Friday, August 14, 2009

Krugman's Pants

Ever wonder if the talking heads are wearing pants below the pan of the camera? This is Paul Krugman today before appearing on MSNBC. He posted it on his blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The usefulness of Venn Diagrams

A couple weeks ago at tennis, one of the people I had the pleasure to
lose to (who teaches junior high math) mocked the usefulness of Venn
Diagrams. Of course, they're pretty useful to illustrate logical
relationships, and according to Nate Silver at 538, Mr. Huckabee could have used them this past spring.  

Conspiracies and Economic Statistics

Menzie Chinn at EconBrowser writes,
In my view, the reason why so many hold onto these views is because it's so much easier to remain ignorant, and leap to the conspiracy view, than to do the hard work to understand why the statistics are imprecise measures of economic concepts, and why they are revised over time. After all, the former requires nothing more than taking somebody's word, the latter entails reading the supporting documentation, comprehending what the terms used mean, and applying some basic math and statistics skills...
In other words the reason conspiracy theories attract a nice crowd of supporters is because people are "rationally ignorant." Being informed takes a lot of effort, and it's easy to believe a plausible lie (along with a dose of paranoia that the other side is lying) than it is to be bothered with the facts.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interesting Happiness Map

From Gallup, the well-being index has a map tool where the colors represent the quintiles of the distribution of states, districts, etc. Personally, I think the congressional district option is more informative because congressional districts are a little more closely normalized by population than states as a whole (and thus the quintiles are more meaningful, I think).

Pot is a NORML good

A normal good is a good whose demand increases with income. Here is the correlation between pot use and per capita gross state product (GSP).

Better Bones

More fun health information.


Sauna is a competitive sport?

Improving Math Skills

Free Exchange cites new research showing better math skills lead to about a 15% increase in wages of black males since changes were made to required curricula. The theory is that there were high margins for gain for black students because their access to basic math classes had been limited. Great. So let's get more teachers and teach more math at advanced levels. Not so simple. Many high school math teachers did not even earn a minor in math at the bachelor's level. Why? Precisely because people with a quantitative degree (and are thus qualified to teach math) can earn higher wages! Those with math degrees (and minors) are busy doing things that earn better money than the parity negotiated by the teachers union. If we could do more in the secondary level to have market-based differentials between math teachers and teachers in fields with less lucrative outside options, then the math teachers we do end up with might be better qualified.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Change the "Price"

I'm pretty sure if people had to give up something to get into a town hall meeting, you'd easily be able to weed out riffraff who don't want to actually gain information from the discussion. Now, it might be unreasonable to charge money for access (although I wouldn't oppose it), but what if you simply told people to fill out a form with their name and address, and show valid ID? Would that raise the "price" enough to bring some civility to the debate, and maybe tone down volume of the misinformation?

A lot of comparisons are out there, by the way, with anti war protests and their rancor. In a way, that's true, but those protesters generally kept their protests to the streets - they were seldom allowed into the "meetings" or "discussions" Bush and other Republicans held to preach to their base.