Thursday, September 30, 2010

Take a Wok on the Wild Side

Google is harshing my mellow

So I thought a post about California based foodies entitled "A Wok on the Wild Side" might be amusing, but before moving on from the title to the text I decided to google to see just how clever and original I am.

OK OK "about 34,500 results doesn't bother me" but this url did.
My Ceci's put on weight, and turned White and had a sex change operation

This time the headline guy is Greg Levine who wrote

"Breaking: Rahm’s Resignation Confirmed; Rouse to be Acting Chief of Staff"

Wow !! To me Rouse is Cecilia (Ceci) Rouse currently one of two remaining councilors on the CEA.

But it seems that there is another Rouse in the Obama administration Pete Rouse.

By the way I was just at an (masters) thesis defence (now Master with highest honors) Raffaele Saggio further explored the case in which Rouse found that Ashelfelter and (assistant treasury secretary for economic policy) Krueger had reached an odd conclusion because they analysed very few data (it was an econometrics thesis on problems with panel data with a short time dimension).

Axhenfelter and Krueger are both brilliant and have made huge contributions and starting with a small study is a reasonable approach to research.

I don't recall the names of Bush administration economists (except for chairmen of the CEA) coming up in academic discussions.

Anyway no female or African American chief of staff yet. Ndank ndank and all that.

Ndank Ndank means "slowly slowly" in Wolof -- Rouse spent a year in Senegal and brought the word back. It is part of a saying (ndank ndank mooy jaap golo ci niaay (after many efforts the hunter catches the monkey)) about persistence in the face of difficulties, which was much quoted by PhD candidates, including Treasury Undersecretary for international affairs Lael Brainard, who definitely said it many times, while waiting over a year for senate confirmation. headline tizio outdoes headline guy.

Premier: banche Usa salve grazie a me

LA DIRETTA Il Cavaliere al Senato: "Concludere legislatura. Ho convinto io Obama a lanciare il piano da 700 miliardi".

Live the Knight (Berlusconi) to the Senate: "Finish the legislature. I convinced Obama to launch the 700 billion plan."

First note that quotation marks in Italian headlines do not indicate quotations. It is generally considered OK to put paraphrases in quotation marks. De punctuationibus non disputandum est. I was struck that Berlusconi is taking credit for TARP when over there everyone is tryind to assign the blame for TARP to the other party. I agree with Berlusconi (ouch typing that hurt) that the TARP was an excellent act. But since when was Obama the President of the United States. Correct answer January 20 2009. La Repubblica answer, since before September 2008.

I understand that more people in the US think Obama signed TARP than correctly answer that Bush signed it, but information in newspapers is supposed to be better than the median guy's guess.

The article has what appears to be an actual quotation "Ho convinto il Presidente Usa a intervenire dopo il crac di Lehman Brothers." that is "I convinced the US president to intervene after the failure of Lehman Brothers." The US president in question is named George W. Bush. I mean is the question "who was President of the USA in 2008 really so hard ?"
Are You a Real Progressive ?
via John Cole.
Man Bites Dog

Ross Douthat argues that Kwame Anthony Appiah shows insufficient respect for the insights of Karl Marx and so fails to correctly predict future opinions aobut man bites steak.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cyrillic comment spam (link deleted)

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Likely Voter Filters

Kevin Drum makes an excellent find. NBC said something about their likely voter filter ! "Among likely voters — identified by their past voting history and their high level of interest in the November midterms."

As far as I know, until now, pollsters other than Gallup haven't explained their likely voter filter at all.

So hmm "past voting behavior" could be problematic. The last election was very unusual. Also, I think that past voting behavior will underweight early middle age people. To make my thought clear, consider a simplified imaginary USA where all young people don't vote and all old people vote. In that USA' there is some age when people vote for the first time. Those people will be voters not clasified as likely voters. My sense is that that's been a very good age group for republicans (see Atrios "Talking bout my generation") but isn't anymore. Oh no I don't have the link but about a week ago, someone at DailyKos noted that, looking at polls where both likely voter results and registered voter results were reported, the registered voter results were closer to the final outcome in more than half of cases in 2006 and 2008 (the only years checked). Was this because they were wave years ? Or was it because the usefulness of likely voter filters was based on generation X ? Likely voter filters haven't been around long enough to tell.

Now how about interest. Has anyone checked the relationship between stated interest in September and actual voting behavior ? Obviously interest typically rises during October -- many people only tune in then. I don't see how one can check (I recall a post by Kevin Drum which notes that according to polls 70% of eligible voters voted in the last election).

Something that is possible is checking the reliability of likely voter polls in September. Reliability is only checked using the very last poll. The idea is that people really change their mind so it isn't the pollster's fault if they don't vote in November the way they said they would vote if the election were held the day after some day in September. So ? Statistics are useful even when there is a disturbance term. But even Nate Silver himself just accepts likely voter filters. Why ?

I think it is clear that the Gallup filter is biased against the young until just before the election. One of their 7 questions is "do you know where your polling place is ?" They assess the filter using data on voting intentions of people who do and don't know in late October. They use the filter in late September. Clearly not knowing in late October means much more than not knowing in late September. Notably in the past two presidentials, Gallup gave better results for the Republican in September than other polls (search Gallup anomaly) then their last poll pretty much nailed it. What happens when you regress Dem share in the last Gallup poll on Dem Share in the first Gallup likely voter poll and a constant ? I must predict a positive constant which would be significant if one collected enough data.
On average headline guy does very well but he or she struggled yesterday

Boy did he or she ever. The headline has changed twice. I don't know the order, but the current headline is (no screen shot) "Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans" which seems fine. But there was a third headline

"On Basic Religion Test, Many Doth Not Pass"

Which appears to be an incorrect use of "doth" (I doth not have a clue, but Belle Waring asked “Did they learn about religion from a bunch of old Thor comics?”

No answer to that question, however, John Holbo shows how headline writing is to be done

The Gray Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Forsooth, methinks that John Hoblo art a genius.

Also his update art not bad

"UPDATE: Yon Gray Lady Hath Fixethed It."

Old post on a headline which doth by no means lead to such brilliant criticism seguent.

The headline at for a much noted story is odd

"Atheists Outdo Some Believers in Survey on Religion"

The story reports that the average score of atheists and agnostics on a quiz about religion was higher than the average score of each of many religious groups.

I suspect that an earlier candidate headline (perhaps just in headline guy's head) was "Atheists Outdo All Believers in Survey on Religion"

That hypothetical headline would be incorrect. That means either that no single believer scored better than the lowest scoring atheist or, at least, that no single believer beat the atheist average.

But the current headline is a very weak claim. "Some believers" might be 2 believers. I think that a better effort would be "Atheists Outdo Believers in Survey on Religion." There is no simple English qualifier which indicates that one is speaking about averages, since the English language was old when the concept of an average was invented.

I think the correct headline would be "On Average Atheists Outdo Believiers on Religion." Headlines must be short, but there is no way to accurately describe averages without explicitly invoking the concept.

This is part N in a series on how we have trouble with basic statistical concepts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why the Democrats Should have Proposed Temporary Tax Cuts for Everyone Part MMMMCCCLXXXXII

Here, in Elmendorf's words, is what will surely be the Republican talking point:

"All four of the options for extending the expiring income tax cuts would raise output, income, and employment during the next two years, relative to what would occur under current law," Elmendorf said. "A full permanent extension or partial permanent extension would provide a larger boost to income and employment in the next two years than would a temporary extension, and a full extension would provide a larger boost than would the corresponding partial extension."

What we have here is Elmendorf noting that even the most inefficient stimulus is a stimulus. He went on to argue that tax cuts for the rich would slow growth in the long run.

If Democrats other than Clyburn had been arguing for permanent extension of Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000 and temporary extension of Obama tax cuts for 95% of working US families, then Elmendorf could have said that the Democrats proposal would cause higher growth in the short run and in the long run.

Republicans want the question to be "taxes high or low ?" Then a substantial minority agrees with them about tax cuts which benefit only the richest 2%.

If the question were "tax cuts for the rich or for the middle class ?" then The Republicans would have been crushed.

But Democrats from states other than South Carolina just won't ask that question, because it would be populist and demagogic. So ?

It is a good policy proposal. The fact that it would be extremely popular doesn't make it a bad policy proposal.
So I was watching and listening to the Lady Gaga "Alejandro" video on TV (don't try to convince me that you haven't seen it -- everyone who isn't actually sightless has seen it).

And I thought. Ah Western Culture, it had a pretty good run for 25 centuries and nothing lasts forever.
What John Cole Said

"My response is that the government targeting someone for death and refusing to explain why is so broadly offensive to me that I don’t give a shit about the legal arguments."

Unfortunately, I can't resist amateur constitutional scholarship. Don't try this at home kids. Look below and see just how humiliating a little knowledge can be.

Which are also very simple. This was in response to someone who argued that "he’s been designated by the US and the UN ..." See the US has designated what body can decide that someone is to die, and that would be a jury of his peers. The US has done something if each and every US citizen agrees or if the people have designated some other body to speak for us and it does. The Executive branch does not have any authority to speak on behalf of the USA on the question of who should live and who should die (except for the power of the President to grant pardons and commute sentences).

Now one might argue that my interpretation of the 5th amendment is inconsistent with the body of the constitution which contemplates war. I respond that the 5th amendment is very brief and clear, and that my interpretation of the 13th amendment is inconsistent with the body of the constitution, which said that escaped slaves must be returned to their owners.

If plain English means what plain English plainly means, the power of the Senate to declare war was cancelled by the 5th amendment. War involves killing people without giving them a trial. The 5th amendment forbids killing people (including non citizens) without a trial. The 5th amendment clearly forbids the US to wage war.

I think that war is sometimes necessary and would support partial repeal of the 5th amendment. But while it's there in the constitution, it's there in the constitution.
Speaking of Kevin Drum

This post is brilliant too. I hadn't fully grasped the hisorical pattern of appeals to the constitution by right wing groups which grow when a Democrat is President (the latest of which supported George W Bush when he declared the constitution null and void).

On the other hand, this post includes an arithmetic mistake. Drum notes that 30% of people in a poll support the ACA and an additional 16% either oppose it or are undecided because it didn't go far enough (0% said they opposed the law and 30% said they didn't know) That means 46% either support it or don't support it because it didn't go far enough. Notably 40% oppose it. Even assuming that 0% opposed it because it didn't go far enough that means support or think didn't go far enough beats oppose 46% to 40%.

That leaves 54% who oppose all or most of the law. So you're still at 54%-46% opposed, and this is the best case since it's possible that making the law more liberal might also have turned some of the favorers into opposers. Of course, you can argue that this is still slightly better than 40%-30% opposed, but it's a pretty iffy thing.

This is just wrong. In the calculation of 54% Drum is counting people who "aren't sure" as opposed to the law. That's just not accurate. Also, in the comparison, he only counts the 30% who are opposed to the law not the 60% who are opposed or aren't sure.

The correct calculations are 46%% vs less than 40% (but not calculable given the published results) as opposed to 30% vs 40% or 46% vs 54% vs 30% vs 70%.

Drum correctly notes that the data can't be used to support the claim that a bill which went further would have had more popular support -- some who support the ACA would oppose a bill that went further. This is correct and settles the question of whether this poll can settle the question (it can't). But then he goes on to perform a incorrect calculation from the data which he correctly notes can't be used to answer a question, in order to get an answer to the question which he thinks is reasonable (that answer being "we don't know").

Drum might also note that in polling they never ask questions such that there is combination of answers given by a very small set of people. So if to count as a yes one can answer either the first question one way or the second one way, then the results are biased towards yes. The fact that the correct calculations show as high or higher support for yes or didn't go far enough than for yes is a tautology. This must be so no matter what people think. Drawing conclusions about public opinion from a tautology is not sound social science. Drum is right that some people used a tautology as evidence for their claim about public opinion.

By the way Drum suffered a lapse of reading comprehension. 14% or resondents whom Drum counts among the the 54% who, he says "all or most of the law" answered "I oppose a few of the changes in the law." "a few" does not mean "most" as definitely asserted by Drum.

Here Drum is contesting a conclusion which, he correctly notes, is not proven by the cited data. However, knowing the answer, he is sloppy about the intermediate steps.

His valid argument is very simple. We can't know how people would have reacted to a futher reaching reform, because there wasn't a further reaching reform. That argument is too brief for a typical Drum blog post, so he slipped into adding errors to flesh it out.
Regular readers of this blog (I am just assuming that there are two of you) might have noticed that I have harshly criticized Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias recently.

I think very highly of them. It's just that I am not much inclined to post "heh indeed," so I only comment when I think that the conclusion of a post is incorrect.

So to be brutally frank (but no more negative than that). I think that this Yglesias post shows how blogs can make the world a better place. Yglesias notes that microwaved frozen vegitables are cheap, convenient and very healthy. I don't suppose he did it just for the sake of his readers, but he lost 60 pounds eating microwaved frozen vegitables. That should get some attention.

It also reminds me of a wonderful old Yglesias post when he praised of Belle Waring who praised Quinoa (and in truly heroic blogging googled up a recipe while nursing). He pointed out, correctly, that advice on eating is much more useful to most people than advice on legislating, since we all eat and most of us aren't legislators. IIRC he typed something along the lines of "I like policy debates as much as the next guy, OK I like policy debates more than the next guy, but ..."

Kevin Drum. OK so I surfed over and the first post I read was magnificent. I'd say it is perfect.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mitch McConnell lies. dog bites man.

MCCONNELL: Everything that's happened in the last year-and-a-half has been to pump up the government. We borrowed stimulus money. We spent it to hire new federal government workers. We sent it down to states so they would not have to lay off state workers. You have to get the economy going.

This is a lie. He discusses two parts of the stimulus bill and definitely asserts that a third part didn't exist. About one third of the stimulus bill consisted of tax cuts.

It is a mistake to use certain words when attemptint to mislead: "everything","exactly", "identical" etc.

Steve Benen argues with McConnell's assertion that tax cuts during a recession are good and spending increases during a recession are bad. He's right, of course, but he is also falling into McConnell's trap.

Rather the Democrats should agree that there should be temporary tax cuts in addition to permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000 and then argue over whose taxes should be temporarily cut. Only those of rich people or everyone's.

I think that Majority Whip James Cluburn has it right. He said there should be a temporary extension of the Obama tax cuts. A key advantage of that debate is that it would force Republicans to admit that there are Obama tax cuts which could be extended.
Brain Drain Brain Gain ?

Matthew Yglesias argues for free immigration for skilled immigrants. He said this is good for everyone, but I don't think he seriously considered the less skilled left behind in the countries of origin.

I wrote a long post below noting that, in standard economic models, allowing highly educated foreigners to immigrate is counter to the interests of less educated foreigners (unless the new policy regime included more foreign aid and increased egalitarian redistribution in foreign countries which makes it a policy fantasy not a policy proposal). The argument in the post is that if money metric welfare is increased, then everyone is better off. In every other context, Yglesias totally rejects this logic. An identical case can be made that marginal income tax rates should be zero. Oh and marginal consumption tax rates too.

Now I want to argue that free immigration of highly educated might be good for those left behind in their home countries. This argument due to (I forget who) is similar to the argument that export oriented growth strategies work better than inner oriented growth strategies. The magic word is quality.

If the highly educated in poor countries have to compete only with each other for the business of serving their trapped non educated country-people, they will provide low quality services (typically collecting taxes and bribes). Only if they have a chance to compete in rich countries, will they gain from, for example, actually studying.

Some will move over-seas (probably the most ambitious and academically successful). Those who don't move over-seas will have actually learned something useful (overseas where they don't get jobs from their uncle). On balance the loss of some skilled people is more than made up for by the fact that those who remain are skilled and not just credentialed and admitted to the ruling elite.

I don't know if I find this argument convincing, but it does mean that free admission of highly skilled immigrants can be good for everyone except for highly credentialed* people in destination countries who are the richest people in the world anyway so we can handle not getting quite so much.

* I write credentialed not skilled since I'm highly credentialed but it's not for me to say if I have any useful skills. And no, I don't think a firm command of standard English spelling and punctuation has much to do with being skilled (hey I'm reading this blog) so it's not for you to say either.
Underpants Gnome Welfare Economics

I promise that the ellision of paragraphs of text did not cause the weakness of the argument below.

When a person increases his earnings by moving to the United States, or to Sweden, or to China for that matter he or she does so by creating more value than was possible in the previous context.


a policy regime that’s generous to wannabe migrants makes everyone much better off than a policy regime that keeps people trapped.

So if world GDP increases then ... then everyone is better off.

I am shocked to report that I am quoting Matthew Yglesias ?!?

I commented on his blog.

Freudian Slip ? When I read "The general point that needs to be kept in mind is that the *global* economic space is not zero-sum. " I thought you were making a point which you ignore.

If the US welcomes highly trained immigrants then less educated people in extremely poor countries, which invested scarce resourses in their training, will suffer. Your "global" perspective considers various people in the USA. It does not specifically consider the less skilled in the countries of origin of skilled migrants.

You do mention the world, but only when discussing world money-metric utility. The dollar value of work in the new country is greater than the dollar value of work in the old country so ... "everyone is better off."

I'd consider that underpants gnome welfare economics.

In no other context do you display complete total indifference to the distribution of income. In this post, you assert that if world GDP is increased, then everyone is better off. That is very interesting meta-ethical nonsense.

I see a real dilemma. People should be free to leave a country even if they are valuable to that country -- that is a core principle of liberalism -- that people belong to themselves and are not slaves of the collectivity. On the other hand, this can be very bad for utilitarian welfare -- the world sum of utils -- if it means a brain drain from human capital poor countries. I think this is one of many cases in which it is hard to be both a consequentialist and a liberal. I think the cognitive dissonance was enough to make you temporarily forget that world income is not world welfare and that income distribution matters -- no that's impossible -- to make you temporarily seek comfort from arguments which are based on that hidden assumption.

Yglesias seems to be using the usual trick of noting that a policy regime with free migration and lump sum transfers to those who lose from the migration and lump sum taxes on those who gain can make everyone better off. So it isn't that distribution doesn't matter, but that we can make the distribution whatever we want without deadweight losses, because, without making taxes conditional on any data (they are lump sum) we can set them just exactly right.

This idea is totally absurd. The implicit proposal -- that taxes be charged to people by name with no need to justify why one person pays more than another, is clearly unconstitutional (a bill of attainder). It is one of the tricks used by economists who don't give a damn about anyone but the very rich to con the masses.

It leeds immediately to the idea that the income tax rate should be zero as should the consumption tax rate. Yglesias knows it's a trick.

addendum more stuff not in the comment

Yglesias's conclusion was sloppily phrased. It should have been "for any policy regiem that keeps people trapped, there is a policy regime that’s generous to wannabe migrants makes everyone much better off." The claim as written is plainly false, since it means that any policy regime with free immigration (including the one which goes on to launch nuclear weapons on all the worlds largest cities) is better than any policy regime without. The rewritten claim is standard in the economics literature but it depends on a definition of "policy regime" which is not standard or consistent with the US constitution or basic principles of the rule of law. The regimes in question typically require absolute arbitrary power to take anything from anyone.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oh my this comment on Kevin Drum got out of hand.

update: Wow Kevin Drum came here to comment. I pull his comment into the post and reply.

He wrote

Adam Ozimek is perplexed that so many of his friends think that diet soda is dangerous or causes cancer. After reviewing the considerable evidence that they're all perfectly safe, he says:

You can’t really be suspicious of artificial sweeteners without taking a paranoid stance towards leading health and scientific organizations in this country, and towards science itself. Most educated people who hold suspicions about artificial flavorings nevertheless trust the conclusions of science and scientific institutions on other issues, like global warming and evolution. So how do these people decide when to trust scientific consensus and when not to? If you’re going to be a scientific nihilist, then you should do so consistently.

Generally speaking, I agree that laymen ought to have some kind of consistent attitude toward consensus in the scientific community. However, I think there's one reasonable way that people might hold what seem like inconsistent views on scientific matters like this: they don't trust results in which powerful private interests clearly have a lot of lobbying power. So you might believe that global warming is real because there's a scientific consensus in favor of it even though lots of money from the business community is fighting it. Conversely, you might be suspicious of aspartame for fear that the scientific results are skewed by tidal waves of money from the food industry sponsoring studies designed to find it safe. After all, it's happened before with cigarettes and asbestos and PCBs and lead and benzene and chromium 6 and beryllium and Vioxx and a million other things.


(For the record: I believe that cigarettes are dangerous, global warming is real, aspartame is safe, and GM foods should be subjected to extreme scrutiny.)

What follows is a revised comment which I wrote after deleting my first draft which was rude and verbose. Honest.

take a deep breath and count to 10. Take a deeper breath and count to 20. Oh hell I don't have all night.

I think that you and Ozimek can't have a useful debate unless and until you agree on the meaning of "leading health and scientific organizations in this country." I propose you discuss "the National Academy of Sciences" and "the Institute of Medicine."* Then you can examine the claim that those organizations are unreliable when large amounts of money are at stake.

I'm not sure you meant to assert that they are unreliable in those cases, but you did assert (in you own name not speaking for anonymous Aspartamephobes) "it's happened before with cigarettes and asbestos and PCBs and lead and benzene and chromium 6 and beryllium and Vioxx and a million other things." Has it ? I don't recall any scientific debate about cigarettes. Yes cigarette companies published pseudoscience at their own expence, but, as far as I know, they had no influence on the NAS and the IOM or, for that matter, the peer reviewed literature.

I'd quite definitely make the same claim about "asbestos and PCBs and lead." I think there is now massive overwhelming evidence that the Scientific establishment in the USA can and does stand up to big business.

If I modify your statement to be a description not a defense of those criticized by Ozimek so that it becomes "after all, they think it's happened before with cigarettes ..." then I think you are partly right. There certainly are people who subject any statement which is helpful to a profit making instustry to "extreme scrutiny" (which, with one *possible* exception**, means they reject it a priori and aren't interested in evidence).

However, I think there is much more going on .

First I suspect Ozimek's claim that "most educated people who ... trust the conclusions of ... scientific institutions on ... evolution. " A substantial majority of people in the USA do not trust scientific institutions on evolution. "Most" and "educated" are vague words, but I think that Ozirek's claim is simply false. He is thinking of people he knows and dismissing the masses (including, I suspect without solid evidence, the masses of people with BA's say). I think he has a well defined group of people in mind, but I don't think they are "most educated people who ..."

Second, I strongly suspect that Aspartame suffers by analogy with Saccharine. My guess is that many are convinced by the argument that if one artificial sweetener is carcinogenic then another probably is too. This thinking is totally alien to people who study carcinogenisis (and the many fewer who study the sense of taste). I suspect that there is a view that there are no easy answers, that we should just buck up and drink water, and that trying to get the taste without the calories will be punished.

I think there is a general sense that synthetic organic chemicals which are not found in nature are dangerous and very little awareness that Aspartame is an extremely small protein which is found in nature. I think this general hypothesis about synthetic organic chemicals was once shared by the scientific establishment (I know the guy who taught me organic chemistry believed it). It made sense given evidence available in 1980. It can't explain the dog that didn't bark in the past 30 years. People who thought lots of synthetic orgnanic chemicals were dangerous necessarily predicted huge new health problems starting in the 80s. In particular, they predicted an increase in cancer not explained by age and smoking. It didn't happen. In any case that has nothing to do with Aspartame, but I think the general fear of un-natural synthetic organic chemicals is based on a reasonable reading of evidence up till 30 years ago and complete neglect of evidence collected since then.

* Conflict of interest announcement. My father is a member of both organizations so I might be biased.

**Finally, I got really really upset *before* I read "GM foods." That's one of the things most likely to make me lose it. This is quite a separate issue but I object in many ways to "GM foods should be subjected to extreme scrutiny."

First I want to ask you "why do you think that ?" and "Is it just because Monsanto is profiting from GM foods" and "does it have anything to do with the fact that Monsanto made napalm ?".

Second I think that "extreme scrutiny" amounts, in practice to "be banned." If the scrutiny is extreme enough, the no profit seeking firm will develope GM foods as the decades of delay for approval make it unprofitable. No non profit could afford to face the costs. I think advocating extreme scrutiny is a way of advocating a de facto ban without admitting that one is deciding to decide something supported by no evidence.

I don't see why GM foods should be submitted to more scrutiny than other foods (or non food GMOs). I'd say there is excellent reason to believe that GM foods will not have subtle bad effects on health. The reason is that genes and (and proteins made from them) whether modified or not are digested. I'd guess that if you fed GM food to one rat and un GM food to another today it would be impossible to tell which was which in a month. Clearly this isn't true of synthetic organic chemicals. Now I am relatively supportive of synthetic organic chemicals, but I definitely don't see why they should be subject to less scrutiny than molecules which are quickly digested into perfectly standard we're made of them molecules.

NOw there are concerns about GM which aren't specific to GM foods. I wonder if the "foods" in the post was a slip and you also advocate extreme scrutiny for GM cotton or GM sheep even if they were not eaten but only sheered.

I think the asking for "extreme scrutiny" or "more research" is a way to delay judgement when one has no evidence to support one's case. I've been pretty polite so far, so I will mention that that "extreme scrutiny" reminds me of "more research before we decide on cap and trade." The case is not proven, there is controversy, lets decide when it is settled is exactly the approach which didn't influence the scientific establishment in the cases of cigarettes etc (yes I did just type something really really rude but it's in a footnote so it's OK).

Kevin Drum comments

This is quite an animated response to something I didn't say. I never mentioned either NAS or IOM. I *did* mention "government regulators," and you might reasonably object that that's not the same thing as the "leading health and scientific organizations" that Ozimek mentions. Most people don't make these fine distinctions, however. They just know what "the government" is doing, and "the government" has historically been strongly influenced by private sector manufacture of doubt. It's hardly moronic for an ordinary citizen to be aware of this and take it into account.

(Evolution, however, is an entirely different matter that I don't think follows the same pattern as other scientific issues.)

As for GM foods, you obviously saw my post within minutes after I made it. I changed "extreme scrutiny" to "considerable scrutiny" shortly after I wrote it, because I agree that "extreme" was, well, too extreme. As for why I feel that way, I made an additional comment about this in the original thread. I'm mainly concerned that we not get complacent about testing and regulation, not about any specific GM food.

I don't think we really disagree. The topic was rejection (dismissal really) of the conclusion of the "'leading health and scientific organizations' Ozimek mentions." As I note above, Drum made a claim in his own name about what has happened many times before. He is presenting this as an explanation for the phenomenon described by Ozimek, which does not follow logically from suspicion of "the government."

Yes most people don't make those "fine distinctions," but they should, and Kevin Drum should point out that they are making a mistake when they conclude that the NAS is untrustworthy because Republican politicians and appointees say whatever big business wants. I'd actually say the distinction between the USgov and the NAS isn't all that. Most people do make the similar distinction between, say, the Catholic Church and the US government.

This is all about a tiny little bit of wording. Drum clearly meant to explain why people aren't influenced by the conclusions of "leading health and scientific organizations" and not to say that it is reasonable for them to do so.

I'd guess another important point (which Drum pretty much makes in his comment on this post) is that most people have no clear idea what the National Academy of Sciences says. I for one, don't know their position on Aspartame. People just know what some self declared scientists say and can only tell that they aren't industry funded hacks when their conclusions displease industry.

On GM food, I guess that I agree with the revised post. I have no problem with the idea is that GM food should be submitted to considerable scrutiny as should well non-GM food (different scrutiny of course but not a whole different degree). As far as I can tell, the debate on GM food runs from considerable scrutiny to extreme scrutiny, so Kevin Drum went from one side completely over to the other. I don't think anyone has ever argued against "considerable scrutiny" and I don't think that GM food opponents say that no evidence could ever convince them (although I'm sure some will never ever be convinced).

update II: By the way, should I live a thousand years, I won't learn to have manners as good as Kevin Drum's. He wrote "quite an animated response " when I myself wrote "got out of hand." But really, incentives Kevin incentives. I am thrilled to find his name (and inimitable prose style in case anyone wants to claim it wasn't really him) in my comments section. The fear of being accused of another "quite" "animated response" is not going to keep me from rabidly berating him hoping for some more attention. I promise that both this time and the last time I was sincere, but I won't deny that I'm getting tempted.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Evolution is a myth," O'Donnell said as the others piped up incredulously. She repeated herself, then added:

"Well then why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?

Ah one for the ages indeed. Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell seems to think two strange things. First that evolution has a direction heading upward as it were, so that according to Darwin living things must get smarter and smarter. In fact, there is no such implication. Darwin discussed the evolution of the eye and the evolution of blind cave fish. His point is that the diversity and sophistication of existing living things could be created by processes which we observe every day.

Also she seems to have an odd idea about the speed of evolution. She thinks it works so fast that you can see it happening before your eyes.

My point above is that one would as reasonably expect people to turn into monkeys before our eyes as expect monkeys to turn into people. Clearly the case of O'Donnell shows two errors. Do you see people turning into monkeys before our eyes ? uh well uhm OK OK but the idea that evolution points upward is still wrong.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deep Due Due

In an excellent article on an especially blatantly fraudulent astroturf organization called "Americans for Job Security" Mike McIntire reports this daring assault on the English language

Asked how it could have collected no dues in 2007, neither Mr. Dubke nor Mr. DeMaura offered an answer. Mr. DeMaura said that there is no set membership fee and that members are not required to pay annually.

In other words the "membership dues" are not due. It seems to me to call a voluntary contribution "dues" is to make a false statement. The phrase is quoted from a tax return. The IRS has not responded to a complaint by Public Citizen.

More journalism like this please.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That Blue Dog Won't Hunt

It is amazing how uh intellectually flexible supporters of extending tax cuts on income over $250,000 can be. They were the deficit hawks as recently as the last vote on spending.

Also the argument for cutting taxes was to encourage saving (total utter nonsense) and the argument for extending the cuts is to encourage consumption (80% nonsense). Uh what do you want rich people to do with their money ?

I have a long quote from the Huffington Post where Arthur Delaney listens to them so you don't have to.

Many of the House Democrats who support extending the tax cuts, all of which will expire after December if Congress does nothing, opposed reauthorizing extended unemployment benefits back in May, when they said the economy was too strong to justify adding to the deficit. HuffPost asked one such Tax Cut Democrat about the apparent contradiction over deficit spending, since the cuts would add billions to the deficit.

"The economy was growing at the end of December 5.6 percent. It's now growing at 1.6 percent," said Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia (who supports the cuts but has not signed the letter). "Many economists say that if you raise taxes on the upper-income brackets, it will shave half a point off of GDP."

OK so Connolly points to the inventory bounce in December to explain his depraved vote in May. Uh Congressman, do you think your constituents don't know the difference between December and May ? Flash first quarter growth estimates were available in May.

Also I note that the congressman is quoting un-named economists who seem to claim a multiplier of about 1.75 for tax cuts to the rich. I don't believe there is any real live economist who has ever claimed that.

Finally, the argument is now that we need more stimulus hence temporary tax cuts for the rich. This argument just can't be made with a straight face, since we know of much more effective stimuli than temporary tax cuts for the rich (in a pinch I could probably think of a less effective stimulus but it would be a challenge).

I want to ask Connolly why he doesn't support permanent extension of Bush cuts on income under $250,000 (meaning over $6,000 next year for rich families) and a temporary rebate of an equal amount to each family. Best if he gets to explain his reasoning to each of the families in his district who would get less under his plan.

I think the only plausible explanation is due to Atrios. Some blue dogs know they won't be re-elected and they are trying to please the rich so the rich will hire them after they are kicked out of the House.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rasmussen and the Generic Congressional Ballot in September 2010

I have been doing some arithmetic concerning the generic congressional ballot in my head. Caveat lector. I looked at polls entirely in September 2010 and took simple averages.

There were five non-Rasmussen likely voters polls. The Republicans were ahead on average by 3.4%

There were 8 registered voter polls with Republicans ahead by 1.5 on average.

There were two Rasmussen polls with Republicans ahead by 9.5 on average.

The Rasmussen not-Rasmussen difference dwarfs the likely voter registered voter difference.

OK there were two polls from the first two days in September. since then the Democrats are 0.67 ahead out of 6 RV polls. There were also two LVpolls with huge Republican leads which overlapped August and September so the average would be 5.3 %

That is, depending on exactly when I cut, the LV-RV difference can be maybe as high as 4%. This does not correspond to all the talk about the enthusiasm gap does it ?

and the Rasmussen.other gap is huge.

This is the Rasmussen only smoothed graph (you will note it is pretty smooth to begin with as it is weekly averages of a tracking poll which therefore has large samples).

Oh rats, that's missing the curve.

Non Rasmussen LV polls give a smoothed average of Republicans by 3.7 :R 45.4 D 41.7

With high sensitivity (less smoothing) Republicans by 0.9%.
Generic House Polls

Something odd seems to be happening in US public opinion. Pollsters are shifting from polls of registered voters to polls of likely voters. Given demographics and the enthusiasm gap, I expected the Republican lead in the House generic ballot to increase. Until recently, that seemed to be happening right on schedule.

Since then there have been several polls showing a surprising close race. If I toss Rasmussen polls from the pollster com smoother(because I don't like their results but at least I admit it) I get a pollster smoothed average showing a the Republicans ahead by 1.8%. This is mostly determined by ten polls in September five of which are polls of likely voters and five of which are polls of registered voters.

I'm pretty sure I'm over interpreting data and seeing what I want to see. I guess it's conceivable that recent Tea Party success in primaries have scared voters.

For some reason when I try to save the graph, I get the default graph including Rasmussen polls.
John Boehner is the world's tallest midget

The Joint Committee on Taxation recently reported that only 3% of small businesses would be affected by the expiration of Bush-era top rates. Asked about this a week ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "Well, it may be 3%, but it's half of small business income. Because, obviously, the top 3% have half of the gross income for those companies that we would term small businesses."

See it's really 50% because those 3% are the largest small firms (or are they the smallest large firms ?).

Mitch McConnell is the worlds shortest giant.
Dead Dog Walking vs the Beaten Blue Dog Syndrome (learned fecklessness)

I am amazed that the House Democratic Caucus seems to be shying away from a showdown vote on extending tax cuts on income over 250,000. Not extending is good policy. A solid majority of respondents in polls oppose extending those cuts. The Democrats are heading for a beating and need to gamble. It seems like a football team whcih is 10 points behind with one minute left deciding to punt ... on third down.

Ah "team" that's the key word. They aren't senators, but representatives aren't offensive linemen either. I hit my forehead and felt like a fool when I read Atrios's explanation -- there are blue dogs in the caucus who know that they won't be re-elected. They aren't trying to keep their current job. They are trying to line up a new job as a lobbyist. Suddenly it all makes sense.

I guess that isn't the whole story.

Now there is also the matter of the beaten blue dog syndrome (learned fecklessness) the elite's inability to remember how untypically rich their social set is, the fact that the squeeky wheel gets the greece and rich people squeek (and hire hacks to squeek for them) and the idea that ideology is one dimensional so that districts which are conservative on social issues are assumed to be full of people who love tax cuts for the rich.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's Wrong with Kansas ? Start with Kay.

Kay at balloon juice illustrates why the USA is so messed up. She is angry that the food safety bill is blocked in the senate and decides that to blame "the senate" and the food industry. I think she posted after reading the first paragraph of an article the New York Times which went on to explain that the bill is being blocked by Thomas Coburn MD (R-Okla). But who cares about individuals ? Why there is plenty of blame to share. So long as people are angry at the Senate what point is there deciding which particular senators are to blame. It's not like people can only affect the senate by voting for individual senators or anything.

Quite frankly I am appalled that when the Grey Lady is willing to name names that a blogger decides not to bother.

I think part of the problem is assuming that, while the rubes need information, we cool kids know all the facts. That is, I suspect that Kay assumed that readers from Oklahoma would click the link and read the article and find the useful information. Another issue is that I'm sure that Kay, like many bloggers, considers much of the USA to be foreign territory. I'd guess she assumed that no Okies read Balloon Juice, so it doesn't matter if the problem was caused by voters in Oklahoma.

One of the terrible problems with the traditional media is that they communicate to each other and either assume that their readers and viewers are well informed or just don't care about people who aren't political junkies. I'm sincerely shocked and very angry to find the same thing is true of a blogger at a high traffic blog.

My full rant follows.

I think that this post is irresponsible. It does no good to blame "the Senate." We will have a Senate whether we want one or not. In this case it is very easy to identify the one person who is to blame Senator Dr Coburn R-Okla.

I had a sense that I knew that and googled. Google sent me to the linked article which clearly explains that the blame is not shared by the whole senate as you assert.

I am quite angry about this post. I think it illustrates what is wrong with the US polity. It is easy to blame "the senate" or to be just a bit more broad "politicians" or "jerks in Washington." However, suck broad blame does not guide any useful response. People vote for individual politicians. If they know who to blame with first name last name and a medical degree which is being disgraced by a medical doctor who doesn't care that he is causing human deaths, they can do something about it (not in 2010 but in 2012).

Sloppy lazy people like you who won't even bother to read to the end of the article are consumed by anger *and* confusion. People who are as lazy and sloppy as you are going to vote for Republicans because they are angry that the Senate doesn't function because of Republicans.

Always spreading the blame, even when one person is clearly responsible is a way to paralyze the Democratic process. With this post you demonstrate that you are a threat to properly functioning democracy.

I hope I have made it clear that I expect better from Balloon Juice
Accounting for Scott Sumner II

Scott Sumner presented an updated estimate of the cost of the financial rescue. He calculated 158 billion which is 165 billion lost saving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac minus 7 billion profit from loans etc (mostly purchases of prefered shares) of big banks.

This is nonsense accounting. In the case of the large banks, Professor Sumner looks at the present discounted value of cash flows both ways. In the case of the GSEs, he looks at their current debt and assumes that they will repay less than none (he wrote $165 billion and growing).

For the 7 billion figure he seems to use a CBO estimate from March. He provided no link or citation, but the CBO did make that estimate of $7 billion profit in March.
For the GSEs he presents no source, evidence or data whatsoever.

I believe that his rule of accounting is assume whatever makes things with an acronym including G look bad.

The CBO updated its forecasts in August. I'm not sure if Professor Sumner is aware of that detail. The current estimated cost of TARP is 66 billion. So why, when he relies on the CBO for some of his numbers, does Sumner calculate 158 billion and rising ?

I think it's because he doesn't bother checking the latest data before blogging.

Here it is (warning big pdf)

The CBO estimates a net transfer of 41 billion from the Treasury to the GSEs in fiscal 2010 on top of 96 billion in 2009 (which started October 1 2008 so the sum is most of it). The sum 137 billion is much less than the GSEs debt to the Treasury because the Treasury demands huge dividends on its prefered shares (10% per year).

I also note that the CBO estimates that interactions with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from 2011 to 2020 will reduct the debt in 2020 by 44 billion in expected (present ?)value. However the TARP law requires the CBO to discount flows with a high interest rate to compensate for risk. This is not how the US federal government deals with any other cash flow and makes no sense.

So the expected cost is 93 billion plus spending in fiscal 2008 and some interest. Not close to 165 billion.
NY Times Copy Editors II

I thought they were perfect. Now I read

Toiling Far Away for Philippine Dreams
Money sent home by Filipinos working abroad accounts for more than 10 percent of the gross domestic product.

No it doesn't. That money might be equal to 10% of GDP, but it accounts for 0% of GDP. It is included in GNP but not in GDP. Surely people have noticed that the middle letter in most announcements changed from an N to a D. What's the difference ? Well money coming from abroad in exchange for work or the use of capital minus money sent abroad that's the difference.

Now of course the genuinely weird thing is that the USA can be the worlds biggest debter and yet people didn't even notice the shift from reporting GNP to reporting GDP. That's because US GNP and GDP are very similar, because US owned assets abroad pay much higher return than foreign owned claims on the USA. This is the issue in the context of which Paul Krugman said "if they are smart enough to understand that, they are probabily smart enough to understand that zero is not an especially important number."

update: not to be outdone, a copy editor demonstrates that he or she doesn't know what the word "species" means

Different species, same name

Current FDA rules don't permit customers to know if salmon in stores has been genetically altered.

Lyndsey Layton

A genetically modified salmon is only a member of a different species if it can not produce fertile offspring with an un-modified salmon. I think it would be good policy to require genetically modified salmon to be modified so that they are a new species, because then if a few escape they won't contaminate the wild salmon gene pool. However, currently existing genetically modifies salmon are not a new species.

"Species" is not an obscure word nor is it a word with a controversial or ambiguous definition. Ignoring the definition and acting as if different genes imply a different species is not the sort of thing I like to know about a member of my species (with somewhat different genes) doing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New York Times Copy Editor Fail (This Past January)

I have never seen them miss one like this

"Mr. Sarkozy ... his responsibility as president to be above the law."

Noooooooooooo no one is above the law. That should be "above the fray", "above the court case", "above litigation", "above narrow legal disputes" but not never ever above the law.

Especially don't tell Mr Sarkozy that he should be above the law. Not as risky as telling Bush or (maybe) Berlusconi, but very very dangerous.

Now I don't type so good, but I really don't think I could ever type "responsibility ... to be above the law" by mistake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can one be honest but not intellectually honest ?

Julian Sanchez argues that one can, but I am not convinced (click the damn link)

There is a key issue not addressed in this post. If one is making a case (honest but not intellectually honest) does one say that one is making a case ? In a formal debate or a civil case or for the defence in a criminal case, it is clear to everyone that a case is being made and noting facts which undermine that case is strongly forbidden.

To me, making a case in those situations is totally honest in every way. If the best case which can be made without actually lying is p then saying "the best case which can be made without actually lying is p" is intellectually honest.

It seems to me that intellectual dishonesty occurs when someone acts as an advocate but does not say so. When someone states the best case for a claim x without saying "to state the best case for the claim x." It seems to me that this is plain dishonest. If someone claims to be balanced and is an advocate or claims to be just examining the evidence when he is making a case, then he is dishonest.

Or to shrink back a bit and weasel and stuff, I suppose it is possible to make a case without either admitting that one is making a case or actually lying, but I don't think that anyone actually manages to do so. It would require avoiding all phrases of the form "I think", "the relevant facts", "therefore it is reasonable to conclude" and hmm just about everything except for stating selected facts.

I have a challenge. Can anyone find a case of someone who is honest but not intellectually honest ? If someone says "I am going to make the case that X", then does this is totally honest. If someone doesn't implicitly claim to be doing anything else and makes the case, then, according to our host he or she is honest but not intellectually honest. But has this ever happened ?

Has anyone with an audience of normal adults ever managed to slide over the issue of whether they are acting as an advocate without plain ordinary dishonesty. I admit it is theoretically possible (quite possible if one is trying to convince a group of toddlers say) but I don't think it has been done yet.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Daniel Davies unites Ignatius Loyola and Maynard Keynes

several of the world's most important central banks have it written into their constitutions that they need to control inflation or target price stability. I think a good lawyer could make a case that a decision to target stability, but stability at a higher level would be consistent with the letter if not the spirit of these laws.

In the real world, inflation has momentum so it is not possible to increase the price level without accepting inflation for a while or inducing a recession. However, the Jesuit doctrine of dual effect might allow the ECB to act in a way which causes inflation provided that they sincerely aim only for a one off increase in the price level.

Casuistry in the cause of debt inflation might be just what the world economy needs.

I'd say that Mr Davies is the (typing) finger of my God, Who is mainly characterized by His or Her sick and twisted sense of Humor.
Blast from the past

Glenn Greenwald denounced TV "journalist" Jon Meacham. This belongs in comments but there are already 305 of them, so I will just note that Greenwald went easy on Meacham. He quotes Meacham from 2004

Let's remember, [Saddam] sent mixed signals about his own WMD to his own people. . . . He was not saying, "I don't have anything at all "

Of course Saddam did say that he didn't "have anything at all" in his official over 12,000 plust page report to the UN Security council.
On December 7, 2002, Iraq submitted its 12,000 page declaration, which claimed that it had no current WMD programs. Intelligence analysts from the United States and other nations immediately began to scrutinize the document, and senior U.S. officials quickly rejected the claims.

He had been claiming he didn't have any WMD at all for years. Those claims were so thoroughly dismissed that, I have no doubt, that Meacham had sincerely forgotten them.

The Bush administration asserted that the report was a material breach of resulution 1441 and that it was authorised to invade Iraq (which wouldn't have followed anyway). There was a huge debate about whether Saddam Hussein's lying claim that he "didn't have anything at all" justified an invasion. Then Meachem confidently and specifically asserted that the notorious ultra controversial claim never happened.

Shouldn't Mr Meachem be invited to seak a new line of work ?
In Praise of McDonalds

Noted foody Ezra Klein wrote "McDonalds is delicious". Utterly amazed, I clicked and found Adam Roberts's food blog post praising the taste of McDonalds's food. Amusingly Roberts reliably predicted the he would piss off either McDonald's fans or foodies who think that "the entryway to Hell isn't marked, as Dante suggested, with the phrase "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" but, instead, by golden arches."

I share Klein's and Roberts's opinion. However, Roberts insists that the food is unhealthy, because it contains preservatives.

"Note the wording on the box: "All The Best." Just those three words are suspect. Is this chicken sandwich really "all the best"? We know it's not. We know this bread is filled with stabilizers and preservatives,"


"All that food, however good it might taste in the moment, produces both a physical and spiritual aftertaste. You start feeling the chemicals on your tongue,"

I comment:

Brilliant and daring. Congratulations on the link from Ezra Klein (I never expected to read the link text on his blog).

However, you missed one group that you were bound to piss off -- preservative enthusiasts. OK I'm not sure the plural is accurate, since I might be the only one, but I am absolutely totally 100% sincere. I think that BHA and BHT are good for you.

The weird thing is that health food enthusiasts are convinced of two things -- that anti-oxidants are healthy and that preservatives are unhealthy. The only problem is that "anti-oxidant" and "preservative" are synonyms.

This is not (quite) a logical inconsistency. Their view is that natural preservatives are healthy and that synthetic anti-oxidants are unhealthy. There is essentially no evidence supporting this hypothesis and people have been looking for such evidence for decades.

Why did you insult preservatives ? I assert that the scientific evidence tends to suggest that bread with preservatives is better for your health than bread without preservatives. Is there any data supporting your contrary view ? What convinced you ?

What about feeling chemicals on your tongue. Can you really feel those chemicals ? Have you performed a blind tongue feel test with food that differs only by addition (or not) of those chemicals ? I would bet 100 to one that you haven't and that you claim you can feel something based not on a test of feeling but the way you feel given your knowledge and prejudices.

I stress this post is not a joke. I think that BHA and BHT are good for peoples's health. I even think that use of BHA and BHT are partly responsible for the increase in life expectancy since they were introduced.

update: Kevin Drum says my reasoning is in this post, but there isn't much above so I add the following:

My reasoning was not explained after the link (always click the link anyway -- Kevin Drum). I agree with Luther, so my claim is stronger than that made by Crissa. The logic is exactly that preservatives preserve us.

To get technical, preservatives are anti-oxidants and oxidative stress (roughly rusting) is allegedly implicated in cancer and cardio-vascular disease. I note that there was a dramatic increase in US life expectancy in the 70s (similar to the increase in the 40s following the introduction of penicillin). This was due to reduced incidence of heart attacks. It was ascribed to improved diet and increased exercize. Sure mac, that's why we are so much thinner than we used to be.

Now continuing improvement can be partly explained by statins (one can be overweight, eat lots of saturated fat, never exercize and have low LDL cholesterol these days -- that's my plan). Also some by bypass surgery and shunts and stuff. This is mostly post 70s. There is a huge mystery in the data which can be explained if it is noted that anti-oxidants reduce arterio-schlerosis in model systems (over-fed rats).

In any case, the claim that anti-oxidants prevent arterioschlerosis is absolutely totally very respectable and BHA and BHT are anti-oxidants. There is a fairly large literature asserting that this or that food contains anti-oxidants. In each case which I checked, the anti-oxidant was compared to BHA or BHT (or both).

So why are people so deeply convinced that BHA and BHT are bad for our health ? One reason is that extremely large doses cause cancer of the fore-stomach in mice and rats.

This result was part of the evidence which convinced people (including the guy who taught me organic chemistry) that organic chemistry was a menace, because many many synthetic organic chemicals are carcinogenic. In 1979, he predicted a big increase in cancer in the 80s roughly 20 years after they began flowing into our diet (20 year lag from aggregate cigarette smoking and lung cancer). That didn't happen -- aggregate cancer incidence is almost completely explained by age (to the fifth) and cigarette smoking. My view is that many compounds which are carcinogenic in huge doses are safe in small doses and in other cases the carcinogenisis depends on the fifth power of the dose which amounts to pretty much the same thing. Also I am not a mouse and don't have a fore-stomach.

There seems to be a very strong belief that natural chemicals are OK and synthetic chemicals are dangerous. This once convinced scientists (including that synthetic organic chemist). The evidence is now weaker. Note tobacco is natural and highly carcinogenic. Ergot is natural too.

I am not an expert on, well, anything, but I am absolutely sincere.
Do the Democrats want to lose power ? More importantly does Fred Hiatt want to lose power ?

I have been wondering why Democrats aren't stimulating the economy and buying votes by mailing out checks. A not so bad policy would be to send $500 to every family in the USA right now. It would certainly be better policy than temporarily extending Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000. Also it would be much more popular. So why not ?

I think the Democrats are afraid of being denounced as populist class warrior demoagogues out to buy votes. This fear makes no sense. Such denunciations are exactly what they need to survive the next election. As everyone who actually looks at polls knows, there is a solid majority in favor of a more progressive tax code or, in other words, populist class war and soaking the rich. Somehow almost all pundits either make claims contradicted by the polls or are shocked and surprised by the latest poll which shows what polls always show.

My guess is that Democrats really care what the Washington Post editorial board writes about them. They are not willing to be called demagogues.

My new thought is that the pundits are not rationally seeking power. If I am right, they have great power now, because Democrats are in power and obey their will. Republicans ignore them completely (how many divisions does Fred Hiatt have ?). So if the pundits want to keep power, they have to help the Democrats win. They won't do this by endorsing Democrats a week before the election (Fred Hiatt has no divisions). They can do this by recommending increased tax progressivity.

Unfortunately, they are not evil people who seek power. The pundits are sincere, albeit blinded by class interest. But if they, or Democrats in power were in the grip of blind ambition, the unemployment rate would be lower next year and the national debt would be lower indefinitely.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Great moments in anonymity

at the New York Times magazine are really giving it to the Brits reporting on Britmedia criminality and Met (also known as Scotland Yard) complicity.

They also grant anonymity to two people, one of whom* is lying

The prosecutor was stunned to discover later that the police had not shared everything. “I would have said we need to see how far this goes” and “whether we have a serious problem of criminality on this news desk,” said the former prosecutor, who declined to speak on the record.

Scotland Yard officials ultimately decided the inquiry would stop with Mulcaire and Goodman. “We were not going to set off on a cleanup of the British media,” a senior investigator said. In fact, investigators never questioned any other reporters or editors at News of the World about the hacking, interviews and records show. A police spokesman rejected assertions that officials failed to fully investigate. He said the department had worked closely with prosecutors, who had “full access to all the evidence.”

either "the prosecutor" or "a police spokesman" is lying like a doge (typo but I like it that way). Also, when in the hell did spokesmen get to be anonymous ? The whole point of spokesmen>/strike> persons carbon based organisms is to propagate lies which can't be ascribed to anyone who counts.

How in the F**king name of the NY Times Magazine style guide can "a ... spokesman" be granted anonymity ?

Oh my God this is special "On Aug. 24, 2006, George Galloway, a member of Parliament, was alerted by a detective that his messages had been hacked. Galloway said the detective urged him to change his PIN code. But when Galloway asked who had accessed his phone, the man from Scotland Yard “refused to tell me anything.” "

Uhm I think that a detective needs to have his head checked. One can be f*cking and S*domiz*ing sure that George Galloway is going to tell all. One can not be sure that he will tell all only to reporters who respect the anonymity of "a detective" who talked to a source.
My Religion (if I had one)

I am an atheist. At the moment I am wondering what religion I might have should I come to have any. I'd say that first I'd be Manichean then Jansenist. To me, the most plainly false part of theology is theodicy (which I can't help reading as theological idiocy) -- the justification of the ways of God to men. This is an effort to argue that their might be a deity who is omnipotent and benevolent. The challenge is due to the fact that the world clearly sucks. I mean not in any abstract sense but compared to the best world we mere mortals could imagine (and just think of how Great the best world He could Imagine must be).

Manicheans thought that this material world was the creation of a lesser and not so benevolent deity Whom they called Shaitan. Doesn't work too well since the world is not the worst i could imagine either and the evil He (or She) sure could outdo me).

Also Jansenists, while considering themselves Christian and even Catholic, thought that God was cruel (or Cruel) making people do evil and punishing them for it.

That makes some sense.

If I had religion I would worship the One who has a Sick and Twisted Sense of Humor. Most of all He (or She) seems to favour privileger and otherwise root for total utter idiocy.

Could Rand Paul be created by natural procesees ? Sure although I'd rather be far far away from those processes. Could natural processes cause Rand Paul to be 15 fucking points ahead in the latest poll ? Could mere idiocy achieve so much ? No only Idiocy (whose avatar is aqua Buddha) could make that possiblle.

I don't see any Angle for more positive proof that He (or She) is seeking to find the utter abyss of idiocy.