Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, trader, artist, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

Karim Pirbay is an Email Scammer


If you haven't heard, the Harvard Class of 2016 elected Program Marshals for commencement (graduation) exercises this week. Basically, it's a popularity contest to determine who gets to sit on stage with Natalie Portman or John Oliver or whoever it is this year. At some point, I guess we'll hear the results.

Of course, in the post-Clark–Mayopoulos era, exactly zero of the campaigns were serious. I think the most serious policy proposal that made it through my spam filter was, verbatim, "P.S. Jon Stewart/John Oliver for Class Day??". But, of course, posters, facebook groups, and an infuriating flood of mass emails have made an appearance nonetheless. One in particular stands out, because I think it represents a lapse in judgment so egregious, the party in question should be lowered in public status.

Karim Pirbay sent two mass emails to the senior class. The first included this gem:

If there is any way I can bribe you for a vote, I’d be happy


PredictIt Arbitrage

note: Long after I posted this, PredictIt changed their policies on margin requirements in "linked markets", a small step towards market efficiency. Nevertheless, they left in place their 5% tax on withdrawals and 10% tax on gross profits, so the central argument that inefficiencies can stop even the most commonsense arbitrages from correcting out-of-line markets, remains largely true.


Political betting site PredictIt offers everyone the ability to (legally) bet (real money) on the outcome of political events. For example:

The market in "Who will win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination?", displaying thirteen leading candidates.

You can pay 39¢ for a Yes share in BUSH.RNOM16, which will be worth $1 if Jeb Bush wins the Republican nomination, and $0 if he does not. Similarly, you can pay 63¢ for a No share in BUSH.RNOM16, which will be worth $0 if he wins and $1 otherwise. (Another way to think about this is that you can sell a Yes share for 37¢ or buy one for 39¢. These numbers are different for pretty much the same reason that you can't sell your used textbooks


Ted Cruz is Having a Bad Second Day

or, "Ted Cruz's Campaign Logo is an Upside-Down, Burning American Flag"

First, a short lesson about why you should buy www.yourname.com before announcing your presidential campaign:

www.tedcruz.com, showing the notice "Support President Obama. / Immigration Reform Now!"

The site is, apparently, registered to Ted Cruz.

Just a different Ted Cruz.

Meanwhile, on Twitter...

and on Gawker...

Gawker: Ted Cruz' Campaign Logo Is an Upside-Down Burning American Flag

...and the Washington Post, who "could go on all day".

I guess, if you're a serious person, you might appreciate the Christian Science Monitor's serious article asking "Isn't this a bit early to be announcing a candidacy?" -- with a resounding (and data-supported answer of "no") -- and "Hasn't there been a lot of campaign coverage already this cycle?" -- with a similarly-supported answer of "yes".

"Relative Presidential Campaign Coverage", showing 2015 a record high

Here we go again.


Democracy! (Part 2: The Democratizing)


Vote! Today! Before 8pm!

Yesterday, I linked a polling-place guide from the IOP, which was two years out of date. The HPR has a good guide to candidates and their issues, but their polling-place list for Harvard students is also incorrect.[1] As far as I can tell, the list goes:

  • Harvard Yard (inc. Union; exc. Apley), Adams: Gund Hall (48 Quincy Street)
  • Dunster, Leverett: Putnam Apartments (2 Mt. Auburn Street)
  • Apley, Lowell, Mather, Quincy: Quincy House (58 Plympton Street)
  • Quad: Graham and Parks School (44 Linnaean Street)
  • Eliot: Friends Meeting House (5 Longfellow Park)

It's unclear to me where Winthrop and Kirkland vote; whether they're also with Eliot, or if they vote in Quincy with the rest.

The Crimson also has a bit on early polling results, especially regarding the four ballot initiatives (indexing the state gasoline tax to consumer prices, expansion of $0.05 bottle-recycling rebates to all non-alcoholic, non-carbonated drinks, banning casinos and dog-racing betting, and sick-leave entitlements for private Mass. employees).

Now go do that




Reminder: What may be your best chance this year to shape the future of your city/state/nation is tomorrow. So go out there and do the thing! If you're at Harvard and forgot where the heck you were supposed to go to do the thing, tomorrow's post has the rundown.


Michael Landry '16 and Connor Harris '16 have declared their candidacy for the Harvard Undergraduate Council (vice-)presidency. You may know Michael because the Crimson wrote a piece about him last week, and you may know Connor because he keeps saying smart things about transportation policy, urban planning, and liberal arts education to everyone in earshot.

Cutting to the quick, I'm going to go right out and declare my support for these two right now. I will inevitably write more later, but for now, you should sign the petition to put them on the ballot if you trust my judgment in matters of politics. Or, like, if you believe in the power of a free and open

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