Odds and Ends Vol 19

Odds and EndsAll day today, I’ve been seeing articles that I’d like to comment on but don’t feel like there is enough to say for a full article. And then I thought, “What about another Odds and Ends?!” This is exactly the situation that I originally started the series for. Just the same, in this case, it may just be that I’m tired. I stayed up very late last night and then didn’t sleep well. You would think it would be because I was drinking, but I was actually working. Oh well.

Peak Uber?

Michael Hiltzik brought my attention to something interesting, Has Uber Already Peaked? There is a new study out by some investment types that looked at what’s going on in New York. Apparently, at this point, Uber drivers are as likely to cannibalize each other as the regular taxicab drivers. It looks like the reason for this is that Uber has saturated the market with its drivers and they quickly find that they don’t make much money. It comes as no surprise that this “new economy” job — despite the fact that all the upfront costs fall on the worker — only pays about minimum wage.

Mathematical Genius

John Nash was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century — a century that had some great minds. You know, he’s the guy in A Beautiful Mind. He is known primarily for his work in game theory, and as such, he’s had a great influence beyond mathematics — most especially economics. He died earlier this year at the age of 86. He was also mad as a hatter.

In 1948, Nash apparently asked physicist Richard Duffin to write him a letter of recommendation for graduate school. The letter is wonderfully on point:

Richard Duffin Recommendation Letter for John Nash

Trump Got Boring

Matt Yglesias got it exactly right in an article last week, Donald Trump Used to Be the Most Interesting Person in Politics, but His Tax Plan Made Him Boring. As I said many times around here, Trump’s actual policies were better than any of the other Republicans running for president. His rhetoric was bad on certain issues, but his policies were no worse than the others. And on economics, he was talking like an actual populist. But then he brought out his tax plan and it was not qualitatively different from Jeb Bush’s — it was just worse. And you have to wonder: if this is what a self-funding Republican is for, it must be that the party is not dysfunctional because of its dependence on courting billionaires. They just really believe all their supply side claptrap.

Airbnb Thinks You Should Trust It

I’ll end with another Michael Hiltzik article, No surprise: That Airbnb Study of Rentals in LA Isn’t What It Seems. Airbnb put out a study claiming that its influence did not incentivize the transfer of long-term rentals into short-term rentals. But the company implied that it had analyzed data with a UCLA professor, when all that he had done was go over their procedures — he’s never seen the data and does not vouch for it. Of course, no one has seen the data. Airbnb won’t make it available — even to government regulators. So should we trust them? The business community does not have a good record of putting out objective research that just happens to prove that the best thing is for them to do exactly what they want to do.

That’s all for now folks. Have a good evening and I’ll check in with you in the morning.

6 thoughts on “Odds and Ends Vol 19

  1. The worst thing about Trump is the rhetoric. He’s loudly/proudly enabling bigots everywhere. It’s a bit like how Nixon’s policies (domestic ones) were actually pretty decent, but his coded racial attacks poisoned the country deeply. Although Nixon’s policies were way, way better than Trump’s.

    You might know this already, but an interesting thing about Nash that’s in the book, strangely not the movie, is he was gay. Or at least enjoyed having sex with men. Which was a huge risk for a government employee in the Hoover days. The movie presents him as losing his marbles because of the stress from having such a Big Brain, and I’m sure that was part of it. He was also really into sex with guys and terrified he’d be caught, which was also probably very stressful.

    In the movie his wife is a heroic character who sticks with Nash through his dementia out of True Love. But in real life, she learned about his dalliances with men, and stuck with him just the same. That’s way more true love! Clearly they had a pretty deep connection which went besides “soulmates destined for each other” Hollywood stuff.

  2. They have faith that supply works. Which often seems to be much stronger than their faith in God since nothing shakes it unlike how letting a kid hear that there are Muslims somehow destroys their Christianity.

    • Knowing that there are other faiths is actually very dangerous to faith. It breaks the illusion that “this is what all correct-thinking people believe.” Be aware how perfectly nice, reasonably sane others have totally different superstitions and you can quickly be forced to rely on your faith’s theology. Which is probably bunk (the estimable efforts of many brilliant writers over the centuries to defend Catholic superstition aside.)

      It’s long been an answer to people who want their religion taught in schools. Sure! Let’s teach religion! It’s a huge part of most human societies, so schools should have World Religions classes, as they do in much of Europe. American Christian fundamentalists want no part of other religions being explained in schools. It would shatter their monopoly on thought control.

      I was trying to explain the American Christian fundamentalist obsession with hating Muslims to a friend, and it kept breaking down. “So they hate Muslims, because Muslims impose harsh religious-based laws, except they don’t in Dearborn, MI, which has been Muslim for decades, and the people who dread Muslims also want birth control banned, so they kinda hope for harsh religious-based laws.” Finally we agreed that fundamentalist Christians are scared shitless of Muslims because — no pepperoni on your pizza. That must be it!

    • Excellent point! There is a whole lot of “lady doth protest too much” to conservative Christians when it comes to their faith. But you don’t hear that with their economic faith. It seems very easy for them — like they have no doubt.

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