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Heroic Passenger Recognizes Quantitative Economics as True Threat to America

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Forget ethnic profiling. The real danger facing America these days is economists and their differential equations:

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive-skinned and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

....The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over....He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

....Then, Then, for unknown reasons, the plane turned around and headed back to the gate....Finally the pilot came by, locking eyes on the real culprit behind the delay: that darkly-complected foreign man....The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

The curly-haired man laughed. He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or some other terrorist code. They were math. Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.

It's about goddam time, I say. Personally, I'd say that economists and their math have done a lot more damage to the world recently than terrorists and their bombs. We owe this flip-flop-wearing woman our thanks.

On a more serious note, can it really be true that no one recognized what decorated young Italian economist Guido Guide Menzio was doing? Sure, maybe his seatmate didn't recognize math. But neither the flight attendant nor the pilot recognized math-ish scribblings when they came back to take a look at things? "What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia?" Menzio Manzio wrote on Facebook. "It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base." And that's quite true: Donald Trump is notoriously an idiot at math. I suppose his followers are too.

POSTSCRIPT: You know what's missing from this story? The actual page of math Menzio was working on in the plane. Admit it: you want to see it too. You're all such a bunch of nerds.

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davegraham71
565 days ago
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Hamilton, Bermuda
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If Reality Mattered

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If reality mattered, the information in a new report on undocumented immigration to the United States by the Journal on Migration and Human Security would upend the nasty nativism that has consumed the Republican presidential candidates. Here is how Jerry Markon reports the findings in the Washington Post.

The total undocumented immigrant population of 10.9 million is the lowest since 2003, says the report from the Center for Migration Studies, a New York think tank. The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen each year since 2008, the report says, driven primarily by a steady decline in illegal migrants from Mexico...
Although the new report does not cite specific reasons for the decline, other experts have attributed it to a combination of tighter U.S. border security measures and economic and demographic changes in Mexico, such as women having fewer children.
A key — but largely overlooked — sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population. Until recent years, illegal immigrants tended to be young men streaming across the Southern border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.

Do you recognize all of the ways this discredits almost everything the Republicans have been saying lately?

* We are not experiencing hordes of immigrants crossing our border lately.

* President Obama actually increased border security.

* We don't need to waste money on a wall.

* The REAL issue for immigration reform is not so much about border security as it is about what to do with the undocumented immigrants who are already in this country - many with long-standing ties in their community.

In light of these facts, one might wonder why so many Americans are freaking out about immigrants. The executive summary of this report gives us a clue about that:

Other findings of the paper that should inform the immigration debate are the growing naturalized citizen populations in almost every US state and the fact that, since 1980, the legally resident foreign-born population from Mexico has grown faster than the undocumented population from Mexico.

Here is something Pew Research recently reported about the legally resident foreign-born population:

By 2013, most immigrants were from either Latin America or South or East Asia, a very different profile than that of immigrants in 1960 and 1970, who were mostly from Europe.

In other words, what Republicans are reacting to is not so much illegal immigration as it is about a shift in the race/culture of immigrants who are coming to this country...something that results in the "browning of America."

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davegraham71
674 days ago
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Hamilton, Bermuda
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Like a Zombie, You Just Can't Kill Countrywide Financial

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Back at the height of the housing bubble, Countrywide Financial was responsible for about 15 percent of all the mortgage loans in America. This turned out to be disastrous because the people who ran Countrywide showed no interest at all in the quality of the loans they originated. Thanks to this, their business eventually imploded and in 2008 they were acquired by Bank of America.

But fear not. The executives behind Countrywide are still around, and they're still shoveling out the loans:

PennyMac, AmeriHome Mortgage and Stearns Lending have several things in common.

All are among the nation's largest mortgage lenders — and none of them is a bank. They're part of a growing class of alternative lenders that now extend more than 4 in 10 home loans.

All are headquartered in Southern California, the epicenter of the last decade's subprime lending industry. And all are run by former executives of Countrywide Financial, the once-giant mortgage lender that made tens of billions of dollars in risky loans that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

This time, the executives say, will be different.

You betcha! I'm sure these folks have all learned their lessons and will never push the mortgage envelope again. We can all breathe easy.

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davegraham71
725 days ago
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Hamilton, Bermuda
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Scott Walker Finally Finds a Big-Government Subsidy He Loves

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The owner of the Milwaukee Bucks wants a new stadium. But he doesn't want to pay for it himself. So he's threatened to move the Bucks to a new city if Wisconsin doesn't pony up $250 million to help finance the shiny new sports palace he wants.

Unfortunately for him, Wisconsin's governor is Scott Walker, a small-government Republican who's famous for being a fighter. He won't give into extortion like this. If the Bucks need a new stadium, they can jolly well —

Oh wait. It turns out that Walker caved in pretty easily and the Bucks got their bucks. Paul Waldman is properly dismayed:

One might have expected more from a politician who is basing his presidential campaign on his eagerness to “fight.” This combativeness is central to Walker’s appeal — but it turns out that he’s only interested in fighting people like union members. Extortionist plutocrats, not so much.

....Even more fundamentally, one has to ask why “small government” conservatives — as Walker and every other Republican candidate considers himself — think that government should be in the business of building stadiums. Don’t they believe in the power and wisdom of the market? If the shrewd businessmen who own the Bucks would increase their profits by building themselves a new stadium, then they’ll do it. If it wouldn’t increase their profits, then they won’t, and the market will have spoken.

For some reason, professional sports franchises float serenely above the free market for both Democrats and Republicans. Neither party has been especially impressive on this score. Still, it's Republicans who are the market purists. They're the ones who insist, for example, that providing health care for 15 million people is a travesty if the government is involved in subsidizing it. But basketball? Go Bucks! That seems like a screwed up set of values to me, but I guess I just don't understand economics as well as Scott Walker.

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mlantz
835 days ago
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Cedar Rapids, IA
davegraham71
835 days ago
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Hamilton, Bermuda
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Red State, Blue State: Kansas & Washington

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@TBPInvictus here.

We have interesting experiments going on in the state of Kansas and the city of Seattle. Herewith a brief update on both.

Thanks to the following Tweet, I was made aware of the fact that – as you can see – the state of Kansas, under Sam Brownback’s awesome tax cuts, recorded the third-worst jobs performance in the country over the past year. Data are easily accessible just by clicking through.

It was almost three years ago – July 2012 – that Brownback touted the awesomeness of his economic plans via an op-ed:

In May, the Kansas Legislature passed and I signed the largest tax cut in state history, eliminating state income taxes on small businesses and reducing the tax burden on hardworking Kansans. [...]

Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. It will pave the way to the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs, bring tens of thousands of people to Kansas, and help make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business. It will leave more than a billion dollars in the hands of Kansans. An expanding economy and growing population will directly benefit our schools and local governments.

In short, it did none of the above. In fact, faced with the dire consequences of Brownback’s Laffer-inspired, misbegotten plans, Kansas schools had to implement early closures:

“It’s crazy times,” Sanders said. “The ideology in this tax experiment has gone too far. It’s almost as if they’re hell-bent on proving their point, no matter the damage it causes.”

Indeed. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Faced with a fiscal crisis, Brownback has had no choice but to reverse course. Sadly, in doing so, he is placing much of the burden on the ordinary Kansans by raising sales taxes.

Here’s the growth of jobs in Kansas for the last 3 1/2 years, with the months of Brownback’s statement and the most recent reading highlighted.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 3.29.22 PM

That’s an annual growth rate of about 1.15%, which compares poorly to the nation as a whole, which has advanced by about 1.91% annualized over the same period. Not terribly impressive.

And yet, amazingly, supply-side trickle down is somehow still a thing. Where is John Oliver when you need him?

Moving on from Kansas to the Emerald City and a different sort of experiment. Let’s see what the data have to say there about their gradually stepped-up minimum wage. Keep in mind that the increase was voted into law over one year ago, and the first bump was enacted a few months ago. (It’s important to note the timing of the legislation’s approval for the following reason: Market participants (which include restaurateurs) act on information immediately, i.e. as soon as it becomes available. In this case, information about an impending rise in wages was known over one year ago.)

So, how’s it going?

Well, I’ve been continuing the work started by Evan Soltas at his blog in March. Taking his initial six data points, and updating weekly, the Seattle restaurant scene looks like this:

 

seattle naics for jun172015

 

Seems to my eyes that the restaurant business in Seattle has continued to grow fairly briskly despite dire forecasts – and some outright lies – spread throughout the conservative media. As I was told by a contact in the most excellent King County Office of Economic and Financial Analysis, it will likely be rent before wages that slows things down in Seattle.

So, in sum, tax cuts have not led to the promised prosperity in Kansas, and a higher minimum wage has not led to the demise of the restaurant business in Seattle. I don’t expect these facts to make any difference whatsoever in conservatives’ narrative – I wasn’t born yesterday – but they do need to be documented for the record time and again.

 

 

Previously:

Jobless in Seattle? Not Yet, Anyway

Jobless in Seattle? Not Yet, Anyway. Part 2

We Know What’s the Matter With Kansas

A Pizza Place Closes in Seattle

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davegraham71
885 days ago
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Hamilton, Bermuda
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Actually, It Turns Out That November Is the Cruelest Month

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I've been wondering why my health collapsed so badly when I turned 55, and now Science™ has provided the answer. It's because I was born in October, which lags only November for being the net riskiest birth month. Here's the Washington Post:

Mary Regina Boland, Nicholas Tatonetti and other researchers at the Columbia University Department of Medicine examined records for an incredible 1.75 million patients born between 1900 and 2000 who had been treated at Columbia University Medical Center. Using statistical analysis, they combed through 1,688 different diseases and found 55 that had a correlation with birth month, including ADHD, reproductive performance, asthma, eye sight and ear infections.

The researchers emphasize that other environmental factors, like diet, medical care and exercise, are more likely to influence whether you get a disease. And since these numbers are culled from New York City, they may not be applicable to babies born in other places.

Culled only from New York City, huh? And it was just a massive data mining operation looking for correlations at the 95 percent level? This suggests you'd get 84 correlations just by chance. They got 55.

So....maybe not so impressive. Then again, this is all addressed in the paper, and it's far too complicated for me to understand. I mean, what the hell is a "multiplicity correction using FDR (α_0.05, n_1688 conditions)"? Beats me. But everything in this paper is "FDR adjusted." So maybe that means the correlations are legit. Perhaps someone who knows what this means can weigh in in comments.

In any case, if we believe this, it explains why my sister, brother, and mother are all healthy, while I'm a basket case. I was born in the wrong month. But on the plus side, I apparently have a lower than normal risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure. Good to know.

POSTSCRIPT: Everyone gets that I'm just having fun here, right? Honestly, I haven't the slightest idea of whether this stuff holds water. Still, everyone loves simple charts that put them and their friends in buckets, right?

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davegraham71
893 days ago
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Oh man.
Hamilton, Bermuda
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