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February 03 2014


October 29 2013


Perfect substitutes: Gulf of Mexico water quality and minor league baseball!

Skip Sauer:

The WSJ reports that Governor Phil Bryant is allocating $15 million from Mississippi’s share of BP oil spill damages to be invested in a minor league ballpark in Biloxi. The city itself has voted to issue $21 million in bonds backed by stadium revenues, but the deal apparently hinged on the state’s investment of BP funds.

Biloxi’s population has declined 10% (to 45,000) since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2010 oil spill must have added to the economic destruction. But BP’s oil spill didn’t ruin baseball in Biloxi — it damaged the beaches, the livelihoods of fishermen, and so on. It’s a stretch to take BP’s settlement money and pour it into new stadium construction.

A counter-argument might be that building a baseball stadium is the most effective way to stimulate economic development in Biloxi, and generates a higher return on public investment than alternative projects. But it is well known that stadium building is an effect, not a cause, of economic development — see Coates and Humphreys (2000) for example. Nevertheless, the city council’s 5-2 vote approving the stadium project was cheered by “most of the 150 residents and business owners” attending a recent meeting.

No doubt there are real benefits to be realized from this project, although the fact that outside funding is required suggests they may total less than the costs. I’d wager that the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, on whose land the stadium will be built, is the primary beneficiary, and an active political player in the deal to approve it.

For those with a WSJ subscription, here is the gated link to the story. This link to the WSJ stream may be accessible for a while as well.

via thesportseconomist.com

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Reposted bysirthomasbolton sirthomasbolton

June 21 2013


VSL in the WSJ

From the WSJ Weekly Review email:

Rail Safety and the Value of a Life
by: Ted Mann
Jun 17, 2013
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com

TOPICS: Opportunity Costs, Regulation

SUMMARY: Transit systems and regulators are debating where to best put limited funds to improve safety: on upgraded signal systems or on structural repairs. "The effort to calculate the value of lifesaving is a growing area of research among regulators and economists alike, says Michael Livermore of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University's School of Law. The research enables "finer distinctions" about the cost that society is willing to bear to lower risks, he says.... In the past, to calculate the value of saving a life, the government used the value of the wages a person would have been expected to earn over the remainder of a lifetime, says W. Kip Viscusi, a professor at Vanderbilt University who consulted with the Reagan administration to overhaul life valuations in the early 1980s. At Mr. Viscusi's urging, the federal government adopted a measurement known as the "value of statistical life," or VSL-roughly speaking, the amount of money Americans find reasonable to spend for a given reduction in the risk of death. The switch to VSL raised the dollar value on preserving a human life. Among other things, that made costlier safety regulations easier to justify on economic grounds.... To calculate the value of life for a given government regulation, agencies use wage, consumer-purchase and job-safety data to calculate the premium already built into economic data to account for relative riskiness. So economists deduce from people's willingness to pay for safety features-say, air bags-how much they value lowering the risk of death."

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Students can discuss the determination of the total expenditures, and allocation of the money, to improve (rail) safety. The allocation of funds between, for example, upgraded signal systems and structural repairs depends on the marginal changes in the value of a statistical life associated with each of the improvements. The total expenditures on improvements in rail safety depends also on opportunity cost of the funds used.

1. (Introductory) The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) identified a tradeoff in its expenditures to improve rail safety. What is the tradeoff?

2. (Advanced) Suppose SEPTA allocates a fixed amount of funds to safety improvements. In allocating these funds between signal improvements and rail maintenance, SEPTA's goal is to minimize the expected value of lives lost from train accidents. In optimally allocating the funds, does SEPTA equate the decrease in the expected value of lives lost associated with signal improvements to the decrease in the expected value of lives lost associated with rail maintenance?

3. (Advanced) What is the value of a statistical life? Why is this criterion used in evaluating safety programs better than the value of the wages a person would have been expected to earn over the remainder of a lifetime?

4. (Introductory) Why was the federal government quick to adopt the value of a statistical life as a criterion to evaluate the benefits of safety regulations?

Reviewed By: James Dearden, Lehigh University


August 13 2012


I went to sleep last night at 11 pm

Even though I was disbelief (Viewers outraged ...):

NBC was pummeled by viewers who took to social media after the network cut away early from the closing ceremonies of the London Games on Sunday to air a new television show, drawing outrage from those who tuned in for the highly anticipated musical spectacle.

The Twitter-sphere exploded, with "#NBCfail" and "#closingceremonies" trending worldwide, after NBC cut out performances by Ray Davies, Kate Bush, The Who and the Muse in favor of a commercial-free airing of "Animal Practice." ...

NBC did air the Who's performance at the closing ceremonies in late night, following "Animal Practice." But that did little calm the fury of viewers ...

And if you think that excerpt is from The Onion, here it is at the WSJ:

But NBC decided to delay [The Who] for an hour so I can watch some show that’s Scrubs in a veterinary hospital.  I actually thought this was a joke. I kept waiting for NBC to say ha-ha. Because who would end two weeks of coverage by slicing off the very end of the ceremony featuring one of the world’s most famous bands?  NBC, apparently.

I DVRed the thing so my kids could watch it at a suitable time (we watched the spice girls this morning before school). Naturally, thinking that NBC could not be so stupid, I stopped the recording at 11 pm. Now they'll never know who The Who is (are?).

I blame Bob Costas (the messenger): 

"We'll be back from Olympic Stadium in about an hour for the London closing party featuring The Who. But stay tuned now for a full episode of 'Animal Practice,' the new NBC comedy presented commercial free."

Update: The video is now posted on NBC's website. Yet, "The Who performs 'Teenage Wasteland' ..."? I'm not sure, since I can't watch the video until I remember my Charter password, but I don't think they performed "Teenage Wasteland." 


February 08 2012


A Fresh Take on Chaotic Weather

An online presentation takes readers through what scientists can and cannot conclude about the relationship between recent climate extremes and global warming.

November 17 2011


Climate Change Spin A Growing Problem For Fox News

When it comes to climate change denial, a new study shows that the folks at Fox News are leading the pack. Through politically-charged news segments and commentary, Fox News personalities are helping spread misinformation about climate change while convincing their viewers that scientists are torn on the issue.

The International Journal of Press/Politics has published a new study titled “Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC,” [PDF] which details the ways in which the major American news outlets are reporting stories on climate change.

From the report:

National surveys reveal that many Americans do not believe that scientists are in agreement over this issue. More troubling, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is happening and that it is a result of human activities has declined in recent years: In April 2008, 71 percent of Americans perceived solid evidence for global warming, relative to only 57 percent in October 2009. And while President Obama has pledged that passing legis- lation to curb pollution that contributes to global warming is a priority of his admin- istration, in January 2009, Americans ranked global warming last in a list of twenty policy issues that they felt were important for the president and Congress to address. These surveys also point to stark partisan divides in global warming perceptions, with Democrats far more likely to accept the evidence for the human causes of global warming and to consider environmental protection a policy priority than Republicans.

The views that many Americans have towards climate change are clearly reflected in the cable news arena. Fox News, sadly, has the highest ratings of any other cable news organization, and the study shows that their viewers are for more likely to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening. More from the study:

Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.

The fact is that at least 97% of credible scientists believe that climate change is not only real, but that it is the result of human activity. But that fact hasn’t prevented Fox News from reporting that there is no scientific consensus on whether or not climate change is actually happening.

And, as Media Matters for America pointed out recently, this isn’t just biased news coverage or the opinions of Fox anchors: The network’s climate change denial is part of a broad agenda by network management to prevent the truth from reaching their viewers:

As an internal email revealed, Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directed Fox journalists in December 2009 to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet has warmed.

That same month, Fox News was aggressively promoting the false claim that the so-called "Climategate" controversy showed scientists "doctoring" data — a claim that the network continues to repeat to this day.

Fox has also tried to manufacture a number of pseudo-scandals by distorting climate science research, misrepresenting or disavowing the temperature record, and seizing on any opportunity to distract from what the National Research Council has called "a strong, credible body of evidence" supporting manmade climate change.

The study also found that Fox hosted "a higher ratio of climate change doubters to believers as interview guests." These guests often don't know what they're talking about but are presented as climate experts. And Fox, a network that has made an annual tradition out of mocking global warming during winter storms, reveals its bias through both what it chooses to cover, and what it chooses to ignore.

This is quickly becoming a systemic issue with Fox News. As the new report points out, Fox’s coverage has actually become more aggressive in recent years in their efforts to paint climate change as a hoax. Even as former skeptics of climate change are coming forward admitting that they were wrong on the issue, Fox continues to push their misinformation campaign on the American public - a public that is eating this news up, bringing a false sense of security to millions who no longer believe that climate change is something that we need to worry about.

June 15 2011


Dracula Lurks in Your Set-Top Box

Set-top boxes in the United States consume nearly as much energy when not in use as when they are on, costing a cumulative $2 billion a year.

September 23 2010


A lot of people ask me ...

... hey, what do your notes look like (no one ever has asked me that). So, in order to keep the people happy, here is my comparison of consumer surplus and compensating variation from Benefit-Cost Analysis course last week (click for a larger image [hope it is correct!]). Today I get to explain "consumer surplus without apology." I haven't worried about this stuff in a long time, but we have a layer of graduate students enrolled in the course this semester (did you hear that SACS?).

April 15 2010


24 speculation

Spoiler alert: if you are waiting to watch 24 Day 8 on DVD, TiVO, on the internet, et cetera, don't read anymore.

Since (a) this is the last season of 24 and (b) they've offed Renee and denied Jack a happily-ever-after:

its a very sad moment for jack, but this time i hope it will be so personal to jack, as he will avenge the death of renee, i hate the part that renee would end on that scene, i thought renee will be the last terry for jack, i guess all the leading ladies of jack ends up dead, i wish renee lived cause jack and renee are good to each other, same experiences, well thats the descision of the director of 24. so jack will stand alone against the terrorist. its a sad episode, jack was so emotional on that part. i hope 24 will still continue with more seasons and episodes.

-- melvin

Is there any doubt that there will be a stupid ending to Day 24? I know, I know, there is going to be a 24 movie but my guess is that it will go back in time:

As for the actual series finale, Gordon told EW.com that he and Sutherland considered everything from a happy to a tragic ending for Jack Bauer and ended up with episodes that take some risks: “We go to a very definitive, very complex place.”

Stupid ending possibilities include mental illness (e.g., M*A*S*H), a minute of blank screen (e.g., Sopranos), jail time (e.g., Seinfeld), pretend death (e.g., 24 Day 7), gibberish (e.g., Twin Peaks), gibberish in a 2 hour movie (e.g., X-Files) and [add your own long-running TV show stupid ending in the comments section].

Tags: Television

April 14 2010


We brought good things to life. And bad things to Chinese rivers.

General Electric predicts light-emitting diodes' share of its total lighting revenue will more than triple in five years as regulation phases out incandescent bulbs.

“LEDs are probably the largest growth area” for the lighting industry, Michael Petras, chief executive officer of GE's lighting business, said in an interview in Frankfurt Monday. LEDs make up “less than 10 percent” of GE Lighting's global sales, and that proportion probably will rise to one-third by 2015, with the overall market doubling “in the next couple of years,” he said.

via www.courier-journal.com

Alternative title: He built GE into the greatest company on Earth, and the Earth into one of the top three planets in the universe!
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