Monthly Archives: February 2013

Beat My Score

I got 50% on the Prof or Hobo? Quiz, a score that equals what I could have expected from guessing randomly. No doubt readers can do better.

Update: I do somewhat better, however, on arXiv vs. snarXiv in which one is asked to guess which are the real titles of physics papers. Not that this is easy.

Posted in Completely Different | 5 Comments

About that Stadium

Just about everything that is wrong with the discussion about the Miami Dolphins’ attempt to hold up the taxpayers of Miami-Dade county for a giant bit of corporate welfare is visible from the first sentence of Sunday’s Miami Herald story on the leadtrial balloon:

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to seek voter approval of tax dollars for Sun Life Stadium, with team executives dropping their objections to a referendum on the controversial plan, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The Dolphins have “agreed” to let voters be consulted directly! Get that? We can’t have a referendum unless they agree? It’s as if Miami-Dade were negotiating with another sovereignty — a county in Texas, or a country in South America. Next if we are lucky we will read that Dolphins have “agreed” to follow certain locals laws that they happen to approve of.

Sorry guys. Taxpayer-funded stadiums are just about always a bad idea. Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Owners game the system, pitting municipalities against each other, and abandoning cities that don’t subsidize them … and sometimes abandoning those that subsidize them if some other town makes a better taxpayer-subsidized offer.
  • The economics behind the supposed financial benefits is highly suspect: mostly they do not exist. See Dennis Coats & Brad Humphreys, The Stadium Gambit and Local Economic Development, 23:2 Regulation 15 (2000). In any case, there are many other capital improvements one could make with that kind of money that would show a much larger return. (The right question isn’t “will this show a benefit” but rather “compared to what”.)
  • In addition to the teams’ multi-millionaire (or billionaire) owners, the big winners are the corporations and .1%ers who get to use the skyboxes added to the stadium.
  • Ticket prices to the events are beyond the means of many of the very taxpayers who have to pay for the project.

In addition to those generic problems, this particular stadium upgrade, now, is a super-bad idea for these extra reasons:

  • To whatever limited extent the area will benefit from increased tourism revenue, Broward county will get about half the benefit — but the savvy authorities in Broward have said they won’t pay a penny (and there will be no referendum there, either!).
  • Super Bowl weekend will overlap the Boat Show, when hotels are sold out anyway. Not only will there be no extra benefit to the area in terms of occupancy but there will be chaos. I suppose there may also be price gouging, which might feel like a benefit to the hoteliers in the short run, but that just risks driving the Boat Show away in the long run.
  • Our elected officials can’t be trusted to negotiate a decent deal — or to ensure taxpayers benefit from any profits.

This proposal is worse than socialism: in Miami we socialize the (high) costs of stadiums, but privatize the benefits.

Here’s a modest proposal: How about, as a condition of any proposal that we pay for this turkey, we require that 15% of the tickets — including some of the good seats — be given away free by lottery (limited to local taxpayers) for every home game?

Posted in Econ & Money, Miami | 1 Comment

Top 10 Reasons Why I Didn’t Write About It

People sometimes ask me why I didn’t write about something. This happens more often than I would expect, be it in comments, in person, or by email. But not being a professional pundit, and indeed having long given up promoting the blog, I feel no obligation to weigh in on everything.

So here are the top ten reasons I didn’t write about that thing you asked about, more or less in order of frequency:

  1. I had nothing original to say that wasn’t being said on lots of other blogs.
  2. You’ve got the [law/economics] backwards in your comment, but it’s clear that no amount of facts or explaining will get through to you.
  3. Even I can tell that I don’t know enough about it, and I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to find out what I’d need to know to write about it sensibly.
  4. Drafted something, but didn’t like the way it sounded.
  5. I don’t agree with [law schools’/U.Miami’s] critics, but anything I write is too likely to be dismissed as partisan pleading for my [profession/employer].
  6. I had deadlines for real work.
  7. I’m writing about that topic for a law review, and it’s too hard to compress an article into a blog post; I’ll link to the article when it’s done.
  8. It would make UM look bad without sufficient justification (most often applicable when I have nothing original to say).
  9. I was out of town while it happened.
  10. Beats me.
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Fun With Traceroute (Updated)

[Update: It’s gone. The whole thing has been DDOSed out of existence.]

Traceroute is a network tool for figuring out what route a packet takes to get from some point to your machine. This can matter when something is gumming up the works.

If you have a unix machine connected to the internet, odds are you can do traceroute [domain name or IP #] straight from a command line.

If you are on a windows machine you go to a command prompt and type tracert [domain name or IP #] (see the directions here).

For example traceroute tells you about the routing of packets from a big famous internet company.

Play around with it a bit. Once you have the hang of it, on unix try

traceroute -m 200

or on windows make it

tracert -h 200

(The extra argument tells the trace not to stop after 30 hops, which is is important.)

It should produce something fun. You can also try it from a web-based traceroute interface, but I couldn’t find one that would go over 30 hops, which sort of spoils the fun.

Yes, due to the blizzard in the North East, someone has way too much time on his hands.

Posted in Internet | Leave a comment

Fight Procrastination on Taxes to Avoid ID Theft

This may be the first piece of advice the U has sent me on ID theft that I actually agree with: Tax Season Is Here; File Early to Avoid Scams:

As faculty and staff start receiving their W-2s and other tax documents, it is time to start thinking about filing income tax returns—early. This is also the season when identity thieves go into overdrive, attempting to file fraudulent tax returns. Tax fraud is now the third-largest theft of federal funds after Medicare/Medicaid and unemployment-insurance fraud. South Florida, already the leader in Medicare fraud, is also taking the lead in tax-identity theft. Florida has the highest rate of identity theft in the country, with 178 complaints per 100,000 residents in 2011. Tax-identity theft exploded to more than 1.1 million cases in 2011 from 51,700 in 2008.

Fraudulent tax returns can come in the form of tax-identity theft, refund fraud, or return-preparer fraud. With e-filing, evidence of fraud is difficult to find. There are no signed tax forms, envelopes or fingerprints, and e-filing promises quick refunds. For criminals to e-file in your name, they need your name and Social Security number, combined with a phony W-2 (wages) or fabricated Schedule C (business income). These ID thieves steal your personal information and then use it to file a fake tax return in your name, usually tweaking the numbers to get a large refund. The refund can be posted to an anonymous “Green Dot” prepaid Visa purchased at a drugstore, Wal-Mart, etc. The taxpayer whose ID has been stolen will not find out until he or she attempts to file the real return and then is informed by the IRS that the return has already been filed and the refund sent. That is the primary reason to file as early as possible, before a potential criminal attempts to do so on your behalf. To read the complete tip, including steps to protect your tax identity, please click here.

Interestingly (at least to me) the tip comes from the U’s Office of HIPAA Privacy & Security whose web site suggests it might be run by sensible people. This differentiates it from the junky and fearmongering advice I find strewn on a table at the front of our library at the start of every school year and which is issued by the campus police department.

Posted in ID Cards and Identification, U.Miami | Leave a comment

3TB of Storage for Under $150

Amazing. I would almost buy one just to have it. The truth is, though, I don’t need it: I’ve almost given up recording movies I’m not getting around to watch.

Specs: Fanless, USB3 external drive, $149.99, free shipping. Not tiny, not the fastest, but it has a 3 year warranty.

Still, three Terrabytes. I remember when 1.2M 3.5″ rigid “floppy disks” seemed a huge advance over 360K/640K floppy disks. In fact I still have some of each in a closet.

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 3 Comments