December 29, 2003
Somebody Got Out of Bed on the Wrong Side This Morning

Unf sez: If you're going to be gauche and dweebish enough to run a comic strip that talks about the stock market, try to make sure that its talk about the stock market is accurate. Unfogged: Now that I'm back to blogging, I just can't stop myself. Two posts in as many days! I have never understood why Slate, when it wanted to run a cartoon (an entirely admirable goal, in my view), chose Doonesbury. Its like reading a dumbed down version of the New York Times editorial page, brought to life by a group of characters who stopped being interesting around the time Gerald Ford left office. I'm only prompted to offer this observation because of today's strip. No doubt this strip is the first of several that will blame G.W. Bush for yet another failing - in this case the erosion of people's retirement savings. But the premise is that this woman's portfolio is down 20% on the year. Which is odd if you consider that the S&P 500 is actually up about 15% for the year. Which means either this woman got some really bad investment advice, or Garry Trudeau (sp?) is even lazier than I thought....

Posted by DeLong at 04:50 AM

December 10, 2003
When Personalization Technologies Attack

When personalization technologies attack! Basil Iwanyk tried (unsuccessfully) to deal with his TiVo run amok: JEFFREY ZASLOW: Basil Iwanyk is not a neo-Nazi.... But... [he] live[s] with a machine... TiVo, the digital videorecorder that records some programs it just assumes its owner will like, based on shows the viewer has chosen to record. A phone call the machine makes to TiVo, Inc., in San Jose, Calif., once a day provides key information.... [W]hen TiVo thinks it has you pegged, there's just one way to change its "mind": outfox it. Mr. Iwanyk, 32 years old, first suspected that his TiVo thought he was gay, since it inexplicably kept recording programs with gay themes. A film studio executive in Los Angeles and the self-described "straightest guy on earth," he tried to tame TiVo's gay fixation by recording war movies and other "guy stuff." "The problem was, I overcompensated," he says. "It started giving me documentaries on Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Eichmann. It stopped thinking I was gay and decided I was a crazy guy reminiscing about the Third Reich."... I'm thinking about this right now because it seems that Google--at least from the ads it places--has decided that I am (or my...

Posted by DeLong at 08:08 PM

November 18, 2003
Kevin Drum Agrees with Me!

Kevin Drum agrees with me that Master and Commander is really a Star Trek movie: Calpundit: The Day After Tomorrow: I just got back from seeing Master and Commander, which was OK, I guess. Sort of like Wrath of Khan set in 1805 or something. How's that for a review? But is it a good Star Trek movie? If it's as good as The Wrath of Khan, it's definitely worth seeing. If it's just an ordinary Star Trek movie, it probably isn't. So far reviewers have split into three groups: Men who like the "rum... lash" realism and are impressed with cannon-go-boom. Men who love the books and are distressed at the evisceration of Stephen Maturin's character. Women. So far I have read no review by any woman. Russell Crowe claimed that women would like it because the movie was really about "relationships" and not rum, lashes, and cannon-go-boom. I'm skeptical....

Posted by DeLong at 07:23 AM

November 15, 2003
You Can Take All the Tea in China...

The 160 page Williams and Sonoma Christmas Catalog has arrived. Already I have learned that "Tupelo honey" has nothing to do with Tupelo Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis. And that has implications for the meaning of the Van Morrison song, "Tupelo Honey"... Tupelo honey comes from bees that feed on the tupelo gum tree of northwest Florida (and southern Georgia). And Williams and Sonoma would like to charge $17.50 a pound for it. But considering that they also want to charge $43 a pound for Point Reyes cheeses......

Posted by DeLong at 09:02 PM

November 10, 2003

Somewhere in the British Isles a village is missing its idiot: Andrew Sullivan attempts to draw a distinction between "imminent" on the one hand and "ready to take place" or "hanging threateningly over one's head" on the other. From Joshua Micah Marshall: Talking Points Memo: Live by the word game, die by the word game. Andrew Sullivan arguing that no one said the threat was imminent (emphasis added) ... We can fight over words in this way, but the fundamental reality also undermines Marshall's case. The point about 9/11 is that it showed that we were in a new world where we could be attacked by shadowy groups with little warning. The point about Saddam is that he was a sworn enemy of the U.S., had been known to develop an arsenal of WMDs, was in a position to arm terrorists in a devastating way, and any president had to weigh the risk of him staying in power in that new climate. The actual threat hangs over us all the time. It is unlike previous threats from foreign powers. It is accountable to no rules and no ethics. We know it will give us no formal warning. But we cannot...

Posted by DeLong at 07:44 PM

November 09, 2003
Mansfield the Chair-Dragging Labrador

The last Saturday of the eighth-grade soccer season, in mid-fall. A man brings his 90-lb Labrador Retriever, Mansfield, to the game. The man gets pressed into service as a line judge. He ties Mansfield by his leash to a chair--one of those modern 12-lb folding chairs made of space-age materials that folds into an incredibly small space. Mansfield watches as his owner begins to run up and down the sideline at a furious pace, waving a yellow flag. And so begin... The Adventures of Mansfield the Chair-Dragging Labrador* I will leave them to your imagination... *Also featuring my dog, Misty, America's Silliest Dog, and the four Golden Retrievers....

Posted by DeLong at 03:55 PM

November 08, 2003
The Fascist Octopus Is Joined by an Outriding Dog

British Politics finds another example of a mixed metaphor that maxes out the scale: Ian McCartney's article in the Guardian today.... "Howard is far from an unknown quantity. He was the Thatcherite outrider - the dog of war charged with unleashing the poll tax when she was in office, and with keeping the flame alight once she had departed. " An outriding dog of war unleashing taxes with a lit flame? It does sound rather scary. Send his special adviser back to the thesaurus. So is this or is this not better than the fascist octopus spreading its bat-wings and singing its swan song?...

Posted by DeLong at 04:21 PM

A Foolish Consistency, or Is That Consistently Foolish?

Abu Aardvark chuckles over the inability of Straussian Harvard political "philosophy" professor Harvey Mansfield to remember this month what he said last month: Abu Aardvark: Mansfield [wrote]... "One reason why Perestroika did not do well in the APSA elections may be that you turn off thousands of conservative political scientists by dwelling on left-wing political issues such as affirmative action and minority preferences." As one clever person then pointed out, "I am puzzled as to how there could be thousands of conservative political scientists when, as Harvey also claims, conservative students are so discriminated against that there are hardly any conservatives in the field of political science."... [I]t's amusing to see Mansfield get himself tripped up in conflicting political spin points... sounds like a C- to me. I suppose that is one of the occupational hazards of regarding the overwhelming bulk of other people as either the simple to be deceived or the gentlemen to be flattered....

Posted by DeLong at 04:04 PM

Matthew Yglesias Tries to Teach Jonah Goldberg How It's Done

Matthew Yglesias offers Jonah Goldberg some tips in how to debate Paul Krugman should Goldberg ever want to increase his credibility from zero to some (admittedly small) positive amount: When you put words in Krugman's mouth, link to places where the words actually appear--not to crudely-drawn web animations. When you criticize Krugman for being a crazy leftist with fringe views, do not use as an example any of the many views that Krugman shares with people like Alan Greenspan. TAPPED: November 2003 Archives: HOW GOOD IS GOOD NEWS? Yesterday in The Corner came this from Jonah Goldberg:Obviously, Krugman is peeved with the good economic news. But he'll surely fall back on the news that productivity is so high. Normally and rightly this is a good thing, but lately folks like Krugman argue that productivity growth is a sign that we're working existing laborers like dogs rather than hiring new ones. At first I thought that might be a link to an example of Paul Krugman being peeved about good economic news, but it actually takes you to a page featuring some kind of animated cat. Back to substance, though, Jonah might be interested to learn that this "working existing laborers...

Posted by DeLong at 03:54 PM

November 07, 2003
Why It's Good Not to Have a King

With Clinton we (or at least those of us who voted for the guy) shared the blame because we chose him to be president. But the allegations against Prince Charles... who is Prince only because William the Bastard called himself King by right of conquest are a different story. Fortunately, Prince Charles's staff says that the allegations are completely untrue. And Neil Gaiman provides further details: Neil Gaiman: The goat was not, in fact, Spanish, but Portuguese, and is currently living safely in a wildlife preserve in East Molesey. The Tango is a dance made famous in Argentina. "Erotic licking" plays no part in the Tango. Neither, of course, do balloons. Only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. If the alleged incidents had in fact occurred in broad daylight during a car-boot sale in Harrow then there would be photographs, and quite possibly a plaster cast. By now the "Use by" stamps on the yoghurt would have expired, indicating it as unfit for human consumption....

Posted by DeLong at 10:10 PM


The Two-Hour-Lunch's take on the Political Compass (with its four quadrants: conservatives, statists, positive libertarians, and negative libertarians) is brilliant: 2hrlunch: Are We Not Old Men?: The Political Compass.... Per the quiz that goes with the chart - I'm a left leaning semi-libertarian. I think that means that I think whatever adults want to do with sheep in the privacy of their own home is OK as long as the gummint pays for it. Or it could mean that I want the gummint to get out of the way and let the market provide the sheep for consenting adults. I'm so confused.... The other current members of the (-3, -5) faction include: Adam Mansfield Al-Muhajabah Amanda Butler Benedict @Large Brad DeLong Brock Sides Enda Nasution Jason and Stuff John Constantine Josh Cherniss Lance Knobel Michael Drake Seth D. Michaels The Two Hour Lunch Uncertain Principles Unlearned Hand Our first order of business: finding a name for our tendency: (-3, -5) does not sound euphonious....

Posted by DeLong at 07:46 AM

November 02, 2003
Mixed Metaphors

Somewhere out there, the fascist octopus is spreading its bat-wings and beginning to sing its swan song: Evil Overlord's Diary ....

Posted by DeLong at 07:22 AM

October 31, 2003
How Inept Are National Review's Economics Writers?

How inept are National Review's economics writers? They are unbelievably inept. They are so inept as to be completely off the scale of ineptness. For example, consider Victor Canto of La Jolla Economics. He asks the question: Victor A. Canto on GDP Forecasting and Supply-Siders on NRO Financial: [W]ho had the closest GDP forecast? I went back and looked at the tables in the January 2003 Wall Street Journal Forecasting Survey, as well as the revisions to these forecasts.... I computed the annual real GDP forecast [of growth in calendar 2003] of participating economists from the quarterly figures and ranked the economists in descending order. The results were pleasing.... Leading the way was John Mueller, a long-time supply-sider, with a 5.32 percent forecast for [real GDP growth in] 2003. Our own Larry Kudlow, at 4.40 percent, was third... But... But... But... These are forecasts for growth over calendar 2003--forecasts made last January of what the average of the first quarter, second, quarter, third quarter, and fourth quarter growth rates would be. The first quarter annual growth rate was 1.4%, the second quarter was 3.3%, the just released initial third quarter was 7.2%, and the current consensus forecast of the fourth...

Posted by DeLong at 03:50 PM

How to Keep Your Weblog From Getting You Fired

After some poor guy working at Microsoft gets fired for publishing a picture of a truck containing six new Macintosh computers on his weblog, Microsoft's Robert Scoble writes about how to keep your weblog from getting you fired: The Scobleizer Weblog: inside Microsoft are pushing me to write some blogging guidelines so they will know how to avoid getting fired... I've been asked to avoid discussing the firing on my blog because it's a personnel issue and because it's Microsoft policy not to discuss those issues in public....

Posted by DeLong at 02:57 PM

October 29, 2003
Poor and Really Stupid

Self-confessed Paul Krugman cyber-stalker Donald Luskin threatens to sue himself. I have come into possession of the following letter, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the letter here: October 29, 2003 Dear Mr Luskin: This firm represents Donald L. Luskin, a Contributing Editor to National Review Online and author and host of, among other activities. You, Mr. Luskin, in your post of May 7, 2003, entitled "We Stalked. He Balked" make the false assertion that Mr. Luskin has committed the crime of stalking. Such a statement constitutes libel per se, an actionable tort subjecting both the author--that's you, Donald L. Luskin--and the publisher--that's National Review, which has the extraordinarily bad judgment to publish your ravings--to liability for both actual and punitive damages. As a result of your personal control over your postings, Mr. Luskin, as well as the fact that Mr. Luskin has personally brought these libelous comments about Mr. Luskin to your personal attention, Mr. Luskin, already, you face personal liability for their distribution. You, Mr. Donald L. Luskin, in your claim that Donald L. Luskin has committed the crime of stalking, have gone beyond mere expressions of opinion and made false and defamatory statements of alleged fact...

Posted by DeLong at 06:14 PM

October 23, 2003
Empirical Evidence that Republicans Can't Count?

One Cesar Conda--"former domestic and economic policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and a board director of Empower America--writing in National Review provides powerful evidence that Republicans cannot count: The Bush Recovery on NRO Financial: Productivity growth has remained strong, even during the recession. In the second and third quarters of this year, productivity grew at a phenomenal 7 percent rate. The reason: Businesses have been squeezing output from current workers to meet the growing demand for goods and services. But as firms add new workers, this cyclical burst in productivity growth should recede to 1 to 2 percent in the coming months as new employees are rarely productive -- it takes time to learn a new job. With real GDP growing at 4 percent or more and productivity growing at 1 to 2 percent for a good portion of next year, U.S. companies will have to add between 120,000 and 180,000 jobs a month to meet the additional 2 to 3 percent in demand and output. Leave to one side any criticisms of the--bizarre, wingnut--forecast that American productivity growth is about to slow to a 1% to 2% annual growth rate. If real GDP grows at 4% over...

Posted by DeLong at 02:32 PM

The Best Book I Have Not Read

Some customer reviews of The Bush Boom: Customer Reviews: The Bush Boom [5 Stars] Excellent!, October 16, 2003 Reviewer: A reader from New York, NY United States I haven't read this book, but Don Luskin gave it a great review! That's good enough for me! [5 stars] WOW!, October 16, 2003 Reviewer: A reader from Denver, CO United States I have NOT read this book, but boy, was it good. The best book I have ever not read....

Posted by DeLong at 02:18 PM

October 22, 2003
Department of "Huh?"

National Review outdoes The Onion on this one! The smart and usually sane (for a believing supply-sider, that is) Bruce Bartlett goes off the deep end with an enormous SPLASH!!!!, and in the process demonstrates that his comparative advantage is not Bible commentary. He argues that the estate tax makes the Baby Jesus cry, and that Jesus was the first supply-sider, acknowledging "the value of wealthy people to society as a whole": Bruce Bartlett on the Estate Tax on NRO Financial: Lately, [Bill] Gates [Sr.] has invoked the Bible to argue for the estate tax. "This notion that there's a God-given right to pass everything on to your kids, that's not in the commandments I've read," he recently said. Actually, it is in the Bible.... However, the most emphatic repudiation of wealth redistribution appears in Luke 12:13, in which Jesus acknowledges the value of wealthy people to society as a whole: "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully." Ummm... Ummm... Ummm... Let's look at the whole passage: Luke 12:13-21: And one out of the multitude said to him, "Master, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." And Jesus said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or...

Posted by DeLong at 11:54 AM

The Onion Is a National Treasure

The Onion is a national treasure: Limbaugh Says Drug Addiction A Remnant Of Clinton Administration: WEST PALM BEACH, FL--Frankly discussing his addiction to painkillers, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience Monday that his abuse of OxyContin was a "remnant of the anything-goes ideology of the Clinton Administration." "Friends, all I can say is 'I told you so,'" said Limbaugh, from an undisclosed drug-treatment facility. "Were it not for Bill Clinton's loose policies on drug offenders and his rampant immorality, I would not have found myself in this predicament." Limbaugh added that he's staying at a rehab center created by the tax-and-spend liberals. Leak Scapegoat Still At Large: WASHINGTON, DC—A White House administration official who can be blamed for leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the press remains at large, White House officials announced Monday....

Posted by DeLong at 11:36 AM

October 21, 2003
Does Anybody at National Review Read Larry Kudlow's Columns?

Does any editor at National Review read Larry Kudlow's columns? Does Larry Kudlow read Larry Kudlow's columns? Does Larry Kudlow even remember that three months ago he was treating two-month short-term movements in monetarist indicators as dire warning signs of the utmost seriousness? And has he forgotten that monetary policy is carried out not by the U.S. Treasury but by the Federal Reserve? October 21, 2003: Some economic research services have stirred up the worry pot over recently sluggish money-supply growth.... But this monetarist view hugely overstates the issue and misinforms the analysis.... Far more important than short-term swings in money measures like MZM is the recent and honest statement by Treasury Secretary John Snow that rising economic growth will bring higher interest rates during the next year or two. Not only did he seize the political high ground by linking an expected interest-rate rise to stronger capital formation -- rather than budget deficits -- he is also signalling acceptance of a stable or even stronger U.S. dollar as part of economic recovery... July 27, 2003: What we needed from the Fed this week was shock-and-awe-level accommodation — in the form of a 50-basis-point cut of the fed funds rate.......

Posted by DeLong at 03:34 PM

If Bill Clinton Were Addicted to Oxy-Contin

Exactly right: a perfect strike: - Printer friendly - If Bill Clinton were an addict, here's how Rush might spin it: By Bill McClellan Somewhere in a parallel universe, where we are the same people but things have happened in slightly differently ways, Rush Limbaugh greets his loyal listeners this morning. "Lots to talk about today. You all know already that Bill Clinton, our former president, has admitted an addiction to prescription drugs. "It's interesting to see the way the liberal media are playing this. I'm looking at a copy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Saturday, October 11th, edition - the day after the big announcement. Well, the story is on Page 2, and right next to his photograph, in large boldface print, is the following quote: 'I take full responsibility for this problem.' "That's interesting, folks, because if you look at his actual statement - not what the liberal media say he said, but what he really said - you get a different take on it. First, he says he's got back problems. So he's blaming it on that. Then he says he had surgery, but the surgery wasn't successful. So he's blaming it on the doctors....

Posted by DeLong at 02:48 PM

October 20, 2003
Cyber-Stalking Paul Krugman

These days people like David Warsh, who used to write about how the New York Times's editors needed to hold Paul Krugman to "elementary standards of courtesy and fair play" now write that Krugman "turned out to be absolutely right [on the California electricity mess]. The industry’s conduct was the real story in California— 'looting' behavior every bit as shocking... as that of many bankers in the... American savings and loan crisis... And Krugman played the key role in alerting the rest of the world..." So it seems like it's time for an update on Paul Krugman's principal cyber-stalker caballeros. How are they doing as it becomes more and more clear that Krugman was right about more and more things? I took a look at the top three, and pickings are slim: Andrew Sullivan appears to be continuing his cyber-stalk, and attempted trashing, Paul Krugman. But the stalking and trashing is absolutely pitiful--he's clearly just going through the motions. Here are the last four examples: October 16, 2003: BAD DAY FOR KRUGMAN: More people are getting jobs. September 30, 2003: FINALLY, DIVERSITY: At the NYT, David Brooks writes about Paul Krugman. September 30, 2003: And since I'm not part of...

Posted by DeLong at 12:59 PM

October 18, 2003
Secret Computer-Training Woman

Yet another aspect of the division of labor: sekrit after-hours computer training. Adam Smith would be amazed: - Execs who are tech dummies seek secret training - Oct. 14, 2003: NEW YORK (AP) -- She often meets her powerful clients on nights and on weekends, when no one is around. Some of them insist she call only on their cell phones, fearing the loose lips of secretaries. Yet there is nothing unsavory about Jennifer Shaheen's line of work. Shaheen, 32, is a computer tutor to corporate big shots, giving pointers in the fine arts of opening e-mail attachments, navigating Excel spreadsheets and performing other PC chores the executives' minions probably can do in their sleep. "You'd be surprised by what they don't know," Shaheen says. "And they're not comfortable asking the IT person in their company because then they show weakness to their staff." Now that the computer revolution is over -- and it's clear the computers won -- some senior executives are in the embarrassing position of being perched atop the corporate ladder without knowing their apps from their elbows. "It used to be a badge of honor to say, 'Everyone knows how to use the computer, but...

Posted by DeLong at 11:07 AM

October 16, 2003
This Is a Joke

Crooked Timber is wrong. This is a joke. It is an unintended joke--which makes it all the funnier: Crooked Timber: Shenanigans! : Via Atrios, this is not a joke. Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to “stop the leaks” to the media, or else.News of Bush’s order leaked almost immediately. Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he “didn’t want to see any stories” quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used....

Posted by DeLong at 01:29 PM

October 13, 2003
There Are Two Legitimate Astronomical Arguments

Jean-Philippe Stijns has provoked a train of thought about the style of argument of the Bush administration: Let's take the shape of the earth first. I am not telling anything here that wasn't public. There were two legitimate astronomical arguments. One is that the earth is round. I certainly taught that in my astronomy class. The other argument is a bit more subtle. There are frightful things out there on the ocean: storms, hurricanes, giant kraken, large whales covered with vegetation that you think are islands and moor to them--but then they start to dive. Run into any of these and your ship sinks. Thus sail out into the ocean, and you might very well find yourself falling off of the edge--that is never coming back. There is sound scientific evidence for doing as we did....

Posted by DeLong at 08:09 AM

October 06, 2003
Pokemon on Patmos!

The next installment of Patrick Farley's Pokemon-like character version of The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine is now up. It features my Berkeley colleague Professor Sheila Na-Gig... How The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine ever found its way into the canon of a religion calling itself Christian is beyond me......

Posted by DeLong at 06:44 AM

October 02, 2003
We Are the Uttermost West

Stephen Cohen: "Everybody knows that you can't go west from California. There is no place wester. If we go from California to New York, we go Back East. If we go from California to Tokyo, we go to the Far East. We cannot go west. There is no way to do it."...

Posted by DeLong at 08:55 PM

October 01, 2003
Important to Check Your Email

Well, I'm glad I checked my email before heading out to my local Walnut Creek Barnes and Noble: Virginia Postrel: Dynamist Blog: WALNUT CREEK TALK CANCELED: Following the great book business tradition of atrocious logistics management, the Barnes & Noble in Walnut Creek has sold out of its original small shipment of TSOS and hasn't received, or can't find, the 40 books they were supposed to have in stock for my appearance tonight. They're in the business to sell books, not to host authors' talks. So they told me not to come. My sincere and profuse apologies to any readers for whom this last-minute cancellation causes problems. I will be appearing at the Stanford bookstore (on campus) tomorrow night at 7:00. At the book signing I went to last Friday, small independent Signal Books had no problem coming up with extra boxes--nay, extra truckloads of Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling....

Posted by DeLong at 07:40 PM

September 29, 2003
Trevon Logan Seminar II

The caloric elasticity of income in Mexico in the late 1990s was 1.1%--compared to 52% for the U.S. or 65% for Britain in 1888, or 37% for India in 1983. Logan: "So I only have problems if there is a non-uniform distribution of chickens in the backyard." DeLong: "But what does 'uniform' mean in this context:? A uniform contribution of chickens in the backyard to log household income is not a uniform distribution of chickens across households." Romer; "Truer words were never spoken!"...

Posted by DeLong at 05:48 PM

Trevon Logan Seminar

From Trevon Logan's seminar: "The numbers on that transparency are much too small. Don't you agree, Brad?" "Well, Bill Easterly says that there are two kinds of transparencies: those that you want the audience to read, and those that you want to use as bludgeons to beat the audience into believing that you've done a hell of a lot of work. As the second kind of transparency, it's fine. As the first kind of transparency, it is definitely lacking." "Brad, how did you get that number? "By mistake....

Posted by DeLong at 05:47 PM

September 25, 2003
Modern Etiquette

From the Incompetent Attorney: Patent Pending: My cousin on my dad's side just got engaged. She's my age and we spent a lot of time together as kids. She's throwing a big engagement party this weekend and my dad has been saying that "we should all go." I sent her a check last weekend figuring that it was better than carrying the card into the party with me. She called my Dad on Monday to say she got my check but I was not invited. She only invited my parents. She didn't invite me or my two brothers. I thought, hey, that's cool. No big deal. But then she cashed the check. My mother was quite insulted that her children were not invited. My dad thinks his side of the family is angelic. He still wants to go to the party. I said to my mother "I don't think you should go. Show some solidarity." My mom, ever the genius, said "Your father is making me go. So I'll just show up and eat all of their f***ing shrimp."...

Posted by DeLong at 05:13 PM

September 21, 2003
U-Sub-Zero, or, Tearing Your Pleasures with Rough Strife Through the Iron Gates of Life

"We assume that you receive utility u0 while alive, even if you have no consumption at all, and that that utility contributes to social welfare." --Chad Jones, 2003 "... But at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. They beauty shall no more be found Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound Thy echoing song. Then worms shall try That long-preserved virginity. And your quaint honor into dust. And into ashes all my lust. The grave's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace." --Andrew Marvell, 1664...

Posted by DeLong at 08:57 AM

September 14, 2003
The Ten-Year-Old Evades a Trap

The Ten-Year-Old: You know, it was strange in that Mel Brooks movie--"Space Balls"--that he played the President? It didn't seem to me that that society would have a president. Adult: Well, he was much more a dictator who took the title of President. The Ten-Year-Old: But he called himself a President. Adult: "President" doesn't have to mean elected. After all, "President" is just a Latin word meaning, "the guy who sits in the front of the room." The Ten-Year-Old: But that was two-thousand years ago. Meanings drift. Since then, the word "President" has picked up more meanings--it's not just a title. Adult: So are you saying that any government can call its ruler "President," but that only someone elected in a free and fair election in which a majority of the voters casting ballots voted for him or her is a real President? The Ten-Year-Old: Yep. A majority of the voters. Or a majority of the votes in some weirdo electoral college setup that makes no sense but that is nevertheless part of some duly-ratified constitution. Yep. Adult: Ah. The Ten-Year-Old: I'm only ten, but I'm not stupid you know. Adult: Ah....

Posted by DeLong at 08:59 PM

September 07, 2003
Note: Theology for Nerdy Eggheads

It is said that theology changes its mode from age to age--from that of the Sky-Father to that of the One Who Is to that of the Anointed One. Is it now changing to that of the Programmer? Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:49 PM

Who Are Those Guys?

Norman Geras writes: normblog: But at the end of my post about the Western I offered, more or less from memory, some lines from the ten Westerns I'd listed, challenging people to match these lines to their respective movies. Not one communication have I had about this. What, have you no pride? I mean, if you can't get them all, can you get even one? Well, I can get one: "Who are those guys?" is from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:27 PM

September 05, 2003
Waste, Fraud, Abuse, and Innumeracy

TAPPED directs us to Roger Ailes who finds that Andrew Sullivan has found $60 trillion a year of waste, fraud, and abuse in federal consultant contracts. Pretty remarkable to discover that waste, fraud, and abuse amounts to 30 times the entire federal budget. Innumeracy is indeed a terrible thing: Who was it who said, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is"? Roger Ailes: Sully and Sullibility One of my favorite Andrew Sullivan bits is where Sully prints anonymous e-mails as though they contain the truth. Here's a good one today:In the early 1990's, I watched a good friend of mine grab a 600 grand a year 'grant' from her friend, and fellow JFK Schooler, in the EPA. For the next ten years, my friend got 600 grand annually, (disbursed thru Las Vegas, aptly enough) for doing ... absolutely nothing. I mean nothing.At the end of ten years, my friend had spent all the money, and had produced a series of annual reports, each one approximately 40 pages long, filled with pseudo-scientific booshwah so ridiculous that even her friends couldn't help smirking when they read...

Posted by DeLong at 05:56 PM

September 04, 2003
Note to Self

Do not, repeat, do not, skip breakfast and then skip lunch on a day when you are then going to read and talk about Trevon Logan's job market paper. Why? Because of the subject matter of the paper, which is entitled "The Transformation of Hunger: Nutritional Well-Being and the Evolving Demand for Calories". Reading, thinking, and talking about this paper for an extended period of time on a very empty stomach is not recommended....

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 PM

August 26, 2003

"So what's the difference between a comedy and a tragedy?" "In Shakespeare, a comedy ends with everybody getting married. A tragedy ends with everybody getting killed--except for one character left alive to explain what happened and say some closing words." "Everybody?" "Remember Measure for Measure? Four--count 'em--four marriages at the end: Lucio to the unnamed tart, the Duke to the heroine, Claudio to what's-her-name, the pregnant one, and Angelo to Marianna." "And in a tragedy?" "Think of Hamlet. Everyone's dead at the end. Everyone with a line. Except Horatio." "Everyone?" "Well, Fortinbras survives to show up after the slaughter. And Horatio survives. But Polonius... Ophelia... Laertes... Rosencranz... Guildenstern... the King... the Queen... Hamlet himself... Generally, if you have more than a hundred lines in a Shakespearean tragedy, you're dead at the end. Hamlet is a more bloodthirsty and violent spectacle than Reservoir Dogs. There is nothing that Quentin Tarantino could teach William Shakespeare."...

Posted by DeLong at 09:10 PM

August 19, 2003
Repairing a Defect in the Internet

One of the disappointing thing about the internet is the low quality of most invective on it. Invective there is in plenty. But high quality invective? It seems to have been driven out by a kind of Gresham's Law. So I would like to acknowledge General Glut, whose invective is of a fine and vintage quality: General Glut's Globblog: [DeLong's analysis] falls painfully short precisely because the Good Doctor is a liberal economist and thus has no real appreciation for either structure or history......

Posted by DeLong at 03:31 PM

August 18, 2003
This Has to Be a Joke. Doesn't It?

So I make my first expedition in time out of mind to Donald Luskin's website. What do I find there? I discover that he is very unhappy because a bunch of people (of which I am one) have been worrying that real interest rates have been "too volatile" recently. What do we mean by "too volatile"? Well, we think that real interest rates should be determined by Federal Reserve policy and by opportunities for profitable investment produced by expectations of economic growth, and that nominal interest rates should equal real interest rates plus expected inflation. And we are worried because it looks as though recent large and volatile swings in interest rates have been driven not by changes in Fed policy, expectations of investment opportunities, growth, and inflation, but rather by "technical" factors in the bond market--specifically, the endogenous and poorly-understood duration of mortgage-backed securities. And a financial market that is feeding the rest of the economy the "wrong" prices--prices that don't accurately indicate fundamentals but are distorted by technical factors, noise, and bubbles--is not doing its job, and is leading the rest of us to make mistakes about where to allocate productive resources. How does Luskin respond to this...

Posted by DeLong at 02:30 PM

August 01, 2003
When Architects Attack!!

When architects attack!! Kieran Healy is trapped in overlapping rings of hexagons somewhere in Australia, unable to find his own office (let alone anybody else's): The Coombs Building's layout is a marvel of logic and clarity, provided you are looking at it from the outside and are in a helicopter . Like a gigantic carbon molecule, it is composed of three, three-storey hexagonal blocks each of which shares a side with one of the others. One (soon to be two) of the hexagons has a stub protruding from it that appears to be the bottom side of a fourth hexagon but of course is not. Once inside the building, finding your way around is simplicity itself. Rooms are numbered according to an elementary system whereby the first digit denotes the block, the second the level and the third the room itself. You will of course not be tempted to think there are three blocks (on an obviously absurd analogy to the three hexagons) but rather will intuit straight away that there are seven. Blocks are numbered beginning with the main entrance corridor at the bottom of the middle hexagon (which offers the shortest route between the left and right hexagons)...

Posted by DeLong at 08:10 PM

July 31, 2003
Coquetting with the Modes of Expression

The Washington Post's Al Kamen is bemused and somewhat incredulous at the College Republicans'... ummm... ummm... coquetting with the modes of expression of the National Socialist Party: In the Loop: It was, by all accounts a most successful 55th biennial convention last weekend of the College Republican National Committee... 1,100 delegates... Elaine L. Chao... Tom DeLay... Karl Rove... outgoing chairman, Scott G. Stewart... Stewart's favorite decades-old songs... "Stomping Out the Reds"... sung to the tune of "Bringing in the Sheaves" The chorus goes: "Stomping out the Reds, stomping out the Reds/ We'll advance rejoicing, stomping out the Reds!" The first verse is: "Meet the Left in action, put them all in traction/ Get great satisfaction, bashing in their heads!" The last verse begins: "Bayonets bright gleaming, panzers forward steaming . . . " Panzers? Nazi tanks? Ah, those exuberant Yalies....

Posted by DeLong at 09:05 PM

Shorting Poindexter

Tom Maguire wonders why it was that proponents of DARPA's Policy Analysis Markets played up the idea of the U.S. government funding trading pits in bioweapons attacks on Israel and assassinations of foreign leaders, rather than talking about forecasting indexes of political stability and economic output: Semi-Daily Journal: Comment on More on DARPA's Policy Analysis Market: ...Well, props to James S (and others), for attempting to explain what this program was, rather than recycling the hype offered by the critics. A DARPA doc describing the program is here (p B-8 of Appendix, or p. 68-9 of the .pdf file): So, sort of related - why the fierce opposition to what is arguably a useful idea? Was it a hit on Poindexter? And why did the plan proponents get so stupid? Letting the critics make headlines with these examples of "assassination contracts" was incompetent. Why did they not have their ideas thought through, with clear, sensible example that they were ready to defend? Why are we dragging the details out of tired old James, when they should have had a press kit available for that hearing? Or was it a mousetrap, where the subject was sprung on an unsuspecting Wolfowitz?...

Posted by DeLong at 05:07 AM

July 29, 2003
Moral Hazard

DARPA's ideas to research whether derivative markets will produce good forecasts of future politico-military events is an interesting idea in how to aggregate information (Robin Hanson has worked on this, and produced some cool stuff). Make people put their money where their mouth is, and perhaps you wind up with better forecasts. However, there is the... moral hazard problem. I mean, people who offer fire insurance have a moral hazard problem. This might create a much bigger such problem. The UnAustralian collects some comments on this problem from Slashdot: The UnAustralian: Predicting TerrorismApparently, DARPA is trying to create a idea futures market for events in the Middle East. Naturally this leads to many opportunities to take the piss out of this project. Because it's late, I'm not going to think up any myself, but will rather quote from some slashdot hit three or four correct terrorist acts and the next thing you know you're in an orange jumpsuit overlooking guantanamo bay.--sweeney37I think any organization bright enough to pull off a major terrorist act would also be bright enough not to make a bet with the pentagon about when and where it would happen.--Fred IV"Woot! Car Bomb in Riyadh! That...

Posted by DeLong at 07:45 PM

July 24, 2003
Microsoft Quality Software

Microsoft's Slate is supposed to dump a nicely-formatted text email of its "Today's Papers" column into my email box sometime around 4:00 AM Pacific Time each morning. The email message below appears to have started its odyssey at 2:46 AM PT. But it showed up in my email inbox at 9:15 PM PT--having thus spent 18 1/2 hours in transit. And the formatting! No line breaks that make sense. Every single quote escaped with a backslash. I'm still trying to figure out what possible combination of software issues could have produced this... To: From: "Today's Papers" <> Subject: Today's Papers: Total Eclipse of the So ns X-OriginalArrivalTime: 25 Jul 2003 04:15:57.0589 (UTC) FILETIME=[72B01C50:01C35263] Date: 24 Jul 2003 21:15:57 -0700 today\'s papers Total Eclipse of the Sons By Eric Umansky Posted Thursday, July 24, 2003, at 2:46 AM PT ************************************************************ (advertisement) MSN Messenger is giving away $1,000 an hour for 10 hours every Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT through Aug. 15, 2003. Enter the Fast Cash Friday Sweepstakes, then log on with MSN Messenger 6.0 for your chance to win. Enter now! ************************************************************ The Washington Post and USA Today\'s leads follow up on the demise of...

Posted by DeLong at 10:15 PM

July 15, 2003
Wow! "If Politicians Want Greater Savings, They Will Have to Run a Bigger Deficit"

Wow! I wrote too soon. The previous post (just below this one) was not even the nadir for that particular issue of National Review. The nadir comes in the column that closes with "If politicians want greater savings [i.e., to boost the growth rate of American wealth and production], they will have to run a bigger deficit." Thomas E. Nugent on Five Financial-Market Fallacies on NRO Financial: ...I am sure you have heard more than one economist or politician bemoan low savings rates in the U.S. as if higher savings rates would somehow help the economy. I guess these guys think that increased savings means more capital for business investment. How silly is that! In aggregate, one person’s savings is another person’s income. If I decide to spend less and save more, then someone else won’t have that income. The economy slows as a result and there is less need for capital investment. And banks can lend money unconstrained by the size of their checkbooks, so if businesses want to borrow to increase capital expenditures, there doesn’t have to be a higher level of savings to accomplish that end. However, the most important aspect of savings is deficit spending by...

Posted by DeLong at 06:08 PM

How Dumb Does National Review Think We Are?

Why does National Review think we are so dumb? And just how dumb does National Review think that we are? Larry Kudlow on George W. Bush and Supply-Side Presidents on NRO Financial: ...For the economic historians among you, the administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, guided by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, constituted the second supply-side presidency.... The point of all this is simple: Prior to George W. Bush, all these other supply-side presidencies led directly to lengthy periods of strong economic growth and low unemployment. Does National Review really hope that nobody notices that Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's principles guided Republican presidents' economic policies not just through the presidencies of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge but also... Herbert Hoover? Does it really hope that nobody notices that Mellon carries a large share of responsibility not just of the 1920s boom but also of that Little Unpleasantness in the 1930s? The National Review must think its readers are dumb as s*** for them to not remember that the order of the presidents goes, "Harding, Coolidge, Hoover." (Note that this is not the low point, not even of this column. The low point is the beginning sentence: "The liberal banshees on...

Posted by DeLong at 05:47 PM

I Knew Intellectual Standards at Stanford Were Low, But This Is Ridiculous

I knew that intellectual standards at Stanford are low, but this is ridiculous. Ex-Stanford professor and provost Condoleeza Rice complains that it is not fair for her to be tested on footnotes that she did not know were there: With Mallets Toward One ( Meanwhile, reporters keep hounding the administration over President Bush's use of the bogus Iraqi uranium procurement allegation. They pestered national security adviser Condoleezza Rice last week on Air Force One. When an intelligence agency demurs from a consensus view in an assessment, it "takes a footnote," Rice explained. The State Department's Intelligence and Research (INR) office doubted the story about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger, she said, and that "standard INR footnote was 59 pages in the back," so she and Bush didn't know... Condi: You know those little superscript numbers you occasionally see in the text? Those are called "footnote numbers." For every footnote in the back, there is a number. That's how you know that if you are a serious rather than a casual reader of National Intelligence Assessments, you are supposed to turn to the back of the report and read the footnote. And, yes, professors, graduate students, and Assistants to...

Posted by DeLong at 05:13 PM

July 14, 2003
Ontologizing without a License

Kieran Healy is surprised that there are readers of the Volokh Conspiracy whose primary identity is not human but male--who seem to believe that they have more in common with he-canaries and bull-buffaloes than with humans of the female gender... Crooked Timber: Identity and Essence: ...I can understand how being male is more fundamental to his identity than being 40 or an economist, but he also seems to say that it's the essential thing about him. He’s a man first, "not a human who happens to be a man." Can he really mean this? What if he had to choose one property or the other? Would he really prefer to be a male non-human than a non-male human? Say, a fine, strapping male canary rather than a woman? Maybe I’m misreading his view. Or maybe my he-canary vs woman preference ranking is not widely shared... Let's all to pledge to Kieran that if we are ever faced with the choice of uploading his consciousness into a he-canary or a she-human body, we will choose the second....

Posted by DeLong at 03:00 PM

July 11, 2003
Precision of Language

Precision of language is important: Uncertain Principles: Vaguely Relevant Geek Joke: A colleague mentioned seeing an oral exam in which a student worked through a derivation on the chalkboard, and ended up with has answer having the wrong sign. "I seem to have made a sign error," he said. "No," corrected one of his professors, "you seem to have made an odd number of sign errors."...

Posted by DeLong at 10:50 AM

July 08, 2003
Symposium Participants

Having been scolded for anachronism in writing a dialogue in which Glaukon converses not with his brother Adeimantos but with Alkestis's husband Admetos, it seems to me that I should write down some real, actual Platonic dialogue names to avoid such grevious intellectual blunders in the future. So, from the Symposium and the Republic: Apollodoros Agathon Sokrates Alkibiades Phoenix Philippos Glaukon Adeimantos Aristodemos Eryximachos Aristophanes Phaedros Pausanias Diotima Platon Ariston Polemarchos Niceratos Nicias Thrasymachos Lysias Euthydemos Charmantides Klitophon Aristonymos Kephalos...

Posted by DeLong at 06:27 PM

July 05, 2003
Drawbacks of Nepotism

It is fair to say that without nepotism Adam Bellow would never have gotten the chance to get his very lousy article in praise of nepotism into the Atlantic Monthly. Armed Liberal, like me, first thought it was a parody......

Posted by DeLong at 09:01 PM

June 30, 2003
Once in a Blue Moon

For Kevin Drum, it is Conservative Defense Day. A once in a blue moon event. I'm not sure he's correct about Bush, but I think he is about Clarence Thomas......

Posted by DeLong at 08:22 PM

June 26, 2003
In the Uttermost West [Revised]

In the Uttermost West Place: The Uttermost West, Before the Thrones of the Valar, in the Timeless Halls Time: Between the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers. Maia 1: Olorin! How have you been! Seems like I haven't seen you for most of an age! What have you been doing? Olorin: For thirty lives of men I have walked the roads of Middle-Earth till the bleeding cracks on my feet had bleeding cracks on them... Maia 2: Oh, I remember. The mission. Coordinating the elves and men in that mopping-up operation against what's-his-name, that lieutenant of Morgoth, Gorthaur... Olorin: He calls himself Sauron now... Maia 1: What's it like? Living on Middle-Earth? Being incarnated in a mortal, killable fleshly body? Having only a dim shadow of your native powers, intelligence, and memory? Olorin: I bitterly longed for this place desperately, yet my memory was so fogged that I could not really see what I yearned for in my mind's eye. Maia 1: You couldn't even be known by your own name... Olorin: Gandalf, they called me. Mithrandir... Maia 2: But it's over now. Your task is done! You can kick back and relax. Wait until you see what...

Posted by DeLong at 06:11 PM

June 24, 2003
No Justice in the World

I have been to the corner of Moose and Squirrel Streets in Banff, Alberta, Canada. I was distressed and desolated to find that there was no sign of the International Headquarters of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Fan Club there. Clearly there is no justice in this world....

Posted by DeLong at 08:17 PM

June 20, 2003
African Plains Ape!

"OK. What large animals have we seen so far on our vacation?" "Elk!" "Bighorn sheep!" "Mountain goats!" "Coyotes!" "Canis familiarls!" "OK. What kind of large animal have we seen the most of so far on our vacation?" "None of the above!" "None of the above?" "None of the above! We've seen many more of the African plains ape than of any other large animal!" "African plains ape!" "And they're *way* out of their natural habitat!" "African plains ape!" "The most common large animal in the Canadian Rockies!" "African plains ape!" "Clearly it's time for them to be the object of an animal management program!" "African plains ape!"...

Posted by DeLong at 09:34 PM

June 06, 2003
Drug-Free Zones

The MinuteMan has a strange, linkless post wondering whether there are former drug users in San Francisco: Just One Minute: Are There Former Drug Users In San Francisco? The Gamma-man is worried. I have no personal knowledge of whether or not there are former drug users in San Francisco. I do, however, have personal knowledge that the City of Berkeley has put up a sign on Telegraph Avenue proclaiming it a drug-free zone....

Posted by DeLong at 01:01 AM

June 05, 2003
Thoughts on Leo Strauss, or, a Product of a Procrastinatory Monday Morning

I spent half of Monday going and reading Leo Strauss's Thoughts on Machiavelli. I read carefully. And now it is crystal clear to me that all previous students of Leo Strauss have completely failed to understand the book, and have failed to grasp the core of Strauss's political philosophy. The conventional Strauss-student interpretation of Thoughts on Machiavelli is that Strauss's book is a complete and thorough refutation of Machiavelli's teaching. Machiavelli wants to overthrow the teaching of classical political philosophy, with its search for how to organize the well-ordered city in which the good for man can be pursued. Machiavelli wants to replace it with... Machiavellianism. Thus Strauss begins his book by writing (pp. 9-10) that he chooses the side of those who profess: ...the old fashioned and simple opinion according to which Machiavelli was a teacher of evil.... the only philosopher who has lent the weight of his name to... [the] way of political thinking and political acting... [which is now designated] by his name. Callicles and Thrasymachus, who set forth the evil doctrine... are Platonic characters... the Athenian ambassadors who state the same doctrine... are Thucydidean actors. Machiavelli proclaims openly and triumphantly a corrupting doctrine... And Strauss ends...

Posted by DeLong at 07:07 AM

May 20, 2003
Cuteness Will Rule

Robert Wright has a theory that evolution is driving animals toward greater and greater intelligence. The first order effect is that evolution creates diversity. The second order effect is that a diverse and complicated world is hard to make sense of, hence there is a "fitness" advantage to having sense organs to figure out what's going on around you, and a brain to process your sense data so that you can figure out what to do. Now the Poor Man has an alternative theory: evolutionary pressures are driving animals (especially those that hang around humans) not toward greater and greater intelligence but toward greater and greater cuteness: Cuteness: an alternate theory, which posits that the major evolutionary pressure is pushing creatures towards greater and greater cuteness. Cuteness can be used to make other creatures do things for you, as well as for disarming and mesmorizing prey. Cuteness is already the most important trait of many animals we share our lives with, animals who humans feed and care for but who give nothing back to us in return except the occassional mess on the rug - animals such as puppies, kittens, and babies. I envision the future as a never-ending evolutionary...

Posted by DeLong at 04:56 PM

May 19, 2003
The Monica-Free Zone

The MinuteMan gets snarky on Joe Lieberman: Just One Minute: Lieberman On Letterman: Doleful Joe gave the Top Ten reasons he should be the nominee. Number one, which I paraphrase: "Look at me - will I ever get involved in a sex scandal?" Big laughs. Now, note to Joe and his staff - Clinton is not your opponent, and Republicans are not likely to nominate you. Two points: First, Lieberman has to win the Democratic primaries, and few Republicans vote in the Democratic primaries. Second, the natural order of things has been overturned--the MinuteMan's blogspot archives work--and so clearly all bets are off....

Posted by DeLong at 05:25 PM

May 16, 2003
Denial Is Not a River in Egypt

But whatever denial is, Jane Galt is over her head and swimming in it. The "Clinton was worse!" reflex is priceless: Asymmetrical Information: : Jacob Levy calls the Senate tax cut proposal the worst tax cut ever. I'm not sure that's fair. It's certainly a dreadful one, but let's not forget all Clinton's "targeted tax cuts"... :-)...

Posted by DeLong at 12:43 PM

May 15, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CXI

The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes reports: MINOR MEMOS: Trust us, it's good: Treasury gives a department award to assistant secretary for devising the first "dynamic-scoring" analysis for the Bush tax cuts, but still refuses to release his work to Congress or the press... And one does have to wonder just what the Republican senators think that they are doing: Senators privately lampoon Bush's stock-dividends break, and stimulus claims for the bill. Dissident Snowe, asked which fellow Republicans truly back it, says, "No names are coming to mind." In Indiana, Bush 26 times says plan would create jobs; Congress' analysts find short-term gains would "eventually likely" be reversed due to big deficits......

Posted by DeLong at 10:07 PM

May 08, 2003

Synchronicity? Or simply short social distance? Elizabeth Lawley finds and is highly amused by the website of Sumana's boyfriend Leonard. Here's what it does to this website....

Posted by DeLong at 11:09 AM

May 05, 2003
Terabyte Networks in Outer Space

Speaker: ...Lots of activity in space!... Terabyte networks with free-space optics.... Of course, what you do with these terabyte networks is unclear... Me (whispering to guy sitting next to me): Create SkyNet and watch it conquer the world? Guy Sitting Next to Me (whispering back): Brad, I really don't think he's ever seen The Terminator....

Posted by DeLong at 04:35 PM

Indicating the Level of One's Talk

Speaker: The level of my talk is going to fall somewhere between S., who is launching picosatellites into orbit, and M., who is failing to set up his home 802.11b network....

Posted by DeLong at 04:32 PM

May 01, 2003
And Why Do You Want a Ph.D. in Sociology, Dr. Frankenstein?

In the comments on Edwardian Manor House, sociologist Kieran Healy... mourns[?] (it's not quite clear)... the passing of the days when sociologists were allowed to run "experiments" that would have made Dr. Frankenstein blush: >>In many ways, the Manor House series is a recreation of Milgram's famous "prison" experiment<< You mean Zimbardo's prison experiment. Milgram is the electrocution guy. Oh for the days before Human Subjects Review boards....

Posted by DeLong at 11:51 AM

April 27, 2003
Long Term Backups

Dan Hon finds a Slashdot comment giving sage and time-tested advice on the appropriate long-term data backup strategy. If it's good enough for Ashurbanipal, "King of the World, King of Assyria!" it should be good enough for you: Slashdot: Etched stone seems to have a staying power of approximately 10,000 years, even with some outdoor exposure. Earthenware tablets, made of clay fired at low temperatures (1816F/991C), seem to do nearly as well, while stoneware tablets, made of clay fired at high temperature (2345F/1284C), last about the same as actual stone. Ceramics have relatively high resistance to moisture and thermal variation. Depending on the clay composition and the application of glazes, there is variable resistance to acid. Ceramics do not handle physical shock particularly well. Glass can last thousands of years, but is vulnerable to shattering or acid. None of these, however, are earthquake-resistant. Outside of the immediate blast radius, they're good against nukes. Etching into stainless steel is good, although in the event of a nuclear attack, this would be succeptible to melting (or self-destruction due to induced current) within a certain area. It handles thermal and moisture extremes pretty well, but doesn't handle acids well. Stamping into gold foil...

Posted by DeLong at 10:28 PM

April 23, 2003
Alexander Gerschenkron on Criticism

From The Fly-Swatter. I need to have this printed up on cards and handed out: Alexander Gerschenkron: Let me have your criticism, general and particular, and let me have it promptly.... Criticisms are to be submitted in the form "I suggest the following change" never in the form: "This does not make sense" or similar.....

Posted by DeLong at 08:46 PM

April 17, 2003
An Only-in-America Moment

An Only-in-America Moment: Rabbi: The McBrides will now open the Ark of the Torah......

Posted by DeLong at 09:55 AM

April 15, 2003
More High-Quality Research from the American Enterprise Institute

Who is the sleaziest senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute? Kevin Drum reminds me to link to Tim Lambert, who thinks it is concealed-carry crusader John Lott. In our last episode Lott adopted false identities to praise his own books and courses and slime his intellectual adversaries. In this episode Lambert thinks that Glenn Reynolds and Dave Kopel have been eager enablers and transmitters of Lott's anonymous poison pen, and that Lott has now been reduced to quoting his own anonymous slime at one remove. Lambert has a very strong case. Kevin Drum: JOHN LOTT UPDATE....Tom Spencer reminds me today to go take a look at Tim Lambert's website, where he chronicles the ongoing adventures of prevaricating gun shill John Lott, something that I haven't done lately. And whaddaya know, it's a twofer: John Lott and Glenn Reynolds.Long story short, here's what happened: back in 2001 there was an NAS panel charged with doing a gun study. One of its members was a guy named Steve Levitt, and Glenn and Dave Kopel wrote an NRO article complaining that the panel was stacked. In particular, they complained that John Lott was not on the panel and that Levitt, who they...

Posted by DeLong at 11:20 AM

April 08, 2003
More Holes Revealed in Matthew Yglesias's College Education

Today reveals more holes in future American Prospect writing fellow Matthew Yglesias's college education: Matthew Yglesias: Square Circles: God's inability to make square circles is like God's inability to create szlactons, not like my inability to build a refrigerator. It?s not that God lacks the capacity to do it, it's just that the sentence "God could create a szlacton" doesn't attribute anything meaningful to God. Clearly he has never read John M. Ford's story, "Scrabble with God" (in John M. Ford (1997), From the End of the Twentieth Century (Framingham, MA: NESFA Press: 0915368730)): I don't recommend playing with God. It isn't that he cheats, exactly. But the other night we were in the middle of a game, I was about thirty points up, and He emptied out his rack. ZWEEGHB. Double word score and the fifty-point bonus. "Zweeghb?" I said. "Is that a challenge?" "Well..." If you challenge God and you're wrong, you lose the points and get turned into a pillar of salt. "Look outside," He said. So I did. Sure enough, there was a zweeghb out there, eating the rosebushes, like Thurber's unicorn. "I thought you rested from creating stuff." "Eighth day, I did. Now I'm fresh...

Posted by DeLong at 12:59 PM

April 05, 2003
Terminators of Endearment, or Pride and Extreme Prejudice

IIRC, this started when Eric Flint remarked that his and his wife's taste overlapped in two and two places only: (i) Jane Austen novels, and (ii) Terminator movies. Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things: Terminator meets Pride and Prejudice. Adrian [Hon] sez, "Brenda W. Clough and Ryk Erik Spoor have come up with the ingenious idea of a Terminator/Pride and Prejudice crossover, and are currently writing sections on rec.arts.sf.written. Possibly the funniest thing I have read this year." "Indeed," said the man (whom Patience could not help but think of as made of clockwork, though he manifestly was something far stranger), "I speak of these things not merely because of the way that I am made, though indeed a machine should do that which it is made to do, but because I have found that I have developed, through our many conversations, a feeling of that which is proper, both within the bounds of your society and without; and being that I am, here, a gentleman, I find that I am also bound to behave as a gentleman would, and indeed, Lady Patience, I must warn you that this Mr. Connor is a man of less than sterling character."...

Posted by DeLong at 09:23 AM

April 02, 2003
In the Uttermost West...

A cooperative project, so far limited to me and the Nine-Year-Old. Come help us out at Revised and updated... Place: The Uttermost West, Before the Thrones of the Valar, in the Timeless Halls Time: Between the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers. Maia 1: Olorin! How have you been! Seems like I haven't seen you for most of an age! What have you been doing? Olorin: For thirty lives of men I have walked the roads of Middle-Earth till the bleeding cracks on my feet had bleeding cracks on them... Maia 2: Oh, I remember. The mission. Coordinating the elves and men in that mopping-up operation against what's-his-name, that lieutenant of Morgoth, Gorthaur... Olorin: He calls himself Sauron now... Maia 1: What's it like? Living on Middle-Earth? Being incarnated in a mortal, killable fleshly body? Having only a dim shadow of your native powers, intelligence, and memory? Olorin: I bitterly longed for this place desperately, yet my memory was so fogged that I could not really see what I yearned for in my mind's eye. Maia 1: You couldn't even be known by your own name... Olorin: Gandalf, they called me. Mithrandir... Maia 2: But it's over...

Posted by DeLong at 02:49 PM

March 26, 2003
The Onion Brightens My Day

The Onion continues to swing for the fences, and occasionally hits one out of the park. Patrick Nielsen Hayden comments on their latest home run: Actually, what you can count on is that the deadliest thing in any given issue of the Onion will be one of the sidebar headlines that don't actually link to a story. In this case: "New Bomb Capable Of Creating 1,500 New Terrorists In Single Blast."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:19 PM

And Now For Something Completely Different...

We interrupt this weblog for a Monty Python moment: WOMAN: Well, how did you become King, then? ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake,... [angels sing] ...her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king! DENNIS: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. ARTHUR: Be quiet! DENNIS: Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery [censored] threw a sword at you! ARTHUR: Shut up! DENNIS: I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened [censored] had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away! ARTHUR: Shut up, will you? Shut up! DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system. ARTHUR: Shut up! DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!...

Posted by DeLong at 07:12 PM

There's Something Terribly Wrong...

...about a demonstrator who carries a sign saying, "Boycott France!"... the middle of a town named "Lafayette."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:10 PM

March 14, 2003
What Is to Be Done?

At least it's a plan for action other than sitting around watching with one's jaw hanging open in disbelief: Electrolite: Michael Lind : ...At the moment, really, the most rational possible reaction to the Bush administration's national-security policy is to light one's hair on fire and run down the street screaming about Jesus......

Posted by DeLong at 05:44 PM

It's Like Rai-ai-ain on Your Wedding Day!

John Quiggin (whose name I will spell correctly henceforward) tries to teach Andrew Sullivan about what "irony" is: John Quiggin: ...Andrew Sullivan, a Brit living in New York (I think) and seemingly as sophisticated as they come, responds to Paul Krugman on the Budget deficit, saying: here's the economic expert, Krugman , on the looming deficit: [R]ight now the deficit, while huge in absolute terms, is only 2 ? make that 3, O.K., maybe 4 ? percent of G.D.P. I take Krugman's broader point about the deficit, and agree with it. But why such contemptuous sloppiness? There's a critical difference between 2 and 4 percent of GNP. Isn't there? Sullivan probably doesn't follow the economic debate all that closely. But surely he must have noticed that estimates of the US Budget deficit have been rising steadily, with a new higher estimate announced every six months or so. I apologise for laboring the point, but rather than risk any reliance on irony I'll spell it out in excruciating detail. Krugman is not making a series of guesses, but giving an ironic description of the steadily deteriorating outlook. The US Budget deficit for this year was first estimated at around $US 200...

Posted by DeLong at 02:46 PM

March 12, 2003
Waiting in Line: How Economists Think

What sort of "property" is your position at the head of a line? Is it something that you can sell--or should be able to sell? If it's yours, you should be able to sell it, right? Suppose somebody comes up to the first person in line--you are number five--and offers a fistfull of dollars for his or her place. Do you have a right to object? Does the person "buying" the first place have to also reach an agreement with you? Lawyers and political scientists think there are interesting and important issues at stake. And perhaps there are. But their discussions are a little bit... unstructured: The Volokh Conspiracy:[Jacob Levy, 12:30 PM] CHRIS BERTRAM ON COMMODIFICATION: Chris writes: One such question is the following: "Is it morally ok for someone to march to the head of a long queue (for tickets for the theatre or football or whatever) and offer to buy another person's place in that queue?" Since the purchaser buys the place and the person they displace goes away or to the back of the line, the exchange isn't worsening any one's position. Respondents seem to break down into three categories: people who think it is just obviously...

Posted by DeLong at 05:55 PM

March 11, 2003
Pulling Polls

Why, I believe that the Register does not believe that our Senate Majority Leader's staff is truthful! Senate Leader scraps website war poll, blaming hackers | By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco | Posted: 07/03/2003 at 22:55 GMT: Senate majority leader Bill Frist has yanked a "Bomb Iraq" poll from his website. rist's office told The Register that "tampering" was to blame for the removal of the poll, which asked "Should the United States use force to remove Saddam Hussein from power? Your opinion is important to Senator Frist." "Clever computer programmers created a program that generated 8,700 votes in a day," a spokesperson told us. Which is where the mystery really begins. The spokesperson couldn't say whether the software was running inside the firewall, representing a major breach of the Senate IT security, or was a robot-style vote generator run by netizens. The curious thing is that Frist's poll page already banned robots - including the Wayback Machine, - from the site. Respondents could vote once and then return to the site later to change their vote; only the latest response would be counted. "As you know government computers are constantly being attacked by hackers," he suggested....

Posted by DeLong at 08:24 PM

The Beginning-of-the-Alphabet Conspiracy Strikes!

I knew I should have chosen a name closer to the start of the alphabet! Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 09:02:52 -0800 (PST) From: UCLink Consulting <> To: Subject: lost mail for jbdelong jbdelong: On Friday morning, the inbox and folders for your account and all other accounts beginning with j, k, l, m, n, and o, were lost. We are recovering from backups the inboxes and folders that were in your account as of Thursday night. This is unfortunately proceeding extremely slowly. When done, the recovered mail will be merged into your current inbox and folders. However, all mail delivered to your account between Thursday, 6 p.m. and Friday, 10 a.m. was lost and can not be recovered. I had thought that modern email systems had redundancy redundancy so that a problem with a single disk would not fry six letters' worth of inboxes. Just naive, I guess......

Posted by DeLong at 08:22 PM

March 06, 2003
Andrew Northrup Is an International Treasure

Andrew Northrup is an international treasure, or I am very easily amused, or both: The Poor Man: Oh, Dear: Shorter Camille Paglia - I believe that Madonna is the most original philosopher of the millennium, for reasons so self-consciously contrarian that I must surely be the Smartest Girl In The Whole Wide World. My obsessive desire to draw attention to myself and approvingly recite my resume apropos of nothing speaks volumes about my screwed-up psychology, much like the many volumes of Aristotle which I have read in the original Greek. Shorter Noam Chomsky - Whatever someone said recently is pretty rich, considering East Timor. Shorter The Nation - If the inspiring story of a few dozen douche bags pointing out that there is no difference between anyone to the right of late period Mao Tse-Tung doesn't totally get your chub on, get up against the wall. Shorter National Review - We are in danger of letting another priceless opportunity to use our tactical nuclear weapons pass us by, largely due to the corrupting influence of gays, women, and Muslims on our precious bodily fluids....

Posted by DeLong at 05:48 PM

March 04, 2003
Mindless Dreck

Mindles Dreck learns how to control economists with a flick of the mouse. Asymmetrical Information: Economist Mouse Control It is very funny. On the "Do they have Ph.D.'s?" front, Mindles needs to figure out which way he wants to advance the ball. It's William Niskanen and Bruce Bartlett who are the most desperate to shrink the circle defining "economist," as they try to keep Greg Mankiw and others from counting the likes of Jude Wanniski among "Reagan's economic advisors."...

Posted by DeLong at 12:52 PM

February 26, 2003
Not Vaguely Right: Exactly Right

One of those moments at which Vaguely Right is exactly right and totally correct: Vaguely Right * In the spirit of Shorter Steven Den BesteVaguely Right Blog presents...Shorter Everyone:I am annoyed and/or bewildered by people who think differently than I do....

Posted by DeLong at 12:59 PM

February 24, 2003
Outside a U.C. Berkeley Economics Seminar

"Yes, my watch is 20 minutes fast. [pause] It takes me 20 minutes to bicycle to campus. [pause] Or, rather, it does back in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [pause] Yes, my behavior is highly inertial."...

Posted by DeLong at 08:17 PM

February 23, 2003
When the Winds of Change Blow Hard Enough...

...the most trivial of things turn into deadly projectiles. The Year 2003 Demotivators Calendar...

Posted by DeLong at 04:02 PM

February 21, 2003
Gary Farber Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Gary Farber of Amygdala finds a piece in the Manchester Guardian that is everything that Andrew Sullivan thinks the "Left" is. Guardian writer Jonathan Watts claims that North Korea "...has a good claim to describe itself as an injured party," has a "...woeful public relations effort" that "help[s] other nations demonise it," is "in need of an image consultant," is "...the nation suffering most... desperately poor, threatened with famine and deprived of energy," is losing its industrial base and "slipping back into the dark ages," is "another humanitarian disaster," "has fallen further behind in the field of mass communications than in any other area," and how its political naivete gives "the country's more sophisticated opponents a free hand to manipulate the threat posed by North Korea. When Pyongyang counters, its message is so out of synch with the way of thinking of the rest of the world, that no-one believes it. The message is so incompetently presented that few people listen seriously to North Korea..." It looks as though Jonathan Watts is too dumb to be able to distinguish between the people of North Korea and the government of North Korea, too dumb to even think that (a) the people...

Posted by DeLong at 05:36 PM

Scientific Literacy Department

But... but... but... a clone is no more the original person than your identical twin is your duplicate. The American Prospect's weblog* refers to the characters in the MTV show "Clone High" as if they were the original people rather than their clones. But that conceit is the whole point of the story--that these are clones. The fact that Mohandas K. Gandhi's clone is, as a teenager, not a person one would address as "Mahatma" is supposed to be funny. And TAPPED is busy eliding that distinction. TAPPED: February 2003 Archives: Next, we have a review of MTV's new cartoon, Clone High USA, by Noy Thrupkaew. The show has sparked protests in India for its depiction of a teenage Gandhi as a junk-food eating, attention deficit disorder-addled kid who loves to party. But Thrupkaew says the show is endearing, and treats its historical characters -- among them Abraham Lincoln, JFK and Joan of Arc -- with affection and a weird kind of imaginative accuracy. "Why does a Berkeley economist care about 'Clone High'?" you ask. I care because Clone High creator Phillip Lord is my first cousin. And there are enough people who are angry at him for insulting the...

Posted by DeLong at 11:51 AM

February 18, 2003
Gene Healy Is Irked

Usually Gene Healy pounds his head against the wall in despair at the speed of the steady drift of the Bush Administration to war with Iraq. Today, however, he is just irked, and irked about something else: The Quest for Community: Certain phrases really irk me. I saw an ad recently for a Brooks Brothers' "Performance Polo" shirt. I understand "Performance" running shoes--but what is "Performance Polo" supposed to indicate? Something that won't tear when you hoist your Chardonnay?......

Posted by DeLong at 02:34 PM

The Slow But Constant Drip-Drip-Drip of Human Progress

Ann Marie: Isn't it great that marshmallow bags now come with zip-loc tops? And it is--great that is. We've just saved a quarter of a minute fumbling for a twist-tie and tying the bag shut. An extra fifteen seconds of useful time added to our lives--which we've just spent oohing and aahing over this fact....

Posted by DeLong at 07:57 AM

February 17, 2003
They Are Rats! Rats with Cute Furry Tails, but Rats!

In my view, Rich Baker has (i) read the works of science fiction writer Geegory Benford a little too intensively, and (ii) gone a little too far in empathizing with the squirrels who are now using their incisors to destroy key portions of his house: Death lurking in darkness: The family has started to become comfortable within the Artefact. The vast pillars that stretch towards a ceiling lost in darkness seem almost as natural as trees, the strange machines scattered across the floor as familiar and comforting as bushes. It's almost easy for them to forget that this place is utterly alien, that it and all of its contents were manufactured and then seemingly forgotten by intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic. They've almost ceased to consider what godlike creatures could discard so many pieces of technological detritus. What the family doesn't know is that lurking out there in the dark are infinitely patient machines whose only purpose is killing. Perhaps they will wait an hour or a day or a month, but they will strike. The vast silent spaces will be filled with sudden, unexpected violence. There will be a blur of metal, the motion faster than thought....

Posted by DeLong at 07:59 AM

February 14, 2003
Google and Larry Page

Google: 25000 computers all held together by velcro. How much--one cent? ten cents? twenty-five cents?--for each ad click-through. How many searches a day? And now they cannot be unseated from their king-of-search position unless someone has a truly much better software idea... Scattered notes taken that have very little to do with the substance of Google founder Larry Page's talk: "Inkjet printers made of legos" "Disk drive cases made of legos" "Actually, they weren't even legos. The point was to save money by building cheaper disk-drive cases. They were knock-off duplos from CostCo." Larry Page: "Keynote would be really outstanding if you had a fast machine to edit your presentations on." Smart-Ass: "A machine faster than those at the disposal of the founders of Google?" Larry Page: "You know what I mean: a machine faster than this laptop here." Larry Page: "Google has been profitable since the first quarter of 2001. Why did we make becoming profitable such a priority? It's good that we did, because we might well be gone if we hadn't. The real reason is that we became profitable in the first quarter of 2001 because Sergey Brin made it a priority. You see, Sergey would try...

Posted by DeLong at 04:45 PM

A Faculty Lunch Somewhere in Academe...

Professor #1: "I'm proud to announce that my conference has sold out." Professor #2: "In that case, I'm putting my registration up for auction on eBay tomorrow morning." Someone: "Do we have a nanotechnology program here on this campus?" Research Director: "Of course we have a..." Professor #3: "It's just very small, and hard to find." Somebody Else: "We were investigating joining the campus wireless network, but they wanted to charge the department $40,000 up front." Someone: "My God! So what are you doing?" Somebody Else: "We bought four wireless access points for $500 total, and plugged them into our own network." Professor #4: "We have five assistant professor offers that we've voted, and none of them has cleared the administration." Professor #5: "And the grapevine is that Candidate X really wants to come here to teach--if, that is, his offer appears from the administration in finite time, of course." Still Someone Else: "And why do you need a UniversityNet ID to log onto the campus wireless network? This means that visitors for the day are completely out of luck. Why isn't wireless 802.11b dialtone as much a resource available to anybody walking onto the campus as sunlight or air?"...

Posted by DeLong at 04:42 PM

February 12, 2003
Let's Get Snarky!

Daniel Davies's new project: to provide us daily with a "Shorter Stephen den Beste" As part of my New Year's Resolution to pick a really nasty fight with someone, and as a potential supply of more regular updates, I've decided to become a "watcher ". I believe that this was all the rage in weblog circles about a year ago. Anyway, I want to do it, and nobody convinced me that there were better targets for a jihad than Stephen den Beste, so I picked him. It also helps that, as far as I can tell, he's incredibly thin-skinned (see my comments board somewhere for proof). Now, I thought of doing "Smarter Steven den Beste" (note that part of my strategy is not to use a consistent spelling of his first name), but that would probably completely dominate my blog, and besides "fisking" is like so five minutes ago. (Being a "watcher", however, is retro and cool). Besides, people don't necessarily want a Smarter Stephen den Beste . Part of the joy is watching a man who knows nothing about anything except the innards of mobile phones trying to understand a complicated world around him with no sources of information...

Posted by DeLong at 08:55 AM

February 11, 2003
Let's Get Snarky!

More high-quality snarkiness from Matthew Yglesias: Matthew Yglesias: Sully's mad: Hell hath no fury like a small government conservative scorned, and Andrew Sullivan's series of brief rants on the horrors of Bushonomics is priceless. Of course anyone who noted during the campaign that his original tax cut numbers didn't add up could have predicted that. It's really too bad that there wasn't anyone in America who caught that. I mean, if maybe someone writing for the Times op-ed page had said something, we wouldn't be in this mess. A columnist of some sort. Maybe a trained economist with a flair for popular writing. Named P ... Paul ... Paul something ... there must've been someone like that. Oh well, better late than never....

Posted by DeLong at 08:09 PM

Let's Get Snarky!

Matthew Yglesias wins the "let's get snarky!" prize for the first quarter of 2003: 2-10-03: Tom Tomorrow goes into outrage overload. 7-24-00: Tom Tomorrow explains that there's no difference between the two parties. I for one am really glad that folks had a third option that fateful November. The dive was not too difficult--a certain fish-barrel-gun element. But the technical excellence is unsurpassable. Here are the cartoons: Now: Then:...

Posted by DeLong at 03:53 PM

The Wisdom of Anil Dash

Another sign of the increasing density of wireless access points. Maybe Wired should change its name to Wireless... Note to dumb self: If you still can't connect to the computer that's 10 feet away from you, even after trying fifty million times, you might want to make sure you're logged into your own wifi network, and not one of the 3 neighboring ones that surround you. Note to dumb neighbor: Turn off file sharing. And run a spell-check on that cover letter before you send it, or there's no chance that place is going to hire you....

Posted by DeLong at 03:40 PM

A Short Dialogue on International Trade in Agricultural and Fishery Products

"Okay. One of the things that we are going to eat for lunch has travelled 9000 miles--almost halfway around the world--to land on our table. What is it?" "Bananas!" "Very good guess. But no. Bananas come from the Caribbean and Central America, and travel only 3000 miles or so to get here. It's the smoked salmon, from Tasmania, island off of the southeastern tip of Australia." "I've heard that most animals native to Tasmania are endangered. Is that true?" "BA-NA-NAS!" "It's certainly true that large Tasmanian marsupials are under very heavy pressure from introduced Eurasian forms that fill the same niches..." "BA-NA-NAS HAVE NO THUMBS!" "But does anybody have an idea why I would buy smoked salmon from Tasmania--Royal Tasmanian brand?" "So that you can torture your children with another boring lecture about international trade, the international division of labor, and the importance of human pwogwess through the mutual weduction of twade bawwiews?" "Plausible, but not true in this case..." "BANANAS STAND UP STRAIGHT!" "Because they were cheap?" "Yes, exactly, why were they cheap--half the price of Alaskan smoked salmon?" "BANANAS HAVE NO THUMBS!" "Either because you got a bargain, or because you don't know something about the quality of...

Posted by DeLong at 03:05 PM

David Hume Gives Adam Smith Some Bad News

David Hume gives Adam Smith the bad news about the reception of Smith's first book, the Theory of Moral Sentiments. From DAVID HUME   Lisle Street, Leicester Fields April 12, 1759 Dear Smith, I give you thanks for the agreeable present of your Theory [of Moral Sentiments]. Wedderburn and I made presents of our copie to such of our acquaintance as we thought good judges, and proper to spread the reputation of the book. I sent one to the Duke of Argyle, to Lord Lyttleton, Horace Walpole, Soames Jennyns, and Burke, an Irish gentleman, who wrote lately a very pretty treatise on the sublime. Millar desired my permission to send one in your name to Dr. Warburton. I have delayed writing to you until I could tell you something of the success of the book, and could prognosticate with some probability whether it should be finally damned to oblivion, or should be registered in the temple of immortality. Tough it has been published only a few weeks, I think there appear already such strong symptoms, that I can almost venture to fortell its fate. It is, in short, this-- But I have been interrupted in my letter by a foolish...

Posted by DeLong at 03:02 PM

September 12, 2002
Lost in the Gamma Quadrant

It's not sad. It's funny. The quality of economic argument on National Review has not passed the normal "laugh test" for more than two decades. But now it passes a different laugh test: it's genuinely funny! Larry Kudlow writes: National Review Online ( ...Recent stories in the New York Times and elsewhere continue to grouse that an invasion of Iraq will be tough on the U.S. economy. The oil card is the biggest argument against this war, and it was effectively disposed of a week ago when Kuwait came out in strong support of a U.S. invasion of Iraq.... Think of Kuwait as a strategic petroleum reserve. And the Saudis could easily add couple of million barrels per day to help stabilize prices. Saudi Arabia is basically broke and would not want to see a big oil spike crushing demand during a global recession... But the first and most important impact of an oil price spike is that... the Saudis get more money! They sell oil! A higher oil price gets the Saudis more money! To the extent that the Saudis are broke, they want to see a higher oil price. Larry: a war-driven oil price spike is not a...

Posted by DeLong at 03:46 PM

August 15, 2002
Identify Things Before Eating Them

Memo to self: It is best, when snacking on the salad ingredients, to identify that what you think is an almond mixed in with the olives actually is an almond--rather, than, say, a whole garlic clove--before eating it....

Posted by DeLong at 05:52 PM

August 13, 2002
Blue Blood

Last week I learned--I really don't think I had ever known it before--that the copper-based non-hemoglobin blood of horseshoe crabs turns bright blue when oxygenated. I had always thought that it turned green--after all, Mr. Spock on "Star Trek" had copper-based blood, and it turned green when he bled. But it turns out not to be so: blue, not green. When you can't trust "Star Trek" as a reliable source on matters of elementary extraterrestrial biology, it's clear that the world is a damned dangerous and unfriendly place......

Posted by DeLong at 08:39 PM

August 05, 2002
Really Good Movies

Jason Kottke is happy that a director's cut DVD version of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is about to be released. It is true: it is the second-best Star Trek movie. But if you have not already seen the best Star Trek movie--Galaxy Quest--you need to go see it right now. In fact, you also should go see Rat Race. These two movies--Galaxy Quest and Rat Race--are among the funniest things I have ever seen. I was surprised that they weren't much bigger hits. I wondered if my taste was screwy. I recently saw them again, and my conclusion is: No, my taste is not screwy--they are both really, really funny. :: Khan!!!!!! Frodo!!!!!! A director's cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is coming out on Tuesday. It includes all sorts of interviews, commentary, and making ofs. It's disappointing that they didn't include the episode from the original series on which the movie is based......

Posted by DeLong at 07:47 PM

July 25, 2002
A 911 Joke

In response to a comment of mine about who... unnatural... acting before the camera is, John D. Best writes a short, very funny meditation about what it must have been like being Osama bin Laden's director: The key edge that great actors--Katherine Hepburn--Ronald Reagan--Bill Clinton--have over people like Osama bin Laden is that the great actors know how to treat the camera as if it were a person--engage with it, give in eye contact, and so on. Bin Laden cannot convince himself that it is a person, hence he comes off as insincere and bored... Brad DeLong Osama: "Whats my motivation?" Director: "Genocide, luv." Osama: "Ok, think genocide, mass destruction...are you ready sweetie?" Director: "Yes, luv, rolling" Osama: "The west... blah blah blah.. suffering... blah blah" Director: "Cut! Osama, darling, you're just not getting it." Osama: "It's this beard, how am I supposed to inspire fear when I look like I'm chewing an arthritic badger? I'm going to my cave." Director: "But Luv!" John D. Best...

Posted by DeLong at 11:28 AM

July 21, 2002
Solving the Corporate Accounting Problem

From the creatively insane and highly amusing people at how to solve the corporate accounting problem... Sharesite: Profit mountains to ward off corporate fraud The financial world has been rocked by recent scandals involving first Enron and now WorldCom, bringing about a situation whereby an investor does not know if a company's quarterly report reflects reality or is instead an imaginative work of fiction. To combat this new culture of distrust, financial regulators yesterday announced laws which will bring about an end to the traditional quarterly report. From now on, company directors are obliged to present profits to shareholders in the form of hard currency, leaving no room for doubt whatsoever. The City of London is expected to be changed beyond recognition by the new reporting system, as huge multinational companies, with profits running into the billions, construct immense mountains of coins weeks in advance of their annual shareholder meetings. Majestic glinting piles... so beautiful in their splendour that they bring tears to a young financier's eyes, will dominate the City skyline... "we apply for planning permission to construct the huge mountain of coins by our office near Monument - a mountain which will be roughly equal in size...

Posted by DeLong at 11:52 AM

July 07, 2002
Marriage and the Country

Ann Marie is reading her Sunday New York Times and howling with laughter. She is howling with laughter because Candace Bushnell has just gotten married. Candace Bushnell is the former New York Observer columnist whose book, Sex and the City, was the inspiration for the Sarah Jessica Parker-starring HBO show, "Sex and the City." Candace Bushnell has gotten married after a whirlwind eight-week courtship. Carrie, the fictional viewpoint character of Sex and the City regards marriage--especially marriage after a whirlwind courtship--with grave suspicion and disapproval: the book ends, "Mr. Big is happily married. Carrie is happily single." The real Candace says "One has to be open-minded when the right man comes along." The fictional Carrie obsesses over one big question: how can one ever know any man--strange, bizarre beasts with unfathomable thought processes and goals that they are--well enough to know that he is Mr. Right and not just Mr. Right Now? The irony is excellent: biology, or perhaps time plus biology, overcoming a long-held and powerfully advocated view of how the human social-psycho-sexual world works. And, of course, the New York Times's wedding correspondent who writes up the story cannot resist writing it up in an ironic and humorous...

Posted by DeLong at 10:23 PM

July 06, 2002
Everything You Feared About Interns

Eve S. Dropper--otherwise known as the "short attention-span voyeur"--reports on life in Berkeley. I think that her chosen avocation has become much more interesting since the widespread diffusion of the cell phone: people talking on cell phones are often amazingly unaware of just how many people can hear what they are saying. In Passing... "It's really hard not to go up to an intern in the middle of surgery and say, 'Don't freak out, but you're doing that all wrong.' I try not to do it if the patient's only under local." --A man talking to a group of men on the patio at Raleigh's....

Posted by DeLong at 11:40 AM

The Ten Copyright Crimes of Tomorrow

Ernest Miller of lawmeme reacts to Turner CEO Jamie Keller's declaration that, among other things, your right to go to the bathroom while watching TV is not unlimited: "I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom..." LawMeme: Legal Bricolage for a Technological Age - Top Ten New Copyright Crimes Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting... said some very interesting things, including characterizing those who skip television commercials as thieves: "[Ad skips are] theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming." To help develop Mr. Kellner's unfortunately common (at least in Hollywood) view of copyright, LawMeme offers the top ten new copyright crimes: 10. Watching PBS without making a donation. You know who you are, you cheap ... 9. Changing radio stations in the car when a commercial comes on. Future radios will prevent listeners from changing channels when a commercial comes on. The RIAA has not yet taken a position on whether it is permissible to switch channels...

Posted by DeLong at 08:53 AM

July 05, 2002
Teresa Nielsen Hayden Reminds Us of Some of the Classic Websites

Teresa Nielsen Hayden performs an act of collective memory and reminds us of some of the classic hilarious websites. My favorite is the incandescent pickle... Making Light: July 2002 Archives | A while back, I referred to quicktime movies of water balloons being popped in freefall as "The greatest footage since the LOX barbecue and the exploding whale." I promptly got mail asking what LOX barbecue? And what exploding whale? Well, okay. Feels weird, but I can do that. Won't take but a minute. I'll throw in some other golden oldies while I'm at it......

Posted by DeLong at 08:46 AM

July 04, 2002
Computer-Telephone Convergence

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone." --Bjarne Stroustrup (originator of C++ programming language)...

Posted by DeLong at 07:41 PM

July 02, 2002
Still the Frontier of Research into Real-World Bureaucracies

C. Northcote Parkinson (1957), Parkinson's Law, and Other Studies in Administration (Cambridge: Riverside Press: 1568490151). I have been rereading Parkinson's Law. Once again, I am very impressed. Quite possibly the best--the very best--the absolute best serious scholarly study of bureaucracies and their functioning ever written. A few of the absolutely choice bits: p. 2: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.... Granted that work (and especially paperwork) is thus elastic in its demands on time, it is manifest that there need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned. A lack of real activity does not, of necessity, result in leisure. A lack of occupation is not necessarily revealed by a manifest idleness..." pp. 5-6: "Seven officials are now doing what one did before.... [T]hese seven make so much work for each other that all are fully occupied, and A is actually working harder than ever. An incoming document... [o]ffical E decides that it falls within the province of F, who places a draft reply before C, who amends it drastically before consulting D, who asks G to deal with...

Posted by DeLong at 02:04 PM

June 28, 2002
The Evil Overlord Bad Plot Generator

Writing a cliche-ridden novel has just become a lot easier. In a way, it's too bad: I wish I could remember back when I first encountered each of these cliches. When they were fresh, they must have exploded in my mind like bombs... Random Plot Generator Advice for the Evil Overlord: I will not put off any ritual granting immortality. Advice for the Hero: If a mystic proclaims that my destiny is to "defeat the darkness," "bring freedom to the downtrodden," or some such other glorious accomplishment, I will immediately begin preparations for the role. I will not wait for the mystic and several other innocents to get rubbed out by the Evil Overlord. Advice for the Bad Auxiliary Character (Evil Genius): I will personally select the brain to be used in my life-creation experiment. Advice for the Good Auxiliary Character (Good Guy's Sidekick): If I fall in love with someone else, I will tell him/her now, and not shyly procrastinate, thereby dooming the object of my affection to perish just as I was getting up the courage to make my feelings known. Further Evil (Advice for the Evil Empress): I will use my magic mirror for spying on my...

Posted by DeLong at 12:52 PM

The Agnostic's Prayer

I had forgotten about this, but I always liked it very much. | ArmedLiberal | The late Roger Zelazny was a terrific writer (note that I don't ghettoize him by calling him a terrific SF writer). In one of his books, Creatures of Light and Darkness, he offers the definitive prayer: Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what Isay, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may havedone or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if notforgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possiblebenefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, Iask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case maybe, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this inmy capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which maynot be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of yourreceiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, andwhich may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen....

Posted by DeLong at 11:29 AM

June 21, 2002
Our Occasional Peak Into the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Ann Marie, reading the newspaper, laughs hysterically. "What is it?" I say. "It's really funny," she says. "Kelly Preston--Do you know who Kelly Preston is?" "No." "Baammpp. Go back into your cave. Retract your head, you moray eel. Go back into your cave, you." It's true that I don't know as much about modern Hollywood people as I should. But that is quickly remedied: <googles>. "Kelly Preston... married to John Travolta... did some not very money-making movies, had a relationship and a pet pig with George Clooney... engaged to Charlie Sheen before he shot her... a sweetness of character that is highly unusual in the profession... she and her husband, John Travolta... high-profile Scientologists." "OK. The funny thing is a quote, from Redbook, by Kelly Preston: 'John [Travolta] and I play naked stewardess together...' A strange thing to volunteer to Redbook." Clearly, clearly it's no longer my mother's Redbook. But this leaves me with another, more urgent question: what do the Thetans think of "naked stewardess"?...

Posted by DeLong at 10:01 AM

June 20, 2002
Is Bablefish Ready for Prime Time Yet? No.

Is machine translation ready for prime time yet? | Translated version of (BETA) | Los Angeles, world capital of the dangerous distorsions in the car: on the freeways, essential expressways to move in this mégapole of more than 100 km North-South, it is not rare to see women to apply will mascara in the rear view mirror and of the men to consult their Palm Pilot with the wheel between the knees. The L.A. Times questions officers of California Highway Patrol (as the heroes of the series TV Chips) who tell rather incredible things: they saw a motorist to follow a match of foot (yes, astonishing soccer..., not?) by holding small tele of a hand, adjusting the antenna of the other. Another officer saw a woman threading a pair of sticking to 90 km/h! Unfortunately, the article is hidden in the site of Times and I cannot announce you the bond... but this police officer with the retirement with photographs amusing on its site of a motorist eating fast Chinese food with rods while slipping by to 112 km/h! Is Babelfish ready for prime time yet? It seems that the answer is still "No," and is likely to remain...

Posted by DeLong at 06:08 PM

My Naivete Shown Up Once Again: Strategic Bequests and the Benefits of Keeping Firm Hold on Your Money as Long as Your Heart Beats

Back when I was in graduate school Doug Bernheim, Andrei Shleifer, and Larry Summers wrote an article about the "manipulative bequest motive" for inheritances--how bequests are neither the result of people holding extra wealth in case they should live longer, nor because of their altruistic desire to better the circumstances of their descendants, but because if you are old the prospect of a bequest is one of the few tools you have to encourage your descendants to pay any attention to you. At the time I thought that this was formal economics gone mad--that this was a sterile theoretical point of no practical importance. But here is yet another piece of evidence that I was hopelessly naive | Andrew Tobias - Money and Other Subjects | SAY IT ISN'T TRUE--Bob Kirkland: "Less Antman was quoted today as advising distributing assets to one's family prior to death. I had two great aunts of substantial means (neither left me anything). One had generously divided most of her assets among her nieces and nephews at least ten years prior to death, so the government wouldn't get it. Fortunately, she did reserve just enough to live modestly and support nursing home care. The other...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 AM

June 19, 2002
What Fionna O'Sullivan Wants: A Short and Simple List

(1) Instantaneous matter transmitters, that are cheap to use. Whilst the time spent on a journey may add to the excitement of making the journey at all, sometimes it is just a pain. (2) An end to money. It worries me too much. (3) If I can't have an end to money, I'd like more of it, so I could enjoy the upcoming bank holiday weekend. I wouldn't need much, just enough to ensure that I don't have to spend the whole weekend sitting inside worrying about spending next week's bus fare. (4) An incredible talent. Barring that, being even slightly able to mimic accents would do me fine. (5) Carpet in my office. It echoes too much. (6) A 'common sense' virus to infect all humanity. Or maybe an empathy virus would do as well. So everybody wakes up tomorrow and goes, 'Of course! It all makes sense now! How could I have been so stupid!', and could get along realising that other points of view are valid, not evil. (7) A very large, lavish, expensive dinner, with a good bottle of wine....

Posted by DeLong at 11:43 AM

June 12, 2002
A Rich Baker Special

Jem (serious): "The Americans didn't land on the Moon - it was all a hoax." Rich: "Dude, you're so naive. America doesn't exist: it's really a soundstage in the south of France..."...

Posted by DeLong at 11:53 AM

June 10, 2002
A Can't-Turn-It-Down Offer From

The Theory of Moral Sentiments Or, an Essay/2 Volumes Bound in 1 Book : Towards an Analysis of the Principles, by Which Men Naturally Judge Concerning... by Adam Smith ...List Price: $30.00 Great Buy: Buy Theory of Moral Sentiments with Sex and the City - The Complete Third Season today! Buy Together Today $64.88. Buy both now!...

Posted by DeLong at 09:33 PM

June 04, 2002
Andre Northrup: Poor Mans Blog: The Cornier

Recently, the NR's "The Corner" was crowned the 3rd-best right-wing blog in a lavish ceremony presented by the Right-Wing News. The Poor Man did not rate, perhaps due to the fact that it contains no news, or that I'm not right-wing, or perhaps because this page sucks Satan's left nut like it's on a mission. In any case, I'm not going to ignore a successful formula, so I'm launching a special Corner-esque feature, where I try to Corner-ize my content to increase my synergistic B2B click-through. As near as I can tell, this involves having incredibly long and tedious minjing sessions where you dispute the hit counters of more successful or ideologically impure commentators. Without any further ado...

Posted by DeLong at 12:55 AM

April 20, 2002

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger." --Gildor Inglorion "Do not seek counsel from the elves, for they will say both no and yes." --Frodo Baggins "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup." "Do not meddle in the affairs of hamsters. Just don't. It's not worth it." -- Ailbhe on #afp "Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer." -- Bruce Graham "Do not meddle in the affairs of sysadmins, for they are quick to anger and have no need for subtlety."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:14 PM

April 06, 2002
Cleaning Out My Clippings File

From: "Peter G. Stillman" <> ...My wife and I found a live -- and vivant -- post-modern existentialist, or, rather, existential post-modernist, near the Universite de Montpellier last summer. Lost, we approached a traffic officer in a roundabout. My wife, pointing to the map in the red Michelin: "Monsieur, nous sommes perdus." The officer, after a short pause: "Ah, Madame. Tous les hommes sont perdus." Then, my wife told him where we wished to go -- an inn about three kilometres away. And he said (I don't remember his exact French): "Madame, it is as difficult for me to direct you there as for me to tell you how to go from Paris to Marseille in a single sentence. There are too many possibilities, too many turns, too many ways." Then, like a modernist, he pointed out which road we should follow out of the roundabout. We drove off -- geographically going in the correct direction, but ontologically completely befuddled. GCU Savoire Fair...

Posted by DeLong at 10:15 PM

March 28, 2002
Twirlip of the Mists

You're really a tribe? Do you make stealth V/STOL attacks on other tribes and boil prisoners in pots and eat them like God-Empress Victoria's tribe did with the Communists? This is just so exciting!...

Posted by DeLong at 04:09 PM

March 01, 2002
Do I Take Things Too Personally?

Btw, have you read any of Piers Anthony's less pulpy stuff like Incarnation of Immortality or Bio of a Space Tyrant? The Xanth series just got completely out of hand but he started off really well. Lal I read his _Macroscope_ a long, long time ago. In the first few pages he introduced a character named Brad--intelligent, charming, decisive, an excellent companion and assistant to the somewhat-confused protagonist Ivo. By page 100 Brad's mind had been destroyed by an alien video program... By page 200 Brad had been accidently turned into a giant starfish by a misguided attempt by his ex-girlfriend to cure his mind using alien technology that she did not understand, and the giant starfish then immediately died... I have *never* read anything else by Piers Anthony. And I never will....

Posted by DeLong at 04:43 PM

February 23, 2002
A Mailing List Thread...

2002-02-23: One Thread... Rich Baker: There is a room with a machinegun and a guy with two dice. A person is taken into the room and the dice thrown. If they come up with two sixes then the person is shot. Otherwise he or she is let out and a group of ten people brought in. Again the dice are thrown and if they both come up sixes then the people are shot. Otherwise a group ten times bigger is brought into the room. This "game" goes on until a group is shot. (There is an infinite supply of people. Nobody goes into the room twice.) If you're taken into the room, what is the probability that you get out alive? Argument 1. You are killed if two sixes are thrown. This happens 1 in 36 times. Therefore your chance of getting out alive is 35/36 = 97%. Argument 2. Most people who are taken into the room are killed, therefore you are very likely to die. For example, suppose the third batch are killed. Then 100 people who go into the room die and 11 survive. The chance of getting out alive is then 11/111 = 9.9%. (Working...

Posted by DeLong at 04:41 PM

July 14, 2001
ShareSite on Finance: Evil Doesn't Pay

This had me laughing for a good fifteen minutes... Sharesite: Evil companies fall out of favour with investors Evil companies fall out of favour with investors By Agatha Bovine  Wed Jul 4 2001 "Evil doesn’t pay." This statement becomes increasingly accurate as the combination of terrorist activity, product failure and the turning tide of public opinion plays havoc with the fortunes of evil companies."The public questions the morality of companies whose mission statements list 'ultimate world domination' amongst their management goals."The Evil 100 Index, which tracks the share prices of such prominent Evil companies as Omni Consumer Products, Tyrell Corporation and Cohagen Off-Earth Air Enterprise, has taken a beating; lately, its key movers have all been moving down. Increasingly, the public questions the morality of companies whose mission statements list "ultimate world domination" amongst their management goals. Just months ago similarl tough-talk wooed investors into the sector, and it seemed that an investment in evil was a one-way ticket to fabulous wealth and power. This tide of negative market opinion coincides with the failure of a number of key Evil products. Omni Consumer Products (OCP), a long-time bellwether stock of the Evil 100, has revealed profits tumbling to an all-time low....

Posted by DeLong at 04:49 PM