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Friday, February 29, 2008

Slipping Through Our Fingers

Don't tell the editors, but look who is taking care of things in Iraq

U.S. military officials and commanders say they are seeking to defuse the rising tensions before hard-won U.S. gains are jeopardized. "Despite some of the frustrations, the frictions and the attacks on the Sons of Iraq, they are continuing to volunteer. As an interim solution, it seems to be working well," said Col. Bill Buckner, a senior U.S. military spokesman. "It's clear Iraq remains a fragile security environment. We want to address many of their concerns as best as we can, so that they continue to be part of the solution to the security situation in Iraq."

Oh my *the* Bill Buckner was "born in Vallejo, California, United States."
Mark Kleiman embraces the teachings of a man who said that Catholics (and atheists) should be barred from public employment ! This casts a new light on my claim that Prof. Kleiman is an atheist without knowing it.

How dare he denounce McCain for not denouncing Hagee when he doesn't denounce or reject Locke.

Now neither he nor I knows whether Locke really believed that official discrimination against Catholics was good policy. He had to say he did, because this was, at the time, the maximum political priority of the guy who paid him.

Still I wonder if Kleiman really thinks that the US government should refuse to hire any follower of Hagee or Farrakhan. If not, why does he claim to agree with Locke ?

My view of toleration is much broader than Locke's but, like Kleiman's, almost unrelated to what he brilliantly describes as "the American-civil-religion story that everyone's faith is merely a private matter that ought to be left out of politics. "

This assumes that people don't take their religions seriously, that they are just like hobbies. Clearly citizens have every reason to ask candidates if their religion will affect their choices if elected. Clearly all politicians will answer yes. They can reasonably then be asked how, that is, which religious beliefs will have what effect on which policy choices.

Also, while refusing to hire someone into the civil service is discrimination, voters may vote as they please. There would be nothing wrong if someone voted against Reagan because he had been a member of a union, but it is and should be illegal to fire someone from an ordinary job for that reason.

But really, denouncing and rejecting Louis Farrakhan has nothing to do with the policies advocated by Locke. It is simply freely expressing an opinion. The sort of tolerance which Locke advocated for different kinds of Protestants is simply an absence of violence and official discrimination. To him they could be tollerant and would remain perfectly free to reject each other's beliefs.

An absurd aspect of the US civil religion has the further absurd principle that it is intolerant to say that one believes that someone else's religious beliefs are false. Since people are supposed to be free to state their own religious beliefs, this tenet of the civil religion forbids logic. It is necessary to pretend that it is OK to say that something is the truth but not that logically inconsistent statements are false.

p.s. Of course I know perfectly well that Kleiman does not agree with Locke. Here we have another rule that great thinkers of the past are to be treated with respect, so if we absolutely disagree with something that they advocated, we should pretend they didn't advocate it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Taking Liechtenstein seriously. James Wimberley notes that Liechtenstein appointed Ronald Macdonald to the European Court of Human rights (where he rejected the appeal of the Hamburgler)
Two Can Play That Game

TPM reader ER explains that McCain benefits three times when he denounces the scurrilous insults a supported directs at Obama. First the insults are inserted in people's minds, second they are re-inserted by McCain's denunciation, and third he manages to temporarily convince people that he is a mensch.

OK so how can Obama denounce slanders of McCain ? My first attempt (I'm pretending to be Obama. Don't sneer I bet you do too when no one is watching).

Sadly the New York Times risks sinking to the level of the National Enquirer (hey someone find a low circulation tabloid which Obama can afford to insult). The notorious February 21 article reports that 8 years ago, un-named aids were concerned that the relationship between Senator John McCain and the lobbyist Victoria Iseman might be romantic. This article is un-acceptable for six reasons. First the salacious innuendo distracts the public from the really important issues. Second it attempts to violate my esteemed colleagues privacy. Third the hint of a possible past concern of an unfounded allegation would not amount to news even if the allegation concerned something that is newsworthy. Fourth the sources were clearly aids to Senator McCain in the past, but the article does not note whether their association with Senator McCain has ended. I am sure it has and that they are pissed because it passed. Fifth, I trust both Senator McCain and Ms Iseman and concluded that their relationship was strictly business. But finally the alleged evidence of a possible cause for concern isn't evidence of anything. There is no need to appeal to cupid to explain why Senator McCain is in constant contact with a lobbyist, when cupidity will do as well. Right now both Senator McCain's campaign manager and his chief political adviser are lobbyists. No one suggests that their relationships are romantic.

Reporting that Senator McCain works in close and constant collaboration with lobbyists is like reporting that the sky is blue. That the media has been reluctant to mention the plain fact that Senator McCain is closer to lobbyists than any Presidential candidate in history does not justify pretending that this fact requires a sexy explanation.
Obama's Economic Team

Noam Scheiber
reports, among other things, that Obama is getting his advice on economics from academic economists at top departments. I am very un-enthusiastic about the economics profession in general, so, if that were the end of it, I would say "well beats getting economic advice from Arthur Laffer, Karl Rove, Richard Cheney or Ira Magaziner anyway," but there is so much more.

There are three things I don't like about policy advice from economists.
1) many economist do not care about distribution at all, or, rather, think other people hate inequality too much and thus push the other way.
2) Economists are fascinated by the implications that people are rational and that the world is in Nash equilibrium (a much stronger assumption called rationality by almost all economists). This is like trying to re-design brakes assuming friction away.
3) Economists have too much respect for economic theory which, behond point 2, consists of making assumptions which are known to be false and hoping that the conclusions are close enough to true to be useful. The really deadly problem is that, since the assumptions are known to be false, empirical rejection of economic theory does not always have any effect on it's standing or economists' willingness to use it to advise policy makers.

Unsurprisingly, criticism 1 is not relevant to Obama's economic team.

But wait ! It turns out that Obama's guru's guru is Richard Thaler, one of the founders of the school of behavioral economics in which I am enrolled (and the others are/were psychologists). So much for 2.

And finally, the economists in question are strongly empirical, basing their research on data and identifying assumptions in which they and basically everyone else really believe based on common sense.

Excellent. Not only does he consult academic economists, but he has found many of the few who are worth consulting.

Now, I knew that David Cutler was on the team, so this isn't completely a surprise.
Also the economics profession has become much much more empirical in the past 20 years or so.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Tech Question

Any idea why my cable modem would suddenly stop working with a wireless router? I actually had a spare router and it didn't work with that one either, though it works if I just use an ethernet cable.

...thanks Cameron in Bangalore, problem solved!

-Atrios 09:08

Comments (135) Trackback (0)
The Poor Man responds to, among others, Brad DeLong

The Editors write

nspired by discussions of Cuba’s place in the world here, here, here, and doubtless other places.

Human Development Index -
12 ▼ (4) Flag of the United States United States ▲ 0.951
51 ▼ (1) Flag of Cuba Cuba ▲ 0.838
52 ▲ (1) Flag of Mexico Mexico ▲ 0.829

Freedom In The World -
Flag of Cuba Cuba 7 7 Not Free
Flag of Mexico Mexico* 2 3 Free
Flag of the United States United States* 1 1 Free

Happy Planet Index -
6 Cuba 61.86
38 Mexico 54.39
150 United States of America 28.83

except that, for some reason, he has the flags not this dumb "Flag of the United States" crap (uh oh might get in trouble for that I meant to type "Flag of Cuba" crap).

I comment

Good to add data to the debate. I would just like to mention that DeLong said Cuba should be compared to Northern Mexico not the whole country. Here will be* his list
“That is the wrong comparison: Cuba in 1960 is like Costa Rica, northern Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Portugal.”

off to the HDI
▼ Portugal ▼ 0.897
Costa Rica ▲ 0.846
(1998) Puerto Rico ▬ 0.942
Cuba ▲ 0.838

2005 except for Puerto Rico.

Unless something really bad has happened in Puerto Rico, the guess that HDI followed income in 1960 would imply that Cuba has performed very badly poorly. Also Costa Rica has nothing much to brag about (except making peace in Nicaragua).

*If as DeLong asserts it is 1960 neither he nor the editors have written their posts, but like the medium lobster I am not bound by time.
Thanks Ezra.

Ezra Klein defends the idea that behavioral economics is policy relevant from Will Wilkinson

Over at Free Exchange, Will Wilkinson is taking some shots at behavioral economics and its occasional implications for tighter regulation of markets. "These alleged irrationalities," writes Will, "are general tendencies of the species. So they must afflict every voter, every politician, every bureaucrat, every power hungry general. How exactly is 'a larger role' for the government supposed to improve on the coordinating function of the price mechanism?"

Klein reponds convincingly, but I would like to add an observation.

It is known that people have difficulty dealing with probabilities and updating subjective probabilities with new information. Fortunately, with large data set and assumptions which everyone finds extremely plausible, we can sometimes estimate probabilities accurately by calculating frequencies. In this case, the fact that the person making decisions based on freequencies doesn't understand probability is not a problem.

Clearly individuals can't do this on their own -- collecting and analyzing the data is a large fixed cost. Even the evaluation of such studies requires the investment of a lot of time listening to or participating in debate. This effort is completely different from individuals effort to learn from their experience and conversation with friends.

I guess I am mainly repeating what Ezra said but making a hash of it. My point, if any, is that we can (collectively) overcome our mental handicaps by conducting experiments and analyzing natural experiments. This happens when we look at frequencies rather than trying to calculate probabilities.

update: Actually Klein's argument is much much better than mine. He shifts the debate to a debate about policy proposals, in particular replacing opt in 401(k)'s without opt out 401(k)'s. I don't think that Wilkinson has a plausible rejoinder. If the debate is about policy proposals (as you know the policy debate should be) then the argument "politicians and their advisers are irrational too" doesn't get Wilkinson very far.

If it is agreed that economists must assume that people are rational, one can argue "that policy can't be good because no one can come up with a plausible model in which people are rational and it is good." If it is agreed that people are not perfectly rational Wilkinson's argument becomes "You are not perfectly rational so your policy proposal can not be good." There are three replies to this 1) You aren't rational either and laissez faire is a policy proposal 2) I may not be perfectly rational but I'm not perfectly reliably wrong either and 3) even a blind squirrel sometimes finds an acorn.

Behavioral economists are not asking you to assume that we are right but just to consider a proposal based on status quo bias the same way you would consider a proposal based on say the intertemporal elasticity of substitution of consumption (you can even ignore the fact that evidence for status quo bias is very strong and that it is not proven that the intertemporal elasticity of substitution of consumption is positive).
Techincal a. :
1) for the Republican Party possibly.
2) Related to Bass family effort to avoid paying inheritance taxes.

Turns out that WHNT claims that they didn't broadcast the 60 minutes exposè on Don Siegelman because of "Techincal difficulties" this must mean either because it might have possibly caused difficulties for the Republican party or because it might have made it more likely that the Bass family will pay inheritance taxes.

Without further blackouts I will not be able to determine which of the definitions of techincal is more important in curernt use.

Apparently, half of the segment mysteriously dropped off the air on one station covering a healthy portion of Alabama, for what they claimed were "techincal" difficulties (no, really, the press release did read "techincal". I'm supposed to say something like "this is Alabama, after all," right?). This station is owned by Republican Party backers. Ho-hum.
To Fukayama (v) to say something so false that people can't resist writing about how false it is thus making the Fukayamer famous. True Fukayaming only occurs when this is the result of a deliberate strategy.*

Fukayaming is named after the brlliant Francis Fukayama who wrote "The End of History" and was cited by everyone who wrote about anything that happened as in "Milosovic has noticed that the messy period between now and the Francis Fukayama's end of history will last longer than his life (and he is n years old)." (author forgotten but definitely in The New Republic which tends to get Fukayamad regularly). There is no proof that Fukayama was being deliberately stupid, but I mean come on.

A recent example of succesful Fukayaming is "Liberal Fascism" now number three on the New York Times non fiction best seller list. Since a reasonable definition of Fascism is total rejection of all tenets of classical liberalism (and the meaning of "liberal" in English speaking countries has not become the opposite of the original meaning) Goldberg obvviously Fukayamed.

I have been trying to Fukayam a bit myself. Hmm how about

"Reckless Conservativism" ... nah that really exists and has dominated US politics this century.

How about "Puritans for Free Love ?"
Uh Oh the official name of puritans is "congregationalists" and they ordain gay ministers and teach yoga.

"Calvinists for Free Love ?"
Hmm worlds number 1 Calvinist is Alan Boesak and, in one of the most dramatic moments in TV news an announcer reading off a teleprompter revealed for the first time to the public and himself that his wife was having an affair with Boesak. Also they have Gay marriage in Holland and give heroin to addicts in Calvin's home town.

"Catholic Communism" damn I've met Catholic Communists.

Damn out Fukayaming Goldberg is hard.

Still, if you want to be famous go Fukayam yourself.

* The word was coined by Elisabetta Addis.
All the Ducks in a Row

Kevin Drum notes

Remember all those millions of emails that the White House may or may not have lost over the past few years? Henry Waxman held hearings about this today and wanted to know what happened to the Automatic Records Management System, which was installed by the Clinton administration and worked fine. Information Week reports:

Theresa Payton, CIO for the White House Office of Administration, said in her prepared statement that the incoming Bush administration transitioned from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange over a two-year period from 2002-2004, and that the ARM System established by the previous administration did not work properly with Exchange.

So I can blame both Bush and Microsoft. Ah what great joy it was to be alive on that good day but to blog was very heaven.

Typed on a Windows XP system.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It appears that WHNT channel 19 in Huntsville Alabama decided not to broadcast the 60 minutes exposé alleging misconduct in the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman.

Scott Horton reports

Off the Air in Alabama
I am now hearing from readers all across Northern Alabama—from Decatur to Huntsville and considerably on down—that a mysterious “service interruption” blocked the broadcast of only the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes this evening. The broadcaster is Channel 19 WHNT, which serves Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee. This station was noteworthy for its hostility to Siegelman and support for his Republican adversary. The station ran a trailer stating “We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a techincal problem with CBS out of New York.” I contacted CBS News in New York and was told that “There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” Channel 19 is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners, who can be contacted through Rhonda Barnat, 212-371-5999 or Oak Hill Partners represents interests of the Bass family, which contribute heavily to the Republican Party. Viewers displeased about the channel’s decision to censor the broadcast should express their views directly to the station management or to the owners.

His article is generally excellent, but it is silly to complain to the station or the owners. The episode with Sinclair broadcasting shows it only works to complain to advertisers. Fortunately WHNT makes this very easy with clickable ads on their web page

Advertisers include

Dunagan, Yates & Alison Plastic Surgery Center
303 Williams Avenue, Suite 1421
Huntsville, AL 35801

Huntsville/Madison Co. Builders Assn.
2804 Bob Wallace Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35805

Morris, Conchin and King

129 Washington Street
Huntsville, AL 35801
Toll Free: 888-321-8353

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 248
Huntsville, AL 35804

I think it would be especially nice to complain to Morris, Conchin and King, lawyers who are sending money to a TV station which suppressed information on prosecutorial misconduct.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Penn Centrist Station

Conason via Dday

Among the loudest McCain mouthpieces is Charlie Black, a seasoned Republican operative whose client roster dates back to such paragons as the late Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos and several African dictators, and more recently has featured Erik Prince, the mercenary entrepreneur who founded Blackwater. (Black's wife is a lobbyist too, and his firm, known as BKSH, is owned by Burson-Marsteller, the enormous P.R. conglomerate chaired by Hillary Clinton's top campaign advisor, Mark Penn.)

OK look I can understand why Clinton thinks she has to pay Penn absurd amounts of money for terrible advice, but isn't she a bit worried that McCains top political strategist works for her top political strategist ? I mean conflict of interest is fine, but this is her personal interest not just the public interest.
Yglesias Homonyms part N

Sorry, but there are two great homonyms in this fine post. They definitely fit the theory that words in Yglesias's mind slip out his fingers when he would have rather typed a different word which sounds the same. T

Barack Obama's first book Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance [snip]

It's a pretty impressive achievement and also probably helps give him some of his heir of authenticity. One knows that he know more writes his own lines at this point than does any other major presidential candidate, but he seems like someone who could.

So even when miss typing, Yglesias knows that the h in heir is silent so it sounds like "air". He typed it by mistake when writing about Obama's inheritance of dreams. Then he knows how to spell know but with "to know" still in his mind from 3 words ago, he typed know.

Nice. Too nice. I suspect he is doing it as a joke.
Tradurre Tradire

I have been re-reading lately. I just re-read The Name of The Rose. There will be a spoiler below (warning in case there is anyoneone who hasn't already read "The Name of the Rose"). I have never read "Il Nome della Rosa" but I will object to the translation.

To make space before the Spoiler I note an article by Eco entitled "Il Nome della Cosa" . La Cosa was the name to the organization formerly known as the Communist Party of Italy as they were changing their name. Eco warned the head nameer Achille Ochetto (Achilles Gosling and getting its name from someone named Achilles Gosling is just one of the many things a political movement must do to manage to lose to Silvio Berlusconi). Somewhat redundantly, Humbert Echo warned Achilles Gosling to beware of translation. He noted that calling the party "il Partito di Lavoro," that is the labour party, would reassure Englishmen much more than calling it "Il partito dei lavoratori" or "The Worker's Party."

Of course they chose "The Democratic Party of the Left" just like the East German communists who, quite frankly, seem to have a more promising proximate future (they are now "The Democratic Party" and, I kid you not, appear to be the most disorganised Michiguna organised party with that Florid name (non would have neva[da] guessed).

OK so to "The Name of the Rose". There is a cryptic note which explains how to enter a crypt. In the original it is clearly a pun based on the confusion of a word and the concept for which the word stands (as Plato had two hands and no letters and "Plato" has five letters and no hands) It is mistranslated by William Weaver as

"The first and seventh of four" William of Baskerville and brother Adso think this is an enigma, because a group of four can't have a seventh element. This missinterpretation makes no sense because of the misstranslation. The first and seventh of four things can't exist, nor can the first and seventh of the four, but the first and seventh book cases of room four can exist. In either case a word should be added (not either book case you twit).

Oddly, when Baskerville understands that the unpuncutated note is to be read as "Primum et Septimum de 'Quatuor'" he is translated as saying "does not mean the first and seventh of four, but of the four". This is going backwards -- both "the first and seventh of four" and "the first and seventh of the four" can be miss-interpreted but the correct interpretation is more natural without the "the."

Now I attempt to deduce the Italian. I know no Latin so I will attempt to translate back from English. This is interesting for two reasons. In Italian adgectives havegender and number, which makes it harder to confuse the number 4 (four), the noun which names the number 4 ("four" or "Quattro") and the adjective which distinguishes groups of four from other groups ("four", "quattri" or "quattre"). Also definite articles are used differently and more often in Italian se il mio ricordo e esatto (if the my recollection is correct).

Having been confused by the "the" I thought of "il primo e il settimo dei quattri". This is wrong. It must mean "the first and seventh of four things" and so is impossible not possibly missinterpreted as impossible. Then how about "Il primo e il settimo de quattro." Quattro must be a noun so this misstranslation of a misstranslation can be interpreted as "q" and "o" or as the bookshelves etc.

Finally I guess that Eco probably wrote "Il primo e il settimo de quattri" or, word for word "the first and seventh of four." Duh. Without quotation marks, the word for word translation from English is ambiguous in Italian. Furthermore, four must have been "quattri" because the note refers to a words written on the wall of the library and "Quatuor" is used as an adjective.

I wrote that Eco probably wrote "Il primo e il settimo de quattri" not because I think he may have written something else in Italian, but because he might have left the Latin untranslated. There is quite a bit of Latin in WEaver's translation and quite possibly much more of it was not translated or paraphrased in the original. Italians study Latin in high school, Eco probably had no idea how popular the book would become.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jonathan Zasloff accuses the MSM of pro-McCain bias.

Should be an easy target, but he misses

February 19, 2008

Notice something there? Oh yes: while the story reports McCain's accusations, it never once mentions that John McCain essentially perpetrated a fraud on the taxpayers. As Mark Schmitt reported just yesterday, McCain secured a sweetheart loan from a Maryland bank by agreeing, in the event that his campaign did not go well, to drop out and then re-enter the race simply to get federal matching funds.


let's keep score: it is now 48 hours since Schmitt has reported his findings. Still no coverage from the MSM. Lots on Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, though. How long will it be before the media decides to report on the story? I'm not holding my breath.

I learned about the loan from the Washington Post, not Mark Schmitt

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2008; Page A10

John McCain's cash-strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Bethesda bank two weeks before the New Hampshire primary by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered, newly disclosed records show.

Mosk reported on the loan before Schmitt did. In fact, Schmitt cited Mosk.

"Based on the Washington Post report, I inferred that McCain had not excluded public matching funds from the collateral for his additional loan."

So Zasloff is claiming that the MSM is not reporting on something first reported in the MSM.


Scmitt does quote at length from the loan contract. This leaves no doubt about McCain's sleaziness (and on an issue which he raised based on Obama's much lesser sleaziness).

The second loan, for $1 million, was actually a modification of the first, and so it continued to exclude the certification for matching funds from the loan's collateral. But it included this remarkable addition (which I'm going to quote in full just so no one thinks I used an ellipsis to distort the meaning):

Additional Requirement. Borrower and lender agree that if Borrower [McCain's campaign commitee] withdraws from the public matching funds program, but John McCain then does not win the next primary or caucus in which he is active (which can be any primary or caucus held the same day) or does not place at least within 10 percentage points of the winner of that primary or caucus, Borrower will cause John McCain to remain an active political candidate and Borrower will, within thirty (3) days of said primary or caucus (i) reapply for public matching funds, (ii) grant to Lender, as additional collateral for the Loan, a first priority perfected security interest in and to all Borrower's right, title and interest in and to the public matching funds program, and (iii) execute and deliver to Lender such documents, instruments and agreements as Lender may require with respect to the foregoing.

Yep, to dodge the rule that using the public matching funds certification as collateral for a loan implies accepting the corresponding limits on spending, McCain gave a bank the power to decide whether his campaign continued.

Schmitt's link to the relevant *.pdf

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Forget the 80's*+ the Teens are the Al Franken Decade

And what could be more appropriate for America's most irreverant overgrown teenager ?

* I've been trying to forget them since November 5th 1980
+ amazingly I can't find the "The Al Franken Decade" monologue, via which I first heard Mr Franken's voice, on youtube. Just as well I guess, but surprising.

Being an oppo researcher for Norm Coleman must be about as frustrating as trying to parody William Kristol. There is so much there and none of it will make any difference, because people know about it.
Kristol Meth not Responsible

Below I miss the most blatant absurdity in the Op-ed which won't stop giving.

William Kristol notes that Orwell warned that, because the opposition is not responsible in the technical sense of being required to respond to questions, it risks becoming irresponsible in the ordinary meaning of the word.

Kristol concludes that Orwell argued that the opposition is always irresponsible (no doubt he is preparing for his own irresponsibility next year) and argues that the Democrats are irresponsible noting their position on FISA reform. I noted that Orwell is not widely considered an enthusiast for the surveillance state, but I forgot to mention that, in his paean to responsibility, Kristol says that the Democrats are irredemiable opponents of responsibility because they refuse to vote for an amnesty for law breakers. Ah yes, those who love holding people responsible must hate any attempt to impose any consequences for lawbreaking.

Oh and the technical meaning of "responsible" in English is a reference to the obligation of the executive to respond to questions in parliament. And, on the same day that they irresponsibly refused to make sure that telecom companies never need to respond in court for their illegal acts, those irresponsible Democrats voted to hold Miers and Bolton in contempt for ... refusing to respond to questions in congress.

The advantage of not being in opposition, according to Orwell, is that the constitutional restrictions on a responsible government tend to make its supporters relatively responsible. Given that Kristol is a strong supporter of the principle of irresponsible government, he could not possibly have chosen to draw attention to this point. I conclude that either the New York Times has been hacked or that Bill was high on Chrystal.
WILLIAM KRISTOL on Orwell and Kipling

This is a joke right ?

Someone seems to have hacked and put in a parody Op-Ed in which a parody William Kristol argues that George Orwell would have supported warrantless wiretapping (he did seem enthusiastic about big brother didn't he). Attempting some shred of plausibility, the faux Kristol did not go on to argue that Kipling was an anti-imperialist.

Of course, I don't really think that it is a parody. Neocons are well beyond parody. Also, it seems that the curse that compels them to make fools of themselves by trying to steal Orwell (who wrote "well worth stealing") has passed unto the second generation.

Kristol quotes Orwell's essay on Kipling in little bits intermixed with explanatory paraphrases. Oddly, the quotation does not seem to distort the point of the passage which was a critique of the irresponsibility of the permanent opposition of lefty literary intellectuals. Since this was one of Orwell's obsessions, and one of the two issues on which he agreed with neoconservatives (he also didn't like communism) the only surprising point is that Kristol presents this as a new discovery.

He neglects to mention that, later in the essay, Kipling demonstrated his refusal to face the new realities of the 20th century, which made his imperialism untenable. In particular the fact that his countrymen no longer were eager to "paint the map red."
A comprehensible error, since he was old at the time and his countrymen had been entusiastic imperialists in his lifetime. I would sum up the essay as arguing that Kipling is a valuable writer (who people quote unawares as his writing has become part of the language) whose repulsive political views are totally irrelevant to the modern world since they were obsolete by 1915 (by then enthusiasm for painting the map red was drowned in blood by then).

Orwell could not have guessed that Kipling's bloody minded imperialism would be reborn and survive 66 years after he wrote the essay.

Now the rest of the op-ed argues that Democrats are irresponsible because they have been in opposition. Thus they have no willingness or ability to answer the question "" ‘In such and such circumstances, what would you do?’.”"

This claim is insane as the Democrats presented a clear program in 2006 and have implemented it except when blocked by the filibuster in the Senate and the veto. Kristol must know this and choses to lie. Also Democratic candidates have long tiresome policy proposals while a certain Republican nominee doesn't know that he voted for C02 caps.

The claim that Democrats refuse to say what they would do if elected is as absurd as the claim that Orwell was an enthusiast for the surveillance state. In contrast, Republicans refuse to say what they have done, often because it is illegal.

Kristol defines a proposal to withdraw from Iraq as no proposal, because ? well because he feels like it. He also lies about the debate on warrantless wiretapping neglecting to mention that McConnell admitted that the issue was telecom liability not current surveillance. He claims that policy choices different from his are a refusal to make policy at all.

Basically all he has is a sneer at intellectuals. He claims he just discovered this view about yesterday.

However, he does protect himself from any trace of any risk one form of ridicule. When he quotes "“Kipling identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition.”

“In a gifted writer,” Orwell remarks, “this seems to us strange and even disgusting, "

Oh my Kristol wouldn't want to suggest that Orwell would find him strange and even disgusting would he ? No he would not, and so he made it absolutely sure that no one will ever suspect him of being a gifted writer.

Now it is entirely possible that

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ad Homonym attack II

Matthew Yglesias has a better than average homonym today. To say that he absolutely totally doesn't know something he uses "know" without using not or n't or anything.

"I have know idea"

I honestly suspect that "know" was floating around in his mind as in "I don't know" and slipped out through his fingers.

I too type homonyms. I resisted learning the absurd arbitrary spelling of English words, but spell checkers (and especially those little red lines that appear under misspelled words) drummed correct spelling into me. Now my fingers know English spelling even though my conscious brain resists (didn't know conscious though -- ha!). But they don't know what I am writing, so I type homonyms.

Used to happen when I typed something full of typos and spellos then ran it through a spell checker. Now the spell checker is mostly in my brain, but the result is the same.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kevin Drum vs Matthew Yglesias on the meaning of 14%


REPUBLICANS IN TROUBLE?.... Democrats are ahead by 14 percentage points in Gallup's latest generic congressional poll. That's good. It's always better to be ahead than behind.

But the number itself is misleading. As near as I can tell, Democrats routinely poll about ten points better than Republicans in these polls early in the year, so their real lead right now is probably more like three or four points. If this holds up through the summer, it means that Dems are likely to hold onto their current majority and maybe even pick up a few seats.


I'm reading some sentiment that maybe the Democrat's large lead in generic congressional balloting doesn't matter, because Democrats always lead in generic balloting. Here's Gallup's table of historical context for the numbers:

Long story short, the fourteen point lead is a big lead by historical standards.

I agree with Yglesias and appeal to

The only year in which the Democrats had such a lead was 2006 followed by a landslide. Also the lead didn't shrink much during 2006 as far as I can see at a glance.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Fake blogs aren't really my thing, and this one in particular was in pretty bad taste."

But very funny. I have no idea how funny it would be if I knew who the celebrity's it slanders are. Nor have I a clue how I surfed to it. hhhmmm checking.

Looks like someone got fired by CNN for linking to it. Good thing I don't work for CNN.

"Hi, sweetie! Guess what: I've been clean for six days and I'm in love with my drug counselor."

No, that wouldn't go over well at all.

She's no doubt already wondering why I haven't taken any of her calls. Every time she's called I had Pat O'Brien make up some excuse for why I couldn't come to the phone. His lies still need a little work ("He's out hunting wolverine"; "He's training his wolverines; "He's lactose intolerant"; "He's a wolverine" ), but thus far they've done the trick.

Although now I need to figure out how to get a wolverine in here by tomorrow..

Monday, February 11, 2008


Well known as the cry of Japanese soldiers fighting a hopeless war of choice caused by the depraved idiocy of their leaders which brought catastrophe on their nation. Clearly topical (except for the catastrophe I assume and hope). They shouted it when they were in an almost hopeless position which they changed into an immediate catastrophe by attacking (a tactic called "doubling down" or "the surge").

Literally it means
Ten Thousand Years.

John McCain's rallying cry is, you guessed it, Banzai ! That is "stay in Iraq for Banzai".

Political sepukku ? I sure hope so.

But it makes a funky video

The Washed Masses are Invading our Turf

Political junkies are mighty pissed that ordinary apparently sane people have somehow gotten strong opinions about who should be the Democratic nominee. Basically everyone I know keeps asking me whether I think Obama or Clinton should be the nominee.

That is soooo 2004. The new approach to political passion is to passionately declare that that particular question is unanswerable and not really important and is a distraction from the latest FISA cloture vote.

Besides I can't make up my mind, didn't apply for an absentee ballot in time (I assumed it would all be decide by Feb 5) and missed the deadline to vote online.

On the other hand, your candidate sucks.

via not atrios.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Verrrrrry Naaice

Intersting traffic at this site. The 2nd to last visit was from Kazakhstan and the last was from the self declared Republika Srpska which Sitemeter considers part of Bosnia and Herzogovina but which an ISP considers to be an independent Republic.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Srbac, Republika Srpska
Kazakhstan Almaty, Almaty City

Friday, February 08, 2008

Oh My Mukasey

From firedoglake

"Wexler: Should Congress pass a contempt citation would you enforce it?

MM: If you're talking about a contempt citation based on Bolten's failure to appear--he can't violate the President's request."

It's not that Mukasey appears to believe that executive priviledge applies to the whole executive branch (Bolton is not just refusing to answer questions about conversations with the President --He is refusing to appear at all). The amazing thing is that MM appears to believe that John Bolton, who is currently a US citizen not employed by the US government, is obliged to obey the President's requests.

I didn't know that the absolute monarchy approach to interpretation of the US Constitution had gotten quite this far. is cheating on the only 1 in 10 posts on Obama vs Clinton rule which I declared here.

They are writing and linking to post after post on McCain and Georgia

OK so its two different Georgias, but its the same McCain.

Enough already.

But more quotes like this one please

"The thought of him being president sends a cold chill down my spine," U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi said this week. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and it worries me."

Hope it's on video.
Reid Caves Part 10 more than I can stand

Congress passes a stimulus bill without extended unemployment insurance and expanded food stamps. Economic theory says that for a one shot stimulus, money should be sent to people who are liquidity constrained (would like to borrow and can't) who will spend it quickly now when aggregate demand is insufficient and not gradually so also in the future when consumption will crowd out investment. Right wing ideology says that giving money to poor people is bad. Right wing ideology mostly won.

This is because only 59 senators voted for a more generous bill. Reid didn't want the senate to fail to pass a bill quickly. Thus he spared the Republicans the need to filibuster an economic stimulus bill. Brilliant. Best of all, he spared John McCain the need to vote and either vote against cloture and therefore anger people who would have benefited from the more generous bill and everyone who doesn't want a filubuster of a bill which must be passed quickly to make sense.

Oh and a filibuster on the stimulus would have prevented the Senate from moving on to gut FISA and pre-emptivly pardon telecom companies for breaking the law.

When the lefty blogosphere began attacking Senate majority leader Reid for being a wimp, I was inclined to defend him recalling his brilliant efforts as minority leader. Clearly part of what is going on is that herding cats is hard.

But another part is that Reid has accepted the idea that it is his responsibility to make sure that the Senate gets things done (and not so important that the things the Senate does are better for the country than doing nothing). Republicans and the media now act as if successful obstruction by the Republican minority is a failure of the Senate as a whole and thus of Reid. Now that he has made it clear that he will do anything to get bills passed, the minority is effectively the majority in the Senate.

Of course, if Reid wimped out because the senate only added 6 billion for people in need to the House of Representatives' bill, the English language has no word for what Pelosi did with a larger majority in the House in which filibusters are impossible.

update: This is what I mean

"By voting down the rebates, Senate Republicans leave Democrats with a choice: Accept the aid package without $44 billion in extra benefits, or risk being blamed for holding it up."

Click the link (via TPM). It is mostly a clear explanation of McCain's dodging responsibility for blocking cash for those who need it and would spend it now when spending is good for the economy not in the future when consumption will crowd out investment.

It concludes

"McCain's campaign plane landed at Dulles International Airport in Virginia Wednesday in time to cast a vote on the tax rebates, but he apparently decided to miss it at the last minute.

He said he had "a couple of meetings scheduled," but his campaign would not say what they were."

more articles like that please.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Matthew Yglesias did not listen to Brad DeLong who begged him to stop.

Matthew Yglesias Really Shouldn't Have Said That!

Don't give them ideas! Matthew flies through Dallas-Fort Worth:

Innovation: 03 Feb 2008 03:21 pm: DFW airport appears to have discovered an as-yet-unknown-to-me way of making air travel unpleasant -- there are no electrical outlets anywhere. At first, I'd thought this was just a particular instance of the common airport phenomenon of insufficient outlets. But no -- there are these power charging stations where you can pay money and charge up your iPod, cell phone, laptop, whatever. Nice work. It makes you wonder why they let you use the restrooms for free. Both in the airport and on the plane, that's a potentially lucrative profit center.

Because the DFW Airports Authority is dumb, the amount of harm that they can do is limited. But if Matthew Yglesias lets them harness his Krell-like brain in their interest..

Now Yglesias is writing about pay toilets on airplanes

"Can pay bathrooms on airplanes be far behind?"

Please someone stop him before he proposes putting pay toilets in my house.
In Which I debate Brad DeLong and Larry Summers.

Brad is convinced by Summers.

I hate to disagree with my PhD supervisor for whose extraordinary patience and flexibility concerning the composition of my committee, I am eternally grateful, but 2008 is not the very last year in human history.

If people save most of their rebate checks, there will be a small effect on consumption in 2008 when it may be desirable. However, that is not the end of the story. They may incorrectly believe that they are richer in 2009 etc when high demand at roughly full employment will crowd out investment. I would guess that a poorly designed stimulus package will cause a small long lasting increase in consumption which will end when the chickens come home, that is when the treasury stops rolling over the debt or wehen the value of t-bonds is inflated away whichever comes first.

Summers is assuming people are rational and, therefore, to the extent people aren't liquidity constrained Ricardian equivalence holds. Money to the liquidity constrained is good as they will spend it all soon. Money to the non liquidity constrained will have no effects at all (as they know it is not really wealth) so it will do no harm.

If people are not liquidity constrained but are dumb, they will spend out of their pseudo wealth for decades. This is not good.

Note his argument implies that the deficit is no problem ever. Something which neither he nor you believe.

However, it is a bit shocking (not really) that DeLong and Summers slip into assuming that people are rational except when they are writing noise traders papers.
At Least He is Lying

Paul Krugman (who has completely ignored my instruction to write 9 posts on other things for each attack on Obama over health insurance mandates) claims Obama is totally lying about Clinton's health care proposal.

More Obama ugliness on health care

I really, really wish he would stop this:

Obama likened Clinton’s health care mandate proposal to eliminating homelessness by requiring everyone buy a house.

The Clinton plan does every bit as much to ensure affordability as the Obama plan. This is just grotesque.

As an Obama enthusiast, I am very glad to say that Krugman is totally right. Obama is suggesting that his objection to the Clinton proposed mandate is that a mandate alone isn't enough. Of course, he is neglecting to mention that Clinton will subsidize health insurance for the poor and lower middle class. Thus he is suggesting that his objection to Clinton's proposal is on a point where they agree and not on subsidies, restrictions on insurance companies which will will make mandates necessary and mandates or just subsidies and restrictions on insurance companies which will will make mandates necessary but no mandates.

This is good. So long as Obama pretends he is objecting to something about Clinton other than her somewhat greater frankness on the need for mandates, he will not cripple his ability to introduce mandates under a different name if he is president.

I have lived through two campaigns of honest candidates. I don't remember Goldwater '64 too well (OK only my mother saying "if I had known it would be a landslide I wouldn't have been so scared and laughing at Barry's sorry as..persions). I don't like to remember McGovern '72 (Saint Jimmy was no saint when he was campaigning -- anyone remember the Sonnenfelt doctrine ?). I have no intention of ever voting for an honest hopeful in a Democratic primary (I'd consider pulling the dirty trick of voting for an honest Republican if there were any left).

I note that Krugman's friend and co-author Brad DeLong voted for Obama.

Finally, I note that I am also a Clinton enthusiast, that the tiresome Krugman campaign has convinced me to be neutral, and I didn't vote (and not just because it put off getting an absentee ballot until it was way to late).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Enough with the (Kleiman Krugman debate about) Mandates already.

I really enjoy reading Kleiman and Krugman and don't enjoy their debate about Barack Obama and health care mandates.

Usually when I can't stand a debate I comfort myself by imagining I have the power to lock the debaters in a room and not let them out until they reach agreement (so my fantasies are illiberal they are just fantasies).

That doesn't appeal to me in this case. So my fantasy rule is that no more than one in ten posts (counting blog posts and op-ed columns) can be about Obama and mandates. Since they clearly can't control themselves, they will have to write about 5 times as much as they do to meet the quota. ahhh now that would be nice.

update: Krugman admits he is 20% above his maximum mandated quota.