Saturday, March 29, 2014

Obviously Good Public Policy

The trouble with the water bill is that the Water Bureau just sends everyone a dollar amount each quarter, and the sheeple pay it.
The Water Bureau should email every customer a full table of the rates for water volume, sewer volume, stormwater, and the Superfund surcharge for the harbor. Customers will have to check their meters every quarter and calculate how much they owe to the Water Bureau. (Presumably the billing folks at the Bureau would have to do the same calculations in parallel to ensure they don't get stiffed.)
This will lead for a swell of demands for more efficient water and sewer managment.
Inspired by Jay Ackroyd.

Build Moar Highways!

It has never been clear to me how borrowing money at a negative interest rate will ruin the nation's finances, but fear that it might has led to a shortage in the Highway Trust Fund, which is scheduled to run out of money in August. The solution to this problem, of course, is to build more highways.
Portland did a great job of building us out of congestion, until the 1980 and the last freeway built, I-205. [1]
Apparently this person has never heard of induced demand. This is particularly ironic, because I-205 is the canonical example of induced demand in the Portland metro area.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Other People's Children

Frances Coppola comes down hard on a narrative of children as a lifestyle choice:
[D]escribing children as a "lifestyle choice" is ... economically illiterate, at least at the macro level. At the individual level, having children is indeed a choice. But for society as a whole, children are essential. Without children, there can be no future growth. Just look at Japan.
You can save and invest all you want in order to get ready for retirement, but if there are no younger humans to ship your groceries and stock them at stores, to drill for oil and truck it to gas stations, or to work the electrical stations that provide power to your house, you will have a fucking miserable retirement. You need other people's children even if you decide not to have your own.

The New FiveThirtyEight

Paul Krugman has a hypothesis for why the new FiveThirtyEight has been so roundly criticized:
But data never tell a story on their own. They need to be viewed through the lens of some kind of model, and it’s very important to do your best to get a good model. And that usually means turning to experts in whatever field you’re addressing.
Krugman thinks that Silver misunderstands why his election models were so successful:
Unfortunately, Silver seems to have taken the wrong lesson from his election-forecasting success. In that case, he pitted his statistical approach against campaign-narrative pundits, who turned out to know approximately nothing. What he seems to have concluded is that there are no experts anywhere, that a smart data analyst can and should ignore all that.
Silver's key insight, which predated him by decades, is that the best way to find out how people will vote is to ask them how they will vote. In most fields Silver's competition will be a wee bit smarter than the campaign-narrative pundits were.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rhetorical Bestiary: Choice

You should be able to choose how you get around, as long as you choose to drive a car.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rhetorical Bestiary: Choice

Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck:
We expect a doubling of the population (in the next 50 years), but yet what we identified as urban reserves only accounted for an 11 percent increase in the urban growth boundary. It means much higher density. It means than in about 15 to 20 years, there will be no new single-family homes being built in this region (…) There are some people that don’t want you to have a choice, I think that’s what this election is really all about.
You should be able to make any choice you want, as long as you choose to live in a single-family home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


America is a nation of whiners. Whining is our national pastime. We whine about traffic. We whine about the weather. We whine about politics. We whine about our spouses, our bosses, our kids. We whine when we get up in the morning all the way until we go to bed at night.

But when you take your whine to the internet, you are a narcissist.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Rhetorical Bestiary: Bad Apples

It is ironic that "it was just a few bad apples" is so often proffered as an excuse, when the full aphorism is "A few bad apples spoil the bunch."