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, August 06, 2005

Longevity Test

Depending on my diet and how I deal with stress, this questionaire says I'll live to somewhere between 85 and 89 years of age.

Just three more years to go.....

[p.s. Happy Anniversary to cmt]

Good Reasons for Concern about Anti-Semitism

Just in case you think concerns about anti-Semitism are exaggerated, check out this site. Here are some of the more egregious examples that have been documented.

Terror in London (8) - Lebanese Researcher Hisham Jaber: Global Zionism Is Behind London Bombings and 9/11 and Has Been Forging Holy Books Since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

#745 - Terror in London (4) - United Arab Emirates Friday Sermon: Igniting Civil Strife is the Habit of Jews and Christians, not Muslims

#706 - Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes to Dialogue with Christians, No with Jews.

#734 - UAE Professor Mustafa Muslim Claims Allah Has Gathered the Jews in Israel to Make It Easier for Muslims to Fight Them on Judgment Day. Here is a summary of this one:

The following are excerpts from an interview with Al-Shariqa University Professor Mustafa Muslim, which aired June 19, 2005 on Al-Majd TV

Muslim: [The Israelites] have spread all over the world. Now Allah gathers them in this land. He brings them in groups from all countries of the world, in order fulfill Allah's universal law: Judgment Day will come when Muslims fight the Jews, and the stone and the tree say: Oh, Muslim, Oh, servant of Allah, there's a Jew behind me, come and kill him. If the Jews were scattered throughout the world, how could we find them in order to fight them?

The war between us and the Jews is a religious war. This is not a war over a path, a land or anything like that. The part of the Koran that was given at Mecca, before the Muslim even met the Jews, each chapter reveals who the Jews really are, their perversity and the danger they present.

Our war with them is a religious war, and we must arm the nation with the weapon of faith.

Jack refers to the last one as "herd and hang", practiced ruthlessly Hitler's Germany.

As I said, good reasons for concern.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Radio Economics Podcast Interview with
Craig Newmark

James Reese has just put up his podcast intervew with Craig Newmark of Newmark's Door, the first blog I read each workday morning. If you have followed Newmark's Door much (and I strongly recommend that you do), you would expect Craig to give a great interview. He did.

I was especially pleased to hear him describe his blog as "eclectic".

Warning to All Profs:
Be Careful What You Write on Your Blogs

Thanks to JJ for this warning:

A journalism instructor at Boston University was fired for calling one of his students a “true Sabra,” or native-born Israeli, who is “incredibly hot.” Michael Gee, formerly a sportswriter at the Boston Herald, lasted barely a month after a post on his personal Web log described a student as “so incredibly hot” that “it was all I could do to remember the other five students,” Boston magazine reported. ... The student quit the course, telling Boston magazine, “You’re entitled to feel safe and comfortable knowing that your professor is a professional, not a pervert.”
As JJ says, "pervert"? Surely not all inappropriate behaviours are perversions.

Update: The original link seems to be dead. Here is a link to a more complete version of the story in Boston Magazine.

Efficient Markets and Anti-trust

Skip Sauer, main blogger at The Sports Economist, has pointed out that the proposed takeover of Reebok by Adidas may have made them better able to compete with Nike in some sense, but that competition is not likely to be enhanced by the merger:

Both the AP story and the WSJ ($) credulously report Adidas' spin on the deal, that the combined firm would "compete more forcefully with Nike.

If the market believed that assessment, Nike's share price would fall. But since the opening of trading on Tuesday, Nike's share price has risen $5.50 to $87 - a healthy, statistically significant return for a two day holding period. The market for Nike stock thus assesses the deal somewhat differently than the spin offered by Adidas.

Students of antitrust economics will immediately understand what the market is suggesting. Rather than creating a more effective competitor to Nike, the merger eliminates a rival responsible for price competition in the market for sneakers. Less vigorous price competition would increase the value of existing competitors, i.e. Nike.

I.e., following Stigler's Theory of Oligopoly, reducing the number of firms in an oligopoly that already has few firms in it will make it easier for the remaining members to engage in tacit (or explicit) collusion to maximize their joint profits.

Let me add that these firms might also acquire some short-term joint monopsony power in buying ads.

But in response to Skip's question [which appears in his full posting] about whether the merger should be allowed, I'm happy to let the market work in the longer run. If these firms make high profits, others will surely be induced to enter in some fashion with the effect of whittling away their price and profit margins.

Does Islam Recognize Freedom of Religion? Freedom of Choice?

I wrote earlier about the Sky Kingdom, a religious sect in Malaysia that was begun by a former Muslim and which had come under attack. The sect was working through the courts to defend itself, or so it thought. Then the police and workers arrived and destroyed its base, including its teapot structure [thanks to MA for the pointer].
The followers were taken by surprise when the 40 council workers entered the commune with four excavators and five lorries at 2.30pm. About 50 policemen and officers from the state Islamic Affairs department accompanied them.

Early last month, Ayah Pin obtained an injunction to stop any attempt to demolish any structure at his commune.

State Islam Hadhari Development committee chairman Wan Mohamad Wan Hassan had said on July 5 that any effort to shut down the village would depend on the outcome of the hearing.

Even if the state Islamic affairs department won the case, Ayah Pin was expected to make an appeal.

This type of religious intolerance makes me very wary of Islam in general, of Muslim states in particular, and especially those dominated by Wahabism. I was distressed when the Taliban destroyed the Buddist statues in Afghanistan, and this is further evidence that at least the more fundamentalist Muslim states do not tolerate religious differences. I hope that these states reflect only some versions of Islam, such as Wahabism, but I am both concerned and skeptical.

Update: For more, on how many lawyers in Malaysia are reluctant to defend the Sky Kingdom members, see here. Also see this.

Scuttle the Shuttle?

Kent Budge has a good grasp of the economics and technology involved. He says:

It is time to retire the Shuttle.

One of the reasons for doing so would apply even if the original Shuttle concept and design were sound, and NASA was a tight, well-managed organization. The Shuttle is 30-year-old technology. It is time to design and build a new vehicle that incorporates thirty years' worth of lessons in spaceflight and advances in aerospace technology.

But the problems with the Shuttle go beyond its age. Some technology, such as the B-52 bomber, have aged so gracefully that they have remained in use for longer than I have been alive. This points to an excellent concept and fundamentally sound design. One cannot say the same about the Shuttle while keeping a straight face.

The Shuttle design was
a poor compromise among conflicting requirements. NASA wanted to build a starship, but it promised to deliver the spaceflight equivalent of the C-47 -- a reliable cargo craft for taking equipment and personnel into orbit. They ended up with a vastly complicated and overdesigned vehicle that was neither a cost-effective and safe transport nor a vehicle to the stars.

While we're at it, maybe it's time to retire NASA. --Oh, I know. It's impossible to retire a government bureaucracy. Even when you "replace" an old organization with a "new" one, the same faces quickly show up at the "new" agency.
He concludes with some questions:

NASA's own missions have shown that there is very little desirable real estate in the Solar System, which makes one wonder whether there are any real prospects of ever colonizing space. So what's the point? Are the arguments for manned space flight powerful enough to justify funding it with taxes drawn from ordinary working people?
In his opening remarks, Kent votes "no". But there is much more to his argument than the snippets I've presented here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is Canada's New Governess General a Quebec Separatist?

Quite possibly the grits have just appointed a Quebec separatist as the Queen's representative in Canada. Here is a portion of a recent posting from The Western Standard's blog, citing and loosely translating from another blog in French:

Acccording to my well-informed sources, all of whom greatly admire Michaëlle, she has some very open political opinions. Notably, she often made her Quebec nationalism known, her preference in favour of Quebec sovereignty and her opposition to the antiquated institution of the Queen of England's representative in Canada.

The post goes on to say that Mme. Jean took a long time to decide to accept Martin's offer, and, according to his sources, did so in the end because she saw it as a good way to advance the causes she cares about: child poverty, violence against women, and the situation in Haïti.

Now, it could be that Mme. Jean is just a Quebec nationalist. Not all nationalists are separatists, of course. But if she is in fact a "real" separatist, it would be a big-time political embarassment. Did the Martin people not do due diligence? Surely they must have?

Update: JohnH wants to know if this one will be able to set another new record for the cost of renovating the kitchen.

Elevator Hack:
Can You Go Where You Want Non-Stop?

Courtesy of a link provided by Newmark's Door, here, purportedly, is how to make an elevator go directly to your destination floor with no intervening stops:

The designers of some elevators include a hidden feature that is very handy if you're in a hurryor it's a busy time in the building (like check-out time in a hotel). While some elevators requirea key, others can be put into "Express" mode by pressing the "Door Close" and "Floor" buttons at the same time. This sweeps the car to the floor of your choice and avoids stops at any other floor.

This seems to work on Most elevators that I have tried! Most elevators have the option for this to work,but on some of them the option is turned off by whoever runs them. This is a rather fun hack, so the next time you are on an elevator, give it a try, you have nothing to lose, And this concludes Hacking Elevators 101!

Elevators that have been tested and worked on:
Otis Elevators (All But The Ones Made In 1992),
Dover (Model Numbers: EL546 And ELOD862),
And Most Desert Elevators(All, But Model Numbers ELD5433 And ELF3655) "

Let me know if it works. I just "Snoped" it, and it is not listed as an urban legend.
Update: The comments at this site are mixed. Some say it works; others say it doesn't; others question the morality and advisability of using it.

Mandatory Retirement and Age Discrimination

Jack [who is mostly retired] sent me this piece from the National Post, highlighting the perils of setting an arbitrary age for mandatory retirement.

A California jury awarded US$20-million to an 85-year-old surgeon after the prison where he worked forced him to retire.

An expert witness testified Dr. Robert Johnson was fit enough to work until he is 96.

... In August, 2001, he was called to a meeting with two colleagues who tried to force him to retire. They urged him to quit before they reported him to the state medical board and had his licence revoked.

... But Dr. Johnson had no plans to retire. Indeed, he loved his work and hoped to continue as long as possible.

His supervisors later complained to the Medical Board of California, alleging his work was suffering because of "organic brain syndrome."

The board eventually dismissed the case, but by then Dr. Johnson had retired and launched a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections. His complaint describes his situation as "the epitome of age discrimination."

I don't care what his neurological expert witness might say; I would be hesitant about allowing an 85-year-old surgeon to operate on me. I would be especially hesitant if the assurance of his abilities were provided by some expert arrogant enough to project an 85-year-old's mental capacity at age 96.

On a related topic, now that it appears Ontario will ban mandatory retirement at age 65, I have announced that I intend to teach here until I am 90. When I informed the UWO president (also an economist) of my intentions, he sort of half-smiled and half-chuckled somewhat nervously. He then informed me that most people don't work very many additional years beyond age 65, even when given a chance. [hint, hint??]

If he is correct, then Dr. Robert Johnson is quite an anomoly.

Meanwhile, Jack is waiting for his big cash pay-off....

Vatican Condemns Terrorist Attacks
Except Those Against Israelis!

The Vatican issued a statement condemning terrorist attacks in London, Turkey, and Egypt, but has declined to condemn the recent terrorist attack in Netanya, even though the Israelis did not even retaliate against that attack [thanks to BenS for the pointer]:

Initially, the Vatican responded by claiming that the Netanya attack was not included because the Pope was only speaking of "recent" attacks.

But this was hardly convincing, given that the Netanya bombing occurred after the one in London, and took a larger human toll than the attack in Turkey.
For more on the duplicitous response from the Vatican, read this. The response of the Vatican smacks of pure and simple anti-Semitism.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Travel Advice

Wear clothing with pockets, and carry your passport and other valuables in your pockets.

Here's why. [h/t to Jack]

All their belongings -- including identification documents and immigration papers -- were gone.

I may consider cargo pants myself.

Judge Posner, "Prolific Bastard"
says Slate

After Judge Richard Posner's critical assessment of the mainstream media (see here, for example), Jack Shafer wrote this critique in Slate. He accuses Posner of "ignoring journalistic history", of being "too lazy to collect evidence," and of mistakenly extrapolating recent trends into the future. His substantive criticisms seem at least plausible, and they raise good questions about Posner's original piece [Though I doubt anyone can reasonably accuse Posner of being lazy].

Shafer asks,

Who is more deeply invested in new media, especially the Web, than the old media? If they can turn a buck, they'll willingly plow their newspapers into Web sites. In his rush to complete the piece, Posner also ignores the fact that millions more read quality journalism from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times because they're available on the Web. The ability of these news organizations to profit off their Web presence might be lagging, but not their influence.
His piece concludes with three cheap shots (it isn't clear who wrote the last one):

Sloppy writing like Posner's is enough to erode my trust in American jurisprudence.

Maybe Posner should stop composing his essays with a paint roller and switch to a Sanford Uniball Micro. ...

Related in Slate
The prolific bastard of whom we write in this column contributed a "Diary" back in 2002 and jousted with animal rightist Peter Singer in 2001.

For a more thoughtful perspective, see Tyler Cowen's posting at Marginal Revolution.
I expect the Internet to make mainstream media more centralized in key regards. Ebay and Craigslist will cut out classified ads as a source of profitability for many mid-tier papers. Bloggers will make the leading papers more focal, and thus more important to read. Can you understand the economics blogosphere if you do not read Paul Krugman? It is fringe and niche media that will make national newspapers more viable.

Small-Business Capitalism Is Alive and Growing in Cuba

Peter Mork is traveling for the year. He spent some time in Cuba and discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive among cottage capitalists. At his hotel, his maid handed him a card that turned out to be a small advertisement for her guest home.

The card told of her casa particular, a private room for rent out of her home, and she made a convincing sale. It was clean, had a balcony, her entire family was very honest, and best of all… it came at a very good price. It was a revealing moment when she put forth the amount ($25) she considered just compensation to host us in her home. For while, in theory, the exploitation of man by man should be banned under this socialist government, repeated experiences such as this one showed me that the desire to "exploit" was in fact alive and well in Cuba.

I wonder how secretive such private business inroads into the trade of the gubmnt monopolies must be. Castro has a history of not tolerating competition very well.

Don't Drink the Water

Suppose you figure the probability is 50% that you will become violently ill if you drink some tapwater while staying in a resort area. Suppose further that bottled or sterilized water is readily available as a substitute. Unless you were forgetful or careless, you would most likely eschew the tapwater in favour of something more likely to be free of disease-causing bacteria. In eco-speak, the expected benefits of drinking bottled water would outweigh the expected costs.

That's the point of this article, sent to me by BenS [registration required]. It also warns against eating raw shellfish and taking drinks with ice.

Dr. Holstege invoked the mantra of the road: "Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it." Otherwise, he said, be wary of foods that have not been refrigerated, as well as undercooked meat and raw seafood.
If you do become ill,

Remedies include the tried-and-true Pepto-Bismol; ciprofloxacin hydrochloride (brand name Cipro), a prescription antibiotic; and Xifaxan, another prescription antibiotic, which came on the market last year and may be useful as a preventative as well, according to a study published in May in The Annals of Internal Medicine.

Eschewing drugs, Patricia Yeo, executive chef at Sapa restaurant in Manhattan, claims success with a natural preventive: spices.
One other word of warning based on personal experience. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after handling paper currency.

Good News? Bad News?

The United Ostomy Association is closing up shop in September:

The UOA Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to cease operations of the United Ostomy Association, Inc. as of September 30, 2005. ...

UOA was founded to help improve the quality of life for people with intestinal or urinary diversions. Initial objectives were to improve medical and nursing care and ostomy products and to provide mutual support. In many significant ways, all of these goals have been achieved and we can be proud of our success. We have helped hundreds of thousands through the UOA Visiting Program, local chapters/satellites, and the UOA National Conference. We should all be pleased with what UOA has accomplished since its inception in 1962.

Much has changed in 43 years: advances in medical science, ostomy supplies and electronic communication have created less need for our programs and services. A declining membership base, inadequate financial support and increasing operating costs have also plagued our organization for several years.
Fewer people receive surgical ostomies because other treatments are increasingly effective. Fewer of the ostomies are permanent, meaning that more ostomies are reversible. More people receive more information and support via the internet. These are surely all good things.

At the same time, local face-to-face support for individuals who have had ostomies is extremely valuable, and much of this occurred under the banner of the UOA. I presume/hope the local meetings will continue to be available for those who find will value in them.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Range Factors
and Toronto Blue Jay Fielding

Probably the best readily available measure of fielding performance is "range factor", which attempts to measure the ability of players to get to balls in their areas of responsibility and turn them into outs. It is imperfect but somewhat illustrative of defensive abilities. Here are two good examples:

1. Orlando Hudson

I wasn't all that impressed with Hudson last year. But this year, the more I watched, the more impressed I became. I have begun to wonder if possibly Hudson is better than Alomar ever was. So yesterday afternoon I went to the MLB data base to look at the range factors for 2B players.
There, one can see that of all the 2B players with more than 25 games at that position, Orlando Hudson has the best range factor. He really is as good as he looks and as good as the Jays announcers say he is.
2. Alex Rios

Ms. Eclectic and I can't get over how mediocre he seems in the field. He looks as if he's dogging it or loafing or something. Add to that his apparent lack of concentration and planning, and we wondered if maybe we were missing something. The answer was probably not. He ranks well below the median among all outfielders in range factor. He is probably in the bottom third (of all OF, he ranks 167th out of 255, regardless of the number of games played in the outfield).

Meanwhile, Vernon Wells [center field for the Blue Jays] ranks 77th, probably in or near the top quartile; good, but not among the very best.
I know, I know. There are better measures of defensive performance, but those measures are not available at

An Opportunity for Arbitrage?

If markets are efficient at eroding price differentials, why does this phenomenon exist? [h/t to Paul Kedrosky]

The Only Game in Town: Stock-Price Consequences of Local BiasHarrison Hong, Jeffrey D. Kubik, Jeremy C. Stein

Theory suggests that, in the presence of local bias, the price of a stock should be decreasing in the ratio of the aggregate book value of firms in its region to the aggregate risk tolerance of investors in its region. We test this proposition using data on U.S. Census regions and states, and find clear-cut support for it. Most of the variation in the ratio of interest comes from differences across regions in aggregate book value per capita. Regions with low population density--e.g., the Deep South--are home to relatively few firms per capita, which leads to higher stock prices via an "only-game-in-town" effect. This effect is especially pronounced for smaller, less visible firms, where the impact of location on stock prices is roughly 12 percent.
Are information costs or labour costs or some other costs so high that firms don't know to relocate to these areas (especially firms that want to raise capital)? Why don't more start-ups emerge in these areas? How long can these types of differentials persist over time? Or is the efficient markets hypothesis inapplicable in these situations?

Changes at Boot Camp;
Compensating Variations

Not surprisingly, in a market economy if working conditions are undesirable, people will insist on being paid more to work at a given job. The employer faces a constant trade-off, adjusting the wage rate and the working conditions, maximizing across both variables at the same time. And if the employer wishes to attract more workers at a given wage, the employer must give serious consideration to improving the working conditions.

Changes at boot camp in the U.S. Army provide an excellent example [thanks to JohnH for the pointer; registration required]:

According to their detailed manual, drill sergeants may address recruits only as "soldier" or "private," or by surname. With few exceptions, they must ask before touching a recruit; the use of extra pushups as a "corrective action" remains common, but with limits. At the end of their nine weeks of initial basic training, recruits can discuss any complaints with the commander, whether about the food, the homework or the drills, in "sensing sessions."
Lawsuits have probably contributed to the reduced hazing of recruits, but those changes could very well be endogenous to the economic changes.

Back in the mid 1960s, I worked as a research assistant at Kansas State University on a project to measure how long it took young men's body temperature to rise by 2 degrees (F) under various high temperature and high humidity conditions. We used soldiers from Fort Riley as test subjects, but they were soon shipped out to Vietnam, and so we hired a busload of unemployed young men from a nearby town to finish the tests.

The results were vastly different. The times for body temperatures to increase were much greater with the unemployed youth; soldiers' body temperatures rose much more quickly, ceteris paribus.

We assumed the unemployed youth were goofing off, were different somehow, whatever. So we stopped using them and recruited students to be test subjects. Surprise: the students' physical responses were pretty much the same as the responses of the unemployed youth.

We surmised that the rigours of basic training were actually making the soldiers worse off, such that their body temperatures rose much faster than did the body temperatures of other young men when subjected to similar high temperature and high humidity environments.

Pretty poor conditioning for guys shipping out to Vietnam.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Lipstick Lesbian?
Get Past the Title and Read the Article

I guess the title might generate some interest, but this Times article about Irshad Manji is well worth reading, despite the title [thanks to BenS for the link]:

Irshad Manji has already been dubbed ‘Osama’s worst nightmare’ for her criticisms of Islam. Now she wants Britain’s Muslims to stand more firmly on the side of freedom .

No wonder Irshad Manji has received death threats since appearing on British television: she is a lipstick lesbian, a Muslim and scourge of Islamic leaders, whom she accuses of making excuses about the terror attacks on London. Oh, and she tells ordinary Muslims to “crawl out of their narcissistic shell”.

... Manji is a glamorous Canadian television presenter whose book, The Trouble with Islam, has made her so famous in America that she won something called the Oprah Winfrey Chutzpah award.

... The underlying problem with Islam, observes Manji, is that far from spiritualising Arabia, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of the Middle East: “Colonialism is not the preserve of people with pink skin. What about Islamic imperialism? Eighty per cent of Muslims live outside the Arab world yet all Muslims must bow to Mecca.” Fresh thinking, she contends, is suppressed by ignorant imams; you can see why she has been dubbed “Osama’s worst nightmare ”.

A Brief History of Bagels
and why some are better than others

My friend, BenS, says it is very difficult to find good bagels in Canada outside, maybe, Montreal. He refers to "The Great Canadian Bagel Company" as "The Great Goyisha Bagel Company" because their bagels seem like round white bread to him.

MA, who sent me this piece, says he has had good bagels in many cities in Canada.

Legend has it that in 1683 in Vienna, Austria, a local Jewish baker wanted to thank the king of Poland for protecting his countrymen from Turkish invaders. He made a special hard roll in the shape of a riding stirrup (bugel in German), commemorating the king's favorite pastime and giving the bagel its distinctive shape.

Whatever its ancestry, the doughnut-shaped roll quickly caught on, becoming a staple among Eastern Europeans. In Yiddish, they were called beygel; in Russian, bubliki; in Polish, obazanki. Bagels, like other ring-shaped objects, soon became the standard gift for women in childbirth because they were said to bring good luck and possess magical powers.

When the Eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived in North America at the turn of the century, they brought the bagel with them. The American bagel industry established formal roots in New York between 1910 and 1915 with the formation of Bagel Bakers. This exclusive group of 300 craftsmen with "bagels in their blood" limited its membership to sons of its members.

The bagel is the only bread product that is boiled before it is baked.

And therein lies the problem with some of the non-authentic bagelries. They steam their bagels, instead of boiling them. The result is not as chewy.

Property Rights and Marriage Contracts

Phil Miller at Market Power has an insightful item about marriage proposals, contracts, and property rights.

A man from Kenya has offered Bill Clinton livestock for Chelsea's hand in marriage.

A Kenyan says he offered Bill Clinton 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter's hand in marriage five years ago -- and is still waiting for an answer.

In our country, adult women, not their fathers, own the property rights to themselves. They make up their own mind about who to marry. Perhaps the smitten fellow should see if Chelsea wants the goats and cows. If so, she might want to write them into a prenup.

Nice analysis.

Pesticides in Your Food has a list of the top produce items that retain various noxious chemicals/pesticides under normal preparation.

... [F]ruits topped the list of the consistently most contaminated fruits and vegetables, with eight of the 12 most contaminated foods. Among the top six were four fruits, with peaches leading the list, then strawberries, apples and nectarines. Pears, cherries, red raspberries, and imported grapes were the other four fruits in the top 12.

... Spinach, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers are the vegetables most likely to expose consumers to pesticides.

... The vegetables least likely to have pesticides on them are sweet corn, avocado, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, peas and broccoli.

... The five fruits least likely to have pesticide residues on them are pineapples, mangoes, bananas, kiwi and papaya.
My take is that since the numbers are normalized to range from zero to 100, I have no idea just how bad the top fruits and vegetables might be for me. Ms. Eclectic, however, will likely begin looking for organic versions of some of those near the top of the lists.

[thanks to BenS and ES for the tip]

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Profiling and Political Correctness:
reductio ad absurdum

Profiling makes statistical sense. Paul Sperry argues this point very cogently in an Op-Ed in the NYTimes [registration required], in which he criticizes New York City Mayor Bloomberg for saying that inspection of bags in subways will be completely random. U.S. Constitutional rights aside, this is a dumb policy.

From everything we know about the terrorists who may be taking aim at our transportation system, they are most likely to be young Muslim men. Unfortunately, however, this demographic group won't be profiled. Instead, the authorities will be stopping Girl Scouts and grannies in a procedure that has more to do with demonstrating tolerance than with protecting citizens from terrorism.

Critics protest that profiling is prejudicial. In fact, it's based on statistics. Insurance companies profile policyholders based on probability of risk. That's just smart business. Likewise, profiling passengers based on proven security risk is just smart law enforcement.
Alan Adamson, at Silly Little Country, has a similar response to the critics of profiling. Noting that Suspect #1 in a recent Trono mugging is a white male, Alan says,

We would not want any 'racial profiling'. So I hope it is recommended they pull over some young black males in order to catch suspect #1.

... Sex should be fair game too. So I hope the police are apprehending women as well in looking for suspect #1.
Reductio ad absurdum. Very effective.

Uncle Booger and the Bumper Dumper

Phil Miller comes up with another great link: Uncle Booger's Bumper Dumper.

The Ultimate Portable toilet for the outdoorsman. The only hitch mounted portable toilet patented to use any standard full size toilet seat.It's the most comfortable,stable and sanitary porta potty in the world.
And he followed up with inflat-a-potty.

The man's a genius.

Two-Tiered Support for Retaining Walls

In an absolutely brilliant item, Brian Ferguson relates that some folks in San Francisco were hesitant about letting private parties donate money to make repairs and upgrades to public property [retaining walls and a median strip]. Quoting from,

Robin Williams and his wife, Marsha, offered to donate $80,000 US to fix a retaining wall and median strip near their home in the city's Seacliff neighbourhood.

City supervisor Gerardo Sandoval balked, fearing Williams would be getting preferential treatment. Sandoval said he didn't want the city to go "down the slippery slope" of putting privately funded projects ahead of those needed in less affluent areas.

But after city staff assured him that Williams' generosity would free up funds for poorer neighbourhoods, Sandoval joined nine colleagues in voting unanimously Tuesday to accept the comedian's gift.
Brian's response to all this is:

No, no, no, no, no. Has this man paid no attention to progressive Canada's efforts to protect Medicare from the two-tier virus. Any of the true friends of medicare could tell him that private money doesn't free up funds for poor neighbourhoods, it doesn't add to total resources available, it doesn't reduce waiting times for things that are crucial to a community's identity:

City officials said the funds will be used for new benches, irrigation, planters and bronze memorial plaques.

What will actually happen is that as the rich start to buy their own bronze memorial plaques, their own retaining walls and their own median strips, support for the publicly funded median strip system will fall, leading not to increased funds being available for poorer areas but to a reduction in total public funding for median strips. And before you know it, every median strip in San Francisco will have two tiers.
There is much more at his site.

Brian Ferguson is one of Canada's best health economists. If you do not recognize the sarcasm in what he wrote, let me assure you that he is a strong advocate for allowing people to spend more to supplement the health care coverage provided by the gubmnt.
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