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On Second Thought

Posted by Ogged
on 06.14.14

You know who is looking pretty good right now (although possibly not literally)? Saddam Hussein. Sure, his regime had various excesses....

Time to link to this again.


 

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Guest Post - Racially Diverse Schools

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.13.14

DQ writes: "How Non-Minority Students Also Benefit from Racially Diverse Schools"

Or, how I am ruining my child's life by sending him to private school, but mitigating that through blissful disregard of homework. (Joking! Totally let him check out Ten Days That Shook The World on *my* library card for his last book report of the year! And quizzed him for a Latin vocabulary test when he asked at like 10:15 pm, despite me being the stone cold opposite of a teenage night owl.)

Seriously, the research reviewed is very plausible to me based on what I see among my Mock Trial students, particularly the critical thinking skills, robust and respectful discussions and moral reasoning on racism. Oh, and the enthusiasm for dating cuties irrespective of race or national origin. Intra team romance is so charming until that last class when one couple just starts making out in the corner of the conference room and all the attorney coaches are like "I really really don't want to have that 'break it up!' conversation." And then the teacher sponsor handles it with subtle skill,preserving everyone's dignity, and she completely deserves tenure. The end.

Heebie's take: this doesn't quite resolve the question of how to maximize your sprog's Ivy League-ness, because I assume they accounted for economic status. The question that most SWPLs are usually confronted with is whether or not to send their kid to the poorer, more minority school, move to the whiter, wealthier school district, or send their kids to a private school.

I feel it is important for everyone to know that the Geeblets will be going to the most virtuous of schools, so there.


 

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Guest Post - Garden Pools

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.12.14

Parodie writes: The guy in this video (3min40s) is a bit kooky but his idea is really interesting.
http://food52.com/blog/8631-dark-rye-s-garden-pool

Notable quotes:

"I feel that we're living in a really scary time... I think that we're a little too modernized"
"The thing to do is to get our food production down in anticipation of the future"

What are the chances their kids are going to grow up to be pool-loving, ultra-modernized consumers?

Heebie's take: The nuts and bolts begin at 1:00. The chickens poop into the tilapia pond, feeding the algae, which feeds the tilapia, and then a solar-powered pump takes the fishwater over to the vegetable garden. A fairly complete ecosystem, located in an unfilled pool in their back yard.

Uses barely any water, supplies most of their food, and usurps most of their time. Or so I assume.


 

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World Cup Predictions

Posted by Ogged
on 06.12.14

Winners, losers, on-field, off-field, whatever. Predict!

If you were about to type something like "I predict I won't care/watch a game/etc.," you were about to detract value.

My original bracket had Spain and Germany in the final. The only surprise in that bracket was Switzerland beating Brazil in the first knockout game. If I were to revise, I'd give Argentina better odds, since Di Maria is playing so well, and Messi will, one imagines, be playing his butt off. So maybe Germany v Argentina.


 

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Guest Post -

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.11.14

Nick S writes: This is about the possible tax maneuvering around Donald Sterling's sale of the Clippers is interesting, relates to Piketty book group, and makes me depressed about the number of ways to avoid the Estate tax.

[L]eaving [a potential] estate tax of over $500 million. Maybe. After all, it's likely that Mr. Sterling has good tax advisers, so don't look for this check to be written just yet.
First, recall that he is suing the league and claiming $1 billion in damages. That could be an offset. He might even try to report his gain on sale as capital gain, but deduct losses as ordinary! Yet latest reports say Mr. Sterling is dropping his suit, agreeing to the sale.
That could mean Mr. Sterling will try to roll over his gain into other investments. How is that possible? Section 1033 of the tax code allows you to defer taxes when your property is taken involuntarily, like eminent domain. Mr. Sterling can argue the Clippers sale was forced on him by the NBA.
...
Assuming his basis in the Clippers is only the $12.5 million he paid, it would also be his basis in the replacement investments. Upon death, there's a step up in basis to market value. That could mean that by dying, his $662 million income tax bill just goes away!

 

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Didn't You Used to Be Somebody?

Posted by Meekins
on 06.10.14

Hello, Foggedunders! Meekins here. I was part of this blog for a good 10 minutes in 2008, then not for awhile. Recently Lizard Breath suggested I post something here again, which honored me greatly, but also surprised me as I was reliably assured that blogging was dead. But apparently not?

So, posting! Meekins is a pseudonym, because I was going to pull that trick the plutocrat pulled in the old Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode. Dude faked an alien visit as a ruse to gain rulership of the Earth. By the fiendish stratagem of having the fake aliens announce, on their fake starship PA system, their demand that - Dude be made ruler of the Earth. This was before the phrase "Seems legit" betokened irony, so the plan could have worked.

Anyway, I was going to have Meekins do that: demand that the real me be given rulership of the Earth. But then I realized that that would be wrong. And then blogging died. So Meekins went to live on a farm with other puppies, only coming out for very occasional comments on Marginal Revolution. But since MR has, without doubt, the skeeviest commenters of any not-itself-unconscionable weblog, Meekins soon went back to live on the farm for good.

Only a small portion of the Unfoggedetariat ever cared who Meekins "really" was. Of those, probably a good number knew or found out. This won't be the post where I make it official: far more likely that I anonymize my remaining "punditry spoor" - blog; Twitter etc. - than tie Meekins to my real name. I expect to be on the job market next year and I believe it's dangerous to one's employability to have opinions in public, or anyway to have mine. And anyway, at this point if I told people who I am the response would almost universally be, "Who?" The moving finger fucks, and, having fucked, rinses off.

What I don't think anybody ever got, though, and I figured only one man on Earth might have gotten, is the source of the pseudonym "Meekins" itself. This pleasappoints me no end.


 

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Splitting hairs

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.10.14

Not that Obama's presidency is over already, but it sort of is. So in hindsight, who wore it better: Obama or Clinton?


 

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Water: Actually Good For You!

Posted by Ogged
on 06.09.14

There should be a term for the variety of contrarianism that's really the consensus view dressed up as contrarianism. (To the glib point that this describes all contrarianism, I say, credit where due, "Mother Teresa is an evil witch" was genuinely contrarian.) It should be a better term than "banalatrarianism" or "fauxtrarianism." Here's a perfect example of the genre, courtesy of who else? Slate.


 

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Elbows out, side to side

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.09.14

Here is something ubiquitous but maybe invisible if you don't have kids of a certain age: kiddie hip-hop dance classes.

They seem very popular, and dance studios make their bread and butter from kid lessons, so they're everywhere. Picture a stage-full of 7 and 8 year olds, all knobby knees and elbows or plump bellies, and Left-Eye band-aids on faces, and baggy camo pants with tiny tank tops, rocking back and forth on their heels with their elbows out like a cholo. They are awkward and hilarious and adorable, but also cringe-worthy and cultural re-appropriation-full. The whole phenomenon is a bit weird, but probably also just completely normal and boring.


 

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Guest Post - Humans are so weird

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.09.14

E. Messily writes: I knew about all the "experiments" teaching monkeys* "sign language", but this is even crazier. Including sex and drugs and Carl Sagan!

*Apes. Gorillas. Whatever, man.

Heebie's take: It is a crazy story! I'll just say that Hustler ran a story about it in the late 70s.


 

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Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 4

Posted by LizardBreath
on 06.09.14

[Updated schedule: X trapnel has Chapter 5 next Monday. Conflated has Chapter 6, I have Chapter 7, and we still need a volunteer for Chapter 8 -- step up in comments.

Unimaginative's summary of Chapter 4, under the fold. LB]

Prior reading group posts:

Piketty Reading Group Setup
Initial Scheduling Post
Introduction and Chapter One -- Robert Halford
Chapter Two -- Minivet
Chapter Three -- Essear

The way oversimplified story so far: in the first two chapters we learned how the national capital to national income ratios are calculated, and why they are a reasonable proxy for something we care about, which could be called "inequality in society." In Chapter 3 we looked at this data for England and France.

Now we examine the capital-to-income ratios over time in Germany, U.S. and Canada.

Germany seems in many ways to have a similar history to England and France: Agricultural property is a big source of wealth early on, and gradually fades away. Generally the capital to income ratio is quite high from the starting point in 1870 until 1910, drops quite a lot until 1950 (war, hyperinflation, depression, war), and then starts to rise again. The bottom is lower than in France, which Piketty suggests is because Germany was even more destroyed by World II; from the low point Germany has had a higher rate of growth of private wealth since 1950 . Surprising to me, Germany didn't do any worse than Britain, which had much less physical destruction and avoided hyperinflation. Figure 4.5. Piketty notes that from an equity perspective, the lower ratio wasn't such a bad thing from an equity perspective. Everyone lost almost all of their capital, but the rich had much more capital to begin with, so inequality decreased.

Since 1990, Germany has had a consistently lower ratio of private capital to national income ration than England and France although the trend line is similar. In this historical period much of the national wealth is measured by stock market values. Piketty attributes the relatively lower stock market values to the different structure of German corporations, which require representation of labor unions and other interest groups on the Board of Directors. This means that the rich corporation owners aren't quite as rich in Germany as in England and France. Piketty attributes Germany's relatively low real estate values to rent control, which has the effect of redistributing wealth away from property owners. The German model is better from an inequality perspective, and apparently no worse from a "growth in the economy over time" perspective. Interesting.

Then we come to America. Again, the biggest trend line is that agricultural capital becomes less important over time, and everything else grows. In general, the capital/income ratio in the nineteenth century was lower than in Europe, because land was cheaper, but the difference between the U.S. and Europe declines over the nineteenth century: Britain and France had stable ratios, in the 700% range, but the ratio in the U.S. gradually increased from 300% to 500%. Figures 3.1, 3.2, 4.6. The crash of the early twentieth century wasn't nearly as bad here since we weren't hosting those pesky wars. As in the other places examined, the ratio of private wealth to income declined somewhat, though only in the 1930-50 period. It has been increasing since then, but at a much slower pace and is lower than in France and Britain but higher than in Germany. In sum, the United States has had a more stable capital/income ratio in the very long term. Canada follows a very similar pattern as the U.S., also relatively stable.

Then we get the macroeconomics of slavery. The market value of slaves in the U.S., was equal to about 150% of national income in the first half of the nineteenth, roughly to equal to the value of agricultural land. Piketty adds the value of slaves on the capital/income ratio for the pre-1865 period, the and the ratio is materially higher. See Figure 4.10. In fact, with slave wealth accounted for, The U.S. looks much more like England and France (no data for Germany before 1870): steady capital to income ratio through the 19th century. The U.S. ratio is at a lower level than in the other nations (around 500% in the U.S., 700% in France and Britain, no German data before 1870). The big surprise to me is that neither the abolition of slavery nor all of the destruction of the Civil War had a noticeable effect on the capital/income ratio; factory wealth increased as slave wealth zeroed out. I also would have expected that the income side of the ratio would have been affected by the inclusion of former slaves' income, but I don't see it.

Because the previous work of nonfiction that I read was 1493, I am annoyed by a significant blind spot in Piketty's analysis of U.S. history and data. In several places early in the book he discusses the colonization of the New World as a situation of people arriving in a place with no population, no income and no wealth. In fact, there is some evidence that North America was experiencing a substantial population and wealth decline during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: the Native population was decreasing due to disease faster than the Europeans were arriving. In the eighteenth century, the first large European-American fortunes came from the fur trade, which also was a source of a huge amount of income and wealth growth among the Native population. The census and tax data Piketty relies on for 1790-1880 period exclude a significant portion of the population, called in U.S. government documents of that period "untaxed Indians." Effectively this group is assumed to have no wealth and no income. In fact, the "untaxed Indians" were a significant but decreasing part of the population, and occupied a disproportionate amount of the land in the earlier period. Query whether other nations also omitted significant population groups from their statistics in the earlier periods (Romany? Travelers? Basque? I don't know), and what effect this would have on the calculations throughout the book.

Finally, in this chapter Piketty's love of literary examples goes unhinged. In previous chapters, Jane Austen and Balzac illuminated how those authors thought about money and wealth in the time period that they were writing. In this chapter, there are no literary examples from Germany. For anecdotes about the U.S, he looks at two movies and one TV series: "Titanic," "Django Unchained" and "Mad Men." This is lazy and stupid, as if he happened to have the tv on when he was writing. None of those sources is a contemporary account, and there's no particular reason to think that they are historically accurate on the issues cited. Tarantino is quite clear that his world is not supposed to be historically accurate. There is no shortage of nineteenth century literature discussing the economic aspects of slavery, e.g. 12 Years a Slave, the movie of which came out too recently for inclusion, that would make more sense. I expect there will be a substitution in future editions. the that movie of came out too late for inclusion). The "Mad Men" anecdote, using the British acquisition of a U.S. ad agency in 1960 as emblematic of foreign investment in the U.S., is pointless since the fictional investment occurred at a time when "net foreign capital" was decreasing to an insignificant level, see figure 4.6. I suspect Piketty's literary choices have to do with the absence of U.S. (and German?) historical novels in the French liberal arts curriculum, but that's a guess. Bad move, Piketty.


 

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My Limits

Posted by Ogged
on 06.08.14

Homeless G was outside the local grocery today, and I asked him what he'd like. Orange juice and a chicken sandwich. Great. With extra sharp cheddar. Fabulous. With cheese on both sides of the meat. Seriously, dude? I was genuinely annoyed! I know he has some mental deficits, but come on. (I didn't order it the way he wanted.)

I think there are two types of person who might find themselves in this situation and not be annoyed: the bless-his-heart pity for the poor bastard crowd, who don't quite see him as a human being like them (I think I'm probably a better person than these people) and the genuinely generous who act out of a deep well of goodness (I'm definitely a worse person than these people). I guess there's a third kind, which is people who don't think twice about placing high-maintenance orders, but I'm pretty sure I had all those people shot.


 

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The Technical Game

Posted by Ogged
on 06.08.14

A little while back, I bought this book, thinking it would be nice to know something about soccer tactics. But when it says "a history" of soccer tactics, it really means the history part. I'm currently reading about whether an Austrian player was poisoned or died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1939. So I was happy to see that Grantland is filling the gap with a pretty good primer on formations, movement, teamwork and like in soccer. It relies a bit too much on comparisons to American sports, but it gets the job done. Anyone filled out a bracket for the World Cup?


 

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I See

Posted by Ogged
on 06.08.14

Bowe Bergdahl with a pipe. Does this mean he should be traduced by his comrades, forgotten by his country, and left to rot in a Taliban cage? I think we all know the answer to that.


 

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