Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, May 07, 2005

May 8th is Mothers' Day

A reminder for those who might suffer from guilt or retribution should they forget.

I Wonder Why Canadian Media Do Not Have This on Their Sites

I guess it doesn't count if rockets are fired, but no one is hit. Thank goodness media outside North America are willing to report it. From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (link via Little Green Footballs):

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired four rockets at an Israeli town, resulting in several people being treated for shock.

The attacks are undermining the de facto ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

One of the homemade Palestinian rockets smashed into a building [empty, according to other reports] in the centre of the Israeli town of Sderot.

Three other rockets landed in an open field outside the town.

Hours later Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank rocket at a school bus carrying children from a Jewish settlement in Gaza.

Witnesses say the rocket narrowly missed its target.

During an alleged ceasefire, terrorists fire a rocket at a school bus full of children and miss.

But check the CBC for the keywords in this story. It's not there.
Check CTV. It isn't there either.
Check, a source for major Canadian newpapers. Not there either.

However it does appear on Little Green Footballs. Check out the comments, especially this one.

[Thanks to M.A. for the pointer]

Lessons Learned While Building a Deck/Patio

I started building a cedar deck/patio this week. Phil quite sensibly asked whether I really thought I had a comparative advantage in deck-building, which was a very polite way of asking if perhaps my time might be more profitably spent on some other activity, such as working on a project he and I are doing together.

So call it a hobby, then.

Anyway, I learned a few things from my latest home-renovation project.

  1. Contrary to some earlier fantasies, I do not want to do construction/carpentry when I retire from academics. I'm getting too old and out-of -shape (and hence tired and sore) to do this sort of thing full-time.
  2. Wear a hat in the sun, even if the temperature is only 10 degrees [Canadian]. Especially if you're bald.
  3. I would not have dreamed of doing this job without power tools.
  4. Don't leave an open can of pop/soda near the saw. If you do, the next swig adds considerably to your daily fibre intake.
  5. Get at least a 10" mitre saw if you think you might be cutting 2x6's on an angle. Mine's only 8 inches [btw, the cognoscenti call it a "chop saw"].
  6. There are very many ways to hurt yourself with a mitre saw. It probably requires a PhD in economics to figure some of them out.

No. I will not post pictures.

Update: I guess I don't measure things very well. I have a 10" chop saw; get a bigger one if you can, because the 10-incher doesn't do angles in 2x6's at all well.

Jazz Concert in Stratford, ON

Last fall, when I first started blogging, I wrote about The Wandering Minstrel, a CD shop in Stratford where, from time-to-time, the proprietor hosts small concerts [maximum seating capacity is about 50 - 60].

Mark Rowsome, who runs The Wandering Minstrel, is a former world champion figure skater who has turned his energies to music and the promotion of small chamber music groups and soloists.
He also hosts jazz concerts. In fact one of the best concerts we attended there last season was an evening of jazz by Don Thompson on bass and Roy Patterson on guitar. Mark is opening this season with two concerts by them, on Friday, May 13th and Saturday, May 14th. If you live anywhere near Stratford, you should attend at least one of these concerts. The musicians are first-class, and environment at the Wandering Minstrel is cozy and inviting. Here is a portion of the e-mail that Mark sent me on Friday about the concerts:

Don Thompson (double bass and piano) and Roy Patterson (guitar) will start the season with two concerts, May 13 and 14 which will be recorded for a new CD. 8pm, $20.00.
I highly recommend the concerts. But if you don't go, that'll be fine with me, too, since I'd hate for the place to get too crowded. 8-)

For reservations, it is probably easiest just to e-mail Mark: Or you can call him at 1-519-273-2790.

Please note that I am simply recommending these concerts. I get no kickbacks or commissions or anything if you go. I just think they're a great experience.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Predatory Pricing in Gasoline

The Washington Post reports that this week some gasoline stations in Maryland were required to raise their gasoline prices because of a law passed in 2001 requiring that they not sell gasoline for prices below the wholesale cost. The avowed purpose of the law is to protect competitors from predation and, hence, protect consumers from the long run monopoly prices that would ensue once small independent competitors were driven out of business by the predatory firms with long purses.

Independent service station owners pressed lawmakers for the measure as a way to protect themselves from big retailers selling gas below cost to drive them out of business and limit competition.

...Maryland law prohibits companies that refine gas from operating stations. That means all Exxons and Chevrons, for example, must be operated independently. The independent operators argue that this creates more competition and lowers prices, though the Federal Trade Commission staff has said companies that operate both refineries and stations have efficiencies that can bring prices down.

..."These laws are not necessary," said Mitchell J. Katz, an FTC spokesman. "They hurt competition."
The laws against price-cutting are clearly designed to protect competitors, not competition. Can you say "Robinson-Patman"? The literature in economics is rife with examples and theoretical treatments. Classic articles about predatory pricing and how unlikely we are to observe it include those by Lester Telser and John McGee. So why does the article say,

Several economics professors were unable point to any definitive research showing that the law would ultimately hurt or benefit consumers.
Perhaps the writer of the article, along with the Maryland legislators, needs to read the recent postings by Brad DeLong here and here [Thanks, JC], by Phil Miller here and here, and by Alex Tabarrok. How definitive do they want?

As a consumer, my reaction to gasoline price wars is "Hurt me some more, please!"

Tony Blair: who is he?

I have been watching the BBC coverage of the UK election, and I see that Tony Blair's Labour party will likely win again, but by a somewhat smaller majority than it had before.

Instapundit is noting that the vote seems, in part, to be a ratification of Blair's support of the war in Iraq. Maybe. He has also said that it might be taken as support for Blair's domestic policies.

This last point concerns me. In Blair's speech after about 300 of the seats had been decided, he emphasized a huge number of interventionist/socialist type policies, including more funding for day care and education.

He said Labour had to "focus on the things that matter" such as the NHS, jobs and law and order.
He added: "I know too that Iraq has been a divisive issue in this country but I hope now that we can unite again and look to the future - there and here."
Too bad. I had always hoped he would continue to be a blue Labourite.

Fewer Future Farmers

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports [registration required] that nearly a quarter of Western Canadian farmers expect to be out of farming within the next five years.

The survey, conducted by Sensus Research Inc. for The Western Producer magazine, polled 805 active farmers and ranchers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, asking for their opinions on their future prospects in the sector.

The results showed that about 23 per cent of those surveyed said it was to some degree doubtful that they would still be farming by end of the decade.

...The findings come as the Canadian agriculture sector battles against widespread difficulties, ranging from weak commodity prices to the impact of mad-cow disease on cattle exports.
Expected economic profits are negative, and so firms exit.
Just the way we draw it up on the overheads in the classrooms.
Isn't economics terrific!

What do you think will happen to the relative prices of agricultural real estate over that same period?
If you think they are going to rise, we need a different explanation for why farmers are expecting to exit.
One possibility is that their expected earnings elsewhere are greater than in farming -- good old opportunity costs as an explanation. Again.


I would like to recommend the on-line edition of "Commentary" magazine.

Here are just three of the many articles available in their current issue:

The Bush Doctrine's Next Test by Victor Davis Hanson
Can we take a principled stand for democracy when three of our powerful "friends" in the Muslim world are dictatorships?
Jews, Arabs, and French Diplomacy: A Special Report by David Pryce-Jones
Since the 19th century, raison d'état has been powerfully reinforced at the top by a culture of anti-Semitism.
Investing in Conservative Ideas by James Piereson
Philanthropists have played a key role in the advance of today's governing philosophy, but tomorrow's remains up for grabs.

616, not 666

According to a recent story in Canada's National Post, recent research has revealed that the number initially associated with Satan was 616, not 666 [thanks to Alex for the link].

...a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all.

A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist.

Ellen Aitken, a professor of early Christian history at McGill University, said the discovery appears to spell the end of 666 as the devil's prime number.

I find this new information very compelling. I was raised in Muskegon, Michigan, where the area code is 616. My high school had the highest drop-out rate in the nation when I was there. The smells from the paper mill and foundries were putrid, and the local acid-rain fall-out from the foundries made quick work of automobile paint finishes.

Aside from the beautiful beaches and our friends and families, many of us thought of the place as a living hell.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Every week, when my copy of The Economist arrives, the first thing I do is look at the tables in the back. One of the first things that jumps out is that in Canada, no matter whether one uses M1 or M2 to measure the money supply, we have been experiencing monetary growth at a rate of about 10% per year for quite some time.

We have been experiencing real growth rates between 2 and 3 percent per year in Canada. We have also been experiencing rates of inflation around 2 percent per year.

Since the Quantity Equation for money is a tautology, that must mean that the income velocity of money has been declining at a rate of about 5% per year. Why?

One reason is the low nominal interest rates in Canada; the opportunity costs of staying liquid are not very high. Another reason is that increasingly financial institutions are arranging to make (minor) interest payments on balances, whether they are M2 or just M1 balances, so the distinction between the two is no longer very important.

I honestly do not see how the velocity can keep dropping. If I am correct, and if the Bank of Canada continues to pump up the money supply at annual rates approaching 10%, look for more inflationary pressure in the Canadian economy.

Barriers to Exit, Expectations, and Investment

Siemens, a German corporation, is losing so much money from its phone-making operations that it would be happy to pay someone to take the division off their hands. But they can't. [thanks to BrianF for the link].

GERMAN labour laws are blocking the sale of Siemens's troubled mobile phonemaking arm. Siemens is struggling to find a buyer for the loss-making division, despite the firm offering E500m ($650m £340m) - equivalent to a year's losses - to anyone prepared to take the unit off their hands.

... Siemens's trouble highlights the problems for business in Europe's largest economy. Many companies, notably in the car industry, have found German legislation makes it difficult to cut jobs or wages, or increase working hours, making the country an unattractive place to invest. Redundancy costs are prohibitively high. Giant American phonemaker Motorola is anxious to expand its European market share and industry experts have suggested that the Siemens's mobile division would be a perfect fit.

However, Motorola is believed to have abandoned discussions because of the potential labour problems that would come with the acquisition. It refused to comment.
My reading of this article is that Siemens is losing money in it's phone-making division, but shutting it down or reorganizing it would cost more than continuing to operate it at a loss.

Surely other firms see the predicament that Siemens is facing; surely this incident will lead to less investment in Germany. And just as surely, less investment means less growth and less future income for workers.

Who's On First?

I realize some people play baseball in Australia; and others are interested in the sport. But don't you wonder how many readers in Australia understood the extra humour in this story's headline?

Abbott tells Costello about team spirit
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Peter Costello must accept he may not get his own way on the Liberal Party's leadership.
[h/t to BF]

Petition to the AUT to End the Boycott

There is an on-line petition, urging the British Association of University Teachers to rescind their plan to boycott two Israeli universities. I have signed it. You should too. Click here to see the petition and sign it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Howard Jacobson

Recently, I have read a few things by Howard Jacobson. Also see here ($) to learn more about his writing. He is a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer, with an amusing or ironic twist at times.

World Fish Stocks:
The Tragedy of the Commons

From the Economist's Global Agenda:

New talks begin in Canada this week aimed at rescuing the world's fragile fish stocks. The simplest solution is tougher rules limiting fishing--but politicians have a way of caving to fishing lobbies.
The shortages are becoming more serious because demand is growing while property rights to the fish and ocean fishing areas remain imprecise and only partially enforceable.

One reason for this is the age-old “tragedy of the commons”, whereby anyone with access to a shared valuable resource has an interest in over-exploiting it, and it is in nobody's interest alone to maintain it. Another reason is the tendency of politicians to cave in spinelessly to the demands of the fishing industry, just as they do when faced with angry farmers. The European Union’s common fisheries policy, for instance, is no less absurd than its agricultural namesake. Attempts to alter it—by, for instance, creating no-fishing zones off some member countries' coasts—have been horribly watered down against the advice of independent experts, most recently last December.
One likely outcome is the growth of fish-farming, which is not without problems:

Most farmed fish must be fed with other fish that have been caught in the sea; sometimes several tonnes of dead fish are needed for one tonne to live. Critics also argue that farmed fish is fatty, polluting and stuffed with antibiotics.
The reason fish-farming will grow is that it involves well-defined property rights, leading to conservation, preservation, and growth.

Defining the Relevant Market:
Higher Education

I recently asked my students whether they thought the universities in Ontario are a cartel. The universities unite on many things, including lobbying the provincial gubmnt and the application submission process, and they certainly meet to discuss price co-ordination.

I wish I had had this article for the students to read [h/t to BF for the pointer]:

Students' leaders say people are trying to avoid top-up fees, which are being introduced in England's universities from autumn 2006.

There was a 17% increase in students from England applying to Scottish universities in the year to April.

Welsh universities saw a 12% increase in applications from England over the same period.

Applications to Scotland and Wales from England were 28,948 and 42,021 respectively in the year to April.

Northern Ireland also saw a rising number of applicants from England - up from 865 to 1,128.
The article doesn't say by what percentage the expected "top-up fees" will increase overall tuition, but it looks as if the cross-price elasticity of demand is pretty high.

There are many substitutes for most goods and services; demand curves are generally more elastic than people expect.

Hospital Mortality

When BenS sent this item from Medscape [registration required] to me, he added, "Don't take a wheelchair to the hospital". Since he is a socionomologist, I had to ask if he was serious.

A major finding in this study was the contribution of functional status at the time of hospital admission as an independent predictor of mortality. Thus, patients who were in wheelchair or bedridden were 1.4 times and 4 times, respectively, more likely to die compared to patients who walked without problems.
One of many questions: if the baseline comparison group walked without problems, is that in contrast with those who walked with problems?

When you read the study, you cannot help but wonder whether epidemiologists have ever heard of multiple linear regression models. Maybe Alex, at Marginal Revolution, can help explain the concept to them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

AAUP Condemns AUT Boycott

The American Association of University Professors has condemned the UK AUT boycott of two Israeli universities. [see here, here, and here].

The American Association of University Professors joins in condemning these resolutions and in calling for their repeal. Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has been committed to preserving and advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and however unpalatable those policies may be viewed. We reject proposals that curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of scholars and ideas. The AAUP urges the AUT to support the right of all in the academic community to communicate freely with other academics on matters of professional interest.
Thanks to M.A. for the link.

Australian Higher Education Paradox of Pay

How many times do you hear about an employer who says, "We haven't been paying our employees enough," and the union says, "Oh, yes, you have. You're paying plenty."?

That is what is happening in Australia [h/t to BF for the pointer]:

Education Minister Brendan Nelson yesterday seized on a report that shows some academic salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation to urge universities to embrace the Howard Government's push for more flexible workplace arrangements or fall further behind.

Dr Nelson said the report explained why universities were failing to attract and retain talented academics.

"Unless universities can be more competitive in the international labour market and offer better career opportunities to attract the best young academics, the long-term quality of higher education is at risk," Dr Nelson said. "The report confirms that institutions have been finding it increasingly difficult to fill positions at both entry level of the salary range (associate lecturer) and the top end (professor).
At the same time, the union is saying, "Oh, no, you don't. We did a good job for our workers."

Unions yesterday described academic salaries as high by international standards, accusing Dr Nelson of attempting to undermine strong wage growth delivered by enterprise bargaining.

National Tertiary Education Union assistant secretary Ted Murphy said academic salaries reflected strong results from enterprise bargaining.

"The data indicates that academic salaries in Australia are higher than most Commonwealth countries including Canada, the UK and New Zealand, but lower than Singapore," he said.
Pretty amusing set of incentives that brings this about.

Why All the Interest in Sam Peltzman's Wardrobe?

In the past few days, for some odd reason, The Eclectic Econoclast has received a number of visits from people searching for information about Sam Peltzman's wardrobe. I recall, from many years ago, that Economics Professor, Sam Peltzman had a reputation for his wardrobe, but I am at a loss as to why people might be interested in it now, 30 years later.

The Declining Demand for Beer

Unlike Phil Miller, I am anything but a beer afficinado. In a blind taste test, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Coor's Light and Guiness.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued by the apparent downward trend in the demand for beer. Daniel Gross, writing in Slate, offers two general reasons [thought not exactly in these words] for the decline:

  1. The income elasticity of demand for foreign beers is much higher than for domestic beers, and with rising incomes, people are switching to imports. At current income levels, domestic beers are inferior goods.
  2. Also, people are switching to hard liquor (and probably for similar reasons).
Here is his explanation:

In the 1980s, beer-drinking yuppies, just as they did with automobiles, turned away from domestic brands and toward imports. That has continued. The Beer Institute reported that total beer imports in the first nine months of 2004 rose a solid 3.7 percent. But that's not enough to take the fizz out of Bud and Miller's growth.

The real problem is that Americans increasingly tipple with wine and hard liquor. Health-conscious baby-boomers, fretting about waistlines and heart murmurs, are eschewing high-carb beer for cardiac-friendly merlot (or, post-Sideways, pinot noir). According to the Wine Institute, U.S. wine sales have risen smartly in recent years, from 558 million gallons in 2000 to 627 million gallons in 2003.

Meanwhile, the young and hip—traditionally the biggest consumers of beer—are looking for harder stuff. Club-goers want less Molson Ice and more Maker's Mark. The spirits crowd has become better at marketing, too, especially to younger consumers. That is one of the reasons a bidding war may be erupting over Allied-Domecq (Courvoisier, Kahlua, Stolichnaya), which recently agreed to be bought by Pernod Ricard.

I would offer a third, complementary, explanation. The growth in the consumption of coolers, especially by young females, has replaced beer sales to a great extent (according to the proprietor at the local beer store). Many young women who used to drink beer now drink rum or vodka coolers instead of beer.

Field Trip to the Museum of Foreign Debt

Apparently this story is serious [thanks to BrianF for the link]:

Three years after staging the largest debt default in modern history, Argentina has opened what may be the first Museum of Foreign Debt to teach people the perils of borrowing abroad.

The subject is heavy but the museum's creators have tried to make the mood light and the displays accessible to everyone, especially schoolchildren.

In one corner, a pink, doll-sized play kitchen represents the recipes of the International Monetary Fund, which Argentines blame for encouraging the heavy borrowing in the 1990s that led to the catastrophic economic collapse in late 2001.

"We chose a play kitchen because we are always so innocent and believe in magic recipes from abroad," museum designer Eduardo Lopez said.

"Look, we open the freezer and the oven and there is no food."

But the museum in the University of Buenos Aires economics department does not dwell only on the latest debt crisis: it goes back to Argentina's first default in the early 1800s and gives a detailed account of the last 30 years, when the country's foreign debt woes snowballed.

I can hardly imagine what economic analysis lies behind these displays. I realize it is always convenient to blame foreigners for a country's overspending; lord knows, the Canadian opposition to foreign investment throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s exemplifies this behaviour. At the same time, I hope the museum points out that when there is more capital, the marginal product of labour rises (along with wages).

I find it appropriate that the appliances contain no food. The whole thing smacks of empty rhetoric to me.

Thunder at Twilight

Bens highly recommends reading Thunder at Twilight by Frederic Morton. Check out the Amazon reviews; it received 5 stars from the reviewers there. Here is a short snip from one of the reviews:

In 1913 Vienna was host to men who would make an indelible impression on the 20th century. Just to name a few, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Tito, Freud, and the Hapsburg Royal family all within one square mile of each other. Morton gives a good portrayal of the lives of these men during their formative time spent in Vienna. He also gives a good account of the tension between Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand who wanted to reform the Austro-Hungarian Empire to include the room for nationalist aspirations of the Slavs, and Emperor Franz Joseph who wanted to maintain the status quo.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Danger of Bailouts

One big problem with bailing out a major firm to save the jobs of the workers there is that the bailout creates the impression that other large firms will also be bailed out in the future.

That is exactly what has happened in the auto industry, according to Thomas Bray of the Detroit News [link via Newmark's Door]. GM and Ford executives and unions alike negotiated deals that were great if the firms did well. And if the firms didn't do well? Just count on the gubmnt to bail them out...

...allowing Chrysler to go belly up would have sent a strong signal to the auto unions -- and management itself -- to get real about the threats they were facing from Japan and elsewhere.

...The lesson learned in many quarters -- in particular, among workers enjoying a virtual monopoly over labor within the U.S. auto industry -- from the Chrysler bailout was that government would protect the auto companies from serious harm.

...As a Wall Street Journal front page story pointed out last week, there is little talk these days of a Chrysler-style bailout. But there is still lots of talk about an indirect bailout -- say, through shifting retiree health care and other "legacy costs" to the taxpayer.

But as we should have learned from the Chrysler bailout, the legacy costs of intervening in the marketplace can be very high, even if they are not immediately obvious.

People respond to incentives, and expectations of bailouts are an incentive.

Ted Frank

Ted Frank is a fascinating person with a strong interest in sports, economics, restaurants, and the law. He and I first "met" on the old internet newsgroup "", where many of us discussed and debated the early ideas in sabremetrics, the precursors to what has come to be known as "Moneyball."

Ted has been blogging for quite some time at Overlawyered, to which I have linked several times since I started The Eclectic Econoclast. And now Ted has his own, personal blog, Lagniappe, which covers a broader range of his interests. It is sure to become a "must-read" for many of us who have enjoyed his work over the past decade or more.

For those curious about the meaning of "lagniappe", click here [I was and did].

David Laidler and Bill Robson Win Donner Prize

My colleague, David Laidler, is one of the world's leading monetary economists. His list of publications and accomplishments attests to his knowledge and productivity.

I have valued his presence in the economics department at UWO because he is always happy to try to explain monetary economics to me, any time I ask.

Late last week it was announced that David Laidler and co-author William Robson won the prestigious Donner Prize

for their book TWO PERCENT TARGET: Canadian Monetary Policy Since 1991, published by the C.D. Howe Institute. Described by the Donner jury as “a masterful analysis of the evolution of Canadian monetary policy,” TWO PERCENT TARGET provides an informative and accessible explanation of the economics of monetary policy and a lucid account of its operation in Canada through the 1990s from two of the country's foremost commentators on the subject. [from the press release announcing the award]
The introduction of the book is available in pdf format on-line from the C.D. Howe website. This quotation captures the essence of the book very well.

We are convinced ... that the interaction between the supply of and the demand for money plays a key role in the transmission of central bank policy to the economy. We further believe that this view is supported by abundant empirical evidence of a close long-run correlation between money growth and inflation, and of shorter-run relationships in which variations in money growth precede the output and inflation rate fluctuations associated with them. These considerations have led us to treat the instability in the demand for various monetary aggregates that has been evident at times in Canada and other economies since the early 1980s as a complication in analyzing money’s role in monetary policy processes, rather than a justification for ignoring it.

Therefore, the stock of money plays a larger role in our story than
is nowadays fashionable.
Beats the hell out of rationalized expectorations with instantaneous adjustments and over-lapping generalizations.

Julie Burchill Takes on the AUT

Julie Burchill is one of my favourite writers, as I have said before. In this piece, she takes on the British Association of University Teachers [AUT] over their boycott of Israeli universities.

... you won't find many people trying to explain why a person is prejudiced. 'Oh, they're just ignorant!' is the best you'll get. And it may well be true. Which is why the sight of 'clever' people showing prejudice seems singularly grotesque. What's THEIR excuse?

... Britain IS currently playing host to the biggest ever annual number of violent anti-Semitic attacks, both on people and on property, since the 1930s. Who can blame the teachers, so conscious of their uncoolness, for wanting to get 'down wiv the kidz'? They're too respectable to daub swastikas on a synagogue - but it sure feels good to band together and bully them Israeli academics!

...In one way this turn of events is as unexpected as it is cruel - after all, in this country it tends to be academics who react to anything from mild censorship to book-burning with 'That's how Hitler started!' That they are now doing something Hitler would thoroughly approve of, and did - barring contact with Jews - seems to have escaped them. But in another way, it makes logical, horrible sense. It's not so long since English academia saw nothing wrong with having Jewish quotients as a matter of course, lest the 'best' universities be over-run by those unnaturally smart Heebs. Far from flying in the face of English academic freedom, maybe the latest haters are simply reverting to type.
There are many British academics speaking out against the AUT executive. Let us hope that more join those who are doing so.

[thanks to M.A. for the tip]

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Economics of Buttock Implants

JC of the Emirates Economist has sent me this link about buttock implants and lifts. It seems that sometimes when people have dramatic weight loss, their buttocks become quite flat, and I gather some people find flat buttocks unattractive. To fix the flatness, they're willing to spend good money on plastic surgery:

Plastic surgeons have adapted standard techniques and are developing new ones to address patients' desire for firmer, higher, rounder buttocks. Innovations in buttock augmentation surgery will be discussed by leading experts at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) in New Orleans.

...According to ASAPS 2004 statistics, Americans had over 2,100 buttock augmentation procedures and nearly 6,000 buttock lifts last year.
The meeting will feature a panel on May 3rd, discussing grafts vs. implants, along with:
  • Buttock Implants -- Aesthetic Evaluation, Technical Approach and Avoidance of Complication: Tuesday, May 3, 2:45 p.m.
  • Buttock Augmentation Using Solid Silicone Implants: Tuesday, May 3, 4:15 p.m.
  • "Universal" and Ethnic Ideals of Beautiful Buttocks; How to Create Them Surgically: Tuesday, May 3, 4:23 p.m. [note: eight minutes allowed for this topic and the previous one!]
  • Autoposthesis Buttock Augmentation: Tuesday, May 3, 4:31 p.m.
One interesting question is what portion, if any, of the procedures would be covered by different health plans. Even co-insurance lowers the effective price to the patient, and thus would increase the quantity demanded.

More on the AUT Boycott of Israeli Universities

Perhaps the overwhelming effect of so many academics and others who have been speaking out against the British Association of University Teachers [AUT] boycott of two Israeli Universities is finally having some effect on the AUT executive. The announced boycott

  • is hypocritical because the AUT has not voted to boycott universities in other countries with far more serious violations of human rights
  • is anti-Semitic
  • is a threat to academic freedom

The AUT executive has now announced, "Well, maybe we were a bit hasty, and so we're going to hold off, at least until the storm dies down." Not in those words, though. Here is their announcement in full:

Israel universities - further statement to members

AUT general secretary Sally Hunt has issued a further statement to members following the AUT Council decision to boycott two Israeli universities.

Ms Hunt said: 'The national executive will issue guidance to local associations on the implementation of the boycotts of the two Israeli universities in due course.

Until this guidance is issued, it is stressed that members should be advised to not take any action in relation to a boycott which would place them in breach of their contract of employment.'

So now add "cowardly" to "anti-Semitic" and "opposed to academic freedom" and "hypocritical" in any descriptions of the AUT executive.

Those of us opposed to their actions and policies must continue to apply the pressure.

Otherwise, once the outrage dies down [this time], the AUT executive will have quietly implemented some anti-Semitic, anti-academic freedom policy without the opportunity for the AUT membership to vote these scoundrels out of office.
[h/t to BenS for the pointer]

Crows, Toads, and Liver

Where does BrianF find this stuff? Well, we know, because he provides the links.
I note that much of it has come from the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

Hungry crows behind toad explosions

Toads have been exploding by the hundred in Germany because they are being attacked by crows, a veterinary surgeon has revealed.

Animal welfare workers and veterinarians had reported that as many as 1,000 toads had swelled to bursting point and exploded in recent days, propelling their entrails up to a metre into the air.

Veterinary surgeon Frank Mutschmann, who has examined the remains of the toads, says they have been pierced with a single peck by crows trying to eat their livers. This in turn causes the toads to explode.

"The toads swell up as a form of self-defence," Dr Mutschmann said.

"But when their livers are taken away and their stomachs are punctured, their blood vessels explode, their lungs collapse and the other organs come out."

..."Crows are intelligent animals. They learn very quickly how to eat the toads' livers," he said.
This story puzzles me. If crows are so smart, have they been doing this for centuries? If so, why is it news now? And if not, why did they learn how to do it only recently and not earlier?

"Dave" and Haig

Many of you have probably seen the movie, Dave, with Kevin Kline, et al. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I like it and watch it often when I see that it is on television. My embarrassment arises because the plot is basically left-wing interventionist tripe. Also it is romantic nonsense. I don't care, I still like it. Leonard Maltin gives it three stars.

After reading Alex Tabarrok's posting about his encounter with Alexander Haig*, I wondered if perhaps the White House Chief of Staff in Dave was patterned on Haig. Alex T writes
I introduced myself, he was pleasant and we talked a little but he didn't give his name. Oh hell, I thought, he expects me to know it.

Do I insult his vanity by asking or do I remain quiet? My instincts were to remain quiet but by failing to introduce himself he was clearly intending to signal his superiority and that annoyed me - thus at the price of revealing my ignorance I pricked his vanity and subtly indicated that I didn't know who he was. He responded, "Well, I was President twice...briefly".

Of course! I still didn't recognize him but I immediately knew. After all, he is famous for claiming he was President, Al Haig!
Twice? Perhaps the first time was while he was White House Chief of Staff for Nixon when Nixon resigned and Ford became president. Haig may have been "in control" very briefly then. And of course the second time was after Reagan was wounded and Haig announced, "I am in control...".

I asked Alex T if Haig smiled when he said he'd been president twice... briefly. Alex replied that Haig, "... wasn't pompous but he certainly wasn't self-deprecating either!"

* Alex T and Alex H? hmmm there's a dynamic duo for tv billing: Alex squared.
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