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, July 02, 2005

Cure World Poverty by Promoting Economic Growth

The Emirates Economist posts that, contrary to the beliefs of the organizers of Live-8,

Aid can relieve immediate suffering, but it does not spur growth. And it is economic growth that has been a lasting solution to poverty.
He links to a piece in the Financial Times that cites studies by the IMF and the World Bank.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that governments, donors, campaigners and pop stars need to be far more modest in their claims that increased aid will solve Africa's problems.

Days before the Live-8 concerts around the world, and next week's Group of Eight countries summit in Scotland, the IMF has released two extensive research papers that suggest aid flows to poor countries have not led to higher growth rates, the main driver of poverty reduction.

“We need to be careful given the chequered history of aid, that we do not place more hopes on aid as an instrument of development than it is capable of delivering,” the fund said.
The research, which took into account duration, type of donor and governance record of recipient, found aid did not boost growth. [emphasis added]

Nutrition Facts for Diet Pop

I absolutely love diet soft drinks. If I were more active and ate less other stuff, I'd drink non-diet pop, but given that I'm quasi-sedentary and I like to eat other stuff, I drink a lot of diet pop.

Whoever writes the "Nutrition Facts" on the can I am presently drinking either has a very good sense of humour and/or is being told to say this by some legal eagle or bureaucrat:

Not a significant source of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron.

Russian Expletives Wanted

Despite having studied Russian for three terms as an undergraduate 53 years ago, I never learned any expletives other than "ingest excrement", which just doesn't have the juicy ring I'm looking for.

On Tuesday, or shortly thereafter, I will be meeting a man from Russia, and I would like to greet him by saying,
"Your wife taught us all how to say "Hello" in Russian: [expletive inserted here]."
Please help! E-mail is fine, or post in the comments, but probably the Cyrillic alphabet is better than the Anglo-Roman one. Also, please provide translations so I know what I'm saying [and don't tell me it means "hello"!] I haven't even tried to use any Russian words since I dropped my last course. as an undergrad.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day

Today is July 1st -- Canada Day. From Wikipaedia,

Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is Canada's national holiday. It is celebrated on July 1.

It celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada through the British North America Act 1867, which came into effect on July 1, 1867, uniting three British territories — the Province of Canada (southern Ontario and southern Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — into a federation. (See Canadian Confederation.)

The holiday itself was formally established in 1879 and was originally called Dominion Day, making reference to the Canadian-originated term 'dominion' to describe the political union, at a time when the Fathers of Confederation were hesitant to use a name such as the Kingdom of Canada.

The name was changed to Canada Day on October 27, 1982.

Are We in a Megabubble?
a questionnaire

I'm not wholly convinced we're in any kind of bubble. But MA keeps trying to convince me that we are. Here, from, is an intriguing check-off questionnaire that may help you decide whether you think we're in a bubble.

This is not a normal domestic real estate bubble/bust cycle. We may be in an extraordinary global megabubble and real estate is just one of its many components.
Follow the clues. Then you decide if you see the bubbles! Look at each separately and then score them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least likelihood of a bubble and 5 meaning there is a definite bubble about to burst. ...

The Megabubble Poll

  • Real estate bubble. Clues: Speculators driving prices. Lenders offer cheap money, short-term loans. Home-equity loans fund short-term spending. Fed chairman sees minimal froth.
  • Energy and oil bubble. Clues: Crude hits another record. Political turmoil in oil-producing nations. Consumers buy gas-guzzlers at record pace. GM, Ford in trouble.
  • Foreign-trade deficit. Clues: Monthly deficits top $50 billion. This year's deficit will beat 2004's $617 billion. Foreigners now own $2.5 trillion of America.
  • Federal-budget deficit. Clues: Federal debt now $7.8 trillion; add another $400 federal deficit this year.
  • Corporate pensions underfunded. Clues: Airlines, auto, other manufacturers heavily burdened, default to taxpayers.
  • Local government pensions deficits. Clues: A near $400 billion mess draining local taxpayer resources.
  • Weak U.S. dollar. Clues: Fear China and other foreign powers will replace dollar reserves. Warren Buffett now betting $20 billion on foreign-currency hedging.
  • Social Security deficit. Clues: No choice, cut benefits or raise taxes; politicians hate both, so it'll get worse.
  • Health-care costs. Clues: Burden shifting to employees. Costs above inflation. 43 million uninsured.
  • Medicare deficit. Clues: Going broke faster than Social Security. Prescription drug benefit added an unfunded $8.1 trillion. Long-term estimates over $36.6 trillion.
  • Personal-savings shortfall. Clues: We consume not save. National savings rate is zero, down from 8% two decades ago. Average household net worth less than $15,000, excluding home equity.
  • Consumer debt bubble. Clues: We're living beyond our means. Consumer debt at $2 trillion. At 13%, household interest as a percent of income is at all-time high. Personal bankruptcies rising.
  • War and defense deficit. Clues: Iraq and Afghanistan wars cost over $200 billion a year, $2 trillion a decade.
  • Homeland insecurity. Clues: Minimal legislation to protect ports and chemical plants. Federal budget even cut border patrol 90%. Vigilantes patrolling.
  • Class gap widening. Clues: Superrich and CEOs getting increasing share of wealth, ownership and tax cuts.
  • Congressional pork. Clues: Both parties act like teenage addicts on a spending spree with stolen credit cards. By not using the veto, the administration acts like a parent who needs Nanny 911.
  • International credibility. Clues: Image problems: Post-9/11 imperialism, WMDs, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and more.
  • Junk mailings. Clues: Mail solicitations increasing for credit cards and hot stock newsletters.
  • New "Mad Money" cable show. Clues: Frantic, manic entertainment; 1990s irrational exuberance again.
  • Numerous key mini-bubbles. Environmental, resources, technology, educational, outsourcing, jobs, you pick!

Now total up your scores on these individual bubbles. If your total is 50 points or more, you see a megabubble dead ahead. Prepare accordingly. If you're close to 100 points, consider a very conservative strategy.

My score was 48. I'm about 1/3 liquid with my pension fund.

The Fate of Gays in the Muslim World

I really really really wish the left-wing defenders of both gays and Muslim fundamentalists would read this piece from Cato. Life for gays in the Muslim world is not likely to be very pleasant. From the conclusion [Thanks to Kip Esquire for the pointer]:

While he notes that secular nations such as Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Syria are more relaxed about homosexuality, Robert Spencer, director of and editor of The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, warns against equating the homophobia of strict Muslim states with, say, American social conservatives' opposition to gay-rights laws.

"Jerry Falwell and others like him do not call for the deaths of homosexuals, while these people do," Spencer tells me. "This demonstrates the bankruptcy and, ultimately, the danger of such moral equivalence arguments, which are nonetheless ubiquitous today in discussions of Islamic terrorism."

Unlike Sunday's marchers, many in the Muslim world literally risk their lives and limbs by merely peering out of the Islamic closet.
Anyone who cares about freedom or about gay rights should likely be opposed to religious fundamentalism in all countries, but the treatment of gays in the Muslim world sounds horrific.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Buttonwood on Oil Prices

Those who subscribe to The Economist can receive a weekly e-mail called, "The Global Agenda." It usually concludes with an interesting column, called "Buttonwood," the most recent of which is about Oil Prices:

... The surprise is not that the price of oil is rising. It has been doing so, broadly speaking, for a year.

... The surprise is rather that it took share prices so long to fall in response. In the month from May 22nd, oil prices rose by 21% yet the S&P 500 went up by 2.1%—a respectable clip. When oil first touched $60 it knocked share prices back a bit for three days, but they resumed their climb thereafter. True, some of that gain is accounted for by oil companies and their suppliers, who are suddenly being touted as a buy all over town. But what about other sectors?

One theory is that both shares and oil have been rising in response to common factors: buoyant economic growth and profits, and low interest rates.
She continues, citing research showing

that oil-price changes and stockmarket returns are linked but lagged: if oil prices rise, shares do fall, but not right away. Shares of obviously energy-related firms adjust at once, but broad stockmarket returns fall only during the following month or even two months—a pattern that is clearest with biggish oil increases and in countries that are most dependent on energy. This, if true, suggests a genuine market inefficiency. [emphasis added]

On that model, expect shares to fall next month—or at least fail to make the gains they would otherwise have made.

... Oil bears, conversely, see demand for oil slowing as economic growth slows, especially in China (whose imports dropped slightly in the first five months of this year, says Andy Xie of Morgan Stanley). And alternative sources of oil—Canada’s tar sands, Africa’s deepwater reserves—are nearer than many think: Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a think-tank, predicts that these and other developments will provide some 6m-7.5m bpd more capacity than the world needs by the end of the decade.
If there really is a lagged adjustment of share prices to oil prices, it is time to go liquid if you expect oil prices to continue to rise. But if you expect oil prices to fall, maybe the equity market is due for another rise. So, according to this hypothesis, how you treat the equity market might also be a reflection of your oil price expectations.

But why does the inefficiency exist?
And if it does still exist, will it soon be arbitraged away?

Phil Miller also has some material about oil prices at Market Power.

Apod Pornography

Ms. Eclectic thinks a recent photo at Apod might be seen as pornographic by some viewers. I disagree. Did anyone else see it as either Freudian or pornographic?

The Hamilton College Alumni for Governance Reform [HCAGR]

The HCAGR are (is?) really pissed off. Here's why. And here are the first three paragraphs of their public declaration [thanks to BenS for the pointer]:

In recent years the reputation of Hamilton College has been hurt by a series of events that have resulted in severely negative press in the national media. The College hired a professor who was a member of the Raelian cult that claimed to be pursuing the cloning of human beings. Former college president Gene Tobin engaged in plagiarism and resigned. The College Honor Code specifies that academic dishonesty is a serious offense that “will often result in removal from the course, assignment of an XF for the course, or separation from the College community, or some combination of these.”

Nonetheless, Tobin received a generous severance package and an endowed professorship in his name. In recent months, the Director of the Kirkland Project unilaterally appointed to the faculty Susan Rosenberg, a convicted felon whose sentence was commuted by Bill Clinton during the last days of his administration and then selected and paid an honorarium to Ward Churchill who has written and spoken that the victims of 9/11 deserved their fate as “little Eichmanns.” This Director’s acts have created an unprecedented wave of negative publicity that damaged the integrity and scholarly reputation of the school.

These events and the College’s response to them share a common thread: a failure of the school’s internal controls, policies and procedures. To our knowledge, the College has made only minor changes to the way it conducts business. We believe that more fundamental changes are necessary if the College wishes to prevent the mistakes of the recent past from being repeated. To support this goal we have formed Hamilton College Alumni For Governance Reform. Our goal is to establish that Hamilton’s primary mission is to educate its students by focusing all its energy and resources to scholarly research and pedagogical application.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Canadians' Views.
More from the PEW Survey

I posted yesterday about a survey showing [among many other things] that a majority of Canadians is dissatisfied with the direction their country is taking. Here are some more results of the PEW survey about attitudes in Canada [thanks, again, to John Chilton for the pointer].

Image of the United States and Canada

  • Favorable ratings for the U.S. continue to slip in Canada; 59% have a positive view of the U.S., down from 63% in 2003, and 72% in 2002.
  • Favorable views of Americans have also declined. Two-thirds of Canadians (66%) have a positive view of Americans, compared with the 77% in 2003 and 78% in 2002.
  • About three-quarters of Canadians associate Americans with the positive characteristics“inventive” (76%) and “hardworking” (77%), but just 42% say Americans are “honest.” Majorities of Canadians also associate the negative traits of “rude,” “violent” and “greedy” with Americans.
  • U.S. attitudes toward Canada remain positive, with 76% of the American public holding a favorable view of Canada. This is up from 65% in 2003, yet not quite as high as it was in 2002 (83% favorable).

Canadian opinions of their own country

  • Nearly all Canadians (94%) believe that their country is well-liked by other nations. This is the highest percentage among the 16 nations surveyed.
  • Canadians are increasingly dissatisfied with the way things are going in their country. Fewer than half (45%) say they are satisfied with national conditions, down from 60% in 2003 and 56% in 2002.
  • Canadians have strongly positive opinions of the impact of immigration; 77% say Asian immigrants are a good thing, and 78% say that about immigrants from Mexico and Latin America.

The Iraq War and U.S. Policies

  • Eight-in-ten Canadians believe their government made the right decision not to use military force against Iraq. This is up significantly from 65% in 2003.
  • A majority of Canadians believe the world is a more dangerous place as a result of the war in Iraq that removed Saddam Hussein from power; 37% believe it is safer. And, just 24% say Iraq will be more stable in the wake of the January elections there while a 61% majority thinks the situation in Iraq will not change much.
  • Just 19% of Canadians feel the U.S. takes Canadian interests into account at least a fair amount when making foreign policy.
  • A majority of Canadians (57%) now favor Canada taking a more independent approach from the U.S. to security and diplomatic affairs, up from 43% two years ago.
  • Canadians, once among the strongest U.S. allies in the war on terror, are now about evenly split on the issue, with 47% opposing the U.S.- led effort and 45% in favor. That represents a significant reversal from May 2003, when more than two-thirds of Canadians backed the war on terror (68%).
Note that the survey is small-sample:
The Global Attitudes Project conducted telephone interviews with a random sample of 500 Canadians from May 6- 11, 2005. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Got Warts?
Here's Good Advice

If you [or more likely a pre-teen or teenager you know] have warts, here is some interesting advice from Medscape [h/t to BenS]: See your pharmacist, not your physician!

A substantial part of the U.S. population has warts at any one time. Fortunately, most warts are of no consequence, other than being unsightly, although some cause pain or embarrassment. You may want to treat warts with OTC products rather than seeing a physician. Although some people try to ignore warts, this is not always a good idea for several reasons. First, warts will spread into new uninfected tissue without warning. They may also spread to other people if warts are damaged. For instance, a wart may interfere with work and be torn slightly, allowing the virus to escape. Children may pick or scratch at warts, allowing them to spread. Warts on the foot can be spread to other people who use the same bathing facilities. For these reasons, it is usually better to remove warts.

Should I Go to the Doctor?

Visiting a physician for treatment of a common wart (one with a cauliflower look to the surface) or plantar wart (a wart on the bottom of the foot) before trying a nonprescription product is not always the best move. Physicians remove warts through freezing, surgery, electrical methods, caustic chemicals, or lasers. Generally, these methods are expensive and painful. Treating a single wart with freezing can take nine weeks, with each treatment causing pain that lasts for several days.

Fortunately, your pharmacist can recommend several nonprescription products that have some important advantages over methods your physician may use[Emphasis added]. They contain salicylic acid, either in the form of liquids or pads. Salicylic acid products will be less expensive than physician methods such as electricity, surgery, lasers, and freezing. They produce little or no pain, as opposed to freezing or lasers (which may require general anesthesia in children). Salicylic acid products are also safer to use, as evidenced by the fact that they may be sold for home use. Finally, they are equally effective as some physician methods such as freezing, according to the latest evidence. Given all of these advantages, it makes sense to try to treat the plantar or common wart with these products before resorting to physician care.

Especially in Canada, where the waiting time to see a pharmacist is usually no more than five minutes, but the waiting time to see a dermatologist is often 5 months!

When BenS sent this to me, he added, "Pharmacists triumph over dermatologists. Score one wart (or more). Take aspirin and duct-tape and call me (your friendly local pharmacist) in the morning."

Samuelson's Foundations:
There Is a Reason Nobody Listed It

One of the books we all had to read/work our way through as graduate students in most major economics programmes in the 1960s was Paul Samuelson's Foundations of Economic Analysis. I note with some pleasure that none -- not one -- of the economists' book-tag responses that I have read mentions this book [Though I did see that Craig Newmark listed Samuelson's intro text].

There is a reason Samuelson's Foundations isn't listed. As I recently wrote to Walt, who asked me why so many modern grad schools emphasize math instead of economic logic,
I would say the bad aspects of the trend came with Samuelson's Foundations of Economic Analysis. Math was used in economics long before then, but his dissertation/book seemed to set the discipline off in a direction that was not very productive.
Math is good. Math has helped me. Math has helped others straighten me out. I was once a macho-math man. But math isn't worth much without a good appreciation of the Economic Way of Thinking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Ten Commandments and the Supremes;
the pre-emption of "etched in stone"

There is only one reason I can come up with for the split decision by the U.S. Supremes on public displays of the Ten Commandments, and it doesn't involve drive-in theatres showing old Charleton Heston movies.

I figure they (actually, Justice O'Connor, the swing voter) thought it would be really easy to get courthouses in Kentucky to remove the framed lists of the Ten Commandments, but it would be very costly to get Texas to blast or hoist out their granite copy. I certainly hope they/she didn't make the decision because the granite copy cost more to produce than the framed copies --- that would mean they/she don't/doesn't understand the importance of looking beyond sunk costs!

The incentive effects from the decision?
Look for more granite displays of the Ten Commandments.

Furthermore, if this simplistic hypothesis is correct, when any issue might be in doubt, look for more etched-in-stone pre-emptive, claim-staking strategic moves.

Don't the Supremes ever think about the incentive effects of their decisions?

I'm mostly an atheist, but I still think the 10 commandments have great historical value when discussing or celebrating the law, even if not all the reindeer are included.

Blu Ray vs. HD-DVD

As most of you know, there is a battle raging for format supremacy in the post-DVD world. The two major contenders are perennial loser, Sony (Beta, memory stick) with Blue Ray Disc [BD], and Toshiba with HD-DVD. The story is that Blue Ray is "better" [I think we heard this about Beta in the past] but that HD-DVD will be much cheaper to implement. Sony has lots of technical and computer-type firms aligned with it; Toshiba seems to have more movie studios aligned with it.

There have been talks between supporters of the two formats, but there has been no public appearance of any movement by either side.

Sony first made the suggestion back in April, in a bid to prevent not only a war between the two formats as each battles to win the favour of consumers, but also to limit HD DVD's lead in content availability. Pre-recorded movies on HD DVD are expected to ship in the US in Q4, just ahead of BD-based movies. And while the HD DVD spec is complete, some elements, such as copy protection, have yet to be finalised by the BD camp.

By late May, however, it was clear the negotiations were in deadlock, and so the principals brought in more senior staffers, including Kutaragi, to bring the discussions to a higher level. Once again, Sony's suggestion that HD DVD's data structure be incorporated into BD's, with BD providing the unified physical structure appear to have been rejected by Toshiba. To be fair, Sony hasn't been willing to embrace HD DVD, either.
So far the prognosticators have spent far too much time discussing technical merits and who supports whom. Not enough attention has been paid to what the consumers are likely to want. In the end (probably within 2-3 years) consumer sovereignty will anoint a winner. As Stan Liebowitz has shown for other technologies, there certainly is no reason to worry about path dependency. For his complete work in this area, see his Re-Thinking the Network Economy.

My own view is "enough already!" I have absolutely no desire to have to upgrade my meagre video collection once again. I'm quite content with our current DVDs. In fact, the new technologies befuddle me. But then it probably doesn't matter all that much to me, really; I don't watch very much on DVD; I mostly keep sports or music going in the background while I surf the net.

Does More Wealth Make More People Satisfied with Conditions in Their Country?

The Pew Global Attitudes Projectis a series of worldwide public opinion surveys that encompasses a broad array of subjects ranging from people's assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day. More than 90,000 interviews in 50 countries have been conducted as part of the project's work.

[Thanks to The Emirates Economist for the pointer]

As a part of its survey of people in different countries, PEW found that the number of people satisfied with how things were going in their countries was this:

It looks as if these numbers reflect people's expectations and their comparisons of the current state of their countries relative to these expectations. The countries with the higher numbers of satisfied people most likely have done well, compared with the past and compared with people's expectations; and the countries with the lower numbers of people satisfied need to work on lowering their citizens' expectations....


Lincoln University Should Not Be Proud of this Faculty Member

From the Campus Report Online:

One of the remarkable aspects of the War on Terror is the degree to which those who sympathize with movements with which the United States is in armed military conflict operate openly in America, particularly in Academia.

“Each Muslim, male and female, must realize the need for resistance (known as jihad in Islamic terminology) is as important as prayer and fasting,” Kaukab Siddique, an English professor at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, writes in Dajjal: Superpower U. S. A.. Originally published in 1991, the 31-page booklet went into its second printing in 2002, seven months after the September 11th, 2001 attacks upon the United States that claimed more lives than were lost in the 1941 attack upon Pearl Harbor that started World War II.
Furthermore, I would venture that this booklet counted positively toward his promotion, tenure, and salary determination even though he is in the English department.

Monday, June 27, 2005

What Is Wrong with Most MBA Programmes?

Paul Kedrosky has several recent interesting postings at Infectious Greed about the lack of hands-on knowledge among most biz skool profs and how that lack affects their courses. In one, he opines, Time to Fire a Few MBA Professors. Commenting on remarks by Yale School of Management Dean, Jeff Garten, Paul says

I couldn't agree more strongly that a root of the problem is that almost all business school professors have no business experience. And the incentive system is completely cock-eyed, with it being an embarassment that business schools treat promotion & tenure decisions as if biz school profs are lab physicists. Then again, all Garten's twin-track approach [some profs do practical teaching; others do research] will likely do is create a caste system inside schools, with the insiders hoarding power and control over the "mere" clinical faculty who, the dumb bastards, actually know what they are talking about. Craziness.
The comments and his responses make for good reading. In another piece, Paul links to this quote from Jeffrey Pfeffer:
There is little evidence that mastery of the knowledge acquired in business schools enhances people’s careers, or that even attaining the MBA credential itself has much effect on graduates’ salaries or career attainment.
In many respects, Kedrosky provides some useful insights. One reason the case-teaching method still has strong proponents in some of the better bizskools is that profs who use the case method typically have had at least some decision-making experience.

If you get a chance, ask Paul about his DBA dissertation.

Why Coinstar Inc. Loves Pennies

From NBC and the Associated Press:

62-year-old Edmond Knowles set a world record yesterday when he cashed in 1, 380,459 pennies.

Officials with Coinstar Incorporated sent an armored vehicle to collect the spare change, which was counted at Escambia County Bank.

There is much more, along with photos at the Coinstar site.

Coinstar has long been been ambivalent about my "Ban-the-Penny" campaign. After all, they earn their income off our higher transaction costs.

For more on getting rid of the penny, see Centsless.

Plastination, Corpses, and Art

Would you be willing to donate your body (or that of a parent or spouse [after their death, Jack]) to German anatomist Gunther von Hagens to use in his art projects?

Plastination, invented ... in 1978, is a process that replaces water and other fluids with plastic, preserving dead tissue indefinitely without odour.
He does this with cadavers and calls it art. And quite successfully.

Body Worlds 2, which features some 200 plastinated cadavers and body parts, will run at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto from Sept. 30 until Feb. 26, 2006.

... In the past decade, more than 17 million people around the world have seen the show and its predecessor, Body Worlds 1. In several cities, museums and science centres presenting the display were forced to extend viewing hours to accommodate the demand.

... Medical ethicists have decried the exhibit as a crass, commercial exploitation of the human body. Nevertheless, the Body Worlds shows are reported to have grossed about $200-million worldwide.
Von Hagens grosses over $200m from donated bodies. Do you think suppliers might start raising the price above zero once knowledge of his gross receipts becomes more widespread? Or is the quantity supplied at a zero price so large he will not have to start paying for them.

I'm thinking of specifying in my will that von Hagen and the medical schools can have a bidding war for my body, subject to a minimum reserve bid set by my heirs.

Or, in the present, do you think e-bay would accept this item for auction?
There are none listed there as I write this. Why not? It's just a forward contract.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dark Chocolates are Healthy
but this does nothing to tighten my priors

The Macon Georgia Daily News is reporting yet another study[this one from the June, 2005, Am. Jl. of Hypertension] indicating that indulging in dark chocolate is good for one's arteries [thanks to Jack for the link].

The researchers examined the effects of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate on blood-vessel function in 17 young, healthy volunteers over a 3-hour period after they consumed 100 grams of a commercially available dark chocolate.The investigators saw that an artery in the arm dilated significantly more in response to an increase in bloodflow. Chocolate consumption also led to a significant 7-percent decrease in aortic stiffness."The predominant mechanism appears to be dilation of small and medium-sized peripheral arteries and arterioles," Vlachopoulos and colleagues suggest.
Show me some longitudinal studies, and my priors might tighten a bit, but this study isn't all that convincing. Unfortunately.

Live-8 Is a REALLY Stupid Idea.
And Possibly Even Dangerous

I wrote last week that I do not think more aid and debt relief will help alleviate world poverty, but that free trade will help. Here is some really compelling evidence supporting my argument [h/t to Econotarian]

Fundamentally, economic growth depends on
qualitative, not quantitative, factors: the structure of
property rights, the extent to which courts of law apply
and enforce abstract, clear rules inexpensively and
quickly, the size of government and its effectiveness in
delivering public goods, and the openness of the
economy to trade and investment with the outside
It would be more sensible to scale back levels of aid,
provide aid only to governments that are already
reforming, and make aid available for a strictly limited
period of time. Other reforms, such as removing trade
barriers and eliminating trade-distorting agricultural
subsidies, would yield far more benefits than increasing
The data and the tables are fascinating, so read the whole thing. Here is a summary of one section of its research:

There is also strong correlation between the number of
loans and negative performance: the more adjustment
loans a country received, the worse it performed. This
reflects the politics of aid: donors want to salvage their
failures with new loans, and this sends a message to
recipient governments that they do not have to deliver
reforms to get more loans. There are good reasons to
believe that several governments had an incentive not
to deliver reforms since they could obtain more money
by not reforming.

... The conclusion is simple: donors cannot buy reforms in
developing countries. It is naïve to believe that foreign
aid and conditionality can achieve what the domestic
political process has not accomplished. That idea rests
on the assumption that political leaders in poor
countries actually are interested in reforms that are
conducive to economic growth, and have the capacity to
deliver those reforms. If we have learned anything from
political history, it is that such a romantic view of the
nature of politics is seriously ill informed – if not
altogether dangerous.
Powerful rhetoric!

For more, which captures my earlier thoughts, but which is much better written, see Rondi Adamson's column about Live-8 in The Trono Star, "...fairer trade rules will do a lot more for Africa." And here is Daniel Drezner on the inadequacies of Jeffrey Sachs' proposals [which are perilously close to those of Live-8] for reducing extreme world poverty in The End of Poverty .

Serena Williams: Love Her or Hate Her,
There's No Need for This

I don't know who Henry Wanker Wancke is. But there is no call for his style and tone as he described the loss of Serena Williams at Wimbledon on Saturday. What surprises me is that it is on the official Wimbledon site.

Pre- and Post-Mating Decisions;
Trophy Spouses?

From Mahalanobis:

Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives stay at home doing the housework, according to a report Wednesday from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER).
There are many competing hypotheses here.
1) Specialization leads to greater efficiency, so in that case the man can be a better worker.
2) Stay-at-home wives may prefer men with more earnings power, so it is really the women choosing the higher income men as opposed to creating them.
3) Men may prefer stay-at-home wives, but these are costly to support. Here men's preferences are creating the disparity, in that wealthy men disproportionately can afford to choose women with stay-at-home preferences.
I'd venture that married women also earn more than comparable single women if their husbands do all the homemaking chores. If so, how common is it for these guys to be perceived as trophies? If rarely, then the specialization hypothesis takes on more credibility.

Here's a further hypothesis for testing: married women earn less than their single counterparts if they are expected to manage the bulk of the homemaking chores in addition to a full-time job. The same specialization explanation applies, only with a variation. Assuming homemaking is more time-consuming for a family than for a single woman, a married woman will have more demands on her time unless her partner takes on a big chunk of the homemaking tasks, which, I gather, doesn't really happen all that much. This hypothesis helps explain the Fraser Institute result of many years ago that never-married women have incomes that are similar to those of comparable men.

Prostates, PSA-tests, and Cancer

Recent research has indicated that PSA tests for cancer may have considerable type I and type II errors.

The P.S.A. test "is just not as discriminating as we thought it was," said Dr. Michael J. Barry, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

As a result, many experts are suggesting that the P.S.A. not be the single focus of prostate cancer screening, but rather one piece in a puzzle with other risk factors.

... First Dr. Ian M. Thompson Jr., chief of urology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, published a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine reporting that biopsies found prostate cancer in as many as 15 percent of men with P.S.A. levels below 4.

Then Dr. Thomas Stamey, professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine, published a paper in The Journal of Urology saying that P.S.A. tests were virtually useless. In most men, P.S.A. levels of 2 to 10 are caused by nothing more than a harmless enlargement of the prostate that occurs when men age. But prostate cancer is so common that biopsies find prostate cancer in most middle-aged and older men if doctors look hard enough. So the results would be the same if doctors simply biopsied men age 50 and older than if they did a P.S.A. test first.

One word of warning from the article is that if PSA levels are rising, there may be cause for concern, even if the levels are less than 4.0, which is a standard cut-off [variable confidence interval?]

The other major point made in the article has been well-known for over 20 years.

... last month, Dr. Peter C. Albertsen of the University of Connecticut Health Center published a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association saying men with prostate cancers that do not look particularly aggressive under a microscope - the majority of men whose cancers are found with P.S.A. tests these days - can do perfectly well with no treatment for at least 20 years. All they need is to be monitored by a doctor to ensure that their P.S.A. levels are not shooting up.
It is interesting to see that this is still a view widely held among prostate oncologists.

h/t to BenS. Neither of us has prostate cancer, so far as I know.
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