01/07/2012 archive

Economists really ARE greedy assholes

Via Felix Salmon there is this story about how Economists are upset that restaurant reservations might not be commanding Maximum Market Value!

My feeling is that the restaurant is the smart one, while the economists are being naive.

For one thing, real people don’t think in terms of opportunity cost – especially not when they’re the lucky winners of a restaurant-reservations lottery. Dan Ariely did research on this at Duke University: he found that once Duke students won the lottery giving them the opportunity to buy sought-after tickets to the university’s basketball game, they valued those tickets at ten times more than the students who lost the lottery.

What’s really going on here, I think, is that the vast majority of people who get tickets hold on to them, go to the restaurant, and eat a wonderful meal for which they paid a reasonable sum. And then there’s a tiny number of people who get tickets, and either discover they can’t use them for some reason, or decide that they’re going to try to flip them for profit.

The most important thing in being a restaurateur of a high-end establishment is exceeding expectations; if you auction off tickets, then the price of tickets will naturally gravitate to and possibly past the point at which you can’t do that any longer. That’s why Next is right to worry about “our sense of value for the meal” – because the chances are that their sense is going to be your sense too. If they think a meal isn’t worth more than say $200, and they start selling tickets to that meal at $400 apiece, then they’re setting their customers up for disappointment; I can’t imagine Achatz would ever want that.

Do the handful of people who currently buy tickets for $500 or $3,000 walk away disappointed? Maybe not: there’s a good chance those people aren’t particularly price-sensitive. But when you move away from those people and use the market to set prices for all your customers, big dangers lurk. As Alan Vanneman says, markets are largely foreign to the human imagination. And since restaurant-goers are human, we don’t want to upset them with market mechanisms if doing so is unnecessary.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Turnips: Versatile and Nutritious in Any Season

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Turnips are one vegetable you can count on during the winter months; like carrots, they store well. The root vegetables are members of the cruciferae family, the same family that brings you nutrient-rich vegetables like cabbage, kale and broccoli (genus Brassica). Turnips are rich in sulfuric compounds, particularly glucosinolates, that are believed to have antioxidant properties. They’re also a very good source of potassium. When you can get them with the greens attached, they’re a two-in-one crop, like beets, as their greens bring you a whole new set of nutrients – lots of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin A and beta carotene – and culinary possibilities. Turnip greens are similar in flavor to kale, perhaps a little more bitter, and with a more delicate texture.

Couscous With Turnips and Sweet Potatoes

This spicy couscous demands little in the way of prep time.

Turnip Gratin

A turnip gratin can be a rich, creamy affair, but this lighter version made with low-fat milk is equally delicious and comforting.

Frittata With Turnips and Olives

This dish is adapted from a Richard Olney recipe.

Rice Noodles With Stir-Fried Chicken, Turnips and Carrots

Turnips are a perfect winter vegetable for a hearty stir-fry.

Mashed Turnips and Potatoes With Turnip Greens

This recipe is inspired by colcannon, an Irish mix of mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

New York Times Editorial: One Bad Energy Subsidy Expires

Now that the most polarized and paralyzed Congress in memory has managed to kill one of its most resilient boondoggles – the three-decade-old, multibillion-dollar subsidy for corn ethanol – we hope it has not exhausted its resolve and will take a hatchet to other harmful energy subsidies, chiefly those it gives to fossil fuels.

The ethanol subsidy was allowed to expire last Saturday, a death blow that was all the more remarkable coming just a few days before the Republican caucuses in the cornfields of Iowa, where the subsidy has long been seen as untouchable.

The 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for oil companies to blend ethanol into gasoline cost taxpayers $5 billion to $6 billion a year, deepening the budget deficit. It boosted corn prices and increased food prices generally by encouraging farmers to replace other crops with corn. Its environmental virtues were less than advertised. Billed as a lower-carbon replacement for fossil fuels, corn ethanol generated more carbon dioxide than gasoline after taking into account the emissions caused when new land was cleared to replace the food lost to fuel production.

Charles M. Blow: The G.O.P.’s ‘Black People’ Platform

As we’ve gotten around to casting votes to select a Republican presidential nominee, the antiblack rhetoric has taken center stage.

You just have to love (and despise) this kind of predictability. [..]

Racial politics play well for Republicans. Santorum and Paul finished second and third in Iowa. Time will tell if Gingrich rebounds. Playing to racial anxiety and fear isn’t a fluke; it’s a strategy that energizes the Republican base.

Kevin Phillips, who popularized the right’s “Southern Strategy,” was quoted in The New York Times Magazine in May 1970 as saying that “the more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”

“Uh huh.”

Gail Collins: It Takes a Santorum

I know that this week you have been kicking yourself for not having paid more attention to Rick Santorum.

Me, too! How can we call ourselves informed citizens without a thorough grounding in the heart and mind of the man who almost won the Iowa caucuses? So, as a public service, I am concluding my job of reading books by all the Republican presidential hopefuls with the work of Rick Santorum.

So you won’t have to. Not that you were planning to anyway.

Dana Goldstein: A Decade of No Child Left Behind

As the No Child Left Behind Act turns 10 on Sunday, the bill’s future remains uncertain, with Congress and the Obama administration divided over how to update the controversial law. Meanwhile, NCLB has been largely irrelevant to two of the major trends in national education policy-making over the past three years: the push to tie teacher evaluation and pay to student achievement data, and the move toward a Common Core curriculum in math and English. (The main lever pushing those changes is the Obama administration’s deployment of billions of federal grant dollars to states that agree to adhere to those priorities.) Nevertheless, NCLB has had a profound effect on what students experience in the classroom and on the way the American public talks about its schools. Here is my assessment of how NCLB has changed American education over the past decade, both for the better and for the worse.

Ben Adler: Huntsman: The Better Foreign Policy Alternative to Paul

It’s been a popular conceit on the left that Ron Paul is the GOP’s “peace candidate,” with a superior foreign policy to not only his GOP opponents but President Obama. But there’s actually a Republican presidential candidate with a more sensible foreign policy than Paul’s: former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

Paul’s foreign policy has enormous flaws: namely a completely illiberal lack of interest in promoting democracy or human rights, opposition to all foreign aid and crazy conspiracy theories about the United Nations. Huntsman doesn’t harbor such batty ideas.

Danny Schechter: US Political News Is a Fool’s Game

“Game On” was Rick Santorum’s first comment after his “surge” was considered successful with a mere 30,000 votes in Ioway. He inadvertently gave the game away by calling it a game – which is what it is.

Only this game is not just about politics but about the media. Pseudo-events like this are what the media lives for: it provides something for them to do, and to feel important while doing it. It creates airtime for endless punditry, and a spectacle to liven up a dull Iowa winter.

For Iowans, it’s a chance to “participate” in something that sounds important; for media heads, it’s a routine of the news, a ritual. The media, in effect, provides an infomercial posing as real news.

On this Day In History January 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 7 is the seventh day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 358 days remaining until the end of the year (359 in leap years).

On this day in 1789, the first US presidential election is held.  The United States presidential election of 1789 was the first presidential election in the United States of America. The election took place following the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788. In this election, George Washington was elected for the first of his two terms as President of the United States, and John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States.

Before this election, the United States had no chief executive. Under the previous system-the Articles of Confederation-the national government was headed by the Confederation Congress, which had a ceremonial presiding officer and several executive departments, but no independent executive branch.

In this election, the enormously popular Washington essentially ran unopposed. The only real issue to be decided was who would be chosen as vice president. Under the system then in place, each elector cast two votes; if a person received a vote from a majority of the electors, that person became president, and the runner-up became vice president. All 69 electors cast one vote each for Washington. Their other votes were divided among eleven other candidates; John Adams received the most, becoming vice president. The Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, would change this procedure, requiring each elector to cast distinct votes for president and vice president.

In the absence of conventions, there was no formal nomination process. The framers of the Constitution had presumed that Washington would be the first president, and once he agreed to come out of retirement to accept the office, there was no opposition to him. Individual states chose their electors, who voted all together for Washington when they met.

Electors used their second vote to cast a scattering of votes, many voting for someone besides Adams with Alexander Hamilton less out of opposition to him than to prevent Adams from matching Washington’s total.

Only ten states out of the original thirteen cast electoral votes in this election. North Carolina and Rhode Island were ineligible to participate as they had not yet ratified the United States Constitution. New York failed to appoint its allotment of eight electors because of a deadlock in the state legislature.

Popular Culture (Music) 20120106: A Brief History of The Who

We covered 1971, one of their stellar years, last time.  Even with the crushing bruise to his ego about the collapse of Lifehouse, Townshend was soldiering on, starting to write new material for what many consider to the be finest effort that The Who would ever produce.  But 1972 was a slow year for them in many ways, and it took its toll.

They did not do a North American tour, and only did a few venues in Europe.  What is not widely known was that the rift betwixt the band and Kit Lambert was growing, due both to Lambert’s increasingly debilitating addiction to narcotics and alcohol and for lack of studio work for them.  They started working with Glyn Johns more and more, but Lambert still controlled the finances at Track Records, and that eventually prove to be a disaster.

Townshend spent most of the first two months of the year visiting shrines to Meyer Baba, his religious center, in India.  He also recorded some music that was released in limited editions to people who bought albums from the Baba association.  I have not included any of that in this piece, out of respect for Townshend.  I think that he would think that it is too personal for public display except for the faithful.

Iran, NDAA and the Koch Brothers

Early Effects of NDAA Iran Sanctions Being Felt: EU Agrees on Oil Embargo, China Cuts Oil Contracts by Half

Obama signs defense bill, with “reservations”

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales

Iran, koch brothers, Corporate treason and war