Monday, December 31, 2007
You're the last person I'm talking to, so you'll probably get the best interview, darling. I don't want to change the world. For me, happiness is the most important thing and if I'm happy, then it shows in my work. In the end, all the mistakes and all the excuses are down to me. I like to feel that I'm just being my honest self and as far as I'm concerned I just want to pack in as much of life and fun, having a good time as much as I can within in the years I have. Well there you are, you have it on tape. Use it. Well that's then nearest I've come to a lot of passion in terms of interviews. How much more have you got? Come on, I'm getting bored.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
No one, it turns out, does Internet auction fraud like the Romanians. [...]when it comes to online auctions, particularly for big-ticket items such as cars that can yield $5,000 a scam, Romanians own the game. Romanian police estimate that cyber-crime is now a multimillion-dollar national industry, as important to organized criminals here as drug smuggling or human trafficking. [...]The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, ranks Romania fifth in its table of naughty nations. But most experts agree that doesn't give Romanian criminals their due. Much of the cash being made on auction fraud reported as originating in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Spain or Italy is actually being picked up in those countries by Romanian money mules. An EBay fraud ring busted last year in Chicago, for example, has been traced to Pitesti, Romania. [...]EBay, which doesn't even operate a site in Romania, won't talk dollar figures but acknowledges that the country is the No. 1 source of "professional fraud." On a November 2006 visit to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the vast majority of Internet fraud committed on "one prominent U.S. online auction website is connected to Romania or Romanians."
Read more here.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
- How to avoid recession in USA: Greg Mankiw's answer. Gary Becker and Richard Posner advocate a similar perspective (the argument is centered, of course, on the subprime housing mess). Former Fed boss Greenspan already said that one should do absolutely nothing and wait for the bubble to break on its own, just as the people above (e.g. in Mankiw's words: "Sometimes, bed rest and wait-and-see are the best we can do"), see my previous post on that. This also takes me to a link by Mankiw on 'bad press for Ben Bernanke ", the new Fed chair; while I think some of that criticism is valid, I'd say there is really no reason to panic and that one should trust the Fed and its chief governor, with handling this. After all, the great Milton Friedman already said Ben Bernanke is a great choice and is expected to do a good job (& remark here: this youtube clip linked above is almost one hour long wisdom from Friedman; no second of that is expendable).
- "Morality matters for economic performance": A very interesting summary of recent research plus the agenda for further research in the context, by Guido Tabellini, on voxeu.org. Tabellini already presented (part of) this in the 2007 EEA-ESEM conference from Budapest (more precisely, as the EEA Presidential Address, from the 30th of August), for those of you who have also been attending.
- "Lawsuit investment" as the new hype: "Juridica will make investments in ongoing legal claims, mostly in the US, and loans to law firms to finance their costs in pursuing claims."
A report from India tells of a firm that rents out wedding guests, so that the wedding and the party do not look empty. The "guests" will wear either traditional Indian dress or Western clothes, depending on what the customer dictates. They are told to dance and make small talk, and show a knowledge of the marrying couple,without letting on that they are hired. The firm's owner, a Mr. Syed, told one newspaper: "The breaking up of joint families and lack of affection among relatives also creates a demand for paid guests". The Best Guests Centre, at Jodhpur in Rajasthan, is looking to expand. To each his own: I would pay some people to stay away from my wedding.
Friday, December 21, 2007
No one believes me, but comedy is better than muscles, money or looks. If you can make a girl laugh out loud, you're in there. It's almost like the pressure of the laugh makes her panties fall off.
- Larry Summers on the state of the US economy, a 19th of Dec speech (PDF, 8 pages). The gist is that he recommends fast and aggresive monetary and fiscal stimulus (the latter, mainly through tax cuts), just like (but more detailed than) Martin Feldstein, see my previous post on that. There are some very good ideas in Summers's proposal, though a few of his recommendations are falling too far on the 'leftist' side, to try a catch-all term (and I bet that many US economists would also agree). An example of the latter is for instance a proposal to increase the portfolio limit of the government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- L'embarras du choix: Romanian 'manelists' might have to choose between hot women and hot cars :-)
- Since tomorrow is the Global Orgasm Day (see also my last year's posts about that, here and here), I'll pick an assorted topic among the more exotic entrepreneurship cases discussed in Tyler Cowen's book, 'Discover your inner economist" (last one was in this post). Today about the hymen re-attachment hype:
For her 17th wedding anniversary Jeanette Yarborough wanted to do something special for her husband. In addition to planning a hotel getaway for the weekend, Ms. Yarborough paid a surgeon $5000 to reattach her hymen, making her appear to be a virgin again. "It's the ultimate gift for a man who has everything" says Ms. Yarborough.
This is reported to be one of the plastic-surgery industry's fastest growing segments, and yes, that is in the United States.
- An excellent article by Aaron Edlin on Microsoft's latest OS.
- I think Szekelys should indeed follow Andy's free advice on marketing Dracula. Somehow connected, see also an older post of mine touching on Stoker's book (including a link to the whole book online).
Thursday, December 20, 2007
As a protest vote, Ron Paul seems fine, but hearing him or reading about him just makes me depressed. A good rule of thumb is not to get too excited about any candidate whose actual election would make the Dow lose thousands of points.
For the whole context, see Tyler Cowen's excellent recent post. I would have actually phrased it more bluntly: Ron Paul is a lunatic with several very good ideas. Cowen's post on MR also contains a link to an "alternative" view of Alina Stefanescu, post which, otherwise interesting, is at best very naive. I do mention this because, for some reason, somebody in the roblosphere seems to have associated me (my blog), at some point, in a totally different context, with her (her blog). Now that I've actually read one of her posts, I confess that I find the comparison above utterly uninspired, to say the least...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
PS. Feel free to elf yourselves, all of you. Many thanks to Neto for the tip! :-).
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I start my class every year by saying, “These are models. And the reason we call them models is that they’re not 100 percent true. If they were, we would call them reality, not models. They’re simplifications.” But the acid test is, how good are the simplifications for your purposes? And for almost all purposes, market efficiency is a very good approximation.
Friday, December 14, 2007
When we use the tools that economics give us, we need to be sure that the complexity of the models we use match the complexity of the real world situations. Economics embodies a different and valuable approach to public policy, one that strives to apply rigorous scientific standards to what can often seem like fuzzy questions. And when economics solutions fall short of the ideal, it is a signal that the specific methods employed are flawed, not that economic science as a whole needs to be scrapped.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
- An article by James Surowiecki on the subprime crisis and the "band-aid" Paulson (partial), J.P. Morgan-like, solution. This while Greenspan thinks the bubble should first break on its own (and certainly differs here from Martin Feldstein, who advocates for a fast, two-act intervention, see my previous post on that)
- Here's a very interesting post of Andrew Gelman (based on this co-authored article of his) on whether the Democrats should move, as an electoral strategy, more to the left on the economic policy axis. His answer says that no, au contraire, they could gain if they moved moved a bit to the right (indeed, how on earth could the Democrats move more to the left than where they are already, economic-wise?!) , but certainly keeping to the left of the Republicans. The analysis is quite insightful, but I think it ignores other dimensions that would/will play a big role in the electoral strategies; i.e, the left and right discussed herein are purely the economic ones, while probably the Democrats can win much more from positioning strategically on the political axis, where most Republicans are not what they should/could/ought be (beats me why...), libertarians that is... (e.g. think for instance of the 2-dimension political compass I've talked about a while ago). Also, linked to left-right economics opinions in the USA (and, in fact, in general), see a concise analysis from Greg Mankiw: he tackles the divergences in this context among the experts, so to speak...
- Meet the Isaac Newton of biology (so says Esquire, but read on: they might well be onto something here), also known as Dr. Franziska Michor. Blonde, 25 years old, very good looking (that is already my opinion, not Esquire's). That she's got an impressive number of top publications, a PhD on the 'evolutionary dynamics of cancer' from Harvard at 22, or that she was a theoretical biologist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at 19, is certainly meritorious :-). But what's really killing is that she's also got a licence to drive 18-wheelers (part of a family-induced education that included two other essential chapters: cake baking and ballroom dancing): we love it, we love it!
Taphephobia (or "taphophobia", depending which spelling convention you follow) is the fear of being buried alive. A Chilean cemetery will build an alarm into a coffin for only $462. In 1995 entrepreneurs marketed a $5000 Italian casket with an emergency signal beeper and a two-way microphone/speaker to the outside world. The accompanying survival kit includes a torch, an oxygen tank, and a heart stimulator; don't ask who will administer the latter.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
m-am îndrăgostit de un argument
era blond, livid şi psihologic
în prag de seară primăvara
Thursday, December 06, 2007
- very sad for this country's people, but otherwise a very concrete first level econ lesson for everybody. One can only hope that any other government passes 'introductory economics' before experimenting with policies (samples of which, for the same country, were featuring on my blog a while ago as well)...
- female leaders and what comes and what doesn't, with that (with further links to very interesting recent PDF articles within the text)
- from the 'exotic entreneurship' stories cycle, another example mentioned in Tyler Cowen's very well written book, Discover Your Inner Economist (see also my previous example from there). Today: "the crying bar" (since I have some relatives that own a bar in Romania, this might be particularly of interest as business strategy for them; it's high time we copied the Chinese:-)):
" The truly regretful in the Chinese city of Nanjing can visit a "crying bar". There's a sofa, some tables, and a great deal of tissue paper. For about $6 an hour, customers can sit and cry. The owner, one Luo Jun, claimed he hit upon the idea from customers of a previous bar. They wanted to cry, but they had no venue for this desire. The crying bar solves their problem by making the show of maudlin emotion socially respectable and indeed socially expected. I hope I don't see you there"
- very wise words from Tom Sowell on "that top 1%"
- What are the odds of a recession in the USA (& related items)? Answers are given by a. Larry Summers in a short 'debate' with John Snow: Summers calls the shots, Snow very much agrees to everything (11 minutes .mp3); b. Martin Feldstein, who comes forward with a 2-part strategy expansion: combine lowering interest rates further by the Fed + a bold fiscal stimulus; c. Eddie Lazear, debriefing the newly released economic forecast of the White House; d. finally, two very funny chaps on YouTube who make clear the subprime problem (and its solution!) for everybody. Hat tip for all a.-d. links here to the one and only Greg Mankiw.