…and more than six posts a year, though that’s on me.
The first mailbag post in a while– first of any type of post in a while– is brought to us from “F.A.”, who writes:
Hey Mr. V, I don’t know if you’ve been following the Democratic party and all that jazz at all but since you have a background in economics, I wanted to hear your take on Andrew Yang’s platform, namely his policies and ideas on universal basic income? I’m doing some research and listening to a lot of what he has to say and it sounds great on the surface level but I wonder if its actually a good idea from an economist’s perspective.
I’m opposed. I am against any proposal that creates any new tax without eliminating old taxes. I am also against any proposal that creates new social programs without eliminating old social programs. Yang’s proposal creates new taxes (e.g, the VAT) and a new type of social program (the Freedom Dividend) without eliminating anything, so I am opposed.
Reducing some taxes and social programs while consolidating others isn’t good enough. Nothing in Yang’s proposal would actually keep the old taxes low or restrain spending on the old social programs. And those old taxes would eventually go back up, guaranteed, and the spending on the old social programs would eventually go back up, guaranteed. And then we’d be stuck with higher taxes and higher spending on social programs.
My position on this matter is supported by the entire history of federal taxation and spending. Every major social program in American history has cost more than originally projected. And every tax aimed at funding those programs is higher than originally promised. The same would be true of Yang’s proposal. There is absolutely no reason not to believe this.
Look back at this poorly written post from ten years ago to get a sense of a UBI plan that I might sorta kinda be willing to support. Seriously, read it. I’ll wait here.
Back? Good. Today I’d probably oppose even Murray’s plan because I have virtually no faith that the costs would be controllable, but set that aside for now. The reason I might sorta kinda be willing to support it is that it would replace every form of federal social spending without raising taxes. But that’s assuming projections go to plan, and that’s assuming the pressure to raise the payout is somehow structurally and constitutionally contained, and that’s assuming we ratify a constitutional amendment restricting federal social spending to this one program.
I won’t belabor that point anymore. I have other concerns.
I don’t think automation will be as dangerous or disruptive as Yang and others do. I think interfering with market processes will be more dangerous than Yang and others do. The more they tinker, the faster labor is replaced by capital. I’m too tired to explain that right now, and I’m trying to watch the Patriots-Steelers game. I actually like Belichick a lot due to his background in Economics.
I think it is socially and psychologically dangerous to give people something for nothing. Workfare programs have the virtue of giving a dollar to someone who’s earned it, and thus are relatively popular in the US. But giving UBI to a bunch of no-good soy-latte-sipping cravat-wearing goateed neo-Gramscian beatniks who vape fair trade vegan CBD oil in their rent-controlled solar safe space hippy communes and snap their soft fingers to laments about the evils of earning money? That wouldn’t play in Peoria. Neither would giving UBI to a bunch of lazy Nazis. If someone can work, you really shouldn’t incentivize them not to work.
In short, Yang’s take on UBI looks nice on paper but would be very, very bad.
I appreciate your question, because I’ve been far too slack with the blog for far too long.
Happy 243rd birthday to the sweet land of liberty!
And happy 146th birthday to President Coolidge, who by all accounts would have appreciated it, but would have mumbled his thanks in Belichickian brevity!
Normally when posting on the 4th, I like to express an appreciation for this great country and remind the reader to celebrate its blessings and be mindful of its sins. There’s upside and downside to all things, and the Fourth is the day we laud America’s upside.
But on this particular Fourth of July, I am distressed enough by recent developments in the sporting world that I must direct attention there. But I direct it not to Nike’s Betsy Ross Kaepernick public relations stupidity. Nor do I direct to the battle of tweets and soundbites between President Trump and likely future Senator Rapinoe (which I strongly suspect is a cover-up for a torrid affair betwixt the two). But I do direct it towards the women’s national team.
As many are aware, the US women’s team is, as usual, doing pretty darn well in the World Cup and really should win it this coming Sunday. Two days ago, on the anniversary of the day John Adams thought should have been celebrated, the US beat England 2-1 in the semifinal. In celebration of scoring what would eventually prove to be the game-winning goal, Alex Morgan simulated sipping a cup of tea, which, apparently, unstiffened the reputedly stiff upper lips of the English.
I will grant that the manner in which she mock-sipped the cup was a bit off. At first I thought she was Juuling poorly, because her thumb and forefinger were way too close to her lips. A quick glance at Wikipedia revealed that she is not originally from The North, which might’ve explained her unfamiliarity with proper tea-sipping technique, but then I saw the extended pinky finger, which delivered the undeniable message that this– this— was a cup of tea.
So some English folks found this offensive.
Well… too bad. That’s what you get for losing the war, and that’s what you get for giving up a goal. Try winning in the future.
I hereby propose the following:
We can adapt this to other sports as necessary. Say LeBron posterizes some pitiful English excuse for a big in the Olympics. We dump the tea all over them, and then he can do his chalk toss with some of the loose leaves.
Anyhow, God Bless America and the women’s team, and England needs to stop whining.
Today would’ve been my grandmother’s 109th birthday. Here she is, on the right– I think– with one of her sisters and one of their friends or cousins who, as this goes to press, is yet unknown to me:
I say “I think” because I’ve mis-identified her sisters as her before in some of these older pictures. If I’m wrong, correction will occur soon enough. Either way, this is a good picture. I have no idea what park she’s in, assuming it’s a park, or what the occasion of this visit was, but it looks like she had a nice day.
Still not keeping up with the blog very well, but today is my grandfather’s birthday, and I always post a digital card of sorts. Here he is with a daughter and the Easter Bunny, none of whom look pleased.
Candy must’ve been lacking that year, what with the Depression and the War and all.
Grampa would’ve turned 119 today if he hadn’t died re-transcendentalizing pi.
Dear President Trump,
I honestly haven’t checked the internet to if this idea is out there already, so I’m not saying this is original. In fact, I hope it already is out there so more people get on board as soon as possible. Bear with me, sir (that means be patient, I’ll get to the point eventually).
Mr. Trump, you’re going on national TV tonight, presumably to say something-or-other about building a southern border wall. I’d like to go on record in opposition to your wall. The wall would be inefficient. The wall would be ineffective. And the wall would be immoral.
Instead, I propose that we take every last penny (those are the tiny bronze ones) you want to spend on the wall and invest them in the rapid development and deployment of alternative energy generation. To be more specific, it should all be spent on solar power.
The Sun is the source of all energy on this planet, one way or another. “We are all made of stars,” as Herman Melville or somebody once put it. Let me give you a for instance:
The Sun blasts out photons– which are, like, the tiny little things that light is made of– and the photons get absorbed by plants, the plants get eaten by animals, and the animals die and decompose and eventually turn into fossil fuels like oil. I’m glossing over and perhaps completely misstating some details, but that’s OK because you’re used to it and this is the internet. Converting photons into 87 octane takes a bazillion years, is essentially non-reversible unless they invent replicators like on Star Trek, and is just plain dirty.
So we must develop solar power as quickly and as bigly as possible. It is faster, more renewable, and cleaner than relying on those filthy, very dirty, very environmentally very bad fossil fuels. Sure, we’re still working on making the batteries and the panels, but this is America and we’re going to get Elon Musk and Bill Gates, great guys as you know, working on a solution. Great guys. The best guys.
So we should invest many, many billions of dollars and other monies in massive solar farms, and build them as quickly as we can. To get as much energy as possible, the solar panels need to be huge. Let’s say at least 50 feet tall. That is, the solar part itself should be 50 feet tall, the whole thing would have to be taller so you could plant it firmly in the ground. To catch as many photons as possible, the solar panels would have to be side-by-side, with virtually no gaps between them. For this to be useful, and to speed up the switch to solar energy, we would need probably need 3,000 miles or so of these panels, and place them in the most solar-friendly parts of the country. I took the following screenshot from the US Department of Energy’s really cool Solar Energy Potential website:
I say build the farms in southern California, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southern Texas, along the northern side of that orange and yellow line. And given that these farms are going to lead us into a clean, efficient, environmentally safe future, we need to protect the farms. No unauthorized walking across the farms, no digging under the panels, and definitely no climbing on the panels. We can’t afford to have them scratched, because they don’t make Gorilla Glass that big. In fact, we should probably fence off the farms and bring in some federal agents to guard them.
Of course, people could still legally walk between these solar farms using officially designated roads, bridges, and so on.
So President Trump, don’t waste our hard-earned money on a useless, inefficient boondoggle like a wall. Instead, please invest that money in solar farms. We must do it for the environment. We must do it for America. And we must do it for the children.
Just make sure those farms are big and beautiful.
Vincent D. Viscariello
Earlier this summer, I decided to take a look at my genetic ancestry via the fine folks at 23andme.com. I bought two kits, one for me, and the other also for me in hopes of seeing how precise they could get with two samples from the same person. So they shipped out a couple of kits. Long story short, 30 minutes after the last time you ate, drank, smoked, gargled, or brushed your teeth, you spit in a tube. Then you seal it up, put it in a box, register the sample on the internet, and ship it off. Then you wait.
The first sample was taken at 4:47pm on July 26th and was labeled “Vincent.” The second sample was taken at 8:00pm on July 26th and was labeled “Dominic.” These are my first and middle names; they are not reflective of different personalities or identities or aspects of my being or any other such thing. Actually, that’s not true. “Dominic” is more sullen, but less morose. So I took the two samples, sealed them up, put them in boxes, registered them on the internet, and shipped them off.
The results came back this week.
One feature of 23andme is that it allows you connect to other users and compare your genetic ancestries. So I connected “Vincent” to “Dominic.” It correctly recognized that I was me, and that the relationship between the two samples was either “self” or “twin.” That was impressive. But despite the very explicit, boldfaced statement that “You share 100% of your [i.e., “Vincent’s”] DNA with Dominic,” there were some discrepancies.
Here are the results, keeping in mind that the “you” in the left column is “Vincent,” i.e., the 4:47pm me:
In a little over three hours, I became about 5 percentage points more Italian, about 4pp less Irish, about 2.5pp less Western Asian and North African, about 0.7pp more Balkan and 0.1pp less Siberian.
Oh, and I turned a teensy bit more Neanderthal:
How could this have happened? I could chalk it up to the mild imprecision that results from combining commercial-grade genetic testing with amateur, non-sterile sample collection. Or I could take a look at the “Ancestry Timeline” feature. Here’s “Vincent’s” timeline:
In that three-hour window, someone could have altered the timeline. I don’t mean someone at the lab messed around with the results, I mean time travel. I think, if I’m reading this correctly, that at least one of my Irish ancestors from the original timeline went back to the mid- to late-1700s, killed or otherwise neutralized my would-be Siberian ancestors, and mated with some Balkan person, making him or her my ancestor in the new timeline. But if this is the case, then (A) how did the Irish ancestor get the time machine, and (B) why would I still have any evidence of the original timeline? And how does the Neanderthal stuff fit in?
This is silly supposition, of course. It’s just as feasible that the Irish time traveler corrected the timeline, wiping out an alternate history in which I had Siberian rather than Balkan ancestry, so I shouldn’t really commit to one story or the other. Either way, it was a fun though somewhat pricey exercise that made me feel more connected to you humans.
We now enter the long, dark four-and-a-half-year-gap-between-World-Cups of the soul.
That was a pretty darn good final, and a pretty darn good World Cup overall. Not my favorite of either. I preferred the 2006 Final because it was far more dramatic (click here for my write-up from back then). I preferred Italia ’90, maybe because that’s the first one I followed– American coverage back then was so bad they had commercial breaks during the action– maybe because of the ancestral connection, but mainly because it featured a far better villain. The big storyline was whether Maradona could will his team to victory despite negative play, despite him being a horrible a@#$%^e, despite losing the opener to Cameroon, despite losing their starting keeper to a broken leg. He almost did. Thank God for West Germany.
Anyhow, back to the present. It was a pretty entertaining game. Croatia played well, but France had better players, more energy (it helps to not have to play three consecutive overtime games), more shots on frame, and more goals in the net. The end. The fact that France’s first goal came off a dive takes a teensy bit of shine off their trophy, but their other goals were legit.
An irony: both of Croatia’s goal-scorers also gave up goals. Mandžukić was “credited” with the own goal, and Perišić’s handball led to France’s penalty. I was reminded of the ’06 final, when Materazzi gave up a penalty early and scored off a corner about ten minutes alter. I hoped the parallel would extend to a Croatian victory, but… it didn’t.
France is a worthy champion, and given their youth they’ve got to be favorites to win next time. In the meantime, I’ve got four years to figure out what my students are going to do while I’m watching games in the middle of the workday.
Also in the meantime:
I foresee no difficulties.
I was half-right. I called Belgium and Croatia in the final, but the Frenchies beat the Belgians in a sort-of boring game. Proud to say I got Croatia right, though.
England looked like they over-relied on Route One. Against weaker teams, that can work. They beat Panama badly, and they would’ve beat Tunisia worse than 2-1 if the ref had made a few more calls. They were able to draw fouls near the box, win free kicks, PKs, do well on corners, etc. Against teams closer in skill, that didn’t work as well. Belgium beat them twice, Colombia could’ve beaten them if they’d played more seriously throughout the game. I’m not the best analyst, but in England’s last two games, the semi and the third-place match, the front line really looked like a bunch of poor decision-makers. They made wrong decisions about whether and when to pass or shoot, and they took too long to make decisions– even the right decision. On several occasions, the young guns up front held the ball just a fraction of a second too long and missed the opportunity to shoot, to play through, to pass to a wide-open teammate. Again, that’s not based on any expert-level detailed analysis, but it sure did look like Southgate’s triangle and circle buttons were jammed.
I think Belgium, France, and yes, Croatia have been the class of the tournament so far, and I’d like to throw in Brazil when Neymar was playing seriously instead of flopping. England’s not at that level yet. Given where they landed in the Round of 16, they went about as far as was expected.
Barring a disastrously embarrassing performance tomorrow, either team would make a fine champion. They’ve both earned their way to the final… despite Belgium’s whining about France’s performance in the semi. All this nonsense about France playing too far back? Pfft. Belgium had 60% of the possession that game and got off some good shots, but France completely out-shot them. France shot more, both on- and off-target. Same number of offsides, Belgium had one extra corner. This wasn’t like ze early German performances, where one team completely and unquestionably dominated play but the other managed to score. This was much more even. France just won.
I’ve probably been a bit unfair in singling out Mbappé for flopping, because so many players on so many teams do it. But it’s frustrating to see such a talented player turn to that level of diving and flopping so early in his career. It’s disappointing to think that instead of seeing the next Messi or Ronaldo, we’re going to see the next Neymar. And yes, Messi and Ronaldo dive on occasion, but Neymar has become notorious for it, thus the comparison. So, Mbappé, please grow up and play great.
I’m rooting for Croatia to beat France for three big reasons. One, it’d be neat to see a new champion. Two, Croatia’s dark jerseys are the best in the tournament. And three, this Modric guy reminds me of a dorkier, less appreciated version of Pirlo. But France is better, and they have played well, so for the first time in the knockout round, I predict they’ll win.
My predictions from last time:
Sweden and Russia […] might’ve been able to Rudy or Rocky their way past their next opponents, but I think England and Croatia just had their mettle tested and will play spirited games. England should beat Sweden and Croatia should beat Russia.
…Belgium and Uruguay are talented without over-reliance on superstars and spirited without being undisciplined. Screw it: Belgium over Brazil and Uruguay over France.
Three out of four ain’t bad (even though I got all four 2014 semifinalists right before that tournament started). The Croatia-Russia game was intense. I thought for sure that Croatia was dead meat when Subašić’s hamstring started acting up– how could he possibly stop any shots if he couldn’t push off that leg? Magic spray, magic sponge, and voila, he did great in the OT and the shootout. Kudos to him.
The especially nice thing about Belgium’s win over Brazil was that the threat of a second yellow cured Neymar of his diving. Once he realized the ref wouldn’t tolerate it, he got serious. Hopefully he keeps it. He stopped diving, he bounced back up after fouls, and he led as relentless an attack as I’ve seen in this Cup, but it was too little, too late.
I’ve gotten France wrong twice in a row, thinking weaker but older teams would overcome them. Nope. They’re a good team. They’re favorites to win. Unfortunately, Mfloppé seems to have picked up Neymar’s mantle with his embarrassing dive. Not a good sign for a rising star.
The picks are getting tougher with each round, and I’m in the odd position of not really caring who wins. A Belgium-Croatia final would guarantee a first-time champion, yet England-France would give me some pretty good meme fodder for my APUSH class this year.
I think Belgium will beat France. They were losing big late and came back against Japan, they built a big lead on Brazil and held off a desperate and ferocious attack. They’ve shown poise and maturity, and that has to win out over youth eventually, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? France is good, but Mfloppé just absorbed all the distaste I previously had for Neymar. So I pick Belgium. I look forward to the Hitchhiker’s memes if they win.
I think England is better than Croatia, but they’ve become very reliant on Route One. I think Croatia will handle that better than anyone England’s faced yet. Plus, Croatia’s black and blue jerseys are awesome. I pick Croatia.
Belgium v. Croatia in the final. We’ll know by Wednesday.
Let’s look at my Round of 16 predictions from last time:
Solid picks: Spain over Russia. Croatia over Denmark. Belgium over Japan.
Solid my rear end. Spain tiki-taka’d themselves right out of the tournament. As boring as it was to watch, the Russians executed their game plan to perfection. No radioactive poisoning necessary. Croatia and Belgium won, but winning via PKs or miraculous comebacks does not constitute a “solid” win. The second half of Belgium-Japan might’ve been the best half of the World Cup, with the possible exception of France-Argentina. 2 for 3 so far.
Somewhat tougher calls: Brazil over Mexico. […] England should beat Columbia, especially if James is dinged up. […] And Sweden over Switzerland.
3 for 3. Brazil was just plain better than Mexico. We’ll see if it keeps up. Neymar is turning into a villain, fast. Yes, he is honest-to-goodness getting fouled more than anyone else, but the embellishment is disgusting. Some folks justify it by pointing out that the embellishment draws the ref’s attention to fouls. Perhaps. But the refs do tend to focus a little bit more when one of the best players on Earth, possibly the best left in the tournament, is the most heavily-fouled player left in the tournament. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s just increasing his own risk of earning a yellow.
England-Colombia was disgusting to watch. England should have finished them off in regular time because the ref should’ve shown Colombia more cards. But Colombia applied a lesson from the old Bad Boys of Detroit: sometimes, you can commit so many fouls that the ref gets tired of calling them. The shame of it is that after Colombia finally equalized at the end of regulation, they finally started playing a disciplined and even dominant game. I think they badly outperformed England in extra time. So where was that the first 90 minutes?
I was right about Sweden. I don’t follow the Swedes closely enough to know, but I wonder whether Zlatan’s absence is a reason for their success. Sometimes a dominant player occupies so much of the attention of his teammates that they forget “the right way to play,” deviate from better game plans, feed him the ball too much. Then when said player goes bye-bye, the team starts playing like a team again. I think Bill Simmons calls this the Ewing Theory.
The toughest quarter of the bracket, […] which is tight enough that I won’t feel the least bit bad about getting wrong: Uruguay over Portugal. […] And I’ll pick Argentina to upset France.
I got Uruguay right, and France wrong. These games were good. France over Argentina is my new favorite game of the tournament. I think it was the most dramatic throughout, unlike Belgium-Japan which was only dramatic at the end (which in fairness is the best time to be dramatic, but I digress). I was wrong about France’s youth, and my God, that MmmBop kid is good. France looked ready to run Argentina right out of the stadium early, then the Argentines pulled ahead, then France blew right past them in the second half. That’s two, two lead changes, ah-ah-ah, which is entirely too rare in soccer. And Aguero’s late goal might’ve led to a miracle finish, but alas.
Argentina’s coach needs his head examined. As someone pointed out, he left 600 goals (Aguero and Higuain) on the bench too long. Yep. Put them on the field, put a little more offensive pressure on France, give Messi a little more room to work with.
Six of eight picks isn’t horrible. It was seven last time, but six isn’t horrible.
Anyhow, my picks for the quarters, even though no result would surprise me at this point:
The right half of the bracket features geographic close-ish-ness and stylistic similarity, but gaps in talent. Sweden and Russia have outperformed expectations so far, and they’ve both shown strength of character. They might’ve been able to Rudy or Rocky their way past their next opponents, but I think England and Croatia just had their mettle tested and will play spirited games. England should beat Sweden and Croatia should beat Russia.
The left half is trickier for me. A quick check with 538’s predictions shows Brazil and France with 64 and 62 percent odds against their opponents, but I think that’s overstating the gaps in talent. Belgium and Uruguay are talented without over-reliance on superstars and spirited without being undisciplined. Screw it: Belgium over Brazil and Uruguay over France.