I routinely read the Presidential Proclamation to my family and guests each Thanksgiving, and this year I thought I’d do the same with the 4th of July Proclamation. To my surprise, I find there isn’t any, and usually hasn’t been. I looked up 1933, 1947, 1958, 2013, 2012, 2011, 1965, 1978, 1982,1990, and 1998 at the American Presidency Project. There were, however, proclamations each year from 2000 to 2007 and then again in 2009 (see here). And I was not quite accurate about 1978. Jimmy Carter did issue a Presidential Proclamation on July 4— but it was titled “Quantitative Limitation on the Importation of Certain Meat,” an absurdity which typifies his entire administration.
An Amicus Brief for Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius on the Topic of Balancing the Equities for a Preliminary Injunction
I looked over the recent Hobby Lobby en banc decision and thought about it. Everybody seemed to be missing the most important things in the case. Then, yesterday, I realized that the deadline for submissions for the next stage was today (July 3) at 5 p.m. At 2 p.m. I rushed into action. I was able to use my draft amicus for United States v. Marshall as a template, though it’s a different circuit and Hobby Lobby is at District Court right now, for which there are no official rules. Read more…
It would be useful for everyone, liberal, libertarian, and conservative, to confront the issue of which they’d prefer:
1. A dictator with the right policies (welfare state, free market, or promotion of virtue) or
2. A democracy with the wrong policies (free market and traditional values for the liberal, welfare state and traditional values for the libertarian, welfare state for the conservative).
We can up the ante in either case by specifying whether the dictator or democracy uses heavy oppression to maintain itself, e.g. executing 100 political opponents per year (which a democracy is capable of doing, just like a dictatorship).
I think conservatives would have no trouble picking (1), and liberals would have a strong preference for (1) but be ashamed to admit it and so would pick (2). I don’t know about libertarians.
Prof. Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution talks about Prof. Mankiw’s discussion of taxes, the top 1%, and productivity. I had a thought: The most productive employees are paid too little, including the most productive CEO’s. Read more…
It looks to me as if something is very wrong with the law of preliminary injunctions when it comes to the executive branch misusing its power. Here is what is supposed to happen. Smith sues Jones, asking the court to do X. For example, Smith may ask the court to stop Jones from selling a dog Smith claims is Smith’s dog. If doing X right away instead of in a year or two after a trial would prevent irreparable harm to Smith but not to Jones, then Smith can ask the court to do X immediately, via a preliminary injunction. Then, after the trial, the court will undo X if Smith loses. Read more…
This isn’t the typical tax case, where a lawyer is helpful so the client can avoid breaking the law, or the somewhat rarer one where the lawyer helps the client fix a mess after the client accidentally breaks the law, or the even rarer kind where the lawyer helps the client after client purposely breaks the law. This is a case where a lawyer is helpful so the IRS doesn’t think *it* can get away with breaking the law. Read more…
I am puzzled by how we should think about measuring the value of output in health care, or any market, when the prices are not at the competitive level.
What if the government has a maximum price of $500 for an angiogram, but the free market price would be $900?
In a free market, we measure GDP using output and market prices. Read more…
The White House visitor logs are actually available in spreadsheets, downloadable, on the web. I didn’t keep the address, but you can google it. I did edit the 2009-2010 one to extract just the likely IRS ones (Jonathan Davis is a common sort of name, so maybe not all of those are the IRS Chief of Staff). There may be some useful mining to be done on dates. The spreadsheet is at:
I already had the 2009-2012 bonus spreadsheet. I forget where I got it. Here it is, though:
The Education Dept. is bullying colleges by making absurd definitions of “sexual harassment”, something that itself is not part of the federal statute they are using. See http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/21/ocr-official-explains-harassment-policies-skeptical-college-lawyers, http://thefire.org/article/15970.html, http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/171165/ .
Some college has to actually fight the OCR in court. But who will bell the cat? The OCR knows that college administrators are generally cowards, and so they push them around, confident that the OCR can ignore the law because it won’t go to court. Could a college association perhaps ask for a declaratory judgement on behalf of its members, or could 50 or so colleges ask together, to avoid reprisal? The suit could ask for a declaration that a college is free under the statute to violate the OCR standard stated in the Montana agreement. The colleges would win, because OCR assertions that didn’t go through notice and comment and have no basis in the statute wouldn’t get Chevron deference. And it wouldn’t cost much to file such a challenge.
It would help the case that the colleges could quote the OCR representative as saying that he’ll “take it under advisement” as to whether the Dept. of Education should follow the Administrative Procedure Act. (“the entire room broke into applause in response to the notice and comment question”)
I’ve written an informal paper called, “How Immigration Can Hurt a Country”. Thoughtful comments are welcomed. I don’t welcome comments that just give your opinion on immigration; if you wish to comment, please make it a constructive or destructive comment on the paper.
“Can immigration (or capital inflow) hurt the welfare of a country? Yes, if there are decreasing returns to the factor, as this little paper will explain. The idea is important, and probably is new— at least, I couldn’t find it by a google search— but an economics journal would say it is obvious, I think, so I probably will not try to publish it in a journal. I will post it on the web instead. I do hope it gets into the academic literature and the policy debates. If it is received favorably, I will tidy it up and put it into journal style, adding cites and superfluous generality, and checking my arithmetic. My target audience is trained economists even now, however. Please let me know if someone has already made the external diseconomy argument. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had done so back in the 1920’s….”
I will post my little paper on the effects of immigration later today. In preparation for that, I downloaded the CBO report on the Senate bill. I find it unimpressive, except for the clarity of its writing style, which I do commend. Some notes:
1. The analysis assumes that immigration will raise total factor productivity. It alludes to increased specialization because of increased size of the economy, and increased innovation because of having extra high-skilled immigrants. Both are highly speculative. Yes, more Hyderabad programmers will increase innovation; that’s why the billionaires support the bill (they profit from those innovations— which is fine). But it’s dangerous to allow a fudge factor like “increased productivity from innovation” into an estimate— it can drive too much. It would be good to see these estimate with zero change in TFP.
2. I didn’t see anywhere how many of these immigrants are supposed to be high-skilled. I suspect that’s because it’s embarassingly small. If the report came out and said that we’d be adding 9.5 million low-skilled workers and .5 million high-skilled workers and productivity was going to rise as a result, people would laugh. Read more…
What does it tell us if 38 IRS lawyers make big contributions to Democracts and 2 to Republicans, when there are 1,791 IRS lawyers total? The question came up today at Volokh COnspiracy. Isn’t 40 out of 1,791 too small a proportion?
No. Surprisingly, if a sample is chosen randomly, what matters is that the sample be big enough, not how big the population is. Thus, if 40 out of 500 is big enough, so is 40 out of 10,000. That’s why pollsters don’t use samples more than about 1,000— if they’re really random samples, it doesn’t help much go to higher. Read more…
Gary North, noted “Christian Reconstructionist” has just published a scholarly rebuttal to a tax article by liberal Christian Susan Hamill (see here from Taxprof). This is cute, and I am glad it got published. It’s an example of how policy scholarship does have to depend on underlying ethical principles, and religious ones are just as much in need of good scholarship as atheistic ones. Read more…
Dr Cooke does not like teaching evaluation sites like Rate Your Lecturer. It’s not clear to me that these sites are a bad idea. More information about lecturer quality is good in itself; the problem is when it is misused, as student evaluations usually are by administrators in the United States, because they are too lazy to investigate actual teaching or, I fear, because the administrators really do just care about whether the students like the way a class is run. But exposing bad teaching is a good thing.
False information is clearly bad. How do the libel laws work in England? Can the victim force the website manager to divulge the names? Does the libellor have to pay your solicitor fees? If the website manager has allowed people to comment whom he cannot trace, is he himself liable? Read more…
I found a good stats article on fitting data to a power law distribution, testing whether the fit is good, and testing whether a fit to an exponential or lognormal distribution would be better:
Power-law distributions in empirical data, SIAM (2009)
Aaron Clauset,1, 2 Cosma Rohilla Shalizi,3 and M. E. J. Newman
For anyone checking in here: I got out of the habit of posting on my blog around June 1 and haven’t managed to get back to it. I might resume, but I might not.
For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about “Who lost Turkey?” when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Read more…
I was just googling to try to find out how much the Gulf oil spill might cost in damage. I suspect it’s overblown. Apparently Exxon Valdex caused damage of less than 5 billion dollars according to the Courts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the true damge were much smaller, since the courts aren’t likely to be fair where oil companies are concerned. Think, too— if (a big assumption) all the wildlife in a stretch of 10 miles is destroyed, leaving virgin habitat (since the oil becomes harmless under sand), won’t wildlife move back in after just a few years? That might be a bad few years for fisheries–if there are any— but as far as Existence Value, it just means a few years of nonexistence during which nobody much woudl ahve visited it anyway.I value Alaskan wildlife in general quite highly, but I value Alaskan wildlife from 1995 to 2010 at almost zero. That fifteen years has no cosmic significance at all, and also no personal significance to me.
I wonder if the current BP spill is really causing any damage?
many seemed intent on skirting campaign finance laws: Obama’s foreign contributors were making multiple small donations, ostensibly in their own names, over a period of a few days, some under maximum donation allowances — but others were aggregating in excess of the maximums when their contributions were all added up. Other donations came in from donors with names such as “Hbkjb,” “jkbkj,” and “Doodad.” Read more…
In January 1944, the Office of Strategic Services created a secret document entitled “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” (available hereas a free audio book) to assist operatives in disrupting the Axis war effort. It contains the expected stuff about starting fires and shorting electrical systems. But the most enlightening stuff comes at pages 28–31, in a section entitled “General Interference with Organizations and Production.” There, we learn that our secret weapon against the Nazi war machine was . . . bureaucracy. Note these ingenious plots:
The big problem with being poor in 21st Century America is not that you can’t afford to buy enough stuff, it’s that you can’t afford to move away from other poor people.
Eric Rasmusen says:
The European motive for doing this is to “save the euro” — a currency whose very existence is a monument to the unbounded narcissism of government. The euro notes are decorated by scenic views of handsome Renaissance, Gothic, and classical edifices — just like the White House on U.S. currency. The only difference is that the European buildings do not exist in what we used to call the real world. They’re entirely fictional. That’s Big Government: Even if you don’t build it, they’ll still come. If you invent a currency for a united Europe, a united Europe is sure to follow.
Who could be so stony-hearted, so truly inhuman, as to be insensible to what has occurred, or be affected by merely moderate grief? He is gone; heir of a noble house, prop of a family, a father’s hope, offspring of pious parents, nursed with innumerable prayers, in the very bloom of manhood, torn from his father’s hands…. Read more…
While I hesitate to ascribe motives, in the case of Brooks I shall make an exception. It really seems to me his ersatz Burkeianism is mostly about allowing him to pose as that irritating object, the liberals’ favorite conservative. And it conveniently allows him to do so without staking out any very specific territory. It’s just, oh, I don’t have any specific principles or ideas, you know; with me it’s about my dispositions, my habits, my gastro-intestinal predilections.
If deficits didn’t matter as many like Economist James Galbraith argue today, why should citizens even pay taxes? It would make everyone happier if they didn’t
I could never figure out whether the Platonic philosopher was aiming at the ability to offer irrefutable argument – argument which rendered him able to convince anyone he encountered of what he believed (the sort of thing Ivan Karamazov was good at) – or instead was aiming  at a sort of incommunicable, private bliss (the sort of thing his brother Alyosha seemed to possess). Read more…
I say that Marie Stopes International (which receives about £25 million a year from the NHS, much of it for killing unborn babies under contract) should be allowed to advertise its repellent services on TV. But on one condition. That each advertisement is followed by both of these: film of an actual abortion of a 24-week-old baby, and a brief documentary reminding viewers that Marie Stopes sent love poems to Adolf Hitler in August 1939, advocated compulsory sterilisation for the ‘unfit’, and cut her own son out of her will because he married a girl who wore glasses.
What sort of organisation would name itself after such a monstrous woman?
I’ve written about him once. That was in 2002. Washington University had decreed that reporters needed official permission to conduct an interview on campus. According to the new guidelines, a reporter who wanted to conduct an interview on campus was required to notify the Public Affairs office, and a person from that office would have the right to monitor the interview.
So Katz called and asked if I wanted to break the rules. Of course, I said. I went to his office and interviewed him. He wanted to talk about his bosses.
“They’re control freaks,” he said. “This kind of policy is something you’d expect from a corporation. I have nothing against corporations, but a university is a fundamentally different thing.”
He dismissed the notion of a closed campus.
“A university is a small town with public spaces open to all. There is supposed to be a free flow of ideas and people. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a real university. I’ve done a fair amount of consulting for the defense industry, and I’ve seen more freedom of thought, freedom to disagree, in the defense establishment than I see here.”
By the way, the door to his office was decorated with an American flag. That’s unusual in the physics department.
In 2010 so far, foreigners killed about 3 times as many people in Arizona as they killed US soldiers in Iraq
Update, May 29: More info–still not on murder specifically, and just Phoenix. Read more…
The attorney general has also used the power of the state to bully small businesses. In 2003, he sued Computers Plus Center for $1.75 million in damages for allegedly selling state government machines without specified parts. Mr. Blumenthal issued a press release accusing the business owner, Gina Malapanis, of fraud: “No supplier should be permitted to shortchange or overcharge the State without severe consequences,” he said. “We will vigorously pursue this case to recover taxpayer money and send a strong message about zero tolerance for contractor misconduct.” Ms. Malapanis was even arrested in her home on seven first-degree larceny charges.
In 2008 the charges against Ms. Malapanis were dismissed. As for the civil case, she refused to plead guilty and countersued the state for abusing its power and violating her constitutional rights. The jury, recoiling at the overly aggressive action that ruined her business, awarded her a whopping $18 million in January. In a handwritten note on court documents, the jury foreman said the state had engaged in a “pattern of conduct” that harmed Ms. Malapanis’s reputation, and cited the state’s press releases impugning her integrity, some of which came from Mr. Blumenthal. Mr. Blumenthal is appealing the decision.
Calderon was on with Wolf “Blitzed” last night on CNN Situation Room. Wolf Blitzer says, “What’s wrong with the folks in Arizona wanting to protect their border?”
CALDERON: In Arizona, there is some racial profiling criteria in order to enforce the law that it’s against any sense of human rights; and, of course, is provoking very disappointing, uh, things — or very disappointing opinion — in Mexico and around the world, even here in America. So to introduce this kind of elements, especially racial profiling aspect that are attempting against what we consider human rights, it’s the principle of discrimination which is against the values of this great nation.
RUSH: Yeah. Who is he to preach to us? For crying out loud, they deport more illegal immigrants from Mexico than we do! How do they catch their illegal immigrants? Do they profile them? How the hell do they find out who’s in their country illegally? Here’s the next question from Blitzer: “So if people want to come from Guatemala or Honduras or El Salvador or Nicaragua, they want to just come into Mexico, can they just walk in?”
CALDERON: No! They need to fulfill, uh, a form. They need to establish their right name. We analyze if they have not a criminal precedence.
BLITZER: Do Mexican police go around asking for papers of people they suspect are illegal immigrants?
CALDERON: Of course! Of course!
BLITZER: If somebody sneaks in from Nicaragua or some other country in Central America through the southern border of Mexico and they wind up in Mexico, they can going get a job?
CALDERON: No, no, no.
BLITZER: They can work?
CALDERON: If somebody do that without permissions, we send — we send back them.
RUSH: We didn’t record that ourselves. We didn’t make it up.
Unlike the U.S. Episcopal Church, which is almost entirely U.S. members plus some small dioceses from Latin America and Taiwan, United Methodism is more fully international, with about one third of its members in Africa. Amid growing United Methodist churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, among others, and a U.S. church losing about a 1,000 members weekly, the 11.4 million denomination likely will soon be majority African. At the church’s next governing General Conference in 2012, probably 40 percent of the delegates will come from outside the U.S., even further diminishing liberal hopes.
Without the religious background, there wouldn’t be any science, because the fundamental notion that separated the West from everybody else was the notion that God is rational and created a rational universe, so there were rules out there to be discovered.
Nobody else looked for the rules, because they didn’t believe they were there to be found. They didn’t believe that the world had been created in the same rational way. The marvelous thing is that these early Christian scientists, including Newton, believed God had created a rational world, went ahead and looked for the rules of that rational world — and darned if they didn’t find them. In an interesting sense, it was a scientific confirmation of the Christian religion.
Cultures change. What is overlooked about the Crusaders, and the knights and nobility of the 10th century and thereabouts, is that they were very bloody-minded. They had been raised since infancy to devote themselves to fighting. They were very sinful. They particularly were into coveting wives. And they were very religious.
The fact that these things can be combined strikes the modern mind as bizarre. But you have to deal with it if you’re going to understand these people. They would commit a horrid crime, and their confessor would say, “I don’t know if you can ever get over that one. I don’t know if atonement is in the books for you. But you better walk barefoot to the Holy Land and hope that that works.”
And they’d go. And then come back and sin some more.
the directors of the Legion issued a statement on March 26, which read, “We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place.” On April 25, Fr. Owen Kearns, publisher of the Legion’s newspaper, the National Catholic Register, added, “To Father Maciel’s victims, I pray you can accept these words: I’m sorry for what our founder did to you. I’m sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I’m sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I’m sorry this apology has taken so long.”
SAT Analogy Practice Test
* “Woody Allen Comes Out in Support of Polanski”–headline, Associated Press, May 16
* “Dodd Defends Blumenthal”–headline, The Weekly Standard website, May 18
Comments on the Milton Friedman Institute Protest letter
July 12 2008
(A group of University of Chicago faculty wrote a petition to our President opposing the foundation of a Milton Friedman Institute to support economic research. The full letter is here. These are my personal comments on that letter. I do not speak for or represent the Institute, the faculty committee, the University, or anyone else.)…
“Many colleagues are distressed by the notoriety of the Chicago School of Economics, especially throughout much of the global south, where they have often to defend the University’s reputation in the face of its negative image.”
If you’re wondering “what’s their objection?”, “how does a MFI hurt them?” you now have the answer. Translated, “when we go to fashionable lefty cocktail parties in Venezuela, it’s embarrassing to admit who signs our paychecks.” Interestingly, the hundred people who signed this didn’t have the guts even to say “we,” referring to some nebulous “they” as the subject of the sentence. Let’s read this literally: “We don’t really mind at all if there’s a MFI on campus, but some of our other colleagues, who are too shy to sign this letter, find it all too embarrassing to admit where they work.” If this is the reason for organizing a big protest perhaps someone has too much time on their hands.
I’ll just pick on this one as a stand-in for all the jargon in this letter. What does this oxymoron mean, and why do the letter writers use it? We used to say what we meant, “poor countries. ” That became unfashionable, in part because poverty is sometimes a bit of your own doing and not a state of pure victimhood. So, it became polite to call dysfunctional backwaters “developing.” That was already a lie (or at best highly wishful thinking) since the whole point is that they aren’t developing. But now bien-pensant circles don’t want to endorse “development” as a worthwhile goal anymore. “South” – well, nice places like Australia, New Zealand and Chile are there too (at least from a curiously North-American and European-centric perspective). So now it’s called “global south,” which though rather poor as directions for actually getting anywhere, identifies the speaker as the caring sort of person who always uses the politically correct word.
“The effects of the neoliberal global order that has been put in place in recent decades….”
Notice the interesting voice of the verb. Let’s call it the “accusatory passive.” “Has been put in place…” By who, I (or any decent writer) would want to know? Unnamed dark forces are at work.
“Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world’s population… weakening … struggling local economies”
I can think of lots of words to describe what’s going on in, say, China and India, as well as what happened previously to countries that adopted the “neoliberal global order” like Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Billions of people are leading dramatically freer, healthier, longer and more prosperous lives than they were a generation ago. “Weakening…struggling local economies” is just factually wrong about events on this planet….
This is just the big lie theory at work. Say something often enough and people will start to believe it. It helps especially if what you say is vague and meaningless. Ok, I’ll try to be polite; a lie is deliberate and this is more like a willful disregard for the facts. Still, if you start with the premise that the last 40 or so years, including the fall of communism, and the opening of China and India are “negative for much of the world’s population,” you just don’t have any business being a social scientist. You don’t stand a chance of contributing something serious to the problems that we actually do face.
“the service of globalized capital..”
I was wondering who the subject of all these passive sentences is. Now I’m beginning to get the idea. This view has a particularly dark history. A hint: “Globalized capital” has names like Goldman and Sachs. …
The letter starts with two paragraphs of meaningless throat-clearing. (“This is a question of the meaning of the University’s investments, in all senses.” What in the world does that sentence actually mean?) I learned to delete throat-clearing in the first day of Writing 101. It’s all written in the passive, or with vague subjects. “Many” should not be the subject of any sentence. You should never write “has been put in place,” you should say who put something in place. You should take responsibility in your writing. Write “we,” not “many colleagues.” The final paragraphs wander around without saying much of anything.
The content of course is worse. There isn’t even an idea here, a concrete proposition about the human condition that one can disagree with, buttress or question with facts. It just slings a bunch of jargon, most of which has a real meaning opposite to the literal. “Global South,” “neoliberal global order,” “the service of globalized capital,” “substitution of monetization for democratization.” George Orwell would be proud.
Ignoring Liebowitz was not possible any more, however, after he submitted his counter-study officially as a comment to the JPE in September 2007. Levitt started by asking one of the authors, Koleman Strumpf, for his opinion. Strumpf handed in his reply in November. He defends the study and retaliates by pointing to alleged mistakes in Liebowitz? comment.
In addition, Levitt asked for a report from an impartial referee. The referee recommends publishing the comment in order to “save subsequent researchers from building on a flawed research foundation.” While he advises Liebowitz to rephrase his comment such that it would not contain any overt assertions of data manipulation he sides with him on almost all the critical points and comes to a damming conclusion regarding the file-sharing article: “I would suggest that the authors? conclusions are not warranted given the analysis and evidence that they provide.”
However, Levitt is not inclined to publish the comment. He anonymizes the reply by Strumpf and uses it as a second referee-report on which he bases his rejection of Liebowitz? comment.