Jim Harning

Jim Harning

Every once in a while you re--experience a loss. By sheer happenstance, I came across a few pictures of one of my best friends from high school, James Harning, depicted in a an informative "personal" history of San Francisco's "Castro District" by Strange de Jim called San Francisco's Castro As one journalist put it, the three photos "tell the tale. They all show Strange's friend, James Harning. In the first, Harning sits in a window, all long legs and handsome profile, looking not unlike the young Rupert Everett in the 1984 movie "Another Country." In the second he sits in bed, ravaged by AIDS, his hair thinned and face colonized by Kaposi's sarcoma le sions. The third shows the cover of the program used in Harning's memorial service. He died in March 1992. He was 31.". James Harning, "Jim", was many things to many people: At a memorial service for Jim (which was true to Jim's spirit in so many ways) one little thing I remember was how often he was described by his friends as "beautiful" -- true, but something I had never noticed although he was my friend for more than half my life (and his). The picture was taken by his sister Susan and may give you a glimmer of what they meant.

Windows 7 Sins

John Enrico DiNardo

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News (of a sort)

21 July 2015 -- It's all over for Greece

I think this is the last I will write on this subject. It is too depressing.

Only days after an IMF DSA (Debt Sustainability Analysis) report leaked to Reuters noted the obvious “ The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date - and what has been proposed by the ESM”,

the worst is yet to come. Here's one view:

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week's landslide "No" vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a "bailout" that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.
John Pilger
With mass defections from Syriza, Greece's one potential concern is that parties like Golden Dawn -- who have opposed the bailout -- will gain legitimacy from Tsipras' and Varoufakis' game playing without a serious Plan B. According to a post-resignation interview in the New Statesman, Varoufakis admitted that they had no real plan. At best they had a small ``war room" of about 5 people “thinking” about an exit. The idea that no one had a plan ready for the possibility that the Troika would not “give in” is breathtakingly stupid, naieve, or wreckless.

Another point of view is that criticism of Syriza (from the left) is inappropriate. Basically, the story goes is that Syriza had a mandate to end austerity but that it remained committed to the Euro. There is conflicting evidence on the willingness of Greeks to exit the Euro. Michael Nevradakis of Dialogos Radio claims that independent polling shows that a majority of Greeks are not willing to remain in the Euro at all costs

Navigating to solidarity with the majority of the Greek people is more important than solidarity with Syriza, but one can't lose sight of the fact that the troika has much more responsibility for the Greek crisis than Syriza.

One can only hope Podemos will learn from this.

I would never saddle my friend Stergios Skaperdas with my views (and vice versa I am sure) but there is a great deal that is correct, sad to say, in a recent analysis of his written in mid-June that looks quite correct in mid-July. I list 6 of his 7 myths.

My interest, as an American, whose government has a 51 percent share of the IMF has been truth of Myth 2. It seems impossible to argue otherwise.

10 July 2015 -- Some of my predictions may prove wrong, or the Greek debt crisis: it's not about the money.

One can not overestimate the unreliability of the english language reporting on the “Greek debt crisis.” The front-page story in today's NYT managed to observe that

it appeared that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was capitulating to demands on harsh austerity terms that he urged his countrymen to reject in the referendum last Sunday
but also noted that:
Mr. Tsipras seemed to have gained ground on debt relief, his one bedrock demand. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, finally gave a little on that Thursday, admitting that “debt sustainability is not feasible without a haircut,”

I can't quite reconcile “capitulation” with “gaining ground on debt relief”

I just think that no one has any idea of what is happening.

In any case, back in February, I wrote a short analysis about the “Greek debt crisis.” concluding that because of the Troika's fear of the “the threat of a good example” they would work to ensure that Syriza would not succeed. What I did not count on was that -- as the economist Mark Weisbrot observed --- the European Central Bank was willing to create a financial crisis in a country under it's jurisdiction and may possibly be a historical first.)

I even cited research by Olivier Blanchard who appeared to defend the Troika's actions. arguing that “fiscal consolidation” explains only a fraction of the output decline (I would love to try to make such a calculation.)

But fiscal consolidation explains only a fraction of the output decline. Output above potential to start, political crises, inconsistent policies, insufficient reforms, Grexit fears, low business confidence, weak banks, all contributed to the outcome.
I must admit that I find much of Blachard's analysis difficult to understand (my bad, not his).

My views are much closer to those of economist Mark Weisbrot who does not think that the Greek disaster was inevitable. He also makes makes an interesting distinction between the US and the European Authorities.

I should say, because the U.S. is only concerned with keeping Greece in the euro, whereas the others have this project. They want to transform Europe into a place that has a smaller social safety net, a reduced state, cuts in pensions and healthcare. This isn’t just Greece. Greece is the obstacle in their way of transforming Europe. So they have these whole set of other interests that they’re fighting for, and that’s why they’re being so brutal and stubborn about this.

(I think I am not quite as sure as Weisbrot that there is much daylight between the views of the US and the European authorities. I remember Obama talking about the need for labor market flexibility in Greece. )

Weisbrot goes on to say in this interview on Democracy Now!

In Greece right now, of course, the main problem is still the European authorities. They’re the ones that are—you know, they’re not really fighting over the money in Greece. It’s really about forcing Greece to make these changes. And also they’re worried about what’s going to happen in the rest of Europe, because, for instance, if Greece were to win this battle, you would be much more likely to see Podemos, a left party that didn’t even exist about a year and a half ago and is now leading in the polls— [in Spain and] could win the election in November

I must confess I don't understand the desire of some Greeks to remain in the euro. I don't see the upside of Greece agreeing to give up control of its economy. Or as Greg Palast puts it “Greece'd: Voted ‘No’ to slavery, but ‘Yes’ to our chains

20 June 2015 -- “Wow, I agree with at least two Nobel Laureates” But of course there is a tragedy.

Sadly, it is not hard to believe, but finally they are admitting it -- the Troika is trying to undermine Greek democracy: as reported in the Guardian “ Germany’s vice-chancellor has become the first senior EU politician to voice the private views of many - that the Greek PM is a threat to the European order”

Or consider this (also from the same Guardian article)

In a country where an estimated 11,000 people have killed themselves during the hardship wrought by austerity, [the president of the European Commission] Juncker offered unfortunate advice. “I say to the Greeks, don’t commit suicide because you’re afraid of dying,” he said.

This almost never happens. Apparently both Joesph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman agree with me, and Paul Krugman says directly what I said in my predictions in February:

These supposed technocrats are in fact fantasists who have disregarded everything we know about macroeconomics, and have been wrong every step of the way. This isn’t about analysis, it’s about power
I think what has happened is that the Troika (and their spokepersons) have finally demonstrated -- with over-the-top clarity -- they “ are behaving as if there sole interest is to destroy Greece.” Imposing more “fiscal consolidation” on a country with 26 percent unemployment is insane.

Of course this means that I hope that the referendum comes back with a resounding “NO!” I can't even imagine the catastrophe if it were otherwise.

In November of 2011, a friend of mine -- Stergios Skaperdas --wisely advised Greece to leave the Euro (and gave practical tips on how to accomplish this with a minimum of fuss) (His article is here.) What suffering for naught.

25 June 2015 -- “Thousands of times bitten, twice shy." More on Greece predictions.

After hearing news reports that a “deal was reached” , I sadly didn't doubt for a minute that the reporting was pure garbage and that, sadly, my predictions are little risk of being incorrect. (The US media seemed to be the worst. This time, at least, the FT was a bit less sanguine.)

I actually looked at the entire Greek proposal (about 25 pages.) It looked emininetly reasonable, and when it came to labor-related issues referred directly to ILO standards, etc. (N.B. Although the “institutions" are all signatories to and have ratified the Core Standards of the ILO --unless you include the U.S.1--, “ the institutions" are clearly able to forget these obligations when it is convenient.)

“ Courtesy of Naked Capitalism and embedded below is a partial list of changes to the original Greek proposal.

See here.

I must confess I have never seen something so brazen. The response by the institutions is such a transparent, unsubtle attempt to turn "A" into "not A" -- i.e., nullify the Greek proposal -- that (if there was any every doubt), it is clear that the Troika are behaving as if there sole interest is to destroy Greece. The additions to the text are farcical. It is so transparently farcical is that the only rationale I can concoct is that the institutions are trying to fool the Greek people into believing that Syriza is being “unreasonable.” This rationale requires more than a small dose of unreality. Syriza's biggest problem is keeping the Greek public's faith that Syriza will not sell out. Consider this “edit” to the original Greek proposal. After the title Pension Reform the institutions added this “minor” paragraph:

The Authorities will implement in full the 2010 pension reform law (3863/2010) and implement in full or replace/adjust the sustainability factors for supplementary and lump-sum pensions from the 2012 reform [to be specified by the authorities] to achieve equivalent savings and take further steps to improve [in human speak, “worsen”] the pension system. [my words in brackets]

3863/2010 of course, was all about lowering pensions in spite of the fact that they have become one of the most important components of ever-dwindling demand for goods and service -- a.k.a. austerity.

What embarasses me is that there are “economists” busy explaining that the problem is Greek “intransigence”. It appears to me that at best these economists have a religious faith in austerity. As I noted earlier , (See here) former IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard and Daniel Leigh did a fairly persuasive study showing that that the more “ fiscal consolidation" (IMF-speak for austerity) the lower GDP. Indeed, using a common measure of austerity "fiscal consolidation as a percent of GDP" a one percent increase in austerity led on average to slightly more than a one percent decrease in GDP (a common measure of economic activity.)

1. The United States is alone among rich democracies in having refused to sign all but two of the core labor standards contained in the 1998 Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which the U.S. is obliged “ to respect, to promote, and to realize") but doesn't. These standards are also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ;

27 April 2015 -- Predictions, sadly, are looking more correct. Obama makes it clear that he is opposed to collective bargaining rights in Greece.

as I predicted earlier , the Troika is working hard at destroying Greece. An recent article by the thoughtful Mark Weisbrot makes the point -- European officials may be pushing regime change in Greece

Moreover, the US has made it clear that destroying collective bargaining rights for Greek workers is a priority.

Consider this quote from US President Barack Obama:
And this -- finally the last point I would make, this applies to Greece, as well. I think Matteo [Renzi] is right. Greece needs to initiate reforms. They have to collect taxes. They have to reduce their bureaucracy. They have to have more flexible labor practices.
( Emphasis added Since the U.S. nominally supports Freedom of Association as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23 (4)) “ Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” the U.S. doesn't come out against collective bargaining rights in plain language -- instead it insists on “labor market flexibility” (This is from Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy in Joint Press Conference (East Room, 17 April 2015)

Besides being a boyscout, Renzi is also a member of the Christian Democracy Party which evolved from the Partito Popolare Italiano PPI which split into a Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) and the Christian Democracy Party (Democrazia Cristiana) From The Boston Globe “He is a regular Mass-goer, he was active in a Catholic branch of the Scouts, one of his closest advisors coauthored a 2007 book with an Opus Dei priest defending the Church from the “Da Vinci Code”, and Renzi counts bishops and priests among his friends.”

25 March 2015 -- “France” was wrong! Some predictions are worse than others!

Was just forced (against my will) to listen the most horrible ripoff of -- a Billy Joel song -- called “ Didn't Start the Fire." The ripoff was commposed/performed by a band called “Right Brothers” and is called “Bush Was Right!” These lyrics were apparently written in 2006. Yours for purposes of self flagellation at click for evil youtube video of the “Right Brothers”

Freedom in Afghanistan, say goodbye Taliban
Free elections in Iraq, Saddam Hussein locked up
Osamas staying underground, Al Qaida now is finding out
America wont turn and run once the fighting has begun
Libya turns over nukes, Lebanese want freedom, too
Syria is forced to leave, dont you know that all this means

Bush was right!
Bush was right!
Bush was right!

Democracy is on the way, hitting like a tidal wave
All over the middle east, dictators walk with shaky knees
Dont know what theyre gonna do,
their worst nightmare is coming true
They fear the domino effect, theyre all wondering who's next

Repeat Chorus

Ted Kennedy wrong!
Cindy Sheehan wrong!
France wrong!
Zell Miller right!
The thought process that puts “France”, Cindy Sheehan, and Ted Kennedy in the same sentence is ...

21 March 2015 -- Raw Power -- update on some predictions on Greece

It is really amazing to see. This bit of news in from Channel 4's Paul Mason:

At less than 24 hours' notice the European Commission has vetoed a key law set to be passed by the Greek parliament tomorrow. The so-called “humanitarian crisis bill” was set to provide free electricity for some households, and address poverty among pensioners and homeless families.

The scare quotes around “humanitarian crisis bill” are telling. There is a humanitarian crisis in Greece and this bill would have helped.

At the same time, talks between Greece and the “troika” (who now demand to be called “the institutions” instead) are reportedly going quite poorly. This report, from the French newspaper Liberation (translated by Business Insider, UK's frequently cheeky Shane Ferro)

“Liar!” yelled Yanis Varoufakis, full of rage. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, accustomed to the usual courtesy that exists within the club of finance ministers of the euro area, was livid. The Dutchman, president of the Eurogroup, seemed fragile faced by the massive Greek Finance Minister, who is physically similar to Bruce Willis. “It was incredible. We really thought they would come to blows,” said a witness at the scene.

Yves Smith, of the useful website Naked Capitalism sums it up this way:

Greece seems to believe that the Eurocrats would not dare go this route, [a Grexit], that the cost of not giving them new money is far too high for them not to relent. But so far, the Troika is not budging. The authorities are acting as if their commitment to austerity, in the form of structural reforms, is so deep that they are prepared to put the Eurozone at risk to enforce them.

So far, sadly, it looks like my predictions are right on track.

Also, it was good to find that I wasn't the only person who noticed Jen Psaki's remarks. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting had a useful report.

18 March 2015 -- Be afraid. Very Afraid.

I was just sitting around relaxing, when I learned that 2500 miles away there was an “unusual and extraordinary threat” brewing. The White House just issued a statement that there is an “ unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.”

This, of course, called to mind a recent (March 13) State Department press conference by Jen Psaki where Matt Lee of the Associated Press brought laughter to the room ( His interaction with Jen Psaki on whether Obama deserved 200 percent credit for his unnamed foreign policy successes was also pretty funny.) by discussing the U.S.'s “long--standing policy” of opposing attempts to effect “ political transitions by non-constitutional means.”in Latin America:

QUESTION: President Maduro last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?

MS. PSAKI: These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We have seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces.


QUESTION: Sorry, Jen --

QUESTION: Sorry. The U.S. has — whoa, whoa, whoa. The U.S. has a longstanding practice of not promoting — what did you say? How longstanding is that? I would — in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice.

MS. PSAKI: Well, my point here, Matt, without getting into history --

QUESTION: Not in this case.

MS. PSAKI: -- is that we do not support, we have no involvement with, and these are ludicrous accusations.

QUESTION: In this specific case.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But if you go back not that long ago during your lifetime, even — (laughter) — this is not that long since --

MS. PSAKI: The last 21 years. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well done. Touche. But I mean, does “longstanding” mean 10 years in this case? I mean, what is --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, my intention was to speak to the specific reports.

QUESTION: I understand, but you said it's a longstanding U.S. practice, and I'm not so sure — it depends on what your definition of “longstanding” is.

MS. PSAKI: We will — okay.

16 February 2015 -- Predictions from my structural model
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only”

It is certainly a malady of old age that I never cease to be amazed how many interesting and potentially important developments are happening outside the U.S. Podemos (in spanish, sigh) strikes me as similar to the CNT of the Spanish Civil War (with purple replacing the black and red flag!) -- which also strikes me as an interesting development.

I have been trying to follow the situation in Greece, and I never ceased to be awe-struck by the the undisguised excerise of raw economic power by the troika. To condition debt forgiveness on making the labor market more ``flexible" strikes me as insane (unless of course, improvement of the Greek economy is not the goal.)

Almost two and a half years ago, a friend of mine -- Stergios Skaperdas --wisely advised Greece to leave the Euro (and gave practical tips on how to accomplish this with a minimum of fuss) (His article is here.) His remarks seem more prescient to me than ever.

Since I began predicting the financial market crash of 2008 since about 1987, I thought I would put up my current predictions here -- so I can see how badly they turn out later. (On the other hand, my predictions about the final book of the Harry Potter series were near perfect!)

My 16 February 2015 Predictions about the Greek debt crisis.

Amusingly, even before I had posted this to the web, some news reports were suggesting that I was already wrong: Syriza, it was said, had capitulated completely to the Troika.

(For example, a group calling itself the “International Committee of the Fourth International” made such a declaration. Inside Greece, Manolis Glezos who is generally described as a ``Greek National Hero who belonged to the Greek Resistance during WWII" and Apolstolos Santas both slammed Syriza. (The two, it is reported, ``On May 30, 1941 climed on the Acropolis and tore down the swastika which had been there since April 27, 1941.[This] inspired not only the Greeks, but all subjected people, to resist against the occupation, and established them both as two international heroes" (quotes from Wikipedia))

But honestly, how could Syriza have done any better? If I was of a more conspiratorial mind than I am (I general find conspiracies uninteresting and unimportant) I would be thinking of Ignazio Silone and George Orwell, but as I know nothing about the two ...

14 November 2014 -- Cell Phone case can make you free

I have a cell phone. My service provider suggested I purchase a a third party case to protect it from damage when I invariably drop it. I purchased this case: an unremarkable, albeit over--priced, piece of some sort of quasi-plastic alloy. What was remarkable was the post--purchase marketing. This is verbatim ( except I have replaced the brand name with the phrase ``unremarkable cellphone case"):

Let your "unremarkable cellphone case" be a symbol of the freedom you now have to go more places and do more things.

It appears that "freedom" has lower aspirations than it used to.

August 20, 2014 -- SWAT team performs training exercise at downtown Ann Arbor courthouse

"The Washtenaw County Metro SWAT team and the county sheriff's office conducted a regular training exercise at the Washtenaw County Trial Court Wednesday morning, catching eyes with the mine-resistant vehicle parked on Fourth Avenue." The exercise was reported in this article in mlive.com

Here's Mlive.com's photograph of Ann Arbor's own MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle.

Ann Arbor's MRAP

July 23, 2014 -- #DetroitWater Crisis

I was born in Detroit. I have spent most of my life no farther than a few minutes' drive from the city.

Type the words ``Detroit Water Crisis" into your favorite search engine and you can read about the current insanity.

The DWSD -- Detroit Water and Sewage Department -- has, for several months, been engaged (in fits and starts) in shutting off the water supply to thousands of homes in the city. Thanks to an awe inspiring amount of activism, including a loud and noisy march a couple of days ago the DWSD has agreed to postpone, for 15 days, its plan to shut off the water to thousands of households.

The U.N. has involved the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.

A June 25, 2014 Statement from the U.N.

One site to start with is detroitwaterbrigade.org

The Detroit Water Project can help set you up with the DWSD account number of a family faced with a water shutoff and directions about how to pay the DWSD directly on behalf of a family faced with an imminent water shutoff.

If you do that sort of thing, you can follow the hash tag #DetroitWater in real time at Twitter .

January 26, 2014

My brush with the famous. I had one -- my only -- visit with this doctor. From the NYT:

The University of Michigan, where he was a professor for decades, has erased any trace of him on its Web sites


From the FT: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/138ce222-7fa6-11e3-94d2-00144feabdc0.html A top doctor told a court on Friday that after persistent questioning he "slipped up" and gave details of the secret side effects of an experimental Alzheimer's drug to Mathew Martoma, the former SAC Capital portfolio manager on trial for insider trading. I revealed information that was confidential about a clinical drug trial to Mathew Martoma inappropriately," said Sidney Gilman, a former professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School and former chairman of a safety committee for the experimental Alzheimer's drug trial.

January 14, 2014

Time to restart this exercise in severe narcissism (or an aid for an increasingly enfeebled memory). People are (justly) concerned about government surveillance, but private sector surveillance gets scants mention (in the US). My latest interaction with the ``embrace, extend, and control" business model of Google, which continues to amaze me (despite years of hardened skepticism about "Don't Be Evil"). For fun, especially at home, I use Italian on the very rare occassions I use Google search or when I am forced to use Gmail (it is what the University runs). (BTW, I much prefer https://duckduckgo.com which doesn't try to steal, sell, or analyze your information.) Today, whilst using Chrome on a different computer (!) at school, I accessed Lexis-Nexis Academic through from my University IP. To my surprise, the Lexis-Nexis site -- somehow -- assumed that my language was Italian (Selezione lingua!) since it is ``powered" by Google. Somehow it ``knew" what language I wanted to use without me giving the site that information myself!

August 30, 2010

Not all music criticism is positive. Regarding my "Monopsony in Motion" (I believe my first attempt ever to write, play, and record a song) Don Bellante, in "The Non sequitur in the Revival of Monopsony Theory" (THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS VOL. 10, NO. 2 (SUMMER 2007)) writes: "As with much "alternative rock" some of it is inaudible, but the words to the entire song can be read at DiNardo's site."

I didn't know that I was "alternative" rock :-) Very little alternative rock gets cited in the Economics literature.

April 12, 2010

Looking for an old paper of mine on my webpage, I typed the words "John DiNardo" into Google today and it suggested "John DiNardo leukemia", so I thought this was appropriate. (The next two suggestions were "John DiNardo planet X" and "John DiNardo drexel" :-) It's a pic of me sporting shorter hair, blindfolded, preparing to swing a baseball bat and battle a deranged immature bone marrow cell.

Battling Leukemia

April 11, 2010

George Johnson, a labor economist at the University of Michigan for 35 years, passed away last week in Washington DC after a year-long battle with cancer.

I first learned about George Johnson when I was an undergraduate here. Probably one of several important "role models" for me when I was an undergraduate and decided to do economics. I remember my fellow policy students "stuffing the ballot box" in a campus wide poll in the Michigan Daily and getting him voted "Best Dressed Professor". He was also author of my favorite line about an applied theory model (complete with "hammer and sickle" and swastika subscripts to denote different union utility functions) which was "the model needs a little work."

When I became a professor here, my first memory was when he was kind enough to invite me to join him at a Michigan versus Ohio State footbal game with seats at the 50 yard line. Despite having no affiliation with Ohio State in any way whatsoever, he came to the game fully decked out in Ohio State regalia.

Apart from his sharp wit, I most respected him for his refreshingly "low BS" approach to the world (and especially to the world of the academy) and the decency with which he treated folks "lower on the food chain."

26 January, 2010 Henry J. Campbell Moot Court

Played Supreme Court Justice for a day Moot Court at the UM Law School. Very much a learning experience -- trying to assign more points to the team with the specious but more persuasive argument is difficult.

One interesting issue was whether the police needed a warrant to triangulate your location with your cell phone. It's amazingly easy.

August 1, 2009 Will Allen Park's world famous "Big Tire" be "saved" by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)? or is PETA behaving unethically toward the "overweight"?

The "Big Tire" (which has "it's own" myspace page here!) has seen better times. It started out in life as a Ferris wheel at the 1964 New York World's Fair, then relocated to Allen Park in 1965 near Uniroyal Tire's sales office. For a few years, you could read off a continuously updated counter which gave the count of US auto production (apparently until that became a depressing statistic.) Later it was forced to shill for for a specific tire that is resistant to nail damage.

Now PETA has said it will maintain the Big Tire as long as it can place a giant ad "showing a man with a bulging belly" next to a tagline that reads "Lose the Spare Tire: Go Veg"

Even putting aside the propriety or ethics of denigrating the "overweight" (or our "belly challenged" brethren?) PETAs executive VP repeats the typical canard about obesity "causing" pre-mature mortality. A spare tire in your trunk can get you out of a jam, but the one around your waist can kill you. Turns out, even if you (wrongly) stipulate to BMI as being a "cause", the evidence suggests just the opposite (especially after you control for basic demographic variables, but even if you don't). Those people with a "spare tire" have lower all-cause mortality than those who don't!

I first became acquainted with that fact thanks to a student of mine (Tim Gronniger, now at the CBO) who wrote two different papers ( here and here ) which highlight the empirical and conceptual problems with the claim that overweight is "bad for you."

For a useful non-academic summary of Tim's work and some more recent stuff, see this article or this editorial in the BMJ

The Detroit News article detailing PETA's hostile take on "overweight."


July 13, 2009 How one can "see" (but not condone) the logic of burning a curious man alive.

Just doing some reading on the trials of Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno by the Inquisition, including "Galileo's Mistake" which has this interesting passage:

"From the perspective of four hundred years after the event [burning Giordano Bruno alive by the Pope's wishes (per volunta del papa) ] it is possible to see (though not condone) the element of sheer exasperation on the part of the Church in this sad episode. Despite seven years of threats, browbeating, and reasoned argument, Bruno would not budge. He seemed fundamentally irrational to his Inquisitors, little short of a maniac. In the end, Bruno was not burned for any specific doctrine, though he subscribed to many that were heretical. He was burned rather for his wanton curiositas , for his belief in the limitless capacity of man to know."

Along the way to "seeing" why one might burn a man alive for wanton curiosity, I came upon the "5 degrees of torture" of the Spanish Inquisition which are commonly rendered as:

  1. The threat of torture.
  2. Being conducted to the torture-chamber and shown the implements and their functions
  3. Stripping and preparing for the ordeal
  4. Laying and binding upon the "engine"
  5. The actual torture ... of which there were three popular methods (as well as others!)
    1. the Garrucha
    2. the tratta di corda or strappado
    3. Torture by water (a.k.a. waterboarding)

    All illustrated: The difference between the first two types seems to depend on whether you are tied down from below (the Garrucha) or whether you are hoisted into the air (strappado)

    the Garrucha

The Spanish Inquisition had rules, of course, for when you could do this type of stuff. "Giving someone the third degree" would "merely" be stripping and preparing someone for the ordeal.

June 1, 2009

My friends visited Paris last week and all I got was Iggy Pop's Nouvel Album:-)

IggyPopPreliminaires fnac

Although the plastic the album was wrapped in announces "L'Iguane met son costume de crooner!", this nice album isn't a "radical" departure from Mr. Osterberg's ouvre. The orchestration is somewhat less sparse, but it evokes the Iggy Pop of "Avenue B" (even the French isn't new). On a first listen, though it doesn't reach the heights of "Iggy and the Stooges", "Lust for Life", "Cold Metal", or "American Caesar" it's definitely worth some re-listening.

May 9, 2009

I don't remember the last time I was on the altar of a church, but I am certain I didn't have as good a time. The Solonators (with the benefit of sound man impresario Drue) had arguably their funnest performance yet. Something about alcohol, music, and dancing that is so necessary for the soul. Also, managed to raise a couple of thousand dollars for SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). After riding a musical high for a couple of weeks, however, I am back to self-recrimination, etc. about by musical talents :-)

May 1, 2009 The problem with the "Principle of Insufficient Reason". The whole vignette is amusing, but between the 2:00 minute mark and 4:00 mark, Walter Wagner -- a high school physics teacher who believes that the LHC at CERN may end the world as we know it -- stumbles on one of the earliest controversies in probability. (One that has, by the way, occupied the talents of such mathematically sophisticated luminaries as Laplace, Keynes, Bertrand Russell, and others over the years!)

Some persons may feel that parts of this video may not be appropriate for young persons.

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The controversy is almost as old as the notion of probability and has its origins in the writings of Jakob Bernoulli , the Reverend Bayes and Pierre Laplace How does one characterize "prior" information, specifically the a state where you have "no information" with a probability density function. For example, if there are only two possible outcomes, "X" and "not X", does that imply that the prior probability you associate with "X" is 1/2 if you are "ignorant" about where "X" or "not X" is true?

This problem only exists, however, if you think "probability" is most usefully thought of as number between zero and one which characterizes a "rational belief" about a proposition after observing some "data". (Such persons sometimes describe themselves as "Bayesians", "subjectivists", etc.) The problem that the high school teacher stumbled upon has occupied the thinking of a lot of mathematically sophisticated people over the centuries, many of whom, like the high school teacher, got it wrong. (John Maynard Keynes, for example, felt the need to spend a whole chapter denouncing the principle in his "Treatise on Probability"; people debate about whether the Reverend Bayes got it wrong in his initial paper. This article, from the Quarterly Journal of Economics (1980) is actually an attempt to "rehabilitate" the concept." ) ) For instance, it is a variant of the same problem that creates Bertrand's Paradox which relates to impossibility of uniquely mathematically characterizing "ignorance" with a prior distribution. Put another way, there is no way to create a "uniformative prior".

March 13, 2009

10 Republicans opposed to some transcendental numbers -- Π in particular! John Conyers had more important things to do, but said he would have supported House Res. 224.

What I look like in real life :)

February 18, 2009

Just got back from a heartbreaking-ly excellent show by Ben Folds with, among other people, my godson, seen below playing "Still Fighting It" (with superlative vocals by Bluenn, the singing coonhound.). The show was truly amazing with a nice setlist that had a full complement of stuff from the fake/leaked Way to Normal -- which do rival the ``real" songs if you haven't heard them. (The show started with the hilarious fake/leaked BWN (it's description of the type of guy whose appearance at the office party with date does not go according to plan is just perfect.) ``Fair" (one of my personal favorites) makes for an unusual encore: after the loud, long and raucous "A" from the bass, turns into a not atypical (for BF) "love doesn't conquer all" vignette (and goes downhill from there):

He shouted out his last word
And he stumbled through the yard
And she shattered her last china plate
And spun off in the car
When he lunged onto the hood
She stopped to tell him she'd been wrong
He was thrown head over heels
Into the traffic coming on
But then
All is fair in love

Also featured were Miniature Tigers and UM's own Compulsive Lyres who did a nice version of "Losing Lisa" (which you can hear in low-quality youtube format.) Oh, and the "secret" to preparing the piano to sound as does in ``Brainwascht", is 3 empty Altoids cans placed in the shape of a "T" behind the second strut.

February 18, 2009


Just became a "leading" economist today, but I don't think anyone's following:-) Subject to the constraint "economist", the list of signatories to this full page ad in the Washington Post contains a rather ideologically broad group of individuals. Rather amusingly, this blog describes those who think EFCA is a good idea as "communists" and has this most "interesting" image combining two old traditions that one doesn't see together that often in the U.S.: the sacred heart of Jesus and the hammer and sickle

February 17, 2009.

Just came across this picture of my sister

who is a CNP at Detroit Medical Center. Hard to believe we had the same parents :-)

July 23, 2008

You be the judge!

DiNardo and Pischke reunited! Reports are that the followup album is even more incredible than the first. A few years ago (Kai) Pischke and I teamed up to do a rocking version of "What I Like About You". While I was visiting the NBER, Kai took out some time from his schedule to reprise our earlier collaborative efforts with a newer, even hotter duet. Here's a 15 second clip from the old album, back to back with a clip from new album.

Then and Now

July 15, 2008

Just got back from a nice trip to Milan. Had a wonderful time giving a talk at the Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Was fortunate to meet the labor economist Claudio Lucifora who was the first Italian surfer I've ever met!. Also got to see a tiny slice of Milan. I got to see the "L'ultima cena" , of course, at the Santa Marie Della Grazie (Leonardo DaVinci was a childhood hero of sorts; his "Myspace" page is here. ) but even more remarkable, perhaps, was the Duomo Di Milano. Mark Twain was right, it's amazing!)

Love and Beauty in the time of the Duomo I loved Milan. (Despite what I had heard!) Didn't do a lot of photography, but for two very different images/views of love and beauty in Milan click here.

You can guess that I prefer the smoking one! The Abraham and Isaac story always gave me the willies.

May 17, 2008. Doing my part to help "Build Shanghai University of Finance and Economics into a first class socialist university oriented toward the new century." (Jiang Zemin, July 18,1997)

Just got back from a very interesting trip to SUFE ( The Shanghai University of Finance and Economics ) in Shanghai. My favorite piece of art is this statue celebrating the efforts of the bicycle workers. It reminds me a lot of the "Fountain of Magical Brethren" in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic.

sufe (Click here for high resolution.) mom

Many thanks to "little Ling", "big Ling", Xi Li (for her infinite patience), Guan Gong and Li Gan for making the trip a pleasant one.

Straight outta Lorch Hall. Behind the Research You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.

Ben and Brian (a.k.a. Key-Z-E and Young BC) of the the duo EWA - "Economists with Atitude" recount their rapid rise, their horrible solo efforts "Plimmin' Ain't Easy" (Key-Z-E) and "Random Walks Are Neat" (Young BC), their preciptious fall, and their happy reunion to produce "Lazy Monday". ("But first my laptop is crashing like Britney" is my favorite line). If you don't get the references, you'll have to spend time on youtube :-)

Click here to see the video on YouTube

25 January 2008. Ben Folds ROCKS the HOUSE at the Ark Benefit: Always a good time! Although what is it about rich people??? Read more about the show

Allen Park becomes famous! My elementary school principle Sister Kathleen and Mrs. Mulcrone (my second grade teacher) are pictured in a new Arcadia publication about Allen Park, MI, , home of the World's Largest Tire and where I spent much of my youth. It also has information about St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Elementary school, where I was a student as well as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini High School.


The picture (from the 1960s) includes Sister Kathleen and Mrs. Mulcrone and a group of students, all in the required uniform. (Guys were required to wear a tie and "conventional" pants and shirt. Girls were required to wear variants of the horrific plaids you see here.) This became an issue for me in high school, when as a student representative on "the Uniform Committee" I first learned that one purpose of having ties for the boys was the possibility that our chest hairs might inflame the passions of the girls in the school. Today, it appears, uniforms are only required for those in grades 1 - 8.


MissRussia2007 Russian Standards and Money Miss China 2006 (Zhang Zilin) with Miss Russia 2007 (Ksenia Sukhinova), the most recent winner of the Russian "beauty pageant" posing in Moscow with a giant mock credit card denominated in 100,000 US Dollars. The inscription on the card literally translates to "Russian Standard" Russian Standard is a brand of vodka according to this Wikipedia entry

Xinhua Photo/Shen Bohan from Xinhua English Language News and the story is here. "View Image" to see a bigger picture.

Dumbledore's REAL secret: Dumbledore is a SMOKER

More Back Story for Professor Dumbledore

A little fascinating back story to the greatest wizard who ever lived. (Spoiler Alert!)

If you have forgotten, (Gellert) Grindewald first appeared in "The Philosopher's Stone" and was mentioned on a Dumbledore's Wizard Chocolate Frog Card as a "dark wizard" for whom Dumbledore famously defeated in 1945. As we now know Albus' attraction to Gellert (two years his younger) was more than mere interest in the dark arts. In the unsubtle language of corporate news. Albus Brian Percival Wulfric Dumbeldore is gay. Here's CNN's report on the story If you want "cannon" (and I always value "cannon"!), a transcript of JK Rowling's comments as part of "Scholastic's Open Book Tour Sweepstakes" where several lucky souls got the chance to see Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling read from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," answer questions and sign books at New York City's Carnegie Hall.

the Solonators Live at Hollerfest

What a wierd, strange trip it's been: From humble beginnings as Ann Arbor's premier "econo-satire" band, to a live gig Sept 22, 2007 at 3:00pm in Brooklyn (MI!) playing at Hollerfest , and helping to celebrate 35 years of Frog Holler Organic Farm. Click on Hollerfest and you can see several videos from the event (no Solonators, thank god, so I can keep the dream alive).

This pictures looks like a typical rehersal, where I am playing something poorly (this time, the bass) and everyone is looking at me.


The whole band in a wide shot: (click "view image" to see larger pic)


Me on the keyboards -- Brian doing what he usually does -- playing it picture perfect. (click "view image" to see larger pic)

JED on Keys

It was fun!!! All the bands were wonderful. There was some really extraordinarily great music. (Our hour on the stage went very well. I'm the guy in the back with the flourescent yellow shorts with the guitar.) Everyone was extraordinarily nice and exhibited a great deal of that Midwestern "laid backness" and cool. It was such a gorgeous beautiful day to rock! Many thank to King Family, especially musician Billy King (check out his myspace page) for monitoring the sound and to the many others who worked so hard to make it such a nice experience for everyone.

SolonatorsSansMoi (click "view image" to see larger pic)

Here's a better picture of the band with only the attractive members of the band visible.

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived 21 July 2007 at 00:01 BST.

It turned out to be one of the most fun musical line ups of my lifetime when Wizard Rock hit Ann Arbor on Harry's "birthday" 31 July 2007 at the Ann Arbor Public Library.

Harry and the Potters have several albums of note including their self-titled debut "Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock." Favorites of mine include "The Human Hosepipe" and "Save Ginny Weasley".

Draco and the Malfoys have two albums including "Party Like Your Evil." Favorites include "My Dad is Rich" ("my dad is rich and your dad is dead.") and "Potions Yesterday"

At MySpace check out: Harry and the Pottters and Draco and the Malfoys. In addition to Myspace, check out Wizard Rock for the latest developments in Harry Potter Themed music.

I can honestly say I've never seen a more enthusiastic and engaged audience. For some, Harry and the Potters turned out to be a life--changing experience. Here is one picture of two young people -- Ben and Micah -- in full Gryffyndor colors jamming in advance of gig they are about to play in wardrobe inspired by Harry and the Potters. It's a fun story, but no more than the picture will have to do :-)

Ben and Micah

It may be well past the point where there is anyone left who could be affected, but .... Possible Spoiler Alert

The spirit of ``pre--specified research design" brings you my pre--publication predictions regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Warning. Possible spoilers. Some or all of these predictions may be correct. Some or all these predictions may be incorrect. Only those of you who have read the book will know :-)

What's New Musically

Some slightly newer material (I don't update that often)

"You Estimated All Night Long" -- "The Solonators" (MPEG 4) format. This song was one of the first songs performed by the (original) Solonators. Here, the 2007 version (Mike Elsby (bass) Missy House (vocals), Brian Kovak (lead guitar), Gary Solon (drums)) has the thankless task of backing my inept rhythm guitar and vocals. The obscure references at the beginning of the video by Gary and me are to parodies (of me) earlier that evening.

Courtesy of Nathan B. Anderson you can, if you so desire, watch a 17 minute long movie about the 2005 Gary and the Solonators line-up (Nate Anderson (bass), Peter DiCola (Keyboards and Vocals), DiNardo, Melissa House (Vocals), Jordan Matsudaira (Guitar), Andreas Duus Pape (Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica), Gary Solon (drums, vocals), Linda Tesar (Vocals), Warren Whatley (Percussion)) Warnings: PG-13, Econometrics references, etc. Download the movie at http://homepage.mac.com/nbanderson/docs/btm_webstream.mov


Personal and Professional Links

Some of the most decent and thoughtful persons in economics -- Links to those folks kind enough to work with me! (N.B. This does not imply that they endorse anything I say or do!)


"Related Work"


Economics The Musical

  1. A link to Alan Manning's book, Monopsony in Motion. . It has a link to a page which includes the first chapter in pdf format as well as an a link to an eponymous song in mp3 format by some person named J. DiNardo (copyleft or by permission) (Some of the songs play better if you download them first. If the song skips, download it first to play it with something like Winamp instead of Windows Media Player)
  2. A complete review of my posted songs on the web (with good criticism!) , by John Schmitt (Economist and Free Sofware User!) at his blog with the great title No Apparent Motive He's had a way more productive life than I have, produces more than I do, AND has a blog!. (I can't even keep up with my email.) He works at the The Center for Economic and Policy Research who do a lot of important work (that I wish I had the ability to do!) and is a research associate of the "real" EPI (Economic Policy Institute) -- also a bunch of good men and women doing important work! His good hearted (and too kind) review was a hoot to read despite reading, for example, that I should "lose the synthesizer" in "My Little Regression Discontinuity"! (a sentiment which, if weren't my own song, I would probably agree! The problem of course is that it was easier for me to play a synth instrumental than a guitar instrumental (I am pretty bad at all instruments including vocals, but arguably worst at guitar) and I was actually proud of the synth solo, as silly as it was!)
  3. Read about "the haunting electronic beltings of John DiNardo" -- a review of the song!
  4. The lyrics to Monopsony in Motion
  5. (A "homage" to the a workshop on the Regression Discontinuity Design in Economics A song from my Berkeley days ... (My Little) Regression Discontinuity in mp3 format.) I recommend "right clicking" to download it and playing it.


My favorite news/funding activism/information sites:


Images of Me and Not Me


Econometric Methods

I would much like to do a new edition but McGraw--Hill has "out of printed" the book in the U.S. (and North America) but not internationally. I've tried for a couple of years to "get my rights back", but to no avail. I hope soon. Until then, these link to some old pages about the book.

  • Links to Econometric Methods Fourth Edition (a book I helped write)
  • Links to customer reviews of the book at Amazon
  • Find a nearby indpendent book seller!