Covering the basics, cold war edition

I recently discovered the excellent twitter account @AwfulLibraryBooks.  One recent post highlighted a “Russian Phrase Book: Department of the Army Pamphlet Headquarters, Department of the Army, 1962.” It has some pretty funny phrases in it.  Here are some favorites:

“If we cannot trust a man, (1) wink your right eye, (2) place your left hand on your stomach, (3) move your head to the right, unnoticed, until we note your signal.”  I assume they are supposed to choose one of these things and not all three.  Also, what does the “unnoticed” mean?

“You certainly read our leaflets.”

“Do they place faith in America?”

“The enemy will lose the war”

“We are here to help them in the struggle on the side of (1) the free world, (2) the US, (3) Allies, (4) freedom, (5) God.”  Take your pick.

“Is there any (1) bear, (2) wild deer, (3) hare, (4) boar, (5) wolf, (6) hyena, (7) pheasant, (8) pigeon, (9) mountain cocks, (10) edible fish, or (11) crabs in this area?”  Ok, this is an interesting list.  Hyena?  Really?  Wolf?  I also like adding the “edible” to fish–nice touch!  Don’t give me any inedible fish.  Inedible wolf, no problem though.

Looks like the US Army had the basics covered!


Oportunidades, but for trees!

Interesting new NBER paper (ungated version here), of an RCT on a PES.

That’s National Bureau of Economic Research, Randomized Control Trial, and Payment for Ecosystem Services for any normal humans out there who may be reading.

Anyway in western Uganda, the authors choose 121 villages, and randomly selected 60 for the treatment, which was paying forest owning households in that village not to cut down trees.

“The PES program reduced deforestation and forest degradation: Tree cover, measured using high-resolution satellite imagery, declined by 2% to 5% in treatment villages compared to 7% to 10% in control villages during the study period.”


The authors also attempt some cost benefit analysis (which necessarily requires assumptions about how fast the treated households will start cutting trees once the program was over (it lasted 2 years)).

“Our base case scenario assumes PFOs deforest at a 50% higher rate than usual after the program ends, converging to the control group after four years. The social benefit of the delayed CO2 emissions is then $1.11 per ton, or roughly 2 times the $0.57 program cost.We repeat the calculation for a range of assumptions. At one extreme, if PFOs catch up on their backlog of avoided deforestation the moment the program ends, the benefit- cost ratio falls to 0.7. At the other extreme, if PFOs pause their deforestation during the intervention and then resume deforesting at their typical rate, not an accelerated rate, after the program ends, then the benefit cost-ratio rises to 12.3. ”

Very cool and relevant study as the 2015 Paris climate agreement pushes for more use of PES.

I’ll just remark on one weird anomaly and one seemingly unavoidable issue.

The anomaly is that only 32% of the households eligible for treatment signed up. This is especially weird because there were no penalties for cutting down all your trees after signing up.

The weird issue is high overhead costs. For every $570 of expenditure only $250 were actual payments to treated households. The rest (over half!!!) was overhead.

I have to wonder if giving $400 of every $570 unconditionally would have had an equal or even greater effect on deforestation. Give Directly claims that 91% of your contribution goes directly to payments, so maybe the number could be closer to $500 out of every $570.

Would have enjoyed seeing that as an additional treatment arm, though Robin tells me folks might just use the money to buy a chainsaw!






Who wears short shorts?

Good news coming out of Canada yesterday for Mexico.  The Canadian government has dropped visa requirements for Mexicans visiting the country (and Mexico, in turn, has agreed to lift its ban on Canadian beef).

The highlight for me was the photo op of the two leaders jogging together.  Here’s one photo:


I wonder how presidents decide what to wear for such occasions.  The black short shorts are an interesting touch. Hey EPN, the 70s called and they want their short shorts back!

At least no one is accusing el Presidente of putting his socks on backwards this time (the hilarious Sockgate scandal from last August).


Nudging, you’re doing it wrong

Despite my blog title, I don’t think this motivational trainer in China was actually trying to nudge his clients.  Even so, the idea that this trainer was trying to provide “motivation” is pretty funny.  Here are some of the details:

“A motivational trainer in China beat eight rural bank employees with a stick, shaved the heads of the men and cut the hair of the women after they performed poorly on a training weekend.”  

Employees around the world who have bitterly complained about having to go through training weekends are rejoicing that they didn’t get this fool as their “motivator.”

What does Jiang Yang, the fool in question, have to say for himself: “‘Spanking was a training model I have been exploring for many years.’”   Dude, you are really not helping your case!



Angus is a Pre-Cog!

Oh people, the plot thickens in Argentina. Our last story was about the ex cabinet minister throwing suitcases full of money over the walls of a nunnery.

In that story I speculated that the nunnery was a known money-laundering operation.

Now, thanks to a “dollar-smelling dog” named Jack, Police have discovered hidden chambers under the chapel of the convent that apparently smell like dollars.


I think I’ll set up a table down in the Santa Fe Plaza and start telling people their futures. Paco can be my dollar smelling dog.

PS: It’s a sad but true commentary on Argentina that they are not called “peso-smelling dogs”.



Extreme Makeover: Argentine Style


People, check out the amazing transformation of one Jose Lopez.

Here’s the before:


J-Lo was was public works minister under La pinguina.

But baby look at him now:



No he’s not a police officer now. He’s just taking a well-protected perp walk!


Well, it has something to do with $7 million in cash, a .22 rifle and a nunnery!

Phone call for Monty Python.

In a nutshell, J-Lo was caught tossing the cash over the walls of the nunnery while holding a rifle, when the nuns called the cops!

Not sure what his end game was going to be.

Is that nunnery a money laundering operation?

Was he planning on also climbing the wall and then screaming “SANCTUARY!!!”

Was he just tithing, like any good Catholic?




Bartleby the Congressperson!

This just in from Colombia:

A bill to financially punish chronic absenteeism in the Legislature died due to…….

(wait for it)

…… not enough legislators being in session to debate the bill!!


So many ideas here.

  1. Why can’t the US legislature be more like this?
  2. Have they never heard of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?
  3. Bartleby the Congressperson!! (I prefer not to).
  4. Joseph Heller must be laughing his butt off.


Kudos, Colombia. Well-played.