Archive for the ‘Meusebach’ Category

Modern Macro

A really good paper from the president of the Minneapolis Fed.


Confederate History Month

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been doing a really interesting series of posts on the civil war for “Confederate History Month”.  He’s been pushing back against the notion that slavery was not the primary cause of the civil war, and uses the secession resolutions adopted by the states as evidence.  Reading through them is interesting, Texas’ and Mississippi’s resolutions are particularly shocking:

Texas this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states..


Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.

His post “One Drop” is worth a read as well.

Probability and the law

A Dutch nurse, who was convicted of murder in 2003 following a string of suspicious deaths at the hospitals where she worked, has been set free.  It turns out that the jury who convicted her fell prey to something called “the prosecutor’s fallacy”, an error in the application of probability theory.  Andrew Gelman blogged about it a while back, and here’s his explanation:

The big number reported to the court was an estimate (possibly greatly inflated) of the chance that so many suspicious events could have occured with Lucia present if she was in fact innocent. Mathematically speaking, however, this just isn’t at all the same as the chance that Lucia is innocent, given the evidence, which is what the court really wants to know.

To see why, suppose that police pick up a suspect and match his or her DNA to evidence collected at a crime scene. Suppose that the likelihood of a match, purely by chance, is only 1 in 10,000. Is this also the chance that they are innocent? It’s easy to make this leap, but you shouldn’t.

Here’s why. Suppose the city in which the person lives has 500,000 adult inhabitants. Given the 1 in 10,000 likelihood of a random DNA match, you’d expect that about 50 people in the city would have DNA that also matches the sample. So the suspect is only 1 of 50 people who could have been at the crime scene. Based on the DNA evidence only, the person is almost certainly innocent, not certainly guilty.

The political leanings of sports fans

The elasticity of labor supply in boxing

Was really high in the 1960’s with 90 percent marginal tax rates:

The 1950s was the era of the 90 percent top marginal tax rate, and by the end of that decade live gate receipts for top championship fights were supplemented by the proceeds from closed circuit telecasts to movie theaters. A second fight in one tax year would yield very little additional income, hardly worth the risk of losing the title. And so, the three fights between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson stretched over three years (1959-1961); the two between Patterson and Sonny Liston over two years (1962-1963), as was also true for the two bouts between Liston and Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) (1964-1965). Then, the Tax Reform Act of 1964 cut the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent effective in 1965. The result: two heavyweight title fights in 1965, and five in 1966. You can look it up.


I’m not a huge fan of the nickname, but now that it looks like he’ll win the NBA scoring title (and is currently third in ESPN’s MVP watch), it seems like a good time to revisit this:

Knowing that just about any NBA general manager would trade his own children for a prospect of Durant’s caliber, I asked Winston if he’d advise his team to accept if the Mavericks were (in some alternate universe) offered Durant for free. “I’d say probably not,” he replied. “I would not sign the guy. It’s simply not inevitable that he’ll make mid-career strides. Some guys do. But many don’t, and he’d have to improve a lot to help a team.”

I’m not very high on the Mavericks playoff chances right now.  Even though they’re in position to have a pretty high seed, they actually have the lowest average point differential of any playoff team in the west.  Quotes like this make me worry about the future as well.  Anyway, here’s how the article ends:

And when I relayed Winston’s comment to one of the NBA’s most respected talent evaluators, his response was simply: “He’s crazy.”

Over the next few years, one of them will be proved wrong.


Tyler Cowen responds to the question “If you were offered a true statistic about an alien civilization, but only one, what would it be?”  His answer is below.  Many of the comments are interesting as well.

How about the real rate of return on capital?  The risk premium?  The percentage of the population which dies in war each year?  Those are what come to mind right away.  What else?  Ideally you might want a cognitive measure, but their performance on human IQ tests probably would not be useful information.  How about “what percentage of our knowledge of mathematics do they also have?”  Furthermore, I would not assume they “look like the aliens you see on TV” and would consider a biological statistic (which one?) which expressed what kind of life forms they would count as.

Economic costs of climate change

One problem with climate change is that there are many feedback effects that can increase the rate at which warming occurs.  Via Public Goods, a new paper by Eba Goodstein tries to estimate the economic costs of increased warming due to the feedback effects associated with the melting of ice in the Arctic.  Goodstein predicts an increased cost of between $2.4 and $24 trillion by 2050.  This is a pretty wide band, but it is further evidence that when people talk about reluctance to curb emissions because of the high economic costs involved, they are really arguing for a transfer of wealth from the people who will be effected by the warming to those emitting the pollution.  The economic costs will be large either way.

The difficulty of teaching math

From an article by Elizabeth Green:

Mathematicians need to understand a problem only for themselves; math teachers need both to know the math and to know how 30 different minds might understand (or misunderstand) it. Then they need to take each mind from not getting it to mastery. And they need to do this in 45 minutes or less. This was neither pure content knowledge nor what educators call pedagogical knowledge, a set of facts independent of subject matter, like Lemov’s techniques. It was a different animal altogether. Ball named it Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching, or M.K.T. She theorized that it included everything from the “common” math understood by most adults to math that only teachers need to know, like which visual tools to use to represent fractions (sticks? blocks? a picture of a pizza?) or a sense of the everyday errors students tend to make when they start learning about negative numbers. At the heart of M.K.T., she thought, was an ability to step outside of your own head. “Teaching depends on what other people think,” Ball told me, “not what you think.”

Some statistics

First, a physicist gives a statistical explanation for why he strongly believes that global warming is happening.

An interesting critique of p-values.

And last, does the Navy discriminate when deciding who to promote?

Update: Also, Andrew Gelman doesn’t seem to be a fan of regression analysis.