Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More on Marshall on the debate.

Like Matt Yglesias, I was impressed with this argument from Marshall

But another point -- diplomacy is a tactic, not a strategy. Our whole strategy is wrong in the region. Leaving more time for the diplomatic phase of the policy just delays getting to where the policy is taking us: full-scale war with Iran.


So true. During the Iraq debate the relatively dovish position was to ask for more time before invading. Once you get to that point, the serious debate is over.

I would add that, diplomacy involves, you know, talking to people and just being willing to talk is not good enough if you haven't decided what to say. Iran is not going to close Natanz just because we ask nicely. We have to offer them something in exchange for their to be any point to diplomacy.

It would be unwise for a candidate to negotiate with Tim Russert, so there isn't anything they could do to reassure me. I'll just give one hint. Threatening Ahmedinijad that we will bomb is like threatening briar rabbit with the briar patch.

US bombing is his only hope for re-election.
Obama vs the Bloggers II

Josh Marshall writes

10:07 PM ... This is more a policy point than a political point. But all sorts of people say that it gets harder to work on Social Security the longer we wait. I don't think that's true. If you raised the cap now, before there's even any drawing down on the Trust Fund, all it would do would be to subsidize upper income tax cuts. I know that requires some more explanation. I'll try to address it in a post tomorrow.


Robert Waldmann replies "huh". Raising the cap would be, among other things, an upper income tax increase (if it were raised enough). I would also be an upper middle income tax increase.

Marshall seems to be arguing that a better tax increase would be more progressive. I don't see why he thinks that we need a big deficit to enable congress to raise taxes on rich people. Has he noticed the bill introduced by Charles Rangel which is revenue neutral and hammers the rich ?

I think that separating the debate about tax progressivity from the debate about the total tax take would be great for Democrats. Roughly, I think the Democrats can cripple the Republican party for decades if they first find the money to fund health insurance for all and get the deficit down to a level they find tolerable and then cut taxes on the lower 99% and raise them on the top 1%. Extensive polling data suggest that revenue neutral increases in progressivity are likely to be hugely popular. Unfortunately, the Republicans can bamboozle people about what the Democrats are up to so long as part of what the Democrats are doing is increasing total tax revenue.

Many people were convinced that the (Bill) Clinton approach of balancing the budget with almost all of the cost born by the richest 1 or 2 % involved increasing their taxes.

The deficit (and increased spending) are both barriers to a clean undeniable soak the rich class war. I think that any tax increase supported by the majority of voters (like raising the cap) is a step towards the pale pink dawn of a progressive tax system.
Panel Attrition and Rudolf Giuliani

Julie Bosman calls Giuliani on one of his false claims in The New York Times. In fact she does the blogosphere one better.

“I had prostate cancer five, six years ago,” Mr. Giuliani, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a speech that has been turned into the radio commercial. “My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and, thank God, I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent. My chance of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent under socialized medicine.”

Mr. Giuliani’s Democratic rivals would argue that they are not advocating government-run health care in their plans to extend coverage to the uninsured. But, beyond that, the 44 percent figure that Mr. Giuliani has been citing is in dispute.

The Office for National Statistics in Britain says the five-year survival rate from prostate cancer there is 74.4 percent. ”


So how did Giuliani get the 44 % number ? He was quoting someone who claimed to obtain survival rates

by calculating a five-year survival rate based on data on prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates in the United States and Britain.

“Five-year survival rates cannot be calculated from incidence and mortality rates, as any good epidemiologist knows,” the group [the comonwealth fund] said in a statement.


Why not ? Can't you tell the probability that people in the US survive prostate cancer by diagnoses minus deaths divided by diagnoses ? Sadly no. Very sadly, in fact, because there is a third possibility other than survival for five years after diagnoses and death from prostate cancer -- death from something else.

Even with no treatment at all, diagnosing early stage prostate cancer in elderly people will imply many diagnoses followed by deaths from other causes.

As noted by Kevin Drum, the US experience with prostate cancer is actually worse than the UK experience. Death rates are the same. A cancer diagnosis is a horrible experience. Cancer treatment is horrible. The Diagnoses of cancers which will not kill the patient is a cost a very heavy cost.

As noted by Bosman and dozens of bloggers, the case of prostate cancer is, in fact, an argument against the health care plans presented by the Democrats. The vast majority of US residents with prostate cancer are covered by medicare when they are diagnosed and treated. The Democrats essentially plan to extend such coverage to more people. They do not plan a system of publicly employed physicians as in the US. Thus they will not protect us from over energetic doctors who tell us things we don't want or have to know.

So Giuliani is presenting an argument which is based on a totally false claim of fact and which would, if true, imply that his opponents proposed plans are ideal.

What makes me sure that he will gain votes this way ?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Read the words of Chairman Charles Rangel and Hope
I just watched the Obama ad about Social Security and I disagree with the left wonkosphere. The ad has been widely criticized for asserting that there is a problem with social security which requires reform.

I note the text which flashed on the screen IIRC

1. protect benefits
2: no privatization
3: eliminate the FICA ceiling (I don't remember the exact words).

Roughly he said change nothing except increase taxes on richer people. I agree very strongly with Obama about his proposals. I suspect that the bloggers who criticized the ad do too. Also, back in the day, polls showed a solid majority of Americans in favor.

Note the same tax funds medicare which does have a problem (different ceiling but still a ceiling).

Note that the damaging effects of a budget deficit are the same whether or not the social security trust fund is in actuarial balance.

Finally remember Obama is talking about what he would do if he were elected President. In 2005 the Democrats were so weak that all they could do is block change or allow Republicans to do what they wanted. A newly elected President Obama has no need to be in a defensive crouch.

I think that lefty wonkobloggers have a Pavlovian response to the words "social security".

I tried to find the transcript of what Obama said and only watched the ad, because the link was prominent at an Obama site to which google sent me. My defense of the ad is based on text which appeared on the screen, not on what he said in the ad. I wonder if critics have relied on a transcript of what he said (as I would have if I had found it). I would have objected to an ad without the text outlining a policy proposal.
Congressional Hearings Would be the Dark Side of the Farce

John Cole discovers who has been hacking Colonel Boyland's computer - Yoda.

I got 9 out of 10 in the who said it Yoda or Boyland quiz and I have only seen each Star Wars movie once (I have been reading Boylands possibly hacked correspondence avidly).

In well over his head he is.
Blind Squirrel finds acorn
Congressman Waxman to the white courtesy phone

Time for some hearings on MNF-I cybersecurity.

Col. Steven A. Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer and personal spokesman for Gen. David G. Petraeus, claimed that he did not send an e-mail with his address as return address . The e-mail was received by Glenn Greenwald from an MNF-I IP address.
"Peter Boothe, a PhD student in the University of Oregon Computer Science Department, specializing in Internet topology, has published an analysis of the email tracking information and "conclude[d] that these two emails [the "fake" one and the real one] were written by the same person. Or, someone has hacked into the military infrastructure in an effort to discredit this one Colonel by sending cranky emails to bloggers. But one of the two, certainly."


Thus it seems that there is evidence that someone can hack into the military infrastructure. In a follow up post Greenwald explains how alarming this possibility is "If someone really is able to replicate emails from high-ranking military officials in Iraq, think about what a serious breach that is. Can the fabricators also send emails to commanders in the field or to political decision-makers in Washington?"

Seems to me that congress should investigate this risk. If MNF-I assures the committee that their servers are secure and that it is all a false alarme, because Boyland himself wrote the e-mail, Boyland can be held responsible for wasting the committee's time.

I smell blood in the water.

The take home lesson is don't mess with Glenn Greewald, ever.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ouch

I remember when the Patriots did not have a quaterback who could actually, you know, throw the ball (literally true).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I assume this is a joke right ?

The alleged Family Security Matters list of the 10 most dangerous organizations in America is a rant written by Jason Rantz (bit obvious no) which contains the immortal line

"It’s hard to believe a group like this still exists. The League of the South is a sexist and racist group of Southerners who call for the cessation of the South.


It seems that the League of the South agrees with Mr Rantz that they, their neighbors and well everyone sould of the Mason Dixon line should cease to exist. Heyyyy my mom and dad live south of the Mason Dixon line !

Would be dangerous if they learned how to spell (the league that is, my mom and dad know how to spell, they just never taught me).

Over at Sadly No! Jillian is pretending to believe it's for real.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What the Fool is this ?

Lord Fool a Duck, that shrill prof Krugman misquotes Atrios deliberately

"And we still haven’t come to terms with what happened. As Atrios doesn’t quite put it, those who were right during the years of madness are still considered dirty foolish hippies by respectable opinion."

What a fooling wimp or does he have to follow the mother fooling Times style guide on his fooling blog ?

From now on I will refer to Jonathan (fuck Brad DeLong) Weisman as Jonathan (fool) Weisman.
There Morals and Ours

Rudolf Giuliani thinks that whether or not waterboarding is torture depends on who does it saying "It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."

I have nothing to add except the title of this post which is a title of an essay by Leon Trotsky who agreed with Rudolf Giuliani that it depends on who does it. The essay remains interesting as Trotsky was frank about his beliefs and absolutely sincere, the essay was dedicated to his apolitical son who had recently been put to death on Stalin's orders.

I'm pretty sure it's a coincidence that Giuliani gets advice from ex-Trotskyites.
RAND study III

I have more thoughts on the 1970s RAND corporation study on the effects of health insurance copayments on demand for care and on health outcomes.

I haven't actually read the report of the study.

RAND found a dramatic effect of copayments on demand for health care. The experiment differs from actual policy proposals because the RAND insurance plans lasted 5 years not forever. I wonder if people covered by the plans with copayments delayed care, that is if they had higher demand for care after the study ended than those with full insurance.

The effects of a permanent plan with copayments should be less than the effect, during the period of the plan, of a temporary plan with copayments. By delaying an intervention, the participants could avoid, not just delay, the copayment. RAND would consider this the elimination of a health care cost, not just a delay.

It is easy to see if this is a problem, because it depends on time until the end of the experiment. If the reduction in health care demand became larger as the end of the experiment approached, RAND has another problem.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This is, if not the beginning of the end, at least the end of the beginning* of the great American class war.

The House's top Democratic tax writer on Thursday unveiled a $1 trillion plan to repeal the alternative minimum tax and lower the tax burden of most lower- and middle-income people.

The proposal would be paid for by requiring the wealthy and some corporations and investors to contribute more.


Until now, only the super rich class has been fighting. Now the remaining 99.6 % are fighting back**.


* so far a quote of Whinston Churchill in December 1941 he was either commenting on US entry in the war or the first great Soviet counter offensive. Of course, I mean to imply that the US is finally entering the war against inequality and not that Charlie Rangel is the Stalin of our times.

**the 99.6% calculation is based on crude linear interpretation of numbers on table B3 of the spreadsheet one click away from the web page of the Marquis di Lafayette of our times.
Kevin Drum asks an interesting question (as usual)

He notes this fact in an LA Times article

In one of the most politically significant results, the poll finds that independents and moderates were generally lining up with Democrats in the healthcare debate.

The survey also suggested an explanation for the emerging alignment: Independents were most likely to complain about "job lock" — the view that they are stuck in jobs they don't like solely because of health benefits. In all, 20% of independents said they or someone in their household were forced to stay in a job because it provided healthcare, compared with 13% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans.



and asks

"Why, after all, should political independents suffer from it (job lock) more than Democrats or Republicans?"

I have two candidate answers. Independents are young and, job lock or no job lock, people eventually find a job they like or learn to accept the job they have.

So is it true that young people are more likely to declare themselves to be independents ? I asked the great gazoogle you said "sure dum dumb"

The sum of self declared Republicans and Democrats increases monotonically with age.

Are young workers more likely to stay with an employer who offers health insurance all else given (not "job lock" but the closest one can get with easily available data) ?

The gazoogle sends me to a pdf which says yes (search for age and remember to check the box for "whole words only" or else you will find that articles on health insurance include many many instances of the word "coverage").

So some of the higher level of "job lock" among independents is explained. Multiplying give a number of something like -- obviously tiny you innumerate idiot.
(recall recent discussions of how "positively correlated with" is really really far from "the same as" at the oversigned dumb dumb's blog).

OK how about this. Self declared independents are people who value their independence The Rove assault on, well everything, may have been triggered by the accurate observation that Democratic leaning independents are as likely to vote for Democrats as self proclaimed Democrats and ditto for Republicans.

People who value their independence don't like the fact that they are locked into their jobs so they complain about "job lock" more even though Democrats and Republicans are locked in too. The job lock data refers to a subjective assessment which is related to suffering from being locked in not just being locked in (I'm locked in to my job which I love).

I mean the explanation might just be that independents like to be independent.
Positively K Street

Jonathan (f*ck Brad DeLong) Weisman has a major major puff piece on Henry Waxman

I agree with everything he wrote, but hey I'm neither fair nor balanced. The admittedly unbalanced Robert Waldmann is very very pleased to read the article.

As far as I can tell Weisman is worse than worthless as a journalist, but he is an excellent weather vane.

He has demonstrated his willingness to betray every principle to get on the side that's winning and seems to have decided that, John Rockefeller notwithstanding, the Democrats are not going to find a way to blow this one.
I am not disappointed by the latest Washington Post Fact Check

It is no longer possible for the WAPO fact check to disappoint me.

In fact I am trying to be amused

The headline Pinocchio Time for Al Gore is remarkably bold as it might remind people of the "pinocchio vs dumbo" storyline for the 2000 elections and lead them to ask how honest dumbo has turned out to be.

The first exibit to support the claim that Gore makes false claims of fact is, of course, a quote of a false statement by KALEE KREIDER. The emminent fact checkers seem to have overlooked the irrelevant fact that Kalee Kreider and Albert Gore are, in fact, two different people.

Also the evacuation of Tuvalu is not yet complete so global warming has not yet wiped an entire country off the map (literally) so what's the big deal.

The important point is that Gore said "had to leave" not "have to leave".

Just wake me up when it's over (the Washington Post that is).
Non RANDom panel attrition update II (briefer version of update I)

Here
I enthuse about a criticism by John Nyman of a RAND study on the effect of copayments on demand for health care and health outcomes.

Still following in the footsteps of a kid half my age, I note that Ezra Klein notes that RAND has responded to the criticism with this pdf.

The RAND study was a genuine experiment in which participants were randomly assigned to complete coverage or one of 6 different plans with copayments. RAND concluded that demand for health care was reduced by copayments but found significant worsening of health outcomes only for some poor participants.

The original Nyman critic noted that participants with less generous programs were much more likely to switch back to their original insurance plans (as they were allowed to do). If sicker people did so, this could bias the result.

RAND attempted to follow the health outcomes of people who switched out of the experimental plans and has data on health outcomes of 77% of them. Thus the attrition problem is much smaller than I thought after reading Nyman's abstract (I would have had to pay to read his actual article).

I am very struck by the following paragraph in the reply

4. Moreover, Nyman’s speculation about a high degree of non-random attrition
is contradicted in work that is unpublished but also posted on Newhouse’s
home page. In this work Manning, Duan, and Keeler carried out additional
analyses of those who did not complete the Experiment. They concluded that
there was in fact a modest amount of non-random attrition, but that its effects,
if accounted for, would have left our conclusion that cost sharing reduced use
unchanged.


This is striking because there is no claim that accounting for non-random attrition would leave the conclusion that the health effects of reduced use of care due to copayments were negligible.

The web page is here

the *.pdf by Manning Duan and Keeler is the third article from the top on the web page.

I quote from Manning Duan and Keeler

"Dropouts were sicker on average at enrollment than those who stayed,"

The last statement is very very surprising in an article cited in a reply to the assertion that the vastly greater number of dropouts from the plans with copays biased up the average health status of people assigned to those plans.

In fact, the reply seems to be based on the argument that 77% = 100% which is not exactly true is it ?
Non RANDom panel attrition update

Here
I enthuse about a criticism by John Nyman of a RAND study on the effect of copayments on demand for health care and health outcomes.

Still following in the footsteps of a kid half my age, I note that Ezra Klein notes that RAND has responded to the criticism with this pdf.

The RAND study was a genuine experiment in which participants were randomly assigned to complete coverage or one of 6 different plans with copayments. RAND concluded that demand for health care was reduced by copayments but found significant worsening of health outcomes only for some poor participants.

The original Nyman critic noted that participants with less generous programs were much more likely to switch back to their original insurance plans (as they were allowed to do). If sicker people did so, this could bias the result.

RAND attempted to follow the health outcomes of people who switched out of the experimental plans and has data on health outcomes of 77% of them. Thus the attrition problem is much smaller than I thought after reading Nyman's abstract (I would have had to pay to read his actual article).

I don't understand the response on one point

"at the end of the
Experiment we were able to collect health status data on 77 percent of those
who had left the Experiment prematurely (85 percent of those who survived). "

I assume "survived" is meant in the normal sense as in "did not die". All participants who died while participating in the experiment were considered to have left the experiment prematurely. Death rates did not differ significantly across plans (the deaths were so rare that one wouldn't expect them too). From the response I can't figure out the death rates of people (if any) who left the financial part of the study, then died. This is an important number.


Just thought I should say that.

I am very struck by the following paragraph in the reply

4. Moreover, Nyman’s speculation about a high degree of non-random attrition
is contradicted in work that is unpublished but also posted on Newhouse’s
home page. In this work Manning, Duan, and Keeler carried out additional
analyses of those who did not complete the Experiment. They concluded that
there was in fact a modest amount of non-random attrition, but that its effects,
if accounted for, would have left our conclusion that cost sharing reduced use
unchanged.


This is striking because there is no claim that accounting for non-random attrition would leave the conclusion that the health effects of reduced use of care due to copayments were negligible.

The web page is here

the *.pdf by Manning Duan and Keeler is the third article from the top on the web page.

I quote from Manning Duan and Keeler

"we found that the dropouts
had significantly different rates of use, but that the magnitude of the difference was small."

"Dropouts were sicker on average at enrollment than those who stayed,"

The last statement is very very surprising in an article cited in a reply to the assertion that the vastly greater number of dropouts from the plans with copays biased up the average health status of people assigned to those plans.

In fact, the reply seems to be based on the argument that 77% = 100% which is not exactly true is it ?

Furthermore, it is not certain that the loss of information on the remaining 23% of dropouts was itself random. People who are hard to track may be less healthy than people who are easy to track.

The sign of the difference in care received by dropouts and continuing participants in the period before dropouts dropped out of the plans is surprising. In particular there was a significantly lower rate of inpatient care for participants in the "family plan" before they dropped out. Participants were paid a fee while they participated. I have a hypothesis. What if people with copays delayed going to the hospital for a while, even though they knew hospitalization was necessary, in order to collect the fee, then dropped out. People planning to stay in the program would have little incentive to do this as they would have to pay the copay eventually anyway. People planning to drop out would have a strong reason to delay care until they dropped out. Dealying hospitalizaion does not seem to me to be a good approach to saving on health care.
Non RANDom panel attrition update

Here
I enthuse about a criticism by John Nyman of a RAND study on the effect of copayments on demand for health care and health outcomes.

Still following in the footsteps of a kid half my age, I note that Ezra Klein notes that RAND has responded to the criticism with this pdf.

The RAND study was a genuine experiment in which participants were randomly assigned to complete coverage or one of 6 different plans with copayments. RAND concluded that demand for health care was reduced by copayments but found significant worsening of health outcomes only for some poor participants.

The original Nyman critic noted that participants with less generous programs were much more likely to switch back to their original insurance plans (as they were allowed to do). If sicker people did so, this could bias the result.

I have just begun to read the RAND reply but I have already learned that RAND attempted to follow the health outcomes of people who switched out of the experimental plans and has data on health outcomes of 77% of them compared to 85% of people who stuck with the plans. Thus the attrition problem is much smaller than I thought after reading Nyman's abstract (I would have had to pay his actual article).

Just thought I should say that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Matthew Yglesias writes

Greed is Good (In the Appropriate Context)

I would strongly, strongly, strongly caution liberals against making non-greediness some kind of core political virtue. There's a certain strand of self-regard, a shortsighted meanness of spirit and neglect of public purpose, that's incompatible with the spirit of modern egalitarian liberalism, but mostly the whole point of the enterprise is to convince people that liberalism will make you better off.


I go all metaethical on his ass

Greed is bad (but don't say it out loud)

You are arguing that liberals should not say that greed is a vice. Your point is that, while few people have Ivan Boesky levels of greed, most people would like to have more money and it is bad politics to insult most people.

This does not mean that greed is good (in the appropriate context) it means "We should say that greed is good in the appropriate context." which is a different statement from your title.

I don't think people can make something a virtue, political or otherwise. I think either non-greediness is a virtue or it is not (notice I believe in ontologically objective moral truth).
In particular, non greediness is a virtue ceteris paribus. I personally am to lazy to be greedy. This is not virtue, just another vice. People who are industrious and thrifty but not greedy are virtuous. The three traits can be reconciled with a budget constraint because they give money away.

All arguments that greed is good in some contexts are consistent with giving the proceeds away (Brad as usual wrote this better).

I would have to lie to say that the ideal person is greedy. I would be willing to lie for the cause, but since no one cares what I think, I'll just say greed is bad.
As Brad DeLong says, the Bush administration always proves to be worse than you imagined possible even after taking into account the fact that they are worse than you imagine possible.

I didn't think I could be flabbergasted anymore, but I was totally amazed by this particular depth of depravity

In 2004 the FBI received intelligence that Al Qaeda hit teams were enroute to the United States to kill Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Valerie Plame. The FBI informed Valerie of this threat. [snip]

When the White House learned of these threats they sprung into action. They beefed up Secret Service protection for Vice President Cheney and provided security protection to Karl Rove. But they declined to do anything for Valerie. That was a CIA problem.

Valerie contacted the office of Security at CIA and requested assistance. [snip] they told her she was on her own.
From Comments

Mark Thoma notes further dismal evidence on the importance of appearance in determining who will win elections.


confirming a hypothesis stated in 2006 at my blog based on an idea Elisabetta Addis had in 2000.
What's the Matter with "What's the Matter with 'What's the Matter with Kansas'"

Here's the abstract from the Bartels article (warning pdf):

What’s the matter with “What’s the matter with Kansas?, by Larry Bartels: Abstract: Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? asserts that the Republican Party has forged a new “dominant political coalition” by attracting working-class white voters on the basis of “class animus” and “cultural wedge issues like guns and abortion.” My analysis confirms that white voters without college degrees have become significantly less Democratic; however, the contours of that shift bear little resemblance to Frank’s account. First, the trend is almost entirely confined to the South, where Democratic support was artificially inflated by the one-party system of the Jim Crow era of legalized racial segregation. (Outside the South, support for Democratic presidential candidates among whites without college degrees has fallen by a total of one percentage point over the past half-century.) Second, there is no evidence that “culture outweighs economics as a matter of public concern” among Frank’s working-class white voters. The apparent political significance of social issues has increased substantially over the past 20 years, but more among better-educated white voters than among those without college degrees. In both groups, economic issues continue to be most important. Finally, contrary to Frank’s account, most of his white working-class voters see themselves as closer to the Democratic Party on social issues like abortion and gender roles but closer to the Republican Party on economic issues.


Mark Thoma has more

Paul Krugman agrees with Bartles.


Bartels clearly wrote a very important article. However, there is a problem, 1952 was an anomalous year. As noted by another commenter at Krugman's site (before I got there) it was a huge Republican landslide. Losing 1% is not much, but Kerry got a much larger fraction of total votes than Stevenson in 52. If Bartels had looked at the difference between White men without college degrees and all voters the change would be much larger than 1%.

This would still be true (though less so) if one corrected for increased numbers of Black voters, increased numbers of hispanic voters and increased numbers of college educated voters (break up into cells by race, education and gender and then make a weighted 2004 average with weights based on 1952 votes (for both candidates summed) by category).

I might add that Stevenson and Eisenhower were special. Stevenson was notoriously high brow. Once in a rally someone shouted "every thinking man is for you" and he replied "That's not enough. I need a majority." It's amazing he got any votes in Kansas at all.

US voters in 1952 were notoriously anti intellectual. Frank might reply that what was the matter with Kansas was even more extreme in 1952. Eisenhower campaigned promising to increase the generosity of social security pensions (as he did). When he left office, the top marginal tax rate was huge (Kennedy cut it). There was no compelling reason for poor Whites to vote against him, he wasn't a pro rich class warrior like Reagan or Bush Jr.

Also he was not upper class. In 2004 two absurdly upper class candidates ran for President. I mean both were members of Skull and Bones. In 1952 one candidate was of humble class origens. That would be Eisenhower.

I have no doubt that data from 1948 would be completely different. For one thing Truman won. For another Dewey was as aristocratic as an American can be (think of how many different Dewey's you know of and their jobs, admiral, philosopher and the inventor of the Dewey decimal system).

Such data are not available, but one can avoid so much reliance on 1952 by using regressions on a trend. This is not black magic statistical analysis and someone ought to do it.

Oh also regress on interaction of a trend and Bartles' variables in regressions including year dummies.

This would be easy and is likely to get a lot of attention from Paul Krugman (hint hint).

Posted by: Robert Waldmann | October 23, 2007 at
Over at the Smart Glenn's place Chris Floyd is shrill.

However, he neglects two important points.

MNF-I reports of civilian deaths are divided into "execution style" and "car bombs" but don't IIRC a category for "our bombs". These deaths must have increased during the surge as

Monday, the Pentagon acknowledged a long-unspoken truth: that the bombardment of civilian neighborhoods in Iraq is an integral part of the vaunted "counterinsurgency" doctrine of Gen. David Petraeus. The number of airstrikes in the conquered land has risen fivefold since George W. Bush escalated the war in January, as USA Today reports:

"Coalition forces launched 1,140 airstrikes in the first nine months of this year compared with 229 in all of last year, according to military statistics


Now they do count civilian deaths (except for the "we know of no civilian deaths" in Baghdad when the reporter who got the quote and visited and Iraqi ER sure did) but they seem to assume that there are no adult male Iraqi civilians

""Iraqis voiced outrage Friday over a U.S. military airstrike that killed an estimated 15 civilians -- nine children and six women," Ah so nine children and six women and zero adult male civilians ? Oddly sexist and ageist those bombs no ?

Or maybe the US military defines all Iraqi men they kill as enemy combatants.

If they keep up this way, they may be right soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kung Fu Monkey is twisted but he (or she) sure aint dumb either.

this is awesome.

For chrissake, only 17% of Americans live in rural settings anymore. Only 2 million of those people work on farms or ranches (USDA figures). Hell, only ten percent of the average farm family's income even comes from farming anymore (did you know that? I didn't. Funky). [snip]

Four million people in the US play World of Warcraft. And yet, do I ever hear:

ANDERSON: We stopped by the gates of Ogrimmar in Durotar, on the east coast of Kalimdor, where one local told us Hollywood just can't relate to the level-grinding life.

UNIDENTIFIED ORC: They've never been back here, questing Razormane or Drygulch Ravine, y'know ... or farming for Peacebloom and Silverleaf. They're out of touch.

No. No I do not.


Now I ask you dear reader (if any) do you want to know how it's playing in Durotar as much as I do ? I mean why don't they poll virtual reality. I'd love to know whether world of warfare is a red state (of mind) and second life is blue. Wouldn't you ?

Ah the monkey has an update "Also -- orc joke. I believe that is the first orc joke ever linked in the New York Times, and I am taking my win and going home."
Fascinating and dismal fact

People asked to rate the competence of an individual based on a quick glance at a photo predicted the outcome of elections more than two-thirds of the time.
Non RANDom panel attrition

This is huge. I didn't even know about the study but it is very influential. In the 70s the RAND corporation performed a genuine experiment on the effect of health insurance copayments on patients demand for health care and on health outcomes. They randomly assigned subjects different health insurance plans one of which covered all of everything and one of which required patients to pay part of the cost of health care.

They found, unsurprisingly, that patients who paid demanded less health care and, surprisingly, that they were just as healthy. This study is an important reason that there is so much support for health insurance that forces patients to pay part of the costs.

The result on health outcomes is especially odd as RAND had doctors look at diagnoses and treatment and the doctors thought that patients who faced copayments cut back on necessary as well as un-necessary treatments. One might argue that doctors don't know what works as they haven't done experiments like the RAND study and, of course, patients receiving un necessary treatment are often following the advice of doctors.
However, it is odd.

This study is still hugely influential as noted by Ezra Klein

it's almost impossible to overstate how much pull the RAND study has in health policy circles. Jason Furman's whole paper on cost sharing? Largely based on the RAND study. Robin Hanson's theories about slashing medical care in half? Largely based on the RAND study.


John Nyman argues that all this is explained by a serious statistical problem -- panel attrition. Participation in the study was, of course, voluntary. Participants could, if they wished, return to whatever health insurance they had before they joined the study (means their insurers had to agree to their participation I guess). Only 5 of 184 of the participants who dropped out of the experiment had the no cost the patient plan. This in spite of the fact that 1,294 adult participants were randomly assigned to this free plan and 2,664 were assigned to one of six different cost-sharing plans.

In itself, it is unsurprising that the most generous plan had the fewest drop outs, but this could explain the surprising results of the study. It is possible, indeed very very likely, that people dropped out because they were diagnosed with expensive to treat conditions and their pre-experiment health plan was more generous than their experimental health plan.

This would mean that their dropping out reduced costs to the experimental cost-sharing plans and improved the distribution of health outcomes for participants in the cost sharing plans. The fact that doctors thought that decisions made by participants in the cost sharing plans included foregoing needed care and should have implied worse outcomes provides more evidence for this hypothesis.

6.7% of participants with cost sharing plans dropped out, a rate which is plenty large enough to invalidate the study. If a significant fraction of them did so because of costly sickness, the results of the study are worthless.

I think RAND should have enrolled only people who were uninsured before joining the study. They would all benefit from participating and fewer would have dropped out.

One way of trying to correct the study is to look only at low income participants who were more likely to be uninsured reducing the endogenous drop out problem. Lo and behold the study concluded "that higher cost sharing leads individuals to use fewer health services, and further that (except for some lower income patients) the lower use of services had no negative health impacts."

That would tend to suggest that when the bias in favor of the cost sharing plans was reduced (not eliminated) the negative health impacts of cost sharing were partially revealed.

Now I don't know if the RAND study contains data on pre-experiment health insurance of participants. If it did, a valid analysis can be based on the RAND data using only participants who were previously uninsured.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In Which I Try to Debate Paul Krugman and Alan Greenspan at the same time.

I do have Hank Paulson on my side, but I think I might be right anyway.

Paul Krugman is unimpressed by

the rescue plan proposed by a group of large banks, with Mr. Paulson’s backing.

Right now the bleeding edge of the crisis in confidence involves worries that there may be large losses hidden inside so-called “structured investment vehicles” — basically hedge funds that borrow from the public and invest the proceeds in mortgage-backed securities. The new plan would create a “super-fund,” the Master Liquidity Enhancement Conduit, which would seek to restore confidence by, um, borrowing from the public and investing the proceeds in mortgage-backed securities.

The plan, in other words, looks like an attempt to solve the problem with smoke and mirrors.


One kvetch. To me a "hedge fund" which borrows "from the public" is a contradiction in terms. Hedge funds are not subject to banking regulations, because they don't borrow from the public. IIRC the minimum investment in a hedge fund is $ 100 million which means they borrow only from the really rich public. Generally hedge fund investors are other institutions.

Krugman argues that the problem is that people will default on mortgages and the super fund will simply hide the fact that securities backed by those mortgages are no good by trying to drive up the price. If this is going on, it won't work and, being an effort to hide the problem will reduce confidence in the financial system.

Ah yes I remember that argument. It has often been applied to bank bailouts. The idea is that banks fail because they are insolvent (can't ever pay off their liabilities) and that, given the way savers rationally reason, illiquid banks (which can't pay depositors right now) are usually insolvent. Thus a loan to keep a bank open is just smoke and mirrors as it replaces debt to depositors with debt to the trick scheme that temporarily hides the insolvency of the bank.

That tricky scheme is called the federal reserve system and the head conspirator was for years Alan Greenspan.

Sensible people agree that solvent banks can easily be illiquid because the prophecy that their will be a run on a bank is self fulfilling. Thus a lender of last resort prevents bank failures even if it rarely lends. It's existence is enough to prevent bank runs.

Thus Krugman is essentially arguing that the analogies between “structured investment vehicles” and banks and between their current troubles and bank runs are bogus. Otherwise he would conclude that the federal reserve system is just smoke and mirrors and should be eliminated or he would have to explain what is the difference.

I conclude that Paul Krugman thinks there is no need to respond to the arguments of for people like Paul Krugman.

Either it's like a banking panic or it isn't and I don't need a Clark medal to manage that reasoning.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

David Kennedy of Stanford wrote:

The Conscience of a Liberal - Paul Krugman - Books - Review - New York Times: [M]aybe [Paul] Krugman is not really an economist — at least not according to the definition offered more than a century ago by Francis Amasa Walker, the first president of the American Economic Association, who wrote that laissez-faire “was not... the test of economic orthodoxy, merely.... [But] used to decide whether a man were an economist at all.”


I think this approach can be applied to other fields. I should google to find some physicist who, more than a century ago, claimed that accepting Newton's laws of motion was not just orthodoxy but necessary to be considered a physicist at all. The only challenge is that, about a century ago, this was so true that no one felt the need to say it.

Then I would claim that, say the latest Nobel prize winning physicists aren't physicists at all, because they reject f=ma on the grounds that m is not a constant property of an object but depends on the relative velocity of the object and the observer.

downdate: Brad DeLong looked up the actual Walker quote and notes that Walker didn't say what Kennedy claimed he said. Oh well saved me some googling.
In the Washington Post Steven Hurst claims to know something but doesn't provide any evidence at all

The raid on the dangerous Shiite slum was aimed at capturing an alleged rogue militia chief, one of thousands of fighters who have broken with Muqtada al-Sadr's mainstream Mahdi Army.

The Shiite cleric has ordered gunmen loyal to him to put down their arms. But thousands of followers dissatisfied with being taken out of the fight have formed a loose confederation armed and trained by Iran.


The claim is unsupported by any evidence. There is not even a cite of an anonymous source. Since no source is mentioned, the Washington Post has made the assertion in its own voice as a definite fact.

The claim is very strong. Proof that Iran is aiding the Mahdi army would not prove the claim, since it specifically claims that Iran is aiding ex Mahdi army fighters who have broken with al Sadr. I think that it would be crazy for Iran to do this, which doesn't mean that they aren't.

Later un-named sources make a different claim

In the Sadr City raid, the U.S. military said forces killed "an estimated 49 criminals" in three linked attacks during an intelligence-driven raid to capture the rogue Shiite kidnapper who was partially funded by Iran. The man was not named.


This is bizarre to say the least. Kidnapping is highly profitable, highly risky and universally detested. Why would a kidnapper be funded ? Sold arms maybe. His thugs trained maybe. But financed ? Why would Iran finance someone who obtains lots of money using dispicable means. The money would not be needed to make trouble in Iraq if that is their aim and it is not in Iran's interests to be hated by Iraqis.

The claim makes no sense. Also it is supported by no evidence. Also it fits the Bush administration line of blaming Iran for everything. I don't see how any serious reporter could repeat it let alone expand upon it in his own voice.

I think what is going on is that Hurst feels the need to balance his reports of dead toddlers (seen with his own eyes) along with the quote "'Ground forces reported they were unaware of any innocent civilians being killed as a result of this operation,' the military said." He knows that innocent civilians were killed and that their deaths were obvious to anyone who cared. Just by reporting what he heard and saw he effectively denounces the US military's contempt for civilian life. I think he felt the need to repeat unsupported accusations against Iran for balance.
In the Washington Post Steven Hurst claims to know something but doesn't provide any evidence at all

The raid on the dangerous Shiite slum was aimed at capturing an alleged rogue militia chief, one of thousands of fighters who have broken with Muqtada al-Sadr's mainstream Mahdi Army.

The Shiite cleric has ordered gunmen loyal to him to put down their arms. But thousands of followers dissatisfied with being taken out of the fight have formed a loose confederation armed and trained by Iran.


The claim is unsupported by any evidence. There is not even a cite of an anonymous source. Since no source is mentioned, the Washington Post has made the assertion in its own voice as a definite fact.

The claim is very strong. Proof that Iran is aiding the Mahdi army would not prove the claim, since it specifically claims that Iran is aiding ex Mahdi army fighters who have broken with al Sadr. I think that it would be crazy for Iran to do this, which doesn't mean that they aren't.

Later un-named sources make a different claim

In the Sadr City raid, the U.S. military said forces killed "an estimated 49 criminals" in three linked attacks during an intelligence-driven raid to capture the rogue Shiite kidnapper who was partially funded by Iran. The man was not named.


This is bizarre to say the least. Kidnapping is highly profitable, highly risky and universally detested. Why would a kidnapper be funded ? Sold arms maybe. His thugs trained maybe. But financed ? Why would Iran finance someone who obtains lots of money using dispicable means. The money would not be needed to make trouble in Iraq if that is their aim and it is not in Iran's interests to be hated by Iraqis.

The claim makes no sense. Also it is supported by no evidence. Also it fits the Bush administration line of blaming Iran for everything. I don't see how any serious reporter could repeat it let alone expand upon it in his own voice.

I think what is going on is that Hurst feels the need to balance his reports of dead toddlers (seen with his own eyes) along with the quote "'Ground forces reported they were unaware of any innocent civilians being killed as a result of this operation,' the military said." He knows that innocent civilians were killed and that their deaths were obvious to anyone who cared.
Tristero is soooo out of date

He wrote


I finished my calculations and can happily report that, mathematically speaking, there is a Purpose (P) to the Universe. It is:

P = trB


no way, maybe when Kinsley was writing it TRB was the purpose of the universe but since then it has gone to hell (or at least purgatory).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Three R's at the department of education.

I got some attention with Alberto Gonzales "he who knows and knows not that he knows" so I thought I would try with the head of an other department -- Margaret Spellings

The government's total cost, however, is undoubtedly higher than $278 million because Nelnet did not act alone. Spellings said the agency has no plans to conduct audits to calculate a total. "I don't know if it's a knowable number," she said. "I guess it's knowable by somebody. But my inspector general doesn't know it, to my knowledge. And I don't. We haven't found out."


The number in question is improper payments via an especially absurd student loan guarantee sub-program which guaranteed lenders 9.5% interest rates. Spellings doesn't know if it is knowable, she guesses it is, she doesn't know who could know it and doesn't know if her inspector general knows it. Clearly she is qualified to lead the education of our children.

She also seems to be resistant to 'rithmatic.

This is an improvement over her predecessor Rod Paige who was reluctant to 'rite

Nelnet wrote the department in May 2003 to ask for confirmation that its plan was legal. The department, then led by Rod Paige, did not respond for 13 months. In that time, Nelnet inflated the volume of loans qualifying for the subsidies from $551 million to about $3.66 billion, the inspector general found. In June 2004, the department sent Nelnet a three-paragraph reply that offered no conclusion on whether the plan was legal.


You'd almost think they weren't trying to protect public money from bankers.

Given their weakness on the basics, I guess its best that the department outsourced the explanation that history tends to be in the past tense

Ellis E. Tredway, an executive vice president for Brazos Higher Education Authority, said ...
"I think there is fault with the department," Tredway said. "They came out with a new interpretation of what history had been."

Let's try to make sure they don't interpret what history is to be.
Rudolf Giuliani has a problem

This film ends with a whispered "do something". I only want to add "don't tell Republican primary voters."
Now way would I vote to nominate someone with something like that film hanging over his or her candidacy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bait and Switch at the Washington Post

Last week it was the New York Times, now Jonathan "f*ck Brad DeLong" Weisman and Ellen Nakashima are mixing up two major parties

But conservative Democrats worried about Republicans' charges that the Democratic bill extended too many rights to suspected terrorists. "There is absolutely no reason our intelligence officials should have to consult government lawyers before listening in to terrorist communications with the likes of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and other foreign terror groups," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

The measure "extends our Constitution beyond American soil to our enemies who want to cut the heads off Americans," said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.).


OK Jonathan and Ellen tell me. Are you aware that Boehner and Gohmert aren't Democrats (note the Rs) ? Do you think that writing for the Post gives you the authority to support a claim about what Democrats think by quoting Republicans ?
Do you think you would fit in better at "The Onion?".

Monday, October 15, 2007

Please make it stop

Below, I am shocked to find that I disagree with Kevin Drum on something related to atheism although we are both atheists and I think he is a genius. Much worse, I agree with Lee Siegal. Now I find I disagree with Ezra Klein too. Owwww. For those who didn't click the link, I thought that Drum's criticism of Siegal's criticism of some anti-religionists (such as Richard Dawkins) was not justified given his brief quote of Siegal (who I will *not* read). I think that Drum assumes that Siegal claims that all atheists are anti-religinists, that is that all people who are sure that there is not God also argue against religion and claim that they reject the sort of reasoning (or non-reasoning) which leads the religious to be religious. I am sure that there is no God and I do not argue against religious faith or the methodology (or absence thereof) practiced by the religious. As far as I know (and I have no intention of checking) Siegal does not criticize me.

Klien quotes more which shows that Siegal is, indeed, very silly, arguing among other things that

When our anti-religionists attack the mechanism of religious faith by demanding that our beliefs be underpinned by science, statistics and cold logic, they are, in effect, attacking our right to believe in unseen, unprovable things at all. Their assault on religious faith amounts to an attack on the human imagination.


So you can't imagine something without believing that it really exists ? Huh ? But note the argument is directed at "anti-religionists" who "attack" not all people with no religious beliefs or even all people who have no doubt about the falseness of all religious claims.

Klien continues however

Siegel continues:

The leap of faith is really a very ordinary operation. We take it every time we fall in love, expect kindness from someone, impulsively sacrifice some little piece of our self-interest. After all, you cannot prove the existence of truth, beauty, goodness and decency...


These things either aren't matters of belief, or are things for which we believe with good evidence. Falling in love with someone is a matter of having one's emotions and desires attach to your beloved, not forming a belief. (When we talk about 'true love', we mean love that's genuine, not love that correctly describes reality in the way that a true statement or a true belief does.) Expecting kindness is a genuine belief -- namely, a belief that others will be kind -- but it's usually based on evidence. That humans have a degree of sympathy and kindness is an empirically verifiable part of human nature, and we often have good evidence for believing that others will be kind to us in the right circumstances. Sacrificing some of our self-interest, like falling in love, isn't a matter of false belief. It's a matter of having the kinds of emotions and desires that motivate altruistic behavior.


I beg to differ on two points (same as with Drum). Romantic Love often involves irrational beliefs and yet, I think, its often a very good thing. Calling the belief that ones beloved is extraordinarily wonderful in the absence of solid evidence an emotion not a belief means one should also be willing to call a belief that the universe is guided by a benign intelligence an emotion not a belief. Yet an anti-religionist will not accept the second as it is a form of religion. Klein calls love an emotion which we should not insist be based on evidence or abandoned. I would guess he feels the same way about the faith of some religious people (not of Osama Bin Laden and many others but of some). If I am right, he is not the target of Siegal's argument and doesn't notice.

More interestingly, I agree that there is something very close to religion in believing in goodness. Believing in altruism is rational. Having favorable feelings towards altruism is a matter of emotions not belief. Believing that altruism is objectively good (which is by no means required to be an altruist) is something else entirely. It is a belief which can not be based on evidence. If we interpret Siegal as claiming that believing in "goodness" implies believing that there is something other than our beliefs and feelings that makes some actions good, then he has found something which is not religion but has a similar combination of strong claims and no evidentiary support.

the above is a forced reading, but I, for one, believe that the rightness and wrongness of actions exists separately from our beliefs about right and wrong in the same way that Australia exists separately from my belief in Australia. People who criticize the "the mechanism of religious faith by demanding that our beliefs be underpinned by science, statistics and cold logic," disagree with me on that one and argue that my beliefs in right and wrong aren't objectively true or false but rather more like my liking of choclate than my belief in Australia. I disagree with them. I am an atheist. Siegal is making a valid distinction between anti-religionists and atheists. Drum, Klein and Black, noticing his evident idiocy when he talks about art and belief in human altruism, don't seem to notice this.

Kleins larger use of quotations makes it clear why Siegal drives people who have better things to do to remark on his idiocy, but I think that, like Drum, he misses a distinction.

Duncan Black, however, has Siegal (and me at least in these 2 posts) nailed

"they've never really gotten past the level of marijuana enhanced late night freshman dorm conversation (a lovely thing, but not the final path in our intellectual journeys)."

touche Atrios, and wow this is great stuff. I am so blasted.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I have no idea who Sebastian Dullien is, but this is brilliant.

quick summary
1. Germany is about to cut the corporate income tax rate to 30% and pay for it by reducing depretiation allowances for capital goods (equipment).
2. This is terrible policy. When they did something similar in the past investment declined.
3. The problem is that the big coalition makes policy by compromise -- the Christian Democrats wanted to cut corporate tax rates and the Social Democrats want to contain the cost of the reform, so they agreed on a policy which will reduce revenue and worsen incentives.
4. Another problem is that economic policy is made by people with law degrees who can handle the simple concept of "low tax rates and a broad tax base are good" but consider any analysis of incentive effects of taxes to be to clever by half.
5. Finally the Social Democrats have decided not to be leftists but have no idea what to be instead and are headed for the ash heap of history.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bait and Switch at the New York Times

The headline is "Liberal Base Proves Trying to Democrats"

Accurate Headlines would be
"GLBT rights advocates who are angry about a bill which would ban discrimination against GLB Americans Prove trying to Frank"

or

"Republicans claim that Liberal Base Proves Trying to Democrats"

DAVID M. HERSZENHORN has one case in which congressional Democrats are debating with advocacy groups over compromise and Barney Frank criticizes the advocacy groups (Frank is frank). He wants to make the case that this is an example of a general problem with radicals advocating timetables for withdrawal from Iraq (supported by a huge majority of citizens) and strenthened CAFE standards.

To do so, he hands the mike over to Republicans so they can explain how Democrats feel about their liberal base.

He has Frank being frank on one issue and Pelosi's spokesman stating a general principle "“One of the things she says is that an activist — that’s their role to be persistent and unsatisfied and try to push the envelope,” Mr. Daly said. “But when you are in a position of leading, in Congress, you have to be realistic at some point.”" in which advocates are praised for advocating and Pelosi is quoted as explaining why she doesn't always do what they advocate. HERSZENHORN might guess she finds the experience trying, but he presents no evidence. So he asks Republicans to explain what Democrats really think

"Representative Adam H. Putnam of Florida, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said"

"“Barney Frank is not gay enough?” asked Representative Thaddeus McCotter, Republican of Michigan, one of the most conservative members of the House ."

and

"Some Republicans in the House have said".

This article is not a joke. It is in the New York Times not The Daily Onion. I know that because I am not amused (also I checked the URL).
Awesome Neocon Gold

Via americablog the people who turned me on to the Funks

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am sooooo Confused

Obama's campaign accuses Clinton of vaguenss on torture and mixes metaphors (seems to me that talk of putting forth winks is more appropriate for an advocate of torture and no, George, I don't want to try to call a image into my mind).

Obama spokesperson Bill Burton emailed Election Central the following:

Barack Obama thinks that America's policy on torture needs to be a lot more explicit than the winks and nods she has seemed to put forth on this important issue
.

It seems to me that if I read someone else I respect seemingly using the word "seems" to make claims without bothering with the evidence I'm going to do something unseemly.

I denounce the Clinton campaign for missquoting Clinton in a way which obscures the clarity of her opposition to cruel inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners

Hillary spokesperson Phil Singer swiftly hit back, emailing over the following:

It’s unfortunate that Barack Obama is abandoning the politics of hope as his campaign stagnates and is launching false attacks on other Democrats instead. Senator Clinton explicitly stated that we "have to draw a bright line" against torture and "abide by the Geneva conventions." Senator Obama’s attacks won't bring change to America, but Senator Clinton’s strength and experience will.


He you Hillary hating Swinger, she also said we should "abide by the laws we have passed" which clarify the Geneva conventions and left less wiggle room for Bush (who doesn't wiggle he just lies).

Meanwhile

Late Late Update: Andrew Sullivan is now acknowledging that his criticism of Hillary yesterday over the torture comments is "unfair" in light of the transcript we posted. He says he now thinks that "she was unfairly misquoted" by the paper.


Owwwww my head hurts. I still think that Sullivan has Clinton derangement (and deceit) syndrome and I still think very very highly of Matthew Yglesias and Mark Kleiman and I still plan to vote for Obama in the MA primary, but I've had quite enough cognitive dissonance this week, thank you very much.

update: Just what I need, Ezra Klein worrying that he may become a hack, such integrity to criticize himself for things he hasn't even done yet (sad to say I am not being ironic I really feel better having read his post).

Good luck Ezra, or as Bob Dylan put it

May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.


and we remember how Bob has turned out ...
help Ezra I need some more idealism, I'm running on empty.
I introduce Gavin M to Edward G

“U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black says the United States, like past great civilizations such as the Roman Empire, could collapse due to a decline in family values, a decline in religion, a preoccupation with pleasure and overspending on militarism,” per AP.


Gavin M goes on to laugh at Pastor Swank and is excellent as always (and with a great photo) however Barry Black is full of it too (except for the overspending on militarism part). The amusing depravity of the Julio Claudian emperors did not cause the fall of Rome as it immediately preceded centuries of Roman dominance of Europe. Rome lost it when it turned back to religion (especially new weird cults like Mithraism and Christianity).

The Roman empire was still going strong when Constantine converted. Then Rome itself became almost irrelevant to the once Roman empire and was effectively abandoned.

Perhaps I am too harsh on Constantine. The emperor who really caused the fall of the Roman empire *in the West* was Theodosius who split the empire between his two sons dooming the West. He also banned all religions other than Christianity. The evidence is overwhelming. The Roman empire wasn't destroyed by depraved lapsed Pagans (it did fine). The Roman empire wasn't destroyed by Christians. The Roman empire was destroyed by intolerant Christians (and the effects of overspending on militarism on the economy). No serious historian contests this claim (originally due to this guy named Gibbon who wrote a rather long book on the subject).

This brings me to the best established hypothesis in the social sciences. The Romans had a theory that they won wars because the gods were on their side. They felt that so long as they performed traditional Pagan rituals they were fine. After converting Constantine as Pontifex Maximus ordered Romans to keep up the Pagan rituals then moved to Constantinople. For centuries Romans ruled and performed these rituals. Theodosius banned them from performing the traditional rites. Rome was sacked within 30 years. Sure it was just a coincidence suuuuuure.
More On Yglesias and Kleiman


Matt Yglesias is showing why I admire him (and was surprised at his very sloppy analysis of what Clinton said about torture) here. He explains why he was wrong about Iraq. He makes no excuses. For example, he doesn't mention that he was very young (21 or 22) and busy writing about meta-ethics. Instead he just says he was ignorant and followed main stream Democrats.

Mark Kleiman is showing that he is not a professional blogger and has to work as a professor. He is also showing his self important side telling Clinton what she must do to have a chance to get his vote. Her responding is significantly less likely than his responding to me (he has linked to me actually me writing about torture he did really !).


Suggestions

If Hillary Clinton didn't intend to evade the torture question (as her handlers and her friends in the blogosphere insist) there are two things she can do about it:

1. Issue a simple statement: "When I'm President, there will be no waterboarding, no cold room, no sensory deprivation, no 'long time standing,' and no renditions."

2. File, and ask for hearings on, a bill for the relief of Khaled al-Masri.

Unless she does one of those things, those of us for whom torture is a deal-breaker will have to conclude that her ambiguity was and is deliberate, either because she thinks it would be bad general-election strategy to be too far out there on behalf of human decency or because she's not ready to limit her Presidential options with respect to the maltreatment of captives.


Now I think she was quite clear in the WaPo interview. If one thinks that "abide by the Geneva conventions and the laws we have passed" is unclear, one should look up the conventions and the laws. They are clear.

However, I want to pick on Kleiman. I remember the phrase "extraordinary rendition" which, unless the extraordinary is redundant, implies that the current kidnapping policy involves rendition in addition to ordinary rendition. Taken literally, Kleiman's suggested clear answer implies that he opposes ordinary rendition too. I'm not a lawyer and don't know what, if anything, an ordinary rendition is, so I will just note that, for all I know, extradition leads to an ordinary rendition. Thus I am not sure that Kleiman didn't carelessly say that he insists that Clinton rule out ever extraditing anyone to say Canada or Sweden (he certainly rules out extraordinary rendition to countries which do not torture -- how about the rendition of the Achile Lauro hijackers to Italy (which didn't torture them and released Abu Abbas the head of the terrorist organization)).

I am being picky at least and possibly totally wrong, but this is a criticism of recommended wording. Note that Kleiman was not in an interview and had time to work on the language. Clinton is dealing with people who will twist her words (or in the case of Kornblut and Balz lie about what she said). It makes sense to refer to highly detailed treaties and laws which were carefully drafted and debated rather than risk trying to summarize their essence in an interview. That is what Clinton did.
Below I denounce Matthew Yglesias and Mark Kleiman for their interpretation of the following exchange.

Q: Can I ask you a follow up? You mentioned Blackwater, you’ve said that at the beginning of your administration you’d ask the Pentagon to report. When it comes to special interrogation methods, obviously you’ve said you’re against torture, but the types of methods that are now used that aren’t technically torture but are still permitted, would you do something in your first couple days to address that, suspend some of the special interrogation methods immediately or ask for some kind of review?

HR Clinton: Well I think I’ve been very clear about that too, we should not conduct or condone torture and it is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn’t doing, we’re getting all kinds of mixed messages. I don’t think we’ll know the truth until we have a new President. I think once you can get in there and actually bore into what’s been going on, you’re not going to know. I was very touched by the story you guys had on the front page the other day about the WWII interrogators. I mean it's not the same situation but it was a very clear rejection of what we think we know about what is going on right now but I want to know everything, and so I think we have to draw a bright line and say ‘No torture – abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,' and then try to make sure we implement that.


Yglesias, in particular, astounded me by writing "As Mark Kleiman says, this doesn't really wash and seems to indicate that she accepts the view that, for example, waterboarding which we definitely do know is happening maybe doesn't count as torture."

I am trying to calm myself and understand why someone I respect wrote something that seemed totally crazy to me (see post below)(I am not managing to say things just once sorry). I think the key point of disagreement between Yglesias and me is that he doesn't seem to have noticed that Clinton said "abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed," and that the conventions and the laws ban mistreatment short of torture. Even someone who had the insane view that water boarding isn't torture would have to have the further insane views that it is not cruel inhumane or degrading in order to think it is allowed by the Geneva conventions and US laws. One of the laws was enacted with the explicit aim of making it clear that Bush administration practices were illegal. Clinton, being a Senator, knows this and may have forgotten that some people don't know what the laws say.


That is, given the law and the Geneva convention, Clinton clearly said she would not allow "enhanced interrogation" short of torture. The laws and the Geneva conventions make this clear. She may be lying, but she definitely did not say that anything short of torture is OK. Only someone who ignored the words "abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed," or does not know what is written in the laws and the Geneva conventions can fail to understand that.

I think it is quite common for Senators to assume that people know what is written in a recently passed bill. This can lead to confusion, but it is not vague (the law is clear Bush just decided to ignore it).

Also it is quite common to react more to the style than the literal content of a statement. Clinton takes a while to get to the point. This gives the impression she is dodging the question. However, her final statement is as clear as the laws and the Geneva conventions and they are plenty clear.
Distorting the meaning of a statement by removing the context is old hat
Anne E. Kornblut and Dan Balz of the Washington Post distort the meaning of a context by removing the statement. They write and quote.

Clinton was similarly vague about how she would handle special interrogation methods used by the CIA. She said that while she does not condone torture, so much has been kept secret that she would not know unlesselected what other extreme measures interrogators are using, and therefore could not say whether she would change or continue existing policies.

"It is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn't doing. We're getting all kinds of mixed messages," Clinton said. "I don't think we'll know the truth until we have a new president. I think [until] you can get in there and actually bore into what's been going on, you're not going to know."



The Clinton campaign notes that they left out this bit of insufficiently vague text

"I think we have to draw a bright line and say ‘No torture – abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,' and then try to make sure we implement that."

Given the text of the Geneva conventions and the laws they have passed, this is perfectly clear. It is true that Bush says similar things and mandates torture. However, he is not being vague, he is lying, just as Kornblut and Balz did.

I think they should be fired.

h/t everyone.
Taylor Marsh criticizes bloggers for believing the Post. This is odd as they had no source of the full quote until the Clinton campaign responded. Kevin Drum concedes the point very grudgingly. I am surprised that he is not more angry with Kornblut and Balz (he is anti anti msm though). Sargent, who pointed out the gross deletion of the substantive statement is very gentle with them too.

Mark Kleiman, who I generally respect, makes exactly the straw man argument I considered above.

Nice try, but no cigar. Saying "No torture" is the opposite of a "bright line"; after all, Bush keeps saying "we don't torture." To say that "it is not yet clear what this Administration is or isn't doing" sounds just like Glenn Reynolds.

The CIA just announced that it would no longer do waterboading. That clearly implies that the CIA was doing waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture. If HRC can't say "No waterboarding," her "No torture" isn't worth the spit behind it.

The same goes for the cold cell, for "long time standing," for "disappearing" people into secret prisons, and to "rendering" people to countries which we know practice torture. It's legitimate to say "I won't know just how bad things are until I'm President," but it's not legitimate to pretend that we don't already know that torture is going on in our name, and that if we decide not to hold war crimes trials we at least need a truth and reconciliation commission to expose the facts.

Part of HRC's problem is that the Bill Clinton regime didn't have entirely clean hands, specifically on the "rendition" issue. But it now seems clear that if we want the country to make a clean break with current policies on maltreatment of captives, we can't do so by putting HRC in the White House.


He notes that Bush says we don't torture and we do, therefore we should assume that Clinton is lying too which means her statements don't mean what they seem to mean and are vague. He also does not discuss "abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed" (whcih he quoted) and argues as if Clinton had just said "no torture". This is not just shockingly below his usually standard, it is totally dishonest. Kleiman knows that the Geneva conventions and the laws they have passed ban cruel inhumane and degrading treatment as well as torture. To claim that the phrases which he ignores adds nothing is to attempt to deceive readers who are lest familiar with the texts than he is.

To my knowledge, Kleiman hasn't objected that the Geneva conventions or the anti torture bill are vague. For example, he didn't, IIRC object to the torture bill on the ground that it didn't list banned techniques (which would be dumb as no list can be exhaustive). I think he is motivated by opposition to Clinton (he certainly is very strongly opposed to her nomination) and embarrassed that he believed Kornblut's and Balz's lie.

I think there is no possible justification for his condemning Clinton but not the Geneva conventions. I am very disappointed in him.

update: Matthew Yglesias, who I respect as much as I respect Kleiman, goes even further into a morass of dishonest Clinton derangement.

"As Mark Kleiman says, this doesn't really wash and seems to indicate that she accepts the view that, for example, waterboarding which we definitely do know is happening maybe doesn't count as torture."

I can't see how any person of normal intelligence, let alone Matthew Yglesias could write such a thing. This is beyond dishonesty, this is stupidly blatant dishonesty.

Clinton promised to obey "the laws we have passed" which were passed to make it clear that Bush administration policies were illegal. The only support for Yglesias's appalling insane dishonest accusation against Clinton is the weasel word "seems" seems to relieve him, in his own mind, of finding any basis for his accusations against Clinton in anything Clinton has said or done. There is, of course, no analysis of Clinton's statement before the assertion about what it seems she said, because there can not possibly be.

Yglesias' argument appears to be that George Bush has destroyed the English language, therefore it is impossible to speak clearly about torture, therefore Hillary Clinton has failed to do so, therefore she is a torturer.

I honestly have no idea what has come over Matthew Yglesias. I do not recognise the writer I thought I knew in this post. The target is a public figure, but the reasoning is well below that deployed by Malkin to attack Graeme Frost. Maybe someone hacked his account. I can think of no more plausible explanation for such vile lying idiocy on the blog of an normally honest genius.

I might add that my horror at the quality of reasoning displayed by Yglesias and Kleimain has nothing to do with disagreement with their view that Clinton should not be the nominee. I donated to Obama's campaign following Kleimans's advice. I am on their side and I am appalled by the recent posts by my allies. Really disgusted.

dumping on Sullivan relegated to the post update gutter as Sullivan has long made it perfectly clear that he is totally dishonest and so indifferent to reality and logic that he might as well be an idiot.








Andrew Sullivan is, of course, one of the original Clinton haters whose dishonesty and disinterest in mere facts, which might not support the accusation that Clinton was a rapist but who cares*, appalled me back in the 90s when it was hard to be appalled by insane Clinton hatred. He also doesn't like Bush, but there is no reason to take anything he says about anyone named Clinton seriously. Actually given his serial dishonesty, there is no reason to take anything he claims seriously.

*I mean this quite literally and am prepared to attempt to prove that Sullivan was willing to accuse Clinton of rape without any consideration of the evidence, stating it as if it were a known fact. This would require finding a brief passage in an old New Republic which discussed the conviction of a Southern Sheriff for forcing women prisoners to perform oral sex to be released from prison. Sullivan said that in this case, unlike the case of Clinton, such behavior was punished. He did not address any alleged evidence that Clinton had committed any similar act. I'd say he excused himself from participation in any debate involving the name Clinton at that point and people shouldn't forget it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Urgent Frost Family update

The Frost discussed b disreputable hatemongers like Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and David Boehner is, of course Graeme the middle schooler who dared confront [and hammer] Bush in debate [he could have bested Bush when he was in elementary school if he had a chance].

However few people know of his distant uncle Lawrence Frost, heroic defender of the third and twenty first amendments as reported b the nations finest news source.

Via Jim Henley who scooped the Onion.

update: I mistakenly identified the congressman whose staff retailed wingnut attacks on the Frosts. It was representative Woody Hardon not representative David Boehner.
Unless we agree that it's off the record it's on the record say

ADAM NAGOURNEY and MARC SANTORA of the New York Times


For all the anticipation that preceded Mr. Thompson’s appearance, his new rivals barely mentioned him, reflecting in part a sense within the party that his first weeks as an official candidate had not gone well. (Mr. Giuliani’s campaign, however, did dispatch an unsolicited “not for attribution” e-mail to reporters arguing that Mr. Thompson had, as a member of the Senate in 2001, been part of a coalition that sought to decrease the size of tax cuts proposed by Mr. Bush).


It seems that the Giuliani campaign had reason to believe that it could unilaterally declare something to be "not for attribution". About time journalists decided to stop putting up with that.

Also the first thing I've heard about Thompson that I like.
Not satisfied b his public confrontation with Paul Krugman

Stephen Colbert is tr ing to pick a fight with another progressive economist whose name starts with a K -- Larr Katz. He's sunk to insulting Katz's mother

here

and

here

you got it she emigrated from Hungary to Uruguay [via Ital]

you read it hear first. I don't think either Katz or Colbert has noticed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Stupid Assholes

Bush's argument against expanding nominal spending on S-Chip is "poor kids first," that is he's against the program because it provides benefits to middle class families. The veto is political russian roulette, the justification makes it russian roulette with six bullets.

I once wrote that the last thing the Republicans should want to do is talk about the progressivity of the tax system. I was wrong. The last thing they want to say is that when Democrats claim they are helping the poor, they are really helping the middle class (second last is there is no such thing as a free lunch so look at spending not taxes given their record). Republicans have to argue that, when Democrats say middle class, they mean the poor. They survive only because working class Americans see a bigger gap with underclass Americans than with rich Americans.

What are they going to do next ? Attack small businessmen on principle ? Check.

Two weeks ago, the Democratic radio address was delivered by a 12-year old Maryland boy named Graeme Frost. Right wing bloggers attacked him arguing that he was rich. They are assholes, they are wrong on the facts but more oh much more, they are opposed to self employment.



I love the condescending attitude toward the small business owner:
"...maybe Dad should drop his woodworking hobby and get a real job that offers health insurance..."
I generally shy away from the "imagine if one of us said that" school of arguing, but really, imagine HRC referring to a family's small business as "a hobby" and suggesting it's time to get a "real job"
Methinks wingnuttia might have some fun with that. Me; as someone with a brother, several close relatives, and numerous friends who have made their way in the world by creating small businesses based on something they love doing all I can do is stifle the urge to go postal.


Posted by: Bob | October 07, 2007 at 11:23 PM

I am not Bob (I am Robert or Rob for one thing) but I wish I were. Can't stand reading Freepers though.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sprezzatura Break

See below for my suffering as I find myself temporarily almost agreeing with Lee Seigal.

Now where can I go to wallow is some snide contempt ?

Jonah Goldberg ? Check

The press didn't care much about the Limbaugh "phony soldiers" story in which Limbaugh was referring to one anti-war activist


OK sure "soldiers" obviously refers to one soldier. I mean you don't expect Rush to keep track of singular and plural through the oxycontin haze.*

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ? Check

He talked about “300,” the recent movie about the Battle of Thermopylae: “That film claimed that under Darius the Great twenty-seven nations paid tribute to Iran.” The audience hissed. “But, in a meeting I was in, I corrected that impression. ‘No,’ I said, ‘under Darius forty-two nations paid tribute to Iran!’ ”

Next, he approached the nuclear issue. “Iranians have never tried to oppress anyone,” he said.


OK so it was non oppressive tribute fine.

*I know that Rush passed his drug test, but I'm assuming Jonah didn't

uhm know about that.
Burying the Lede after strangling it shooting it and lighting its corpse on fire

This is not the first time that I have expressed concern about Talking Points Memo sullying their outstanding journalistic credentials by publishing stuff from the vastly inferior Associated Press, but this one is really outrageous

The headline

FCC: No suppression of ownership report

FCC Investigation Finds No Suppression of Report on Media Ownership

JIM ABRAMS
Oct 05, 2007 16:18 EDT
AP News


the last two paragraphs

The IG office said another report that was never released, on the radio industry in 2003, "presents more troubling aspects." It quoted from an e-mail message from former Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree in which he states that he was "not inclined to release this one unless the story can be told in a much more positive way. This is not the time to be stirring the 'radio consolidation' pot."

Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said it seemed clear that Ferree, a political appointee, "decided to stuff the draft radio report in a drawer because he didn't like what it said and the timing of it couldn't have been worse for the FCC" in that it illustrated concerns about FCC decisions to relax rules limiting media ownership.


The story proves that the claim in the headline is absolutely totally utterly false. The hint of possible conceivable justification for the false claim in the headline is the extensive discussion of investigation of the alleged suppression of a report on the TV industry. The headline would have been highly misleading but technically true if the word "media" were replaced by "Television." As written it is plainly false and totally unsuited to an organization with the high standards of "Talking Points Memo."
I disagree with Kevin Drum (ouch) and agree with Lee Seigal AAAAAIIIIIIIIII

I cut and paste Drum and continue with my comment.

TRUTH AND BEAUTY....Lee Siegel is — what? Nervous? Uncomfortable? Anxious? I'm not quite sure, but he's something over the recent release of several books attacking religion:

I'm not a particularly religious person. These arguments don't offend me or my beliefs. But they make me concerned nevertheless, because I think they strike a blow against something more important (at least to me) than belief in God. In their contempt for any belief that cannot be scientifically or empirically proved, the anti-God books are attacking our inborn capacity to create value and meaning for ourselves.

....When our anti-religionists attack the mechanism of religious faith by demanding that our beliefs be underpinned by science, statistics and cold logic, they are, in effect, attacking our right to believe in unseen, unprovable things at all....After all, you cannot prove the existence of truth, beauty, goodness and decency; you cannot prove the dignity of being human, or your obligation to treat people as ends and not just as means.

Let me get this straight. Lee Siegel himself is "not a particularly religious person." But he nonetheless thinks that attacks on religion undermine our ability to believe in "truth, beauty, goodness and decency."

This is nuts. After all, Siegel presumably believes in all these things. If cold logic hasn't stopped him, why should it stop anyone else?

I don't happen to care one way or the other whether atheists write books promoting atheism, but surely Siegel understands the difference between believing in an actual existing deity who controls the physical universe even though there's no evidence for it, and believing that human emotions are real even though they have no physical existence? This isn't really a subtle distinction. If it weren't, then Siegel's own lack of religiosity would undermine his ability to engage in flights of imagination. But, as this op-ed demonstrates, it doesn't.


On a personal level, I can understand why religious believers get tired of being pilloried as irrational zealots. Conversely, though, I get tired of believers who seem to think that atheists are incapable of morality, awe, appreciation of beauty, or the ability to lead a meaningful life. It's even more tiresome coming from someone who is himself not a believer and really ought to know better.

Oh (not mine either) God. I think I agree with Lee Siegal and disagree with you (both experiences are painful in the extreme).

In the passage you quoted (I will *not* read the rest of what he wrote) he didn't in any way suggest that religious faith is required for belief in, say, gooness. He argued that the scientific method can't show us what is write and wrong, what goodness is or tell us why to be good. This will come as no shock to anyone familiar with science and as a cliche to anyone familiar with the philosophy of science. His claim is so obvious that you can't believe he meant that which he clearly wrote.

Seigal is, quite clearly, criticizing logical positivism not atheism. The logical positivists always had great difficulty explaining why they didn't consider all statements about right and wrong to be hypocritical meaning in fact "I like this. Do so as well." That was a real philosophical problem. It helps explain why it is hard to find logical positivists in philosophy departments these days (meaning since about 1945).

The idea, central to logical positivism, that any claim which can not be tested empirically is nonsense is philosophical poison, with which logical positivism committed suicide (it asserts itself to be nonsense as it clearly can not be tested).

Dawkins et al haven't heard about the apostasy of the logical positivists. Seigal objects to their argument, roughly that which is not science is false or meaningless, not their conclusion.

It is not necessary to doubt that one can believe in right and wrong without believing in God to accept logical positivism. I believe in right and wrong but not in God or logical positivism.

update: Look Mr Drum don't bring my mother into the debate, because if you do. I will ... I mean I will ... admit you have a point.

My mother is much closer to being a logical positivist than I am and does not believ3 in objective moral truth.n This disbelief does not prevent her from being a wonderful person and atheist saint. I'm her son, so don't trust me but you can ask anyone who knows her. The belief that the word "truth" should be reserved for valid science and mathematics does not prevent her from being very very good. I believe in objective moral truth and, well I'm better than Dick Cheney but I don't dare go far beyond that.

Seigal is worried about the possible long term effects of the belief that there is no truth outside of science (and mathematics). I agree that he is being silly, as this belief is common among atheists many of whom are very moral people. However, it is a belief that goes beyond simple disbelief in God and, in particular, is a belief which do do not share. I agree with Drum conclusion that Seigal (intellectual spazzatura) is confused, but I disagree with Drum's argument, because Drum fails to notice that Seigal criticizes Dawkins' argument not his conclusion.