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Friday, October 02, 2020

Constitutional Nit Picking

I object to this sentence in this article by Paul Kane in the Washington Post "In such a scenario, deciding the presidency falls to the House of Representatives, but in a rare twist mandated by the 12th Amendment after the contested 1800 election, each state’s delegation counts as one vote. "

In fact, we can blame the delegates at the Constitutional Convention (as well as the 7th Congress) for that particular offence against Democracy. Back in 1800, The Constitution Article II Section 1 included "But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote;"

The one state one vote rule does appear in the 12th Amendment, but it was already in the original Constitution.

A more important point is that this is only relevant if there is a 269-269 tie in the electoral college. The 12th amendment also says " The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed;" Notice "Electors appointed" not "More than the number of states plus half the number of representatives" or currently more than 269.

It is (still in spite of everything) inconceivable that the race be called before it was agreed who won the tipping point state, but if it is decided that a President elect must be declared while the winner of some state is contested, the matter will not go to the House voting one state one vote (as always results must be certified by the House voting the normal way one representative one vote).

It has not always been true that all states are represented in the electoral college. It hasn't always been true in my lifetime (I was born on November 9 1960 the day after electors were elected November 8 1960 but before those electors Kennedy). In 1960 the electors for Hawaii were never assigned because the outcome was contested when the electors voted. This means that Hawaii had to wait until 1964 to be represented in the electoral college after becoming a state on August 21, 1959.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Hobbes and Hegel

I've decided not to write a blog post on a topic about which I know little, and rather to write on a topic about which I know nothing. Consider this part of the dialectic of trolling.

Hence the question, what do Hobbes and Hegel have in common ? I admit I know a bit about Hobbes having read the first two books of Leviathan (and I bet Hobbes's mom was too bored to read the third and fourth). About Hegel I know almost exactly nothing (and more than I would like).

They are two seminal influential writers. The vibrant discussion and debate about the social contract began with Hegel largely transmitted through Locke's attempt to refute Hobbes in his second treatise on government (I have read it but not his first treatise on government).

In each case, most people addicted to the big H's do not share their conclusions or general orientation. Some phrases and words live on (social contract, dialectic, historical age) while the orginal main point is utterly rejected.

The interesting thing is that these two genuinely revolutionary writers were reactionary. Both advocated absolute monarchy. Hobbes explicitly rejected not only the British revolution, but also the ancien regime with power divided between the King and Parliament. He regretted the defeats at Naseby and Runnymeade, he contested both Cromwell and Polybius. He slashed at the division of power as sharply as Ockham.

Hegel was not so clear (the military situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage). He claimed to believe that Prussia should have a constitution, and that Prussia had a constitution.

I just had an idea. I think the extroirdinarily original thoughts are the result of attempting to defend the indefensible. There were a few obsolete arguments for absolute monarchy. The first was might makes right, which was challenged by facts on the ground. The second was the divine right of kings which was hampered by the contrast between God's stubborn silence and theologians' verbosity. Something new was needed and first the social contract then the dialectic were new. I think the radicalism of Hobbes was made necessary by his extremely reactionary factionalism. I think the extreme abstraction and vagueness of Hegel [should be discussed only by people who have actually read Hegel] was a new obscurantism needed because people had ceased to look to scripture for guidance on public policy (people starting with Hobbes).

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the painful and humiliating need to find some way to defend the pretenses of a royal patron was the mother of genius.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Experts and Me

This is much too self indulgent for www.angrybearblog.com. I am trying to understand what I think of the recent discussion of leaving things up to the experts. Donald Trump is making a very convincing case for leaving things up to experts by pretending to be able to outguess them using his gut. I remain not totally convinced.

I am definitely not willing to leave health care decisions to doctors. I am not talking about my own as I am generally healthy enough. I do insist on giving advice when is often to challenge doctors and argue with them about therapy. I am going to consider a typically good column by Michael Gerson here

The dangerous conservative case against expertise. He has a point. In particular, conservatives are often wrong when they disagree with experts (also when they are experts). Gerson happens to be my favorite conservative. I don't know how long he will remain a self identified conservative. I think he will follow his fellow Washington Post conservative quota hires Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot to neoliberalism.

He writes well enough that it is hard to quote.

I note here that he doesn't have an argument against medicare for all *or* for the claim that Covid 19 shows why it would be good

a human tendency to interpret disasters as confirmation of our existing beliefs. So the coronavirus outbreak proves the need for a border wall. [skip]”

Not every argument is strained or spurious. The pandemic has given our health-care system an X-ray, revealing disturbing racial inequities that need to be understood and addressed. But on the whole, we are right to be wary of people who claim great tragedies as the confirmation of pet theories and previous prophesies.

He just moves on, because his job is to be a conservative critiquing conservatives. I think there is also the point that it won't be enacted and so it isn't on the agenda. In particular he critiques

conservatives who look at the coronavirus outbreak and see, of all things, the discrediting of experts and expertise. In this view, the failures of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have brought the whole profession into disrepute. The judgments of health professionals have often been no better than the folk wisdom of the Internet. The pandemic is not only further proof of the fallibility of insiders; it has revealed the inherent inaccessibility of medical truth. All of us, scientists and nonscientists, are walking blindly on the same misty moor and may stumble on medical insights.

I think he is describing a real phenomenon and he is right to denounce it. But I have some criticisms.

First, and importantly, the internet is a medium. One can't discuss the effect of relying on the internet any more than of relying on the spoken word or books. He has something in mind, but he doesn't quite define it. I think he is thinking of social media of FacebookandTwitter. I get my opinions about Covid 19 and treatments from the internet, and, in particular from

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

and

https://clinicaltrials.gov/

Also I have read a lot about how the Wikipedia is unreliable, but know of only one gross error (the article on Ricardian equivalence).

I don't think it is possible to understand the problem without addresses the particular problem of the conservabubble. Think of edited media (the MSM). The reliability of edited news media sources varies widely. Don't trust Fox News. Don't trust the National Enquirer. Don't trust The Wall Street Journal opinion pages. Don't pretend that this is a general or symmetric problem.

My other thought is: What about the FDA ? It is, like WHO and the CDC a center of recognized expertise. It is also (unlike WHO) a center of power -- the FDA has legal authority. It has made terrible mistakes so far, and they have killed people.

In particular it is essentially 100% responsible for the delay of testing for Covid 19 in the USA. The CDC sent out test kits which had a (still not understood) problem. This would have caused at most a week of delay without the help of the FDA.

The problem appears to be with one reagent which should consist of a pair of oligonucleotides and which sometimes seems to be contaminated. I don't claim to understand what is wrong with it, but do note that it can be just left out, that the CDC test kits work fine if it is not used, and that this is one of the main ways tests are now conducted in the USA. Also all this was discovered about 1 week after the kits were mailed which was roughly 3 weeks after the Sars Cov2 sequence was published.

The further delay (roughly 2 weeks) occurred because the FDA did not authorize the use of the modified toss out the problem causing reagent test. It also placed a heavy burden for approval of tests by private agents -- hospitals, universities, and commercial testing firms.

That was the (more) fatal problem (in thousands of deaths caused).

I think there are two lessons. First there is a bias towards small c conservatism. A delay in adopting something new is always considered acceptable. This makes no sense. Another is that the expertise can be familiarity with the way things have been done (combined with the conservativism). Experts on Covid 19 testing include experts on RT-PCR and experts on obscure FDA regulations which implied that the declaration of an emergency slowed the response to the virus. The second group of experts (call them lawyers) know about current laws, rules and regulations. They don't know if they are optimal.

Notice that I haven't gotten close to saying that "medical truth" is inaccessible. One doesn't get there from questioning experts and especially not from questioning experts when they disagree.

OK I quote "And the CDC did badly mishandle the early stage of diagnostic testing." But what about the FDA ? Yes they made some mistake at the CDC, but it caused only a third of the total delay. Such problems are inevitable -- human perfection is impossible. But refusing to allow the correct solution to be used is not inevitable. By "solution" I mean solution with a solvent and solutes not including the powder which was supposed to be a pair of oligonucleotides (and may have been -- we don't know if it was contaminated).

another quote

Judgments based on that information are not infallible. But they are always preferable to the aggregate opinion of the Internet.

I am quite sure there is no such thing as the aggregate opinion on the internet. Again, he is thinking of something other than the medium. Again he ignores the fact that the peer reviewed literature is available on the internet (at least abstracts). I think he is on to somethng but the entity he has in mind is not "the internet". I'd call it "the conservabubble".

Gerson also leaves out experts. He notes the experts who warned of the pandemic and who advocated social distancing. He is right. He is also right that conservatives mostly dismissed them and that Trump is a disaster. In fact, I guess I agree with him about almost everything except his definition of "experts" and "the internet".

One aspect of the scientific literature is that extreme caution is favored. Guesses are not published (unless the person guessing is really famous). Claims to have found the answer are deliberately understated (which doesn't mean they aren't often wrong -- there is a constant struggle between the professional norms and the inclinations of enthusiasts).

But this is not appropriate as a guide for action in a crisis. The default response that we don't know and we have to do more research does not suggest what to do during that research.

The actual practice is to stick to business as usual. In medicine it is to stick to standard of care until and new therapy is proven to be superior (and the standard of proof is much stricter than the supposed proof beyond reasonable doubt which gets people locked up in prison). This makes no sense in the treatment of a disease first described 4 months ago. But it absolutely does describe actual choices made by actual doctors here "She listened patiently to Hall and expressed her concern that his suggestions did not conform to standard medical procedure or C.D.C. guidelines." The patient had Covid 19. How could there be standard medical procedure already ?

It is definitely a fact that doctors are very determined to define a standard of care (which is described in a document which in cases with which I am familiar is written by a private voluntary association of physicians). The reason for this is, I think, perfectly clear. If a patient is given care according to the standard, then bad outcomes do not imply malpractice liability. This means that sticking to the standard is sensible for the cautious physician who cares a lot about not being sued for malpractice and considers that more important than ding what, according to a posterior probability distribution updated with the available data, maximizes expected patient welfare.

This is the way it is done. The key experts include lawyers who explain malpractice liability (correctly).Then there are the standards of care, the official guidelines, whose key roles include defence in malpractice suits.

I assert that there is a problem here -- a moral problem and a policy problem.

I have been asserting this for years. As Gerson might predict, I now assert that the Covid 19 epidemic proves I was right.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Giving Boot the Boot

Your statement including the words “just Concluded” is false. You should correct the error. No one who understands hypothesis testing could have “concluded” that the null is true because it is not rejected. This is especially true if the test has low power. It is especially especially true if the test has no power at all, power exactly zero, not the tiniest but of power.

The test you cite had zero power. Not as high as one in a trillion, but 0, nada, zip, niente.

The authors did Not conclude what you claim they concluded. The paper is in Chinese but has an English abstract which you should have read before making (incorrect) claims including the word “concluded”.

In fact the authors concluded that the prognosis of Covid 19 (with conventionsl therapy) is good and that studies with larger sample sizes are needed. I am not quoting, but I am paraphrasing with some care and not with total ignorance as you did.

Also I am not shocked thst the self declared pro life party is not pro life. They don’t care. That’s why many of them are blood thirsty hawks (I am not saying all hawks are blood thirsty and trust that you have good intentions but don’t you remember “more rubble less trouble J Podhoretz, and “Bomb bomb bomb, Bomb bomb Iran” J McCain ?

where were you hiding ? (OK I know the conservabubble is airtight)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

To Be Sure Jennifer Senior

I just read an op-ed by Jennifer Senior. I am not 100% satisfied. To be sure, she denounces the Republican Party in no uncertain terms. The op-ed is not completely Ballanced. However, old habits die hard. The op-ed contains a good bit of nonsense. Some of it is there to give the essay a beginning a middle and an end. More of it is a bit of reflexive bothsidesing.

First it begins "It’s that time of the campaign season when some Democrats are starting to feel — as President Jimmy Carter might have put it — malaise." This is a reference to anectdotal evidence. It is not supported by polls of voter interest and enthusiasm or data on the number of campaign contributions. Basically, it is Senior arguing that Democrats need her advice (the pundit's fallacy). Mainly it is a link to another op-ed by Jonathan Martin which begins " When a half-dozen Democratic donors gathered at the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan last week, " so the sample size is 6. Also the "Democrats" in question are rich Democrats. Senior does not mention the possibility that rich people are out of touch with the forgotten man.

Is it the New York Times' official postion that 6 rich people in Manhatten deserve more attention than say the 940,000 people who donated to Warren or the 1.4 million people who donated to Sanders in the third quarter (of the year *before* election year). If that is malaise, I don't think I could handle enthusiasm. I guess the idea is that 6 rich people in New York are more sophisticated than the small donors, because the 6 rich people are pragmatists who consider the pulse of the nation not their enthusiasm and so are more in touch with ordinary voters than regular people are.

Then "They’re staring at their 2020 lineup and wondering whether it’s a guaranteed recipe for buyer’s remorse. Joe Biden is too old, Pete Buttigieg is too young, Kamala Harris is too uncertain, Bernie Sanders too unpalatable, Elizabeth Warren too unelectable." Warren unelectable as shown by the polls all of which show her leading Trump. Or the rising enthusiasm for her campaign (she does better with people who have paid more attention -- that's hard data -- a lot of people won't pay much atttention over the next year and a month but they will pay more than they have -- people who put their money where their mouth is bet that she is electable). This is nonsense. The New York Times is in touch with rich Democrats who are ambivalent about Sanders and Warren, because they don't want to pay higher taxes. I don't like writing like a vulgar Marxist, but sometimes you people make it hard not to.

Then some concessions that both sides have their faults and conservatives are not wrong about everything. Quickly on Republicans vs Democrats, their is a definite assertion of wrong doing followed by a statement that Senior doesn't have any evidence "Of course Democratic politicians — all politicians — distort, gerrymander evidence, even lie and apply their greasy thumbs to the scales. (What was Bill Clinton doing on that plane with Loretta Lynch in 2016?)" or to summarize "Of course ... ?" I trust any reader can see the problem, when one is stating the obvious, one does not need to end one's sentence with a question mark. Also Clinton derangement syndrome.

Then some real Ballance. Senior argues that Fox news is different in kind from the New York Times (correct). Then to be sures. She demonstrates an amazing lack of critical facility when discussing her employer

And you have partisan news outlets with zero interest in reporting the basic facts of Trump’s corruption or the catastrophic consequences of his impulses. We’ve gone from Pax Americana to Fox Americana in the blink of an eye.

Whereas the more traditional news media, whatever their unconscious biases, do try to hold Democrats to account. Sure, let’s stipulate that there are more liberals than conservatives at these organizations. Maybe even a lot more. But it was mainstream newspapers that broke the Whitewater story, which led to an independent investigation of Bill Clinton. It was mainstream newspapers that kept Hillary Clinton’s emails on the front page in the run-up to the 2016 election. This newspaper covered Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine too — in May. These pages also ran an editorial about it. That was in 2015.

The lady dost protest too little. Even when asserting imbalance, she assumes that there must be some weight in each pan. She argues that the New York Times isn't as far biased left as Fox is biased right. She doesn't even consider the possibility that, afraid of "unconcious bias" they over compensate. Let's go down her list.

"Whitewater" including omission of the critical fact that the Whitewater Development Corporatino is older than the Morgan Guarantee S&L (something I learned in the 21st century). Deliberate deception of readers by omission of a critical fact used to create the appearance of a scandal. Yes the tried to hold Clinton to some sort of "account". They also cooked the books. The episode was disgraceful. But not as damaging as keeping "Hillary Clinton’s emails on the front page in the run-up to the 2016 election." and reporting the final conclusion of no wrong doing on the 16th. A catastrophic failure of editorial judgment based on the terror of conservatives accusing them of liberal bias and the problem that the facts had an overwhelming liberal bias. Then Hunter Biden's business dealings, because private citizen Hunter Biden is so important. Joe Biden's exemplary devotion to the public interest even when it conflicted with his son's interests was not mentioned in the appalling article in which the focus was not on Trump's impeachable conduct but on the hint of a possibility of alleged wrongdoing by Biden.

If Senior's aim was to show how the New York Times has sacrificed its journalistic standards in a hopeless effort to please conservatives, the paragraph would make sense. But the repeated disgraceul betrayals of journalism are presented as exculpatory evidence.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

unsubscribe

I am typing on my mom's computer. She introduced me to personal computers (some time ago). She was fairly fluent in DOS (explanatory not for kids these days -- never mind you wouldn't believe what people used to put up with). She basically stopped using her computer for anything but e-mail due to the Windows 8 catastrophe. I personally kept using Windows 7 as long as I could. Windows 10 is OK, because it can be set to act like Windows 95- Windows 7 (also known as pretty much the Mac user interface with just enough differences to win the look and feel lawsuit). There must have been a Windows 9, but I don't want to know about it.

Mom has ceased to use e-mail. The problem is that her AOL inbox is always full of spam. There oughta be a law, actually two.

update:3

update 2:4

1) By law, if there is an e-mail list, there must be a prominently displayed one-click unsubscribe button. It must appear before the body of the e-mail. It must be in the largest font used anywhere in the e-mail. I am here blogging because I am sick and tired of scrolling down to fine "unsubscribe" at the end of a long unsolicited e-mail. More importantly, it must be one click and your done. I have found that clicking unsubscribe often takes me to a page where I am invited to subscribe and if I just click through I am not unsubscribed. To unsubscribe I have to scroll down again. Also it not allowed to ask people why they unsubscribed.

The penalty should be $10 per violation. This will bankrupt all non compliant spammers. Justice Department or any user with a valid complaint can bring suit. If the suit is started by a harmed person, that person gets 10% of the fine for the public service. I mean don't members of Congress get spam ? I guess they also send a lot of spam, but they can exempt themselves from the law. 2) no more than 1000 unsolicited e-mails a year allowed. This is a limit on any entity which sends e-mails which is defined as the beneficial owner of the sending e-mail account. Spam does not have to be legal. Spam doesn't even have to be. We are bombarded with ads on the web all the time. Most are not spam e-mail and most don't create trouble. This is law 2, because I fear my mom accidentally subscribed to the spam mailing lists.

3) "no reply" e-mails are not allowed. The Postal Service will not deliver a letter without a return address. E-mail always includes the address of the sender. Many senders write "do not reply to this e-mail". That should be a civil offence and also a tort costing $1000 for every e-mail which contains that text or text to that effect. If someone sends an e-mail, that person should be required to consider replies. For example "don't e-mail me again" should be an order which must be obeyed, also if it is sent as a reply e--mail. Failure to obey such an instruction should cost $10,000 per infraction. If the e-mailers says it would be an extremely burdensome expense to hire people just to read replies to our e-mail, it should be politely explained to them that this is exactly the point. They should not be able to burden others with e-mail without being burdened by the replies. This one was almost too obvious to include (it is an update). I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to be able to reply to an e-mail which says "do not reply". I also think the reply should be "you now owe me $1000.00 credit my account number N at bank with routing number M (N and M not for blogger, because even though my bank has security which makes online banking impractical for me, kidz theze dayz probably know how to use those numbers to take my money). Sending an e-mail which includes the order "do not reply to this e-mail" is unacceptably rude and should be illegal. Why is it allowed

4) Unsubscription must be instant. If an e-mail is sent more than 137 milliseconds after the unsubscribe message was received, the sender must pay a fine of $1,000,000,000. It is perfectly possible to manage this these days. It is also possible to enforce this regulation. Be it so.

This post isn't supposed to be an anti Microsoft rant, but just one little paragraph. Their problem is that they make profits too easily. With Windows and Office, it's as if they patented the alphabet or Arabic numbers or something. They could just coast forever. But they won't. So they attempted to engulf the whole software industry, got nailed by the Justice Department and saved by the Supreme Court in the Microsoft relevant case of Bush V Gore. They aren't doing that any more (Bill Gates decided to fight viruses, bacteria and protazoans not people and so long as he focuses his ruthless determination on single celled organisms I support him). But they won't admit that they are just an intellectual property scam, so they keep "improving" their software making it worse and worse. This forces customers to learn how to use the new software which can't be as familiar as the old software, and so must be less user friendly (especially the "user friendly" aspects like remember that damn paper clip with eyes ?). Also it is slow. There is a race as the hardware gets better and better and the software gets worse and worse. I am quite sure this is deliberate (and logical). The latest software makes the latest hardware run so slowly that it is barely tolerable. So you can steal it and install it on your old computer, but you don't want to, because then your old computer is intolerably slow. The ancestor to the computer on which I am typing, which lived on this very desk, was killed by a (legal) upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. There is a law, call it More's law, that no matter how powerful the hardware gets, it always takes the same amount of time for personal computers to start up. Notice that it takes no time for smart phones to start up. Why ? OK also the format of say *.doc files is changed (unless people know about save as which most don't) so you need the latest applications to edit documents, so you need the latest operating system so Windows is rich. OK fine, make sure software runs only on new computers bought with Windows pre-installed. But please slow it down by using it to mine BitCoin for Microsoft or something and leave the user interface alone.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Has 21st century conservatism contributed anything useful at all ?

This is a question I haven't asked myself. I have long looked for reasonable and reasonably honest conservatives. It is frustrating, because I have found many, but few are still conservative. I don't want to get distracted from my distraction, but there is a pattern of me finding a conservative whom I consider reasonable, then that guy breaking with the conservative movement within a year.

The new topic is conservative ideas. The question is is there any conservative thought which is worth consideration and which they hadn't already written and said by 1900. I suppose this might be considered an unfair question, since I demand something new from a school centered on suspicion of the new. However, they have embraced many new and worthless ideas and proposals (see below) so I don't think I am being unfair.

This is a long very self indulgent post. It is twitter overload. I am going to

1) bring a twitter discussion over here

2) try to think of worthwhile 21st century conservative ideas.

3) try to think of worthwhile 21st century non conservative ideas (to be fair -- it might just be that my effort under 2 fails because of my ignorance or my interpretation of "worthwhile" and "2st century").

OK the twitter thread (which will make it painfully clear why I surfed over to blogger I mean "4.1/3" really ???).

It starts with this very interesting post on challenges to liberalism and liberals' responses.

Ross Douthat asked a constructive and interesting (implied) question

Ross Douthat @DouthatNYT

18h

The question I'm left with at the end of this interesting @zackbeauchamp crisis-of-liberalism survey is whether he thinks there's anything that liberalism can learn or drawn on from the *right* in order to survive and flourish anew:

I replied @robertwaldmann

obviously the reason you are left with that question is that neither he nor you can think of anything useful that anyone can learn from conservatives. The reason is that all alleged conservative insights have been disproven by massive evidence

In fact I challenge you. I suspect the answer will be to claim for conservatism universal values and widespread beliefs or to pretend that the only alternative to conservatism is something like Marxism. I say conservatism has the same epistemic standing as astrology.

Dilan Esper contributed reasonable thoughts aiming for constructive discussion. I want to thank Dilan Esper for being helpful and constructive. I fear my tone on twitter and here does not communicate my sincere appreciation of a good faith effort. Also MuchTL:DR , his effort confirms my prediction.

@dilanesper

9h

When you get away from electoral politics and into more abstract areas, I can think of some conservative ideas that have quite a lot of epistemic value.

E.g., the law of unintended consequences; foreign policy realism; the importance of developers in cities; etc.

I overflowed

Robert Waldmann @robertwaldmann

1/3)The law of unintended consequences has, I think, always been universally recognized (in theory often by people who ignore it). This is one of many examples of conservatives claiming as their own ideas which belong to everyone.

2/3) I have never understood what "foreign policy realism" means. I note that neoconservatives are conservatives too. I think realism vs whatever else is possible is a division among conservatives and non conservatives.

2.1/3) If there is a yes or no question, both conservatives and non conservatives are divided, and the correct answer is yes, that answer is not a contribution of conservatism to thought.

3/3) I agree you can't have decent housing without developers. Just look what a hell hole Singapore is. I think your point is that there are NIMBYs who argue against development because developers seek profit. Not all people who accept profit as non/theft are conservative.

4/3) I think we can agree that FDR was not a conservative. In foreign policy, he worked with Stalin and the Mafia. Realists have nothing to teach him. He also worked with profit seeking developers. He was a human being so he knew of the risk of unintended consequences.

4.1/3). Give me an explanation of what useful thought conservatives have contributed which does not imply that F Roosevelt was a conservative.

Also, My question here was about the 21st century conservative thought. "I guess this isn’t the place to ask for an indication of any useful contribution of 21st century conservatism, but I ask here too."

What has conservatism done for anyone in the past 19 years ?

Ooops I asked it only there and not on twitter. Anyway it's the question I address here.

To go on even longer on the twitter thread, I really think conservatives regularly claim that ideas, principles, and values which are widely to universally shared belong to conservatism. This is a form of the straw man argument. I think of Tom Lehrer on the folk song army "join the folk song army ... We're against poverty war and injustice/ unlike the rest of you squares". I note in passing that, for a penetrating critique of a fault of conservatives, I quote a liberal mocking other liberals and (above all) himself.

There can be unintended consequences is both totally obvious and also (if related at all) the definition of conservatism. Esper's first polite constructive effort to answer my question amounts to saying "you ask if conservatism has anything to offer which isn't obvious to non conservatives, well conservatism by definition, has something useful to offer to all those squares who think actions can only have their intended consequences"

That's better than "foreign policy realism" which is, as far as I can tell, a meaningless slogan roughly equally likely to be uttered by conservatives and non conservatives.

Finally the other defense of conservatism -- the claim that every non Leninist is conservative. The claim is that the quest for profits is not always harmful, that profit seeking entities can sometimes do something useful, that we should make peace with at least some traces of capitalism. Hell really any non Stalinist as even Lenin accepted the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Here I think the issue is also a bit of motivated reasoning (OK interested error) where people who own homes and want to get a high price declare it is virtuous for them to attempt to block competitors and also people act as if they have a right not only to their own property but to everything else they want like nice views and plenty of parking and other people can just go live in tents (or suburbs). The point is that one doesn't have to be conservative to be YIMBY and it isn't true that only conservatives accept the quest for profit as sometimes tolerable.

I'd say the sincere effort consists of 3 thoughts which fall into 3 categories

1) "to claim for conservatism universal values and widespread beliefs"

2) two words (which together mean roughly nothing) the use of which has almost zero correlation with conservatism.

3) "to pretend that the only alternative to conservatism is something like Marxism."

OK useful conservative contributions to thought in the 21st century. I draw a blank.

Harmful conservative ideas. I will leave Trump out of it. The response of some conservatives to Trump has been dismal while others have bravely stated the obvious. In any case, I don't blame conservatism for Trump.

1. Social security partial privatization. This was a way to allow people to bear more risk and send lots of money to financial service providers. As widely perceived, it had no redeeming social value.

2. Medicare privatization. This builds on the 20th century conservative failure Medicare Advantage which served to privatize public money. It was based on contradictory promises that it was guaranteed to cost less and to provide at least as good insurance. This was a case of Paul Ryan ordering the tides to stop.

3. Privatizing the Veterans administration the VA. Here there was a VA scandal because the VA did not keep a promise that no other health care provider even makes. It was a scandal, because it was a matter of public and congressional interest because the VA is public. The VA ranks at the very top in patient satisfaction and estimates of outcomes. These are published facts which conservatives sincerely perceive as absurdities.

4. The deficit will eat your children. We are turning into Greece.

5. Deficits don't matter and/or tax cuts lead to higher revenues.

6. The Fed is degrading the currency. There will be high inflation maybe hyper inflation.

7. The limits on presidential power should be completely ignored 2001-2009, strictly enforced 2009-2016, and ignored 2017 - now.

8 Federalism and the Supreme Court should design Seattle school districts and well come on anyone who says "federalism" is bullshitting.

9 reform the tax code to introduce a distinction between business income (taxed at a low rate) and labot income disguised as business income (taxed at a high rate). I have to give them credit. It is very hard to make the US Tax code more messy than it was.

10 2001 is time for a "kinder gentler" SEC

11 Invade Iraq

12 Repeal Obamacare and figure out a replacement written in secret in McConnell's office but this isn't our plan it's just a placeholder to get to the conference committee which will write an excellent bill.

OH hell I am ignoring all space limits, but I just can't list all the horrible 21st century conservative ideas. Many were opposed by some conservatives. Many were supported by many non conservatives. Most have nothing to do with caution, respect for tradition or awareness of the risk of unintended consequences.

Good 21st century ideas

1) Hawaii hope. The idea is swift sure punishment works better than rare severe punishment. This is not a new idea, Cesare Beccaria made the argument in the 18th century. It is a new idea to test parolees with drug problems once a week and lock them up for a night if they fail (or skip) a test. It worked.

2 Also 24/7 sobriety.

3 Also grow your own marijuana laws.

That's 3 and I learned all of them from one non-conservative Mark Kleiman.

4) Moving to opportunity works. A 2oth century experiment but the proof only was collected in the 21st century.

5) access to birth control pills at ages 18-20 without parental permission makes a huge difference.

6) high rise public housing causes crime.

that's 3 more I learned from one non conservative Larry Katz.

7) higher minimum wages cause tiny to surprisingly signed effects on employment (started 20th century I guess)

8) low skilled immigration has small effects on the wages of the few domestic workers who aren't helped.

9) there sure isn't a labor demand curve see 7 and 8.

Those are all from Card and Krueger.

OK so I am getting to economists, but there are super genius conservative economists. Why do they waste their brains defending the indefensible.

Look I really really can't list good ideas of the 21st century. But there are many of them. I can't think of any which are in any way a fruit of conservatism. Really not one. I draw a blank.

Monday, September 09, 2019

I get Ruthless With David Leonard

David Leonard picks cherries in a generally good op-ed. I agree entirely with his general conclusion that Democrats should run a populist campaign (no triangulation -- he should have noted that Clinton ran on raising taxes on the rich and cutting taxes on the middle class in 1992 -- he was a populist before he was a triangulator). He also says don't talk about decriminalizing border crossing or eliminating private health insurance. I agree entirely. He relies on a Pew poll on issues. It is an interesting poll by a good pollster.

However, I think there should be a rule that any commentary on polls should consider all available still relevant polls. The norm of non data journalists writing about data is still to comment on one poll. This is nonsense. It is like election night coverage based on an interview with one voter. There is, I think, no excuse for looking at data other than averages of polls. I think fivethirtyeight.com can improve on the simple average, but that's not my current assertion. I am asserting that any commentatory must justify (to an editor not the readers) every decision to not consider every poll which is not considered.

I was triggered by this passage justified by three picked cherries.

Yet Democrats are frittering away their advantage — and damaging their image. Last fall, most Americans had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, according to the Pew Research Center. That makes sense, because Democrats ran a populist campaign in the 2018 midterms, focused on pocketbook issues that dominate many people’s lives, like wages and medical costs.

This year, the polling has flipped. Most Americans now have an unfavorable view of the party, no better than their view of the Republican Party. Likewise, slightly more voters say the “ideas being offered by the Democratic candidates” would hurt the country than say would help, according to the NPR poll.

I was surprised to learn how hard it was to find averages of party favorable ratings from 2019 (hard enough that I gave up anyway). The generic ballot shows a Democratic lead about the same as in 2018. The fivethirtyeight.com graph is based on dozens of polls. That't the way to do it. That's the only way which editors should allow. In fact, the highly anomalous party favorables in the Pew poll used by Leonard should have caused him to reconsider the issues polling. A crude but not pointless calculation would be to add 6.5% to medicare for all pro - M4a contra. Saying an anomalous number on party favorability adds to the evidence from issue polling is to say that all polls but the latest Pew poll (and a briefly mentioned NPR poll) are irrelevant.

I stress again that I agree 100% exactly with Leonard's conclusions and advice.

my comment cut and pasted 10:20 (I didn't guess it would take as long as 20 minutes to refute his claim

I agree with your conclusion. I'd add (as your colleague does today) that it is unwise to propose providing insurance to undocumented aliens (combining Medicare for really all and more than just a path to something good years from now for undocumented aliens). I happen to find myself in the minority which supports all three proposals. I also now that they are not going to happen -- fuhggedaboudit, and admitted one supports them helps Trump.

However, I consider the method of your argument to be unacceptable. You discuss one (1) recent poll [correction he discusses two (2) briefly mentioning the second] contrasting it with one (1) poll from 2018. This will not do, even though Pew is an excellent pollster. It passed as legitimate commentary way back in the 20th century, but people should not stick to the Silver standard.

I start the clock at 10:00 AM Rome time (4:00 AM in New york).

Pollingreport latest tweet is a link to this op-ed. Congratuationsl.

OK this is hard. I can't find an average of polls of Democratic party favorability past 2018 (what is wrong with the web). I was wrong. What I find is generic ballot polls going back to January 2019 with a graphed average going back to April. I see a stable Democratic lead of around 6% if anything growing slightly with latest 6.5%. In 2018 the Democrats won the popular vote by 8.6% (not strictly comparable) https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-generic-ballot-polls/?ex_cid=rrpromo

Your cherry picked number is highly misleading

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Sharp Wits

Twitter Overflow on Economics 101ism, The leader Massimo, and two cities.

This is a twitter overflow. It is the landing page of a link I put in a tweet, because I didn't feel like making a long twitter thread.

In case anyone just surfs here, I will try to explain the context below.

The Tweet

I haven't read the book, just a column. I think the elite embrace of economics 101 occurred throughout the rich world. Certainly including Massimo D'Alema (Italian Prime Minister raised as a communist). In any case,I recognise the type over here in Rome (not just in my home town)

A bit of really necessary context

The tweet is a reply to this tweet by Scott Winship @swinshi

Any explanation for slower US growth has to explain slowed growth THROUGHOUT THE RICH WORLD. But sure, economists and elites are THAT powerful and influential and homogeneous. The merging of progressives & national conservatives continues apace.

The book is "The Economists' Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society" by Binyamin Appelbaum

OK the overflow.

I think Winship claims that Applebaum just assumed that the whole rich world is similar to his circle of aquaintances. It seems to be the common claim that members of the coastal liberal establishment elite are out of touch.

I defend Applebaum. The ideology, movement, policy shifts and consequences he discusses are certainly all strong in continental Europe. I think there is extremely strong evidence that an elite which includes economists but mostly consists of non economists who respect economists and have a particular opinion of what economists say is exceedingly powerful influential and homogenous. It is definitely not just a US phenomenon.

I realize my thoughts are definitely too long for a tweet, I think too long for a tweet thread, and almost certainly much better expressed in the actual book. But I will now get to this blog post.

Explaining the tweet. First I was born in Washington DC. The ideology is often called neoliberalism or The Washington Consensus. I like Noah Smith's term Economics 101. Smith's point is that many non-economists think economics consists of the very simplest economic models which are now mainly used to introduce the subject to undergraduates (and now high school students including 2 of my nieces). He has a lot to say. I just googled Noah Smith Economics 101

Massimo D'Alema was Prime minister of Italy 1998-2000. He is the first ex-Communist Italian Prime Minister. I am showing my age by still thinking of him. He is an example which comes to my mind of a powerful, influential, and homogeneous elite. In particular, he hosted a summit of center left politicians including Clinton, Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder, Tony Blair, and (reluctantly attending) Lionel Jospin. This was a declaration of victory by the victors after the end of history (narrator: History didn't agree that it had ended). D'Alema is the son of a prominent Italian Communist. He was raised in the Communist Party as some of his contemporaries were raised in the Catholic Church. He remained loyal to the party when he was an undergraduate at the super elite Scuola Normale Superiore, where almost everyone else was way to the left of the party (think a Lyndon Johnson fan at Harvard in 1968 if you are even older than me).

A source tells me that, at another meeting this one of the post communist democratic party of the left, D'Alema said roughly (and in Italian -- he is very elite but not mutlilingual) that [Tony Blair is lucky, because Thatcher did what had to be done and then he could come in and take care of the wounded. We are going to have to do what has to be done ourselves.] (I use [] for paraphrases and in this case translations of vague memories).

So the first Italian Prime Minister coming from the Italian Communist Party explicitly presented Margaret Thatcher as a model to emulate. I wasn't there, I heard this second ha But I promise you, it wasn't surprising at the time. When a longtime loyal party member finally became prime minister, he was dedicated to privatization and deregulation.

"Neoliberalism" has two meanings on different sides of the Atlantic. In the USA it means "like Bill Clinton" or "typical of the Clinton administration and say the guys who wrote for "The New Republic" when Clinton was in office. In the rest of the world it refers to the extreme pro-market small government ideology. I am very very sad to say that the two meanings aren't all that different, because Clinton administration policies were far right by the standards of the rest of the world.

The Washington Consensus is a consensus of staffers (prominently including economists) at the IMF, the World Bank and the Clinton Treasury. A central figure is Larry Summers who went from chief economist at the world bank to first chairman of the National Economic Council under Bill Clinton.

I think the perfect expression of the ideology was found in "The Economist" He is one of many people who can confirm that there was an international elite which prominently included economists and which was convinced in the 1990s that it had found the answers, alll the answers. They were interested in, among other things, globalization, by which they meant economic globalization and especially the massive increase in trade in intermediate goods due to offshoring and the globalization of value added chains. I am pretty sure that they are willing to call themselves globalists (I sure am).

I'm sure Applebaum can defend himself, and does make a case in the book (which I haven't read).

I have a critique of the article which I have read. It is unfair to economists and to economics. Applebaum describes the economic theory which was extremely influential in the 1990s. It is economics 100, or rather really the first semester or so of economics 101. This tiny subset of economic theory (which has little to do with current academic research) the economy is described as a market where demand equals supply. Without regulation, markets in these models clear with demand equal to supply. This outcome is not so horrible that a policy maker can help everyone without one exception by intervening. The economics 101ism is an ideology which says that the answer to all policy questions can be found by assuming that these models describe the world and that an government intervention which helps all but one person and hurts that person a little is unacceptable.

So it has two components. First exceedingly strong positive assumptions about how the world works. These are testable (and overwhelmingly overwhelmingly rejected by the data). They include complete markets (if you want to bet that the temperature at a given address in Deluth will be between 73.2 and 73.3 degrees at 11:14 AM on March 14th 2023 you can) perfect competition (so if a store owner raised the unit price of a good by 1 cent then no one would buy it and if she cut it by one cent she would sell out instantly) and no externalities (so you don't care if I decide to end it all by releasing a ton of nerve gas) and symmetric information (so you know exactly how much I prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream, that is exactly how much more I would be willing to pay for a pint of chocolate than for a pint of Vanilla).

With all these absurd assumptions, one can reach an absurdly weak conclusion -- there is no intervention which helps everyone. The full 100% 200 proof economics 101 ideology concludes that this means that laissez faire (no government intervention except for protecting people and their property rights from violence) is the best policy.

This is insane. The actual ideology is that the models are useful approximations, and we will separately consider equity and Pareto efficiency and hem and haw, so in this case moving towards laissez faire is an improvement.

This is also a very weak argument, but it was strong enough to change the world.

However, even introductory economics courses go on to teach about imperfect competition, externalities, something about welfare economics other than the Pareto principle and maybe asymmetric informtion. They sure don't discuss what can happen if markets are incomplete (as they are). That involves hard math. I will try to explain it in plain English in another post. Also economic research is now mostly based on assessing the effects of policy by finding natural experiments (or even conducting actual experiments). It no longer relies on assuming that hypotheses which have been rejected by the data must therefore be useful approximations. Also members of the American Economic Association tend to favor more rather than less government intervention. Also there are no anti-Keynesians in foxholes.

So Applebaum is wrong wrong wrong about everything except about the power of a homogeneous international elite and its recent (now weakening) pro-market ideology.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

30 to 50 Feral Begbugs at the New York Times

This is here because it is totally not worth anyone's time. The actual topic is Bret Stephens (who is not, in fact, a bedbug -- rettore take notice).

Bedbugs are in the news.

Partly they are related to the 2019 G-7 in Biarritz and the US constitution. The connection is that Donald Trump suggested that the 2020 G-7 might be held at his Doral resort. This was a gross violation of Us constitution article I section 9 paragraph 8 "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." I think it is clear that Trump's statement is an impeachable offense. But, on topic, bedbugs are involved, because bedbugs have bitten people at Doral (allegedly in Today's Washington Post ). The final word is "The Trump Organization denied the allegation, without going into detail. It settled the case in 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Neal Hirschfeld, a Florida attorney who represented Linder in the bedbug lawsuit, said he could not comment Tuesday because the settlement included a confidentiality clause." Frankly, I actually think a Congressional investigation would be nice (officially on emoluments but also looking into the beds, because a President lying to the American People is a matter of public interest).

Also it is reported that there are bedbugs in the New York Times news room. That's the topic. David Karpf, A professor at George Washington University (GWU) tweeted that Bret Stephens is bedbug.

Stephens found the tweet (8 likes 0 retweets) and e-mailed a complaint CCing the Provost of GWU. I consider myself involved, because that's where I come from (I was delivered at GWU medical center some time ago). From this we learn a few things.

1) Bret Stephens is a rotten person. He tried to get someone in trouble over a silly joke.

2) Bret Stephens is an idiot. He has gotten himself in significant trouble and become a figure of extremely widespread mockery (my tweet is that he stepped in some Santorum there). He will not live this down. So far his Wikipedia article has been edited to identify him as a bedbug (no link probably edited back) also let me google.

3) Bret Stephens is an absurd hypocrite. He has a record of arguing that free speech means freedom to offend or it means nothing.

4) Stephens appeared on MSNBC and claimed that Bret Stephens was asked about the Bedbug controversy on MSNBC by @ChrisJansing

Bret says he wasn’t trying to get @davekarpf in any professional trouble when he copied his provost on the email he sent him.

https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/bret-stephens-explains-bedbug-controversy-why-he-quit-twitter-67545157765

This shows that Bret Stephens is an absolutely shameless liar. Obviously the only reason to cc someone's boss is to try to get him in professional trouble (note Karpf isn't the one in professional trouble now)

5) Bret Stephens is an idiot. He could have said he lost his temper and made a mistake. Instead he lied in a manner which insults not only the intelligence of NY Times readers, but also National Enquirer readers not to mention "Hop on Pop" readers who haven't moved up to the more advanced Dr Seuss books yet (npt subtitle "The Simplest Seuss for youngest use").

I think there is only one reasonable response to the recent events. I think 'Stephens should be fired. ccing a provost over a tweet is quite bad for someone who claims to defend free speech. The blatant lie means his claims of fact are not reliable enough to publish him on the Op-ed pagesm where people can exoress their own opinions but not their own facts.

But why the hell was he ever hired in the first place ?

I think I know the answer. New opinion editor James Bennet decided that the pages needed more balance and that 2 token conservatives aren't enough. So he decided to hire two more. He wasn't willing to publish someone who makes absurd arguments, such as claiming that Trump is qualified to be President. So he had to find 2 anti Trump conservatives who can write in complete paragraphs. Since no more than 5% of the population is anti Trump and conservative, this is a bit of a challenge (actually not really says Rick Wilson). Now the idea that balanced representation of the range of opinions means that 5% of the population are under represented by only 2 columnists at the New York Times is idiotic, but I still haven't explained why Stephens was hired, given the substantial set of never Trump conservatives who can write complete paragraphs and aren't lying idiots.

Stephens was hired from the Wall Street Journal opinion pages. Now that's it. IT makes sense for the Times to poach from the Journal (and the Washington Post). One might be irritated at the importance of an elite club of journalists at top papers, but that is part of a general pattern of elites in all fields in all places at all times. The problem is that, by association with the news pages,the Wall Street Journal opinion section is respectable and even elite.

They are also a gang of extremist lunatics. It ranks somewhere on the range from National Review to Quillette. People are hired because they are absolutely reliable ideologues (who can write in complete paragraphs). Gwyneth Paltrow is also elite, but no one trusts her equally respectable thoughts on Medicine as much as the absurd nonsense written about economics on the Journal's opinion pages.

Seeking Stephens views on free speech is as sensible as seeking Dinesh D'Sousa's views on US history and academic historiography. Only an idiot would do that.

OK back to the broader topic. Must opinion editors hire conservatives. It is absolutely 100% clear that they think they should in order to achieve balance. They do not claim to hire the best columnist available. Nor do they claim to hire only excellent columnists which will add a new perspective (it's 4 rather than 2 never Trump conservatives not 1 rather than zero). There is some idea that the opinions should reflect some distribution of opinions.

To show that I can't write in complete paragraphs, I explain. One hypothetical criterion might be choosing based on originality, judgment, reliability and thought provocation. That's not the stated policy. Another might be to seek a variety of views so that, even if not everyone can be satisfied, at least everyone can be dissatisfied. That isn't the policy either. Astrologers aren't welcome. Nor are anti-vaxxers. Global warming deniers are welcome. Creation scientists aren't. The body of evidence is similar in all four cases. It isn't enough that a view be different from the others. It can't be completely crazy.

But the criterion isn't also correspondence to public opinion revealed by polls. The opinion pages are dominated by people who support "entitlement reform" who belong to a tiny minority of the population.

I am ruling things out. It isn't we need more conservatives, because our readers have never been exposed to conservative thought (4 not 1). It's not we need a broad variety of opinions (Leninists and Islamic fundamentalists are not welcome). It isn't the distribution of views on this page should be similar to the distribution in the population (US world, New York whatever).

I think the aim is balance not variety and not simply excellence. I think the definition of balance is corresponding roughly to votes in Congress. Both sides means both major parties. I think on many issues this means balancing on the one hand the evidence and public opinion and, on the other, the preferences of a few extremely rich men. On many big issues, the Democratic party is on the right wing of public opinion and the Republican party is off the scale. On many scientific issues, the Republican position is a fringe view among the experts.

I think the decision is to speak power to truth. The GOP is powerful, so GOP arguments must be presented and taken seriously even if they fly in the face of massive evidence and are generally rejected by ordinary people.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Comment on Drum commenting on Warren

Drum has a good skeptical post on Warren

Elizabeth Warren and the Slow Boring of Hard Boards

which includes "The story provides a pretty good look at Warren’s distinctive combination of tenaciousness, policy chops, and grassroots support, but it’s not clear to me how well her style would translate into being a good president."

"That leaves tenaciousness, which I have no argument about."

and

"For the time being, the best theory of change is the good old slow boring of hard boards."

It seems to me very clear to Drum how well her style would translate into being a good President.

My comment

Yes "theory of change" is a buzz phrase. Also just after writing that you aren't taken with obsessing over a candidate's theory of change, you show you are, in fact, so taken. The candidate isn't Warren, it is Sanders. You reject Sanders's theory of change, advocating for the alternative (previously known as Clinton's theory of change).

One very key issue. Drum theory of change

You want a real theory of change? Here it is: build up enough public support for your cause that you can win the presidency along with a 300+ majority in the House and a comfortable filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That’s pretty much it. Tedious outrage about “incipient fascism” aside, the United States is still a democracy.

Which two words don't fit well together ? Democracy does not imply filibuster. The USA is the only Democracy in which filibusters are important. Another theory of change is presidency, 235+ in the house and 51 votes in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster. That is Warren's theory of change. It's a lot more plausible than 60 votes in the Senate. Also the 300+ in the House is just nonsense. The House made no trouble for Obama, Clinton or, even Jimmy Carter himself. The current majority is plenty. The problems are getting 1 more President, 4 more senators and convincing Democratic Senators to eliminate the filibuster. That requires a candidate determined to fight to eliminate the filibuster. We have one such candidate. One is enough.

Eliminating the filibuster is a necessary part of any change, theory of change, and practice of change. Anyone who says otherwise (see Sanders & Biden) is bullshitting.

Oddly you phrase your post as Warren skepticism (contrarian much ? I suppose there has to be at least one Warren skeptical liberal wonk -- a dirty rotten job but no one else seems willing to do it). But your point is that tenacity is required, and, lo and behold, you agree she's got it.

OK so the other two topics. I'd agree that Presidents should rely on experts. The real menaces are those who think they know more than the experts, or that knowledge doesn't matter (see Trump, Donald; Bush George W; & Reagan, Ronald). However, note that all Presidents who have actually been able to make use of experts are almost incredibly knowledgeable. At least that's the way things have been since I turned 18 (in 1978).

The problem is that one has to know a lot, and be very smart, in order to tell which of the people who claim to be experts really are useful experts. Note I snuck in "useful". Linus Pauling was very expert on physics, chemistry, and biology, but he wasn't a useful expert, because he was crazy. You want rock solid proof that HIV causes AIDS then you want to use PCR, but Casey Mullin, who developed PCS, declared that HIV didn't cause AIDS because he hadn't kept up with the literature and didn't know what he didn't know. I think one needs extraordinary knowledge and brain power in order to follow and judge debates between experts.

Let me try to name a President who did a good job without being absurdly knowledgeable and smart.

Trump: Total disaster

Obama: absurdly knowledgeable and smart

Bush Jr: totaler disaster

Clinton: Absolutely amazingly absurdly knowledgeable and smart. Has fallen for fake experts (Ira Magaziner, Dick Morris, Mark Penn)

Bush Sr: Not super smart, had huge foreign policy experience. Candidate exception. not re-elected

Reagan; I guess he is commonly presented as an example of a great President who know almost nothing, but he not, I trust, here. Laffer is the number one case of a fake expert and Laffer, Reagan, Kemp, Roth is the number one example of how dumb ignorant policymakers can make a mess of things.

Carter: very smart ultra nerd. Fell for a fake expert (Patrick Caldwell). Not reelected

Ford: Fine if you want to ally with South Africa (Kissinger policy on Angola)

Nixon: very smart, knowledgeable and evil (an extremely un-useful expert)

Johnson: Ver smart knowledgeable and overdosed on testosterone. An extremely violent expert.

Kennedy: trusted the best and the brightest. How did that work out ?

Eisenhower: Candidate for not super smart (top honors at West Point but so ?) and good at the job. Need to overlook repeated severe recessions and assault on Democracy in Iran and Guatemala but it's not as if anything has gone wrong in either country since then

Truman another candidate excellent non expert president

FDR BINGO 2nd rate intellect 1st class character and confirms your theory of change.

I'd say the lesson of the past decades is that only wonks can protect themselves against fake experts and they only have a 50 50 chance.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The optics are as bad as they look

Dean "The Optics aren't as bad as they look" Baquet just confirmed that he actually doesn't do his job any more. He doesn't decide what is on the front page of the New York Times. He doesn't explain what he does (except force reporters to tone down their story on the Trump campaigns connections to Russia until it falsely asserted that the FBI had found no clear links *after* the FBI had obtained 2 FISC warrants based on probable cause to believe two Trump campaign employees (one of them campaign chairman) were foreign agents).

Look if he isn't willing to edit, maybe his job should be eliminated as he eliminated the public editor breaking a solemn promise to readers and destroying the paper's credibility which can only be restored if he is fired.

Also he presents a false dichotomy (an error of thought more common than any other error of thought or any valid method of thought). He asserts (without any evidence or logic) that the only choice of for the Times to continue to do what it has been doing or to act as the opposition to Trump.

He doesn't even consider the possiblity that it could act like a serious newspaper and not quote unreliable sources without fact checking (even if the demonstrably unreliable source happens to be President). He assumes that the most recent claims must be reported without noting the proof that they are lies. Basically his position is that the facts don't matter, or maybe that they must not be reported, because they have a liberal bias.

I think it is very important that Baquet be fired immediately.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Custody battles

I never expected that after the national divorce liberals would get custody of The CIA The FBI The NFL and the most profitable megacorporations. But at least the GOP has the assault rifles and the 30 to 50 feral hogs I don't even know who I should credit for the national divorce meme, but it's not original

Our purpose here is done

I think I have just found the ultimate abyss of idiocy https://twitter.com/PatrickRuffini/status/1158734571447435264?s=20 Patrick Ruffini @PatrickRuffini · 4h How many times have I gone into a bar hoping for a dependable selection of beers I can trust and instead being forced to choose this locally brewed artisanal nonsense (80% of which are IPAs which I detest) like it were Stalin’s Russia or Bernie’s America? So small profit seeking businesses stocking products which sell well and which don't fit my tastes or desire for all to consume what I like are Stalinist ? If anyone can find anything stupider ever written (in any language using any alphabet or hieroglyphs) please paste it in comments.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

nomoremisterniceblog almost states the bitter truth, but he's too nice to tell us what fools we are.

he wrote

I don't want to relitigate the McGovern and Mondale campaigns, but Dukakis? "Free everything and impossible promises" weren't what defeated him.

my comment

I want to relitigate events of 1984, which Delaney has sent down the memory hole. Mondale was not hammered because he made promises he couldn't keep. He said he was going to talk to us like grownups. He said he was going to increase taxes (but not increase taxes on families with income under $ 30000 which would be about 60000 now with inflation).

So the people of the USA had to choose between a serious guy who told us the truth and the guy who promised that lower taxes meant higher revenues. It is obvious that most voted for Reagan who made absurd promises which he obviously couldn't keep.

Now there have been Democratic candidates who promised to reduce the deficit and reduce taxes on most families -- Clinton and Obama '-- exactly the two non incumbent Democrats who won when the Income tax was constitutional and the top rate was under 55%. Obama also actually delivered (not that many people noticed) while Clinton was suddenly (not permanently) unpopular when Rubin convinced him we couldn't afford a middle class tax cut.

Unlike her husband, Hillary Clinton was honest about budgetary and political limits. Unlike his wife, Bill Clinton was elected President.

The lesson is simple. Don't treat the US public like adults. Do make promises, including some you can't keep. The data are clear. Anyone who lives in the real world knows this. Only dreamers like Delaney, Dukakis, Mondale, Gore think you can win as the speaker of inconvenient truths.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Belle Waring on Autistic Perverts

Comments are closed on this post. I think it is an average Belle Waring post. I am going to comment here. But first I want to discuss the secret (perhaps harmless) invasion of privacy. When I see a young,good looking, energetic, dynamic, positive happy young couple, I often think of what a great time they must have in bed. Is that mental peeping ? Doesn't matter can't help it. But reading Crooked Timber I experience another case of possible undetectable invasion of privacy. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Waring/Holbo residence. Just think of the conversations they have. And a pony. Anyway, the post includes a description of being stalked. The point is someone argued that an autistic man with a PhD in psychology couldn't have the mens rea to be guilty of possessing child pornography. I want to go off on mens rea (criminal intent -- I can't spell in English and my Latin spelling is correct only by pure chance). It makes a lot of sense if one things the purpose of the justice system is retribution. Some if you think of deterrence. Very little if you think of incapacitation as I do. I believe in locking people up mostly if it is the only way to prevent them from committing crimes (then staffing prisons adequately so they don't commit and be victims of crime while in prison). I consider prison to be collective self defense, not as extreme as war but justified only by need. I also think the idea of retribution is very important to most other people and shapes the justice system. "Justice was done" is a statement about proper retribution. This is highly relevant to the principle that defendents can be not guilty for reason of insanity. An violent insane person is very dangerous (and very rare -- most psychotics are not violent, quite likely to be victims of crimes and not at all likely to commit them). But not really to blame and not a proper subject for retribution. I would prefer a third verdict, guilty and insane (that is insanity as a extenuating factor implying that the proper sentence does not include prison time). I think this is important, because if insane people can't be incarcerated when they do unacceptably violent things which would be crimes with the usual mens rea, then there must be some way to incarcerate them in a residential care facility if they are a danger to themselves or others. Criminal liability makes us free. It means we can do anything which isn't clearly banned by a published law (our responsibility to do due diligence on what is legal -- ignorance of the law is no excuse). If people are protected from criminal liability, they are protected from having the right to do anything which is not specifically forbidden. It's wrong. It is different in non-anglophone countries. It should be changed. People who harm others with no ill intent are dangerous. Collective self defense may require incarceration (in a mental hospital). However, they should have the right to a trial by jury as they are human beings and have human rights. The identification of justice and retribution has made a mess of things, as usual.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Some Atheist Theology

I hope and trust that this won't convince any religious people. I wouldn't want to do that. But I do trust it won't.

This is from a comment thread. I am responding to Dale Coberly who wrote

God may or may not exist. I have no way of knowing. But the existence of evil in the world is not evidence either way. The whole story of Jesus, I think, is meant to illustrate the point that God permits evil to happen to good people but that is not the end of the story. If nothing else, it helps people to not despair when evil happens to them. I would not take that away from them. A good deal more important to them than a rise in GDP.

I don’t want to argue with you either, but I did not mention the existence of evil. I discussed natural disasters. Augustine can argue that only agents with free will can have souls, so God must accept a world with evil. Omnipotence does not mean ability to overrule a logical contradiction. I disagree in many ways (explained below* no character limit in comment threads (or personal blogs))

But that wasn’t my argument. I was discussing natural disasters. The evil, if any, is committed by the tectonic plates which shift. Now I don’t claim this proves there is no God. I can’t help claiming that this proves there is no benevolent God.

Or take the story of Jesus (Jesus’s version). In that story, Jesus isn’t an aspect of God but a son of God (notably so is everyone else, in the gospels Jesus never hinted that he was God or a god of a new pagan faith). He must suffer horribly as a scapegoat.

If true, this story would prove that there is not a benevolent omnipotent God. Either God can’t let people into heaven unless Jesus suffers on the Cross (so He is not omnipotent) or he chooses not to (so he is not benevolent and demands suffering of the innocent). If true, the gospels would prove that there is not a benevolent omnipotent God.

Now this is all very simple. Obvious even. The fact that Christian doctrine is full of logical contradictions (I haven’t mentioned that 3>1) has been declared by extremely smart people to be proof that it is a higher more glorious truth than we mere mortals can understand. Faith can trump logic and evidence. It clearly has in this case.

Contra Augustine. I don’t believe we have souls in the sense he used the word (immortal souls) so I disagree fundamentally. But I also don’t agree that we have free will. I think our actions are determined by the laws of physics or truly random as asserted by the laws of physics. The causation can’t start with us. In any case, I don’t believe in human free will. But finally, he is talking about evil not un-necessary suffering. That wasn’t my topic at all.

Now you say that religious belief is a very good thing (even if the beliefs do not correspond to reality). I agree entirely. Not being a Christian I disagree with his claim that the truth will set us free. It’s just the truth and sometimes it’s better to believe other things. Fine. Agreed. Religion can be a very good thing and often is. Something to be cherished. But it is also false.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Milton Friedman and the Keynesians Not an Old English Folk Tale

I wrote a post with this title which is poor, solitary, nasty, and long.

the bottom line is I say Friedman was always a Keynesian except for his insistence that the effect of the nominal interest rate on money demand is more or less pretty much negligible. This means that I argue that he differed from Keynes because he was a monetarist. In the 80s the difference between monetarists and Keynesians (which always was a matter of a paremeter estimate and not any fundamental disagreement) was dwarfed by the difference between them and the fresh water new classical ratexians. But the point, if any of the rant is that Friedman is determined not to be trapped among the Keynesians and that he bases his efforts fundamentally on the importance of i.

The failed aim was to introduce the following modified children's story in which an innocent red hen which happens to be red is rejected by red haters who can't admit that they agree with non conservatives. This post is very pointless too (Especially to people not told the story when they were children).

“Who will prime the pump?”

But Friedman said, “Not i,”

she ran about calling briskly: “Who will cut the tax?”

Friedman said, “Not i,”

“Who will press demand?”

But Freidman, with a grunt, said, “Not i,”

“Who will demand the Wheat on the market to be sold?”

Turning his back with snippy glee, Friedman said, “Not i,”

“Who will make some bread?”

Milt said "Not i"

Milton Friedman and the Keynesians

Brad DeLong noted that new Keynesians are actually Friedmanites. On all points where 1960s Keynesians disagreed with Friedman, they concede. The fusion of Keynesians and Monetarists would seem odd to anyone who can't conceive of real business cycle theory (really anyone who can't conceive of a human being taking real busines cycle theory seriously, that is, all normal human beings and most economists). Paul Krugman notes a return of Paleo Keynesians. Then discuses it more.

By the way, Krugman's link to DeLong doesn't work any more The Washington Center for Equitable Growth returns a 404 error. I went to Krugman to get the link to Brad, noted Krugman said brilliant things (no surprise) *and* that his link is rotten (that's news).

I'm going to get to the point soon but I have to discuss Krugman now.

Oh boy this introduction ran away from me. I am going to put the whole rant after the jump. the bottom line is I say Friedman was always a Keynesian except for his insistence that the effect of the nominal interest rate on money demand is more or less pretty much negligible. This means that I argue that he differed from Keynes because he was a monetarist. In the 80s the difference between monetarists and Keynesians (which always was a matter of a paremeter estimate and not any fundamental disagreement) was dwarfed by the difference between them and the fresh water new classical ratexians. But the point, if any of the rant is that Friedman is determined not to be trapped among the Keynesians and that he bases his efforts fundamentally on the importance of i.