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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nordtopian Fukayaming

Asserting that history has ended because all countries will soon by like Sweden.
William Easterly has a Quiz on Africa in the LA Times

Let's begin with those rampaging Four Horsemen. Do they really explain Africa today? What percentage of the African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10 to 17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year or are living as refugees?

Via Mark Thoma

1) War: I would guess from 0.02% to 0.05%. The question is hard as it is difficult to decide the scale at which bandit violence becomes guerrilla warfare.

2) Child soldiers: I'd say 0.5%

3) Famine ???: I am not aware of a current famine in Africa as opposed to malnutrition. Also it is very hard to decide whether deaths are famine or war as most war deaths in Africa are due to increased famine malnutrition and disease and current near famines are associated with wars.

4) AIDS I think around 2 million*

5) Refugees: I think around 400,000.

OK scoring

"In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. In some cases it's much less"

Whaaat ?!? of course. Yet some of the questions asked for absolute numbers not percents. And less than one half of one percent dying each year from one disease is not a low death rate.

What fraction of people in the USA die of cancer each year ? I think around 0.2% (a guess but right) so who cares, no problem.

Serious Scoring

population around 840 million.

War: "annual war deaths have averaged 1 out of every 10,800 Africans for the last four decades." My guess is far lower, but I was thinking of last year not averaging over four decades. Africa is relatively nearly at peace compared to the average year. I'd say 2007 is about median bloody, but the average year includes one 40th of the Rwandan genocide, the Nigerian civil war and 1 40th of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Child soldiers 120,000/140,000,000 = 0.1% the denominator is a rough estimate of mine.
Famine USAID agrees no current famine in Africa at the moment
Aids 1.6 million

Refugees Waayy off 1.8 million from just 4 countries.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Come back Constitution all is forgiven

You know the Bushistas are desperate when they appeal to the Constitution. Dan Froomkin quotes some grade A bullshit

Presidential confidante Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard about his "pet peeve": When people call Bush a lame duck.

"[H]e's not that lame. . . . Bush lacks popularity, but he has plenty of power. And he's committed to using it.

"Bush's power--indeed, any president's--comes from the Constitution, not from opinion polls or the number of months left in his White House tenure. He is commander in chief and architect of America's foreign policy. He can use his veto to shape or kill legislation. He can exploit the presidential megaphone to express his views and raise alarms, and his power to issue administrative decrees is significant as well.

Ohhh my. The delicious irony is that part (sadly I'm afraid not a large part) of Bush's record unpopularity was caused by his contempt for the Constitution. Remember 911 changed everything and the founders were, through no fault of their own, guilty of pre 911 thinking.

The first idiocy which struck me was the false dichotomy, an error in reasoning more common than any other error in reasoning or than any valid form of reasoning. As Barnes knows perfectly well, he can't assume that Presidential power is based either on the constitution or on popularity and months left. Of course, it is based in part on the constitution and in part on public opinion. Barnes knows this and knows that everyone knows this. He's just willing to say something which is obviously false in order to ... ??? well he must have his motives.

The claim that the Constitution determines Presidential power (which therefore doesn't depend on other things) would only be valid if the Constitution were completely unambiguous and obeyed by everyone. For a Bush confidant to make that assumption is truly wonderfully idiotic.

Barnes adds further idiocy by claiming that Presidential power is based on the constitution and not on popularity then writing "He can exploit the presidential megaphone to express his views and raise alarms," He can express his views, but he will only raise alarms if people care about them. Bush is the boy who cried wolf.

Then right after the bit about the constitution Barnes writes about a power which does not exist according to the Constitution "and his power to issue administrative decrees is significant as well." Such decrees are constitutional only if they are based on laws passed in congress (as noted by the Supreme court in Hamdan v Rumsfeld). The laws only leave room for interpretation if the congress writes them that way or if courts ignore the constitution. The second is not happening. The first was already discussed by Barnes.

According to the constitution, Bush is commander in chief of the armed forces. The claim that this makes him our commander (imperator in Latin) is the essence of Bush and Barnes' contempt for the Constitution. Finally Bush has the authority to conduct foreign policy with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Even when appealing to the Constitution, Barnes can't resist the temptation to ignore the actual text of the constitution.

This is not just anti republican it is also horrible rhetoric as underlines how totally false is his claim that the Presidents authority under the constitution doesn't depend on public opinion, but rather on the text.
Nordtopian adj based on the illusion that the Nordic model can and might be adopted elsewhere.

related term utopian adj based on the illusion that something which is impossibly good is possible.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ezra Klein is favorably impressed by an article by Robert Kuttner. I am not.

Ezra K


Not to offend any of my wise, decent, just and learned editors, but the headline for Bob Kuttner's in the latest Prospect, "Good Jobs for Americans Who Help Americans," sound like two 527s got drunk and ran into each other at a bar. The essay, though, is a smart exploration of how to imbue service sector jobs with the dignity, wages, and work conditions that the Labor movement once won for American manufacturing:

Ezra K's excerpt of Robert K

Many economists once thought that widening income inequality was caused in part by the shift to a service economy. Factory jobs, the argument went, tended to pay above the median wage because each job added a lot of value. The more productive and capital-intensive the machinery became over time, the more value each job added. So by the mid-20th century, industrial workers could command middle-class wages and good fringe benefits. By contrast, human-service jobs were hands-on and labor intensive. A nursing-home worker or a pre-k teacher was low-tech. So the pay was low, too.

We now know that this picture was highly misleading. How do we know? Just look at the global economy. Autoworkers in Mexico* use the same production technology as workers in Michigan, but their pay is about $2 an hour. In China, autoworkers may earn 50 cents a day. American autoworkers were paid middle-class wages not because of something inherent about making cars but because the United Auto Workers had the power to negotiate good wages. Conversely, Scandinavia has no low-wage human-service workers because it has made a decision that everyone who takes care of the sick, the old, or the young is a professional or at least a paraprofessional and is compensated as such.

Since most human-service costs are paid socially, choices about how to compensate workers are social decisions. In the United States, with our meager social outlay, we define these human-service positions as low-wage, casual jobs. In the Nordic countries, the people who work in pre-kindergartens or child-care centers are either teachers or apprentice teachers. In France, to work in a crèche maternelle, you need more qualifications than a public school teacher -- additional courses in child development and public health.

Robert W on Robert K

I agree about the title, but I'm not so enthusiastic about the article. The reference to auto-workers in Mexico and China is just silly. First Kuttner is using current exchange rates to convert and pretending that purchasing power parity holds . It doesn't (and not just because of the People's Bank of China's interventions in currency markets, which amount to about one year of Swedich GNP by now). Second, no one ever claimed that factor endowments don't affect wages.

Kuttner is setting up a straw man in which to argue against the claim that wages differ systematically by sector, he refutes the claim that they depend on nothing else. The is awful economics and isn't even good rhetoric. Here is Kuttner's accurate statement of the claim he is trying to refute "Factory jobs, the argument went, tended to pay above the median wage." Here is his absurd effort at refuting it
"Autoworkers in Mexico use the same production technology as workers in Michigan, but their pay is about $2 an hour. In China, autoworkers may earn 50 cents a day." What is missing ? Ah yes, he says nothing about the median wage in China or Mexico. His data have nothing to do with the hypothesis which he claims they refute. This is economic analysis at the level of Donald Luskin**.

A semi serious argument would compare wages of autoworkers in Mexico to wages of service sector workers. Kuttner doesn't do that, because he is trying to pull a fast one (in fact he is pulling a very slow one).

Kuttner seems determined to make sure that no one who actually knows economics ever takes him seriously (you, I am sure, have decided not to notice the silliness because his conclusion is reasonable and doesn't depend on it).

As to Sweden, I think a neologism might be useful "nordtopian". Utopian means planning on something that can never happen. Nordtopian means pretending that other countries will ever act like Nordic countries. The USA economy is and will remain based largely on market mechanisms. Swedish wages are not.

Also Kuttner neglects to mention the rough patch when the Swedish system of wage setting broke down for a while (with unemployment rising to normal non Swedish levels among other things). It happened when miners who worked North of the arctic circle went on strike, because they didn't think that secretaries in Stockholm should earn as much as they did.

It is also notable that one of the wonderful things about Sweden is (and was before the temporary breakdown) the excellent recreational facilities in factories. That is, given the effort to make wages equal, factory workers were being paid with fringe benefits.

The USA won't be Sweden. Even Sweden has trouble being Sweden.

Finally, as for France, Kuttner seems determined to achieve French levels of unemployment in the USA. If the qualifications required of pre-k teachers in France are really related to taking good care of kids, we might adopt them. If they are good, as Kuttner suggests, because they imply high wages for pre-K teachers by protecting them from competition from the unemployed, one might consider the interests of the unemployed too (doesn't Kuttner care about inequality ?). For the kids, given how much the US is willing to spend on child care, demanding highly qualified pre-k teachers would imply keeping qualified kids out of head start as there are no places (as we do) and/or having one highly qualified person trying to deal with huge numbers of little kids (which implies either crushing them with discipline or leaving them to their own devices).

In general Kuttner refuses to accept the idea that there might be any costs due to increasing wages paid to workers. This means that his analysis is just silly. Wages and working conditions are not determined by supply and demand. Wages, working conditions and unemployment rates are.

Now, you want to argue that the US should spend more on publicly provided services and that this will, by the way, cause an increase in the wages of low wage workers, I agree with you. However, that has almost nothing to do with Kuttner's article.

* evidently there were no manufacturing workers in Mexico when the theory was developed in the mid 80's. I mean the global economy has been global for a few centuries now.

** I mean that quite literally. Neglecting to divide by the median wage is very similar to neglecting to multiply by the foreign price level when calculating a real exchange rate. That is, as far as I know, the most glaring proof of Luskin's utter ignorance of economics. However, even Luskin didn't quote the incriminating phrase "foreign price level" in his case "median wage" in Kuttner's, immediately before leaving the corresponding number out of his idiotic calculation.
I believe that it is better to reveal the truth even if one fears that people will abuse their knowledge. I don't especially like Washington Post bashing but is this country ready for investment bankers on steroids ?

Rob Stein is just a journalist and must call them as he see's them, but he must know as well as I do that the result of this article will be a further waste of the time of national treasure George Mitchell as he investigates wall street types who began abusing anabolic steroids hoping to make even more money (what you say they are very rich already and shouldn't endanger their health for a few more bucks ? Bond traders are no more likely to respond to that logic than was Barry Bonds).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Andrew Pollack* writes in The New York Times that the current grain shortage is causing some rethinking about genetically engineered foods.

The concluding paragraphs are interesting

Because about half of America’s wheat crop is exported, farmers and processors feared foreign buyers would reject their products. Facing resistance from American farmers, Monsanto in 2004 suspended development of what would have been the first genetically modified wheat.

But some farmers and millers now say that the lack of genetically engineered wheat has made growing the grain less attractive than growing corn or soybeans. That has, in turn, contributed to shrinking supplies and rising prices for wheat.

Milling & Baking News, an influential trade newspaper in Kansas City, Mo., said in an editorial that companies that used wheat were now paying the price for their own “hesitancy, if not outright opposition” to biotechnology.

In other words, people's reluctance to eat genetically modified food has caused a shift in production from food for humans (not GM) to food for cattle (GM OK). Also for grain for flour (contains the modified genes) to seeds for oil, starch and corn syrup (does not contain DNA). Finally, biofuel no problem. Burning modified genes is OK feeding them to hungry people is not.

Thus, depending on your point of view, you can say that genetic engineering has contributed to the world grain shortage or that irrational fear of genetic engineering has contributed to the world grain shortage. Like Pollack, I favor (privilege in semi translated French) the second explanation.

* Style note: *Andrew* Pollock not the shameless hack. I will not go all rigid and call him Andrew Hack or speculate as to whether he is related to the abstract expressionist Jackson Hack or the Italian astronomer Margherita Pollock

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Style Guide

for Robert's stochastic thoughts (will be imposed on all comments)

I think that "shameless hacks" is a perfectly reasonable catchall phrase for Kenneth Pollack and people like him.

Any future references to statements by Kenneth Pollack on this site shall be of the form "a shameless hack asserted" or "shameless hacks assert" in the case that there is someone else as shameless as Kenneth Pollack willing to go along ?

If any reader is interested in which shameless hack made the assertion, a link to the record of the shameless hack's hacking will do.

Now Mr Pollack is hurting.

It is true that I have never referred to anything he said but I promise that any search for Kenneth AND Pollack on this site will lead to this post alone. If you want to keep up with his thought, don't come here, but, if you do, search for shameless hack.
What the Non-Hell Happened in Hayaniya ?

I was very puzzled by this headline in the New York Times

"Iraqi Army Takes Last Basra Areas From Sadr Force"

Huh ? Last I heard the Iraqi government efforts to exert actual control of Basra were totally unsuccessful ending with a cease fire, which, I thought, amounted to ceding control to the Mahdi army.

Is this for real ? Well just let JAMES GLANZ and ALISSA J. RUBIN ask the Mahdi army "'The Iraqi Army entered Hayaniya and the Mahdi Army did not resist because they made a commitment to obey Moktada al-Sadr’s order,' said Harith al-Athari, the head of the Sadr office in Basra." OK then. Good news.

This doesn't seem to have been a violation of the cease fire. Instead it seems more as if recognition of Iraqi government authority in Basra was part of the cease fire agreement. I mean the Mahdi army didn't fire on the Iraqi interior ministry troops. Also the Iranians, brokers of the cease fire, declare their approval of the operation

The Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, on Saturday expressed his government’s strong support for the Iraqi assault on Basra. He even called the militias in Basra “outlaws,” the same term that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has used to describe them.

“The idea of the government in Basra was to fight outlaws,” Mr. Qumi said. “This was the right of the government and the responsibility of the government. And in my opinion the government was able to achieve a positive result in Basra.”

Kevin Drum finds this quote very interesting as it seems to suggest that Iran has decided to support al Maliki and ISCI (al Hakim) against al Sadr. Glanz and Rubin note "many Iraqis have recently speculated, Mr. Sadr’s stock has recently fallen in Iranian eyes."

I'd like to believe that as Iran has great influence in Iraq and will have more when the US withdraws (and vastly more than it had before the US invaded) and I would rather they not support a group which deals with theological differences by drilling holes in Sunni's heads with power drills (although ISCI and the Iraqi interior ministry (a distinction with a difference ?) have not been reluctant to torture either).

Still I note the extreme similarity of the position of the Mahdi army and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Neither denounces or resists the exercise of Iraqi sovereign authority in Basra. Each denounces and opposes the same in Sadr city. Ambassador Qumi went on to denounce fighting in Sadr City

Strikingly, however, Ambassador Qumi simultaneously condemned American-led operations against the Mahdi Army in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, where major new clashes broke out on Saturday. He said the American-backed fighting in that densely populated district was causing only civilian casualties rather than achieving any positive result.

“The American insistence on coming and having a siege on a couple of million people in one area and striking them with warplanes and shelling them randomly — many innocent people will be killed through this operation,” Mr. Qumi said. “The result of this operation will be the sabotage and destruction of buildings, and many people will leave their homes.”

The events in Basra, in contrast with the Mahdi Army’s continued fighting in Sadr City, renewed questions about where the Sadrist movement stands in Iraq’s unstable political landscape.

Glanz and Rubin note that, given the extreme closeness of the Iranian and Iraqi governments, it is very likely that Iran approved the Basra offensive including the initial unsuccessful Basra offensive

Because leaders of the council and its armed wing spent years and sometimes decades in exile in Iran during Saddam Hussein’s regime, it was assumed that the silence of the Badr Organization during the Basra offensive indicated that Iran had given at least tacit approval for the move.

In fact, IIRC al Sadr didn't denounce it immediately but just warned that they Iraqi government forces better not mess with the Mahdi army.

That would leave criminal gangs and Fadhila as targets of the offensive. On march 26

Michael Kamber and James Glanz wrote in The New York Times

In the weeks leading up to the operation, Iraqi officials indicated that part of the operation would be aimed at the Fadhila groups, who are widely believed to be in control of Basra’s lucrative port operations and other parts of the city. The ports have been plagued by corruption, draining revenue that could flow to the central and local governments. But the operation also threatens the Mahdi Army’s strongholds in Basra.

This suggests an alternative interpretation of recent events (put your tinfoil hat on).

There was an agreement between the people who count in Iraq -- al Hakim, al Sadr, al Maliki, al Sistani and Khameini -- to do something about Fadhila. al Maliki and al Hakim tried to use the operation to weaken the Mahdi army too. Their representatives were called to Qom and called to order by the head of the martyrs brigade of the revolutionary guard. A second try at a reasonable operation in Basra in which only anti Iranian militias will be disarmed is in course (this would mean UK soldiers just went into the field to support Iran in an Iran vs UK proxy war without understanding what was going on).

However, al Maliki and al Hakim are still making trouble in Sadr city. Iran and al Sadr firmly warn them to stick to the plan. This would make al Mahdi's threat not bluster to hide his weakness, but a reminder of an agreement “If you do not stop we will announce a war until liberation.”

The days events would still be good news. The difference is really a difference in guesses about what role Iran sees for the Mahdi army. In any case, it would be good if Iran could prevent their many allies in Iraq from fighting each other. I don't like the idea of a major role for al Sadr but, hey, al Hakim and al Mailiki are almost equally horrible.

As for the possibility of an Iraq genuinely independent of Iran, well, I am willing to speculate, but not to fantasize.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

To Monobate V.
To present the conventional wisdom without discussing whether it is valid or even consistent with objective facts. In contrast to debating in which one presents a controversial opinion and defends it.

As in "In that Symposium of narcissistic TV pundits, they just sat around monobating."

A synonym is based the idea that they are not debating but following the master narrative. However, the synonym is vulgar.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Get the Lead out.

In the Freakiest bit of Freakonomics, John Donohue and Steven Levitt in an article in 2001, proposed that violent crime in the USA dropped in the 90's because abortion had been legalized 18 years earlier.

The same pattern does not hold in the UK where abortion was legalized earlier and violent crime continues to rise (to a level much lower than the current US level of course).

A competing theory due to, I don't remember who, is that the decline in violent crimein rthe USA was caused by the shift away from leaded gasoline which began in 1973, the same year as Roe v Wade. Lead poisoning is known to cause people to be irritable and to risk becoming violent. The idea is that sub-poisoning exposure might cause violence too.

The UK began shifting to unleaded in 1986 13 years after the USA (don't click the link in the google search it is dead).

That would imply that violent crime should have peaked in the UK in 2004. Now I will check.

OK UK peak (so far) seems to be 2005/6 (they don't seem to use solar year).

I shouldn't have tried to be so precise. The peak in the US youth violent crime rate was 1995 -- 22 years after the US began to remove lead (note unlike in the case of abortion the exact cohort affected by the change is not clear).

So moving 13 years forward gets to my new predicted peak in roughly 2008.

update 2: More from the home office (with dates I can understand)

Recorded violence against the person for July to September 2007 fell by 8% compared with the same period in 2006

This appears to be the very latest news.

It does seem to fit the lead theory as well as it possibly can, statistics from 2008 not being available yet.

update: Mark Thoma in person tells me who came up with this theory. Turns out I vaguely remembered reading about it on his blog (I might have read the article in teh Washington Post but I read economistsview much more than I read the Post). Embarassingly, I also inadvertently copied his title for my post.

Looks like the other countries have already been looked at, although the UK might not have been since, as a laggard in getting the lead out, their violent crime should be peaking about now.

Pulled back from comments.

Mark Thoma has left a new comment on your post "Get the Lead out. In the Freakiest bit of Freakon...":

You may already know about this:

Research Links Lead Exposure, Criminal Activity, by Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post: Rudy Giuliani never misses an opportunity to remind people about his track record in fighting crime as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. ...

Although crime did fall dramatically..., a broad range of scientific research has emerged ... to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit... The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries. "It is stunning how strong the association is," Nevin said... "Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead."

Through much of the 20th century, lead in U.S. paint and gasoline fumes poisoned toddlers as they put contaminated hands in their mouths. The consequences on crime, Nevin found, occurred when poisoning victims became adolescents. ...

Many other theories have emerged to try to explain the crime decline. ... Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner said the legalization of abortion in 1973 had eliminated "unwanted babies" who would have become violent criminals. Other experts credited lengthy prison terms for violent offenders, or demographic changes, socioeconomic factors, and the fall of drug epidemics. ...

Most of the theories have been long on intuition and short on evidence. Nevin says his data not only explain the decline in crime in the 1990s, but the rise in crime in the 1980s and other fluctuations going back a century. His data from multiple countries, which have different abortion rates, police strategies, demographics and economic conditions, indicate that lead is the only explanation that can account for international trends.

Because the countries phased out lead at different points, they provide a rigorous test: In each instance, the violent crime rate tracks lead poisoning levels two decades earlier.

"It is startling how much mileage has been given to the theory that abortion in the early 1970s was responsible for the decline in crime" in the 1990s, Nevin said. "But they legalized abortion in Britain, and the violent crime in Britain soared in the 1990s. The difference is our gasoline lead levels...

Lead levels plummeted in New York in the early 1970s, driven by federal policies to eliminate lead from gasoline and local policies to reduce lead emissions from municipal incinerators. Between 1970 and 1974, the number of New York children heavily poisoned by lead fell by more than 80 percent... Lead levels in New York have continued to fall...

The later drop in violent crime was dramatic. In 1990, 31 New Yorkers out of every 100,000 were murdered. In 2004, the rate was 7 per 100,000 -- lower than in most big cities. The lead theory also may explain why crime fell broadly across the United States in the 1990s, not just in New York.

The centerpiece of Nevin's research is an analysis of crime rates and lead poisoning levels across a century. The United States has had two spikes of lead poisoning: one at the turn of the 20th century, linked to lead in household paint, and one after World War II, when the use of leaded gasoline increased sharply. Both times, the violent crime rate went up and down in concert, with the violent crime peaks coming two decades after the lead poisoning peaks.

Other evidence has accumulated in recent years that lead is a neurotoxin that causes impulsivity and aggression, but these studies have also drawn little attention. In 2001, sociologist Paul B. Stretesky and criminologist Michael Lynch showed that U.S. counties with high lead levels had four times the murder rate of counties with low lead levels, after controlling for multiple environmental and socioeconomic factors.

In 2002, Herbert Needleman, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh, compared lead levels of 194 adolescents arrested in Pittsburgh with lead levels of 146 high school adolescents: The arrested youths had lead levels that were four times higher.

"Impulsivity means you ignore the consequences of what you do," said Needleman, one of the country's foremost experts on lead poisoning, explaining why Nevin's theory is plausible. Lead decreases the ability to tell yourself, "If I do this, I will go to jail." ...

Within the field of neurotoxicology, Nevin's findings are unsurprising, said Ellen Silbergeld ... at Johns Hopkins University and the editor of Environmental Research. "There is a strong literature on lead and sociopathic behavior among adolescents and young adults with a previous history of lead exposure," she said.

Two new studies by criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Steven F. Messner have looked at Giuliani's policing policies. They found that the mayor's zero-tolerance approach to crime was responsible for 10 percent, maybe 20 percent, at most, of the decline in violent crime in New York City. ...

Nevin's finding may even account for phenomena he did not set out to address. His theory addresses why rates of violent crime among black adolescents from inner-city neighborhoods have declined faster than the overall crime rate -- lead amelioration programs had the biggest impact on the urban poor. Children in inner-city neighborhoods were ... more likely to live in substandard housing that had lead paint and ... public housing projects were often situated near highways.

Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes, for example, were built over the Dan Ryan Expressway... Eighteen years after the project opened in 1962, one study found that its residents were 22 times more likely to be murderers than people living elsewhere in Chicago.

Nevin's finding implies a double tragedy for America's inner cities: Thousands of children in these neighborhoods were poisoned by lead in the first three quarters of the last century. Large numbers of them then became the targets, in the last quarter, of Giuliani-style law enforcement policies.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

OK Now* the US Class War has Begun

or rather the non rich are fighting back. The spot heard round the world. The Bosses tea party. The storming of the pastille

The revolutionary struggle is not for the weak of heart,
you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, but frosting all over his mustache ewwwwwwwww.

* I have been known to jump the gun on this one, but this time it's for real.

via Kevin Drum

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Italian Election Half Time Report

The first day of voting in the Italian general election has finished. It has been illegal to public polls for 14 days now (ouch). Noo exit polls (I think).

Betfair has implied probabilities of leading politicians becoming the next prime minister. They give the inverse of the probability of winning.

Currently betfair has Berlusconi at 1.21 or 83% change of being the next prime minister. This would be the third sack of Rome (Ricimer he's already served as Alaric (95-96) and Genseric (2001-06)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kevin Drum reports an appalling discovery based on an interesting method

STUDY: 26% "ANGRY OR UPSET" BY FEMALE PRESIDENT....Last month I blogged about a poll showing that while only (only!) 17% of respondents said they'd have trouble voting for a woman for president, 45% claimed that "most" of the people they know wouldn't vote for a woman.

So which is it? Is the 17% number too low because some people won't fess up their true feelings to a pollster? Is the 45% number too high because people are too cynical about their neighbors? Or what?

Via John Sides, some political science types at Northern Illinois University and Loyola Marymount provide an interesting way of measuring something closer to the true answer. They presented a control group with a list of four items and asked how many of those items made them "angry or upset." The average was 2.16 items. (Respondents didn't have to say which items they were.) Then they presented a second group with the same set of items except they added one more: "5. A woman serving as president." This time the average response was 2.42 items. The poll was conducted in March 2006 (so it's probably not merely a reaction to Hillary Clinton personally), sample size was large, and all the usual statistical controls were in place. The full paper is here and has all the details if you're interested.

So what does it mean? The arithmetic is simple: (2.42 - 2.16) x 100 = 26%. This means that 26% of the respondents were angered or upset by the notion of a woman serving as president.

The methodology is interesting, but I see a possible problem. People might tend to answer half of questions with a yes. Certainly it would seem odd to answer yes to all or no to all. A way of addressing my concern would be to compare scores with 3 sets of 5 questions one with the woman president question and 4 others, one with something which doesn't seem likely to make many people angry (say people praying*) and upset and the same 4 others and one which would make almost anyone angry and upset (say needless war**) and the 4 others.

The number of upsetting things with the woman president question minus that with prayer would be a lower bound to the percent upset at the idea of a woman President. One plus the number of upsetting things with woman President minus that with pointless war would be a lower bound (who knows Dick Cheney might be in the sample).

My guess is that the lower number would be well below the upper, not because there are lots of bloodthirsty warmongers out there, but because people would score other questions differently as they anchor at 0. Alternatively, the one extreme question might pull the other answers along as people get the idea that they are supposed to say yes.

* I know someone who is furious with Barack Obama for saying he prays to Jesus every night but I think he would be cool if Obama just did it without talking about it. However, there is an anonymous commenter.I chose the example of prayer just so I could write this footnote, then I forgot to.

** I'm assuming that Richard Cheney would refuse to participate in the experiment.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A simplistic denunciation of the simplistic simpletons at the Weekly standard.

Look feel and be 28 years younger-.
I'm glad (ecstatic) to learn that I am only two decades old !

Kerry Howley says it is good that China is much less poor than it was. She also notes that Cinese live much longer than they used to. She is a bit vague on timing.

"A Chinese person born in 1960 could expect to live until 41, give or take. Kids born today will, on average, live 30 years longer. No other society has ever undergone such a dramatic transformation in two decades."

Sad to say, 2008-1960 = 48 > 20. The huge increase in Chinese life expectancy did not occur in the past two decades (nor in the 30 years since 1978). In 1978 the PRC was very poor and had life expectancy much longer than 41 years (65 IIRC). The experience of the PRC 60 to 78 then 78 to 2008 shows how different the path of wealth and health can be.

Now part of what is going on is that 1960 was the year of the biggest famine the world has ever seen. An advantage of Democracy is that it appears (so far) to be inconsistent with utter idiocies on the level of the great leap forward. Thus treating 1960 as given is utterly insanely charitable to chairman Mao.

On the other hand, health progress from a normal non famine year to 1978 was extraordinary. Aside from the recovery from the horrors of 1960, the PRC reached a level of life expectancy which was surprisingly high given conditions in 1948 say. This led reluctant people* to admit that there were advantages to a command economy without a price mechanism let alone free prices. As many people my age know, the surprising health of people in the PRC had a lot to do with "barefoot doctors" who were essentially conscripted (as everyone was in the PRC). The market reforms which allowed the PRC to become rich are correlated with a reduction in the relative health performance of the PRC (life expectancy kept growing but at a normal not the previous high rate let alone the huge rate one would naively guess if one ignored the generally different paths of health and wealth).

It's not just Democracy. It's not just Democracy and wealth. The world is complicated.

* I'm one and there must be others. I can't certify the reluctance anyone else.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ezra Klein thinks highly of the Ray Fair forecasting model for presidential elections.

I don't

I think it is incorrect to refer to Ray Fair models for Presidential elections in the singular. The fact is that the model has been rejiggered -- the specification changed.

Now I haven't kept up, and it appears that Fair no longer changes his model after every election "1 Nov 2006 ... No specification changes have been made to the equation since the update in November 1994, following the 1992 election"

This means that the model has been used to forecast 3 data points out of sample.

It is always possible to make a model after the fact that fits the past. Remember the key insight of Yogi Bera "predictions are difficult especially about the future."

There is no reason to be interested in the performance of the current model in fitting results before 1994 when it was re-specified to make sure it fit results before 1994.

Also, very importantly, the Fair model includes subjective variables. For example, he seems to have decided that the USA was at peace in 2004 ! Inventing the explanatory variables makes it very easy to fit the past.

This means that Fair's current model has made 3 predictions. One was a bit off. "by Thomas E. Mann, September 10, 2004

During the Q&A session at the Roundtable on Forecasting the 2004 Presidential Election, a distinguished member of the audience, Thomas E. Mann, W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, criticized the forecasts for November made with the quantitative models presented therein, as well as by Ray Fair (all of which, and others besides, are factored into the Pollyvote).

Asked to reconstruct his remarks for Polly, Dr. Mann had this to say via e-mail:

"I made three points at the APSA panel. (1) Ray Fair's model has very little economics in it. He generates a 55.57 % Bush share of the 2-party vote simply on the basis of an incumbent Republican running for reelection after his party has been in office only one consecutive term. His three economic variables produce less than 2 points additional vote for Bush.

"Dr. Mann had this to say via e-mail:

'I made three points at the APSA panel. (1) Ray Fair's model has very little economics in it. He generates a 55.57 % Bush share of the 2-party vote simply on the basis of an incumbent Republican running for reelection after his party has been in office only one consecutive term. His three economic variables produce less than 2 points additional vote for Bush.' "

Monday, April 07, 2008

No Penn in time for Penn.

O happy day "Mark J. Penn quit Sunday as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief strategist".

I'm sure that ni 4 years he will be claiming that Clinton had the nomination in the bag until she fired him. However, I am also farily confident that no one not named Clinton will fall for his spin (<- unmixed metaphor, I am imagining Hillary Clinton falling down after trying to hit a slider thrown by Penn which seems to be a fastball but subtly shifts ever further to the right).

update: I fell for it. "Note Marc Ambinder's reporting that despite having been fired by the Clinton campaign, Mark Penn's responsibilities with the Clinton campaign are unchanged. "

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Glenn Greenwald doesn't need my help.

However, I think that a brief excerpt from his posts on Mukasey's tearful insinuation that FISA caused 9/11 might be useful to people too rushed to read the whole thing.

To recap,

Attorney General Michael Mukasey ... claimed that, prior to 9/11, the Bush administration was aware of a telephone call being made by an Al Qaeda Terrorist from what he called a "safe house in Afghanistan" into the U.S., but failed to eavesdrop on that call. [snip]

In that speech, Mukasey blamed FISA's warrant requirement for the failure to eavesdrop on that call

People who should know about such a call have no idea what Mukasey was talking about.
Greenwald points out that no warrant, not even a FISA warrant, would be required to listen in to such a call.

Now the Justice Department explains to Greenwald that "This call is also referenced in the unclassified report of the congressional intelligence committees' Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks."

Greenwald infers that they must be referring to a call from the USA to the safe house (the DOJ e-mail does not make this detail clear so they do not admit that Mukasey misspoke).

This also hints at how FISA might have been relevant. To intercept all calls to and from the phone in the USA used to call the safe house, the NSA would need a FISA warrant or a temporary emergency waiver. However, if Greenwald is correct about which call is in question, they could not have been restrained by FISA from intercepting because they did not know that the phone was in the USA. He quotes from the the unclassified report of the congressional intelligence committees' Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.

"The Intelligence Community did not identify the domestic origin of those communications,"

thus they could not have been restrained either by FISA, or by excessive respect for the spirit of FISA, since they didn't know that FISA had any relevance to the call in question or the phone from which it was made.

To tap the phone from which the call was made, the NSA would have needed a FISA warrant or an emergency waiver. However, since they didn't know this, FISA could not have prevented them from doing anything they would otherwise have done.
John Yoo's Ethnicity

I thought that "Yoo" was a Chinese name. Still I was sure that John Yoo is (at least) partly Korean (he has a typically Korean jawline -- well I mean so does Shwarzenegger but in Asia it is typically Korean).

So I go to Wikipedia to check and find "John Choon Yoo (born 1967 in Seoul)." Ah so he is Korean (by place of birth not necessarily 100% of his ethnicity).

Does confirm I can recognize a Korean face. I think it is fairly unusual for a Korean to not use his or her second name (Choon) and the h in John strikes me as a bit eccentric of his parents in Seoul in 1967.

Also the bastard is younger than I am, and he destroyed the US Constitution years and years ago.

I hate growing old.
Mark Penn on his Colombia trade deal lobbying: It was an "error in judgment."

And Wouldn't you know, I just bet he would call it a "youthful indiscretion."

Oh well, mistakes were made. I just wish he would spend more time with his family.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

This Daily Kos Diary on Feith based Intelligence is Excellent.

For one thing, it makes it very hard to consider Colin Powell an honorable man.

Dec., 2001 State Department's INR gives Powell a report saying (in words of Greg Thielmann), "there is no persuasive evidence that the Iraqi nuclear program is being reconstituted."


Jan. 30, 2002 "[T]he CIA published an unclassified report to Congress that stated, 'Baghdad may be attempting to acquire materials that could aid in reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program.' A week later, Colin Powell told the House International Relations Committee, 'With respect to the nuclear program, there is no doubt that the Iraqis are pursuing it.'

Oh my, he changed "no persuasive evidence" to "no doubt". That is almost perjury.
Has John Yoo found the footnotes to the US Constitution that no one else bothered to read ?

David Kurtz congratulates Pamela Hess and Lara Jakes Jordan for finding a shocking fact in a footnote.

Memo justified warrantless surveillance

Secret Memo That Justified Warrantless Domestic Surveillance Comes to Light

AP News

Apr 02, 2008 19:20 EST

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.
The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Now I have been wondering about this secret Constitution business. Since OLC opinions are supposed to describe and interpret the Constitution and the laws, which are, you know, public, how can these memos be secret ?

If they are reasonable interpretations of the Constitution and the laws, they don't introduce anything which isn't there already. How can national security be damaged by our adversaries knowing what our Constitution means ? I mean it's not supposed to be a secret.

These memos are not like the discussion of the facts of a case by an attorney discussing and her client. They are more like judicial opinions except less authoritative and issued on request and not when there is an actual case or contestation.

I see no possible public interest in keeping them secret, and the costs so far have obviously been enormous.

Why is the Bush administration allowed to classify OLC memos ? Can congress forbid this (it will take two thirds of each house to over-ride a certain veto)

John Conyers can't understand how OLC memos can be classified either.

Second, in the March, 2003 Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memorandum publicly released on April 1, 2008, the contents of a secret October, 2001 OLC memorandum were partially disclosed. Specifically, the 2003 memorandum explains that in an October 23, 2001 memorandum, OLC “concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.”3 On two prior occasions – in letters of February 12 and February 20, 2008, – Chairman Conyers requested that the Administration publicly release the October 23, 2001, memorandum .4 The memorandum has not been received despite these specific requests.

Based on the title of the October 23, 2001 memorandum, and based on what has been disclosed and the contents of similar memoranda issued at roughly the same time, it is clear that a substantial portion of this memorandum provides a legal analysis and conclusions as to the nature and scope of the Presidential Commander in Chief power to accomplish specific acts within the United States. The people of the United States are entitled to know the Justice Department’s interpretation of the President’s constitutional powers to wage war in the United States. There can be no actual basis in national security for keeping secret the remainder of a legal memorandum that addresses this issue of Constitutional interpretation. The notion that the President can claim to operate under “secret” powers known only to the President and a select few subordinates is antithetical to the core principles of this democracy. We ask that you promptly release the October 23, 2001, memorandum.
Wall Warts

I forget where I read that neologism. It refers to the transformers which convert high voltage AC to low voltage DC for example for this computer. If they are plugged in, they consume electricity, even if they are not in use. Obama says unplug them

"Using compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy efficient appliances, and unplugging power chargers when they're not in use are relatively simple solutions, he said."

But wait, why don't they unplug themselves ? About 15 years ago, I was watching Italian TV and there was a report on the invention of the year award. It went to the guy who invented the wall wart which disconnects itself from the AC current when no DC is demanded from it. Why isn't this invention used ?

This is a very simple idea. I see no problem with a mechanism to measure the flow of DC out of the wall wart and flip a switch inside the wall wart interrupting the wire which connects the wall wart to the wall when that flow is very low. I am fairly sure that this works, even if the appliance powered by the wall wart has a battery in it. Once the battery is fully charged, current can't flow through it in the charge me more direction.

My reaction was "why didn't I think of that ?" Now my reaction is "why the hell aren't all transformers self disconnecting ?"

Now it is clear that wall wart energy consumption is just not on my mind when I am shopping for a laptop (battery life maybe but once it's plugged in I have no concern I confess). I think that, as with compact fluorescent light bulbs, this is an area in which government intervention is reasonable. Consumers just aren't paying attention, so a law requiring newly sold wall warts to be self disconnecting seems to me to be a good idea.
Bartels Again

This is getting to be the most reproduced figure in the blogosphere


and I have to lecture about the political economy of income distribution TODAY.

I really don't think I can just go with last years lecture. I will show my students the graph, but then they will ask me how it is possible.

Alarmingly Paul Krugman doesn't have an explanation

"Now, I’m a big Bartels fan; I’ve known about this result for quite a while. But I’ve never written it up. Why? Because I can’t figure out a plausible mechanism."

Uh oh.

I think I'm going to go with this. A large factor in income distribution is the social norm, the sense of what is fair. This affects actual pay, because pay is determined by the Akerlof Yellen type morale consideration, that is it is in firms interest to pay workers a salary which the workers consider fair.

A change in attitudes about equality and fairness drives wages and presidential elections.

Sociology is the last refuge of the totally confused economist.

update: I considered Ezra Klein's explanation -- that the President sets social norms (honest really I did). However, like Klein, I found the causation in the other direction more plausible.

I had a great example for my class (in Italy). The recently deceased Prodi government had one pleasant experience -- Surprisingly high tax revenues called the tesoretto (little treasure). I think it is clear what happened. Silvio Berlusconi,k Prodi's predecessor, is Italy's biggest tax cheat (by far, absolutely proven, and resulting in mega fines by his firm and no conviction for him). I think it is clear that when a tax cheat (who defended tax fraud in principle when under oath) is prime minister, tax revenues are depressed by people following his example.

Sadly, I didn't manage to slip it into my lecture, because I didn't stick to schedule and only had 10 minutes left when I got to Bartels' graph.
I just read "The Green Light" Philippe Sands important article on the Bush administration legal justifiers of Torture.

On the principle that it should be reproduced in full bit by bit in the blogosphere I quote a relatively unimportant bit on whether any of them might face prosecution

As the consequences of Hamdan sank in, the instinct for self-preservation asserted itself. The lawyers got busy. Within four months President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act. This created a new legal defense against lawsuits for misconduct arising from the “detention and interrogation of aliens” between September 11, 2001, and December 30, 2005. That covered the interrogation of al-Qahtani, and no doubt much else. Signing the bill on October 17, 2006, President Bush explained that it provided “legal protections that ensure our military and intelligence personnel will not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists simply for doing their jobs.”

In a word, the interrogators and their superiors were granted immunity from prosecution. Some of the lawyers who contributed to this legislation were immunizing themselves. The hitch, and it is a big one, is that the immunity is good only within the borders of the United States.

I should read the act, because I am confused. Law suits and prosecution are totally different. The fact that Yoo, Gonzales, Haynes, Addington and Beaver won't respond in Al-Qatani vs X does not mean that they can't be defendants in People of the United States Vs X. Are they immune from prosecution in the USA ? If not, it is unlikely that they will be prosecuted, but I wonder.
This is a funny blog which linked to Elisabetta Addis's definition of Fukayaming..

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spam from the Fafniverse

dwbvb to me

Dear Sir or Madam:

It seems that you are interesting in nucleoside analogues and ribofuranose derivatives.

If you need any of these derivatives, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can prepare them for you.

OK so who told dmbvb that I am interested in ribofuranose derivatives ? That is like so totally not true at all. I am interested in GMP DOTA-biotin.
On the negative concavity of sentences with improperly nested prepositional phrases of jargon and discussing complex issues.

National treasure Mark Kleiman directs me to national treasure William K Black (of whose existence I was unaware). Black appears to be a stunningly brilliant accountant ?!?!?!? who saw the S&L crisis coming. Kleiman flags Black largely because Black has the goods on McCain.

William Black (not to be confused with Fisher Black) explains the foolishness of relying on models to price financial assets (I'm being unfair. actually Fisher was well aware of the folly of people who justified their recklessness by appealing to his academic research).

The basic point is that regulators must not allow investment banks to use proprietary models to value their assets, because the properties of proprietary models belong to the proprieters which perpetuates perilous improprieties. It's like having the fox count how many chickes are left in the chicken coop.

Now I am going to complain that Black's English is unclear with persnickity picayune pignoloria. Consider

Consider, particularly given federal pay caps and the extraordinary salaries on the Street for those with advanced skills in constructing models, how impossible it becomes for regulators to try to prevent this abuse (even if they had meaningful regulatory authority over investment banks). Consider the practicalities of trying to explain, and prove, to a judge that the properietary model understates risk by assuming a normal distribution when in fact the tails are unusually fat and truncating the distribution at 95% (which is still common with Value at Risk (VAR) models).

After much effort, I realize that this sentence makes sense if prepositional phrases are clearly indicated say [with square brackets] nested, if necessary ((in double parentheses [with the risk of confusion])). My keyboard doesn't support curly braces.

"Consider the practicalities of trying to explain, and prove, [to a judge] that the properietary model understates risk ((by assuming a normal distribution [when in fact the tails are unusually fat] and truncating the distribution at 95%)) (which is still common with Value at Risk (VAR) models)."

The problem is that there is nothing in English which corresponds to the second ], so the sentence, as written, must be read

"Consider the practicalities of trying to explain, and prove, [to a judge] that the properietary model understates risk [by assuming a normal distribution when in fact the tails are unusually fat] and truncating the distribution at 95%] (which is still common with Value at Risk (VAR) models)."

That is as asserting that the fat tails are truncating the distribution (fat they may be but they are also sharp). English does not support nested prepositional phrases. The sentence can be made comprehensible using standard English by adding the word "by" -- just two letters as in

Consider the practicalities of trying to explain, and prove, to a judge that the properietary model understates risk by assuming a normal distribution when in fact the tails are unusually fat and by truncating the distribution at 95%] (which is still common with Value at Risk (VAR) models).

Which is unambiguously

Consider the practicalities of trying to explain, and prove, [to a judge] that the properietary model understates risk ((by assuming a normal distribution [when in fact the tails are unusually fat])) and ]by truncating the distribution at 95%] (which is still common with Value at Risk (VAR) models).

So then I say WHHHHHAAATTTTTT they truncate the tails in Value at Risk models !?!!?!?!! You have got to be kidding me !!?!!?!?!! The whole point of assessing risk is to avoid going bankrupt when one of the fat but sharp tails slashes your equity. This has to be a joke right ????

Back to English

"Then add in trying to explain why the negative convexity of the implied prepayment option in (U.S.) mortgage instruments"

In English "negative convexity" is called "concavity" just as "negative up" is called "down". Now I think I understand what Black means. The value of the implied prepayment option is a convex function of an underlying variable (an interest rate -- I want to repay if I can refinance at a lower rate). This convexity is negative for the owner of the mortgage bond, because the bank have written the options. The value of the mortgage bond is therefore concave in the interest rate. This means really low interest rates hurt bondholders as the value of the option they have given to homeowners increases. Also really high interest rates are, as always, bad for bondholders because the bonds are long term nominal assets.

Look, if you even think of trying to explain these things to a judge, you have to learn how to avoid nested prepositional phrases and newly invented phrases like "negative convexity" which cause negative clarification.

This is important, because Black does indeed have the goods on McCain and he better learn how to explain himself to voters who are less attentive than judges and maybe even to journalists (a negative probability event ?).
Chainsaw and Red Tape now with actual Red !


Thank you anonymous who told me that there was this photo at Economics of Contempt a blog written by an anonymous lawyer economist in Florida.
A Telling Picture about US Political Economy


From Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels' new book, soon to be released.via Dani Rodrik via Mark Thoma

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Better Living Through Chemistry

I actually believe that the commonly used preservatives BHA and BHT are good for our health. I am not being willfully contrarian. The idea that anti-oxidants (preservatives) may prevent cancer and heart disease is almost conventional (although unproven last I checked). For some reason, it is widely believed (especially among non biologists) that this means that natural anti-oxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C are healthy, but it is know that artificial anti-oxidants such as BHA and BHT are dangerous.

Lots of junk below. I will quote some especially interesting bits

[Cancer Research 44, 134-138, January 1, 1984]
© 1984 American Association for Cancer Research

Wasyl Sydor, Jr.2, Katherine F. Lewis and Chung S. Yang3

"Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a commonly used food additive with demonstrated inhibitory action against chemical carcinogenesis in animals."

Cardiovasc Res. 2007 Apr 1;74(1):169-79. Epub 2007 Jan 27.Click here to read Links
Butylated hydroxyanisole stimulates heme oxygenase-1 gene expression and inhibits neointima formation in rat arteries.

"BHA represents a potentially novel therapeutic agent in treating or preventing vasculoproliferative disease."

[Cancer Research 42, 1199-1204, April 1, 1982]

Effect of Butylated Hydroxyanisole, {alpha}-Angelica Lactone, and ß-Naphthoflavone on Benzo({alpha})pyrene:DNA Adduct Formation in Vivo in the Forestomach, Lung, and Liver of Mice
Y. M. Ioannou1, A. G. E. Wilson2 and M. W. Anderson3

The inhibition of BPDEI:DNA and BPDEII:DNA adduct formation by {alpha}-AL, BHA, and ß-NF is discussed in relation to similar studies where these compounds inhibited BP-induced neoplasia.

Dietary agents ... are thought to prevent cancer by enhancing elimination of chemical carcinogens. The present study shows that compounds of this group (benzyl isothiocyanate, allyl sulfide, dimethyl fumarate, butylated hydroxyanisole)


If this occurs in vivo, diets high in such compounds could eliminate precancerous cells by apoptosis at time points well after initial exposure to chemical mutagens and carcinogens.

Intake of butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene and stomach cancer risk: results from analyses in the Netherlands Cohort Study

"A statistically non-significant decrease in stomach cancer risk was observed with increasing BHA and BHT intake"

OK now all the junk.
Lets go to google scholar.

google scholar Butylated AND hydroxyanisole AND health

Safety Assessment of Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene as Antioxidant Food Additives

G. M. Williamsa, *, M. J. Iatropoulosa and J. Whysnera
a Department of Pathology, New York Medical College, American Health Foundation Valhalla, New York, 10595, USA

Available online 10 January 2000.

Food and Chemical Toxicology
Volume 37, Issues 9-10, 10 September 1999, Pages 1027-1038


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are widely used antioxidant food additives. They have been extensively studied for potential toxicities. This review details experimental studies of genotoxicity and carcinogenicity which bear on cancer hazard assessment of exposure to humans. We conclude that BHA and BHT pose no cancer hazard and, to the contrary, may be anticarcinogenic at current levels of food additive use.

Actually 2nd hit is relevant too

Cancer Lett. 1995 Jun 29;93(1):49-54.Click here

Phenolic antioxidants: Health Protection Branch studies on butylated hydroxyanisole.
Iverson F.

Toxicology Research Division, Health Protection Branch, Ottawa, Ont.

Synthetic phenolic antioxidants have been added to foods for decades to retard the autooxidation of lipid that leads to rancidity. The major antioxidants, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), are used in foods world wide. Recent studies suggest that BHA, and perhaps BHT, are carcinogenic to rodents. International efforts, including those at the HPB in Ottawa Canada, have helped place the results of the chronic rodent studies into perspective. It seems likely that the neoplastic effects observed at very high dietary levels of BHA and BHT occur only after effective biological defense mechanisms are overloaded. The renewed interest in the toxicity of phenols is beneficial to an understanding of the complex biological effects of naturally occurring phenolics, including reduction of the levels of reactive oxygen species that are associated with various disease states in an aging human population.

Intake of butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene and stomach cancer risk: results from analyses in the Netherlands Cohort Study

A. A. M. Botterweck1, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, H. Verhagen 2, †, R. A. Goldbohm3, J. Kleinjans4 and P. A. van den Brandt1

Accepted 17 October 1999. Available online 25 August 2000.


Both carcinogenic and anticarcinogenic properties have been reported for the synthetic antioxidants butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). The association between dietary intake of BHA and BHT and stomach cancer risk was investigated in the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS) that started in 1986 among 120,852 men and women aged 55 to 69 years. A semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire was used to assess food consumption. Information on BHA or BHT content of cooking fats, oils, mayonnaise and other creamy salad dressings and dried soups was obtained by chemical analysis, a Dutch database of food additives (ALBA) and the Dutch Compendium of Foods and Diet Products. After 6.3 years of follow-up, complete data on BHA and BHT intake of 192 incident stomach cancer cases and 2035 subcohort members were available for case-cohort analysis. Mean intake of BHA or BHT among subcohort members was 105 and 351 μg/day, respectively. For consumption of mayonnaise and other creamy salad dressings with BHA or BHT no association with stomach cancer risk was observed. A statistically non-significant decrease in stomach cancer risk was observed with increasing BHA and BHT intake [rate ratio (RR) highest/lowest intake of BHA=0.57 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.25–1.30] and BHT=0.74 (95% CI: 0.38–1.43). In this study, no significant association with stomach cancer risk was found for usual intake of low levels of BHA and BHT.

I'm honest and note this even if it is old

Journal of Nutrition Vol. 108 No. 11 November 1978, pp. 1858-1867
Copyright © 1978 by American Society for Nutrition
Vitamin E, Antioxidants and Lipid Peroxidation in Experimental Atherosclerosis of Rabbits1
Robert B. Wilson, Charles C. Middleton2 and Grace Y. Sun2

Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, and Sinclair Comparative Medicine Research Farm, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65201

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of large amounts of dietary vitamin E and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) in rabbits fed a low-cholesterol, atherogenic diet, and to seek for evidence of lipid peroxidation in the atherosclerotic lesions. Rabbits were fed a purified atherogenic diet, containing butter or the basal diet supplemented with either 1.0% of vitamin E or 0.1% each of BHA and BHT for periods up to 3 years; a negative control group was fed the basal diet with corn oil replacing butter. Aortic and coronary atherosclerosis were more frequent and extensive in rabbits fed either the basal diet or the basal diet supplemented with BHA and BHT than in rabbits fed either the basal diet supplemented with vitamin E or the negative control diet. Dietary vitamin E inhibited atherogenesis by preventing hypercholesterolemia. No evidence of lipid peroxidation was detected in the artieral lesions.

This is more recent Money quote "BHA represents a potentially novel therapeutic agent in treating or preventing vasculoproliferative disease."

: Cardiovasc Res. 2007 Apr 1;74(1):169-79. Epub 2007 Jan 27.Click here to read Links
Butylated hydroxyanisole stimulates heme oxygenase-1 gene expression and inhibits neointima formation in rat arteries.
Liu XM, Azam MA, Peyton KJ, Ensenat D, Keswani AN, Wang H, Durante W.

Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65212, USA.

OBJECTIVE: Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a synthetic phenolic compound that is a potent inducer of phase II genes. Since heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is a vasoprotective protein that is upregulated by phase II inducers, the present study examined the effects of BHA on HO-1 gene expression and vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation. METHODS: The regulation of HO-1 gene expression and vascular cell growth by BHA was studied in cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells and in balloon injured rat carotid arteries. RESULTS: Treatment of cultured smooth muscle cells with BHA stimulated the expression of HO-1 protein, mRNA and promoter activity in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. BHA-mediated HO-1 expression was dependent on the activation of NF-E2-related factor-2 by p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. BHA also inhibited cell cycle progression and DNA synthesis in an HO-1-dependent manner. In addition, the local perivascular delivery of BHA immediately after arterial injury of rat carotid arteries induced HO-1 protein expression and markedly attenuated neointima formation. CONCLUSIONS: These studies demonstrate that BHA stimulates HO-1 gene expression in vascular smooth muscle cells, and that the induction of HO-1 contributes to the antiproliferative actions of this phenolic antioxidant. BHA represents a potentially novel therapeutic agent in treating or preventing vasculoproliferative disease.

an article translated from Slovak (give me a break you have your own country but you share a language with the Czecks)

"The protective effect of butylhydroxyanisole was demonstrated to be statistically significant in the examination of the extent of atheromatous changes in arterioles."

J Alzheimers Dis. 2008 Feb;13(1):31-8.Click here to read Links
Nutritional Biomarkers in Alzheimer's Disease: The Association between Carotenoids, n-3 Fatty Acids, and Dementia Severity.
Wang W, Shinto L, Connor WE, Quinn JF.

Department of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.

Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants that may protect polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as n-3 fatty acids from oxidation, and are potentially important for Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevention and treatment.


These findings suggest targeting multiple specific nutrients, lutein, beta-carotene, and DHA in strategies to slow the rate of cognitive decline.

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2008 Feb;7(1):3-10.Click here to read Links
Alzheimer disease and the role of free radicals in the pathogenesis of the disease.
Moreira PI, Santos MS, Oliveira CR, Shenk JC, Nunomura A, Smith MA, Zhu X, Perry G.

College of Sciences, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas 78249, USA.

Oxidative stress occurs early in the progression of Alzheimer disease, significantly before the development of the pathologic hallmarks, neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques.

So what about carcinogenisis

Food Chem Toxicol. 1994 Mar;32(3):215-22.Click here to read Links
Dose response of promotion by butylated hydroxyanisole in chemically initiated tumours of the rat forestomach.
Whysner J, Wang CX, Zang E, Iatropoulos MJ, Williams GM.

Division of Pathology and Toxicology, American Health Foundation, Valhalla, NY 10595.

The antioxidant food preservative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) was tested in an initiation-promotion protocol in which male F344 rats (6 wk old), 27 per group, were gavaged with a single dose of 200 mg N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG)/kg. After 3 wk on control diet, test diets containing 0, 60, 300, 1000, 3000, 6000 or 12,000 ppm BHA were fed until termination of the experiment at approximately 110 wk, at which time most animals had died with stomach tumours. MNNG caused a high incidence of tumours in the glandular stomach and forestomach of all groups. Administration of 12,000 and 6000 ppm BHA, but not 3000 ppm or lower doses, caused statistically significant increases in the time-related incidence of MNNG-induced forestomach tumours as analyzed by life table analysis. BHA had no effect on the incidence of tumours in the glandular stomach or oesophagus. Tumour incidences in other organs were not related to BHA dose. No increase in hyperplasia in the oesophagus was evident in the high-dose BHA-treated animals compared with the MNNG-only group. This study provides corroboration that BHA affects only forestomach tumorigenesis and that the dose for enhancement of tumorigenesis is at least 1500-fold greater than human exposure.



Cancer Research 49, 1357-1360, March 15, 1989]
© 1989 American Association for Cancer Research

Effect of Butylated Hydroxyanisole Pretreatment on Aflatoxin B1-DNA Binding and Aflatoxin B1-Glutathione Conjugation in Isolated Hepatocytes from Rats1
Eun-Chung Jhee2, Ling Ling Ho, Kojiro Tsuji, Prathima Gopalan and Prabhakar D. Lotlikar3

"It appears that the induced cytosolic GSH S-transferases after BHA treatment of rats play a significant role in inhibiting hepatic AFB1-DNA binding and AFB1 hepatocarcinogenesis presumably by inactivation of the reactive AFB1-epoxide."

[Cancer Research 44, 134-138, January 1, 1984]
© 1984 American Association for Cancer Research

Wasyl Sydor, Jr.2, Katherine F. Lewis and Chung S. Yang3

Department of Biochemistry, New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey 07103

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a commonly used food additive with demonstrated inhibitory action against chemical carcinogenesis in animals. In order to elucidate the mechanism of the anticarcinogenic action, the effects of BHA on benzo(a)pyrene (BP) metabolism were studied with lung microsomes from female mice. BHA treatment (0.5% in the diet for 7 days) inhibited BP metabolism and altered the ratios among different metabolites as analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. The treatment reduced the metabolic formation of 9,10-dihydroxy-9,10-dihydrobenzo(a)pyrene, but not the production of 3-hydroxybenzo(a)pyrene and trans-4,5-dihydroxy-4,5-dihydrobenzo(a)pyrene. Since the gross microsomal cytochrome P-450 content was not significantly affected by the treatment, the change of regioselectivity in BP metabolism was probably due to the alteration of cytochrome P-450 isozyme composition by dietary BHA. General and regioselective inhibition of BP metabolism was also observed when BHA was added to the lung microsomal incubation mixture. The formation of 9,10-dihydroxy-9,10-dihydrobenzo(a)pyrene and 9-hydroxybenzo(a)pyrene was inhibited more severely than that of trans-4,5-dihydroxy-4,5-dihydrobenzo(a)pyrene and trans-7,8-dihydroxy-7,8-dihydrobenzo(a)pyrene, but the production of 3-hydroxybenzo(a)pyrene was not inhibited. Dietary BHA treatment also decreased the microsomal metabolism of trans-7,8-dihydroxy-7,8-dihydrobenzo(a)pyrene to n-7,t-8-dihydroxy-t-9,10-oxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene and r-7,t-8-dihydroxy-c-9,10-oxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene. Considering that the former diol-epoxide is a suspected ultimate carcinogen, the observed inhibitions of BP metabolism in the formation of diolepoxides may be closely related to the anticarcinogenic action of BHA.

1 This work was supported by Grant CA-28298 from the National Cancer Institute.

2 Present address: Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, Nutley, N. J. 07110.

(Journal of Nutrition. 1999;129:1827-1835.)
Dietary Compounds That Induce Cancer Preventive Phase 2 Enzymes Activate Apoptosis at Comparable Doses in HT29 Colon Carcinoma Cells1
Ward G. Kirlin*,{dagger}, Jiyang Cai*, Mary J. DeLong**,{ddagger}, Emma J. Patten**,{ddagger} and Dean P. Jones*,{ddagger}2

Dietary agents that induce glutathione S-transferases and related detoxification systems (Phase 2 enzyme inducers) are thought to prevent cancer by enhancing elimination of chemical carcinogens. The present study shows that compounds of this group (benzyl isothiocyanate, allyl sulfide, dimethyl fumarate, butylated hydroxyanisole) activated apoptosis in human colon carcinoma (HT29) cells in culture over the same concentration ranges that elicited increases in enzyme activity (5–25, 25–100, 10–100, 15–60 µmol/L, respectively). Pretreatment of cells with sodium butyrate, an agent that induces HT29 cell differentiation, resulted in parallel increases in Phase 2 enzyme activities and induction of apoptosis in response to the inducers. Cell death characteristics included apoptotic morphological changes, appearance of cells at sub-G1 phase on flow cytometry, caspase activation, DNA fragmentation and TUNEL-positive staining. The results suggest that dietary Phase 2 inducers may protect against cancer by a mechanism distinct from and in addition to that associated with enhanced elimination of carcinogens. If this occurs in vivo, diets high in such compounds could eliminate precancerous cells by apoptosis at time points well after initial exposure to chemical mutagens and carcinogens.
I love Ezra Klein's posts on Food and his Posts on the Environment but I am very puzzled by this post on food and the environment.

My comment

You write " food ... more sustainable, organic, ... more healthful." This is not the first time that you assert or suggest in this blog that organically grown food is more healthful than food grown with the use of synthetic organic chemicals.

Are you aware of any evidence that supports this claim ? I am not.

Also what is wrong with farmed Salmon ? I consider it more green to raise fish then kill them than to depopulate the Oceans. I think that, in practice, is the alternative we face.

Also fish farms in the open ocean (which don't exist but could) would reduce global warming by enriching the ocean with nutrients (what the vulgar call fish shit) leading to growth of more phytoplankton and more carbon containing detritus falling to the bottom of the sea for the indefinite future.

I mean why is the Earth so much cooler than Venus. It's not because Carbon is sequestered as coal or petroleum or even as wood. It is because carbon is in limestone which once was phytoplankton and whose production depends critically on phosphorus (or maybe nitrogen) in the open ocean.

That which is very destructive in a harbor or bay (where actual fish farms exist) is beneficial in the open ocean.

To be green, I think the question is not what to do but where to do it.
Bush administration banking deregulation plan which suddenly became a banking re-regulation plan after the crisis, would drastically reduce the regulatory powers of the Federal Reserve Board -- the one regulatory agency which they don't control and which brought neither pruning sheers nor a chain saw to deal with banking regulation.

banking regulators and bankers

Sort of like the surplus reduction tax cuts which turned into recession and deficit fighting tax cuts in 2001.

knock me over with a wrecking ball.


Hey kids have you ever seen a wrecking ball ? They aren't used much anymore, but I remember one (not this one) from my childhood. For some reason it always comes to my mind when I think of George W. Bush (secret service please disregard this post)