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Monday, April 30, 2007

I want to vote for that man

Mark Kleiman summarizes Edwards's speech to the California Democratic Convention.

Of course I also want to vote for Obama and even Clinton (Clinton because she's a woman and to make wingnuts' heads explode).

I particularly love primary school for the whole world.
"What if we committed to funding primary education for every child in the world?"

That would transform history. Of course it's not going to happen, but the thought of a President who is as mad as I am that it's not going to happen gives me chills.

On income inequality an interesting rhetorical strategy

"Income inequality: the top 300,000 earners earn more than the bottom 150 million."
There are currently fewer than 146 million employed Americans. Also the top 300,000 get less than 14% of total income (that is double the figure for top 0.1% from Saez click where it says "NEW" in red).

Clearly Edwards is comparing the income of the super rich to pensioners and housewive's. "Earners" means income recipients not employed people. This is not really fair to the appalling US economy. I am all in favor of clever rhetoric in a good cause. The issue is immense and, I'm sure, a huge game changing crush the Republicans for decades vote winner.

Light blogging as I am teaching a graduate tiny mini module of a course on inequality and economic growth. I use more equations, but the bottom line is that Edwards is right about how to achieve economic growth and equality and ... damn it's 2007. How am I going to stand the wait until November 4 2008 ?
Woman Terrorizes Iraqi Generals in the name of fundamentalist Islam

The Washington Post has got to be kidding me

At the national level, some U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about the Office of the Commander in Chief, a behind-the-scenes department that works on military issues for the prime minister.

One adviser in the office, Bassima Luay Hasun al-Jaidri, has enough influence to remove and intimidate senior commanders, and her work has "stifled" many officers who are afraid of angering her, a senior U.S. military official said. U.S. commanders are considering installing a U.S. liaison officer in the department to better understand its influence.

I have to admit that I find the idea of a woman stifling Arab generals delightful. That she is doing so to assist Shi'ite Islamists is wonderfully bizarre.

However, the main message of the article is, as can be expected, horrible. An Islamist Shi'ite government lead by a prime minister who owes his job to Moqtada al Sadr is not going to deliver a tolerant or peaceful Iraq. No surprise really and no hopeful sign.

I think I am going to stick to my wish upon a star strategy.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Redaction slip here v pagen 31. This is in the second tranche of the April 27 document dump. The topic is districts with declines in fire arms prosecutions (one was Southern California that is Carol Lam's district). The DOJ tries to redact identifying information for non fired US attorneys, but they missed a bit

"The district of Delaware's report to the Attorney General indicates a well developed PSN program, but I am concerned about the nearly 30% decrease in prosecution numbers."

The US attorney in question would be Colm F Connolly who was an assistent AG under Clinton and seems to have a stellar record. No favoritism (probably just a small state and a meaningless fluctuation).

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bullshit Solution to Global Warming

Via McClatchy

On Steve Whitesides' dairy farm in southern Idaho, cow manure used to be just an unavoidable byproduct of doing business.

Now it's a growing part of the business - and one that's getting the attention of Congress.

Lawmakers are considering tax credits and other subsidies to encourage the use of methane gas, which can be produced from manure.

And yes I know a dairy produces cow manure not bull manure you sex obsessed nit picker.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More From McClatchy

The other US attorney who saved his job after being on the to be fired list is US attorney Patrick Meehan in Philadelphia as I guessed here.
when I discussed US attorneys who were on the to be fired lists but were not fired.
This correct inference supports the theory that it is very dangerous to be US Attorney in a district where Karl Rove alleged voter fraud unless one finds (nonexistent) voter fraud or proves oneself to be a loyal Bushie by investigating Democrats soon before election day. Or as I wrote (one of many grammar errors corrected)

A clear hint of at riskness was running a district where Karl Rove suspected massive vote fraud. No US Attorney managed to obtain much evidence or many convictions for voter fraud (probably because it is rare). McKay and Iglesias were fired partly for this reason. Stephen Biskupic of Eastern Wisconsin appears to have saved himself prosecuting a clearly innocent civil servant in order to trash the Democratic governor.

Another site of alleged fraud was Philadelphia, where US attorney Patrick Meehan looked very closely at allegedly corrupt associates of the Democratic candidate for the senate (now senator) Robert Casey Jr (sound familiar).

There are two possibly overlapping sets of 3 redacted names each on lists handed over to congress. One list was made in October 2006 and one in January 2006.

Now Margaret Talev, Ron Hutcheson and Marisa Taylor of McClatchy report

Congressional sources who have seen unedited internal documents say the Bush administration considered firing at least a dozen U.S. attorneys before paring down its list to eight late last year.

The four who escaped dismissal came from states considered political battlegrounds in the last presidential election: Missouri, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Two of the four said they resigned voluntarily before the mass firings of U.S. attorneys on Dec. 7. Two continue to serve as federal prosecutors.

via TPM of course

The US attorneys from Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are Graves, Heffelfinger and Biskupic.

I correctly inferred that Thomas Heffelfinger of Minnesota was on the January list based on the fact that two people on the list left public service between Janaury 2006 and March 2006.

Firedupmissouri noted this fact and identified the other ex US attorney on the list as Thomas Graves of Western Missouri.

Steven Biskupic of Wisconsin is known to have been on a list and to have saved his job, perhaps via at least two prosecutions which appall appeals court judges.

I also speculated, apparently incorrectly, that Debra W. Yang in LA and Christopher Christie of New Jersey were on one of the lists.

In theory it is possible that the nearly fired US attorney from Pennsylvania is Mary Beth Buchanan of Western Pennsylvania appointed on September 5, 2001. However, it is clear that Buchanan was making the lists not on the lists as she was the director of the Executive Office of US Attorneys from mid-2004 to mid-2005.
The American Conservative

editor. Not interested in facts

"Alexander Konetzki is a liberal who decided to start his journalism career as an assistant editor at The American Conservative."

He explains why he quit.

the editor Scott McConnell said,

"Yeah, look, Alexander, this matter has already been decided. The piece is being published as it is." I pointed out that I had read the book, and Sailer's characterization of Obama was factually incorrect. "I have too many other things to worry about," Scott said coldly. "Steve Sailer is a longtime friend of the magazine, and if you and he read a book differently, well, I'll take his reading over yours any day."

The debate is about what is written in a book which is physically present in the office. The editor decided based on who is a "longtime friend of the magazine" without glancing at the text of the book.

"“We have to show our readers that we’re a conservative magazine,” Kara often told me, “not the NationLite.” Indeed, they did."

OK. But does conservative mean racist, uninterested in facts, or both ?
I was right.

Posted below on 25/4/07 as a claim based on indirect evidence.
Reported here on 26/4/07. via Josh Marshall (of course).

Now I have to read the McClatchy story by Marisa Taylor & Margarent Talev.

Update: The leak to Taylor and Talev is from "two senior congressional aides [who] spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the document in question hasn't been made public and because the Justice Department has allowed investigators to read it but not to photocopy it." They refer to an "early" version of the list without a specific date. Thus I don't have postive proof that Heffelfinger's name was still on the list in January 2006 and is one of the 3 redacted names on the version sent to congress.

Congressional investigators probing the firings of eight U.S. attorneys saw Thomas Heffelfinger's name on a version of the list that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, began assembling in early 2005. Heffelfinger left in February 2006, more than nine months before the Justice Department agreed on a final list of prosecutors to remove.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thomas Heffelfinger was on the to be fired list before he resigned

Update: I was right. Posted below on 25/4/07 as a claim based on indirect evidence.
Reported here on 26/4/07. via Josh Marshall (of course). Now I have to read the McClatchy story by Marisa Taylor & Margarent Talev.

There are two possibly overlapping sets of three US attorneys once on the to be fired list whose names have been redacted. One, about which I have blogged, is the list of 4 including David Iglesias and three mystery prosecutors who were added in October 2006. The other is a list of three mystery prosecutors who were on the list in January 2006 but not April 2006.

One likely member of the January three is US Attorney for Western Missouri Thomas Graves. TPMuckraker seems sure that Thomas Graves is one of the January three. Fired up Missouri is even more sure

In March, Graves abruptly resigned his position as U.S. Attorney, saying he wanted to get more involved in the 2008 presidential election, a project we have heard nothing about since.

In April, when Sampson presented an updated list of targeted U.S. Attorneys, he makes reference to the fact that two of the names included in his original list of targets for ouster have already left government service.

The other US attorney who left office between January and April 2006 is Thomas Heffelfinger who

resigned his post as U.S. attorney in Minneapolis last February. He had served two stints -- the first from September 1991 to April 1993, and then again from September 2001 to February 2006.

Heffelfinger was replaced by the young, attractive and notorious Rachel Paulose. He absolutely denies that he was pushed out. However, if Fired Up Missouri is right about Sampson's comments on his April list, Heffelfinger must have been on the January list.

This leaves one US attorney on the January list who seems to have saved himself (or herself) and two or three more added in October and removed.

A clear hint of at riskness was running a district where Karl Rove suspected massive vote fraud. No US Attorney managed to obtain much evidence or many convictions for voter fraud (probably because it is rare). McKay and Iglesias were fired partly for this reason. Stephen Biskupic of Eastern Wisconsin appears to have saved himself prosecuting a clearly innocent civil servant in order to trash the Democratic governor.

Another site of alleged fraud was Philadelphia, where US attorney Patrick Meehan looked very closely at allegedly corrupt associates of the Democratic candidate for senate (now senator) Robert Casey Jr (sound familiar).

A possible canditate for either list is Los Angeles-area U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang who announced her resignation in October 2006.

* Full story: Daily Breeze Read the original story, published Oct 18, 2006

She was handling spillover from the Duke stir investigation and, in particular, the investigation of Rep Doolittle.

Earlier I guessed that the third US attorney on the October list was Christopher Christie of New Jersey. Still no real evidence except Paul Krugman told me so.

Two other sites of Rove alleged fraud are Florida (clearly still whining about how hard it was to steal the election in 200), Oregon and St Louis (in Eastern not Western Missouri don't ask me to explain)

The job of US attorney for Oregon Karin J. Immergut does not seem to have been in danger. She was a member of an informal advisory committee of US attorneys.
Harry Potter (blush)
Bloggers often write about books which they have read, but rarely admit to reading Harry Potter books (come one don't be ashamed everyone does it)

I'm goint to try to guess some of the content of the final book. Spoiler warnings when appropriate.

I don't see many hints from books 1-4 except that Peter Pettigrew has to do something useful (like Gollum).

In book 4 (Chalice of fire) Dumbledore shows an expression of fierce triumph when he learns that Voldemort has reconstituted his body using Harry's blood. He doesn't explain, but this must be important.

In book 5 (order of the Phoenix) we learn that only one of Harry and Voldemort can live. Not sure that means what it seems to mean.

Snape had 3 very bad memories and we have only shared one.

When cleaning 12 Grimauld Place a heavy locket which no one could open was found.
Kreacher tries to hide Black family heirlooms.

In book 6 (half blood prince) we encounter the concept of Horcruxes which are various objects which hold part of Voldemort's soul. One bit is in his reconstructed body, another was in the Riddle diary (killed in book 2), another was in a ring destroyed by Dumbledore.

One is clearly in a locket once belonging to Slytherin.

This was replaced in its former hiding place by an ex follower of Voldemort who signed R.A.B. . One Regulus Black (brother of Sirius) was once a follower of Voldemort. He was quickly killed after he tried to switch sides. I assume he is RAB and that the locket is the one found in 12 Grimauld place. I guess that there will be an effort to find where Kreacher hid it, then it will be discovered that Fletcher sold it. This should be good for hundreds of pages.

Another is likely to be Helga Hufflepuff's teacup. No idea where it is. Hundreds more pages to find if it is the horcrux and, if so, where it is,

The sixth bit is likely to be in the Snake Nagini (so guessed by Dumbledore)

The seventh is, I am quite sure, in Harry Potter. Clearly he is linked to Voldemort and Nagini. I don't know how we are supposed to pretend we haven't noticed.

As to the denoument, I risk ruining much better books, which also feature a school of magic, written by Ursula LeGuin (A Wizard of Earthsea, The tombs of Atuan and The farthest shore, Tehanu all well worth reading). I think the key is to be found either in denoument of A Wizard of Earthsea or that of The Farthest Shore. Won't say what they are, but each has a moral and both seem to potentially fit the Potter series. I'd say that Dumbledore's unexplained expression in book 4 suggests that it will be a Wizard of Earthsea moral. Others claim to know it will be the other.

Other matters.

The ring bears the "Peveral" crest. This family is not otherwise mentioned. This must be a hint somehow.

The injury Dumbledore received when destroying the ring was never described. I think that in books 6 and 7 as in book 1 Snape is set up to appear to be guilty but is innocent.

Roughly, I guess something about destroying the ring made it necessary to kill Dumbledore (as in the bit of Voldemort was in him or something). Snape promised Mrs Malfoy that he would. Later he is arguing with Dumbledore that he doesn't want to do something and Dumbledore says he promised so he must. For some reason Dumbledore freazes Harry when he could have saved himself. He seems very calm till he sees Snape who kills him. It all makes sense if Dumbledore wanted Snape to kill him and feared Snape wouldn't do it. The aim may have been to give Snape absolute credibility with Voldemort.

Neville Longbottom has moved from being a geek to being an extraordinarily brave hero type. The prophesy could refer to him not Harry. He might have to do something very unpleasant to end the series.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In Which I semi defend Alan Reynolds' article in the Washington Times from Brad DeLong

Reynolds writes

...Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, ... half of that increase happened in just two years, 1987 and 1988. ...

Increases in the top 1 percent's income after the 1986 Tax Reform came from more business income being reported on individual tax returns, rather than corporate tax returns. The share of the top 1 percent income coming from business profits jumped from 11 percent in 1986 to 21 percent in 1988, ... How and why that happened is a textbook example of why tax return data cannot be used to measure income distribution...

Brad writes

29% of 17% is 5% as the tax-return-estimate based share of business income reported by the top one-hundredth. If the tax law were different today, a good chunk of that 5% would be reported as capital income, and a smaller chunk as labor income. The estimates the people I talk to come up with is that the 1986 Tax Reform boosted the long-run measured share of the top one-hundredth relative to the true share by between 0 and 2 percentage points, leaving between 7 and 9 percentage points as the true underlying increase in the income share of the top one-hundredth.
I write

Hmmm I am about to give a lecture on measuring inequality in which I will have something good to say about Reynolds' argument (which I made in a comment to an earlier post). Part of what happened in 86-89 was reduced disguising of personal income as capital gains via tax shelters. Another part was reduced disguising of personal income as corporate income which should show up as capital gains eventually.

If fact a google images search for piketty Saez shows this

(just search for Saez and you get some rock singer giving you the finger

Back to E Saez. an image
in the ratio of capital gains and income going to the richest 1% over GDP even greater over all but just wildly bouncing around then as people replanned their tax avoidance schemes (also something odd seems to have happened in October 1987 what was that ?).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mehra and Prescott remind us that, over the short run capital gains are very noisy but in the long run they are predictable. A look at the top 1%'s income plus capital gains shows that the effect of tax reform on reported income was huge and that the apparent long run increase in inequality is genuine and gigantic.

There's Votes in Them Thar Hills

Share of top 0.01% of taxpayers in theUSA from The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective Piketty, Thomas; Saez, Emmanuel; American Economic Review, May 2006, v. 96, iss. 2, pp. 200

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at <span class=

Just to be clear, I am not saying there are votes in the top 0.01 % who are getting 3% of personal income all by themselves. There are votes to be won by soaking them and spreading it out thin, and even Rham Emanuel has figured that out.
In Which I Argue Against Motherhood

Mark Kleiman thinks Obama is savvy and right

two out of Obama's five points were about the nuclear threat: chasing loose nukes and fissile material, and taking our own weapons off the hair-trigger "launch on warning" status they should have gone off at the end of the Cold War. I'm pleased by this substantively, but it also looks politically savvy. These are both what might be called "good motherhood issues."

I'm not going to defend launch on warning (stochastic does not mean crazy) but I think one can argue that paying Russia to keep track of their nukes is a mugs game. Once upon a time I thought that was about the best possible use of money (even better than speed bumps) but times have changed. In particular, the price of oil has changed a lot. Russia is no longer a basket case. Do we pay France to keep track of their nukes ?

Furthermore Putin is not Yeltsin who was not Gorbachev. That large country over there which isn't as big as it used to be has gone from definitely well meaning and questionably competent to definitely incompetent and questionable well meaning to definitely competent and ruthless.

Putin can get the job done. Not only if the job is ending this silly democratic experiment and grinding Chechnya into dust, but also if the job is securing nukes.

Also apple pie is fattening and baseball is booooooooorrrrrrrrrring.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Finally the Democratic Counteroffensive in the Class War

House Democrats, aiming to seize taxes from Republicans as a political issue, have come up with a plan to shift the burden of the hated alternative minimum tax onto the shoulders of the nation's richest households.

"This is, if not the beginning of the end, at least, the end of the Beginning" W Churchill

"'A huge number of families will receive tax relief as the result of this. It's something like 87 million to one million,' said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen,"

That's my representative ! OK that's my mom's and my dad's representative. Not as eloquent as Churchill but a better vote winner (remember the Tories got hammered in 1945).

Republican efforts at counterargument are, naturally pathetic.

Republicans, who also advocate repealing or substantially rewriting the AMT, dismiss Democratic ideas as "class warfare." Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, said raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans would punish small-business owners. He dubbed the idea a "job killer."
I wonder if Ryan has an actual argument behind his claim that shifting taxes to the rich kills jobs. The evidence suggests the opposite. I have claimed that I can think of an argument in economic theory for anything, but Ryan's claim is a toughy. The words "class warfare" aren't going to do it. Americans tell pollsters, in effect, that they want to fight back in the class war and I don't think a tired old slogan is going to confuse them.

Maybe its time to lie, or better, go meta and note that the Democrats might be vulnerable to a lie if someone else is willing to do the dirty

Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery, the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said the Democratic proposal would avoid a tax increase for some, but those people "won't see any more money in their pockets." Meanwhile, "the people who get the tax increase certainly would feel that," McCrery said. "So their proposal could be characterized as a tax increase, and a big one."

I believe that Colin Powell called that sort of formulation "Third person, passive voice, once removed." I'd say that if McCrery can't find a political kissing cousin willing to tell that bold faced shameless characterization in the first person, he better get on the side of the 87 million and stop shilling for the 1 million.
Such Sweet Reasonableness

A builder who lives under the same roof as his wife and ex-wife is stuck in a political love triangle - because both women are contesting the same seat at the local elections.

Despite their political divisions the two women remain cordial - for now.

Carol said: "I wasn't going to stand again and I've got a good relationship with Shirley. When I decided I wouldn't stand as a councillor, I told her she should try as she'd be brilliant.

"I thought it would suit her down to the ground. I thought perhaps the Conservatives would move Shirley to another ward. But no, it's ended up both of us in the same ward.

"I dreaded telling her. I said 'Look, you're the first person I'm going to tell. My group has asked me to stand again' and she said, 'May the best candidate win'.

"If I wasn't standing, even though we're for different parties, I would want her to get elected because I think she'd be wonderful.

"But once your name's on the ballot paper, the urge to win kicks in. And I wouldn't be standing if I didn't want to be a councillor again."

Shirley was selected by the local Conservative group to contest the Kingsmead seat, which has seven candidates running for two places.

Shirley, who has a grown-up son and daughter, said: "It's the powers-that-be that have done this. I would have preferred not to be against her but there's nothing we can do about it.

Why can't we have nice politicians like that (we US citizens and we Italian residents that is).
Of course they are not in a vicious battle of compettetive niceness are they ? A campaign to watch I'd say.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Friend Writes

There used to be 2 types of calls: local and long distance; but now
there is a third category which is called "local long distance". It now
costs me nearly 3 times as much to call Northern Virginia than it
costs to call Alaska because of a state tax which seems to be the
highest in the nation. I live in Virginia, a mostly republican state. I
blame the tax increase on republicans who would rather raise taxes in a
regressive way.

Time to raise Kaine

Saturday, April 21, 2007

H.R Block all time record ?

The Washington Post reports that Alberto Gonzales used the phrase “I don’t recall” and its variants 64 times during the five-hour hearing, “treat[ing] the committee to a mixture of arrogance, combativeness and amnesia. Even his would-be defenders on the Republican side were appalled.”

The H.R. Block is the memory block that often afflicts witnesses under Subpoena and, in particular those subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sorry to use a term reminiscent of H&R Block so soon after tax day.

The H.R. Block is named in honor of H.R. Haldeman (Richard Nixon's chief of staff) who was recorded on the White House tapes saying something along the lines of "If someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, say you don't remember. No one can prove you remember something." Later, before the committee, he himself set the long standing H.R. Block record recently surpassed by Alberto Gonzales.

The H.R. Block has nothing to do with H.R. Clinton. I don't recall whether I even noticed that she had the same first two initials as H.R. Haldeman when I coined the term, that is, no one can prove that I remember noticing that H.R. Clinton and H.R. Haldeman have the same first two initials and that both have had trouble remembering details related to investigations, when I coined the term.

Update: I take back everything I wrote. Today, Gonzales admitted that he might know something. At this rate he will reach normal IQ in 2473

Friday, April 20, 2007

Get a Load of this Dream Ticket Crap

My dream ticket Crapo/Akaka

ht The Poor Man

I apologize to the esteemed conscript fathers and Solons who are not responsible for their names or my extreme immaturity.

It just seems to me that to defeat the Islamofascists we got to get our shit together.

update: Well they are polite a dream ticket writing me

Dear Robert,

Thank you for selecting your Dream Ticket for the Unity08 presidential and vice presidential ticket in November 2008.

Here's the link to your Dream Ticket.

If you haven't already asked your friends to name their own Dream Tickets please visit Our country needs as many good ideas as possible.

Are you a Delegate yet? Why not? Only those registered as Delegates will be able to participate in the real nominating process at the ONLINE UNITY08 NOMINATING CONVENTION in June, 2008. Signing up is easy and free. And you don't have to leave your party to be a Unity08 Delegate. Just visit

Again, thank you for helping make history. And don't forget, you can see a selection of other Dream Tickets at


Doug Bailey
Founders' Council

P.S. The Rules Committee of Unity08 has just published our Draft Rules for qualifying candidates. To review and comment on them please visit

I haven't checked the rules, but I bet I broke them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Trying to Read the Handwritten Notes On 8-gate

A key document in the TPMuckraker document collection has scribbled notes on justifications for firing the 8 US attorneys. In an extreme act of projection, I note bad hand writing. My efforts at deciphering and comments below. I have no sense of who scribbled these notes.

update: This was more of a waste of time than average for my blogging related program activities (which is saying a lot). The TPMuckraking team has clearly been all over these notes. Many of my discoveries are things I already read there (also refutations of false claims in notes are basically all things which I read over there).

Reasons ?

Who recommended Griffin ?
What was told to ?A USA ?
Was any DOJ dissent ?
May want to see EARS reports
Was Pres. told about this ?
Any outside calls about Lam ?

Comment: EARS stands for Evaluation and Review Staff. The EARS reports are the formal performance evaluations which appear not to have been among performance related reasons or else why might someone want to take a glance at them after the firings. I really really can't read the letter in *A USA maybe FA USA.

over course of past 5 gB all over - some great, some not commenting, some problematic

DOJ put together list of problematic people; sent to WH; WH cleared;

Comment: seems to be some fired USAs already complaining and some being good soldiers. The lie that WH not involved in choosing who to fire is already in writing.

Who/Why ?

Chait district 4 year March departure dates trying to be patient interim acting perm status

comment: Who is this. The name Chait is clearly spelled. The only plausible Chait I find at the DOJ is BATF special agent in charge Mark Chait. What is this ?

??? Griffin ???

EARS Chait

This seems to be Arkansas. Chait may have been Griffin's rival to replace Cummins. I really don't understand.

2) terrrible manager
3) bad morale

comment: This is Kevin Ryan USA in San Francisco. The one who was fired, because a judge was after the EARS report and he really had terrible performance.

1) immigration
2) guns
3 failure to (illegible scribbles) management

Comment: Carol Lam fired for policy of few immigration prosecutions at the end of a year in which the offices immigration prosecutions increased 32 % Yeah sure. point 3 makes it clear that they want to claim some failure related to management but added the specific failure later, then crossed it out then added another illegible (but clearly crucial) issue.


comment: 11 points most of them already discussed by TPMuckraker scribble readers and typed sources.

1) Underachieves in a very important district
2) absentee landlord
3) Border district
4) in over head
5) Domenici says he doesn't move cases.

comment: in points 1, 3 & 4 they have discovered that New Mexico borders Mexico. I think it is clear that they looked at prosecution and conviction statistics and found that Iglesias's office had outstanding numbers. This is due in large part to being on the border and handling immigration cases. The data are lemons, make lemon aid.

In point 2 they declare their illegal intention to discriminate against Iglesias because of his active duty service in the Naval reserve.

Point 5 is a smoking gun. It is not proof beyond reasonable doubt that Domenici and main justice fired Iglesias because he didn't indict Aragon before election day, but it is very very close.

1) Poor ????? in way he relates to law enf. community.
2) didit
3) put department in bad light in relation to LE issues
4) Circulated a letter demanding DAG to order LE agencies to turn over info (conf???) to locals. not appropriate.

comment: more in margin related to 4 which shows how bogus it is

4a) shame other USAs trusted him and signed a ??? ??? (comment must be the letter to McNulty)
4b) McKay tried to lock ? in DAG
4c) several times he tried to jam or corner main
4d) insub on info sharing
4e) illegible with arrow to 4d
4f) temperament issues
4g) travelled outside of district promoting policy. not his job to run policy.

Comment: I have no idea what point 2 is. LE must be "law enforcement" and, since it contrasts with locals probably means the FBI mostly. The letter was essentially the informal minutes of a conference call with DAG McNulty. It was signed by 17 US attorneys only one of whom was fired. Basically on McKay they have only the fact that he directed an information sharing pilot program, which was highly thought of and which DOJ wanted implemented nation wide. As formally requested, McKay travelled to promote and coordinate adoption of the program in other districts. The last bit of 4g is a false claim which is known to be false. They told him to do something. He did it. So they fired him.

No mention of letting a Democrat be elected governor by 129 votes.

1) Very important - terror violent crime drugs
2) important district
3) resistent to AG priorities (obscenity [case] task force) [] means crossed out.
4) Margolis
5) In over his head

I think Margolis might be the person for whom Bogden didn't want to request the death penalty. We have again the discovery of which district Bogden serves. Also what with all of the distractions due to terrorism, violent crime and drugs he has not focused on porn. They are not trying to be funny.

1) Disarray in office under her leadership
2) incredibly fractured office
3) morale low
4) lost confidence of her subordinates and superiors
5) not public

I don't know what "Not public" means or even if I read the word correctly. The rest is one point 4 times, but potentially legitimate. It is possible that "not public" means there is no evidence to support the accusation.
Ezra Klein attempts to defend Robert Kuttner from Brad DeLong's attack on Kuttners attack on Robert Rubin. Robert Waldmann is not willing to be AWOL from a good circular firing squad.

I am ignorant (really) and I don't know the basis for Klein's claim that "It was Rubin, after all, who convinced the nascent Clinton administration to do NAFTA before health reform"

My impression at the time was that health care reform was delayed because H Clinton and Ira Magaziner needed more time to consult more people in order to decide to do what they had planned to do all along. I definitely recall that W J Clinton declared a deadline for the announcement of the proposal which was missed by months.

A bit of googling shows that the deadline for the announcement was May 30 1993. See this in particular. "The health plan itself was supposed to be unveiled May 30, 1993, to meet the President's much-ballyhooed 100-day deadline, but it was not officially presented to Congress until September 22, 1993"). This does not seem to be consistent with Klein's claim that the nascent Clinton administration decided to do NAFTA first. Is there a basis for that claim other than Robert Kuttner said so ?

While searching for the deadline I found

"In his initial memo to Mrs. Clinton, dated Jan. 26, 1993, he listed "likely criticisms" that the plan would generate: "[snip] Universal coverage would involve redistribution of income and disrupt satisfactory arrangements for many Americans." Get it. One core principle of the Clinton Clinton and Magaziner approach was that income redistribution is bad.

In contrast Rubin forcefully advocated a huge increase in the highest marginal tax rate and an increase in the EITC -- that is redistribution from people like him.

Rubin is a banker. Bankers may like balanced budgets, but they typically do not like efforts to balance budgets by increasing the taxes that they personally pay. Rubin is a traitor to his class. Ira Magaziner is not an enemy of Robert Rubin's class (or his own not so exalted class). There are no two ways about it.

I think the fundamental problem with Kuttner's effort to understand who is and who is not an egalitarian is that he doesn't seem to give a damn about foreigners. He considers free trade anti egalitarian because it is good for US based investors and bad for US resident workers. I oppose protection (by developed countries at least) because I think it is bad for the really poor workers in developing countries. I have always believed that fighting protectionism in rich countries (at least) is the left wing egalitarian position. Really. Honestly.

To Kuttner support for free trade can only be based on concern for the interests of US capitalists (my word not his) evidently inculcated in Rubin (perhaps without his full awareness ) while he was at Goldman Sachs.

Now it may be that Robert Kuttner's main problem with the deification of Robert Rubin is that Robert Rubin is not Robert Kuttner. It may be that he thinks that globalisation implies the capitalist exploitation of third world workers (and forgets that Joan Robinson said something like "the only thing worse for workers than capitalist exploitation is the absence of capitalist exploitation."

I think it is very likely (certain in fact) that Kuttner thinks that the Democratic party should use economic populism to win back the working class. I agree with him on that. It is one of my personal obsessions and I acknowledge my intellectual debt to Kuttner. I read that written by him back when I thought the Democrats had to move towards the center (this was like in 1982 or something). Still I think that US protectionism is good politics but is, worse than a mistake, an evil anti-egalitarian policy.
Very Dumb New Right Wing Talking Point

Three cases make a syndrome but two are plenty for a blog post. The latest idiotic right wing talking point is that the tax code is too progressive and has gotten more progressive since Reagan was elected. This insanity appears on the WSJ editorial page (see Chait slice and dice Fleisher) and see Jared Bernstein attempt to seize defeat from the jaws of victory discussing Larry Kudlow's show. This claim is dumb in two ways. First it is, of course, false. Second, they really really don't want to go there.

Let me give a bit of advice to Republicans.

Talk about
statistics no
anectdotes ok
Bush no
Iraq no
WMD no
Democracy promotion no
the surge no
victory no
terrorism ok
Pelosi no
health care no
The French yes
French health care no
Hillarycare no
the veterans' admin no
Walter Reed no
HMO's no
Medicare plan D no
big Pharma no
the postal service finally you got it
Cheney no
Arabs yes
Rove no
the average American yes
the median American no
Islam yes
the average tax burden yes
government spending no
the deficit no
the bridge to nowhere no
Sunni Islam no
Social security no
socialism yes
Shi'ite Islam no
law and order yes
the rule of law no
Class war ok
tax progressivity No. Never. not ever. NO. Change the subject. Talk about Abramoff. Talk about Katrina. Do not admit you know what the words mean. Tell jokes about Cheney with a shot gun. Anything but tax progressivity. If the American people start thinking about tax progressivity, your candidate will finish fifth after Patrick Buchanan, Ralph Nader and Lyndon Larouche. Don't go there. Ever.

update: Thanks for links

Mark Thoma
Ezra Klein
Brad DeLong

The health food store was selling some very natural food. It was sweetened with "dehydrated cane juice". Which must be better for you than sugar.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fred Malek is finance chairman of the McCain campaign

This could be very costly to McCain. One of his strengths is in fighting corruption as the chairman of the normally very boring indian affairs committee, where he investigated his best bud Ralph Reed you know the one who spread the word that his adopted child was his biological offspring (but not his wife's) under the radar in South Carolina in 2000.

He doesn't seem so concerned when the crooks are not also his personal enemies.

Fred Malek seems to have been ahead of his time back in 1972. In particular he appears to have systematically politicized well roughly everything, abused the FBI to investigate a journalist and preserved deniability at the Rovian level (original term Nixonian level).

Counting Jews and eating a dog are the least of it, although it appears that Malek never claimed to have decided anything without his own knowledge.
Why not Wyoming ?

Jeff Sachs (who is no dodo) makes an excellent point

Sachs had another take. There's no reason, he said, that spending $400 billion now means that we should reduce our consumption by $400 billion.... "The future would rather have abatement capital than non-abatement capital," he said, adding that you can finance expenditure out of savings rather than consumption through the application of fiscal policy. "We are stewards of the future," said Sachs – future generations aren't around to speak to us, so we have to act on their behalf. "And they want less capital and a better climate."
How about combining Sachs's insight that the trade-off is CO2 control or capital formation for future generations and not the consumption of the present generation vs the well being of future generations and everyone's insight that there should be a carbon tax. It's easy really. Tax carbon and refund somewhat more than all of the revenues. Sachs says the key is deficit spending. What politician ever said no both to deficit spending and to Monica Lewinsky (sorry Monica needed to avoid an obvious counter example).

Carbon tax and compensation designed so that even most people who have a long commute to work are better off. Say make the program so that it is a push for the average resident of Wyoming (or maybe Alaska).

"We can't ask Wyoming to pay to save Delaware from the Atlantic so let's introduce a program with short run benefits for Wyoming too" is the sort of argument that every pandering pol must love.

Or to use Gorespeak, a budget surplus can be put in a lock box, but the Republicans will just break it open when they regain power. It is harder for them to steal the low CO2 atmosphere.

Finally directing the appeal to Cheney's former constituents is a way to really stick it to the basta-- Vice President.
Experiment in Information Retrieval Part MCCLXXXXXXIII

I'm getting better at this.

It took me only two (corectly speled) google searches to find the proof that Chris Matthews, David Ignatius and Andrea Mitchell were giving George Tenet a pass on retracting his public confession that he stupidly said "slam-dunk"

Search one
(Too broad)
Search too
Two badly spellled (it was a typpo -- I think)

Search three

Second link (first I clicked) is Pay Dirt.

Elapsed time well under one minute.

I can't believe that back in the day it took me two full hours (one dedicated to downloading what turned out to be mostly maps and flags) to prove that the Nigerien memo was forged.

And what about the time when I couldn't find a hedgehog penis on the web ?

What have I learned from all my experiments in information retrieval ?

Don't try to go straight to the source. People have been there and they left links.
Don't try to search images, they are hard to alphabetize

Use The Google.

update: embarrassing spelling error corrected.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Do You want to Get Up To Steam on the US Attorney Firings ?

I am currently well past steam to overheated (maybe plasma by now) but someone who doesn't have time to read all of the original reporting (almost all of which is at TPM and TPMuckraker) could do worse than reading this very good article by Dan Eggen and Paul Kane in the Washington Post.

Unlike the TPMuckrakers Eggan and Kane scrupulously refrain from stating their personal opinions directly. In this case, the rule does no harm and actually makes the case more convincing.

I'd say that political figures who mess up had better fear Paul raising Cain and getting Eggen in their faces more than egg on their faces.

I also applaud the Solomon decision made by some editor, since earlier stories had John Solomon's as an author along with Eggen and now Solomon is spending more time reporting on his family or something.

As Brad DeLong might say, reading this article, I think the Washington Post will survive for more than five more years. I'd guess he'd give them 6 or maybe even 7 years to live now.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

30 out of 30 Kossaks Agree that Economists should stop using silly mathematical models and talk about the real world. Poll and results.
The Bartlett Pair

Hmmm Brad DeLong has posted two posts praising Bruce Bartlett in a week. I suspect a strategic motive. It seems to me that you are familiar with the dictum that there are movements which search for heretics and movements which search for converts and you want to make sure that the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill is of the second kind.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hope for Iraq ?

Below I said that Moktada al Sadr's decision to declare that the we and not Sunni Iraqis are the main enemies was a promising sign.

Now Sudarsan Raghavan reports a much more promising sign -- a break between Sunni Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda in Iraq and serious discussions (with him) of possible conceivable negotiations by a splintered mass of semi rival Sunni insurgent groups with either the Iraqi government or the USA.

This is the best news out of Iraq that I have read in a while. Clearly al Qaeda must be isolated for there to be any chance of peace. Prominent Sunni politicians and people who claim to be major leaders of the insurgency forcefully argue in favor of negotiation in the article.

One of the things which always made it very hard to see how the insurgency would end is that no one seemed to have a clear idea of how many insurgent groups there are (very many) and who leads them (and who just thinks he is a leader). Raghavan's apparent understandingg of the insurgency is way beyond anything I have encountered before. I think it is a sign that insurgents are serious about negotiating and are using Raghavan to send a message to people in Washington (especially congresspeople in Washington).

Clearly the situation is still terrible. The many groups are two numerous and divided to negotiate. Their demands are reliably impossible (balancing Sunni and Shi'ite ministers and pretending that 20% of the population = 50%). The first to reach agreement with the US or the Iraqi government will be denounced as sell outs by ambitious rivals.

But there is some hope. It seems that the Sheiks (tribal leaders) are even co-operating with the Us military in fighting al Qaeda in Iraq.

I see a tiny hope of an agreement between Shi'ite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurdish Iraqis based on the fact that they are all angry with the USA. Most groups (excluding prime minister Malaki who doesn't have much of a personal army) want a timetable for US withdrawal.

The majority of the US wants a
timetable for US withdrawal.

A ceasefire in exchange for a timetable for US withdrawal would give everyone some of what they want at no cost to anyone.

Why can't I convince myself to actually believe it is possible in the forseable future ?
All the ducks in a Row

White House Blames Microsoft for Missing e-mails
Wow This Blog was visited from Mangalore Karnataka India

I didn't even know there was a Mangalore in Karnataka. I thought Manda lore was the tales told in Japanese comic books.
Recognise the Four Horsement of the Stupidoclypse by one certain sign

which they use as to signal membership like Lassallians saying "the iron law of wages"

They claim that the 2006 Democratic Senatorial victory was narrow even though only 9 Republicans were elected to the Seanate in the whole country.

Mickey Kaus


Charles Krauthammer

"The Democrats say they are carrying out their electoral mandate from the November election. But winning a single-vote Senate majority as a result of razor-thin victories in Montana and Virginia is hardly a landslide."

are horsement of the Stupidoclypse.

I think that Fred Barnes and Morton Kondrake are the other two, but as far as google tells me, they haven't confirmed it yet.

stupidoclypse is not a very polite term., but Brad may have been overkind to Kaus Kondrake and Krauthammer (at TNR Barnes was officially reporting on gossip from inside Republican White houses and was, thus, pretty much officially a hack and not to be blamed for doing his job).

It would be harsher to refer to them as that KKK, but not I fear totally unfair. Kaus has boasted of his homophobia and Krauthamer has some problems with Arabs and well just about everyone, but I expected better of Kondrake.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Republican Holidays

April Fools Day

Mother's day "

Mother's day

"while Donna [then Giuliani's wife] and the kids were on a plane to Los Angeles to spend the weekend -- Mother's Day weekend, no less! -- with her parents, Rudy took Judy [now Giuliani's wife] out for a stroll up Second Avenue, permitting the newspaper photographers to snap pictures all along the way."

Makes me worry. George Bush has clearly decided that Presidenting is too hard work for him so he'll have someone else work as commander in chief, and Blair has never ever said no to his BFF George

How do we know that Bush hasn't arranged for Blair to take over his job on independence day ?
In Defence of Howard Hughes

I got to be kidding me. For the kids, Howard Hughes was the very model of a rich twit. His father inmproved a drilling bit for oil wells making HH very very rich. He mainly horded his money. He never had (or never recognized) any children. He became reclusive, crazy (not a formal diagnosis) and pathetic.

It is relatively easy to defend people who obtain huge amounts of money by arguing that they made a contribution to total wealth and kept only some of it. This applies to people who just buy and sell financial assets who may make money while driving asset prices towards their fundamental values. HH basically inherited his (in the form of a firm which generated a high stream of profits given its book value).

It is easy to defend rich people who give money away while they are alive. HH gave money only in his will and, I have no doubt, only because he couldn't take it with him.

Conflict of interest disclosure: Due to absurdly strict NIH regulations on conflict of interest my father is no longer a member of the medical advisory board of the Howard Hughes medical foundation (no I can't see any possible conflict of interest between the HH and the NIH either).

I would defend HH even if he had left no will setting up the medical foundation. I think that the foundation spends money more wisely than the US government (war in Iraq anyone ?) but my argument would work if HH left neither will nor close relations and the money went to the US treasury.

I think rich people who pile up money, spend little of it and leave neither relatives nor wills are socially useful. Since they can't take their wealth with them, their existence makes us richer than we think we are. If they didn't produce the wealth, they don't make us richer but they create the illusion of poverty by making the rest of the world underestimate its true wealth.

Thus HH's wealth had an economic role roughly opposite to that of the national debt. Government bonds are not net wealth, but they create the illusion of wealth and distort consumption/savings decisions by tricking people into consuming more than they would if they understood. HH without a will would do the opposite. As I hate deficit spending (mainly because I hate Bush and disapprove of the late Ronald Reagan) I must conclude that, even without the strangely sane decision to set up a medical foundataion, HH made a useful contribution by hoarding and hiding wealth and balancing a tiny fraction of the grand illusion of wealth which is the national debt.

Now HH also consumed an absurdly large amount for a single person (which was an absurdly small amount compared to his wealth). Almost all of this consumption was, in my view, approximately pure waste. However I would guess that the benefit from correcting a tiny fraction of the distortion to consumption savings choices was much larger than the cost of his extra mansion or two.

Now rich people with rich spoiled offspring who keep the wealth in the family indefinitely are another matter. Still, I'd say rich people who are totally selfish (and childless) and can't take it with them are inadvertant stewards of the nations wealth and that they do a less awful job of stewardship than, say G. W. Bush.
David Stefanini has left a new comment on your post "Near speciation in about one century. Below see c...":

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:



I don't see what Imus and sports have to do with speciation (I might not seem to be a member of the same species as NBA basketball players but remember great danes and Chihuahuas). But hey a link is a link.
Near speciation in about one century.

Below see comments on Ernst Mayr a major evolutionary biologist. One of his main interests was in speciation that is one species evolving into two separate species. The division of (sexually reproducing) living things into species is not arbitrary. Within a species genes are mixed by interbreeding (this is called gene flow). In principle, one can test if a gene in organism A can end up in a long stream of descendents of organism B (takes a long time). Thus the claim that A and B are part of different species can, in principle, be falsified. Generally the standard definition that only members of the same species can produce fertile offspring works well enough. It implies that horses and donkeys are different species because mules are sterile. Dogs however are one species even though a great dane and a chihuaha can't produce children, because they can be great to the n grandparents of the same dog through a chain of mates of different sizes through generations.

Mayr argues that speciation is a nail in Plato's coffin, because it shows that there are not permanent ideal types.

An accidental experiment suggests that speciation can occur very very quickly. For about a century Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) have been bred in laboratories. From now on I will drop the species name, melanogaster , which I really shouldn't do since I am writing about speciation.

The distant cousins of the lab bred Drosophila are flying around making pests of themselves.
Interestingly, if a wild male mates with a lab line female, their offspring have all sorts of developmental abnormalities which turn out to be genetic mutations (this is called hybrid disgenisis). It turns out that they are caused by an extremely benign virus called a p-element which mainly sits dormant in the chromasomes of wild Drosophila but not lab strain Drosophila. The p-element is kept dormant by a protein which it makes which tells it to lie quiet. The protein is not packed into sperm. Thus when wild type sperm fertilizes a lab line egg, the p-element activates. It then makes numerous copies of itself in the offsprings chromasomes. They cause mutations which are generally damaging (if the p-element pops into the middle of a gene it destroys it).

Apparently p-elements spread throughout the wild Drosophila population after the lab stocks of Drosophila were started and while the lab stocks were isolation from the outside world.

Hybrid disgenesis implies that there is already a partial barrier to interbreeding (gene flow9 among Drosophila which wasn't there a mere hundred or so years ago. One might imagine that, if biologists keep breeding lines of Drosophila, in another few hundred years there will be a new species "lab line Drosophila melanogaster" because accumulated stuff like p-elements will make wild-type X lab-line hybrids sterile or dead. If this occurs it will be an amazing event in experimental evolutionary biology (a field founded by Leo Szilard co-inventor of the Atomic bomb by the way).

Finally to pat myself on the head in a very juvenile way, I wrote a paper alleging that sympatric speciation occurs when in high school. This after reading papers Mayr discussed and dismissed in his text book. When I read about his current course a few years later, I found that he had been convinced by further research. The question is whether for one species to evolve into two (a process called speciation) the population has to be physically divided and in different regions (allopatric) or if it can occur with overlapping populations (synpatric). It appears that allopatry is not strictly necessary. For example, there are two species crickets in the same range in the USA that differ mainly because one lays eggs in the Spring and the other lays eggs in the Fall. For another there is a species of Drosophila in North America which eats only apples - a fruit introduced to the new world after 1492. Johnny appleseed seems to have zapped both Plato and early Mayr (I learned of the examples from Mayr's dismissive presentation in a textbook).
From comments

Also, I consider utilitarianism a faulty limiting base for economics and will explain. We can do better than Bentham, and JS Mill is barely understood by economists while Kant, well, you know....


Heck, William James along with Kant would form a superb philsophical base for economists or at least many economists. Chicago-ans I have no hope for; forgive me, I have enough to answer for at Confession already.


On utilitarianism I would distinguish between A) the theory in psychology that people act in order to maximize their happiness and b) the ethical view that people should act to maximize the sum of happiness in the world that is bet

A implies a very strong form of rationality since it is assumed that people do maximize utility not that they attempt to maximize utility. It is well know that the idea that people attempt to maximize their happiness has no testable implications.

It is also true that the hypothesis that people rationally maximize happiness has not testable implications and is not a scientific hypothesis. Any implications of utility maximizing models are implications of assumptions about the form of utility functions.

The proof is trivial. Imagine a person whose sole aim in life is to act in a many inconsistent with utility maximization. If there were any actions inconsistent with utility maximization, one would be utility maximizing for this individual. This is a logical contradiction, so there must be no action inconsistent with utility maximizing. QED

For those unconvinced by this argument, I note that all efforts to find implications of utility maximization are clearly based on the assumption which no one believes that utility functions are time seperable (revealed preference implies we enjoy eating no more at the beginning of a meal than after eating 1000 square meals in a row).

B on the other hand is another matter. For many years I thought that utilitarianism was the true description of what is right and what is wrong. I don't anymore, but I don't find the idea obviously absurd.

A is due to Bentham and is the foundation of (almost all) modern economic theory. B is due to Bentham's followers and is much detested by professional moral philosophers.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Amartya Sen and Alberto Gonzales have something in common

Sen focused on lewd and prude

Gonzales focused on prosecution of the lewd and Prude
Magnets and Magnates a Currie point theory of the leisure class

Sad to say this might be titled Ising, Thaler and Marx and/or more heat than light.

Richard Thaler claims in the book "Rational Choice" that psychologists have noted that if you poll people on an issue, then isolate them and let them discuss the issue then poll them again, you find that their views move away from the population average and become more extreme during the discussion.

Thaler admits that such an outcome could occur if people rationally pool information and everyone has the same prior (a crazy and standard assumption in game theory). I assume that this is not what is happening and there is a tendency for people participating in a discussion to conform to the view in their group which causes the opinion of all to become the opinion of each and causes this opinion to be held with great confidence -- greater than that justified by pooling information.

To try to be specific. consider a yes or no question where the population is about evenly split. If people in a randomly formed discussion group mostly reach agreement on yes or on no, the average opinion in the group after the discussin will be much further from the population average than in a random group without discussion.

This is exactly the way feromagnetism works (Ising appears because of the Ising model of magnets). little magnets line up. The result is a powerful magnet. If soft iron is placed in a weak magnetic field, the result is a powerful magnetic field. For each little magnetic bit of the iron, the weak magnetic field is a minor influence on the probability that North pole of the magnetic bit points this or that way, however, they reinforce each other and, if the amount of jumbling (that is the temperature) is low enough end up all pointing the same way.

I think this is very interesting. It is relates to magnetism and marxism. The idea that class not individual interests determine people's views can be justified (in part) by this experimental result if one assumes that people chatter with other people in the same social class.

So what is this weasel word "soft" Iron ? Well in fact this is a pretty general principle, but the behavior depends on temperature. At room temperature some Iron (or steel what do I know) forms permanent magnets and some is magnetic if and only if there is an external magnetic field.

The idea is that there are two competing factors. Little magnets all pointing in the same direction are a lower energy state than little magnets pointing in different directions. However, there are many many more different ways in which magnets can point in all different directions.
Willard Gibbs explains to us that the steady state outcome is that with the lowest free energy which is energy minus temperature times a constant times the log of the number of different microstates that correspond to on observed state. Fermi, Dirac, Bose and Einstein note that the different micro states are must be states which can in principle be distinguished but which we lump together.

The point is that whether something is a magnetized (all the little magnetic bits point the same way) or not depends on temperature. Also an exogenous magnetic field makes a difference as descibed above. The temperature below which a material is ferromagnetic is called the Curie point.

So what does this have to do with the leisure class ? Well my pseudo idea is that the analogy of temperature is being forced to confront practical personal problems in daily life (like losing your job and being broke). In contrast interacting with other people and desiring to conform is like the magnetic interaction within Iron (and Cobalt and Nickle).

Thus people who are coddled and protected and have it easy and just sit around talking to each other converge to uniform extreme opinions. On the other hand people who have to deal with life's ups and downs form their opinions based on their personal experiences and don't all agree.

This suggests that isolated groups of priviledged people will end up sharing crazy opinions.

I am a university professor. Get it. I am a professor of economics. I personally am extremely extremely hot . I don't conform. But I resent the pull. (<-- self parody really).

I was thinking of other applications. One is understanding what happened to modernism. Modern music (in the classical idiom) modern art modern poetry all have the feature that the average guy thinks they su ... should be improved. It is suggested that they went off on a crazy tangent fairly recently when they didn't have to convince outsiders anymore (the argument is that its all the fault of the national endowment for the humanities).

Most bloggers agree that the MSM is a cosy club in which people don't have to deal with the real world and where all club members reinforce each other's idiotic ideas.รน

Lefty (righty) bloggers agree that the right (left) blogosphere is a giant "echo chamber" in which people repeat crazy claims to each other until each thinks he has proven his point.

The leisured classes in different countries adn regions have totally different opinions about practically everything.

I think there is something to the idea that a soft and easy life leads to extreme group opinions.

I think this might be modelled by Akos Valentinyi based on the second chapter of his dissertiation.
A Shleifer/Cutler approach to Managed Competition in Health Care

Ira Magaziner has moved on, so it's up to me to peddle some prosperity and health too.

How can we use greed to help us find optimal investments in preventive medicine. I think the US should have medicare for all single payer health care. I also think that it is possible to add a bit of managed competition on top to make it even better.

David Cutler et al note huge apparent benefits (accruing to the Medicare administration) from small monetery incentives for preventive medicine by some other public sector health insurance provider (sorry no link). This suggests that profits can be made by a firm which gives more than medicare type payments in exchange for preventive medicine.

"My" idea is based on the theory of yardstick competition by Andrei Shleifer.

A better approach would be to divide the country into regions and allow one private firm per region to sumplement the universal insurance (that is pay people to take pills if there is no copay) and, in exchange get average per patient costs times (per patient costs in their region in the year before the program is introduced minus average per patient costs in the base year) minus their regions costs + average spending on prevention by all such firms times a fixed rate of return equal to the T-bill rate.
(OK different regions are different so they should get

This would have 0 impact on the federal budget deficit by construction if there are no unconvered investments in preventive medicine which return over the t-bill rate and an improvement if there are any. It would imply average (very safe) returns on investment equal to the t-bill rate and it should make us healthier as well as wealthier.

I think it's that simple.

by the way "shleifer" means cutler in German.
Sudarsan Raghavan sure knows how to use the English Language

Calling bullshit while respecting the canons of MSM objectivity requires a deft touch at the keyboard.

It was unclear what motivation Iran, a Shiite theocracy, would have for backing Sunni insurgents, many of whom are staunchly anti-Iranian and fear the rise of Shiite power in the region. Critics have dismissed the U.S. assertions, saying that evidence provided so far gives no solid proof that Iran has supplied weapons to Iraqi militants.

In contrast, it is clear, that Raghavan thinks that Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell is full of it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What was so bad about inflation ?

Was inflation a huge problem in the USA in 1980 ?
It is clear that the public saw it to be a huge problem (often in the 70s inflation was listed as the worse problem faced by the USA).

This is related to tax policy, because inflation has huge effects on taxes given the use of nominal quantities in the tax code. The one good point which supply siders (meaning Feldstein) made according to Krugman was to argue for adjusting the tax code so that real capital gains, real interest income and real corporate income was taxed instead of nominal amounts which make real taxes insanely high during periods of inflation. Without other changes this would imply a large drop in revenues, but the point is that tax rates should not change exogenously due to inflation.

Aside from that, mainstream economists generally don't understand what is so horrible about inflation. Economists who wish to be policy relevant accept low inflation as a policy goal (because it is). However, many economists (e.g. Robert Solow) argued that inflation wasn't a big problem in 1980 (at a debate at the K school).

Some economists (including this one) think the hatred of inflation was based on totally silly logic in which inflation meant price increases and people assumed that nominal wage increases had nothing to do with inflation. That is people said they would like their real wages to grow 10% more a year (assuming they would keep their jobs).

It remains taboo to say that, say 12% inflation, is no big deal. I hereby violate that taboo.
Growth Theory and Supply Side Economics

Standard growth theory has implications for policy recognizably similar to the prescriptions of "supply siders".

Simple endogenous growth models tend to imply that investment income should be supplemented not taxed. This is, in fact, an implication of assumptions which nobody believes which are made for convenience. Relax the assumption that labor supply is exogenous and the implication of the model is "it depends" see "Can Waste Improve Welfare ?" The Journal of Public Economics. vol. 77 pp 45-79. I think this is true of all alleged implications of economic theory, which, in the abstract has no implications and which moves from the abstract to the concrete via assumptions which no one believes.

Robert Lucas, who knows his rhetoric, seems to have guessed that once one gets away from standard models with perfect competition, complete markets and 0 externalities, anything can happen. Thus he has always insisted on models in which the market outcome is best. It is easy to turn a case for a subsidy into a case for a tax. It is hard to turn a case for Lasciare Fare (sorry in my mind French becomes Italian) into something else.

The standard result in a Solow Swan exogenous growth model are similar to those in a Walrasian model: if there is no need for government spending, optimal taxes are zero and if income is perfectly equally distributed, the optimal tax is a poll tax. There is a further result due to Judd and (speparately) Chamley that, even if there is good reason to tax, the tax rate on capital income should go to zero in the long run. The logic is fairly simple, a tax on capital income is equivalent to a rising tax on consumption. If the economy goes to a balanced growth path (as is standard in the models and as fits the data pretty well) the optimal tax on consumption goes to a constant. This means that the optimal tax on capital income goes to zero as t goes to infinity.

It is standard in economics to assume that t has gone to infinity. This is the sort of reasoning that Keynes refuted when he noted that "in the long run we will all be dead." In fact, the implication of the Chamley Judd result for policy debate is the opposite of what it seems to be.

Imagine that we have rich capitalists and we want to redistribute income. C & J argue that taxes on the capitalists should go to zero. In fact, if there are now limits on allowed tax policies they should be zero at all positive t. The reason is simple. It is best to grab their wealth in one fell swoop (a capital levy equivalent to an infinite tax on capital income) as this is a lump sum tax which does not distort. If that is forbidden it is best to grab their wealth as fast as possible. If there is a limit on the maximum tax on capital income (say 100%) in the simple model it is best to tax capital income at 100 % until income has been redistributed as much one wants (given the trade off between total income and equality due to distortions which aredue to the 100 % limit). The models are simple and do not include any consideration of tax evasion or avoidance. Thus the tax to the max rule does not apply in the real world.

Thus, upon consideration, the implications of the most standard model is that Bush/Reagan type policies are totally horribly aweful. A tax cut with no spending cut is a tax shift. Eliminating, say double taxation of dividends, without reducing spending, makes it very likely that the path of taxes of capital income is low now high in the future. This is terrible policy.

Now if one does not give a damn about income distribution, one can just rely on a poll tax. However, if one does care about income distribution, standard theory says that it is best to redistribute as quickly as possible. That is a policy of gradual redistribution via a tax on capital income is Pareto inferior to an more rapid redistribution of equal magnitude.

Economists have no special insights into the question in ethics about the relative importance of equality and growth. However, the widely accepted arguments about the implications of standard growth models for the capital income tax can be summarized as follows : Bush and Reagan got it backwards.
The amateur climate engineer

I am so amateurish that I don't even know the word for stuff like changing the albedo and sequestering Carbon.

My favorite Idea remains the Clamshell alliance. That is to grow lots and lots of clams and oysters and stuff (with artificially expanded clam beds) . Eat them (I can help out) and build huge statues out of shells in the desert. Most Carbon on Earth is in limestone not coal or forests of in the atmosphere. Why not ?

I read on some blog about the idea of taking agricultural waste (corn stalks straw junk) and dumping it in the deep ocean.

Or how about taking it someplace cold ?

Or wood. I mentioned that the US sequesters carbon by building more and more ridiculously huge houses. Logging reduces global warming provided the logged trees are replaced (as they are in the USA). A natural forest reaches a steady state in which as much wood rots as grows. A repeatedly logged forest or a tree farm keeps sequestering carbon.

Matty Yglesias is a big fan of putting chalk in the asphalt in cities were people use air conditioners but don't heat in the winter. What about roofs covered with tar (dumb dumb dumb) ?

I have a new dumb idea about icebergs. Hows about towing them towards the poles so they melt slower (also they are white you know. Not much sun there but some).

Finally the dead sea is dying. Water is so precious around there that it is shrinking. Dead sea level is well below the mediterranean level. A tunnel from the coast to the dead sea would stabilize the level of the dead sea and generate lots of electricity.
The Amateur Nuclear Engineer

see two excellent comments to my pointless post below.
The second makes me wonder about how to make nuclear reactors safe.

One key aspect of extremely dangerous nuclear reactors is that the coolant is not the moderator.
Nuclear reactors require a moderator (sp?) to slow down neutrons so they are not absorbed by Uranium 238 but only by Uranium 235 which then fissions. Water is a fairly good moderator and is used in pressurized water reactors (standard in the USA). They have the advantage that loss of coolant is loss of moderator which slows down the reaction.

Another moderator is graphite. Graphite moderated reactors are terrible, because the graphite is solid and stays there causing fission no matter what. The Chernobyl reactor was graphite moderated. The Windscale reactor (which had to change its name to Sellafield to escape its aweful reputation) which had a non fatal fire is graphite moderated. The Yongbon reactor used by North Korea to make Plutonium for bombs is graphite moderated (graphite is also a poor moderator so neutrons are absorbed by Uranium 238 which turns into Plutonium 239).

Another very bad choice is liquid sodium (which is one of the most flamable substances known to man and hot). This was used in the Fermilab reactor star of the book "We Almost Lost Detroit".
Also the French use Sodium.

But wait, you ask, if there are all these adequate moderators, why did the Germans go to such length to obtain and purify heavy water during WWII ? The reason is that nuclear scientists at the kaiser Wilhelm institute in Berlin calculated that graphite wouldn't work. I prefer to assume that they were trying to sabotage the Nazi nuclear energy project and are world historic heroes.
They may have made an arithmetic mistake however.

heavy water is still the best moderator known. Also it is, you know, water. I mean liquid and chemically inert. Canada has relatively safe candu reactors which use unenriched Uranium and heavy water (worthwhile Canadian initiative strikes again -- what a bore).

I wonder if using heavy water as a moderator makes nuclear reactors safer as loss of coolant which is an excellent moderator would shut them down.

The general line in naturally safe reactors is based on two ideas. One is to make the fuel in "pebbles" of uranium coated with something tough and heat resistant. This keeps bits of Uranium apart. It also facilitates disposal. The other is "modular" construction with many small reactors (I think making steam for centralized generators).

I think that nuclear power generation got its awful reputation because of a few awful reactors, that people who actually work on this professionally can design an inherently safe reactor and that, so long as the question is "what is the worst possible accident" not "how likely is that accident" we can discuss the risks rationally. In the distant past, the question was the first, when people discovered that the answer was "catastrophic" they began guessing probabilities which were worthless.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Anthrax Spores "in Iraq in 1994"

In a post below, I claimed that Brian Ross's reporting on the Anthrax spores mailed to Senator Daschle was not only incorrect but also grossly incompetent. The reason is that Ross said

"Former UN weapons inspectors have told ABC News they've been told the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994"

and Duelfer concluded that Iraq destroyed its bioweapons stocks in 1992. The title of my post is a google search. Click and you will notice that the highest ranked references to Anthrax AND spores AND "in Iraq in 1994" track back to Ross.

The first exception is a CNN interview of Raymond Zilinskas, a bioterrorism expert from Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Ziliskas appears to claim that he found Anthrax spores in Iraq in 1994.

WOODRUFF: You mentioned, you said earlier that Iraq perhaps among others has the supplies, perhaps the know-how. Are you saying that in Iraq and other places, they know how to do this?

ZILINSKAS: Oh, yes. I was actually a biological inspector in Iraq in 1994. And so, we got to learn about their programs pretty carefully. So, they had something like 25 missiles and 166 bombs that were filled with anthrax and botulinetoxin. So, they are well aware how to do thi

You will note that he didn't actually claim to have retrieved Anthrax from Iraq in 1994. He was in Iraq in 1994 and he "learned" that they "had" missiles and bombs filled with Anthrax (not necessarily in 1994).

Given the quote by Ross and Zelinskas's enthusiasm for making strong claims about Iraqi biological weapons, which Duelfer et all consider to be false, I find it impossible to doubt that Raymond Ziliskas isn't one of Ross's sources.

I stand by my view that no Anthrax spores were found in Iraq in 1994 and that Ross should have been able to determine this before going on the air.

This from a source clearly hostile to Iraq makes many claims but does not claim that weaponized Anthrax was ever seized in Iraq.

Nothing here

will update when I have time.

Updating: This is about the band Anthrax (I don't think they performed in Iraq in 1994 don't seem to fall under the heading "food and medicine")

This includes
In 1995, the international community was confronted by Iraq's massive program for developing offensive biological weapons -- one of the largest and most advanced in the world.

Despite four years of intensive inquiries and searches, the weapons inspectors did not even know if its existence until Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected. Faced with its duplicity Iraq finally admitted to producing aflatoxin -- which causes cancers, the paralysing poison botulinum and anthrax bacteria
Notice that the discovery is dated 1995, that there is no mention of weaponised anthrax spores, and that there is no mention of any seizures of biological weapons in Iraq ever.

The final hit from my search is to the Greenwald article criticizing Ross. I conclude that all web pages which contain the assertion that Anthrax spores were seized "in Iraq in 1994" can be tracked back to Brian Ross's source's clearly false assertion. I use the quotation marks to stress that I searched for the exact phrase "in Iraq in 1994" and can't rule out the possibility that there are equivalent assertions with different wording (also there might be equivalent assertions which don't include the word "spores" or even the word "Anthrax").

I had to google to check my impression that the claim that weaponised Anthrax spores were seized in Iraq in 1994 is absurd. However, a reporter who actually researched the story would ahve to compare 21st century claims to the 20th century history of the discovery of Iraq's biological weapons program, which started in 1995. I didn't remember that date, but I was absolutely certain that the program was detected only when a defector who was a relative of Saddam Hussein described it.

If someone had mentioned Anthrax spores detected in Iraq in 1994, and if I were a journalist with ABC news, I like to think I would have checked with someone other than my source, who was involved in weapons inspections to make sure that Anthrax spores were indeed gathered in Iraq in 1994. Barring that, I'm sure a little lexis nexis on Anthrax and Iraq in 1994 would have yielded zilch, then on Anthrax and Iraq in 1995 or 1996 would reveal that the program was discovered, via testimony not samples, in 1995.

Brian Ross chose not to do his job. My google search is enough to make a very strong case that he totally blew it. He should certainly have checked when challenged by Greenwald and noted his gross error by now.

update: Richard M. Smith has more criticisms of Brian Ross