

Okay, so let's even assume that the last conviction was legitimate, which based upon the unanimous decision and the rather simple and not very technical ruling it seems obvious it was not, but let's assume that it was, do 3 fraud related felonies and one gross misdemeanor warrant five life sentences? And if they do, then they surely warrant the death penalty. I find it implausible that we should sentence anyone to five life sentences for offenses that we would not be willing to put them to death over. Now, I'm not saying that fraud isn't a serious crime and that we should just look the other way and there shouldn't be punishments, even severe punishments, but I'm looking for some perspective here. Granted, I don't know the scope of her fraud...for all I know the other offenses were hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the elderly, but somehow I doubt that was the case.

Another aspect of the case that I find so fascinating is that it seems like the lower courts were suffering from a problem with defining the money supply that economists have argued over for awhile. The woman convicted had a secure card and wrote checks that she did not have sufficient cash to cover them. The secure card guaranteed her checks, but she was convicted of writing bad checks. The point that the appeals court noted was that since the secure card guaranteed the checks, by definition they could not have been bad. Many years ago economists did not wish to include checks in the definition of the money supply, until a few rather sensible economists pointed out that even if there were no funds in the checking accounts that the person writing the check was still responsible for the payment of these debts and they did effectively increase the money supply. In any case, the lower courts clearly allowed the jury to ignore the law and convict someone on a crime they did not commit, and while I'm not sure if she has any legal recourse to renumeration, I would hope so because it seems like she should be able to get enough to never have to work again. Jay may have to comment on this, but I think despite the harm done to her, the fact that it was facilitated through a jury verdict and the fact that it would be hard to prove that the lower courts willfully ignored the law rather than just being so stupid as to not notice the word "credit" in the law, I don't think she has any legal standing to sue for damages in this instance, which in my estimation is a shame. Yes...I guess I'm becoming more liberal in my old age.


Just checking in part 55

Jane Galt has an interesting post about some parts of the State of the Union that struck her.

"there were the Democrats, clapping joyously at the news that they'd voted down Social Security reform. They looked like adolescents mocking authority. Memo to Dems: if the American voter wanted sullen, rebellious adolescents in Congress, they would have sent their own, if for no other reason than to get them out of the basement. George Bush let them applaud their intransigence for a while, then said, "Now we still have a giant entitlement problem." This made the Dems look foolish enough. But, in keeping with the role of teen rebel who is not paying close attention to teacher, they kept applauding. Brilliant! Why didn't those Machiavellian Republicans think of positioning themselves as the party that's glad we have a gigantic, intractable entitlement problem? About halfway through the moment, some of the brighter senators seemed to realise that they were applauding something that they oughtn't to be. But by then, they apparently figured it was too late to back down, and the best course of action was to bull through as if they'd intended all along to celebrate multi-trillion dollar budget shortfalls."

For those of you who think Jane Galt is a Republican foot soldier, I will point to the other moment she thought was so entertaining.

"Then there was George Bush, with perhaps my favourite all time line in a SOTU: "These tax cuts are about to expire. I call upon you to do the responsible thing and make the tax cuts permament." (Paraphrase; emphasis mine)
What fantastic definition of the word "responsible" allows for this locution?
"Do the responsible thing, and teach your children how to smoke crack . . . ""Do the responsible thing, and call in sick to work today so you can go fly fishing . . . ""Do the responsible thing, and dump your aged parents in a substandard nursing home to far away for you to visit . . . ""Do the responsible thing, and take $50 out of the till . . . ""Do the responsible thing, and declare bankruptcy . . . "

So anyway...anyone not reading Jane Galt should start. Other than that I don't have much to say today except for a brief recommendation for movies.

Last weekend I watched "Nothing." It is on DVD now and is from the director of "Cube." It is about two guys who discover they have the ability to wish things that they really hate away. You can see immediately where it is going, but it is nonetheless a very nice comedic piece. I don't think it is the "think piece" that some of the commenters on IMDB are making it out to be, but I do think it is very well done. So go check it out.

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