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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

30 to 50 Feral Begbugs at the New York Times

This is here because it is totally not worth anyone's time. The actual topic is Bret Stephens (who is not, in fact, a bedbug -- rettore take notice).

Bedbugs are in the news.

Partly they are related to the 2019 G-7 in Biarritz and the US constitution. The connection is that Donald Trump suggested that the 2020 G-7 might be held at his Doral resort. This was a gross violation of Us constitution article I section 9 paragraph 8 "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." I think it is clear that Trump's statement is an impeachable offense. But, on topic, bedbugs are involved, because bedbugs have bitten people at Doral (allegedly in Today's Washington Post ). The final word is "The Trump Organization denied the allegation, without going into detail. It settled the case in 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Neal Hirschfeld, a Florida attorney who represented Linder in the bedbug lawsuit, said he could not comment Tuesday because the settlement included a confidentiality clause." Frankly, I actually think a Congressional investigation would be nice (officially on emoluments but also looking into the beds, because a President lying to the American People is a matter of public interest).

Also it is reported that there are bedbugs in the New York Times news room. That's the topic. David Karpf, A professor at George Washington University (GWU) tweeted that Bret Stephens is bedbug.

Stephens found the tweet (8 likes 0 retweets) and e-mailed a complaint CCing the Provost of GWU. I consider myself involved, because that's where I come from (I was delivered at GWU medical center some time ago). From this we learn a few things.

1) Bret Stephens is a rotten person. He tried to get someone in trouble over a silly joke.

2) Bret Stephens is an idiot. He has gotten himself in significant trouble and become a figure of extremely widespread mockery (my tweet is that he stepped in some Santorum there). He will not live this down. So far his Wikipedia article has been edited to identify him as a bedbug (no link probably edited back) also let me google.

3) Bret Stephens is an absurd hypocrite. He has a record of arguing that free speech means freedom to offend or it means nothing.

4) Stephens appeared on MSNBC and claimed that Bret Stephens was asked about the Bedbug controversy on MSNBC by @ChrisJansing

Bret says he wasn’t trying to get @davekarpf in any professional trouble when he copied his provost on the email he sent him.

This shows that Bret Stephens is an absolutely shameless liar. Obviously the only reason to cc someone's boss is to try to get him in professional trouble (note Karpf isn't the one in professional trouble now)

5) Bret Stephens is an idiot. He could have said he lost his temper and made a mistake. Instead he lied in a manner which insults not only the intelligence of NY Times readers, but also National Enquirer readers not to mention "Hop on Pop" readers who haven't moved up to the more advanced Dr Seuss books yet (npt subtitle "The Simplest Seuss for youngest use").

I think there is only one reasonable response to the recent events. I think 'Stephens should be fired. ccing a provost over a tweet is quite bad for someone who claims to defend free speech. The blatant lie means his claims of fact are not reliable enough to publish him on the Op-ed pagesm where people can exoress their own opinions but not their own facts.

But why the hell was he ever hired in the first place ?

I think I know the answer. New opinion editor James Bennet decided that the pages needed more balance and that 2 token conservatives aren't enough. So he decided to hire two more. He wasn't willing to publish someone who makes absurd arguments, such as claiming that Trump is qualified to be President. So he had to find 2 anti Trump conservatives who can write in complete paragraphs. Since no more than 5% of the population is anti Trump and conservative, this is a bit of a challenge (actually not really says Rick Wilson). Now the idea that balanced representation of the range of opinions means that 5% of the population are under represented by only 2 columnists at the New York Times is idiotic, but I still haven't explained why Stephens was hired, given the substantial set of never Trump conservatives who can write complete paragraphs and aren't lying idiots.

Stephens was hired from the Wall Street Journal opinion pages. Now that's it. IT makes sense for the Times to poach from the Journal (and the Washington Post). One might be irritated at the importance of an elite club of journalists at top papers, but that is part of a general pattern of elites in all fields in all places at all times. The problem is that, by association with the news pages,the Wall Street Journal opinion section is respectable and even elite.

They are also a gang of extremist lunatics. It ranks somewhere on the range from National Review to Quillette. People are hired because they are absolutely reliable ideologues (who can write in complete paragraphs). Gwyneth Paltrow is also elite, but no one trusts her equally respectable thoughts on Medicine as much as the absurd nonsense written about economics on the Journal's opinion pages.

Seeking Stephens views on free speech is as sensible as seeking Dinesh D'Sousa's views on US history and academic historiography. Only an idiot would do that.

OK back to the broader topic. Must opinion editors hire conservatives. It is absolutely 100% clear that they think they should in order to achieve balance. They do not claim to hire the best columnist available. Nor do they claim to hire only excellent columnists which will add a new perspective (it's 4 rather than 2 never Trump conservatives not 1 rather than zero). There is some idea that the opinions should reflect some distribution of opinions.

To show that I can't write in complete paragraphs, I explain. One hypothetical criterion might be choosing based on originality, judgment, reliability and thought provocation. That's not the stated policy. Another might be to seek a variety of views so that, even if not everyone can be satisfied, at least everyone can be dissatisfied. That isn't the policy either. Astrologers aren't welcome. Nor are anti-vaxxers. Global warming deniers are welcome. Creation scientists aren't. The body of evidence is similar in all four cases. It isn't enough that a view be different from the others. It can't be completely crazy.

But the criterion isn't also correspondence to public opinion revealed by polls. The opinion pages are dominated by people who support "entitlement reform" who belong to a tiny minority of the population.

I am ruling things out. It isn't we need more conservatives, because our readers have never been exposed to conservative thought (4 not 1). It's not we need a broad variety of opinions (Leninists and Islamic fundamentalists are not welcome). It isn't the distribution of views on this page should be similar to the distribution in the population (US world, New York whatever).

I think the aim is balance not variety and not simply excellence. I think the definition of balance is corresponding roughly to votes in Congress. Both sides means both major parties. I think on many issues this means balancing on the one hand the evidence and public opinion and, on the other, the preferences of a few extremely rich men. On many big issues, the Democratic party is on the right wing of public opinion and the Republican party is off the scale. On many scientific issues, the Republican position is a fringe view among the experts.

I think the decision is to speak power to truth. The GOP is powerful, so GOP arguments must be presented and taken seriously even if they fly in the face of massive evidence and are generally rejected by ordinary people.

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.