Monday, January 19, 2009

Eight is Enough

(eight figure wealth that is).

After his hedge fund posted a return of 866% Andrew Lahde decided to stop.

He is an example to all suffering multimillionaires who are ruining their lives chasing after more millions while doing things that they don't enjoy or think are socially useful.

His farewell letter with my comments

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

I love this passage, especially the part about "all levels of our government." However, after reading it (some time ago) I have been looking for confirmation and not finding it. I am very sorry to say that it doesn't seem to me that the top fools at Lehman and AIG are upper class twits. Surprisingly often, they have normal socioeconomic backgrounds (I mean normal not what you think is normal for CEOs).

AIG CEO Maurice (Hank) Greenberg is the son of a Taxi cab driver "When Greenberg took the reins in 1968, AIG was a privately held company. Greenberg, a compactly built son of a taxi cab driver,"

Lehman CEO Richard Fuld was in the ROTC (motto it doesn't matter if you get straight A's if you flunk tuition) at U Colorado Boulder.

hmm why is this link dead ? At Lehman when you're out, you're out.

(looking for Fuld's dad, I find that Lehman CFO Errin Callen is the daughter of a police officer).

Kenneth Lay waa poor as a child.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. I conclude that Mr Lahde has an 8 figure net worth. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don't worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer's company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. Ah a homonym. He means "reined in" (as in what you do with a horse) not "Reigned" as in what a monarch does. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government.

huh ? Adam Smith was never in that country.

Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man's interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft's near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken. If the best hope of defeating plutocracy in the USA was to have a rich person reshape the polity we would be in bad shape indeed. However, it sure looks like another approach is, well promising. Yes We Could. I hope that after a few months away from finance Mr Lahde is not so dispairingly convinced of the invincibility of concentrated wealth.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won't see it included in BP's, "Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions," television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM's similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country?

Ah, the female. The evil female plant -- marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. Oh my oh my, this passage isn't excerpted often. I agree with Mr Lahde and think it is especially wonderful that he expressed his opinion here My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. I assume that additive is a typo for "addictive" and I contest the claim. The defining characteristic of addictive drugs is that people feel strong cravings if they go without. So nicotine, heroin, crack, alcohol and marijuana are addictive (not equally addictive). Anti-depressants aren't. One thing I owe to Mr Lahde is the reminder (I had forgotten to take my daily 20 MG of prozac till I read that list). Also Marijuana was illegal long before pharmaceutical companies made significant profits from anti-depressants. Also they are getting basically squat for Prozac (not on the list and still legal) since it is off patent. The theory as to why Marijuana is illegal is clearly false. I don't think it was meant seriously. In any case, I agree with Lahde's policy recommendation This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let's stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,

Andrew Lahde

So, in comments, any suggestion for Mr Lahde's next line of work if he gets bored with retirement ? I'd say he has a lot to offer as an occasional columnist. The sad fact is that it is very very rare for people to make more money than they could ever spend, then retire. I think they need help. I think that Mr Lahde knows just the virtually harmless plant that can help them. I really hope that wall street dickheads would smoke the stuff if it were a condition for talking about what instruments he thinks are overpriced and oh I would love to be a fly on the wall.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Can Mickey Kaus count to Four ?

I have always assumed that he is sneaky not stupid, but I have begun to wonder if Mickey Kaus has really grasped the possibility that there might be more than three numbers: "Negative", "Positive" and "Zero". If there is any proof that he understands that one positive number might be larger than another, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Kaus Wrote (via Yglesias)

My crude default view: If we have robust economic growth, we don’t need greater unionization to boost low-end wages. If we don’t have economic growth, then greater unionization isn’t going to do much to boost low-end wages by itself. And greater unionization will actually make economic growth less likely.

I suppose I should note the words "crude" and "default", so to be as charitable as possible, this may just show that Kaus thinks that all positive numbers are approximately the same. If anyone can present and defend a still more favorable assessment of Mr Kaus's grasp of the concept of the number, I would be interested to hear it and honestly sincerely surprised.

I think it is easy to see that his argument is bogus without bothering with specifics like the definitions of the word "union" and the phrase "economic growth". There is a clear equivocation in

"If we have robust economic growth, ... If we don’t have economic growth." So economic growth is either robust or nonexistent ? This is not a mere slip. Kaus really relies on the equivocation. He can argue that with robust economic growth things will be great. Any example of things not being so hot with economic growth doesn't disprove this claim, he will just claim it wasn't "robust". Then he can argue that with zero economic growth, things will be rotten. What he can't argue is that things were fine and dandy from 2002 through 2007 with normal economic growth and median wage stagnation, nor that there was median wage stagnation in the 50s with similar growth rates and strong unions.

He is making a false dichotomy between robust growth and no growth. He is also being totally innumerate. He considers all "boosts" to low end wages to be equal, that is, he considers only whether the trend is positive or negative. With robust growth and no unions, low end wages will rise. With robust growth and unions they will grow faster. His argument, such as it is, does not depend on the claim that unions slow growth. It is a totally invalid argument based on his manifest incapacity to grasp the fact that there are more than three numbers ("positive", "negative" and "zero")

Basically he claims that the effect of unions is dwarfed by the difference between 4% real GDP growth per year and 0% real GDP growth per year. OK now how about Mickey Kaus just shutting up forever. Mr Kaus and I disagree about whether this would be a good thing or a bad thing, but we agree that it is dwarfed by the difference between 4% real GDP growth per year and 0% real GDP growth per year.

update: I'm quite serious. I think I can explicate Kaus's argument. I really think the following is a fair clarification of his thought

If we have robust economic growth, we don’t need greater unionization to boost low-end wages [that is there is a rate of economic growth so high that, without unions low-end real wages will grow. All positive numbers are approximately equal so if economic growth is positive then low-end real wages will grow approximately as fast as anyone can wish.] If we don’t have economic growth,[That is, if Real GNP growth is zero or negative, then per capital real GDP growth will be negative, real low-end wages will decline. All negative numbers are approximately equal, so] then greater unionization isn’t going to do much to boost low-end wages by itself. And greater unionization will actually make economic growth less likely [,because I said so based on my idea of common sense and without looking at any data].

This is my best effort to make sense of the Kaus quotation. Perhaps someone can do better and come up with an interpretation which is not based on the assumption that all positive numbers are approximately equal, but, for the life of me, I can't imagine what that interpretation might be.

update: Wow I got a link from Kaus. Odd since I linked to Drum not Kaus directly. I quote the relevant text which includes the link.

And greater unionization will actually make economic growth less likely.**

**--Why? Because the litigious, adversarial, cumbersome everything-must-be-negotiated culture and structure of American unionism is incompatible with the flexible, rapidly changing workplace required to be globally competitive in the twenty-first century! (E.g., compare Toyota's production system with Detroit's model.) That's one reason why. ... Also, greater union power (at least until you get to near-universal unionization) promotes the wage-price spiral, requiring depressive Fed action to tame inflation. That's another reason. ... 10:04 P.M.

Notably Kaus does not contest my theory that he believes that all postive numbers are approximately equal. Nor does he provide another interpretative key to his original post. Instead he responds to the fact that I note in passing, that he argues,in passing, that unions are bad for growth. The assertion that unions are bad for growth is not central to his original argument. It is tacked on at the end (note the sentence begins with the word "And"). He has asserted that unions do approximately no good, which would be quite a result if he had argued it convincingly, and adds that he thinks they are bad for growth.

My principal objection was to his principal argument which concludes that unions do approximately no good using the assumption that all positive numbers are approximately equal. Kaus does not contest my claim that his reasoning is based on that assumption. Instead he debates a second point, which is, of course, immensely important. I think he doesn't contest my interpretation of his reasoning, because it is impossible to contest my interpretation of his reasoning. His brief argument is clearly entirely based on the assumption that all positive numbers are approximately equal. Someone might be able to come up with another interpretation, but, I concluded that Mr Kaus, himself is not that someone. That he has conceded that, yes indeed, he reasons on important issues using, relying on and accepting without any hesitation or doubt the assumption that all positive numbers are approximately equal.

I propose that future discussions of Mr Kaus's contributions to the economic debate take note of the fact that he assumes that all positive numbers are approximately equal and that people who r take his arguments seriously be asked if they too assume that all postiive numbers are approximately equal. I have made the accusation. He has, evidently, happened upon my accusation. He has chosen not to contest it. Until further notice, I think it is reasonable to tentatively conclude that Mickey Kaus agrees that he makes and relies upon the assumption that all positive numbers are approximately equal.
Mickey Kaus and the English Language

Mickey Kaus wrote "Drum seems to be explicitly embracing 'pie-slicing'".

I reply that Mickey Kaus seems to be objectively anti English Language and half consciously attempting to deprive all words of meaning.

Double plus ungood.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

James Wimberly weighs in on the Walzer, Davies, Zasloff discussion.

Unlike Davies, his tone is sober. Like Davies he reaches a very very harsh conclusion on Walzer, basically arguing that Walzer could not have written his column in good faith.

Wimberly writes

"It's particularly sad then that his comments ad bellum Gazae are so jejune.

First, he only considers proportionality, briefly mentions alternate means - but not the default course of doing nothing -, and ignores definite aim and chances of success, all part of the standard just war toolkit. Since he has literally written the book on this, the omissions lend support to Davies' imputation of bad faith.

Second, what he has to say about proportionality is weird. He conflates proportionality AB and IB, an elementary mistake - or, you have to think, sophistical manoeuvre:"


(Wimberly defines and apologizes for the Latin and the Latin acronyms further up in his post).

Unlike Davies and Zasloff, Wimberly actually convinced me to read the Walzer column I am a fan of Walzer, but know about his record commenting on Israel, and didn't expect to enjoy the experience. I didn't. Walzer does indeed ignore "definite aim and chance of success" which he listed as requirements for Justice of War in "Just and Unjust Wars." Basically, he feels no need to address the argument that Israel's war effort is strongly counter to Israel's interests and that proportionality between civilian deaths and damage to Israel is not the kind of porportionality that might justify bombing.

Wimberly makes this argument much better than I do of course. It is devastating.

Also, Walzer complains that people accused Israel of a disproportionate response at the very beginning of the bombing campaign -- before counting civilian casualties. This seems to be a reasonable thing to do to me, since if you have reason to believe that a lot of people are going to die, you might try to prevent their deaths and not wait to count them, but let's concede he is right on that point. He does not, however, assess the proportionality after counting civilian casualties.

Because proportionality arguments are forward-looking, and because we don't have positive, but only speculative, knowledge about the future, we need to be very cautious in using this justification. The commentators and critics using it today, however, are not being cautious at all; they are not making any kind of measured judgment, not even a speculative kind. "Disproportionate" violence for them is simply violence they don't like, or it is violence committed by people they don't like.

So Israel's Gaza war was called "disproportionate" on day one, before anyone knew very much about how many people had been killed or who they were.

This is, to put it as politely as possible, gibberish. He says we must be cautious when using proportionality as a justification, then he concludes that we must be cautious when saying an act of war is not justified. It is clear to me that advocates of the use of force are wrong until decisively proven right unless they are Israeli in which case they are right until they are decisively proven wrong.

Well except if they were condemned before there was decisive proof. In that case the case is dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct by their critics and there is no need to look at further evidence on the proportion between civilian deaths and war aims (where wishes are good enough and any coherent argument that the war will contribute to the aims is optional).

Ugh. I knew I wouldn't enjoy reading the column.

Anyway, my original motivation for commenting on Wimberly was to complain about this "You would have thought that Google had finished this ploy: the string "IDF tactics Gaza civilians risks" returned 46,000 hits, with Haaretz - not The Guardian - twice on the first page."

Actually no. I googled "IDF tactics Gaza civilians risks" and got 2 hits one of which was Wimberly's post and the other was a post linking to it.. Wimberly googled the following string: IDF + tactics + Gaza + civilians + risks

I mean one just can't use quotation marks in the usual way when describing google strings, You don't have to type the +s of course. I'd say

"the string -- IDF tactics Gaza civilians risks -- returned 46,000 hits," would be OK, but not with quotation marks.

Wimberley is criticizing this passage

The third question: Is the attacking army acting in concrete ways to minimize the risks they impose on civilians? Are they taking risks themselves for that purpose? Armies choose tactics that are more or less protective of the civilian population, and we judge them by their choices. I haven't heard this question asked about the Gaza war by commentators and critics in the Western media;

Walzer's problem is that he doesn't keep up with "the media" which currently includes the internet and can be kept up with only with google. If he had written "non Israeli Western mass media" he would have what seems to me, given my limited google skills, a point. A google News search of IDF + tactics + Gaza + civilians + risks gives 4 hits of which only one is non-Izraeli mass media (the BBC) and that posted 2 days after Walzer's article.

I mean there are people who don't google and we have to take them at their word that they haven't heard things which we read again and again on blogs.

Aside from that, Wimberley is devastating.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kevin Drum's grasp of economics almost always astounds me

Today, however, I think he gets something plain wrong.

He writes

Tax cuts, similarly, are in ill repute because they don't necessarily increase consumption. People are more likely to sock the money away in a savings account or use it to pay down credit card debt. So there's no bang for the buck.

But surely this is short sighted? Stimulus spending can (we hope) help keep the economy afloat over the next couple of years, but then what? When the economy starts to recover, it will certainly be helped along if bank balance sheets are in better shape than they are today. Likewise, it will be helped along if consumers have paid down some of that credit card debt and put a few dollars aside. Right? We can't keep running a negative savings rate forever, after all.

I comment.

If money from a tax cut is saved, there is no effect on national savings. We just have more public debt and less private debt (if it is spent national savings falls).

We will collectively be just as much in debt as we would have been without the saved rebate checks. However, we will think were are less in debt (because people don't keep track of their share of the national debt).

That means that savings out of the tax cut will contribute to the national illusion that we are richer than we are. That illusion contributes to, indeed probably is the principal cause of, our low national savings rate.

People save now to spend later. We want people to spend now that we are in a recession and a liquidity trap. We don't want people to spend later when monetary policy can keep us at full employment. Saved rebate checks are bad for exactly the reason which makes you think they are good.

On the other hand, I agree with him on this one except that he puts it better than I did.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jonathan Zasloff is not aware of all internet traditions

He writes "I confess I have never heard of Davies before"

I'm honestly shocked. What blogs does Zasloff read ? I almost suspect that he has a life.

Lets see. Clearly he doesn't read "Sadly No" as he hasn't read the footnote

"‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. We are aware of all Internet traditions.™"

OK fine, SameFacts to Sadly No ! is a ways to go, but what about Brad DeLong and *the unanswered question* hmm a google and a click

and Oh my Daniel Davies wrote not one but two of the 5 classic blog posts listed by Brad DeLong (I was going to get to the "Everything I Know I Learned At A Very Expensive University" if google hadn't beaten me to it).

Also, I mean if you want to say that someone you've never heard of has shot himself in the foot with a howitzer, don't you google him first ?

On the merits, Zasloff has some pretty good snark, but no case. He takes DDs invocation of the Geneva conventions to be an argument that the law settles moral questions (you want a direct quote to make a claim like that). DD complains that Walzer does not take current international law into account. Not that Walzer thinks that the law should be changed, but that he doesn't acknowledge that it exits, is written and published. Now if Zasloff has proof that Walzer acknowedges that he is challenging current international law, then Davies is wrong. Otherwise Zasloff is focusing on one hyperbolic line in a long post (which line he paraphrased).

Aside from that Zasloff says the protocol is unclear (you want to quote the law when claiming it is unclear) and he decides that the rules should be different for the good guys and the bad guys (since it is perfectly clear to the bad guys that they are the bad guys this shouldn't lead to any confusion).

I think I know what is happening here. In the USA commentators are not allowed to take international law seriously. The idea that international law binds the USA and that the USA must obey it unless and until it is changed is held to be unmentionably fringe loony insane. One of the ways in which Mondale managed to lose to Bush Sr was be quoting from the charter of the Organization of American States.

Now it is OK to read international treaties and decide to ignore them, but it is safer to leave them unread.
Politico and the English Language

In politico Manu Raju writes

"grow the size of an energy-tax incentive package"

Now I've noticed that people have decided to grow the frequency of using "to grow" as a transitive verb, but I want to draw the line at "grow the size".

How about "enlarge" or "expand" or "increase" or "aument" ?

I know, people who live in glass houses ...
may want to look at a comment to the post immediately below this one.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Down the Memory Hole

AP News

Jan 09, 2009 15:13 EST

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo is the highest ranking officer in the history of the CIA to be convicted of a federal crime,

Not up to the standards of Wikipedia

Richard McGarrah Helms (March 30, 1913–October 22, 2002) was the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from 1966 to 1973. He was the only director to have been convicted of lying to Congress over Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) undercover activities.

Lying to congress is a federal crime and the DCI outranks the "the agency's executive director and third-ranking officer under then-director Porter Goss."

A pardon can cancel a conviction for legal purposes but it doesn't mean that the event (conviction) never happened.

update: I just e-mailed some friendly advice to talk at

Dear Talk

This article
begins with a howler "Kyle "Dusty" Foggo is the highest ranking officer in the history of the CIA to be convicted of a federal crime,"

Richard Helms was the DCI and he was convicted of lying to congress, which is, you know, a federal crime. A pardon may cancel the legal effects of a conviction but it doesn't mean the event never happened.

Given the relative journalistic standards, I think that should be more arms length from the AP, I mean do you really want to link without comment to an organization which just isn't anywhere near to being up to your standards ?


Friday, January 09, 2009

Commenting on a column which I haven't read which comments on a Paper which I haven't

Matt Yglesias writes

David Henderson has a column in Forbes getting some pick up in what passes for conservative movement policy circles alleging that Christina Romer’s co-authored paper on “The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks” debunks Barack Obama’s approach to fiscal stimulus.


I’m going to go with the other interpretation: Henderson is wrong.

He writes “The Romers carefully sift through all federal tax cuts and tax increases from 1947 to 2005 to figure out, based on the discussion at the time, whether the changes in tax policy were motivated by a desire to offset the business cycle or by other goals.” Their finding was that tax cuts implemented between 1947 and 2005 that were intended to serve as economic stimulus didn’t work.

I'm not sure I remember correctly and I might be making a fool of myself, but I think that Henderson's error is elementary. The Romers' result shows the changes after a tax cut. The reasonable interpretation of their results for anticyclical tax cuts is that they are measuring the sum of the effect of the tax cut and the recession.

To measure directly if a tax cut works you have to compare events with and without the tax cut while everything else is equal. This is impossible. They distinguish endogenous (countercyclical) and exogenous tax cuts so that they can measure the effect of tax cuts by the changes following exogenous tax cuts. If taxes are cut in response to a political event (Republicans win election) not an economic event, they guess that the economic effects which follow are caused by the tax cut. If there is a recession and a tax cut the following events are the sum of a recession and the effects of a tax cut.
Assorted Comments

Paul Krugman's post "The Trouble with Sanjay Gupta" is not accepting comments (I don't know if this is because of time or the number of comments but, thanking my lucky stars that I am not Krugman's comment screener (or one of the team) I don't complain).

I shared Krugman's concerns, but didn't post.

He put it better than I would have, of course, but did have to re-explain in an update which should be read (see below). I actually support the appointment of Gupta as I think that Paris is worth a Mass and universal coverage is worth genuflecting to the village (This was put better by Ezra Klein of course).

However, I do want to add one particular reason I have so much sympathy for Krugman's position. Bagehot distinguished the "efficient" offices in the UK (prime minister etc) from the "dignified" offices (King). I think we should distinguish between the political or spin based offices and the reality based offices in the US. Some people had better not be too frank or too blindly devoted to facticity -- diplomats, congressional liason, press secretary etc. Others are supposed to be reality based : directors of theCBO, EPA, NASA, NIH, and the Surgeon General. The role, such as it is, is to report inconvenient scientific truths such as Smoking kills )(I forget who) and facts related to sex (C Everett Koop, Jocylen Elder). Limited respect for the difference between making a case and fudging facts, an unwillingness to admit error, and concern for style (Moore is fat and loud) over substance (the claims of fact in his last 2 films are all accurate) are serious impediments to good performance in this role. I am convinced that the idea is that Gupta will be a salesman for health care reform and accept that as say a hail Mary after the Mass which Paris is worth. Still I think that politics should stop somewhere.

If the facts of the case are unclear, read Krugman's summary (from above I wanted to force you to read me first)

Update: Many commenters don’t seem to get the point. Gupta didn’t say “Michael Moore is an annoying blowhard”; he didn’t say “We question his interpretation of the evidence”; he said he “fudged the facts”. In other words, he accused Moore of lying. That’s a very strong accusation, which had better be backed by solid evidence. Instead, we had CNN misreading a number from Moore; CNN objecting to Moore using a projected health care spending number for 2007 instead of an actual number for 2005 (and the projection was right, by the way); CNN accusing Moore of not showing a number that was in fact right there in the movie. And Gupta did not apologize, except for the misread number.

I can't get comments at to work. Jonathan Zasloff types with his tongue firmly in cheek "Nate Silver Makes an Egregious Factual Error.
Two days ago, Nate Silver penned a punishing takedown of the Wall Street Journal's alternative universe on the Minnesota recount. As they say, read the whole thing.

But in the beginning, Silver sets up an alternative universe of his own. His post in entitled, "Did the Wall Street Journal Fire Their Fact-Checkers?"

Nate, this is the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It has no fact-checkers."

I'm sure Silver was being deliberately ironic when he pretended to consider the Wall Street Journal editorial page to be part of the Wall Street Journal. The link shows, however, that his fingers rebelled as Zasloff links to

That is, Silver first entitled his post "did the Wall Street Jorunal fire their fact ...". I think this is a useful distinction and that the pages formerly known as The Wall Street Journal editorial pages should heceforth be called "The Wall Street Jorunal" with obligatory link to Solver's takedown.

update: Congresman Jon Conyers, chairman of the house Judiciary peace committee, share my concerns about getting facts right (and one of his stafers has matchd my Spellling abilaty) and objects to the appointment of Sunjay Gupta (no problem Mr congressman, Sunjay Gupta will not be surgeon general).

Conyers has been magnificent these past few years and, since I think that congressional staff are part of the spin based not the reality based government, I'm not too concerned. Still embarrassing. Via Oliver Willis Via Steve Benen
The Googlimpics

for some strange reason, I feel a shortage of petty geekiness in my life. If I don't have enough, you don't have nearly enough.

I wonder about possible Geek competitive activities.

I propose the googlimpics in which Geeks compete in their command of the google.

Here is the idea. There is a google dual (written google* of course).

Contestant A attempts to find a very obscure fact on the internet on a page with no onbviously related words. Contestant finds a question to which this fact is the answer. Judge C agrees with contestant A that the fact is the answer to the question. Contestant A asks B the question and challenges B to find the answer googling. Contestant B finds a candidate answer after X minutes of googling. Judge C decides if it is a correct answer to the question. If yes, B's score is minus the time it took to find the answer. If not B tries again. If the second answer is correct, B's score is minus total time minus a penalty. B has N tries to covince C that he or she has found the correct answer. B's score is - infinity if B gives up. Then the roles of A and B are reversed.

Actually the game becomes much more game theoretic if the roles of A, B and C rotate so there is a shifting alliances side game based on how much judges lie.

OK so do the googlimpics already exist ? If so what are the rules.

It's time for a google. Time stamp 3:28 AM Rome time.

Wholly Banana Slug, there is only one google hit for Googlimpics (heyyy once I post this I will be at least the second ranking hit for googlimpics).

time stam,p 3:30 AM Rome time.

The impulse to write the post came to me as I was writing the comment below on Kevin Drum's post googling metaphorical wars.

Yeah but my question is how many victories have been declared. I know Armistice day, VE day, VJ day but what about VT day, VP day ? What is VC day ? Victory against Christmas, cancer or crime (actually it is clearly the day they evacuated the US embassy in Saigon and the VC's allies the NVA won the war. Bit of a Pyrrhic Victory that as the Viet Cong were incorporated in the VA (Vietnamese Army not vetarans administration) the next day.

I propos VCh day for Christmas, VCa for cancer and VCr for crime. I am quite sure that victory against cancer has been declared (prematurely sad to say).

I will try to google the false VCr day time stamp now 2:32 Rome time.

OK it's 2:34 and I see my recollection was incorrect. The declaration was VCrM2 day (Victory against cancer in two years) "Their findings received little attention until 1998, when a New York Times reporter, recounting a dinner-table conversation by Nobel laureate James D. Watson, quoted him as saying that “Judah Folkman is going to cure cancer in two years.”"

Dr Watsons over-optimism was elementary but he still has a Nobel prize and we don't.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rational Vaccine Design

An essential stage in the immune response is internization processing and presentation of antigens by antigen presenting cells principally dendritic cells (DCs) . I think it would be reasonable to try vaccinating with hybrid proteins consisting of the antigen to which one wants an immune response and antibodies which bind DC surface proteins which are specific to dendritic cells and which are internalized.

It appears that CD1-a is the desired surface protein. It appears to be internalized according to a "processing pathway" and is specific enough to dendritic cells to be used to count them.

First Claim here.

Second claim in this paper published, get this, February 2009 ! (webpublished December 4).

Now being stuck to the antibody might be a problem. In that case there is an easy solution. If the antigen to which one wants an immune response is linked to the antibody by a linker which hydrolizes in low pH (as in lysosomes) then the antigen will internalize and be released. That's for if rational vaccine 1 doesn't work.