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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Comment on Drum commenting on Warren

Drum has a good skeptical post on Warren

Elizabeth Warren and the Slow Boring of Hard Boards

which includes "The story provides a pretty good look at Warren’s distinctive combination of tenaciousness, policy chops, and grassroots support, but it’s not clear to me how well her style would translate into being a good president."

"That leaves tenaciousness, which I have no argument about."


"For the time being, the best theory of change is the good old slow boring of hard boards."

It seems to me very clear to Drum how well her style would translate into being a good President.

My comment

Yes "theory of change" is a buzz phrase. Also just after writing that you aren't taken with obsessing over a candidate's theory of change, you show you are, in fact, so taken. The candidate isn't Warren, it is Sanders. You reject Sanders's theory of change, advocating for the alternative (previously known as Clinton's theory of change).

One very key issue. Drum theory of change

You want a real theory of change? Here it is: build up enough public support for your cause that you can win the presidency along with a 300+ majority in the House and a comfortable filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That’s pretty much it. Tedious outrage about “incipient fascism” aside, the United States is still a democracy.

Which two words don't fit well together ? Democracy does not imply filibuster. The USA is the only Democracy in which filibusters are important. Another theory of change is presidency, 235+ in the house and 51 votes in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster. That is Warren's theory of change. It's a lot more plausible than 60 votes in the Senate. Also the 300+ in the House is just nonsense. The House made no trouble for Obama, Clinton or, even Jimmy Carter himself. The current majority is plenty. The problems are getting 1 more President, 4 more senators and convincing Democratic Senators to eliminate the filibuster. That requires a candidate determined to fight to eliminate the filibuster. We have one such candidate. One is enough.

Eliminating the filibuster is a necessary part of any change, theory of change, and practice of change. Anyone who says otherwise (see Sanders & Biden) is bullshitting.

Oddly you phrase your post as Warren skepticism (contrarian much ? I suppose there has to be at least one Warren skeptical liberal wonk -- a dirty rotten job but no one else seems willing to do it). But your point is that tenacity is required, and, lo and behold, you agree she's got it.

OK so the other two topics. I'd agree that Presidents should rely on experts. The real menaces are those who think they know more than the experts, or that knowledge doesn't matter (see Trump, Donald; Bush George W; & Reagan, Ronald). However, note that all Presidents who have actually been able to make use of experts are almost incredibly knowledgeable. At least that's the way things have been since I turned 18 (in 1978).

The problem is that one has to know a lot, and be very smart, in order to tell which of the people who claim to be experts really are useful experts. Note I snuck in "useful". Linus Pauling was very expert on physics, chemistry, and biology, but he wasn't a useful expert, because he was crazy. You want rock solid proof that HIV causes AIDS then you want to use PCR, but Casey Mullin, who developed PCS, declared that HIV didn't cause AIDS because he hadn't kept up with the literature and didn't know what he didn't know. I think one needs extraordinary knowledge and brain power in order to follow and judge debates between experts.

Let me try to name a President who did a good job without being absurdly knowledgeable and smart.

Trump: Total disaster

Obama: absurdly knowledgeable and smart

Bush Jr: totaler disaster

Clinton: Absolutely amazingly absurdly knowledgeable and smart. Has fallen for fake experts (Ira Magaziner, Dick Morris, Mark Penn)

Bush Sr: Not super smart, had huge foreign policy experience. Candidate exception. not re-elected

Reagan; I guess he is commonly presented as an example of a great President who know almost nothing, but he not, I trust, here. Laffer is the number one case of a fake expert and Laffer, Reagan, Kemp, Roth is the number one example of how dumb ignorant policymakers can make a mess of things.

Carter: very smart ultra nerd. Fell for a fake expert (Patrick Caldwell). Not reelected

Ford: Fine if you want to ally with South Africa (Kissinger policy on Angola)

Nixon: very smart, knowledgeable and evil (an extremely un-useful expert)

Johnson: Ver smart knowledgeable and overdosed on testosterone. An extremely violent expert.

Kennedy: trusted the best and the brightest. How did that work out ?

Eisenhower: Candidate for not super smart (top honors at West Point but so ?) and good at the job. Need to overlook repeated severe recessions and assault on Democracy in Iran and Guatemala but it's not as if anything has gone wrong in either country since then

Truman another candidate excellent non expert president

FDR BINGO 2nd rate intellect 1st class character and confirms your theory of change.

I'd say the lesson of the past decades is that only wonks can protect themselves against fake experts and they only have a 50 50 chance.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The optics are as bad as they look

Dean "The Optics aren't as bad as they look" Baquet just confirmed that he actually doesn't do his job any more. He doesn't decide what is on the front page of the New York Times. He doesn't explain what he does (except force reporters to tone down their story on the Trump campaigns connections to Russia until it falsely asserted that the FBI had found no clear links *after* the FBI had obtained 2 FISC warrants based on probable cause to believe two Trump campaign employees (one of them campaign chairman) were foreign agents).

Look if he isn't willing to edit, maybe his job should be eliminated as he eliminated the public editor breaking a solemn promise to readers and destroying the paper's credibility which can only be restored if he is fired.

Also he presents a false dichotomy (an error of thought more common than any other error of thought or any valid method of thought). He asserts (without any evidence or logic) that the only choice of for the Times to continue to do what it has been doing or to act as the opposition to Trump.

He doesn't even consider the possiblity that it could act like a serious newspaper and not quote unreliable sources without fact checking (even if the demonstrably unreliable source happens to be President). He assumes that the most recent claims must be reported without noting the proof that they are lies. Basically his position is that the facts don't matter, or maybe that they must not be reported, because they have a liberal bias.

I think it is very important that Baquet be fired immediately.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Custody battles

I never expected that after the national divorce liberals would get custody of The CIA The FBI The NFL and the most profitable megacorporations. But at least the GOP has the assault rifles and the 30 to 50 feral hogs I don't even know who I should credit for the national divorce meme, but it's not original

Our purpose here is done

I think I have just found the ultimate abyss of idiocy Patrick Ruffini @PatrickRuffini · 4h How many times have I gone into a bar hoping for a dependable selection of beers I can trust and instead being forced to choose this locally brewed artisanal nonsense (80% of which are IPAs which I detest) like it were Stalin’s Russia or Bernie’s America? So small profit seeking businesses stocking products which sell well and which don't fit my tastes or desire for all to consume what I like are Stalinist ? If anyone can find anything stupider ever written (in any language using any alphabet or hieroglyphs) please paste it in comments.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

nomoremisterniceblog almost states the bitter truth, but he's too nice to tell us what fools we are.

he wrote

I don't want to relitigate the McGovern and Mondale campaigns, but Dukakis? "Free everything and impossible promises" weren't what defeated him.

my comment

I want to relitigate events of 1984, which Delaney has sent down the memory hole. Mondale was not hammered because he made promises he couldn't keep. He said he was going to talk to us like grownups. He said he was going to increase taxes (but not increase taxes on families with income under $ 30000 which would be about 60000 now with inflation).

So the people of the USA had to choose between a serious guy who told us the truth and the guy who promised that lower taxes meant higher revenues. It is obvious that most voted for Reagan who made absurd promises which he obviously couldn't keep.

Now there have been Democratic candidates who promised to reduce the deficit and reduce taxes on most families -- Clinton and Obama '-- exactly the two non incumbent Democrats who won when the Income tax was constitutional and the top rate was under 55%. Obama also actually delivered (not that many people noticed) while Clinton was suddenly (not permanently) unpopular when Rubin convinced him we couldn't afford a middle class tax cut.

Unlike her husband, Hillary Clinton was honest about budgetary and political limits. Unlike his wife, Bill Clinton was elected President.

The lesson is simple. Don't treat the US public like adults. Do make promises, including some you can't keep. The data are clear. Anyone who lives in the real world knows this. Only dreamers like Delaney, Dukakis, Mondale, Gore think you can win as the speaker of inconvenient truths.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Belle Waring on Autistic Perverts

Comments are closed on this post. I think it is an average Belle Waring post. I am going to comment here. But first I want to discuss the secret (perhaps harmless) invasion of privacy. When I see a young,good looking, energetic, dynamic, positive happy young couple, I often think of what a great time they must have in bed. Is that mental peeping ? Doesn't matter can't help it. But reading Crooked Timber I experience another case of possible undetectable invasion of privacy. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Waring/Holbo residence. Just think of the conversations they have. And a pony. Anyway, the post includes a description of being stalked. The point is someone argued that an autistic man with a PhD in psychology couldn't have the mens rea to be guilty of possessing child pornography. I want to go off on mens rea (criminal intent -- I can't spell in English and my Latin spelling is correct only by pure chance). It makes a lot of sense if one things the purpose of the justice system is retribution. Some if you think of deterrence. Very little if you think of incapacitation as I do. I believe in locking people up mostly if it is the only way to prevent them from committing crimes (then staffing prisons adequately so they don't commit and be victims of crime while in prison). I consider prison to be collective self defense, not as extreme as war but justified only by need. I also think the idea of retribution is very important to most other people and shapes the justice system. "Justice was done" is a statement about proper retribution. This is highly relevant to the principle that defendents can be not guilty for reason of insanity. An violent insane person is very dangerous (and very rare -- most psychotics are not violent, quite likely to be victims of crimes and not at all likely to commit them). But not really to blame and not a proper subject for retribution. I would prefer a third verdict, guilty and insane (that is insanity as a extenuating factor implying that the proper sentence does not include prison time). I think this is important, because if insane people can't be incarcerated when they do unacceptably violent things which would be crimes with the usual mens rea, then there must be some way to incarcerate them in a residential care facility if they are a danger to themselves or others. Criminal liability makes us free. It means we can do anything which isn't clearly banned by a published law (our responsibility to do due diligence on what is legal -- ignorance of the law is no excuse). If people are protected from criminal liability, they are protected from having the right to do anything which is not specifically forbidden. It's wrong. It is different in non-anglophone countries. It should be changed. People who harm others with no ill intent are dangerous. Collective self defense may require incarceration (in a mental hospital). However, they should have the right to a trial by jury as they are human beings and have human rights. The identification of justice and retribution has made a mess of things, as usual.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Some Atheist Theology

I hope and trust that this won't convince any religious people. I wouldn't want to do that. But I do trust it won't.

This is from a comment thread. I am responding to Dale Coberly who wrote

God may or may not exist. I have no way of knowing. But the existence of evil in the world is not evidence either way. The whole story of Jesus, I think, is meant to illustrate the point that God permits evil to happen to good people but that is not the end of the story. If nothing else, it helps people to not despair when evil happens to them. I would not take that away from them. A good deal more important to them than a rise in GDP.

I don’t want to argue with you either, but I did not mention the existence of evil. I discussed natural disasters. Augustine can argue that only agents with free will can have souls, so God must accept a world with evil. Omnipotence does not mean ability to overrule a logical contradiction. I disagree in many ways (explained below* no character limit in comment threads (or personal blogs))

But that wasn’t my argument. I was discussing natural disasters. The evil, if any, is committed by the tectonic plates which shift. Now I don’t claim this proves there is no God. I can’t help claiming that this proves there is no benevolent God.

Or take the story of Jesus (Jesus’s version). In that story, Jesus isn’t an aspect of God but a son of God (notably so is everyone else, in the gospels Jesus never hinted that he was God or a god of a new pagan faith). He must suffer horribly as a scapegoat.

If true, this story would prove that there is not a benevolent omnipotent God. Either God can’t let people into heaven unless Jesus suffers on the Cross (so He is not omnipotent) or he chooses not to (so he is not benevolent and demands suffering of the innocent). If true, the gospels would prove that there is not a benevolent omnipotent God.

Now this is all very simple. Obvious even. The fact that Christian doctrine is full of logical contradictions (I haven’t mentioned that 3>1) has been declared by extremely smart people to be proof that it is a higher more glorious truth than we mere mortals can understand. Faith can trump logic and evidence. It clearly has in this case.

Contra Augustine. I don’t believe we have souls in the sense he used the word (immortal souls) so I disagree fundamentally. But I also don’t agree that we have free will. I think our actions are determined by the laws of physics or truly random as asserted by the laws of physics. The causation can’t start with us. In any case, I don’t believe in human free will. But finally, he is talking about evil not un-necessary suffering. That wasn’t my topic at all.

Now you say that religious belief is a very good thing (even if the beliefs do not correspond to reality). I agree entirely. Not being a Christian I disagree with his claim that the truth will set us free. It’s just the truth and sometimes it’s better to believe other things. Fine. Agreed. Religion can be a very good thing and often is. Something to be cherished. But it is also false.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Milton Friedman and the Keynesians Not an Old English Folk Tale

I wrote a post with this title which is poor, solitary, nasty, and long.

the bottom line is I say Friedman was always a Keynesian except for his insistence that the effect of the nominal interest rate on money demand is more or less pretty much negligible. This means that I argue that he differed from Keynes because he was a monetarist. In the 80s the difference between monetarists and Keynesians (which always was a matter of a paremeter estimate and not any fundamental disagreement) was dwarfed by the difference between them and the fresh water new classical ratexians. But the point, if any of the rant is that Friedman is determined not to be trapped among the Keynesians and that he bases his efforts fundamentally on the importance of i.

The failed aim was to introduce the following modified children's story in which an innocent red hen which happens to be red is rejected by red haters who can't admit that they agree with non conservatives. This post is very pointless too (Especially to people not told the story when they were children).

“Who will prime the pump?”

But Friedman said, “Not i,”

she ran about calling briskly: “Who will cut the tax?”

Friedman said, “Not i,”

“Who will press demand?”

But Freidman, with a grunt, said, “Not i,”

“Who will demand the Wheat on the market to be sold?”

Turning his back with snippy glee, Friedman said, “Not i,”

“Who will make some bread?”

Milt said "Not i"

Milton Friedman and the Keynesians

Brad DeLong noted that new Keynesians are actually Friedmanites. On all points where 1960s Keynesians disagreed with Friedman, they concede. The fusion of Keynesians and Monetarists would seem odd to anyone who can't conceive of real business cycle theory (really anyone who can't conceive of a human being taking real busines cycle theory seriously, that is, all normal human beings and most economists). Paul Krugman notes a return of Paleo Keynesians. Then discuses it more.

By the way, Krugman's link to DeLong doesn't work any more The Washington Center for Equitable Growth returns a 404 error. I went to Krugman to get the link to Brad, noted Krugman said brilliant things (no surprise) *and* that his link is rotten (that's news).

I'm going to get to the point soon but I have to discuss Krugman now.

Oh boy this introduction ran away from me. I am going to put the whole rant after the jump. the bottom line is I say Friedman was always a Keynesian except for his insistence that the effect of the nominal interest rate on money demand is more or less pretty much negligible. This means that I argue that he differed from Keynes because he was a monetarist. In the 80s the difference between monetarists and Keynesians (which always was a matter of a paremeter estimate and not any fundamental disagreement) was dwarfed by the difference between them and the fresh water new classical ratexians. But the point, if any of the rant is that Friedman is determined not to be trapped among the Keynesians and that he bases his efforts fundamentally on the importance of i.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Kevin Drum Talking 'bout my generation

Kevin Drum has a funny but also genuinely interesting post on how boomers are not really to blame for messing up America (he half tongue in cheek blames the silent generation). I don't think the defensiveness is entirely an act. He does concede

Now, if you want to blame boomers for welfare reform, sure. Bill Clinton was (barely) a boomer. If you want to blame boomers for the Iraq War, I guess so. George Bush was (barely) a boomer—though the real force behind it was Dick Cheney (b. 1941). If you want to blame us for screwing up Obamacare, that seems sort of churlish, but whatever. Barack Obama was (barely) a boomer—though the real roadblock to a public option was Joe Lieberman (b. 1942) and his centrist pals.

I comment

One interesting thing, you list welfare reform with invading Iraq (and also the ACA but call that churlish) and admit that it was a boomer misdeed (blaming Cheney for Iraq and Lieberman for weaknesses of the ACA which was still a great step forward). This interests me, because our one point of regular disagreement was over how horrible welfare reform is (it is current policy so the present tense is necessary).

Oddly, I learned of the association with a sharp increase in deep poverty here (I think your second post of the series in which you briefly conceded that welfare reform was severely damaging). I never understood your motivation . Now I see how important 2 years can be (also this post makes me feel young -- thanks). I was born in 1960 so late boom (or between boomer and gen X). I definitely do not consider Bill Clinton to be from my generation. Welfare reform is something old guys did to my country.

I wonder if there is actually something non-humorous and ironic on the square here. I do really find your discussion of the topic unreasonable. Here I comment that you depend on arguing that a 50% increase is negligible

I think you actually depend on our eyes perceiving 0.1*f(x) as more nearly horizontal than f(x) so they are deceived by scale. You discuss the murder rate often. Try adding percentage of Americans murdered to the graph with different definitions of "percentage of households with childred in extreme poverty" and see how invisible the changes are.

OK "churlish" triggered me (you once mentioned that you think I don't mind being churlish -- don't expect you to remember). I will try to unchurl. I think there is a very basic problem with US welfare policy. Hatred of welfare means there are some people in the USA much poorer than anyone should be. As you noted, the dollar cost of eliminating severe poverty is tiny. I am sure you believe, as I do, that the long run poverty trap culture of poverty effects are an advantage of bringing back more generous cash welfare. But we agree that "bring back old welfare" is political poison.

I think we can agree that welfare hatred is based on racism (racists being more open than they were 10 years ago). I think there is a political problem for how to get policy around the barrier of welfare hatred. I note that the left more candidates talk about giving to college graduates (forgiving student debt) more than about giving to children in severe poverty. I think even Sanders is afraid of welfare (and of course gun control). Finally I think all the tech bro talk of UBI and how everyone will be put out of work by the robot apocalypse so you, white man, will need welfare too is all an effort to get around welfare hatred.

It is a topic you clearly understand very well (I assume growing up in Orange county is relevant) and it is very important. I now ask for a post on welfare and welfare hatred.

Sorry to comment almost off topic and at length.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Whole Trinity

Not the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost. There are other trinities in our religious tradition. One is faith hope and caring. They sure are three separate things. I care a lot but I have very little hope. Another is that God is omnipotent, benevolent and omniscient. I realize that I believe in two Gods. There are the laws of nature which are all powerful but have no mind, no understanding, no clue. There is the moral law which is benevolent but absolutely powerless. It can't make things happen. It can't even speak to us. However, there isn't pure knowledge nor could there be. The point is that I see no deep connection between what is and what should be. Hence caring with little hope.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Comment on DeLong on Buchanan

Read Brad's post.

my comment on "Milton Friedman's redefinition of "neutral monetary policy" to mean "whatever monetary policy keeps nominal GDP on its trend growth path" led people prone to motivated reasoning in a laissez-faire direction completely and horribly astray... astonishing failure to mark one's beliefs to market"

Someone should write a book "Economic Theory: What Went Wrong". You had a draft in your mind some years ago. PseudoDeLong wrote that economics had been healthy, although inevitably influenced by ideology. In the good old days, there were fruitful debates between libertarians like Friedman, Stalinists like Sweezy and everyone in between.

Then Lucas and Prescott made a mess of things, abandoning evidence for pure theory. Or rather, they made a non mess of things, focusing on their favored models and ignoring non messy reality.

This is an attractive story, but it does not correspond to the actual history of what was actually written and said. It is, roughly, salt water good, fresh water bad. Fresh water means both back engineering theory from free market policy preferences and favoring rigorous analysis of the implications of absurd assumptions both to common sense and to empirical rigor "progress don't regress" "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement".

The problems are (at least) two. First the fresh/salt division isn't identical to left/right. The terms were introduced by Hall a salty conservative. Sargent and Hansen are distilled water center-lefties.

But second, many salty lefties manage to be almost as receptive to actual evidence as Prescott. You present an example. I think Friedman is another. Actually Lucas himself is a brilliant rhetorician -- he can do it with words as well as with equations.

Notice, I classify Friedman as a salt water economist. I do insist that Friedman and Lucas are methodological opposites (it isn't merely that their statements contradict, so they can't both be right, one is the negation of the other so they can't both be wrong)

They are on the same team with teammates named Laffer, Kudlow and Moore. They are (or sadly were) geniuses, but they work back from the conclusion and are more loyal to small government ideology than to their stated methodologies. This must be true, because they consider themselves part of the same school even though they have opposite methodologies.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

G and GDP update

I think it might be time for an update on the crudest of tiny sample reduced form analysis of fiscal policy and the current recovery.

One reason for my continued interest is that there was a rather large tax cut enacted in 2017. Trump critics tend to argue that it failed to encourage investment, but did affect aggregate demand. I wonder if the noticeable increase in GDP growth is due to the tax cut or the spending increase from the 2017 omnibus spending bill.

So I look at GDP and G (government consumption plus investment) again. Both are annual changes in billions of 2012 dollars (Not logs). I subtracted 400 billion from the change in quarterly GDP (multiplied by 4 to give an annual rate). Also I multiplied G by 1.5 which is a common estimate of the multiplier (say by Blanchard and Leigh Nakamura and Steinsson). Here an effect of the tax cut would appear as an anomaly -- an increase in GDP not fit by the change in G times the multiplier (or the $ 400 Billion and year trend).

I do not see an anomaly either when the tax bill passed in 2017 or in 2018 when tax witholding changed. As I mentioned back in 2014 I don't see an anomaly in either growth or government consumption plus investment when sequestration started in 2013 q1. The anomalies are high growth from 2014 q 1 to 2015 q 1 then low growth from 2015 q1 and q2 to 2016 q1 and q2, that is a level anomaly at a time when there weren't policy shifts.

I notice again that theory and data both suggest that changes in G are more important than changes in taxes. Nonetheless the practice is to measure the fiscal stance with the full employment budget deficit, that is, to assume that the balanced budget multiplier is zero.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Barry Barry Ritholtz asks how the New York Times got 2 very different figures from the same data

Barry Ritholtz has doubts about data presentation at the New York Times

His commentary is very brief "What is this about? Is it guilty conscience, or something else?"

The graphs are strikingly different


Alberto Cairo explains

I have a guess about what happened. I guess the second figure is a regression with counties weighted by population and the first is unweighted. I consider both semi reasonable things to do, but weighting to be better (it is also the second to be produced if I understand correctly)

First the fact that the size of the circles depends on total votes in the second figure suggests that the regression was weighted by total votes. Second it is clear that the big blue counties pull the line more in the second figure. I note that the estimated effect of government assistance on the Trump vote is greater in the second figure.

Others have another guess -- that the first line was hand drawn after eyeballing and isn't a regression line. That seems unlikely to me. Someone tweeted that it is clearly not an OLS regression. I suspect that the eye is even more influenced by outliers than OLS is. The dense cloud of many fairly similar observations does not impress us as much as it impresses a computer running OLS

I think I'm going to give a hostage to fortune and guess that, if someone sends me the raw data, I can run an unweighted OLS regression and get figure 1. I feel pretty safe, because I am pretty sure few people will read this and none will download and e-mail the data to

Reply to PGL comment on Brad DeLong Post on Stealing Candy From Fish in a Barrel

This is a comment on a comment and is here only because I can't insert a figure in a comment section. Click the link. Good point. Also the GOP supply side story is about non residential fixed investment. They have been promising for 39 years that their tax cuts will cause a huge increase in business investment and that Democrats' tax increases will cause it to collapse.

Also there has been a very clear pattern, which happens to be the exact opposite. The ratio of non residential fixed investment to GDP is high when a Democrat is in the White House (especially if he is a peanut farmer from Georgia) and collapses when a supply-sider is in the White House.

The pattern is so clear that it is hard to avoid seeing it. The incentives to claim to have managed not to see it are clearly very strong.

Also Brad why real/real. Two famous economists have stressed that the causes of high investment cause high nominal/nominal while effects are due to real/real so one can test causation using relative prices. One of them is named DeLong. The tax bill doesn't affect the relative price of capital goods, I think it is best to look at dollars/dollars and leave price indices out of it.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Houston Houston can you read me giving a hostage to fortune

Who told Kay Steiger that I don't read Raccoona Sheldon AKA James J Tiptree Jr I-m not actually sure that's who she accused her readers (including me) of overlooking. I just have this
OK so now I click Bingo "Sheldon primarily wrote under a male pseudonym — James Tiptree Jr."

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

St Leo the Great in Chalcedon

Pope Leo I had an interesting career involving some difficult negotiations. He reasond with Attila about the wisdom of invading Italy and convinced Attila that he should settle for marrying Honoria (sister of the emperor who appears from her correspondence with Attila to have preferred the prospect of marriage with Attila to forced celibacy). He also negotiated with Genseric who had an army while Leo did not. They reached agreement on ground rules for the second sack of Rome.

But then he ran into real trouble. He was named chairman of the council of Chalcedon to preside over the debate between Nestorius and Eutycheus over whether the divine and human aspects of Christ were separate or united. He did try to convince his fellow bishops that problems with Huns and Vandals and such might be considered almost as important as theological disputes.

The Council did decide that Jesus Christ is one being with two natures (current Catholic and Orthodox doctrine) rejecting the Nestorian doctrine (accepted by the Assyrian Church) and the Eutychian doctrine (accepted by the Armenian Church).

The furious theological dispute was especially frustrating for Leo I because he did not speak Greek. He only spoke Latin. He had to ask for translations of the furious disputes about whether this or that Greek word described Jesus. This was challenging especially when the furious dispute was over two Greek words which had the same Latin translation.

All in all, the months of arguing about words while Rome burned must have been frustrating.

But at least he never had to discuss Modern Monetary Theory.

Thoughts and Priors : on the limits of Bayesian Reasoning

Don't you hate it when you have a good title and no post to go after it ?

Monday, March 04, 2019

Scott Fullwiler

I have to write this. It isn't worth tweeting or posting at Angrybear. It's about me and no one should care.

I am having a problem with Scott Fullwiler @stf18

Actually many problems.

1) I tweeted a lot of silly stuff yesterday. I want to explain it. I know no one is interested so I will explain it here.

2) I have been trying to find a tweet of his with a useful quote from 2002 from the person who actually handled open market operations in New York. For one thing, I forget her name. But I can't find it because looking through his tweets enrages me.

I will start with

2)The tweet includes a very intersting quote by the woman who actually did it. The point is that even back in 2002 an announcement of a new target was, on average, roughly enough to achieve the new target FF rate. There was not a clear correlation between changes in the target rate and the sign of open market operations. That's interesting. Now one problem is that Fullwiler summarized the quote leaving out "roughl" and "correlation" and wrote something which, if taken literally, implies that there were no open market operations at all. I mean that is exactly what he typed. My extensive efforts to explain that the quoted passage was a statement about the expected sign and the magnitude but not the existence of open market operations were not successful. Also he said he would bet me $$ that I couldnĂ t tell him what he claimed. I agreed to a $100 bet, because all I have to do to win it is cut and paste what he wrote. I mean he is willing to bet me that I don't know and can't find out what he tweeted. He placed no limit on the $$, so I believe he owes me $100 because "Fed hasn't actively changed the monetary base when it changes the interest rate target since maybe pre-1994,". I don't expect to collect, because I'm sure he is a welcher.

But the problem is that I can't find the valuable quote, because I can not stand his twitter thread.

OK the embarrassing (to me) twitter flame war explained

1) It began with someone who tweets as @fiat_money . I don't know this person's name in real life. I would tend to guess that he or she might be a Ron Paul type gold bug. I have no reason to think this person has any interest in MMT. Also he or she was blocked by Brad DeLong.

After I tweeted many silly things, I wrote a thread explaining what I should have said

I cut and paste

Robert Waldmann

‏ @robertwaldmann 24h24 hours ago

I am discussing this claim "Fed makes sure T-bonds are instantly convertible to USD, so printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars." do you agree that printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars ?"

The Fed does no such thing. There is a very thick secondary market for t-bills, so they can be converted to USD instantly (at a market price which varies).

The Fed does buy and sell t-bills for reserves with open market operations but it doesn't make the market. It doesn't make sure t-bills are liquid. The private secture sure does, but that's not the Fed's job.

Since the Fed absolutely does not act as a t-bill/USD market maker, issuing them is not at all like printing money. It is very possible that the Fed's reaction to increased deficits is to sell t-bills contracting the supply of reserves. The FOMC does what it chooses to do.

It is absolutely not true at all that increased deficits automatically cause increased reserves. If the FOMC just sits there (no open market operations) then there is no change in reserves. The MMT position is nonsense.

The fact that MMTers contested my criticism of "printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars" lowers my opinion of them (which before today was vague as I had not thought about them much).

Embarrassingly, before tweeting the thread copied and pasted above, I replied to replies to my ciriticsm of the quoted claim. In the resulting twitter flame war, I asked Scott Fullwiler who is very expert on how monetary policy is actually implemented whether he knew what an open market operation is. He does. He knows quite a lot about open market operations and how they are currently almost irrelevant (a claim I started making in 2010

I feel the need to explain what happened. I criticized the claim "Fed makes sure T-bonds are instantly convertible to USD, so printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars." saying that T-bonds and USD are not perfect substitutes (note unlike T-bills and notes T-bonds mature after 30 years, they are quite different from dollars). Someone replied to me arguing that t-bills are used by financial firms as a means of payment (true as I have noted from time to time). I proved that t-bills and USD are not perfect substitutes by graphing the t-bill interest rate. I think this proves @fiat_money was wrong. Scott Fullwiler jumped in laughing at me.

Now I knew that MMTers assert that deficit spending automatically causes an increase in reserves. I didn't know why they say that (it absolutely isn't true if the standard definitions of "deficit spending" and "reserves" are used). Foolishly I guessed they were using an eccentric definition of reserves and claiming that t-bills and dollars are perfect substitutes (always and not just now (approximatel) in the liquidity trap). If this were true, then open market operations would have no effect, hence my question.

But now I know that they use an eccentric definition of deficit spending. They define it as spending financed by money creation. Then the actual process of spending financed by the auctioning of Treasury securities, they describe as 2 events -- deficit spending and bond sales. This *should* be a harmless eccentricity. The disagrement is purely 100% semantic. There is no disagreemnt if NMTers vs other economists about the policy options open to the US Federal Government. It is very bad to insist on using terms with definitions other than the standard definition. Typically the only result is confusion. But in this case it is much worse because MMTers insist that the purely semantic distinction is substantive and very important. I think this demonstrates that they have nothing useful to contribute to any discussion. But it sure doesn't mean they don't know what open market operations are.

The claim that deficitm spending implies an increase in reserves is based on the definition of "deficit spending" as meaning what 99% of economists mean by "deficit spending and open market operations so that the balance of bonds outstanding does not change and the supply of high powered money increases by an amount equal to the deficit". On the other hand, they use the word "reserves" with its standard definition.

There was a twitter flame war during which I did not manage to communicate that my objection was with the claim that bonds and USD are perfect substitutes (I did type that this was my point (if any) many times).

I have sincere advice for MMTers. If they want others to consider them anything other than a cult of flakes, they should use standard definitions of words. If,for some deep psychological reason, they must use there own eccentric definitions, they should say so in every document they write using the eccentric definitions (which means ever tweet). Jargon is useful for excluding people, but a tiny bunch of people do not gain by excluding everyone else.

I fear that the problem with this is that, aside from the eccentric terminology and ignorance about residential investment and open economies, they have nothing original to contribute. They certainly haven't presented any argument that they have something useful to add to the discussion that has convinced more than a tiny number of outsiders.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Empty Quarter, Greenwich and the Mason Dixon Line

I recall being surprised to learn that I was born, bred and then living South of the Mason Dixon line. I considered the border between North and South to be the Patomac river (honestly felt I was entering enemy territory when I entered Northern Virginia -- this was very long ago). My dad explained it was the border between Pennsylvania (North) and Maryland (South). My 91 year old mother recently confessed that she had some doubts about moving South of the Mason Dixon line to live with my Dad. The border is now roughly where 270 shrinks into a normal sized highway. The line is arbitrary.

I thought of it when I saw the very common figure showing the empty quadrant of US public opinion. A solid majority is more egalitarian than the center and more socially conservative than the center.

What the hell is this center ? The question is made more difficult by the fact that the two dimensions are indices constructed combining answers to many questions. I am fairly sure that historically the "economic dimension" is the first principle component of the cloud of answers and the "social/identity dimension" is the second. But I am talking about the placement of the axes. It is that arbitrary, unmotivated and unexplained choice which causes the South East quadrant to be empty. One natural placement is that the division between left and right on the economic dimension is the median level of the economic index and the division between socially conservative and socially liberal is the median level of social/identity index. This is clearly not the choice made by *all* political scientists, sociologist and survey researchers. It is clear that the median US adult has left of center views on economic issues and more conservative than centrist views on social/identity issues.

I assert that there is some elitist nonsense going on here. I haven't looked very hard, but I also haven't found any definition of what makes some point (0,0). So I speculate.

Everything is relative, so to the standard statement that public opinion is skewed conservative populist, I assert thatelite opinion is skewed libertarian -- it's that the axes are oddly placed given the data points, not that the datapoints are oddly placed given the axes.

Of course it isn't simply a matter of eliminating a central claim of US political science by adding a constant to the economic index scores and subtracting one from the social/identity index scores. The cloud would look strange because it would end abruptly at the values which are now econmic ultraleft -1 and ultra social conservative +1. The issue isn't just the processing of the answers to questions which are the raw data -- it is also the questions. A large number of people (including some Trump voters) give the left more answer to every economic question and a smaller but still large number give the most conservative answer to every social/identity question. This shows the elite libertarianish skew of the people who chose the questions.

If the economic question is "should the rich be lined up and shot after all their wealth is confiscated or is making them poor punishment enough" then almost all US adults would agree on something with a libertarian. If the social/identity question is "was Moses right that gay sex should be punished with death" again a substantial majority would side with libertarians. But those questions are considered absurd, because they are outside of the range of elite opinion. (indeed as a child of the elite I absolutely oppose killing rich people, killing gay people and oppose killing rich gay people). The point is just that the questions matter. Most of the 10% most egalitarian Americans are to the right of Mao Tse Tung. The most socially conservative are to the left of Cotton Mather (haven't heard much agitation for witch trials lately).

So what is this elite ? My guess is that it would be political scientists, sociologists, and survey researchers. But it could be members of congress. I haven't read the questions, but they might be issues on the Federal Government agenda -- nothing so far left as a top income tax rate of 70% until roughly last week. Or it could be pundits, columnists, "sophisters, economists, and calculators". In any case, the figure tells us as much about the people who chose the questions as about those who chose the answers. !"

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Weak Chait Snark

The smart and ruthless Jon Chait writes of the Trump administration "(petty graft ranging from lavish office expenses to making staff procure high-end hand cream)". Wrong Jon. You meant to write "(petty graft randing from emoluments to emollients)" Also some actual pedantry. As has become common recently, Chait used "singular" to mean "single" here "Here is the crown jewel of the Trump presidency, the singular legislative achievement". This usage error has spread singularly quickly, but "singular" in this context means "strange" not "the only one". The single best way to assert that an event is unique is to type or say "single". I guess that "singular" sounds more literaryular or maybe dramaticular or somethingular. Also "fulsomely" means disgustingly not fully or completely.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Reagan's Tax Cuts and the Volcker Recession

Max Boot is a candidate member of the Rubin Gerson can't be a conservative anymore, because I always agree with them club of Washington Post columnists. But he is a bit confused about US macroeconmic history and macroeconomics. He wrote

"The deficit spending of the Reagan years was at least justified because it boosted the economy out of a deep recession "

As a matter of timing, this can't be right. The Kemp Roth tax cut was enacted in 1981. Real GDP peaked in 1981q3 -- the tax cut corresponds to the beginning of the recession not the end.

The part that Boot misses (because it has been unimportant for the past 10 years) is monetary policy. It is possible to cause a severe recession in spite of fiscal stimulus by driving the Federal Funds rate up over 19 %. The combination of loose fiscal and very tight monetary policy caused huge real interest rates and a collapse of investment. It also caused an over-valued dollar, a huge surge in imports and deindustrialization.

One can discuss the effects of fiscal policy without considering the response of monetary authorities only when monetary policy is constrained by the zero lower bound. If GDP is determined by the Fed's ideas about what level is consistent with low inflation, then fiscal policy which is, in itself, stimulatory just changes the composition and not the level of demand.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"If Only Obama had Done the Things Obama Actually Did" J-chait

Jon Chait remains as enthusiastic about Barack Obama as I am, so it isn't surprising that he wrote a blog post entitled "If Only Obama had Done the Things Obama Actually Did". But the title does raise a question. Is Chait dumping on the very serious centrists (cough David Brooks couch) who argued that Obama should reach out to Republicans by proposing reasonable centrist policies which he had proposed (as Chait often does) or is Chait hippy punching (as Chait does when he isn't Republipunching).

The first two words in the post answer the question "Matt Stoller" OK here comes some hippy punching (I haven't read past "Stoller"). In contrast, something is very predictable. I almost always agree with Chait (unless he is writing about charter schools and neglects to mention that he is married to a manager of a charter school company).

Charlie Pierce has been there and done that. No need to read his post to get the point -- the subtitle is thermonuclear

"I'm Going to Guess This Isn't a Winning Democratic Platform for 2020

Also, Rand Paul is not a major figure in American politics."

Just imagine a Pierce Chait debate -- might be the critical mass of snark which causes the false vacuum to decay ending the universe (which on balance wouldn't necessarily be a good thing)).

Now hippy punching can be fun, but really guys, pick on someone in your league -- it isn't nice to dunk on a junior high school guard.

update: I clicked through to an older and excellent Chait article complaining that liberals did't appreciate Obama in 2010 (now liberals do -- the current complaints come from democratic socialists who denounce mere liberals).

He is forces to almost admit that FDR accomplished more than Obama. However, he also demonstrates historical ignorance writing

Roosevelt did not run for office promising to boost deficit spending in order to stimulate the economy. He ran castigating Herbert Hoover for permitting high deficits, then immediately passed an austerity budget in his first year.

It is true that Roosevelt castigated Hoover for permitting high deficits. However, the austerity budget which included an Ocasional Cortezian 63% top marginal income tax rate was The Revenue Act of 1932 (June 6, 1932, ch. 209, 47 Stat. 169). Notably 1932 was Hoover's last year not Roosevelt's first year. The bill was signed by tax and don't spend conservative Hoover.

In fact, in Roosevelt's first budget (spent in fiscal 1934 the first fiscal year for which he proposed a budget) there was a huge increase in Federal Spending. There was an increase in 1933, even though there was already a budget (& recall FDR became president in March not January). I guess the idea of a Republican soaking the rich is incomprehensible, but it happened. (to make a historiographic error avoided by Amity Schlaes should be embarrassing).

The budget passed (by Congress) in Roosevelt's first year increased Federal Government current spending by over 30%. Rather a larger proportional increase than the ARRA. This is not a subtle point.

As an aside, fiscal stimulus does not require deficit spending. The balanced budget multiplier is positive (this claim isn't mere theory it is based on evidence). I do not know why it is regularly asserted that the fiscal stance can be measured by the full employment budget balance (this is a point on which Robert Lucas and Christine Romer sometimes agree & they are both obviously wrong)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Ethics of Clinical Trials

In a clinical trial the therapy is decided by a pseudo random number generator. How can this be ethical ? People are treated differently for no reason related to different interests different values and priorities or even different merit (assuming merit can differ).

There is a utilitarian rational for clinical trials. Through such trials doctors learn, and that knowledge is useful to future patients. But this rationale is utterly rejected as ethically unacceptable, because it was used to justify depraved experiments.

I think the current discussion of the ethics of clinical trials is based on a mixture which is partly consequentialist and partly deontological, and that it is incoherent, because people feel the need to claim it is totally both, while the two are inevitably in conflict.

So it is asserted that physicians must act in the interest of the patient – each and every patient. It is also argued that clinical trials are morally acceptable. This does not make sense.

It is only possible if the expected welfare of the patients is identical under the two treatments over which one randomizes. Any difference, no matter how tiny, in expected welfare would compel the use of only the current standard therapy, or of only the new experimental therapy.

I think the failed effort to avoid this is to reject the concept of expected welfare. It is argued that it is OK to do one or the other because one does not know which is better for the patient.

It would be OK if one were to say all probabilities must be rounded to 0, 1 or 0.5 so we don’t know means each is exactly equally likely. However, this approach would make life strange and brief. In particular it would rule out general anesthesia for any procedure not necessary to save a life. The chance of death is very low but demonstrably not zero. Don’t operate unless you would operate with a 50% chance of killing the patient would rule out almost all surgery. We must make choices under uncertainty and can’t pretend that all uncertainty is the same and survive for long.

Consider 2 examples.

Another is that there are 2 treatments, and, with best estimates, with treatment A the probability that the patient lives is 50% and with treatment B the probability is 30%.

Another is that there are 2 treatments, and, with best estimates, with treatment C the probability that the patient lives is 50% and with treatment D the probability is 30%.

According to current medical ethics, one must provide treatment A not treatment B but one may chose treatment D or treatment C. This always is based on the assertion that the interests of the patient is all that matters. Yet I have assumed that, for the patient, the two pairs of choices are identical. This can’t make sense.

In the first case there is an unobservable difference between patients of type 1 or type 2 where if they are type 2, then treatment A kills them on the spot. 10% of people are of type 2 (as learned from decades of painful experience). If someone is of type 1, their chance of surviving with treatment A is 5/9. In contrast with treatment B all have a 30% chance of living. With decades of painful experience it is known with essentially complete certainty that the probabilities are 50% and 30%.

In the second case, there aren’t two types, but the evidence on treatment C is preliminary based on a small (phase II) trial. The fraction who survived in the trial was 50% but the 95% confidence interval is 20% to 80%. The null that the true chance is 30% is not rejected at standard confidence intervals. By standard reasoning it is time for a phase III trial with randomization.

In each case, we know that giving A not B might cause a patient to die who would otherwise live and our best estimate of the probabilities of survival are higher with A than with B and higher with C than with D. I think the difference is that one learns something by randomizing and giving half of the patients D and that this outweighs the expected deaths due to the randomization.

I think it is possible to believe people have a right to care, and also conduct randomized trials, if one says there must be a standard of care, and all people have right to that. That one may deviate if the weight of evidence suggests that an experimental therapy is better, but that such deviation is a matter of utilitarian total expected welfare maximization not individual rights which trump average interests.

But it is not easy or comfortable to believe this, so I think that doctors have decided to rely on statistics but reject the very concept of probability. The logical inconsistency might cause some discomfort. It would cause more if the concept of probability weren’t so utterly alien to normal human thought. But in any case the tension between believing in rights and believing those rights don’t always trump utilitarian calculations clearly causes more discomfort.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Incurious George

When incurious George made a total mess of everything, I hoped the man in the yellow hat would save the day. But I didn't photoshop it.

When you gotta go, you gotta go. If that's not an emergency, what is ?

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said that he doesn’t want President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency to fund the wall because of the precedent it would set for the next Democratic President, according to a Thursday Wall Street Journal report.

“I don’t want the next national emergency to be that some Democrat President says we have to build transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in America,” Gaetz said.

I can't help assuming that (perhaps because of the fear of trans bathrooms) Gaetz was about to piss his pants as he answered the question. What is it with Republicans and pee (no don't answer that question -- I don't want to know).

Also, uh Donald, if you've lost Matt Gaetz, you've lost.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Charlie I like you a lot, but if you factcheck you better check the facts

The very wonderful Charlie Pierce faceplants here

In an interview with Anderson Cooper, she [@AOC]posed a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent, or 20 percent lower than that which existed under Eisenhower, but 20 points higher than it was after JFK's tax cut,

In fact, after JFK's tax cut the top marginal tax rate was 70% not 50%. Rep Ocasio-Cortez is proposing exactly the top marginal rate imposed during the period of most rapid GDP growth since FDR died.

On the other hand

the entire conservative movement decided to make her a national brand, and it did its job splendidly well, and then she did the rest. Did they actually think that a collection of aging gray-boys was going to out-heckle a former NYC bartender? Did they think they were going to beat someone of her age and obvious savvy on social media? (Didn't getting whipped like rented mules by the Parkland survivors teach them anything about that?) She literally danced in their faces, and then she danced in their faces again. And people loved it in ways the gray-boys will never understand.

is wonderful.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Rare Yglesias Google Fail

(most boring title after "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative" but I couldn't resist) Web savvy ultra wonk Matthew Yglesias wrote "There’s no polling on specific brackets or exactly who counts as rich that I can find," Matty just google [income to be rich poll]. Jeez. Americans have varying ideas of how much money you need to earn each year to be considered "rich," but most people say you need to bring in at least $1 million per year. Notice that the possibility that one is rich because of high wealth not high income is too weird to even mention. That's rich.

Sue Me Julian

not for publication, but published here h.t. Evan Hurst CONFIDENTIAL LEGAL COMMUNICATION NOT FOR PUBLICATION. Julian Assange has published the largest leaks in the history of the CIA, State Department, Pentagon, the U.S. Democratic Party, and the government of Saudi Arabia, among many others, as well as saving Edward Snowden from arrest. Predictably, numerous falsehoods have been subsequently spread about WikiLeaks and its publisher. Falsehoods have also been spread by third parties: media competitors, click-bait sites, political party loyalists, and by those linked to the governments WikiLeaks or Julian Assange are litigating or have litigated (U.K., U.S., Ecuador, Sweden), which seek his arrest (U.S., U.K.), expulsion (Ecuador), or who have formal criminal investigations (U.S., Saudi Arabia, Australia), or who have banned or censored WikiLeaks (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China). Since Mr. Assange's unlawful isolation and gagging on March 28, 2018, the publication of false and defamatory claims about him has accelerated, perhaps because of an incorrect view that Mr. Assange, due to his grave personal circumstances, can no longer defend his reputation. These defamation efforts have reached a new nadir with the recent front page fabrication by Guardian newspaper, which falsely claimed that Julian Assange had multiple secret meetings with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, right down to a made up description of latter's pants at the fabricated meetings ("sandy coloured chinos") [see]. It is clear that there is a pervasive climate of inaccurate claims about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, including purposeful fabrications planted in otherwise 'reputable' media outlets. In several instances these fabrications appear to have the intent of creating political cover for his censorship, isolation, expulsion, arrest, extradition and imprisonment. Mr. Assange's isolation, ongoing proceedings and pending extradition also increase the legal and ethical burden on journalists, publishers and others to get their facts straight. Consequently journalists and publishers have a clear responsibility to carefully fact-check from primary sources and to consult the following list of defamations to ensure they do not spread and have not spread falsehoods about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The purpose of this list is to aid the honest and accurate and to put the dishonest and inaccurate on notice. Defamation List v1.3 the absense of any claim from this list does not imply that the claim is not false or defamatory It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is, or has ever been, charged with an offence by the United Kingdom or Sweden [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is, or has ever been, an agent or officer of any intelligence service [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks is, or has ever been alleged by the U.S. government to be, a State "foreign intelligence service". It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever been contacted by the Mueller investigation. It is false and defamatory to suggest that there is any evidence that the U.S. charges against Julian Assange relate to the Mueller investigation. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or Wikileaks is, or has ever been alleged by the U.S. government to be: Russian, Russian owned, a Russian subsidiary, contracted by Russia, Russian staffed, based in Russia, "in league" with Russia, an "arm of Russia" or a "Russian cutout" [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the U.S. government claims that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks directed, conspired, colluded or otherwise engaged in a crime, to obtain information from the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta [in fact, the government has made no such claim]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the Democratic National Committee has claimed that Julian Assange directed, conspired, or colluded to hack the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta [in fact, the DNC makes no such claim:]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks was alone in publishing allegedly hacked Democratic Party materials in 2016 [in fact, most U.S. media organizations did so: Politico, the Hill, The Intercept, Facebook, Wordpress and Twitter, and every major press outlet, including CNN and the New York Times, republished, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever met or communicated with Paul Manafort [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever met or communicated with George Cottrell [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange privately provided information about its then pending 2016 U.S. election-related publications to any outside party, including Nigel Farage, Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, Donald Trump Jr., Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn Jr., Cambridge Analytica, or Rebecca Mercer [it is defamatory because it falsely imputes that Julian Assange acted without integrity in his role as the editor of WikiLeaks, associates with criminals, or has committed a crime]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks has ever colluded with or conspired with, or compromised the integrity of its journalism for, any political campaign or State [in fact, published communication records show WikiLeaks doing exactly the opposite: rejecting approaches by Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign for information on its pending publications, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange was in communication with Roger J. Stone during, or prior to, the U.S. 2016 presidential election [in fact, the only message sent from WikiLeaks was a demand that Mr. Stone cease falsely stating that he had "communicated" with Julian Assange]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that there was a "back channel" between Julian Assange and Roger J. Stone during, or prior to, the U.S. 2016 presidential election. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Nigel Farage met with Julian Assange during, or prior to, the U.S. 2016 presidential election. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the purpose of Nigel Farage's meeting with Julian Assange in 2017, after the U.S. election, was in any way improper or not journalistic. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange timed the publication of its series on John Podesta to conceal the Access Hollywood "grab them by the pussy" video of Donald Trump [in fact, it is well documented that the video release was moved forward three days to be on the day of WikiLeaks' publication, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is "anti-American" or "anti-U.S." [in fact, he has an abiding love for the United States, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have not published critical information on Russia, Syria or Donald Trump [in fact, WikiLeaks has published hundreds of thousands of documents on Russia, millions on Syria, and thousands on Donald Trump, see,, &]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever worked for, or has ever been employed by "Russia Today", "RT" or the Russian government. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange was "given a show", "made a host", or "hosted a show" on RT [in fact, in 2012, he and two British companies, Dartmouth Films and Journeyman Pictures conceived, produced and distributed "The World Tomorrow", which was licensed to a dozen broadcasters and newspapers, only one of which was RT]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks "works with RT" or "works with Russian State media" [in fact, only once, for one publication in 2012, was RT part of a consortium of nearly two dozen re-publishers of WikiLeaks' series on the private surveillance industry, the SpyFiles]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks arranged for Edward Snowden to go to Russia [in fact, WikiLeaks gave legal assistance to Mr. Snowden to obtain asylum in Ecuador, but the U.S. government cancelled Mr. Snowden's passport mid-flight, stranding him in a Moscow transit lounge for 40 days [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange applied for a Russian visa in 2010 or obtained a Russian visa in the year 2010 or subsequently. It is false and defamatory to suggest that there was a "Russian plan" to "smuggle", or to otherwise remove, Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London or that Fidel Narvaez, or anyone else, was in contact with the Russian embassy in London in relation to such a claimed plan [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange was made an Ecuadorian diplomat to Russia [in fact, his diplomatic credentials were lodged to the government of the United Kingdom and he was appointed as an Ecuadorian diplomat to the United Kingdom; at no point were they lodged with Russia]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange claimed that any person or entity was their source for WikiLeaks' 2016 U.S. election publications [it is defamatory because Julian Assange's professional reputation is substantially based on source protection]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks does not have a perfect record of accurately verifying its publications. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the U.S. government has ever denied the authenticity of a WikiLeaks publication. It is false and defamatory to deny that DNC Chair Donna Brazile and Senator Elizabeth Warren admitted that Julian Assange was, in fact, correct and that the DNC had indeed "rigged" the 2016 primary election in favour of Hillary Clinton [see and]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that John Podesta or Donna Brazile deny the authenticity of emails about them published by WikiLeaks [in fact, Brazile confessed that WikiLeaks was correct and she had indeed shared debate questions with the Hillary Clinton campaign]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the French government found that "MacronLeaks" were hacked by Russia [in fact, the head of the French cyber-security agency, ANSSI, said that they did not have evidence connecting the hack with Russia, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks "targetted" the French presidential election of 2017 and published "MacronLeaks" during that election [in fact, WikiLeaks published MacronLeaks after the election]. It is false and defamatory to suggest any of the MacronLeaks published by WikiLeaks are inauthentic or that President Macron attempted to make such a claim after the publication by WikiLeaks. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks has ever stated that Russia was not behind the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal [in fact, Julian Assange stated that it was "reasonable" to view Russia as "the leading suspect"]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks has ever stated it was not appropriate to expel Russian diplomats and spies over the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Ecuador isolated and gagged Mr. Assange due to his comments on Sergei Skripal [in fact, he was isolated over his refusal to delete a factually accurate tweet about the arrest of the president of Catalonia by Spain in Germany, along with U.S. debt pressure on Ecuador. The president of Ecuador Lenin Moreno admitted that these two countries were the issue, see]. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange does not have political asylum or is merely "seeking asylum" [in fact, he won his asylum case in relation to U.S. government moves to prosecute him on August 16, 2012 and was granted formal refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange "fled" to the Embassy of Ecuador [in fact, he walked into the embassy and lodged an asylum claim; it was not until 10 days later that the UK government issued a warrant for his arrest. see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is, or has been, "hiding" in the embassy [in fact, his location is well known and his formal legal status is "political refugee"; it is incorrect to suggest that refugees, by virtue of being in the jurisdiction of refuge, are "hiding"]. It is false and defamatory to deny that Julian Assange has been formally investigated since 2010 and charged by the U.S. federal government over his publishing work [it is defamatory because such a claim falsely imputes that Mr. Assange's asylum is a sham and that he is a liar, see]. - It is false and defamatory to suggest that such U.S. charges have not been confirmed [in fact, they have, most recently by Associated Press (AP) and the Washington Post in November 2018]. - It is false and defamatory to suggest that the U.S. government denies the existence of such charges. - It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is not wanted for extradition by the U.S. government [in fact, public records from the Department of Justice show that the U.S. government says it had been intentionally concealing its charges against Mr. Assange from the public specifically to decrease his ability to "avoid arrest and extradition"]. - It is false and defamatory to suggest that the U.S. government has not publicly confirmed that it has an active grand jury, or pending or prospective proceedings, against Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, each year since 2010. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange's asylum is "self-imposed" or that he is "free to walk out any time he likes" [in fact, the UK government states that he will be immediately arrested, the U.S. government seeks his extradition and the exits to the embassy are under 24-hour surveillance; it is self-evident that refugees, having been compelled by the risk of persecution to seek asylum are not "free" to return to the area of risk, any more than one is free to leave a house with a bear on the porch, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange applied for political asylum over "sex allegations" or "extradition to Sweden" or to "avoid questioning" [in fact, he formally applied for and received political asylum over the U.S. grand jury proceedings against him; the UN and the Swedish courts found that Sweden was improperly refusing to question him, not the other way around, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is merely a "guest" of the embassy and does not have refugee status, including under the 1951 Refugee Convention, or that the UK is not a party to the Convention, or that Julian Assange received only "diplomatic asylum" or that his refugee status is, in any sense, improper or incomplete [it is defamatory because it suggests that Julian Assange committed a crime by applying for asylum, which is false, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange, as a political refugee, does not have the right to voice his political opinions or a right to communicate them [it is defamatory because it falsely suggests Mr. Assange is a liar when he states he has never agreed to be gagged and when he asserts that it is a fact that refugees have the legal right to express political opinions and because his reputation is to a significant degree based on the accuracy of his statements and in being the world's best-known free speech proponent and practitioner]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange did not have the right to apply for asylum or committed an offence in doing so [in fact, he has not been charged with an offence in the UK at any time and a "reasonable excuse" is a complete defence against any hypothetical future charge of "failing to surrender" under UK law and there has been no legal finding that his defence is invalid, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the terminated Swedish preliminary investigation started prior to the U.S. grand jury proceedings [in fact, the U.S. grand jury proceedings started in June 2010, three months before the Swedish preliminary investigation]. It is false and defmatory to suggest that the dropped Swedish preliminary investigation against Julian Assange ever had any legitimacy whatsoever [in fact, already by August 2010, the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm found that "no crime at all" had been committed, and SMS messages from the alleged complainant showed that she "did not want to accuse Assange of anything", that she felt "railroaded by police and others around her", and that "police made up the charges"; documents from the UK government prove serious impropriety by the State, and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD)found Sweden's conduct to be illegal, see]. It is false and potentially defamatory to suggest that the UN WGAD decision finding Julian Assange to be unlawfully detained in the UK is not legally binding [in fact, the UN has released two statements in response to such false reporting, stating that the decision is "legally binding"]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever been charged with, or committed, an offence in the United Kingdom. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever "breached his bail", "jumped bail", absconded, fled an arrest warrant, or that he has ever been charged with such at any time. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has a sentence to serve or has ever avoided serving a sentence. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange fled Sweden [in fact, the State prosecutor granted him permission to leave, he was not wanted for arrest or charged with an offence at the time he left Sweden, and he left for a publicly scheduled talk in Geneva, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has been accused by any person of raping them [in fact, both so-called Swedish "complainants", who were falsely reported to have made such an accusation, denied that they had been raped, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the Swedish preliminary investigation was closed due to an inability to proceed caused by Mr. Assange or a statute of limitations [in fact, the prosecution abandoned the entire preliminary investigation, the arrest warrant was dropped, and the file closed and destroyed as the direct result of Julian Assange filing a case against the government of Sweden for its abuse of legal due process; the UN WGAD also twice found that Sweden had acted unlawfully, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange was never interviewed by Swedish officials or has ever attempted to avoid being interviewed by Swedish officials [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that there was ever a charge, case or prosecution against Julian Assange in Sweden [in fact, the matter never reached beyond the "preliminary investigation" stage]. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is false and defamatory to deny that WikiLeaks is a media organization [in fact, WikiLeaks has won many media awards, is registered as a media organization, has been repeatedly found to be a "media organization" by the UK courts, and employs top journalists who (including Julian Assange) are members of their respective media unions, see]. It is false and defamatory to deny that Julian Assange is an award-winning editor, journalist, publisher, author and documentary maker who has won the highest journalism award in his country, among many others. [] It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks has ever, through intent or negligence, revealed a source [in fact, in the case of alleged source Chelsea Manning, the allegation by the State is that Manning spoke, in a knowing breach of WikiLeaks' security rules, to a reseacher for Wired magazine, Adrian Lamo, who promised him journalistic confidentiality, only to then inform on him to the FBI]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks is a "group", that it has "members" or that Julian Assange is a "member" of WikiLeaks [in fact, WikiLeaks is a publication and a publishing organization; it has a highly accomplished salaried staff, not members; it is not al-Qaeda]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks has ever directed, conspired, or colluded in a criminal manner with its sources. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange claimed "informants deserve to die" [in fact, Der Spiegel signed a statement refuting a false claim that he did, see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has asserted that the Syrian government did not conduct chemical attacks during the war in Syria [in fact, WikiLeaks has published millions of documents from the Syrian government, including Bashar al-Assad's personal emails]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks publications have caused deaths [in fact, the Pentagon's General Robert Carr, who was assigned to look at their impact, admitted under oath in the trial of Chelsea Manning that the U.S. government had not been able to find any such incidents]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks recklessly published unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that any of WikiLeaks' claims about its 2017 CIA leak, Vault 7, "were later retracted" [the series had no retractions]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange ever published millions of records about female voters in Turkey [see]. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is not an Australian citizen. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a "hacker". It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange was charged with an offence at any time by Bermuda. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever extorted the United States government. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange filed a lawsuit against Ecuador over trivialities [in fact, he filed an injunction to force the state to cease illegally gagging and isolating him since March 28, 2018 and moving to void his asylum after his publication of the largest leak in CIA history. Contrary to false reports, his cat hasn't even been at embassy since well before the inunction was filed, see and]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever neglected an animal or has ever been asked by a state to take "better care" of an animal [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever called to overthrow the Spanish state by calling for the independence of Catalonia [in fact, he never called for the independence of Catalonia]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange's reporting on the violence and censorship inflicted against Catalans in any way connected to Russia [in fact, the managing editor of El Pais, David Alandete, was fired for spreading this false claim]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the Catalan government, or any other entity, paid Julian Assange to report on the violence and censorship inflicted against Spain's Catalan minority, or to otherwise support their right to self-determination [in fact, Spanish prosecutors confirmed that there were no records of Mr. Assange receiving such payments contrary to what had been falsely reported]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is "far right". It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a racist. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a paedophile. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a rapist. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a murderer. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever proposed that he not publish, censor or delay a publication in exchange for any thing. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever agreed to do anything or to not do anything as a condition of his asylum. It is false and defamatory to suggest that the administration of President Rafael Correa imposed any conditions in exchange for his refugee status or asylum. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a criminal or has a criminal record [in fact, his convictions for offences as a teenager in Australia have been expunged]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange called the Panama Papers "a Soros-funded attack against Putin" [see]. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever published, uttered or tried to promote a "conspiracy theory". It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever suppressed materials critical of Israel, Russia or any other State. It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks possessed unpublished leaked material on the Trump campaign or the GOP or Russia and surpressed it. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever hacked the state of Ecuador. Other important facts and corrections to false reporting can be found at,,,,, and

Monday, January 07, 2019

It wasn't that long ago Ms Rubin

In a generally excellent column on what the authoritarian depravity of Donald Trump shows about the utter worthlessness of the Republican party that won't stand up to him, Jennifer Rubin understates Ted Cruz's hypocrisy.

She notes that Cruz is not denouncing Trump's absurd claim that he can over rule the Constitution by declaring an emergency even though

It wasn’t too long ago that Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and anti-immigrant activists denounced President Barack Obama for the executive order launching Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

It wasn't as long ago as the launch of DACA. The linked article is dated November 19, 2014. DACA was ordered on June 15, 2012 more than two years earlier. In fact, DACA was not all that controversial when ordered. The controversy focused on comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship, or, at the very least the DREAM act which, unlike DACA would have granted legal permanent resident status (a green card) and a path to citizenship. Also unlike DACA, an effort to just declare a DREAM act by executive order would have been an unconstitutional violation of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.

In contrast, DACA was clearly within the discretion Congress granted to the executive, as is shown by the absense of controversy over the very similar exexutive order issued by Ronald Reagan and the legally identical executive order issued by George H W Bush.

Cruz's utter hypocrisy is demonstrated by the fact that he denounced DAPA not DACA. The controversial order attempted to extend deferred action to parents of americans. Suddenly, that which was clearly OK when Reagan, Bush Sr and Obama did it was unacceptable, because too many people were covered or ... hell I can handle Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry but not logical logic and Republican logic.

DAPA was blocked by a reactionary judge in Texas (where else) but not on the grounds that the INA didn't give the executive branch the authority to defer action, but on the grounds that the Administrative Procedures Act implied that a period of public comment was required before the new regulation was imposed.

The nonsensical claim that DACA exceeded Obama's authority follows logically from the nonsensical claim that DAPA excceded his authority. The claims are absolutely inconsistent with the plain text of the INA which clearly grants the executive broad discretion. I am not a lawyer let alone an expert on immigration law, but I am aware of no expert on immigration law who has claimed to find any merit in Cruz's absurd argument. I stress again that it had nothing to do with the anti DAPA decision by the trial judge who may hate immigration, but can't ignore the plain text of the law.

The GOP is worse than you imagine possible even while denouncing "the GOP's Dismal State".

Sunday, January 06, 2019

A viral ad

This ad is clearly designed to go viral also I enjoyed it, so I want to reward them. Notice one aspect of the viral strategy -- the ad lasts amazingly long. TV ads are 30 seconds long, because they have to pay for every second. The shame shame shame goes on incredibly long -- because youtube doesn't charge by the second and making a strong impression is key to making people share it or uh copy a link to their low traffic blog (hey but every bit helps).