S***y ideas flow downhill

Breitbart reports that the idea of a border wall is catching on in Mexico, but not the one Trump is proposing:

“The editorial board of El Mañana, one of the largest newspapers in the border state of Tamaulipas, penned a piece called ‘Yes to the Border Wall … but in Mexico’s South.'”

According to the editorial board, “Mexico’s southeast has two borders; one with Guatemala and one with Belize, that do not provide any benefit, but on the contrary only problems are brought by these crossing points that are being used for the new invasion.”

I recognize that the illegal immigration on Mexico’s southern border brings with it a number of serious problem, but referring to this as “the new invasion” is (1) scare mongering that won’t lead anywhere good and (2) is sadly reminiscent of what we are hearing up north these days.  I guess s*** does flow downhill (or in this case, down south).


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!