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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arlen Specter -- free at last

For decades Arlen Specter made it clear that he couldn't vote according to his concience, since he was a Republican. He argued against the military commissions act, then voted for it then told the Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional. He was with the Democrats except when they needed him. Then he slipped and voted for the stimulus which was just absolutely economically necessary and included one of the largest tax cuts in US history. So he had to become a Democrat.

Then he voted the Democratic party line. His was not a difficult vote to get like Joe Lieberman's or Ben Nelson's. But, of course, he had to, since he was running in the Democratic primary.

Now he is free -- "freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose." So he can show us the real Arlen Specter behind the partisan mask. He can tell us what he really believes.

I suspect that he doesn't know himself anymore.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ed Kilgore Reports a Fact which Surprises Him

Quite a few commenters here on Alan Abramowitz' study of the negative impact of conservative ideology on Republican incumbent senators' general election campaigns from 2000 to 2008 wondered if he might do a counterpart analysis of Democrats over the same period.

From your lips to Alan's computer: he's done the counterpart analysis, and found that ideology does not seem to have had much impact on Democratic senatorial incumbents from 2000-2008; being more liberal didn't hurt them, all other things being equal. The numbers are clear, but the reasons for the very different partisan results are not at all obvious.

I comment

I'd guess that voters want different things from the President and their senator. Senators want the same thing (to be elected President). In particular, the Senate votes on taxes and spending, but, in practice, lets the President handle foreign policy without their advice and consent. I'd guess the median voter (in about 40 out of 50 states) is a nationalist semi-hawk who wants to soak the rich, that is, a populist.

This is my proposed explanation for everything in US politics. The median US voter is strongly egalitarian and well to the left of the median congress person on bread and butter economic issues.

The evidence (always the same) is that fact that at least 60% of people in the USA want to increase taxes paid by rich people (start at and search for taxes but the answer also appears in questions on HCR and social security). As hard as the median poll respondent is on the rich, she is harder on corporations. The wild enthusiasm for increasing taxes on corporations convinces me that my country-people have not studied tax incidence (OK I knew that already).

So one guess is that Senators are running for President and the first rule of running for President is don't be George McGovern. Note that's about war and peace and not taxes.

Another theory is that polticians balance pleasing the public and pleasing lobbyists. This makes their voting record more favorable to concentrated interests than the public wants. On the rare occasions when the public notices, incumbents lose. Conservative Republicans who really think that what's good for the concentrated interest is good for the public are the only ones who go so far as to be noticed. This last is an explanation of how the median Congress person can be well to the right of the median voter.

OK a third theory (and maybe a fourth). The problem isn't why liberal Democratic senators get re-elected. The problem is that, given that's what people want, why aren't more elected in the first place ? Here I'd guess part of it is that Americans are ideological conservatives and operational liberals. So if a non-incumbent candidate can be labeled a liberal, he or she is in trouble. Once voters see what being a liberal senator means in practice (voting just like almost all of the other Democrats) he isn't. It's hard for a socialist to be elected to the US senate. It's easy for a senator with Sanders's voting record to be re-elected.

A variant on this is that the DSCC, political consultants, Democratic strategists, the DLC, Major contributors and, above all Rahm Emanuele believe that liberals can't win statewide elections, so they have trouble winning the nomination unless they are incumbent. Then they do fine in the general election. The belief in the party elite that the voters don't like liberals can keep the Senate delegation well to the right of the political sweet spot.

And yes the phrase "Democratic strategist" in that list was a dig at Ed Kilgore personally. He is a hero palladin of the truth, because he reported a fact which tends to undermine the case he has been making for years.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

John Holbo Questions the Power of the US Constitution

"If the Constitution can mandate eliminating badges and incidents of social injustice X, then the rest of the Constitution can hardly forbid eliminating “badges and incidents” of social injustices Y and Z, by legislative means. That’s some serious penumbra, shaping up. Or am I missing something ?"
He sure is missing something. The Constitution can do whatever it wants (except depirve states of their equal suffrage in the Senate).

Look the Constitution clearly allows amendments to do anything (except deprive states of their equal suffrage in the Senate).

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

I think that quotation clearly answers Holbo's question. Sure it can. There's nothing about badges and incidents of social injustice X Y and Z there.

There is no need for an amendment to not contradict the rest of the constitution. The 21st amendment contradicted the 18th amendment, yet it is a valid part of the constitution. The 13th amendment contradicted the clause that said that slaves who escaped to free states remained slaves and had to be returned to their owners. If an amendment contradicts the pre-existing constitution, then it cancels and nullifies the bits it contradicts.

Just to avoid giving any aid and comfort to libertarians (who don't give a damn about my aid and comfort) I note that I believe that any constitutional private property rights that might ever have existed in the USA were eliminated by the 16th amendment. The power to tax is the power to regulate. The power to tax income from any source derived (not necessarily at the same rate) is the power to regulate anything that has anything to do with income. Yes the income tax is clearly forbidden by the main body of the constitution and by the 5th amendment. So what. It is exactly as unconstitutional as "intoxicating liquors."

A ten billion percent tax on revenues from operating a racially discriminatory business (say a snack bar where African Americans are denied service) would be much harsher than the civil rights act and clearly constitutional. Note I said revenues not profits -- the 16th amendment does not establish a definition of income and say that it must be net not gross of costs.

Can the constitution ban some discrimination and prevent congress from banning other discrimination ? Of course it can. Consider the 14th, 15th, 19th and 26th amendments. The 15th said suffrage could not be denied to men over 21 on account of race, women were still not allowed to vote. State legislatures maintained the constitutional power to decide if women could vote. A mere law passed by congress and signed by the President which mandated women's suffrage (at least in presidential elections) would have been plainly unconstitutional : "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress ... ." Even now states can deprive felons of the right to vote.

The main body of the constitution forbad a religious condition for holding office "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." but said nothing about race, gender (or height or weight). It is clear that state legislatures had the authority to declare that their electors in the electoral college must be female, or over 6 feet tall, or anything they want which doesn't involve religion. If congress and the president passed a law attempting to over rule such nonsense, that law would clearly have been unconstitutional.

The constitution is under no obligation to be elegant or harmonious or philosophically (as opposed to logically) consistent. What would such an obligation even mean ? If the constitution can't do something, that means that some court can find the constitution unconstitutional. Can you even imagine such a [non]constitutional order ? If you can, could you will it into being ? It would make the USA an oligarchy ruled by the supreme court of the day.
The Trivial vs The Important

It is with great relief that I report that there are more google hits for
salafi than for Salahi (136,000 vs 68,600).

However there are more hits for Salahis than for salafis (49,900 vs 18,100).

No wonder the salafis hate us.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mark Thoma regrets commenting on a blog. I probably will regret commenting on Mark Thoma. My comment follows.

"It's the suggestion that the people advocating fiscal policy cannot possibly understand what modern models say, that they must be relying on old-fashioned, out of date theory, that brought the reaction."

Speaking for myself only, I don't care what modern macro models say. I don't think that New Keynesian models add anything much of value to the Keynesian cross. I certainly haven't noticed any great empirical success. Oh also speaking only for myself, I have never bothered to keep up with macro theory.

It is entirely possible that people understand new Keynesian DSGE models and think they are worthless.

I object to equating "fair and balanced" (Brad's words) with "based on rigorous theory" (Krugman's words). I think it is possible to be eminently fair and pay no attention at all to the application of economic theory to macroeconomics.
I don't think it is possible to be fair and defend the view that modern macroeconmic theory has any scientific value whatsoever (note I am thinking of New Keynesian theory).

I argue that it is all worthless -- that the point is to introduce intertemporal maximization into old models and all models of intertemporal maximization are so far from the actual behavior of actual econmic agents that they are better ignored. How would you contest my claims ? I note that many people argue that modern macro has added nothing to the work of Keynes and Hicks of any use in the present situation (consider Greg Clarke). How do you respond to that claim ?

It seems that you and whoever writes "adolfato" share the assumption that one must be familiar with rigorous modern theory (as DeLong and Krugman certainly are) in order to be competent to discuss macro policy. That the alternatives are basing your reasoning on rigorous modern theory or basing them on prejudice. I don't think any reasonable person bases any actions at all on modern macroeconomic theory. I also think that the choice isn't between DSGE theory on the one hand and prejudice or accidental theory on the other. There have been natural experiments (wars). It is possible to estimate fiscal multipliers based on spending that was not caused by the business cycle. The results are clear -- a balanced budget multiplier greater than 0 and less than 1. Who needs more theory than the theory that the US business cycle didn't cause the war in Korea and caused WWII (if at all) with a very long lag ?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Anonymity Fail !

I understand I am supposed to be sincerely concerned about the future of journalism and to appreciate brilliant thought and writing and, especially, not to be obsessed with celebrity gossip but ...

I can't help noting that Maureen Tkacik doesn't quite name a name in her outstanding essay "Look at Me!"

She wrote about her experiences with AOL, Abercrombie and Fitch and

"a sixteen-year-old small forward from Akron wrote me an angry two-way pager message when I respectfully declined his invitation to party in his hotel suite following a high school basketball tournament,"

Then later mentions

"Abercrombie and LeBron James and AOL"

Hmmmm. I'm sure James is just one of many super young super star basketball players with a sense of entitlement from Akron.

Also it's just a coincidence that this took place some time in a 12 month period including September 11 2001(known as the day LeBron James turned 16 years and 286 days old).

Now I understand that it is hard to negotiate anonymity over a 2 way pager (even though I just learned that 2 way pagers exist or used to exist -- I'm not in touch with 9 year old youth culture). I feel fairly alert, although, I suppose that if I were really hep and with it, I'd consider "basketball star for Akron" to be as explicit as "LeBron James."

Tcacik doesn't seem to have much concern about the privacy of others (and pushy guys demanding sex deserve to be called out by name). But I mean really, she turned down LeBron James !?! Is nothing sacred ?!?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Pro messes up with Pronouns

"Dems Cantwell, Feingold Voted Against Ending Debate ... GOPers Collins, Snowe Voted In Favor ... Reid: 'A Senator Broke His Word With Me'"

OK well I guess he cant have been named Cantwell. If that senator is not Feingold, and I were Russ Feingold, I'd be pissed ... er than usual. I'd say that good sense requires saying either "A Senator promised me a vote and didn't deliver" or "A Republican Senator broke his word with me," or, hell, if that's the way it is, "Feingold lies like a dog."

I'm pretty sure it wasn't Feingold, because Reid would have been careful not to rule out Cantwell if it was (remember being a Senator means never having to say you're sorry). The TPM post makes it farely clear that it was my senator (blush) Scott Brown "Reid pleaded with Cantwell and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), to help bring debate on the bill to an end. Brown had communicated his intent to vote with the Democrats, and publicly waffled on the floor before finally voting no."

Cantwell's vote will cost 30 hours of debate on her "bring back Glass Steagal" amendment. I guess a heavier cost is that Democrats will have to vote one way or the other on the amendment and enrage either the people or the bankers. Tough choices.

update: Scott Brown admits he played Harry Reid for Charlie Brown. That kid is just not ready for the big leagues.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mark Thiessen vs the facts part MMMCLXXVII

Mark Thiessen claims that ideologically rigid left wing self described Conservatives purged moderate Arlen Specter from the party he joined after being purged from the Republican party

Last night two centrist Democratic incumbents failed to stave off challenges from the left in Democratic Senate primaries. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated by left-wing challenger Rep. Joe Sestak. And Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her left-wing challenger Gov. Bill Halter.

But don't hold your breath waiting for commentators to decry these shameful efforts at the ideological purification of the Democratic party

via Steve Benen who noted the little error and the huge ones.

Note Halter is Lieutenant governor and that neither Halter nor Sestak is left wing (what is the chance of a lefty winning a statewide election in Arkansas in recent years?). This is on a Washington Post blog, where factual accuracy is optional. I'm sure Fred Hiatt thinks that Mark Thiessen has every right to his opinion that the Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas is the Governor. Don't hold your breath waiting for a correction (and get a screen shot).

Let's take up a collection and buy Thiessen a subscription to the Post

"Lt. Gov. Bill Halter"

Everyone makes mistakes (especially every conservative on the Post op-ed pages) but appealing to Pennsylvania for evidence is absolutely absurd. Voting for Sestak absolutely wasn't an ideological purge. According to the last Rasmussen poll Sestak had the support of 51% of self described conservative Democratic likely voters.

It can't be a left wing ideological purge if it is the will of self described Conservatives. Thiessen should know about this poll (it's his job not mine). It shows his argument is total utter nonsense. He claims that Conservatives are rigid left wing ideologues.

He is not at all interested in reality. Good thing the Post no longer has a reputation to damage. Once upon a time, Italians had great respect for US newspapers and, in particular, The Washington Post. Che vergogna (that's Italian for Shonda).

Also don't click the connect with facebook (beta). It wasn't alpha tested and it prevented me from reading the Washington Post. I don't want any jokes about how that means that facebook isn't all bad.

update: Arkansas too. Turns out Lincoln won Little Rock and Pine Bluff and was forced into a runoff by rural voters. Typical ideological liberal moderate purging rural Arkansans I guess.

I'm sure Thiessen has written something somewhere sometime which is consistent with reality. If anyone has an example, please put a link in comments.
Ballance All Time Winner "Lane: One cheer for Rand Paul"

Also headline person all time winner.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Peter Beinart strikes a nerve.

He condemned AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. He claimed, more or less, that it is impossible for liberal Zionists to defend them. He seems to have a point. In his reply to Beinart, Jonathan Chait is reduced to lying about what Beinart said by removing necessary context from a quote

Chait dishonestly wrote

"Peter, for instance, twice writes that Palestinians 'wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders.' " OK lets search for the text in context.
I only found it once and found no other instance of "ill-served by their leaders." The word "twice" makes the claim technically false. However the word "that" makes the claim a lie.

"The 2006 AJC poll found that [skip] Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews tended to believe that average Palestinians wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders."

This is plainly not a statement by Beinart that Palistinians "wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders." Beinart is daring to accurately quote the results of a poll. He is describing the views of Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews as assessed by the American Jewish Committee, not making any statement about Palestinians. Chait's position is that the actual opinion of actual Jewish Americans is unmentionable if Chait disagrees with it (I agree with Chait on Palistinian opinion, which was not the topic discussed by Beinart in his essay on Jewish Americans).

Chait does not take issue with any of Beinart's actual arguments. Neither does Jeffrey Goldberg. I admit that in checking on those two I am influenced by (blush) politico where Ben Smith gave a convenient list of who might respond to Beinart

"It will cost him friends, and start a conversation, particularly in the shrinking space occupied by liberal, Zionist* voices like his, Jeffrey Goldberg's, and Jonathan Chait's."

Goldberg wrote that he agrees with Beinart but objects to writing for the New York Review of Books.

I've only read through Beinart's essay quickly (though not so quickly that I haven't already exchanged a couple of e-mails with him about it) and I think it is in many ways analytically valid, if unsympathetic to some of the existential challenges faced by Israelis. But the essay's placement, in the New York Review of Books, the one-stop shopping source for bien-pensant anti-Israelism, is semi-tragic.

Beinart wrote the essay for The New York Times Magazine which didn't publish it for "stylistic" reasons.

In any case, Goldberg has a whine and a gratuitous insult, but provides no defence of AIPAC or the Conference of Presidents.

Back to Chait.

First he claimed he said it first

Not long ago, I ran into an AIPAC staffer at a social gathering. We debated the Middle East for a bit, and continued the discussion over lunch. I told him that I thought the political estrangement of liberalism and support for Israel posed a long-term existential threat, and that his organization was contributing to the problem. We agreed to disagree.

Then he notes

Former TNR editor Peter Beinart has a sharp, attention-grabbing essay in The New York Review of Books making this case not just against AIPAC but most of the mainstream American Jewish organizations. Indeed, he goes much further. Those groups, he argues, have abandoned liberalism on the Middle East

A long essay follows in which one might imagine that Chait discusses the differences between AIPAC and most of the rest of mainstream American Jewish organizations and considers which if any have abandoned liberalism on the Middle East.

I can detect no effort whatsoever to address these points of possible disagreement with Beinart. There is certainly no claim that AIPAC is substantially less "liberal on the Middle East" than the Conference of Presidents and no discussion of any sign that either has any trace of sincere liberalism "on the Middle East."

Chait does contest Beinart's claim that the mainstream Jewish organizations have an effect on young Jewish Americans (with friends like Chait they sure don't need enemies).

Mostly he attacks the messenger, expressing respect for Beinart and then bringing up his idiotic essay “A Fighting Faith,” The argument evidently is that, while Beinart is "one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known," he is also such a demonstrable idiot that there is no need to respond to his actual arguments. In any case, bringing up "A Fighting Faith," is undeniably an argument ad hominem and not a valid response to Beinart's accusations against mainstream Jewish organizations.

He also discusses un-named leftist critics of Israel who claim that to support Meretz is to be right wing. Oddly he doesn't name any such critics or provide any evidence whatsoever that they exist. He had to mention them (whether they exist or not) to ballance his criticism of conservatives, who say that to be a good Zionist one has to vote Republican.

I conclude that it is impossible for liberals to defend the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations. I mean if no such defence is to be found in an essay in The New Republic which sinks to ad hominem arguments and removing necessary context from quotes, then I conclude no such defence is possible.
A Bikini wearing poll dancing Moslem American was elected Miss America.

I conclude Mohammad was wrong. I enjoyed the news and especiall a photo of Ms Rima Fakih and then a question came to my mind.

Who is more upset, Daniel Pipes or Osama Bin Laden ?

At that point I realised that Mohammad was wrong. Clearly I've died and gone to heaven, and there aren't 71 virgins hanging around.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers II

Recently, I asked why the hell Obama is supporting Lincoln in Arkansas and Specter in Pennsylvania. I think I get it now. It isn't 11 dimensional chess. It isn't even 2 dimensional chess.

I think the logic is that those two will be senators for another 8 months no matter what the voters want, and that after those 8 months are over (with time off for elections, Christmas and it's not done for a lame duck congress to do anything controversial leaving about a week or two) it won't be possible to get anything -- anything through the Senate.

The next congress is basically irrelevant. Everything will be blocked. So the only thing that matters for US legislation for the forseable future is sucking up to current senators.

Depressing but very plausible.
I just got a visit sent to me from here

This is a google search using Google in Arabic for "what is metalothionine."

I had no idea I had ever written anything about metallothioneine. The blog was the first hit because I misspelled the word as "metalothionine" (the second error is disgraceful as I knew it was a protein not an amine). Dear visitor use the not google. It will ask you "Did you mean: metallothionein" and if you click the word metallothionein it will tell all.

That the visitors native language is Arabic is just the icing on the cake that is the
الجليد على الكعكه

Friday, May 14, 2010

What the hell is the Democratic party doing in Pennsylvania

Democratic leaders and no holds barred Republican activists both want Arlen Specter to win the Democratic primary.

TPM reports you decide.

"If any of those Pennsylvania Republicans who switched their affiliation to support Hillary two years ago are still listed as Democrats, this would be a very smart time to be voting for Specter, because he will be easier to beat than Sestak," said blogger Stacy McCain, who is urging people to help keep Specter in the race.

Joe Biden is on the same team as Stacy McCain

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is calling in the big guns.

Vice President Joe Biden has cut a radio ad for Specter -- who's locked in a tight primary battle with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA). In the minute-long ad, Biden says Specter "is one of the most principled guys I've ever known."

"This guy is a guy with more steel in his backbone than most people have in their whole body."

Of course Biden is a bit less coherent than S. McCain. Most people have no steel in their bodies. He could have said "Arlen Specter has more than a nanogram of steel in his spine." It would still be a blatant lie, but it wouldn't sound so stupid.

The DSCC is spending money helping Specter. They seem determined to get rid of that inconvenient majority since Sestak did much better in the latest general election poll than Specter, and Specter is a very known quantity.

I can understand why a party prefers idiological purity to winning elections. I can see rewarding loyalty. I have more trouble with a party favoring the candidate with a worse chance in the general election and views further from the party's main stream. I can't at all see the party reducing it's expected number of seats in order to reward one of the Lucy's who always pulled the football away. Snowe and Graham are trying to bet his record, but Specter was way ahead of them in giving support to the Democrats except when they needed it.

There are three explanations each of which plays a part.

First the Democratic establishment considers progressives to be an enemy. If DFHs prefer Sestak, he must be stopped. They claim that they punch hippies because they care about electability. We now know this is a lie.

Second incumbents protect incumbents. Specter is a member of the club. We can't have the unwashed masses deciding who is a Senator.

Third and most important really, they endorsed Specter, and want to show that their word is valuable, and that they don't dump people like trash as Cornyn did with Crist. Having said Specter should be the candidate, they don't want to seem weak as if the voters are more powerful than they are. I mean we can't have democracy in the Democratic party.

But it still crazy.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Friction: A non-Socratic dialogue

So Jane Policymaker is driving a minivan. Maynard Keynes is in the passenger seat , Ed Prescott, Robert Lucas are in the second row of seats and Eugene Fama and John Cochrane are in the back seats.

Jane: We are heading for a cliff
Maynard: slam on the brakes

Prescott: I don't see how brakes work. Alan Greenspan has had fewer traffic accidents since he stopped using brakes. I know some people still teach about friction in third rate departments, but they aren't really advancing the science. You'll go just as fast whether you slam on the brake or not. In modern bicycle theory it is assumed that there is no friction so the concept of "braking" is meaningless.

Maynard: Don't listen to him. Slam on the brake. We're all about to die.

John: Yes this is a stressful situation and in stressful situations it is tempting to turn to the fairy tales of our childhood.

Maynard: It's not a fairy tale. It's a brake. It's worked before.

John and Eugene in unison: Brakes are supposed to work because the disk spins under the brake shoes. If the disk is spinning we are going forward. Therefore brakes can't slow us down. There is a logical contradiction between saying we should brake and that we shouldn't keep going forward.

Jane: You guys in the back seat, don't just tell me Maynard is wrong. Tell me what to do to avoid going over the cliff.

Robert L: Serious analysis is a difficult process and requires a step by step approach starting with simple frictionless models. We expect to have a useful model in roughly thirty years.

Robert W: If you think I'm exagerating explain exactly what is overstated in the above dialogue.

Isaac Newton presented four simple equations (three laws of motion plus his law of gravity) which made it possible to predict where the planets would be to well within a small fraction of measurement error. He seems to have believed that each equation was just plain true. Certainly after 2 centuries almost all physicists believed that.

To get from the 4 hypotheses of interest to testable predictions, two auxialiary hypotheses were needed -- that no force but gravity affects the location of the planets and that the Sun and the planets are rigid spheres. These are good approximations and, as far as I know, they haven't been disproven by observations of the locations of planets.

Newton hypotheised that the four equations were true natural laws. Clearly the two auxiliary hypotheses were not true statements about planet Earth. Newton hypothesized another force which he called friction. We would now consider friction one of the effects of the electromagnetic force.

Newton inspired many people to try to be the Newton of this that or the other field of inquiry. Unfortunately, they tended to try to do this by keeping the form of Newton's work and changing the substance. Hence we have von Clauswitz advising that one strike at "the center of mass" of the adversary and Rousseau talking about "solidarity" and assuming that solidal polities act like solid bodies. The same words were used with different meanings based on trust in their magical powers. Sometimes, this was reckless but fruitful.

Unfortunately, one of the magical words was friction. In the Principia, the Latin word appears roughly in the context of a confession that what was written so far is clearly inconsisten with masses of easily available data. Newton wrote something allong the lines of, that's because I left out friction, nonetheless the chapters on motion without friction were useful.

Thus the magical power of "friction" was its ability to make refutation of hypotheses not matter at all, because models which were wildly inconsistent with the data might be like the earlier chapters of the Principia. Granting a word power over our minds is always a mistake and this was a very serious mistake whose damaging consequences still harm economic research (which is getting much better very quickly thank you (no thanks to me)).

However, note two things. Friction doesn't appear in the laws of motion. The first law describes motion with no forces and hence neither friction nor gravity. The second and third describe motion with forces including gravity friction and presumably other forces. Newton's law of gravity does not assert that there is no other force. In Newton's work on the solar system, there was a clear distinction between the hypotheses of interest and the two auxiliary hypotheses added to get testable implications.

Also the testable implications were accurate to well within measurement error.
Better measurements have since been made and Newton's law of gravity and f=ma are both known to be false. Newton merely asserted that, since we have excellent reason to believe the 4 equations apply out there (we now know they don't) we should hypothesize that they apply down here too.

The Newton's of this that and the other thing don't have any example of their model without "friction" working. The magic word "friction" is invoked the instant the theory confronts any data at all.

Now I think the real lesson is that if one takes a true statement and changes the meanings of the words, one is likely to get a false statement, that words don't have magical powers and that the forms of theoretical physics do not have value if it is separated from the substance. But the magic word "friction" has done more damage than the others and it's past time to insist that people rephrase arguments without using it before they are taken seriously.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Conservatives Vs Labour Vs Liberal Democrats ?

At the moment I am more interested in Nate Silver Vs the BBC

For decades the BBC has used a uniform swing model which predicts that vote shares are a function of a fixed constituency effect and a nationwide election specific effect. Alarmingly this works very well in the UK where, it seems, most voters don't change their minds.

Silver adopted a similar method to predict democratic primaries. His downweighting of old polls reflects the assumption of much greater variance of opinion shifts than the BBC but also much much lower variance than standard horse race coverage which stressed the campaign narrative.

Silver won the gold prize in 2008. Now he is playing in the international league.

So far, it looks like the BBC won. Their simple model predicted a hung parliament and, with most seats decided they are sticking with the prediction. Silver predicted a Conservative majority given the results of exit polls.

At the moment (or until recently) Silver still hopes to eak out a narrow win.

5:44 AM [Nate]. So, here's where we stand right now. The national vote is tracking to Conservatives 37.1, Labour 29.1, Liberal Democrats 23.7.

On those figures, a uniform swing model would predict Conservatives 296, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 64; our model would predict Conservatives 333, Labour 224, LibDems 64. It appears that the actual results will be somewhere in between the two figures, with Conservatives short of a majority but north of 300 seats, perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of 310-315.

He seems to be using GMT so that was 2 hours 27 minutes ago (EDT it would be 2 hours 33 minutes from now).

If the Conservatives were to win 315 seats that would be 18 less than predicted by Silver and 19 more than predicted by the BBC, so Silver still claimed a chance to win -- by one seat.
Kevin Williamson is a shameless psychopathic liar.

He wrote an article in the National Review denouncing supply side voodoo economics. Amusingly, he accurately cited Arthur Laffer himself as an authority. Importantly, he admitted that most prominent Republican politicians declare their faith that tax cuts cause increased revenue *and* that they budget accordingly.

That's quite a bit of honesty for the National Review. However, having conceded the main points, Williamson chose to lie about history.
He wrote

The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985, which enacted automatic federal spending cuts if the deficit exceeded predefined targets, went through hell, high water, and the federal courts before its provisions were allowed to kick in. But when they did kick in, they worked. They worked with a hard and furious vengeance: The deficit was reduced from $221 billion in 1986 to $153 billion in 1989, from 5.2 percent of GDP to 2.8 percent of GDP. In fact, Gramm-Rudman worked so well that Congress, facing real spending constraints for the first time, killed the act, replacing it with the toothless Budget Enforcement Act of 1990.

This is a lie. the budget Enforcement Act was significantly tougher than Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and it played a major role in the shift from deficits to surpluses (though not quite as large a role as the Clinton tax increase). Anyone who knows about the issues knows this. Rudman called Gramm-Rudman-Hollings a failure. Williamson is so determined to libel anyone who isn't as conservative as he is that he libels George H.W. Bush. The quoted claim is a flat out lie.

He also wrote " you don’t get Reagan tax cuts without Tip O’Neill spending cuts. " and more explicitly "Reagan and his congressional allies had an excuse in the considerable person of Speaker O’Neill." He's lying. He clearly isn't ignorant and knows that the spending in budgets proposed by the Reagan administration was very similar to the spending in actual budgets. He can also look up spending in Senate budgets and admit that the Republicans had a majority in the senate. Government spending didn't decline under Reagan and O'Neill was not the reason. Reagan wanted to shift spending from domestic programs to the military and he did. To put all the blame on O'Neill is to make a false claim. Williamson clearly knows the facts. He is lying.

This lie is not relevant to the current debate. Williamson lies from habit. He seems to enjoy it.

More recently, he asserted that if one rejects conservatism one condemns belief in "limited government, [and] individual rights," among other things. Again he lied. In the second case he libeled me *and my mother*.

He is a lying psychopath.

Another false claim in the voodoo article, which, unusually is relevant to the current debate is his distortion of CBO analysis. His point is that tax cuts without spending cuts are no good, like Friedman he claims they are impossible. However, when discussing the CBO estimates of the effects of tax cuts, he decides to temporarily ignore the issue of spending cuts. He notes that the CBO estimated that part of the revenue loss due to tax cuts is eliminated by increased growth. He neglects to mention that the CBO assumed spending cuts so that the debt did not explode. So they are discussing the effects of his proposed policy not of tax cuts without spending cuts. Also the CBO assumed that spending is pure waste. This makes it hard not to conclude that tax cuts combined with spending cuts would be good. The point is that no one can write a model in which debt builds up unsustainably forever (yes that's a tautology implied by the meanings of the words unsustainably forever). The CBO could model the effects of tax shifts without spending cuts. They didn't do that.

Williamson doesn't explain why he is opposed to deficit spending. He acts as if there are two goals -- a healthy economy and a low deficit. Sensible people would put all the priority on the first as deficits are not bad in themselves. They are bad because, they crowd out investment, they cause imbalances which can lead to crises and they imply higher taxes with higher dead weight losses in the future. Williamson won't convince anyone, least of all NRO readers, if he uses results from a simulation of combined tax and spending cuts to argue that tax cuts, with or without spending cuts, are good for the economy but not good enough to make up for uhm "the accounting deficiencies of government." Here he is clearly being honest. The problem is that he is not just a psychopath, he is also an economic illiterate.

So why the hell is Matthew Yglesias linking to him ?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Looks like there will be bargaining over who shall be the next prime minister of the UK. The BBC "Election exit poll: Tories to be 19 short of majority."

What I want to know is will some of that bargaining be conducted in Welsh ?

All very strange to me. I live in Italy where the consequences of elections are decided by the voters and determined the night of the election.

such hwyl, spraoi, and divertimento.

Personally, I'm hoping that when all the horse trading is done, the minister for Norther Ireland will be ... Gerry Adams.

Sad to say a Tory Democratic Unionist Party coalition is more likely (although they are forecast to be short a few votes) and the joke will be on me.
A link to a link seeking article about link seeking.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Tbogg Doesn't Understand the Mysterious Ways of Globalization

he writes

God has enough to do these days (making little green apples, directing episodes of Saving Grace, teaching Tim Tebow to throw off of his back foot, and moving in mysterious ways) without some needy Godstalker calling him up every few minutes to ask if He “loves him” and “how much” and shit like that, so I imagine that the Big Guy is probably outsourcing this to India.

God isn't. The godstalkers are. Sadly, the recession has caused a sharp decline in the outsourcing of masses to Kerela India.

The Syro-Malabar church isn't greedy. shall reimburse the representatives the expenses incurred for creating and sending any work that is published in

Just think of the synergy of the One WordWide Web and the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church.