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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Ex Vivo culturing of NK cells and infusion

I guess this is a transition from my recent CAR obsession. NK (natural killer) cells are the other killer lymphocytes than Killer T-cells. They don't have an antigen specific receptor. Instead they have antigen non specific activation receptors (including NKG2C and NKG2D) and, importantly, Fc receptors which bind antibodies then kill the cell to which the antibody sticks (antibody specific cellular toxicity). This means that there is a flexible antigen specific response to any antigen which induces an antibody. That means that they are like natural CAR T-cells too in a way, but with no genetic modification. It is almost odd that growing NK cells outside the patient and infusing them is a fairly small effort reported in a fairly small literature which (as always) I will not responsibly cite (feininger, Mortier, Felicias, Miller sp???). One issue is that the NK cells do not multiply when activated. I think this is not a big problem as they can be stimulated with IL-15 (this requires continuous infusion which is not such a huge hassle). Another problem is that grown for a long time ex vivo with lots of IL15 and also IL12 (too inflamatory to put in patients) and (I think) IL20, they become hyporesponsive, anergic, inactive. (TL:DR version -- I think that it should be checked whether this problem is prevented if the NK cells are grown along with activated macrophages -- the post is definitely TL). There is an article on this (no cite) which says the problem can be solved by one week stimulate with interluekins, then one week pause, then etc. The article also asserts that the problem is that prolonged MTOR activation causes cells to turn off the system for fatty acid oxidation which means that they literally don't have the energy (as in calories) to do their job. I have to mention this, because I want to present a competing hypothesis. I think that NK cells become hyporeactive if they have been too long since touching an activated macrophage. Here I really should cite (all articles include as an author TA (thomas) Waldmann, my late father). This includes "preconditioning ..." Sato, Banfield Tagaya, Waldmann) which notes that naive cells do not respond to IL15 until they have touched a macrophage. "FC IV" Zhang, Anton, Waldmann, al et Ravetch on how NK cells exposed to IL15 and macrophages express an FC receptor which irreversibly binds antibodies. trans endocytosis Anton Waldmann and others The story is that when lymphocytes are in contact with activated macrophages, they engulf little bits of the macrophage forming vescicles with 2 layers with IL15 on the outside of the inner membrane and IL15 beta-gamma receptor on the inside of the outer membrane, so they constantly have IL15 stimulation. This is mainly MTOR not Jak-Stat stimulation (won't define but I think important). If the NK cells divide in pure NK cell culture, they dilute the vescicles which don't divide. I think this may be the problem. In any case (in case anyone has read this far) I think the solution is to add activated macrophages to the solution. Culture a mixture of NK cells and macrophages with IL15, IL12 (and I think IL20). One thing is that, like NK cells, macrophages are ADCC (antibody dependent cellular toxicity) effectors. Last thing (this is due to dad) is that it is important to activate the macrophages with anti-cd40 or Toll like receptor agonists such as lipopolysaccaride (endotoxin) RNA, poly GC DNA (with unmethylated C) c-reactive protein or well there are lots of otpions and a large literature. This is a very simple experiment. I think it is worth doing.

Thursday, October 19, 2023


Unlike my first 2 posts here and here on CAR T-Cells this is an almost serious proposal. It involves more work and expense than current therapy, but does not, as far as I can see add even purely hypothetical risks. The idea is that the problem with CAR T-cell therapy of solid tumors has to do with the original antigen presentation and conversion of the T-Cells from the naive to the memory state. The solution would be to use patient macrophages and incubate the new CAR T-cells with them and lost of added antigen. The macrophages would have to be activated. I think a general Toll like receptor agonist (pattern recognition agonist, inate immunity agonist) such as lipopolysaccharide or RNA or poly GC would do.

It would be best to induce central memory T-cells rather than effector memory T-cells, but I think memory phenotype of either type might do.

convertible CARs

This my second post on CAR T-cells. The first discussed modifying them so that don't have checkpoints and are prepared for nitic oxide. The aim is to make a super CAR T-cell which functions in the solid tumor micro-environment.

This second post is a semi-crazy idea about making off the shelf CAR T-cells rather than modifying cells from the patient. The cost of the patient specific therapy is not prohibitive even now and should go down the learning curve. However, my proposal of multiple modifications would add to the cost and why do them again and again ?

So the idea is to make a CAR T-cell line which will not be rejected by the patient even though the CAR T-cells are made with someone else's T-cells with different surface antigents especially different HLA antigens. Long ago my late father thought of deleting the Beta 2 microglobulin gene so that HLA A B and C would not be expressed on the surface. Here I make a much more radical proposal (which will never be allowed so it is just for a blog post)

The off the shelf CAR can be designed to express the do not kill me signal PDL1. As I already proposed that the receptor PD1 be deleted, these cells will not tell each other not to kill. I think that these cells could be infused into anyone and would function. They would also be dangerous - if some became leukemic dealing with them would have to include anti PDL1. Recall that I propose inserting Herpes TK into the super CAR T-cells so that they can be killed, if necessary, with gangcyclovir. That would be even more clearly needed with the PDL1 expressing super CAR T-cells.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Hot ROd CARs

CARs being chimeric antigen receptors. They are a key contribution to immunotherapy of cancer. The technology is based on genetic modification of the t cell receptor of a CD8 killer T-cell replacing it's variable region with the variable region of a tumor specific monoclonal antibody. Remarkably this creates a cell which specifically kills the cancer cells. A link to a Wikipedia article.

This approach has been very successful in treating Leukemia, but not so successful in treating solid tumors -- the tumor micro environment is not hospitable to killer T-cells. There are a large number of known aspects of the tumor micro-environment which tend to protect tumors from activated killer T-cells

1) Perhaps the most important is myeloid derived suppressor cells -- these are immature granualicytes and macrophages which are attracted to the tumor. Among other things, they produce anti-inflamatory IL-10, and also produce the free radical Nitric Oxide (NO).

2) Tumor inflitrating T-regs which produce and display anti inflammatory TGF beta.

3) Cancer cells display checkpoint "don't kill me signals" including PDL1 and CTLA4 ligand.

4) There are generally low Oxygen, low glucose, low Ph, and high lactic acid levels.

Many of the issues involve specific interaction with specific receptors on the t-cells (eg PD1, CTLA4, IL10 receptor, TGF beta receptor). I think that, since one is already genetically modifying the t-cells, one can also delete those receptors so they do not respond to the anti-inflamatory signals. The NO issue is different -- it is a non specific oxidizing agent. I think here one can make cells which always produce the antioxidant response by deletign KEAP1 which inactivates NRF2 which triggers the anti oxidant response.

So I think it is possible to produce souped up CARs which invade solid tumors.

There is a potential risk of putting killer t-cells which can't be regulated into a patient, so I would also insert the gene for herpes TK so they can be specifically killed by gancyclovir.

This approach makes sense to me. It involves a whole lot of work aiming at a possible future approval of a clinical trial. I can see why it hasn't been done (and will have another post about reducing the cost and effort involved) but I think it makes sense to try.

Monday, October 02, 2023

MMLF Founding Manifesto

With this manifesto I found the Modified Mosquito Liberation Front. Our aim is to liberate mosquitoes which either are resistant to Malaria (and imprisoned on Sao Tome & Principe) or which produce only male spermatazoa (and are imprisoned in Burkino Faso).

The liberation of such mosquitoes is one way to fight malaria. They (and similarly modified members of other species of anopheles mosquitoes) can eliminate malaria.

However they can't do that imprisoned in lab cages. They are not released because of who ? WHO. It is agreed that the important and allegedly for some reason risky decision must be made after careful thorough consideration and that release occur only when all affected countries (which are numerous as mosquitoes don't respect international boundaries) agree.

That is probably roughly never and certainly not until there have been millions more un-necessary deaths.

I quote "'We have got to get going,' Dr. Lanzaro said. 'We can’t just keep saying 10 more years, 10 more years. Six million people have died while we’ve been fiddling around.'"

I think the modified mosquitoes should be liberated using any means necessary.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Elisabeth, Essex, and Liberty Valence in Lammermoor

Bet you thought there would be a post to go along with that title. You've been Rob rolled (not to be confused with Rob Roy)

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Dr Seuss & Brain Washing

I see Dr Seuss is tge latest Fox News Hero. They denounce the decision to stop publishing 6 books as cancel culture. Next they will talk about brain washing justified as anti racism. What would Dr Seuss think of that ? Honestly, the guy was so far left he sometimes makes me uncomfortabl. They *really* don't want to go there. They should stick to claiming that Martin Luther King Jr was conservative.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Who to be mad at

I am going to try to blog with an iPhone. Also I messed up the template and have to put hard returns

by hand

Friday, December 18, 2020

Liveblogging the FDA hearing on the Moderna Covid 19 vaccine

So Far the efficacy data has been presented. As reported in the press earlier, the vaccine is roughly 95% effective, that is roughly 95% of people who got Covid 19 during the trial were participants who received the placebo.

Importantly, the null hypothesis that just one dose is just as good as two was not rejected. The test of this null had extremely low power as almost all participants received both doses, so basically this means cases less than 4 weeks after the first dose. However, note the extreme rigidity of the FDA.

Before allowing vaccination, the FDA required proof of efficacy. Before allowing a modification from two doses 4 weeks apart to one dose, the FDA requires … I don’t know maybe if Jesus Christ returned and petitioned them for some flexibility, they would give Him a hearing, but I guess they would tell him he needed to propose (and fund) a new Phase III trial.

It is also true that there is no evidence of benefit from the second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. It is clear that people who have received one dose of either vaccine are among those least at risk of Covid 19.

The vaccines are in very short supply. People are anxiously waiting for vaccination. Because the protocol had two doses, half of the vaccine will be reserved for the people who will benefit least.

Here there is a difference between careful science and optimal policy. In science it is crucial to write the protocol first then follow it mechanically. This is necessary so that the experimental interventions are exogenous and one can be sure they cause the observed outcomes and are not caused by observations.

However, it is not optimal policy to reduce the possible decisions to two, a priori with extremely limited data. This is what the FDA does. I think they should approve a single dose. Their rule is always to only act on extremely firm knowledge. It is, in this case, not going to be first do no harm. The second dose has side effects (mild but not zero). There is, I think, no evidence of benefits. (Again, the test has extremely low power (and I’m not sure protocol did not say the question would be addressed — if it didn’t then there is a problem — the rule decide what to do in advance applies to data analysis too — it is vital that the data not be dredged looking for a significant coefficient)). I think the point estimate is pretty much exactly zero benefit.

I think that people should be given a single dose. After everyone who wants one dose has been vaccinated, then it makes sense to give people a second dose. There is no reason to think spacing 4 weeks apart is optimal — the spacing was decided in advance.

Next speaker discussed safety. There is 0 evidence that vaccination increases the risk of anaphalactic shock. There were two cases one person who suffered anaphalaxis received placebo and one received the vaccine. The most common side effect was pain. There were no cases of severe side effects. People with a history of anaphalaxis were *not* excluded from the study.

Now a third speaker argues for unblinding the study and giving the vaccine to participants who were given the placebo. They can drop out and just get the vaccine when it is their turn. Losing the control group is not ideal but attrition will make it useless soon anyway (people will not settle for 50% chance they were vaccinated when the vaccine is approved — probably tomorrow). I agree, they have enough data and it is not ethical to leave people unvaccinated just as a control group.

Now they open for discussion with a few members of the public allowed to ask questions (the law requires this). I muted. Now they have taken a pause.

My question is why not give people just one dose until everyone who wants it has been vaccinated once ? I see no basis at all for allocating the scarce vaccine to a second dose. The scientific method does not say that optimal policy requires sticking to a protocol written before data were collected. The first do no harm principle (which I absolutely oppose in general) would imply giving one dose until there is evidence of benefit of a second dose.

Consider the case of tests for Covid 19. The test kits sent out by the CDC contained powder in tubes. One tube was the positive control — it was supposed to containt DNA with sequences corresponding to the Sars Cov2 RNA genome sequences. The tubes which were supposed to contain one of 3 oligonucleotides to be used. was contaminated with traces of that DNA. The result was that the kit as shipped reported that distilled water was infected with Sars Cov2. The hospital labs which got the kits almost immediated figured out that they could test with valid results if they didn’t use the material in the contaminated tubes, and just used 2 oligonucleotides. They could determine who had Covid 19 using the kit. But that was a modified protocol which was not FDA approved, so the FDA did not allow them to do this. The FDA also did not approve dozens of tests which were developed by the private sector.

Here the FDAs decision that they would rather be safe than sorry kept the US blind to Covid for … I think maybe a couple of weeks. Don’t look, because you haven’t proven that your glasses have exactly the right prescription is not good advice to someone on a highway. This was a very bad problem. I think the lesson learned is not that even the CDC lab sometimes makes mistakes. It was that rigidity and refusing permission is not the way to safetly.

Since then, I have been very favorably impressed by the FDAs efforts. But today I want more — I mean less — I mean approving less and allowing more flexibility. I see no case for insisting on giving people second doses with almost exactly zero evidence of efficacy. I see no case for reserving vaccine for the people who are least at risk of Covid 19. Yet I see no chance that a single dosage will be allowed.

Usual rant

In previous posts, I object to the confusion of the pure food and drug act with the scientific method. I note that it is simply a mistake to assert that the null hypothesis is to be treated as true until it is rejected by the data. The law says drugs are assumed ineffective until they are proved effective. That is US law not the scientific method. In general the decision of which of 2 hypotheses to treat as the null is arbitrary and should have no implications. I am not a scientist, but I am familiar with the Neyman Pearson framework and I consider my claims about the meaning of “null hypothesis” to be as solid as my assessment of 2+2. Both are simple math

Friday, October 02, 2020

Constitutional Nit Picking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Hobbes and Hegel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Experts and Me

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

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

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

He writes well enough that it is hard to quote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

another quote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 27, 2020

Giving Boot the Boot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019

To Be Sure Jennifer Senior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019


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

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


update 2:4

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Has 21st century conservatism contributed anything useful at all ?

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

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

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

1) bring a twitter discussion over here

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

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

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

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

Ross Douthat asked a constructive and interesting (implied) question

Ross Douthat @DouthatNYT


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

I replied @robertwaldmann

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

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

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



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

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

I overflowed

Robert Waldmann @robertwaldmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 2001 is time for a "kinder gentler" SEC

11 Invade Iraq

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

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

Good 21st century ideas

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

2 Also 24/7 sobriety.

3 Also grow your own marijuana laws.

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

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

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

6) high rise public housing causes crime.

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

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

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

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

Those are all from Card and Krueger.

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

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

Monday, September 09, 2019

I get Ruthless With David Leonard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your cherry picked number is highly misleading

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Sharp Wits

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

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

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

The Tweet

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

A bit of really necessary context

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

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

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

OK the overflow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

30 to 50 Feral Begbugs at the New York Times

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

Bedbugs are in the news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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