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Friday, October 31, 2003

Stanley Fish Out of Water 

I was surprised that Stanley Fish thinks public universities ought to be privatized in The Chronicle.

It is true that public universities have neither the leisure nor the endowments to engage in high-minded reflection about their present situations, but there is something they can do. They can privatize, not by default and in a desperate attempt to deal with forces beyond their control, but by design and with a view to creating conditions that would allow the flourishing of [the academic mission].

But as read on I learn that Fish has no earthly idea what he is talking about.

But if we could set our own tuition, and the dollars came directly to us (as they now do not), we could double the tuition rate (which is now about $5,000 a year), and, given an enrollment of 10,000 students, we would instantly become a $100-million college.

Ummm, Mr. Fish, you might want to run this proposition by someone who has at least heard of the law of demand before you double tuition. I am all for privatizing public education, but not for this reason.
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Brian Knight's Seminar Paper 

You may download a copy of Brian Knight's paper here.

Are Policy Platforms Capitalized Into Equity Prices? Evidence from the Bush/Gore 2000 Presidential Election

Abstract
This paper tests for the capitalization of policy platforms into equity prices using a sample of 70 firms favored under Bush or Gore platforms during the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election. Two sources of daily data during the six months leading up to the election are incorporated: firm-specific equity returns and the probability of a Bush victory as implied by prices from the Iowa electronic market. For this group of politically-sensitive firms, the daily baseline estimates demonstrate that platforms are capitalized into equity prices: under a Bush administration, relative to a counterfactual Gore administration, Bush favored firms are worth 3-8 percent more and Gore-favored firms are worth 6-10 percent less. The most sensitive sectors include tobacco, worth 13-25 percent more under a favorable Bush administration, Microsoft competitors, worth 15 percent less under an unfavorable Bush administration, and alternative energy companies, worth 16-27 percent less under an unfavorable Bush administration. A corresponding analysis of campaign contributions, which allows for heterogeneity in the importance of policy platforms to the firms, supports the baseline estimates. These results are then compared with results from a more traditional event study based upon the Florida recount.

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Are you having trouble finding data? 

Well, check out Nationmaster.com. Wow, what a great site. Thanks to Tyler at MR for the pointer.

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Thanks to David Mustard 

I very much enjoyed David Mustard's talk yesterday at the Kennedy-Owens Seminar. I think it was a big success, as most people I talked to expressed similar opinions. His paper was such a good example of how human beings consistently respond to incentives in predictable ways. The next time someone tells you economics is just about the study of money and business, you should mention David's work.

If you attended, please feel free to pass along thoughts and suggestions. If you are interested in the topic of the HOPE Scholarship, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be running a series of articles on some of David and Christopher Cornwell's research sometime soon. I will be sure to post the links here when this occurs.

The next KO Seminar will be Monday, November 10. Our speaker will be Brian Knight of Brown University.

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R.E.M. Comes Through 

Earlier I complained about some song choices on their new release In Time. But, my wife tells me that R.E.M. knows its die-hard fan base better than I thought. And thanks to a sticker on the new album at Wal-Mart, she learned of a special edition that contains a second 15-song disc with 3 of the 4 songs I wished were on the album. This band knows how to reward its fans.
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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Environmental Thought Experiment 

Virginia Postrel answers an tough thought experiment.

Q: "How many persistent toxins, such as PCBs, would be in the environment a century hence if Bush were president vs. Gore?"

A: "[T]he election results made no difference. The time scales are off. Technological innovation, not environmental regulation, will determine the state of the earth in 100 years."

I agree, but for an additional reason. Technology is certainly important, and not unrelated to my reasoning for thinking the environment will be cleaner in a century. The positive correlation between wealth and environmental welfare, and our persistent economic growth path lead me to the same conclusion. (See Grossman and Krueger and a summary of their article). In this sense, environmental regulations that may slow down the economy may lead to worse environmental health in the future.
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Economy on the Knife Edge 

Brad DeLong notes that the recent occurrence of lower employment and higher output (meaning higher productivity per worker) is either very good or very bad news for the economy.

How can such strong output growth coexist with such lousy employment news? It is this year's great economic data mystery. Everyone believes that it cannot last. Either (i) firms will find themselves unable to meet rapidly-growing demand with their current labor force, and will start hiring at a furious pace, rapidly expanding employment; or (ii) households will take a look at their less-than-certain employment prospects, cut back on spending, and the pace of demand growth will slow drastically.

See the post for his full thoughts on the issue.

I lean a bit towards the former, but I am sure DeLong is more pessimistic than me.
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Reminder: David Mustard to Speak Today 

4pm
Cushman Room
Women's Center

More Info


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Congratulations Paul McCartney 

Paul and his wife, Heather Mills, announce the birth of their daughter, Beatrice Milly McCartney. Why do I find this interesting? My daughter is older than McCartney's, and Paul is 31 years older than me. In the song "When I'm 64" is there a line that says, "will you help me raise my 3 year-old?"...I think Ringo wrote that one.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The NRA Names Names 

The NRA recently posted a list of organizations and celebrities that are anti-gun. This upsets some people in Hollywood, particularly Dustin Hoffman, who desire to be on the list. If you would like to join this "blacklist" you can do so here. Now, this particular campaign is nothing special, and I rarely care what people in Hollywood have to say about politics. But, what I find funny is the NRA's actual list.

I am not surprised to find Barbara Streisand, Rosie O'Donnell, and Mike Farrell made the list. However, I did not expect to find a cook (Julia Child), three NFL players (Keyshawn Johnson, Doug Flutie, and Vinny Testaverde), an NBA player (Rick Fox), and Geraldo (apparently he goes by one name now) whom I have seen carry a gun on live television. Five Zappa children round out the list, but only one is listed as having an occupation (Dweezil, as a musician). And Dustin Hoffman need not worry. The NRA heard his plea and answered it.
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Try the Gender Genie 

I found a link to the Gender Genie on Instapundit. As best I can tell, it serves no purpose other than being really cool. You enter some text (500 words minimum for best results) and using a scoring algorithm it determines the gender of the author. It scored me dead on as a male. What I found interesting, though, is what happens when you change the genre of writing (fiction, non-fiction, or blog post). My blog post score was much more feminine than my non-fiction score.

Addendum: I just ran this post through the Genie.
Female score: 41
Male score: 219

Supposedly, the algorithm predicts with 80% accuracy. According to the self-reported survey, the online version has been right 73% of the time. I suspect there is a bias towards reporting mistakes, so it appears to work about as well as expected.
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Why Plagiarism is a Bad Idea 

History professor Brian VanDeMark, author of Pandora's Keeper, was found guilty of plagiarism by his peers at the Naval Academy. His punishment includes loss of tenure, demotion, and a $10,000 pay cut. But, worst of all, his reputation is ruined. He is finished as a historian. Who will ever trust his words again?

From the article: "To regain tenure, VanDeMark will need to meet the academy's standards for teaching and research, including published work in journals that could well reject the work of a tainted scholar. "

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

New Book on Human Accomplishment 

I am really excited about reading Charles Murray's new book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 BC to 1950. As always, Murray takes on a politically incorrect topic and unapologetically takes it to the edge. The excerpt of the Publishers Weekly review posted on Amazon is hilarious.

Co-author with the late Richard Herrnstein of the neo-racialist book The Bell Curve, Murray returns with a mammoth solo investigation that is less likely to spur controversy than provoke a simple "so what?" The book attempts to demonstrate, through the use of basic statistical methods such as regression analysis, that Europeans have overwhelmingly dominated accomplishment in the arts and sciences since about 1400. To this end, he has assembled a laundry list of people and events from various reference texts, and generated numerous graphs and rankings of genius figures: is Beethoven "more important" than Bach? Leonardo Da Vinci than Michelangelo?

"Neo-racialist" and "laundry list" are not exactly phrases intended to push a book. Anyway, what I find most interesting about Murray's goal is the attempt to actually quantify and rank human achievements and achievers throughout history. How could this not be interesting? In the end, I may have some problems with the results, but it is a worthy project. Thanks to Bill for pointing me to the book. I will report back with a review as soon as I can. Right now, I am only 100 pages in. It is hard to read with a baby crying and spitting up on me every 5-minutes.

Addendum: Tyler Cowen gives his review of the book on Volokh, and I am sure this is not his last post on the subject. Given Tyler's positive review, I am even more excited about the book. Tyler is one of the world's leading experts on the economics of culture...and he is a former professor of mine. Also, check out the article in the NY Times.
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My Thoughts on Media Bias 

There is a large contingent of people, mostly political conservatives, who believe the media is biased towards the left of the political spectrum. Conservatives claim that liberal journalists slant the news in a way that favors the Left. Conservatives point to several polls that identify a significant majority (sometimes greater than 90 percent) of journalists as voting Democratic. Because of this Bias (so labeled in a recent book by former CBS News insider Bernard Goldberg) the media does not correctly report the news. The consequence of this "slanting" is advocacy reporting to benefit a political ideology in place of accurate news that can sway the opinion of its viewers. Liberals and many within the media itself defend these charges as baseless. They argue that though many in the media are liberals, they simply report facts. Journalists simply report facts, and political opinions do not influence this reporting.

What causes me to write down my thoughts on this issue is that both sides of the debate are wrong. Here is what I think:

1) The media is biased and this bias does influence news reporting.

2) Media bias does not influence the political opinions of its audience and is therefore not a problem.

I think it is hard to deny the first statement. There is nothing wrong with admitting this, and I see no reason why those within the media are so adamant in their denials of biased reporting. It is OK; I am not judging you. Reporters are human, and humans are not perfect beings (If you disagree with this statement, seek professional help). There is a reason why we keep family members off juries, disallow baseball umpires from being related to players, and judges recuse themselves from service when a conflict of interest arises in a trial. Though we would all like to separate our opinions about what we want to observe and what we actually observe, humans form perceptions based on prior beliefs and prejudices. I see no reason to believe journalists to have any special powers to avoid this human problem. To see examples of media bias I recommend Bernard Goldberg's book Bias. This book is excellent. Though many people accuse Goldberg of simply being a bitter man, his examples are interesting. Andy Rooney even admitted as much while admitting that Goldberg is somewhat of a "jerk." Several other media critics, such as conservative lawyer/activist Ann Coulter and the Media Research Center note other examples. For instance, the big three network news outlets were more apt to use the word "conservative" than "liberal." The implication of this is that Right-leaning politicians and advocacy groups (such as Bob Barr or The Independent Women's Forum) are labeled as pushing a conservative political agenda while Left-leaning groups (such as NOW) receive no such label, giving them impression of neutrality. Now I do not think that journalists intentionally seek to push a political agenda, it is just a human problem. If you do not believe me, poll Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans fans about whether or not the "Music City Miracle" involved an illegal forward pass or a legal backwards lateral. I guarantee the opinions will be correlated with team allegiance.

But here is where I diverge from the conservative critics of the media. I do not think bias is a problem. The main reason I believe this is my training as an economist. With a very few simple conditions, a market with free entry and exit, many buyers and sellers, and a homogeneous product will produce the efficient allocation of resources. This model is known as perfect competition. In this case the resource allocated in news. The media market approximates these assumptions more than most markets to which economists apply the model of perfect competition.

Free entry: guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Many buyer/sellers: numerous media outlets with many different owners and many consumers
Homogeneous product: news is news.

The model of perfect competition predicts the news we get is the news consumers demand from the media suppliers. Failure to provide this will result in economic losses. If one outlet provide distorted news, other outlets will provide the correct information and consumers will turn away from the distorted news. And free low-cost entry, especially in the age of the internet, prevents a surviving cartel among media outlets.

So how can my view possibly be consistent? If journalists are biased can the market for news be economically efficient? Well, obviously I think it can, and here is why.

First, most of the news that is reported is hard to distort. Crimes, hurricanes, and plane crashes do not have political affiliations. On these important issues the media reports undistorted news. And where bias seems to be prevalent competitors spring up. For example, The Washington Times and New York Post have a conservative tone to combat the liberal slant of The Washington Post and The New York Times. Also, the recent creation of Fox News and the inclusion of conservative commentators (John Stossell and Laura Ingram) on the big networks has helped balance the political atmosphere on television.

Second, the media just does not have the influence its critics think it does. For news stories that can be distorted, consumers can rationally discount this bias. Since everyone knows the media is biased, consumers can take this into account when they interpret the news. When the media says, "the Right-wing is trying to railroad President Clinton" consumers interpret this as, "Republicans are against Clinton, and Democrats support him." Or Fox News (a conservative outlet) states "the ACLU is trying to sabotage school vouchers" consumers hear "the ACLU opposes vouchers." It is just that simple folks. For all the media bias during the 1980s documented by Goldberg, how did the voters respond? Presidents Reagan and Bush (#41) were wildly popular for 11 years. In 1994, the public elected a Republican majority to both houses of Congress.

In conclusion, it is time to put this issue to rest. Goldberg and Coulter have made their points, and they have won (although Eric Alterman disagrees). The media is biased. But, it does not have any implication for the consumers of news so it is time to drop it. Those who have ferociously attacked the media bias crowd should simply say "so what?" instead of ignoring the elephant in the living room.

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Blogging 

I am simply amazed at the whole blogging industry, as are most blog authors that I follow. I put this site up a week ago today. I paid zero dollars for the software, design, server space, etc. Look at the top. My sponsor, Blogger, is offering advertising on my page. What amazes me is not that there is advertising here, but that it is generated by some sort of search to promote products related to the readership of my website...or the perceived readership. Initially, I had advertisements for fishing equipment. That is not surprising. But, after a few posts about baseball, baseball vendors now appear as the sponsor.
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Update for Research Methods Class 

We will meet in the normal classroom on Wednesday. On Monday Oct. 27 we will meet in the Summit Room.
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In Time: R.E.M.'s Greatest Hits Out Today 

I just wrote a long post about R.E.M.'s new album, and I somehow lost it. Damn it! Anyway, quick summary. I love this band, but I wish they had picked a few different songs. The new songs, added for fans like me who own the entire band's work, are a nice treat, but not very good. I will probably buy the album anyway to thank the band that has given me a lot of consumer surplus over the past 18 years.

Addendum: I had a few moments so I thought I would list the songs that I think ought to be on the album that are not: "Inside Out", "Pop Song 89", "Country Feedback," and "Bang and Blame." Songs I could do without: "E-bow the Letter" and "All the Way to Reno."
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Monday, October 27, 2003

Reminder: David Mustard to Speak at K-O Seminar 

This is a reminder that David Mustard will speak at Sewanee on Thursday, Oct. 30 at 4pm in the Cushman Room of the Women's Center. See here for further details.
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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Tax Rates and Leisure 

Tyler Cowen and the blowhards link to an interesting study by Edward Prescott (the odds on favorite to win the Nobel Prize this year, though he did not win it). Prescott tries to identify why Americans work so many more hours than Europeans. This is actually a recent phenomenon. In the 1970s it was more likely for Europeans to work more than Americans. Now Americans work 50% more hours than French, Germans, and Italians. Why the change? Well, Prescott finds higher marginal tax rates have reduced the incentive to work in Europe. This diagram tells the story. According to Prescott, "If France were to reduce its effective tax rate on labor income from 60 percent to the U.S. 40 percent rate, the welfare of the French people would increase by 19 percent in terms of lifetime consumption equivalents." This calculation includes the lost leisure time and other relevant factors. Prescott also notes "I was surprised to find that this large tax rate decrease did not lower tax revenues." Do I smell the return of the Laffer Curve?

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Don't count out the Yankees yet 

Check out this interesting analysis of Game 6 WS outcomes here. Home teams down 3-2 do far better than chance, even when accounting for home field advantage as improving the odds of winning to 55%. In this sample, the home team is 19-4 in Game 6....Wow! I think this is evidence that teams backed against the wall are more likely to pull out all of the stops in Game 6, while the team that is ahead (which has less to lose from losing this game) does not. What I find even more interesting is that in the 19 games that go to Game 7 the odds of winning revert back to 50-50. This is consistent with the "back against the wall" hypothesis. Both teams face the same cost by losing Game 7, and therefore both put it all on the line. This also says something about my post below on the high number of Game 7 WS. It looks like the odds of a WS going to 7 games are very good once we get to Game 6.


Addendum: I have thought some more about this. This indicates that teams up 3-2 ought follow the same strategy as the team that is down in the series. Pulling out all of the stops in Game 6 does not appear to hurt you chance of winning Game 7. And playing conservatively in Game 6 does not seem to be a good strategy. Maybe this explains why McKeon is putting Beckett on the mound tonight. I like it! Go fish.
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Torre Mismanages his Bullpen 

Here is an article by Rob Neyer that questions Joe Torre's handling of his pitching staff in the WS.
ESPN.com - MLB/PLAYOFFS2003 - Neyer: No relief in sight

Basically, Torre (whom Rob thinks of as a good manager) has goofed by not using Rivera in the right spots.
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Friday, October 24, 2003

Mexico, NAFTA, and Refrigerators 

Virginia Postrel reports on an interesting story by Mexican Finance Minister Francisco Gil Diaz told at the Dallas Fed conference honoring Milton Friedman.
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About the name... 

Q. Why is the name of this site Old Fishinghat?
A. I don’t know. It just came to me.

Q. Shouldn’t “Fishinghat” be two words?
A. Yes.

Q. Then, why is it one word?
A. These go to eleven.

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Police and Crime 

Measuring the effect of police on crime is tricky business. Why? Well, when there is a lot of crime, you tend to hire more police. So looking at a simple relationship between police presence and crime rates can be misleading. It is easy to interpret the positive correlation between police and crime as causal. Though, we know enough to assume that higher police presence is not causing crime (well, not all of the increase in crime...yes some policemen do increase the crime rate), we would still like to be able to quatify the marginal effect of police on crime. Alex Tabarrok and Jon Klick have found away to use terror alerts in Washington, DC to quantify the effect of police on crime. See here for the blog post, and here for the actual study. They find that an exogenous increase in police presence in DC from a shift in the Terror Alert status from Elevated to High is associated with two fewer crimes per district per day. I can see a few potential problems with this estimate, but I think it is a pretty neat approach.
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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Concorde: Good-bye and Good Riddance  

The Concorde has taken its last flight. What an excellent example of the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich.

According to the Concorde FAQ the British and French taxpayers ponied up around $2.5 billion to develop and purchase the fleet of the Concordes (I converted the units to dollars). And what did taxpayers get? A 16-plane fleet of supersonic jets with an average London to NY fare of $7,000. What a waste.
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Grady Little Cold on the Red Sox 

I see that Grady Little is not all that interested in returning to manage the Red Sox. In other news, I am not sure I really want to win the Nobel Prize in economics. Hey Grady, wake up! You blew the ALCS by doing something so bone-headed that I suspect a poll of Boston fans would prefer Bill Buckner to be the manager. What really irks me is that he stands by his decision to leave Pedro in the game. He blames people like myself for "judging me on the results of one decision I made -- not the decision, but the results of the decision." Well, I will go on the record as someone who called Little an idiot at the time he stuck with his obviously tired ace. I went back and checked out the Primer web chat going on during the game. During the game (not after the bad result) the collective wisdom of the chat participants was that Little must be insane to stick with Pedro. And I am certain that millions of Americans were also screaming at the TV saying the same thing. I can understand why Baker stood by Prior in the NLCS, his bullpen stunk. Little had no such excuse, and he has never given a reason as to why his decision was the right one. So Grady, I'm sorry you blew it, and I can forgive you. But at least have the common courtesy to admit you messed up.
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Property Rights in Baseball 

Here is an interesting piece in the USA Today posted at Primer. Apparently, MLB wants to assert its "right" to the dissemination of real-time data online. This is interesting. Clearly, MLB has the right to its TV and radio broadcasts, and it looks to me in the disclaimer on the ESPN site that MLB views its rights as extending even further than its current enforcement level. Extention of the enforcement may be a problem for sites that provide live updates or "web broadcasts" of sporting events by reporting the occurrence of events moments after they happen.

I understand MLB's concern. If people start watching real-time broadcasts instead of TV or radio, it means lower revenues for baseball. This would ultimately result in a lower quality product on the field. As a baseball fan, I would very much dislike this outcome. However, I think MLB ought to think twice before imposing strict limits on web-broadcasts. This is a recurring theme in baseball. An example: "If you put baseball on Radio/TV, no one will come the games." In fact, baseball teams learned that the return from allowing more fans access to the game increased the demand for the game, thereby increasing revenue. Radio increased the baseball fanbase among women, who previously were not as interested in the game as men. Broadcasts of the Braves, Cubs, and Yankees have created die-hard followers of these teams around the world. In summary, I think MLB does have the legal right to do this, but I think it would be a bad idea if it did.

But this raises another question: Where does the right to protect baseball game information begin? Can I call my friend from the game to give an update? Howabout online webchats that go on during games (like the ones on Baseball Primer)? Hmmm. Think on this, I must. Or maybe just follow this thread on Primer.
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Stata Update 

Good News! ITW will load Stata onto the lab computers in DuPont today or tomorrow. Our site license allows for up to 10 users at a time.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Too Many Game 7s? 

I found this interesting tidbit on Baseball Primer.

Are 7-game World Series more common than expected?

I think the answer is the increased competition between teams in baseball. I know this contradicts everything Bud Selig says about competitive imbalance, but it is true. See this recent study in Economic Inquiry, On the Evolution of Competitive Balance: The Impact of an Increasing Global Search by Martin B. Schmidt and David J. Berri. Using a corrected measure of the SD of win-percentages of teams in a given season as a measure of competitive balance -- I buy this, as do many other (but not all) economists -- the authors find competitive balance has improved over the century.

So how does this affect the study on 7-game Series? Well, the study makes the grand assumption that probability of a series going seven every year is random over time. In fact, if teams are becoming more equal over time, then the likelihood that better teams meet in WS, increasing the likelihood of 7 games, also increases. At least, that is the way I see it at first glance.

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If you are checking in for a Stata update, I still do not have an answer for you. I should know something by the end of the day.

UPDATE: Still no word from ITW. Hopefully, I will know tomorrow.
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Virginia Postrel has an interesting take on Rumsfeld. I kind of like it. I think Rummy gets a bad rap doing a tough job. Has he made mistakes? Possibly (see Brad DeLong's take on Rumsfeld), but the main question is a very important one, "How do we quantify the success of the war on terror?" In any event, whenever I observe a media pile-on (like the one Rumsfeld is currently experiencing) I seem to always end up rooting for the guy on the bottom.
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I just found a good Stata web tutorial here.

Also the ATS Stata Portal at UCLA is always a great resource.

I usually just run a Google search for the problem I am trying to solve.
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Anyone looking for an interesting dataset may want to check out The Chronicle of Higher Education's database of College and University Endowments.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

David Mustard to Speak at Sewanee 

David Mustard will be visiting Sewanee on Thursday, October 30 as part of the Kennedy-Owens Symposium. You can download the paper he will discuss here. Also, I encourage you to visit his personal page.

Dr. Mustard has done a lot of work on Georgia's Hope Scholarship and the economics of crime. I encourage you to check out his work in both of these areas.

The program is scheduled for 4pm in the Cushmam Room of the Women's Center with reception to follow. In addition, Dr. Mustard will be in McClurg from noon-2pm (Rooms A & B) for an informal lunch.

If you have any questions, please let me know.


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Check out this story about my summer research project with Patrick Lynch.

Student Tries Econometric "Tool Box" with Faculty Partner



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Buy your texbooks for cheap from overseas at BookCentral.com .

See the story at MR for details.
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I am slowly getting the hang of it.
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Well, it looks like my second post will be a correction to my first post . It turns out that only a quarter of all blogs are abandoned after one day.
See here.

NOTE: I do not mean to steal the show from great blogs such as www.MarginalRevolution.com. I will always provide a link to any idea I get from these other blogs. As I have observed it, this is standard practice in the blogging world.


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I guess this is the mandatory first-posting of my blog. The goal of this blog is largely to clear my mind of thoughts. Hopefully, some of these thoughts will spillover to others interested in the same ideas. This blog has no theme other than posting thoughts on links and ideas that interest me. You will find info regarding the school, current events, interesting research, sports, entertainment, and fishing. I hope my little experiment lasts longer than most blogs (I believe the average blog lasts one-day).
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