Friday, July 27, 2012

Anaheim's Race Problem

“The mayor said he wanted relations between ethnic groups to be kinder,” says Moreno. “I raised my hand and asked him if he knew the Spanish word for that. He didn’t, nor did another city council woman.
You know what they say: you shouldn't communicate in a language you both know when you could fail to communicate in languages you don't.

The issue appears to be that the police spend too much time policing the areas near Disneyland and also do too much policing of gang-infested areas, including killing armed and dangerous gang members who openly fire weapons in public. I guess the solution is to . . . police the Latino parts of the community more without doing anything about the gangs?

Without knowing anything about the situation I assumed they had valid complaints, but now that I have some details it sounds like it's a garden-variety riot.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


My girlfriend, who grew up in China, asked me why gun laws might be endogenous in a regression of murder rates on gun laws (i.e. concealed carry permitted). She said she understands that attitudes towards gun use and ownership are omitted variables but how would they influence the laws?

"We'll, culture influences how people vote."
"Oh, you people vote!"

And that is all I have to say about that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Menino brings best, and worst, of mob politics to Boston

Mayor Menino is threatening to block Chick-fil-A from opening in downtown Boston with the time-honored tactic of strangling the chain with bullshit regulation. This the method is popular in China as a way to Communist Party (CCP) thugs to crush competition to their and their friends' businesses.

The Mayor's stated goal, which we have little reason to question, is to stick it to Chil-fil-A for donating millions to anti-gay hate groups. The founder reportedly said he was "guilty as charged" in supporting the traditional family when asked if he funded anti-gay groups. I haven't read the details on Chick-fil-A's hate group donations but it is the conventional wisdom that is happened and it doesn't seem like the company is doing much to dispute the claims.

I don't have a big problem with sticking it to Chick-fil-A for being bigots.

But I'm not sure Menino should have that power. According to the Boston Herald the past he has used it to block Wal-Mart from coming to Roxbury and offering lower prices to a neighborhood where the median household income is about half the city median. I guess he likes sticking it to people on a budget as much as to bigots.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Market predicts Dark Knight audiences unafraid

An insane gunman at a Dark Knight Rises midnight showing killed 12 people. Networks are taking down TV spots for the movie, at least for now. Will fear and decreased advertising cause a slump in ticket sales, or will the increased publicity draw in interest?

The Hollywood Stock Exchange says it's mostly a wash as a derivative that pays based on total box office revenue went nowhere today (up 1.28% or an expected increase of $6.24 million).

There are a few caveats in order. When a good movie is released the stock usually jumps up just prior to release and again over the release weekend. (See the pattern for The Avengers here.) The increase prior to release reflects information from reviewers saying the movie is good, which suggests more repeat viewers and good word of mouth down the road. The increase at release reflects resolution of uncertainty over whether the general public agrees with the critics (usually it does) and new information like new box office tracking data. In the case of The Avengers critics gave the movie a big thumbs up but when CinemaScore revealed the average viewer gave the movie an A+ the stock jumped substantially (on 5/5) as it became clear repeat viewings and word of mouth would be particularly strong. Data on sales at midnight release and Friday and Saturday estimates may have contributed to the increase as well.

In light of that pattern we might have expected the TDKR stock to jump a few percentage points today on resolution of uncertainty (in its favor) and good word of mouth. I'll plug my positive review here: it's as good as the other two. Reports do indicate that TDKR broke midnight box office records by a nice margin ($25-30 million vs The Avengers $18) but I think that was widely expected based on tracking data as this report from yesterday indicates. So I think taking the slight upward movement at face value is reasonable.

That's good news. It'd be ironic, and sad, if fear kept the masses from seeing a film largely about overcoming fear.

"Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." - Thomas Wayne

Update: Today, July 21st, TDRK is down $11 million and the opening at $77.2 million was somewhat weaker than some projections in the $80-90 range. It looks like some people are being deterred by fear but only something like 2% of people interested in the film. I'm think it's a good showing for American courage.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Can the Supreme Court define marriage too?

The Supreme Court ruled that the mandate is a tax and many conservatives insist that the court is the final word on how we refer to the mandate.

When the court one day rules that marriage is not defined as "a union of one man and one woman" and that "gay marriages" are marriages, will conservatives be quick to insist that is now how we must talk about marriage?

Monday, July 16, 2012

David Stern's negative endorsement

from ESPN
Obama's campaign held a fundraiser last February at the Orlando-area home of Vince Carter of the Dallas Mavericks. Attendees included Paul, who plays point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA commissioner David Stern and former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.
I might have to sit this election out. That's a pretty strong negative endorsement.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scott Brown beats English language to pulp

Scott Brown went to war on the English language last night with the incoherent statement that
Foreign aid is important for humanitarian reasons, and to help give us leverage in negotiations involving our own national security. But, while it is a relatively small portion of our budget, we ought not spend a penny more than is necessary to accomplish these vital goals.
in the middle of a discussion of cutting spending. Since tens of thousands of children are dying from preventable diseases like malaria on a daily basis because we don't spend more, I'm going to assume helping them doesn't count as "humanitarian." I think humanitarian here means rebuilding countries after we went to war with them and maybe some disaster relief.

I don't think Brown ever had a chance of getting my vote even though I'm presumably the kind of Democrat he is targeting (white, male, blue-collar background). But he slammed the door shut and I'll probably go ahead and volunteer for Warren since a friend has been prodding me to do.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Broccoli mandate market

A new market taking bets on the passage of a "broccoli mandate" opened early Friday in response to discussion of whether congress could, constitutionally, mandate broccoli purchases. An anonymous Republican analyst, clearly reading talking points off a notecard, said, "the court's decision implies that congress could mandate purchases of broccoli under their taxing authority."

In early trading the price for a $10 payoff if such a bill is passed hovered around 1 cent, indicating a 1 in 1,000 chance of such a bill passing in the next 50 years. Market research published by Morgan Stanley suggested that the most likely scenario for the bill being pass is a demand by the Chinese government in an effort to prop up sales of Szechuan style Beef and Brocolli.

After lunch, however, the price went negative implying that traders were paying people to take their money in the event the bill was passed. Anonymous sources report that the trades are a massive gamble on behalf of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon who believes the possibility of 60 Republican and Democratic Senators agreeing on anything is so remote it would indicate the second coming and, as stated in James 5:3, riches will "testify against you and eat your flesh like fire" at that time.

The Pope could not be reached for comment as he was enjoying broccoli soup, but Former president George H. W. Bush released a short statement saying "23 years later I'm still not going to eat broccoli."

How did Federer get back to #1?

Federer will regain the number one ranking is he wins Wimbledon on Sunday, a possibility that seemed pretty remove after the Australian Open in January.

So how did it happen? There are two main factors. The first is that Federer cleaned up at ATP 500 events, securing 1500 points with three victories at such events while Djokovic has only contended two such events with poor showings. The second is that Djokovic chose not to defend his title at the Serbia Open after his grandfather died. The easy 250 points from winning that event would have kept Federer stuck at number two even if he wins Wimbledon.

But the biggest factor was the Madrid Masters. The switch to heavily salted blue clay help big servers and hitter and harmed players who move well. Federer won the event while Djokovic crashed out in the QFs.

What would have happened if the Madrid Masters was played on red clay?

We can take a pretty good guess. In all of the other 2012 major clay court tournaments Djokovic met Nadal in the final and lost. At the 2011 edition of the Madrid Masters, Djokovic defeated Nadal at the final. Looking at it this way it seems like a good bet Djokovic would have met Nadal and won with between 0% and 25% chance. I call this the counterfactual case.

Another way to look at it is to consider the past three champions at Madrid prior to 2012: Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Since each won the event once in the past three years it'd be fair to say they all had equal chances of winning. If there were the case just throwing out the Madrid 2012 results would give an unbiased guess at what the rankings would have looked like.

The table below shows how the rankings would have looked in either case, conditional on Federer winning on Sunday:

A lot of things had to go right for Federer to regain number one. He had to play well at lower tier events. Djokovic's grandfather had to die. But the most important thing was the Blue Clay debacle.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Please learn to speak English

The Learn English Act passed the house today with bipartisan support. The bill mandates that all candidates for congress pass a test of basic English before being placed on the ballot and, in a concession to Democrats, allocates billions of dollars of funding for ESOL (English as a Second Language) instruction as long as most of the money is spent on no-bid contracts given to the language-learning software companies that donate the most money to campaigns.

In a surprise twist, however, the entire congressional delegation from Mississippi and roughly half the delegations of Georgia, Alabama, and northern Florida have been ruled unfit for reelection. The candidates failed a test of 10th grade English vocabulary and were deemed completely unintelligible by 54% of the listeners who grade verbal skills.

Rosetta Stone, winner of the first no-bid contract, said it will offer it's English (American) software to the candidates free of charge.

This post was inspired by Rep. Bill Young.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mankiw works less, Liberal students cheer

Greg Mankiw, a professor economics at Harvard University, announced today he would stop working to update his textbooks in response to tax increases contained in the Obamacare legislation, the ACA. Previously Mankiw had continued to work on the books, despite the higher taxes being on the books, because "[he] expected the taxes to be struck down by the courts before [he] had to pay them."

A representative from Occupy Wall Street cheered the decision as "probably the best by-product of the legislation" but qualified the statement by noting they had no idea what a labor supply curve was because they walked out of Mankiw's principles of economics class. Off the record he stated he was "a social studies concentrator" which the official Harvard dictionary says translates to "a pompous way to say majoring in philosophy and political science."

An anonymous professor of social studies stated that in the "concentration" it is standard practice to teach students the names of concepts without expecting them to understand the concept. The professor said the department prefers "reading old books in translation" to using textbooks and other modern teaching tools.

Obviously this entire post like many others with ridiculous premises is satire.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


The Supreme Court today issued a ruling on the severability of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the president's signature domestic legislative accomplishment. In late March the Court heard three days of arguments over "Obamacare." The first concerned whether the mandate was a tax and therefore the Anti-injunction Act precluded the court from hearing the case. The second concern the issue of whether the mandate was constitutional and the third was held on which parts of the legislation, if any part is struck down, could be severed from the rest.

Last week the court ruled on the first two of these issues starting that because the mandate is not a tax the Anti-injunction Act does not apply but because the mandate is a tax it is authorized by the constitution. Today the court ruled to sever the words "tax" and "penalty" as used in many pre-trial articles on the ACA ruling that the mandate is "a tax and not a penalty" and inappropriate use of the phrase "tax penalty" was unconstitutional under the commerce clause.

Justice Scalia was heard at a dinner party stating "God damn-it! If those liberals think they can use the commerce clause to mandate insurance purchases than I can use it to infringe on their rights to free speech." Scalia is best known for his theory that growing pot at home for home consumption is interstate commerce.

Rick Scott suggests Medicaid direct deposit

Rick Scott is refusing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid in Florida. The former HCA CEO says that he knows from experience that the vast majority of the money will be used to pay hospitals defrauding the government.

Earlier on Monday Scott suggested "cutting out the middleman" and setting up "direct deposit" accounts so the major hospitals and other health care providers could get their cut without mountains of paperwork. The governor backed off these comments when state house Democrats insisted eliminating the paper-pushing jobs in Tallahassee that entail rubber-stamping the fraud would damage the economy.

One Republican analyst noted that Gov. Scott may reverse his position if increased demand for bureaucrats to administer the expansion  could help him achieve his goal of creating 2 million new jobs for the 1 million non-retired citizens in the state of 19 million.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Roberts changes name

Chief Justice John Roberts intends to legally change his name to John Webster, potentially as early as Monday. In the wake of his opinion labeling the health care mandate "a tax, not a penalty" Roberts feels the name captures his new role as "the most influential arbiter of the English language since Noah Webster" of Webster's dictionary.

Thousands intend to gather before the Supreme Court on Monday demanding Chief Justice Roberts issue a ruling on whether "fag" can refer to something uncool in everyday use or must refer to a homosexual. In this highly political issue no one can tell which side is the Republican side so constitutional scholars are unsure which way the justice leans.

Two supreme court justices stated, on the condition of anonymity, that what they called a "publicity stunt" is distasteful but Roberts has informed us that, officially, his actions do not constitute a publicity stunt.