Guardian photo caption fail – Yasser Arafat International Airport edition

The following photo was included in the Feb. 6th edition of the Guardian’s Top 20 Photographs of the Week:

rafah photo

First, it would be difficult to find a photo more emblematic of the foreign media’s narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A context-free image of a Palestinian boy herding sheep amongst the ruins of a once thriving international transportation hub.

Additionally, the caption is quite misleading.  

Despite the suggestion implicit in the text, the airport was actually “bombed by Israel”…over 13 years ago!  A casual reader would be forgiven for believing that the bombing occurred quite recently. In fact, the original Reutersstory (republished at Israeli outlets such as Ynet and Haaretz) which included the photo is clear that the airport was indeed bombed during the Second Intifada.

As far as the Guardian photo caption’s claim that “it is very rare if anyone travels”, the Reuters article (Travel agency in isolated Gaza…

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The rise and fall of smoking


New Zealand male labour force participation, ages 50 to 74, 5 year age bands, 1986 – 2014

Older workers in the past was defined by a drop-off in labour force participation at the age of 55 such as there was in the 1990s. Not only that is no more, New Zealand workers aged 60 to 64 participate in the labour force to the same extent as workers in their 50s, more or less.


Source: OECD Stat.

Workers aged 65 to 69 and aged 70 to 74 also rapidly increased their labour force participation. Nonetheless, in New Zealand they still get an old age pension in these age brackets without an income test or an asset test.

Criminal Robs Photo Booth . . . Booth Snaps Photo Of Criminal


12669672_1075529909134706_3901838939632469771_n12654661_1075529912468039_1041004407157536913_nHere’s the problem with robbing a photo booth . . . it is a photo booth. That lesson was learned by a thief in Batavia, Illinois who effectively took his own Wanted Poster, which has now been released by police searching for the man.

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How do political parties screen their candidates to ensure they are made of the right stuff – a comparative institutional analysis?

Utopia, you are standing in it!

People do complain about the narrow backgrounds of modern politicians: first a university politician, then MP’s staffer or union organiser, and then candidate perhaps first for a safe seat held by the other party. This is yet another test drive.

The real question is is this new screening process for parliamentary candidates the most efficient that is available?

With no working class left to speak of, do you know of any alternatives that ensure that endorsed candidates are true and loyal members of say the Labor Party?

In the past, the screening process was through occupation and club, union and working class memberships, and then a long apprenticeship on the backbenches.

People are unwilling to wait now on the backbenches because incomes are higher and alternative career opportunities are greater. For smart people these days, there are plenty more opportunities that pay better and do not have crazy working hours.

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@ChrisHipkins social justice objections to free tuition at university and polytech

The desire of the recipients to receive the money is the leading motivation for income redistribution according to Gordon Tullock. That particularly applies to university and Polytech students and their desire not to pay tuition fees. There is no case in either economics or social justice for them not to pay.

Free tuition at University is a handout to those already had a good start in life. It will be paid for by those who will never go because they do not have an above average IQ.

An investment in further education, be it at University or Polytechnic, is an investment. It should have some payoff to those that make it rather than just a good thing to do because of a subsidy.

The wage premium for a tertiary degree was low and stable in New Zealand in the 1990s (Hylsop and Maré 2009) and 2000s (OECD 2013). This stability in the returns to education suggests that supply has tended to kept up with the demand for skills at least over the longer term at the national level. There were no spikes and drops that would be the evidence of a lack of foresight among teenagers in choosing what to study. Whatever rationale may be put forward for free tuition, an undersupply of graduates is not among them.

In 2002, with Pedro Carneiro, James Heckman showed that lack of access to credit is not a major constraint on the ability of young Americans to attend college. Short-term factors such as the ability to borrow to fund higher education has been found to be seriously wanting as an explanation for who and who does not go on to higher education. This has great relevance to New Zealand because the levels of student debt in the USA are much higher than here.

If you have been prevented from going on to university or otherwise studying after completing high school because of financial constraints, there is no social justice nor efficiency reason for free tuition fees. Any problems regarding borrowing against the human capital investment can be solved through student run loans.

The evidence that human capital is a key contributor to higher economic growth is weakening rather than strengthening. As Aghion said:

Economists and others have proposed many channels through which education may affect growth–not merely the private returns to individuals’ greater human capital but also a variety of externalities.

For highly developed countries, the most frequently discussed externality is education investments’ fostering technological innovation, thereby making capital and labour more productive, generating income growth. Despite the enormous interest in the relationship between education and growth, the evidence is fragile at best.

The trend rate of productivity growth did not accelerate over the 20th century despite a massive rise in investments in human capital and R&D because of the rising cost of discovering and adapting new technological knowledge.

The number of both R&D workers and highly educated workers increased many-fold over the 20th century in New Zealand and other OECD member countries including the global industrial leaders such as the USA, Japan and major EU member states.

Gough Whitlam abolished tuition fees at Australian universities in 1972. His idea was to reduce inequality. He instead gave a flying start to those of already above-average talents.

Charles Murray points out that succeeding at college requires an IQ of at least 115, but 84% of the population don’t have this:

Historically, an IQ of 115 or higher was deemed to make someone “prime college material.” That range comprises about 16 per cent of the population. Since 28 per cent of all adults have BAs, the IQ required to get a degree these days is obviously a lot lower than 115.

Those on the margins of this IQ are getting poor advice to go to college. Free tuition makes the likelihood of this poor investment in university in further education more likely.

Murray argues that other occupational and educational choices would serve them better in light of their abilities and likelihood of succeeding at college.Murray believes a lot of students make poor investments by going on to College, in part, because many of them don’t complete their degrees:

…even though college has been dumbed down, it is still too intellectually demanding for a large majority of students, in an age when about 50 per cent of all high school graduates are heading to four-year colleges the next fall. The result is lots of failure. Of those who entered a four-year college in 1995, only 58 per cent had gotten their BA five academic years later.

David Autor in a recent paper has illustrated how the gap between the highly educated and the less educated is growing at a far faster rate than the gap between the top 1% in the bottom 99% in the USA. David Autor argues that

a single minded focus on the top 1% can be counterproductive given that the changes to the other 99% have been more economically significant.

Autor found that in the USA since the early 1980s, the earnings gap between workers with a high school degree and a college education became four times greater that the shift in income during the same period to the very top from the 99%; Between 1979 and 2012, the gap in median annual earnings of households of high-school educated workers and households with college-educated ones expanded from $30,298 to $58,249, or by roughly $28,000.

If social justice is to mean anything, it does not involve giving freebies to those who have a head start in life. The standard policy response to growing inequality is to send people on a course. Trouble is that just makes smart people wealthier without helping the not so smart and increases the chances of smart men and women marrying off together. This increases the inequality between power couples and the rest.

The impact of a famous name on future baby naming

the cuban victory in the republican party

A number of writers noticed that we overlooked an important bit of news last week during the Iowa caucus – two Latinos and a Black man took 60% of the Iowa GOP caucus. At the very least, this is newsworthy and merits explanation.

Here’s how we should understand the rise of Rubio and Cruz. The basic elements of minority party politics are as follows:

  • African Americans started in the GOP but moved to the Democratic party.
  • Groups that were forcibly assimilated into the US tend to go Democrat – Native Americans, Mexicans, Filipinos.
  • Groups that benefited from Cold War politics tend to lean GOP more than others – Vietnamese, Cubans.
  • Other voluntary migrants vary but if they are harassed or repressed they lean Democrat.

Using these rules of thumb, it is easy to see how Cruz and Rubio make a path to the top of the GOP. They are…

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G7, Australian, New Zealand and Danish life expectancies of males aged 65

I am surprised that Japanese male life expectancy at age 65 is the same as most everybody else.


Source: OECD Health Statistics.

Explaining free trade to @realdonaldtrump @BernieSanders with the same biased, bought and paid for video

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