Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Not A Great Week to be Rupert Murdoch

The week began with the New York Post reporting “a scoop,” and then putting a track coach and a high school kid on the front page as “suspects.”

You would think it couldn’t get worse for NewsCorp.  I would think it couldn’t get worse for NewsCorp, especially after CNN went out of their way to make people forget the early errors with new ones of their own.

But NewsCorp owns several properties, which means they have “cross-branding” possibilities.  For instance, when Aaron Sorkin had SportsNight on ABC, he had Dana (Felicity Huffman) bubbling over for an entire episode about how great The Lion King was on Broadway.  One Disney property promotes another.  “Cross-branding.”

The thing is, cross-branding is supposed to be positive. Sorkin would never have said anything negative about Disney–and didn’t, until the final episode, when he had Clark Gregg say, “You would have to be an idiot not to make money on SportsNight.” By which point it had been cancelled.

Fox, however, decided to end its Boston coverage the way it began it.  Via Josh Malina’s Twitter feed, their Closed Captioning experts on Fox4 posted:


Good thing for Mr. Murdoch this happened after the market closed. No word yet on whether this will affect next season’s episodes of The New Girl.


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I posted all I can say publicly at Skippy. And even that wouldn’t work at a family blog like this one.

The rest are jokes that I am told–undoubtedly correctly, but lapsed traders are difficult to retrain*–are “too soon.”

The Phantom Scribbler came out of her retirement (first post in more than eleven months), though, so you should Go Read Her.


As for the other Issue of the Day, I repeat what I said chez Duy (whose summary here is concise and informative):

If I told you just those three “Stylized Facts”:
1. Average of -0.1
2. Median of 1.0
3. Positive:Negative ratio is 5:2
would you (a) immediately start talking about the “clear lack of growth”? or (b) even more immediately say, “There must be an outlier in the data. What’s the kurtosis?
I don’t believe I know anyone who would do (a).

If I were teaching Econ 301 and someone presented R&R’s data–see the Konczal link above–and came to their conclusion, they would be lucky to be told to do the assignment over.

*What’s the difference between a bond and a bond trader?  A bond matures.

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Tis New to Thee

I step out of the dark bathroom. (Really, the light is out and we’re around 26,000 feet—pretty certain it’s the even numbers if you’re flying West.) Wandering back to my seat, I see multiple people using electronic devices, including one gentleman who is listening to an album of Iggy Pop’s.  I know this because his screen shows a huge picture of the man.

I sit down and start reading on my phone’s Kindle app.  I have accidentally purchased—one-click can be an evil thing on a mobile device—Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?, which was on Brad DeLong’s reading list for this year’s Kauffman Conference.  I read an article that tells me that the Internet is bad for thinking, and the next one is by Paul Kedrosky, who claims he’s not certain he has Big, Deep Thoughts anyway. And I get to this:

[Disconnecting from the web] seems, instead, a public exercise in macho symbolism—like Iggy Pop carving something in his chest, a way of bloodily demonstrating that you’re different…

and realise that either seeking patterns in coincidence is a greater time-waster than the Internet will ever be, or it really is James Osterberg’s world and we’re just borrowing it.

Somewhere, Stiv Bators is laughing his ass off.

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Where the Story Begins

We generally start this evening with the birth of Moses (Exodus 2:2-3; “And the woman conceived , and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. 3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.”) or at the earliest the declaration of Pharaoh (1:22; “And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”) But understanding only comes if you start a bit earlier, and realize the demographic dilemma, highlighted by Exodus 1:5-10:

And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. 6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. 7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. 8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply , and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies , and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

which does not work out as planned (Exodus 1:11-14):

Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew . And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

And is only compounded by the actions of Shiphrah and Puah, in the first documented example of traison de clercs, Exodus 1:15-21:

And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives , of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said , When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live . 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive . 18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives , and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive ? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives : and the people multiplied , and waxed very mighty . 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.

Given the choice between democracy and rule, Pharaoh opted for the latter. And so the story begins at the table–though not of the Exodus.

Happy Pesach!

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Why Micro is the Problem, Part Bristle-Bot

I have screamed for the last several years that the problem with economics isn’t that Macro is problematic; DSGE is a detour but—as Noah Smith shows here—it can be used as an access road.

The problem is assuming that “micromotives” must be universal.  For all of the emphasis about the glories of using natural logs because they reflect “what happens in nature,” economists who insist that micro principles must be foundational to macro behavior are idiots fail to study nature.

Now, via Michael Swanwick (whose wife Marianne taught me more about China in ten minutes than all of the analysts and economists who wrote about it did in the previous ten years), we see that even robots understand that individual behavior is not sustainable in a society.

If only economists could (re-*)learn that, they might get back on the road to being a science, instead of being lost in the woods of a perpetually self-indulgent wankfest.

UPDATE: Thers reminds me of this Brad DeLong post, where Belle Waring sums up the true problem of Modern Economics succinctly and better than I did (or, perhaps, can do):

The flavor of this discussion is indescribable. In its total estrangement from our political and social life today [and] its wilfull disregard of all known facts about human nature.

You cannot have a “social science” if your foundations are anti-social. No matter how many differential equations you use.

*I’m fairly certain it is a matter of re-learning. The Kuznets Curve, for instance, indicates an understanding that collective action does not reflect just “the sum of the parts.”

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An Unscientific Poll

Robert’s post gets me wondering, as we enter the seventh year of the Great Recession (NBER also doesn’t treat either 1873-1897 or 1929-1945 as a single period) that there’s probably a good reason for the “changing” attitude toward food stamps.

So let’s conduct an unscientific poll in comments:  in the past ten years–say, January, 2004 onward–have you or anyone in your immediate family / circle of friends applied for or received food stamps?  Answer yes or no. (If you’re not certain, answer no.)

I’ll start:  Yes.

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Discretion, Rules, and Regulations

It is naïve to think banks utilising complex trading strategies and products, across global markets, can be supervised using simple rules (even if calibrated to penal settings). Indeed, an important driver has been the necessity to address perverse incentives that are created by simple rules. – Stegan Ingves, 24 Jan 2013

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