"How College Sports Turned into a Corrupt Mega-Business"

George Leef reviews a new book by James Bennett, Intercollegiate Athletics, Inc. I like this:

How about paying college athletes? Bennett gives that idea the back of his hand. He writes, “If college football and basketball players do join the ranks of the officially salaried, we will have the strange spectacle of ordinary students paying increased fees in order to subsidize not just the education but the livelihoods, the salaries, of their far more feted and celebrated sports-playing fellow ‘students.’ And if you pay those who play revenue sports, the big-time sports factories may need to shutter non-revenue sports, which would run afoul of Title IX.”

Not so "super" forecasting?

UPDATE: Thanks to a couple of commenters--thanks Albert, thanks Tim--I made a really stupid error. The forecasts are for March 31, 2021. So the post below--I'll leave it up as reminder to me not to be stupid--is premature, at the least.

A week ago I linked to short-term forecasts for the virus made by "superforecasters". (Superforecasters "qualified by being in the most accurate 2% of forecasters from a large-scale, government-funded series of forecasting tournaments that ran from 2011-2015 . . .").

Since the forecasts are for March 31 we can now evaluate how well they did. Most of the forecasts seem to have been made on March 13, but a few may have been made later. Here are the results (all data from the Johns Hopkins tabulations, here and here):

Cases, worldwide. Actual, 857,957; forecast as "most likely," "more than 53 million but less than 530 million".

Deaths, worldwide. Actual, 42,139; forecast as "most likely," "more than 800,000 but less than 8 million".

Cases, U.S. Actual, 188,547; forecast as "most likely," "more than 2.3 million but less than 23 million".

Deaths, U.S. Actual, 3873; forecast as "most likely," "more than 35,000 but less than 350,000".

While I have a healthy respects for the evil power of the jinx and while the forecasters may turn out to be, as they say on Wall Street, not wrong but simply early, for right now, they seem to have missed by an order of magnitude or more.


"US life expectancy stalls due to cardiovascular disease, not drug deaths"

I leave as an exercise for the reader to reconcile this finding with the recent, much-discussed finding of Case and Deaton in Deaths of Despair.

After decades of robust growth, the rise in US life expectancy stalled after 2010. Explanations for the stall have focused on rising drug-related deaths. Here we show that a stagnating decline in cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality was the main culprit, outpacing and overshadowing the effects of all other causes of death.

Good paragraph

Kevin D. Williamson:

The failure of a New York City hospital operator to stock a sufficient supply of medical masks is not an indictment of the world economic order or “capitalist pathologies.” It is an indictment of the management of New York City hospitals, and hospitals elsewhere. That is a big enough problem without imagining it to be grander than it is.

"Is There Wasteful Spending In The Coronavirus Stimulus Bill?"

You betcha. Samples:

  • $25 million in the Senate bill went to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. During the past ten years, the center received $68.3 million in federal grants (2010-2019). The Kennedy Center has total assets of $557 million. The Pelosi bill earmarked $35 million.
  • $75 million in the Senate bill funded the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. Why do National Public Radio and Big Bird get a coronavirus subsidy? The Pelosi bill allocated $300 million.


"The Real-Life Costs of Bad Regulation"

"Early administrative failings of the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control greatly exacerbated the Covid-19 crisis in the United States."

See also "Is the CDC to Blame for the Lack of Adequate Coronavirus Testing?"

And more, from two Univ. of Chicago professor: "To Fight the Coronavirus, Cut the Red Tape".

Still more, from John Stossel: "The Red Tape Pandemic".

Yet more: "FDA Shouldn’t Keep Safe Drugs off the Market".

Oh, there's more: "Doctors need freedom to choose off-label drugs".

Finally, from economist Art Carden: "The Anatomy of Government Failure in a Pandemic".

This means there is a discrepancy between the private and social benefits from flu shots and careful hand washing, and according to the standard stories about externalities that we teach in introductory economics classes, we probably won’t do as much as would be socially optimal. . . . 

 As I wrote over the summer, “just because an externality exists doesn’t mean the market has ‘failed’ enough for command-and-control regulation or even corrective taxation to be appropriate.” The stories we tell in introductory economics classes also tend to assume away the problem of government failure–and governments are failing mightily in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

"The Unbuildable American Home"

Government policy swings from one extreme mistake to the opposite extreme mistake. Sad, sad, sad.

The irony today is that housing affordability is increasingly a concern, yet we are building new units at historically low rates. This is because policy interventions have made the prices of existing homes lower than the price of the potential new home down the street.

"Elon and the collective"

I think society should have a few dreamers. But there are two problems:

  1. There are way, way more applicants for the job than there are openings.
  2. Even for blue-sky dreaming, there should be some attempt to separate dreams from fantasy and sheer craziness. The time and whatever resources were devoted to trying to spin straw into gold were a complete waste.

I think Elon Musk is not a dreamer but a BS artist. Here's a seemingly careful attempt to support that thesis.

"Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore"

The first reason given, "more communication options," is surely not the primary reason

If I were still teaching, I think I would use this as an excellent example of how markets tend to address things that bother people. Junk calls are annoying. But, in my case, about 70% of the annoyance is removed by having caller ID. Another 20% is removed by having multiple phones with multiple phone numbers, which are now cheap, including one that almost no one has and I can reserve for important callers. And the remaining annoyance could be all but eliminated by using my home phone's mute button. I haven't used it yet, but with election season rapidly approaching, I may.

"Measure What Matters: On family structure and student outcomes"

A New York City charter school official is surprised:

On that hot July afternoon, my team took a walking tour of the neighborhood. Along the way, we encountered a 27-­foot-­long, baby-­blue Winnebago truck, that—judging by the cheery reaction of the people standing nearby—was a welcome fixture in the neighborhood. This was my turning point.

On the side of the truck, vividly inscribed in graffiti lettering, was the phrase “Who’s Your Daddy?” The truck turned out to be a mobile DNA testing center that charges $350 to $500 to answer questions such as: “Is she my sister?” or “Are you my father?” Demand had been so robust that the owner added a second truck so that he could offer Who’s Your Daddy? services in other boroughs and neighboring cities.

I was surprised that such a truck and its on-­demand services even existed. But what astonished me more was the normalcy of its existence.

"We’ll never see anything else like Tom Brady"

Boston columnist Chad Finn pays a fine tribute to Tom Terriifc.

The casual cool, including the power-dribble of the football, after guiding the drive to set up Adam Vinatieri’s winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI. The comeback from down 10 points with less than 8 minutes left against a hellacious Seahawks defense in Super Bowl XLIV, the one that birthed phase two of the dynasty. The like-hell-this-is-over poise against the Falcons in the comeback from down 25 points in Super Bowl LI, the one that made you believe that momentum in sports is real and palpable. The dart to a triple-covered Rob Gronkowski late in Super Bowl LIII against the Rams, the perfect exclamation point on the nonpareil tight end’s career. And those are just the most obvious ones. Good heavens we were lucky to watch this guy for so long, weren’t we?