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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Imported Trolls

My posts never have as many comments as I would like (I don't even get much spam). I am a guest blogger over at Over there, we/they have plenty of commenters including trolls. I am importing a thread to comment on comments here on my homiest home turf. I add my labels in () to refer to comments.

Angry Bear PGL wrote a post on Mike Wooten the ex brother in law of Sarah Palin who is probably not enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. PGL concludes "this issue here is not whether Wooten is some sort of saint – he’s not. The issue is the unethical behavior of Governor Palin."

Comments begin with CoRev

Wow! Now we're up to six PGL anti-Palin smear articles. Why?
CoRev | Homepage | 08.31.08 - 7:06 am | (CoRev 1)

So when will PGL come acknowledge the issue about Obama's citizenship?

Remember, this is another Democrat filing the suit.

"Wow! Now we're up to six PGL anti-Palin smear articles. Why?"

Because he is a dishonest leftist. Lying and raping and corrupt government are cool if Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy do it, but not Republicans.
dmarek | 08.31.08 - 7:36 am | (dmarek)

OK here dmarek comes close to being a commenter whose banning I would support. His argument contra PGL is pure ad hominem. He clearly slanders Ted Kennedy who has never been accused of rape. I'd say he also slanders Bill Clinton who was accused *after* his impeachment by Anita Brodderick who presented no evidence and did not explain why she waited until it was clear that non perjury and alleged obstuction of justice weren't going to be enough to get Clinton to come up with her accusation. DMarek changed the subject and, worse, changed it to the Clenis (casually adding the completely unsupported accusation against Kennedy) in order to attack the character of PGL rather than respond to his arguments. He also tosses in another red herring about Obama's citizenship which has not been questioned even by other wing nuts (they ask if he is US born which he is as proven by a birth certificate (did Lincoln present such proof) and is not legally relevant as demonstrated by the case of John McCain who was certainly not born in the USA not that it matters.

Now I suppose one could just ignore DMarek if one were more self disciplined than I am, but he is rude, lowers the level of debate and is clearly not interested in contributing anything to the discussion of the topic.

Non troll comment.

2slugbaits feeding the troll.


Obama is a citizen. He is a natural born citizen. The only candidate in this race who was not born in the United States is John McCain. You see, John McCain flunked geography when he was a kid and he thinks the Panama Canal Zone is one of the 50 states.
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 8:27 am | #

2slugbaits replied to DMarek's crazy off topic allegation. A constructive contribution to an irrelevant debate. Shows it is hard to ignore even the most blatant trolls (even for people other than Robert Waldmann).

Can we have the troll dmarek moderated? His lies pollute every thread he posts on.
Joel | 08.31.08 - 8:36 am | #

Good question. I think the word "lies" is completely justified by the allegation that Ted Kennedy is a rapist -- this is supported by absolutely zero evidence even counting obvious lies in the first person as evidence.ù

"John McCain flunked geography when he was a kid and he thinks the Panama Canal Zone is one of the 50 states."

Having perhaps our next President being confused about the geography of Latin America doesn't worry me. That John McCain is confused about the geography of the Middle East does worry me.
pgl | 08.31.08 - 8:58 am | #

Are you referring to Baghdad being the capital of Iran, or are you referring to the Iraq/Pakistan border?
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 9:05 am | #

A cheap shot. The reference to the non-existent Iraq/Pakistan border was clearly a slip of the tongue.

Non troll, non troll feeding non troll bait comment.

Let's see, Palin goes on a campaign, to have what to some is a out of control State trooper, fired. A trooper who she and her family were very close, so had heard many more of his ?stories? than any investigative bodies. A trooper who was admittedly punished for making a threat to shoot his father-in-law. Most of which happened before she was Governor.

Let me pose this question. Would you like such a trooper in your jurisdiction? Protecting you from people, umh - err, like himself?
CoRev | Homepage | 08.31.08 - 9:59 am | #

I would consider this neither being a troll nor arguing convincingly. It is on topic and reasoned. It is not convincing, because it assumes (doesn't argue assumes) that relatives are best qualified to judge relatives as they have more expertise. The more widespread view is that relatives have a conflict of interest and should recuse themselves. The view which CoRev dismisses without argument is rarely debated, because it is generally considered obvious and expressed in law and centuries of judicial practice (basically every recusal there has ever been). I'd like to ask CoRev why he (or she) doesn't support having defendants judged by their mothers who know them better than 12 strangers do.

Also note no reference to the fact that Palin lied about her administrations involvement in the case.

Finally note that only the outcome (Wooten out) counts for CoRev, not the procedure. To me this is bad reasoning. We are trying to figure out what Palin would do as President (like Palin I don't know exactly what the Vice President does except wait (Cheney excepted)). We find that she intervenes when she has a personal interest in a matter, lies about it and fires apparently qualified people who aren't "Loyal" that is to say who don't obey improper requests. These aspects of the case are more useful for predicting the future than are the faults of Wooten (note PGL started the discussion of Wooten before arguing that facts about him matter little to voters' upcoming decisions)

I'd classify the argument as ridiculous special pleading. I can't believe that CoRev would have made such an absurd argument if not motivated by partisanship. However, an extremely bad argument can be useful as it makes us think about what is wrong with the argument.

So disagreeing with the poster check
bad reasoning check
special pleading check
outspoken check

a Troll ? absolutely not. Trolldom has nothing to do with the aspects of CoRev's comment (as perceived by me) listed above.

non troll, troll feeding or troll bait comment.

Do you want your next VP to come from a state where such behavior is rather typical? Where dad goes off moose hunting with the oh-so-excellent trooper Wooten? Really, she looks pretty and all, but she's been governor of 600K Alaskans for less than two years, and she has stated that she is committed to furthering the interests of Alaska while in office. McCain is no spring chicken. I'll pass on the possibility of Palin being my president.
bk | 08.31.08 - 10:04 am | #

I've deleted more than one bk comment above for excessive reasonableness, but this is getting close to troll bait. For one thing there are more than 600K Alaskans. The claim about what Palin has stated should be supported with a link etc.


I don't see much new material. But Keep on shaking that tree if you must.
Aaron | 08.31.08 - 10:21 am | #

Way not at all a trollish comment.


Palin lied about her involvement in trying to get the trooper fired. She also intervened to get the results of an internal investigation reversed. She's Nixon Redux.
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 10:38 am | #


Palin never lied. She never got an TV and wagged her finger at the camera saying "I never tried to get the trooper fired".

And the benchmark today for a president that lies is Bill Clinton, not Nixon.
Aaron | 08.31.08 - 11:42 am | #


She lied and the audio recordings prove that she lied.
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 12:07 pm | #

2slugbaits is right

Palin, who has previously said her administration didn't exert pressure to get rid of trooper Mike Wooten, also disclosed that members of her staff had made about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about the trooper.

Palin now claims that she didn't know about 2 dozen calls from members of her staff which she had incorrectly claimed never occurred. The claim that she lied is not proven, beyond reasonable doubt in the sense that, even if she had been under oath she should not be convicted of perjury , but it is a fair summary of the evidence.

Aaron gets a point off for the irrelevant Clenis reference. Still he is being sloppy about facts which were very obscure until recently and not being a troll.
I'd offer some friendly advice for Aaron -- check the facts before making definite claims on points of fact. You have certainly lost all credibility over at AngryBear, because of your sloppiness. You can still argue there but google before you type (and give links).

***Let me pose this question. Would you like such a trooper in your jurisdiction? Protecting you from people, umh - err, like himself?***

No, but if the guy were my Brother in Law, I'd have the good sense to recuse myself from any involvement in government handling the affair. I suspect that in the same position you would also. Trust me CoRev, this country does NOT need a Vice President who is dumber than you and I are.
vtcodger | 08.31.08 - 12:52 pm | #

See what I mean about how bad non troll arguments lead to valid interesting counter arguments.

Non troll link to a poll by Sammy.

Yes Aaron LIED when he asserted that Palin did not lie but that's not as bad as this spin from CoRev:

"Let's see, Palin goes on a campaign, to have what to some is a out of control State trooper, fired. A trooper who she and her family were very close"

Wooten and Palin's sister were going through a bitter divorce. CoRev knows this but tries to spin it otherwise. CoRev - if you have to be so dishonest to participate in a discussion, might I suggest that you don't participate.

The way the trolls here lie to defend abuse of power, I have to wonder if they were party of Tricky Dick's gang in a former life.
pgl | 08.31.08 - 1:42 pm | #

Uh oh, pgl is a fellow angry bear. To air dirty linen in public
1) Aaron's claim was false, but there is no reason to believe he knew it to be false (not like Palin's claim which was probably to almost certainly a lie). Accusing Aaron of lying is not helpful. Also ALL CAPS ???

CoRev is spinning. This is not lying either. I mean Aaron and CoRev are leading with their chins, there is no need to call them trolls or accuse them of lying.

Sammy - I'd like to see that poll once the press starts reporting on TrooperGate!
pgl | 08.31.08 - 1:43 pm | #


If you think "Troopergate" will derail her, you are indeed deranged. Early-onset Palin Derangement Syndrome!!!!

You need to "Dan Quayle" her, that has a chance of working.
sammy | 08.31.08 - 1:58 pm | #

If you think Troopergate shouldn't derail her then you have to be deranged...or almost as bad, just a red team cheerleader. What she did is far more corrupting than the kind of run-of-the-mill payola corruption that plagues the rest of the Alaskan GOP. This is Nixonian. She used her political power to even up personal grudges.
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 2:12 pm | #


If you think Troopergate shouldn't derail her then you have to be deranged

OK why did Sammy introduce the word "deranged" to the thread ? How can that be helpful ? I disagree on the issue as I think that Palin's lies will be demonstrated (Monegan has e-mails which he has handed over to the investigators). Worse the investigation is scheduled to be completed in late October. This isn't about Wootin or even Monegan, it is about lying, conflict of interest (oh and using the state AG for personal reasons to run a investigation of what the official investigation will find).

You're not voting for our guy, so your advice is noted and dismissed.
Aaron | 08.31.08 - 2:31 pm | #

I don't find the referenced advice. My inclination to oppose banning Aaron is reduced (but not eliminated) by the fact that he declares he is uninterested in listening to Democrats (so why is he at AngryBear ?).

On experience and termperment Barak Obama is a bit of a joke. Sarah Palin has more executive experience then Obama, more experience on energy, and since international affairs are likely to have energy supplies as a key component, her work in the pipeline gives her incites on the major issues of international politics. Incites that Barak Obama does not have.

If you want a guy to create a midnight basketball program in the South side of Chicago then maybe Barak is your guy, but Palen played basketball too, and she was pretty good at it.

So you can flip a coin to choosewho is more qualified to be vice president between Palin and Obama. But I vote mainly for the number one slot on the ticket and that's John McCain.
Aaron | 08.31.08 - 2:40 pm | #

This, in contrast, is another interestingly bad argument. The rhetorical trick is to attempt to link experience and temperament with the feeble approach of putting the word "and" between them. Obama has little experience. His choosing a vice presidential candidate after talking to her for 20 minutes total shows that John McCain has a temperament totally unsuited to the Presidency.

A more plausible false linkage would be say "age and maturity". Again an invalid argument as McCain is older than Obama but he doesn't seem to be mature at all. One could argue who is more mature (to me it is obvious that Obama is more mature) but an assertion without any evidence or argument is dumb.

The South Side basketball reference is borderline racist. It is, again, dumb. Obama has presented highly detailed policy proposals -- we can judge his ability to interact with experts. He has debated and debated and debated with experienced senators and top flight lawyers. He hasn't embarassed himself in a debate yet (IIRC) he is clearly extremely smart *and* knowledgable. Simply asserting otherwise is useful in a TV ad but not sensible in a comment thread, because there at Angrybear there are people who know the facts and have a way to argue back.


If McCain wins, then it becomes everyone's problem, not just your guy's problem.

BTW, the Washington Post has just sent two of its reporters to Alaska to work this issue full time. Can the NYTs be far behind? Perhaps they smell blood in the water. Once again those audio tapes are coming back to haunt a corrupt GOP politician.
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 2:40 pm | #


her work in the pipeline gives her incites on the major issues of international politics. Incites that Barak Obama does not have.

Your twice over Freudian slip proves my point. You're right, she will "incite" international issues in a way that Obama won't. I quite agree.

As to McCain being knowledgeable in foreign affairs, does this mean he now knows that there is no common border between Iraq and Pakistan? Has he figured out that Baghdad is not the capital of Iran? What will he do without Lieberman at his side to correct all of his gaffes?
2slugbaits | 08.31.08 - 2:45 pm | #

As narrow and rigid as the Republican party is, one would have to be a cardboard cutout not to be a maverick in it. I think she will strengthen support from the social and cultural base of the party but I don't see any appeal beyond that. Her own policies don't matter much since she just has to become a mouthpiece for McCain, and since he doesn't have many policies, there is not too much for her to learn. It does leave McCain without any economic credentials since she is at most his understudy. I wonder is she is as gaffe prone as McCain. Could be amusing.
Lord | 08.31.08 - 3:09 pm | #

Now I get it. Not having read most threads, I was puzzled to read e-mails from angry bears concerned about a possible troll infestation. OK I see we have at least one troll here -- dmarek.

Now I think the best thing to do is ignore him or her as all but one commenter up thread has done. I wouldn't actually have any problem with banning dmarek (and I am a free speech fanatic). I will try to explain at my blog,, why I think dmarek may have crossed a line which Aaron and corev didn't cross (at least not in this thread).

The few regular readers of my blog will not be pleased to learn that I rank posts there below comments here, but, hey, I do, this comment is already over long and off topic and it will be very long before I am done.
Robert Waldmann | Homepage | 08.31.08 - 3:41 pm | #

OK I still think that Aaron is not a troll. He makes on topic arguments. He isn't any ruder than the people who argue with him (a high standard). His arguments can't stand up to criticism, and he makes them in a setting where they will be criticized. This doesn't lower the level of debate, since Aaron's arguments are similar to those made by the McCain campaign in settings where they don't face the devastating counter arguments.

I have no idea what Aaron's motivation is, but I don't think he is trolling. Does he enjoy losing debates ? does he think he is convincing anyone ? I don't know but I'd say he is so useful that if he didn't exist we would have to invent him.
Strange Doctrines formerly known as meta and meta (half and half)

A strange and very nice blog whose author, Michael Drake, just blogrolled me. If you don't click the link I will go on strike (is that a threat or a promise?).

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Campaign Emergency Room

John Goodman has a proposal to end the problem of uninsured people in the USA

Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)

“So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime,” Mr. Goodman said. “The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care. “So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved.”

The McCain campaign denied that Goodman was a McCain adviser unpaid or otherwise. When asked by TNR's Jonathan Cohn why he was identified as a McCain adviser in the byline to a Wall Street Journal op ed (an official source on whose who among Republicans and conservatives) the campaign argued, in substance that

Earlier this summer the campaign informed Mr. Goodman that his advice was not required and requested that he not identify himself as being associated with the campaign in any way, including as a volunteer.

This makes me wonder exactly how much ealier. Five minutes before the McCain campaign e-mailed Cohn would indeed be "earlier this summer" as well as "earlier today" and "earlier this millenium". Did they dumb him before or after he stepped in it ? Enquiring minds want to know.

From Comments OK from comment as there is only one which I quote here in full

Bruce Webb has left a new comment on your post "McCain Campaign Emergency Room John Goodman has a...":

Plus what is this about 'insurer of last resort'? The government does mandate that hospital emergency rooms treat all who show up, but it certainly doesn't pick up the tab. Instead the patient will be dunned for all costs until they are driven into bankruptcy or at a minimum lose all credit.

The price of taking your kid to the emergency room if you have no way to pay may well end up with you not being able to pass a credit check to rent an apartment in the future, or buy a car, or given the insurance industry's new found reliance on pricing insurance depending on credit rating, being able to minimally insure the beater you are now driving.

This guy is either divorced from ordinarily reality or so uncaring as to be practically sociopathic. Why not just wave away hunger on the basis that most towns have food banks and/or unlocked dumpsters behind the supermarket?

I might add that emergency rooms are required to treat patients only until they are "stabilized." A physician who happens to be my mother told me (without naming the patient or violating confidientiality) that in one case this consisted of using an ACE bandage to treat a broken foot. The ER doc had said surgery was needed before finding out that the patient was uninsured. My mom works for the county and takes care of uninsured patients with HIV.

update II: Minds think alike

Paul Krugman writes "But now that there’s a stink, the campaign says that he hasn’t been advising them since “earlier this summer.” (How much earlier?) "
Brad DeLong agrees with Matthew Yglesias

This tends to uhm strongly suggest that they are both right, but I beg to differ.

The question is whether the Gallup tracking poll fluctuations which totally control my mood are due to sampling error alone. I say no.

Brad writes something along the lines of "yes" or "don't panic"

You can't back out daily polls but you can test the null that true opinion hasn't changed. for non overlapping polls this is easy. variance of Obama - McCain in one poll is around 1/3000 (less than 1/(sample size) because some people are undecided so the correlation of "for Obama" and "for McCain" is not exactly -1). Var of dif of dif is about 1/1500 so se of dif of dif is about 2.7% (just tried to calculate a square root in my head).

With one day overlap you can calculate the change in 2 day averages (3/2)(change in 3 day as one day is the same). So about 10% convention bounce so far. sample sizes only around 1800 so var dif around 1/2000 so var dif of dif around 1/1000 se around 3.2% so change over 3 standard deviations. The evidence of a convention bounce (including Michelle and Hillary but not Bill and Joe) is statistically significant.

People do change their minds based on cheering Germans, dumb dumber dumbest negative ads and party conventions. Those people might be so flighty that there is no way to guess what the hell they will do on election day, but they do exist.

"Normal fluctuations which you shouldn't have a cow about because they tell you virtually nothing about who will be elected" and "fluctuations due to sampling error" are not synonymous statements.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John McCain is Doubling Down, Upping the Ante, Playing Double or Nothing but at least he isn't and Metaphrs

From the now famous Time interview

"You were a very enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq and, in the early stages, of the Bush Administration's handling of the war. Are those judgments you'd like to revisit?
Well, my record is clear. I believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I believe it's clear that he had every intention to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. [snip]

Before the war McCain claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he might give them to terrorists. Now that it is known that he had no weapons of mass destruction, McCain claims that "it's clear that he had every intention to ... use weapons of mass destruction". Much less supporting evidence implies a much stronger claim.

I think I understand what is going on. To McCain frankness and uhm "leadership ability" is shown by pushing back. He often makes absurd claims when challenged (got to watch that during the debates Senator -- I doubt I'm the only one who has noticed). Also thousands of US lives, hundreds of thousands or Iraqi lives and hundreds of billions of dollars later, the war is a harder sell and more absurd claims are needed.

The bit about Saddam Hussein attempting to acquire WMD is actually more absurd than the claim which I didn't elide. WMD include chemical and biological weapons which, we know, Saddam could acquire, because he had acquired them before destroying them. No one thought that his capacity to make such weapons had been eliminated (nor had it been eliminated if you count what was counted as WMD).

Most people correctly focus on the news that James Carney and Michael Scherer asked toughish questions, that McCain was rude in response *and* that Time played the story as "McCain has changed" and didn't let it slide off the teflon. Still I think it is also worth noting the non news that he is still insane.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Interesting Article Discovering What Al Gore Said Last Month

In today's New York Times Matthew Wald notes that US ability to use wind and solar power is restrained by the limits of the US power grid. He quotes many people describing this problem notably not including Al Gore who appears only as someone with expansive dreams who seems to be involved with keeping a dirty little secret.

Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

O so the limits of the grid are an argument against Al Gore ? He's real famous, if it's a dirty little secret he must be keeping it secret. Now I thought that Gore stressed the need for an improved grid. One minute of googling later (first try googled :al Gore electric grid 4th hit)

Al Gore July 17 2008

To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. At present, for example, we do not have a unified national grid that is sufficiently advanced to link the areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity. Our national electric grid is critical infrastructure, as vital to the health and security of our economy as our highways and telecommunication networks. Today, our grids are antiquated, fragile, and vulnerable to cascading failure. Power outages and defects in the current grid system cost US businesses more than $120 billion dollars a year. It has to be upgraded anyway.

Of course Gore stressed the need to upgrade the grid as something that would require public action and, probably, federal intervention (at least with subsidies). Not only did I find this with my first google search, but it seems to be the post where Al Gore first described his expansive dream which specifically included improving the grid.

Now I understand that it gets boring to write again and again "Al Gore was right and furthermore I just learned things that I could have learned from him if I paid attention" still it seems to me that Matthew Wald risks becoming the Hiroo Onoda of the war on Gore.
Young Duncan Black Falls under the influence of even younger youngsters

Ezra Klein day before yesterday


The convention is packed with reporters, as you might imagine. This is a bad thing. You often hear press types complain about cutbacks and "doing more with less," but there are times when the news media would literally do a better job if there were fewer of them, and they had fewer pages and fewer hours to fill and a smaller campaign travel budget. Since there were thousands of them who needed to justify their Denver junket today, they all hyped up a couple dozen disgruntled Hillary supporters (meanwhile, the platform was adopted without a hitch). Four cameras trained on the stage would have been cheaper, and more informative and reflective of the actual events of the convention, than all the assembled reporters combined. And with the savings, they could have hired 200 news foreign correspondents. As it is, the concentration of journalists ended up distorting the news and giving viewers a wildly hyped understanding of the scene around the convention. Making them stay home and watch it on TV would've been better for everyone.


Posted by Ezra Klein on August 25, 2008 10:00 PM

Atrios Yesterday

Duncan Black

Nobody Needs To Be Here

Just continuing something I've mentioned before, it is really true that there really is no reason for even a small fraction of the press to be here, assuming the purpose of them being here is to inform the public about what's going on at the convention. Media members like to fret about convention coverage, as if the political parties force them all to come here against their will. Then they come here and write stories about how know news is being made here, as if they weren't aware of that fact before hand.

-Atrios 14:18

If you are alert, you already no that the other young whippersnapper is Matthew Yglesias.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why is Richard Cohen so Thin Skinned.

Matthew Yglesias asks. I try to answer

So why are they so thin skinned ?

My number 1 hypothesis is that they are used to dealing with people who are afraid of them. Cohen can’t get back at mr anonymous e-mailer or even ms non-anonymous e-mailer. That scares him.

This reminds me of a weird article criticizing the Obama campaign which quoted Adam Nagourney complaining that they criticized his idiotic “Obama hasn’t healed the racial divide yet” article. He was quoted as saying something like”if you have a problem with something I write, tell me, I’m a big boy I can handle it, but don’t attack me on the web”. Just imagine his reaction if Obama had said that to him in response to a critical article. Nagourney thinks that he is the judge and it is contempt of court to treat him as a defendant or even a lawyer. He believes in public accountability for others but not for himself.

I think that the shear volume of criticism made possible by e-mail is overwhelming. Richard Cohen can’t respond reasonably to all of it.

He could pick 5 complaints at random (at least he could if he were able to use a pseudo random number generator) and respond to them.

There is also, in principle, a distinction between criticism and vilification (and don’t I know it. I live in a country where the constitution declares that there is freedom of speach and the criminal code describes the prison sentences for various kinds of vilification (villipendio)).

Now the reasonable thing to do with vilification is to ignore it (and especially not waste precious space in the Washington Post whining). Also it is tempting to ignore criticism because it is mixed with vilification, even if they are only mixed because they are in the same e-mail inbox.

I think I would understand these people better if they reported some vilification they received (after anonymizing the source of course). I’d really really like that. But I can’t remember the last time a complaint of this source was mixed with evidence (might be this one I haven’t read the op-ed). I would guess that the communist-like vilification isn’t reported, because it is a lot more convincing than a claim that, say, Cohen is an objectively pro-McCain right deviationist. My betcha is that he counts quotes of his op-ed on Powell’s testimony as vilification.
A Villain For Our Time*

Why did Georgia explode just now ? As my 11 year old demands that I find video of the closing ceremony of the Peking Olympics I wonder what moved Russian President Putin Medvedev to have S. Ossets shell Georgian villages provoking the Georgian idiot commander in chief to launch an offensive into South Ossetia.

My current guess is that he wanted to steal the spotlight from Peking. It is bad enough that Russia no longer hopes to be the worlds vanguard, but at least it can hope to be the number one rival of the USA.

*I am reading "A Hero for Our Time" and note that, back in 1840, Russians didn't have much sympathy for Ossets and tended to be a bit casual about the distinction between Ossets and Georgians. Also they were fighting Chechens.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ask and it will already be on the web somewhere

TPM reader JS asks:

I wish team Obama would drive the elitism point home by doing the math on how much of a tax break John and Cindy McCain would get from McCain’s plan vs the avg American (at the US median household income). And then for good measure show what would happen with Obama’s plan.

This would keep the theme of McCain’s elitism and Republican elitist economics in the press for a while longer

Matt Yglesias notes that it is out there (not far from his blog either).

Based on 2006 income and compared to current law, the Think Progress WonkRoom calculates that under McCain prosposes cutting the McCains' taxes by $373,429 (even more than they spend on servants) while Obama proposes cutting the McCains's taxes by only $5,641.

Of course, McCain isn't selfish -- he's willing to share the wealth with people he considers middle class like the Obamas who would save $49,392 under the McCain plan and $6,124 under the Obama plan.

The Obamas' savings would be much higher if the McCain plan were applied to 2007 income as Obama's royalties have become, if not royal, at least uhm upper upper middle class according to McCain.
John McCain Really Really Does Not Want You to Click This Link.

I want to start the JedReport 527 to put JedReport videos on TV. To do that I need to raise some millions and find out who is the Jed of the JedReport.

Close Call. Some Idiot almost started WW VI* -- the Human Robot war

Police had used a robotic vehicle to send pizza and soda that Prevatt requested to his room Thursday evening. But Prevatt threatened to shoot the robot and did not retrieve the food, Shipley said.

That could have been the "incident" which triggered massive Robotic retaliation.

See the bootleg obtained at great personal risk (not by me).

Fortunately Prevatt didn't actually have a gun.

via Thoreau

* using Norman Podhoretz's numbering scheme under which the cold war is WWIII, the War on Terror is WWIV and the new Georgian Cold War is WW V. If he has already declared WWVI I stand corrected.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The National Review's Corner Gives me another reason to vote for Obama
(not that I needed one). National Review Via Mother Jones

The 3 am text message announcement was a subtle dig at Hillary; Biden's a blowhard; he thinks he's smarter than you; it's "the most self-loving ticket ever"; he's a plagiarist; he's a pro-choice Catholic, just like John Kerry; he doesn't represent change; he's unpopular in Iraq.

OK I like the 3 am text message dig (if that's what it was) but I really really like the idea of taking a blowhard senator who thinks he's smarter than me (but is "not bright") and making him vice President. Oohhhh yesss. I would have loved it when it happened to Johnson if I had been following politics from my crib.

Look the US senate is hog heaven for self loving blowhards. In the Senate they can shut down the legislative process *and* force people to listen to them. Vice Presidents in contrast are required by the constitution to be humiliated. Joe blowhard paying second fiddle to a man who is 18 years younger ?

Just give me a ballot.
Transatlantic Lobster

on Veepstakes (only believers in linear time can think this is dated)

and Ellen Goodman on last rights

Friday, August 22, 2008

What Is McCain's Worst Recent Gaffe ?

He seems to have managed to semi laugh off saying one needs $ 5 million in income to be rich (that would make him barely rich) but not his confusion about how many houses his wife owns. However, the most costly gaffe might be his assertion that water rights should be shifted away from Colorado reflecting population growth in California Nevada and Arizona. That was dumb dumb dumb. I mean dumber than George Bush. I mean does this man have the mental capacity to be President -- of a condominium association.

"The water compact that Colorado and other upper basin states have with California and Arizona should be renegotiated, U.S. Sen. John McCain said Thursday."

Reported by the Pueblo Chieftan. Don't mess with them -- el pueblo chieftan jamás será vencido.

OK so he just pissed off voters in Colorado. So what ? Well that happens to be the state which, according to is most likely to decide the election (easy to pick out on the map entitled "Tipping Point States" hint "colorado" means red in Spanish).

Only John McCain could make Colorado Azul.
So McCain has gone with Rezko to make up for not knowing how many houses he owns.

On the sphere the guys are saying that Obama should reply with Keating. Nah.

The Keating 5 is old news. There is a much newer scandal


(you know the guy who hired Iseman as a lobbyist and she was the one you don't know (or care) if she slept with McCain).

Down to law McCain claimed he never talked to Paxson about the TV station he wanted to buy and needed FCC approval *and* signed a sword deposition that he did talk to Paxson about exactly that. An FC commissioner protested when McCain pressed the FCC to decide quickly.

But there is more, much much more and Josh Marshall knows all about it (he's developing sourcing)

Won't hurt that anyone writing about it will have to mention the issue that we don't care about related to Iseman the lobbyist who lobbied and that's what we care about.
Brave New Films on McCain and Houses

Ouch that's gotta hurt.

Longer but much tougher than the Obama campaign version

Oh wow. The McCains neglected to pay taxes on one of their homes (can happen when you have so many that you can't keep track).

DNC hits hard too

Finally the musical comedy version (via das Kleinishe Klein)

the unkindest cut of all via Kagro X (whose real name is Waldman by the way).

Who is the patron saint of dynamic inconsistency ?

"Oh Lord give me chastity, but not just yet" -- St Augustine.
Conflict not in our markets but in ourselves (in particular in our stomachs)

Dynamically inconsistent preferences and the Big Mac atack

Via Kevin Via Ezra here is Jacob Sullum arguing that we shouldn't force restaurants to conspicuously post the calorie counts of their meals:

In a 2007 survey of California voters, 84 percent said they thought the government should force restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards. That may happen soon: The state Assembly is considering a bill, already approved by the state Senate, that would make California the first state to impose such a menu mandate.

Yet the desires that people express in polls are often at odds with the preferences they reveal in the marketplace. The restaurant business is highly competitive. If customers really were clamoring for conspicuous calorie counts, restaurants would provide them voluntarily.

Hmm how could it be that people want to force restaurants to do something yet patronize restaurants which don't ? I think the main thing which is going on here is that people want to force their future selves to consider how many calories they are consuming. That is people think they should count calories but don't want to do it right now. The competition between restaurants, espeically fast food restaurants, happens right now. Will I go to the place which tells me I am damaging my health or the similar place which doesn't ? I'll enjoy my meal more in the second. I will probably go to the second.

People often make binding rules for themselves (hire trainers, patronize fat farms, don't keep distilled liquor around the house). This is not irrational. It is a sophisticated response to dynamic inconsistency.

So is the proposed law.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

John McCain Man Without Honor

The Obama campaign released an attack ad linking McCain to Ralph Reed.

They stick to demonstrable facts. However, there is a back story (rumor?) which I feel free to stress and which, if true, makes the known facts incomparably more damaging to McCain.

I believe that Reed was the principal behind the appalling smear in S Carolini in 2000 which suggested that the McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter was the product of McCain's adultery with an African American woman.

Just ask Marshall Wittmann

The embodiment of this coalition was a key operative who implemented the anti-McCain assault in South Carolina -- former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, a Karl Rove crony who was also on the payroll of Enron. Reed had been my boss when I worked as legislative director of the Christian Coalition. Before the primaries, Reed warned me that he would implement an under-the-radar slime assault on McCain if he posed a threat to Bush -- just what happened in South Carolina after Bush's loss to McCain in the New Hampshire primary.

That's about as personal as it gets. Now I don't have proof, but I don't have doubts either. I'm sure McCain at least suspects Reed.

That he is willing to ask Reed for favors shows not only that McCain has no honor or shame, but also that he has no pride. He is willing to do anything to be President.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pre Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc a gogo

Ever since John McCain declared that the surge caused the Anbar awakening, wannabee maverick statespeople have been trying to find another application of pre hoc ergo propter hoc logic.

Andy McCarthy (who risks causing his last name to be associated with crazy ideological slander) suggests that Russia invaded Georgia because Putin anticipated that Obama might be elected.

Not to be outdone, many people have suggested that Georgia invaded South Ossetia because Saakashvili anticipated that McCain might be elected.

This is superficial. The crisis began when South Ossetians shelled an ethnic Georgian village in South Ossetia (I will call it Dzhugashville as no one has published its name). I assume they did so, because they anticipated that Ralph Nader might be elected and he has known South Ossetian sympathies.

Of course, for all I know, the Dzhugashvillagers insulted South Ossetian mothers, because they anticipated that Cynthia McKinnehy might be elected.

You know, it isn't always all about us.
I thank the F**ing* spaghetti Monster that the underappreciated Andrew Northup exists.

I have no doubt that there are very well-considered legal and moral arguments about how Russia has done a terrible thing, and I’m sure the World Police and International Relations Jesus will spurred into action by their eloquence and power. Similarly, I’m sure Russia doesn’t give a fuck, and Russia has the under-appreciated advantage of actually existing.

* count the asterixes ... uhm except for the last one.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

He's Baaaaaack

Wow that was a long week, but it's over. Matthew Yglesias is back on the web at his new spot at thinkprogress (whose main blog is good too).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ron Suskind Claims that in late 2003, the Bush administration attempted to fake evidence suggesting that Saddam Hussein had assisted al Qaeda and bought Uranium from Niger. In particular it is alleged that Tahir Jalil Habbush, former chief of Saddam's intelligence service wrote a memo to that effect, addressed it to Saddam Hussein and backdated it to 2001 (this is called a "forgery" on the web).

This claim is based on interviews with two CIA officers who have (implausibly) denied saying what they say on tape. I'd guess the story will die due to the incredible denials as they totally destroy the credibility of the sources.

Another problem is that many think it is implausible that the Bush admininistration would have asked the CIA to plant the memo, since Cheney et al hated the CIA.

Joe Conason has some new evidence supporting Suskind's theory

On Dec. 11, 2003 -- three days before the Telegraph launched its "exclusive" on the Habbush memo -- the Washington Post published an article by Dana Priest and Robin Wright headlined "Iraq Spy Service Planned by U.S. to Stem Attacks."


and Ayad Allawi, leader of the INA, are spending much of this week at CIA headquarters in Langley"

I didn't know that Allawi was the source of the memo (this was anything but a secret at the time, but the memo was discredited so quickly that I never heard of it).

Indeed Conason writes "the credulous [Daily] Telegraph coverage is still significant now, because Coughlin identified the source of his amazing scoop as Ayad Allawi."

Ahhh now it makes sense. The Iraqis in contact with the DOD -- Ahmed Chalabi and associates -- were totally discredited by then. The CIA and State Department were the only organizations who had long term trusting relationships with Iraqis who were powerful enough in the new Iraqi intelligence and security services to plausibly get their hands on the memo yet not totally discredited. They would be Ayad Allawi and associates.

Doug Feith's anti-CIA was no longer able to pull it off as there Iraqi friends had already been caught lying (and boasting about it after the invastion). If Cheney decided to do such a thing, he would have to ask for help from the CIA or State.

One mystery resolved.

Evidence still virtually non-existent.

h/t Americablog

Friday, August 08, 2008

The price is wrong III
I made a booboo MCMLDXII^(XXII)

I just redid a calculation which suggests that fertilizing the ocean is a cost effective way to fight global warming and that I have made at least one arithmetic booboo (in this post or the one where I said it wasn't).

Basic points are

1) in some areas of the Ocean carbon fixation is limited by the availability of phosphorus (I read it somewhere on the web. In any case lack of minerals is certainly key in crystal clear equatorial waters)

2) Some Carbon fixed in the Ocean goes away effectively forever as sediment.

3) tossing Phosphate into some Oceanic areas will cause some Carbon to go away effectively forever.

4) C02 emissions credits in the EU cost a ton (about 20 euro per ton)

5) phosphate fertilizer doesn't cost very very much (although the price seems to have quadrupled recently).

So let me try the math again. First one mistake in an old post of mine was to look at the Stoichiometry of phytoplankton (if you ever look at the stoichiometry of phytoplankton don't come complaining to me that I didn't warn you). I should look at the stoichiometry of oceanic sediment -- that is basically the ratio of Carbon to phosphorus in oceanic sediment.

I read in a pdf somewhere on the web just now that it is 106/1 in moles
so equal to 106*44/95 tons of CO2 per ton of phosphate.

20 euros is about $30.

Phosphate costs about $400/tonne (the spelling convinces me that this too is a metric ton)

So $ 1 of Phosphate would end up fixing -$30*106*44/(95*400) worth of CO2 which is more than $3.50 !!!

so why did I calculate otherwise before ? I'm afraid that the price of "phosphate" isn't the price of, you know, P04 or even H2P04 but rather the price of the fertilizer farmers call phosphate which is only partly phosphate. I get phosphate rock (definitely not as rich in Phosphorus as "phosphate" "contains about 18 per cent P" so the formula becomes

$1 -> -$30*106*44*0.18/(31*400) > 1.5 still works (and calling phosphate rock "phosphate" is way cheating against it working).

Now spreading the stuff in the Ocean would cost money (and it better disolve and not just sink to the bottom so I should be pre-disolved and carried in a tanker) but it looks to me like there is a killing to be made in Ocean fertilizing IF the EU can be convinced to subsidize something which will make fertilizer cost still more than it currently does (of course the oceans will be fertilized by flying pigs long before that happens).

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Obama Clinton Carter Waldmann

Excess profits tax or excise tax. The Carter era "windfall profits tax" was actually an excise tax. That is the amount paid depended on barrels of oil sold (with a complicated formula designed to make the tax lower on oil extracted with new marginally profitable techniqes). So it did depend on the quantity and did not depend on the price.

update: My claim that it did not depend on the price is totally wrong. See comment below.

This makes it very different from what I would call a windfall profits tax in which payments are a constant or function of time (say a constant equal to average sales in the 3 years before the tax) times the price minus hte pre-windfall price.

The two policies would have opposite effects on the supply curve. An excise tax causes it to shift up (no big deal if it is roughly vertical) while a tax on the price causes it to shift down so long as competition is not perfect.

I have advocated the policy above, which I call a windfall profits tax, but I hereby reconsider here.

I think an excise tax would be better policy, because I think the price of gasoline in the USA is way to low (half what I pay not that I am consumed with spite and envy as I watch the Euros go up faster than the liters). There are externalities from gasoline consumption. Imperfect competition brings the price closer to the socially optimal price. The money goes to oil company shareholders not the tresury, but the effect on demand is the same. If we Eliminate imperfect competition in the supply of petroleum products the house by the sea where I am typing will be drowned sooner.-

I give Carter an A- and Waldmann a B- (I'm a very generous grader).

If the revenues of the excise tax are used to fund a fixed grant to each family, the excise tax and lump sum transfer policy would also redistribute from rich to poor.

I give Obama an A (lowers his GPA which was A+ because of the mini semi flip flop on offshore drilling)

Recall Clinton pandered by arguing that the tax on gasoline should be replaced by a windfall profits tax. This is 5.5 of one and half a dozen of the other (petroleum is used to make some things other than gasoline). Now if you oppose a gas tax holliday, you must either support an excise tax (called a windfall profits tax) or argue that the current taxes are exactly right and should be neither increased nor decreased. As Paul Krugman once said, zero is not an especially important number, but you wouldn't know it given how many people oppose changes in (roughly) opposite directions with (roughly) identical enthusiasm.

Clinton gets a B (for Bull***t).

from comments

The windfall profits tax was both a tax on volume and a tax on price.

But the tax on price was what dominated.

That is the reason that the tax effective ended when the price fell below $35. It stayed on the books for several more years even though no revenues were collected. It was finally rescinded as just a book keeping exercise just to clean up the tax code.
# posted by Blogger spencer : 7:53 PM

OOps I really should check the facts before posting but hey so should Gary Becker who claims that the repeal of the excess profits tax supports his view that it was a fiasco. His claim about its introduction is also totally totally false (as I demonstrate in a post below).
Drugs and US Happiness

The distribution of self reported happiness in the USA has become more equal since 1972

Thinking about this graph Ezra Klein writes a second post on it.

He writes "Reading through findings that societal happiness has slightly declined over the past thirty years, I wondered what would happen if you'd taken the various anti-depressants, anxiolytics, and assorted other psychiatric medications out of the mix. After all, they're in pretty wide use, didn't really exist in the 70s, and should have had some sort of positive impact on the nation's mood."

Oddly he seems to have forgotten the fact he stressed in his earlier post.

Update: it seems I didn't understand what he wrote. The next two paragraphs now appear to have nothing to do with Ezra Klein except as miss-understood by me.

Median happiness has remained about the same, the lower percentiles of the distribution have improved. Most people, even in the USA, don't take anti-depressants. People who take anti-depressants tend to be depressed (some just want the side effects like weight loss). If anti-depressants were really effective long term, one would expect exactly what one sees in the lower tail of the US happiness distribution.

The decline in happiness among the happier half has nothing to do with anti-depressents -- they aren't taking them.

Klein also reports an odd idea from commenter meh. meh thinks that the decline in Nicotine use has caused a decline in happiness. I doubt it. I think that nicotine makes you mildly happy only while your level of addiction is increasing. My sense is that stable nicotine use has zero effect on anything as habituation is complete.

I base my thoughts on personal experience. Since 1987 I have been a nicorette abuser and have immense levels of nicotine in my blood. Didn't make me happy. Since 1995 I have taken 20 mg of Prozac a day (except when I forget to take it -- it's that non-addictive. Just noticed I haven't taken it yet today (2:23 pm here)). It
changed my life.

Update: Ezra Klein came here to comment. Uhm his comment is a bit critical (as I was critical of him).

Ezra Klein has left a new comment on your post "Drugs and US Happiness The distribution of self r...":

I think you may be misinterpreting my comment: I'm interested in how much of the leavening affect at the bottom end has to do with medication. Is it half of it? 200 percent of it and happiness would have gone down without new drugs? In other words, I'm not confused by what role the drugs played, but how big of a role it was.

As Emily Lettela said: Never mind.

However, I still like the topic. The increase in the lower percentiles of the US distribution of self reported happiness is (very weak) macro evidence that the new psychopharmaceuticals actually work. This is interesting as the micro evidence is, to a very considerable extent, based on brief trials. The long term effect of an anti-depressant might be low compared to the effect after 6 weeks if the brain habituates (consider my view of nicotine). There is pretty strong evidence that sleeping pills do not help people get to sleep except when they first start using them (or compared to when they first quit).

Now the evidence in the graph I got from Klein is minimal, but, I think, international comparisons might be interesting.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hilton vs McCain is an international hit.

The web page of La Reppublica Ital 's number one daily newspaper presents Paris Hilton's response to McCain.

Look Paris, I know you think your hot but you don't know jack about how to run a Presidential campaign in the 21st century . What's this serious discussion of policy ? that is just not how it's done.
Sam Wang explains why he reports a 99% probability of an Obama win and has only a 62.4% probability.

I learned a lot from his post due to my incredible ignorance. I go to often enough that Firefox proposes it first when I type www, but I had never bothered to read the description of the method used to calculate the probabilities.

In case others are as lazy as me (unlikely) or have lives (likely) I will discribe my ignorance below after discussing issues of interest to the non pathetically ignorant.

Today I’d like to outlline the basic contrasts between this calculation and a popular resource, That site, run by Nate Silver, a sabermetrician, is a good compendium of information and commentary. However, both our goals and methods differ on several key points. The biggest difference is that this site provides a current snapshot of where polls are today, while he attempts a prediction. His approach also has a conceptual problem…

I think the conceptual problem is that Silver calculated probabilities from 10,000 simulations and Wang uses an analytic formula.

Silver’s approach is to carry out thousands of simulations, then tally the simulations. That method reflects the fantasy baseball tradition, in which individual outcomes are often of great interest. However, such an approach is intrinsically imprecise because it draws a finite number of times from the distribution of possible outcomes. The Meta-Analysis on this site calculates the probability distribution of all 2.3 quadrillion possible outcomes. This can be done rapidly by calculating the polynomial probability distribution, known to students as Pascal’s Triangle.

Wang claims that Poblano (AKA Nate Silver) should have obtained a normal distribution for electoral college votes. I don't agree. This is only true if there is no correlation between shifts in support for Obama and McCain in different states. As usual, I argue using an extreme example. Assume no sampling error (each poll is of the whole population) and perfect correlation of changes in support in different states. If this were true then the ranking of states by Obama minus McCain would not change and there would be only 50 different possible outcomes in the electoral college. That's not a normal distribution. I think that the argument is valid unless changes in support in different states are independent. This is a very implausible assumption. (note young Ezra who is neither a statistician nor a political scientist made this argument before I did).

Now Wang also argues that 10,000 simulations aren't enough. I agree. I recently calculated something using 1,000,000 simulations for each of several different parameters (actually just 2 sample sizes). This was a distribution which I think I derived analytically. The millions of simulations were to check my reasoning, my algebra and, especially, my typing when writing the program which calculates the analytically exact distribution (the fact that I fail to reject the null that it is accurate with 1,000,000 simulations convinces me that I typed write for wunce).

The convention that simulations are repeated 10,000 times is a historical artifact of the slow pc age. I would like to ask Silver how long his computer takes to simulate. I would guess that his simulations are quicker than some of mine and waiting for 1,000,000 simulations was barely a nuissance.

Just to go back to my other obsession. I blame microsoft. I don't think people fully realise just how much faster cheap pc's have become, because microsoftware is designed to run intollerably slowly on any but the latest generation computers so computers take as long as ever to boot up, open a word file, open excel or well all that stuff even though they also take as long to do 1,000,000 simulations as they used to take to do 10,000.

I'd guess that 1,000,000 simulations won't change Poblano's calculated probability much and I would bet that he does them and reports the result.

OK what I should have known already.

I knew that Poblano (AKA Nate Silver) used old polls as well as the latest polls. His success during the primaries shows that true shifts in opinion were of limited importance. I did not know that he used a weighted average with the weight decreasing exponentially so that they fall by half after 30 days (weight = 0.5^(age/30days)*(other stuff) and that in past elections this calculation predicts better than others he tried. I see that just as I finally read the old faq (the link above) Silver wrote a new one (still doing 10,000 simulations)

Worse I didn't even know that he considers the correlation of future changes in support for different candidates in different states.

It can reasonably be argued that I'm essentially double-counting the amount of variance by accounting for both state-specific and national movement. That is, some of the error in state-by-state polls is because of national movement, rather than anything specific within that state. However, I have chosen to account fully for both sources of error, because (i) this is the more conservative assumption, and (ii) I suspect that 2004, where voters divided into Bush and Kerry camps early, was inherently a more stable sort of election than 2008 is likely to be.

I had assumed that he did something like what Wang did, so the 67% was a snapshot not a forecast. I am pleased and reassured.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Not to be presumptious or anything but this site came up first in a google search for
"I have become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions"
More on Dana Milbank and Jonathan Weisman and "I have become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions" vs context then "I have just become a symbol ...".

I missed Milbank's chat with readers, which is a wonderful feature of Much too late, I now have a question. Did Milbank go back to his original source and ask him or her if the alleged context is accurate. Milbank notes that there is no tape, but the source should be able to come up with some context [probably been working on it]. Other people in the room will coordinate, but the can't coordinate instantly. I think Milbank can find out who chose to distort. In fact, I suspect he has and knows that it is the original source.

I am pleased to note that someone got to this blog googling: full answer I have become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions which gave it as the first hit.

I am less pleased to note that google has no hits for the second version of the quote "I have just become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions" [I elided from "symbol" on as did the person who contested the quote]

Sunday, August 03, 2008


...John McCain's dopey Britney & Paris attack ad ...The youthful insouciance that for many years has helped McCain charm reporters like me is now channeled into an ad that ... McCain's own mother called "stupid."

His own mother.

Oh and here is one case in which I think granting anonymity is justified

"bunker mentality among aides that one GOP operative, fearing excommunication from Team McCain if identified, describes as "lacking only a Luger and a cyanide pill."

Comparing one's parties candidate to Hitler is rarely a good career move.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Excellent Article by John Heilmann On McCain and the Low Road Express


Highly recommended by Josh Marshall.

I want to quibble. Heilman writes

Measured against the generic Democratic ballot, Obama continues to underperform dramatically. And since shifting to a more harshly negative posture, McCain has gained ground on Obama in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to recent Quinnipiac swing-state polls.

OK quick pop quiz, when was the last time an actual Democratic candidate outperformed generic Democrat ? All my life, more Americans have identified with the Democrats than the Republicans, yet the Republicans have won most Presidential elections.

Still worse is cherry picking polls. I thought we were past that (the blogosphere certainly is). There are so many polls that you can find one shifting in either direction. Consider Florida where Heilmann claims McCain has gained ground. Here is the Pollster graph showing Obama surpassing McCain. Heilman's claim about Florida is based entirely on the statistically insignificant decline in Obama's lead from 4% to 2% from mid June to late July. This, the only Quinnipiac poll since the smears began is above the pollster trend line (Obama by 0.4%). Ohio a 2% lead compared to the trend line of 2.6% (and McCain ahead by 10% in a Rasmussen on 7/21). Penn latest Q poll Obama up by 7% compared to trend line of 8.1%. So this is averaging below the trend line by less than 0.034 % per state. Come on.

On the other hand the Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls showed a statistically significant bounce for Obama followed by a statistically significant return to a virtual tie. That is evidence that the negative ads are working. But why bother with valid evidence which is available when an absurd argument can be made.

The rule seems to be that a clearly invalid interpretation of polls which fits a narrative is perfectly OK.

Actually, I'm not so convinced by the article as a whole. Heilmann is convinced that Obama should go negative against McCain. His only hope is that McCain is too decent to do the full swift boat. He should notice how many former McCain fans in the press have declared that they don't know the many anymore. It is very possible that if McCain doesn't flinch and Obama doesn't go negative the media narrative may be that McCain is desperately flailing, dishonest, bitter and has abandoned his honor and integrity, because of his ambition. Attacking can work, but staying above the fray as everyone else attacks is much better. I think the huge contrast between McCain's lying nastiness and Obama's calm might be useful to Obama.

At least it's worth a try.
On the subtle distinction between context and text

hint removal of letters without an ellipses is not removal of context although one might argue that it is removal of ...text

T.A. at Mediamatters allows Dana Milbank to get away with a blatant lie. Milbank claims to have quoted Obama based on a single anonymous source. The alleged quotation has been contested, as other people present when Obama spoke, claim that it is inaccurate. Milbank claims that this contestation did not occur, asserting that deletion of a word without indication is an alleged removal of context.

This is astonishing. Milbank claims that no one is challenging the quotation. However, the quote is contested. Based on a single anonymous source (that is bad journalism) Milbank claimed that Obama said "I have become a symbol ..." that quotation is challenged by people who claim that Obama actually said "I have just become a symbol...". Removal of the word "just" without a ellipses is not removal of context. This is what a quotation which is not challenged except for alleged removal of context would look like "I have ... become a symbol... "

If this occurred it would be an innaccurate quotation. Since there is no recording of the conversation we can't tell who misquoted Obama, but we can tell, without any doubt at all, that the quote was challenge. Thus we know that, on an elementary matter of uncontested fact, Milbank wrote an undeniable falsehood in the online chat.

Only someone who is incapable of understanding the meaning of the words "challenging" and "quote" could have honestly written what Milbank wrote. He is not a complete idiot. He has chosen to lie to the readers of the Washington Post online chat.

update: Many typos corrected
The world's ten oldest jokes

compiled by Dave
via Thoreau

I agree with him that this is funny

8. Augustus was touring his Empire and noticed a man in the crowd who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Intrigued he asked: "Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?" "No your Highness," he replied, "but my father was." (Credited to the Emporer Augustus 63 BC – 29 AD)

Also this is rude but semi-funny

10. Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: "In silence." (Collected in the Philogelos or "Laughter-Lover" the oldest extant jest book and compiled in the 4th/5th Century AD)
Bowling to Beat McCain

Obama has this problem. He can't prove that he is modest, given the fact that he has nothing to be modest about --- well except bowling.

I think he better get back to the bowling alley and struggle to score 100. There must be something else at which he is not outstanding, but I can't think of it.
Globalization's gems:

Late night (early morning here) I explore the strange fate of Geordie (Child ballad 209).

Folk On

Geordie's fate lamented by Chyi Yu accompanied by some instrument which is more suited to the ballad than any harp or guitar

Note that the extreme decline in fertility from "She pleads for his life, mentioned the children she had borne him, usually seven, or twelve; she may still be pregnant with the youngest, or the youngest has never seen his father." to "the third lies in my body" was declared by Joan Baez and has nothing to do with current policy in the PRC. There is a theory that Geordie was George Gordon (not lord Byron but related).

I met the song (sung by my 11 year old daughter) in it's Italian version translated by Fabrizio de André (think of a cross of Leonard Cohen and Tom Lehrer) sung by de André and Joan Baez (who manages to sing in Italian with one tenth of my accent)

I recognised the melody and thought that I had heard the ballad. In fact I think I heard it sung in English by Baez. I couldn't remember the lyrics.

de André is an Italian with a three digit IQ so don't be surprised that he was a communist when he translated Geordie. Geordie's royal parentage is suppressed and his crime is diminished from 16 to 6 deer. De André was not an extremist. In the song he offers to compromise with the judge and have the hanging just delayed until winter.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Anyone for a betting pool on when Steve Benen's list of McCain flipflops reaches 80 ?
How about if it reaches 100 before election day ?
The Company You Keep

Dana Goldstein has found an amazing fact which, if middle class parents believed it was representative, would make the world (and in particular the USA) a much better place

So were the litigious Fairfax parents correct to freak out about South Lakes? Let's look at the numbers.

At South Lakes High, 46 percent of students are white, 20 percent are black, 16 percent are Hispanic, and 11 percent are Asian. One-third of the school's population qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. In other words, this is both a racially and socioeconomically diverse school. How does this affect the most academically talented/privileged proportion of the student body? Well, more than half of white kids and almost half of Asian kids participate in the IB program, as do about 20 percent of blacks and Hispanics. An overwhelming majority of all the students enrolled in IB score a 4 or better, indicating excellent instruction and achievement. As for the SAT, the average combined score for white kids at South Lakes is 1730 out of 2400.

Now let's look at Oakton High School, which affluent parents sued to get their kids into. Oakton is 67 percent white and only 11 percent black and Hispanic. Less than 9 percent of students there qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Oakton has an AP program in which white students are just as successful as their similar white peers at South Lakes are on the IB exams; of the black students participating in AP though, less than half scored three or higher. Tellingly, on the SAT, Oakton's white kids score 1734, essentially the exact same score as white students at South Lakes.

My point: The educational outcomes of privileged kids are remarkably similar across schools with similar curricula, while it is the least advantaged students who show more differentials. When parents are considering where to send their kids to school, they should look at the relevant numbers.

via Ezra Klein.

Sad to say, the whole world isn't Fairfax county (well that would be a very boring world, ethnicly diverse but culturally a bit focused on US politics). In most developed countries, average educational attainment of mothers of students is positively partially correlated (positive significant regression coefficient) with individual student performance (on the PISA test) even if the educational attainment of the student's parents is included in the regression.

see this (mainly for the references)