Deinonychus antirrhopus: terrible claw


"In a nutshell, [Steve] is 100% unadulterated evil. I do not believe in a 'Satan', but this man is as close to 'the real McCoy' as they come." --Jamey Lee West

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© 2002 Steve Verdon


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Thursday, October 31, 2002

Krugman Watch Who monitors the monitors? That is a question that comes up in economic theory when one is looking at incentive problems. You have a bunch of workers, and you want to make sure they all do their work. So you hire a manager (monitor) to watch over the workers and make sure they do their jobs. However, how do you know the manager is doing his job? Sometimes it is easy, you have to make 100 units or something and you can count the units. Of course, you might have a situation where some workers are free-riding on others. So the problem is still there. Who manages the managers? More managers? Then you have a problem of infinite regress. You could, I suppose monitor things yourself, but then you are now spending your time working as a manager and not what you'd otherwise be doing.

This is the problem with Paul Krugman's latest article. He seems to think that it is funny that the S.E.C. is going to investigate itself. However, this is the problem with government. When it screws up the government, in short, investigates itself. This is typical. We have the General Accounting Office which investigates other parts of the government all the time. Police departments investigate themselves via their "Internal Affairs Departments", and so forth. So if the S.E.C. investigating itself sounds funny, then welcome to the whacky world of Paul Krugman who thinks government is what we need more of.

Don't get me wrong, I think government does do some good things. I like national defense spending. I like spending on various infrastructure projects that help promote trade such as freeways (yes I know they could be toll roads, but that is something for another post). I like government agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics which compiles statitics and distributes them essentially for free (such information is much like a public good, IMO, that is if I have the information, it does not prevent you from aquiring the information as well).

But when the government gets into investigative areas it seems to me you run into the problem of who polices the government? The government? Sounds like an incentive compatibility problem to me. It should to Krugman as well.

In this particular case, ordinary investors demanded a crackdown on corporate malfeasance — and Mr. Pitt pretended to comply. But this administration is run by and for people who have profited handsomely from their insider connections. (Remember Harken and Halliburton? And why won't the administration come clean about that energy task force?) So he picked someone with an impressive but irrelevant background, whom he could count on not to get the job done.

Here we see another problem with Krugman. It is not unusual for an Administration to keep various discussions of policy issues confidential. The reason is that the confidentiality will allow the discussants to freely express their views. If I recall correctly, the Clinton health care proposal was conducted with a great deal of confidentiality. Further, and Krugman should be well aware of this next point, one's reputation is important. If you have a reputation for keeping confidential discussions confidential people will trust you. If on the other hand you don't have such a reputation then people will not trust you. Now imagine you are called upon by the President or his advisors to provide some input onto some policy. If your input also benefits you or a group you belong to; you might not be happy if that information gets out to the public. If you know the President and his advisors do not honor claims of confidentiality...are you going to put your neck on the chopping block?

Krugman should know the value/problem of reputation. There is a fairly large amount literature in the economic journals on reputation and central banks/central bankers. Since Krugman talks alot about the monetary problems of places like Japan he not only should know this, I bet he does. I guess consistency and logic are too much to ask of Prof. Krugman.

Alterman's Disdain for Responsibility In typical fashion Alterman says some rather dumb things, amidst the rather boring remainder of his post today. First up is Eric's comments on the War on Drugs.

The drug war is, effectively, a war against poor people. I say legalize it, tax it, control it, and offer treatment instead of prison, as they do in genuinely civilized countries.

"...offer treatment"? On whos dime? Not mine, thank you. If you are dumb enough to snort, swallow, or shoot something into your body that does bad things to your body that is your problem, not mine. Find some place private and swallow, snort, or shoot, whatever your favorite poison is and get your hands out of my wallet. I am not your mother, father, nanny or babysitter. Take some damn responsibility for your own actions or get off your lazy shiftless ass and get over here and do my dishes (which I don't particularly like doing). After all, if I am going to subsidize your drug treatment I should get something out of it like having my dishes done.

Also, I am not sure taxing it is all that bright an idea too. It can result in the bizzare situation where the government never really wants to get rid of drug use and may actually want to encourage it to increase tax revenue. Sounds kind of weird, but remember this is the government we are talking about. The guys who pay $600 for toilet seats.

Then there is Alterman's dribblings about Cornel West.

I feel pretty certain Cornel wishes he had not compared Larry Summers to Ariel Sharon, but Summers behaved abominably towards him, and anyway, we are all entitled to a few stupid things said in public.

No actually Eric, you are entitled to say many, many, many dumb things in public. The thing is, you are responsible for them. If you say something idiotic about your boss in front of your boss, you should not be surprised if it has a negative impact on your job/pay/employment. This idea that you get a few passes is just stupid. Also, after that fact, regret is cheap and irrelevant, of course you are going to regret opening your mouth and swallowing your foot when the repercussions are negative.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Micheal Moore Has a Website I guess I shouldn't be all that shocked, after all the Hypocrite does like to make alot of money (how he distinguishes himself between other evil people trying to get rich and himself is beyond me). It is also simply amazing that such an outspoken prick can be so ignorant of U.S. Presidential elections. I find it laughably amusing that the dolt can accuse Republicans of trampling democracy when he himself is completely unfamiliar with a well known aspect of the U.S. Consitution.

I also find it amazing that a multi-millionaire is asking other people to give their money to support candidates he I'm not, the guy supports anything that is leftist. As such he is more than willing to spend other people's money instead of his own.

From a chapter of his book Stupid White Men Moore shows what a stupid white man he is.

Frankly, I was a little freaked-out about flying so soon after 9-11 and I guess there was just no way I was going to fly without a weapon for my protection. So I took the New York Yankees-signed baseball that Mayor Giuliani had given me on "TV Nation," put it in a sock, and – presto! Whip that baby upside somebody's head, and they're going to take a little nap. Note to budding terrorfuckers: If you try something on a flight I'm on, I'll Clemens ya. That, or the smell from my ratty sock, is going to do you in.

"No way I was going to fly without a weapon..." is this the same slackwit who thinks removing the Consititutional right of citizens to own firearms is a bad thing? Oh wait, I forgot Moore doesn't know what the U.S. Constitution actually says, let alone the Bill of Rights.

Here we see Moore deomstrating his affection for the members of our Armed Services:

Though I now felt "safe" with my makeshift weapon, as I continued to fly through the fall and winter, I did NOT feel safe being greeted at airport security by weekend warriors from the National Guard holding empty M-16s and looking like they shop in the same "special needs" department at K-Mart which I visit from time to time.

I submit, that the title of his book is wrong. It should be Stupid White Man with Michael Moore being that Stupid White Man.

Democracy: Hesiodic Style Here is a stellar example of Hesiod's childish intellect. He demonstrates that he is fact actually a 8 year old who had somebody set up a blog for him with his playground version of "He did it so now I get to do it too!", and that he thinks democracy is really something that can be twisted and corrupted to achieve the goal one desires.

Hesiod the Addlepatted It is just amazing how somebody can be so insistent on displaying his own stupidity.

Think about that for a moment. "[S]he shoots pretty good, but she's 100 percent anti-gun." That statement isn't even internally logical! It's utter gibberish and idiocy.

Why is the statement interanally illogical? Diane Feinstien is anti-gun, but keeps a handgun in her night stand. As for Jean Carnahan's position on firearms lets see...not much. In fact, it is hard to say if Carnahan is pro-gun or not. At the very least she is working hard to ensure that the NRA is not a factor in the election.

IBM CEO: Economy has Flattened Out I first saw that and thought he meant the economy was slowing again, but apparently he meant the economy has hit "bottom" and will now start going up. Not sure why he has said this since, the economy has been growing for some time, not fast paced growth, but there has been growth.

In fact, on October 9th NBER released a statement that the recession that started in March of 2001 may now be over.

The U.S. economy continues to experience increases in production and income with no significant growth in employment. According to recently revised data, real personal income has generally been growing over the past year. Employment grew slightly from May through August 2002, but declined in September. These and other signs indicate that the decline in activity that began last year may have come to an end. The NBER's Business Cycle Dating Committee will determine the date of a trough in activity when it concludes that a hypothetical subsequent downturn would be a separate recession, not a continuation of the past one. The trough date will mark the end of the recession. The committee will not issue any judgment about whether the economy has reached a trough until it makes its formal decision on this point. The committee waits for many months after an apparent trough to make its decision, because of data revisions and the possibility that the contraction would resume. For example, the committee waited until December 1992 to announce that a trough had occurred in March 1991.

You wont see this on sites such as Sit-n-spin Central or Escahton, IMO. These guys are too busy proclaiming how rotten the economy is, when it is not at all clear there that the economy is still in recession anymore.

Update: Thanks to Robin at Final Protective Fire for spotting my date mix up.

France and U.S. Near Deal on Iraq U.N. Resolution Hmmm...I wonder if we'll see anything about this on the left side of the blogosphere? They seem so intent on using this issue as a campaign issue I wonder if they will just keep up the "Unilateralism is bad, Bush wants to be world dictator" type of rhetoric?

An Anti-War Blog This blog is dedicated to opposing the possible war with Iraq. While I currently don't agree with their overall position check it out.

Thanks to Jay Caruso over at The Daily Rant.

Krugman Watch With this latest Op-Ed peice Krugman displays an amazing naivete of what politicians are.

Sometimes it seems as if Americans have forgotten what courage means. Here's a hint: talking tough doesn't make you a hero; you have to take personal risks. And I'm not just talking about physical risks — though it's striking how few of our biggest flag wavers have ever put themselves in harm's way. What we should demand of our representatives in Washington is the willingness to take political risks — to make a stand on principle, even if it means taking on powerful interest groups.

I find this simply amazing. I find it amazing because Krugman has spent years doing work in economics where he assumes that the actors in the economy are rational agenst out to maximize their own gains subject to a set of constraints (such as budget constraints, time constraints, information constraints, etc). But when it comes to politics and politicians all that goes out the window. Frank Capra's movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washinton is a good movie, it makes you feel good, but for God's sake should that be a professional economists basis for thinking about politicians? Technically I agree with Mr. Krugma, I'd love it if politicians were actually people who really did try to always act in the best interest of the public, but I personally think they don't. I also think it is bordering on irresponsible for an economists of Krugman's stature (he is highly regarded as an economist--and rightfully so, his early work incorporating increasing returns into growth theory was very innovative) to hold such a naive view of politicians.

Further, this isn't what "we" demand of our politicians. We demand of them what we want, not necessarily what is right. For an economist to say, "We should demand that politicians do the right thing," is like an economist saying, "I demand consumers buy goods simply to put people to work." Its stupid.

In an age of fake populists, Paul Wellstone was the real thing. Now he's gone. Will others have the courage to carry on?

No, they wont. Wellstone was an anomaly. Politics has turned in a profession. Now we have professional politicians who crave power and wealth. This is true of Democrats and Republicans and I don't see why I should view either side as better than the other.

Eric Alterman and the Sword Fish Sandwhich In the most recent Altercation, Eric is distraught over eating "...any kind of living being." I guess its just me, but I don't consider a swordfish a living being. When was the last time we saw swordfish gather together to help save a sick or wounded sword fish? Ooops, there I go with my anthropocentric (i.e. human oriented) view point and values system again. Still if we can't be sure a swordfish isn't a living being or not...what gives us the moral right to declare celery plants non-beings (yikes, I am suddenly reminded of Day of the Triffids). Anyhow, what silly nonsense...difficulty eating a swordfish, sheesh.

Eric also wonders about the plight of the poor children and their education

On Sunday afternoon, I took the kid to a Halloween party at a public school right next to Ground Zero. Thousands of people were standing around on line nearby —mostly people of color — and I asked the cops why. It turns out their kids were taking the test to get into Stuyvesant High School, one of the city’s best, and earn themselves a shot at success in this country.

It was a terribly moving sight, one that stirred both my patriotism and my anger. There could be dozens of Stuyvesants if we only had our priorities straight. And yet we have a governor who starves city education budgets only to earn endorsements from the teachers union, 1199, and the liberal New York Times. So we consign millions of kids to a life of stunted dreams and little opportunity, based entirely on the economic status of their parents. Here’s an account from The New York Times.

Uhhhmmm, excuse me, but why should people have to subsidize the decisions of others? By absorbing the costs of raising a child you essentially are saying, "Have more children...more children than you can afford, because we [i.e. the State...or more accurately the tax payers] will foot the bill for you." Sorry, but no. If you can't afford to have a child then maybe you should refrain from having a child.

Also, there is the question of what is the best use of that money? Is it necessarily best used for education? I don't know and neither does Eric. That is another problem with government spending; there is no way to tell if the money is being used in the best way possible. Lets suppose Eric is right, then clearly due to politics the money is being used in an manner that is less efficient. Problem is, I don't see how this characteristic can be removed from a government that rests on the notion of democracy. Politicians, who are just like the rest of us, are going to do what they percieve to be in their best interest. If that means getting re-elected they will use the power of their office to help ensure they will get re-elected. I see no reason this had to coincide with an "optimal" use of government resources.

If Mark Green’s piece while I was away piqued your interest, take a look at At this auction site, environmental policy is up for bid to generous campaign contributors to our president and the Republican National Committee. America’s national forests are going for $3.4 million. Mining interests are contributing $3 million for the right to blast the tops off mountains and dump the debris in streams. And so on.

The Website is brought to you by Public Campaign and EarthJustice, which just released a report called “Paybacks,” which has all the details on polluters, their campaign money, the political appointees who do their bidding, and the policy paybacks. Can’t we all just agree that the current campaign finance system is nothing more than legalized bribery and fix the problem already?

I suppose Alterman thinks he is being clever here, but really he isn't (not surprisingly). You see, if you are an environmental group and you buy a chunk of land, it is yours to do with as you wish. If you want to sit on it and leave it untouched as an Environmental Preserve or something that would be your right. I have to wonder, why we don't see more of this approach to environmentalism. You don't like how I am using the land, but it from me and use it in a way you think is right. Instead, we get environmental groups (by and large) trying to get laws changed, regulations put in place, and policies that have an impact on the wallet/pocket book of everybody else. It basically boils down to, "I don't like the way you are using your land, therefore I am going to have a law passed that stops you from using your land." Of course, this might end up massively decreasing the value of your land, but who gives a shit.

Alterman also lifts this letter to the New York Times Book Review

Having recently returned from a visit to Guatemala, where I met young men forcibly conscripted into the military and Mayan peasants with fresh memories of the massacres perpetrated by the army, I was especially disturbed by Clifford Krauss’s review of Daniel Wilkinson’s “Silence on the Mountain” (Oct. 6). Krauss writes, “The Guatemalan Army turned to its strategy of massive repression in large part because Congress refused to go along with the Reagan administration’s efforts to send helicopters and other hardware.”

What can be meant by this remarkable sentence? That the massacres of villagers, whose mass graves are just now being unearthed by forensic anthropologists, were somehow the fault of American lawmakers who refused to supply armaments to a military actively perpetrating human rights abuses? That there would have been fewer deaths if the Guatemalan Army had more sophisticated weaponry? Krauss criticizes the book for not describing the American role with more “nuance,” but if anything, Congressional critics of the Reagan administration’s support for Guatemala’s murderous regime should be applauded for not throwing gasoline on the fire.
Patrick Markee
New York

Well gee, isn't that the same kind of thinking that blames the economic sanctions against Iraq for developing weapons of mass destruction for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children? Seems like it to me. Consistency much, Mr. Alterman? No, didn't think so.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Physics vs. Intelligent Design Intelligent Design is the lates guise that Creationism (Christian Creationism) has taken on to try and weasel its way into the public school curricula around the country. Currently the battlegrounds are Washington State and Ohio. Anyhow, there are a couple of good articles over at Physics Today.Org that poke some holes into Intelligent Design. The first one, here, points out many of the problems with "design theorists". For example, Dembski's misuse of the Laws of Thermodynamics (in his book Dembski actually thinks there are only three Laws of Thermodynamics...not realizing the laws start at zero, one, two and three) when coming up with his Law of Conservation of Information. Behe's approach is actually a God of the Gaps argument (i.e. and argument from ignorance). The latter is very nicely highlighted in Dembski's second book, No Free Lunch where he points out Behe was (mostly) right, but only a slight modification is needed to Behe's notion of irreducible complexity. Dembski comes up with the notion of the irreducible core of a biological structure (e.g. the flagellum), i.e. that part of the flagellum that is irreducibly complex. This nice rhetorical trick allows Dembski to dismiss any attempt to explain, in evolutionary terms, the origin of a part of a biological structure by simply saying that part is not part of the irreducible core.

The next article offers a more serious criticism in that it points out that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory because it offers no predictions. Dembski for example has come up with his explanatory filter which relies on probability theory, information theory, and personal information/knowledge for the user to determine if something is designed or natural (i.e. the product of evolution). There is no prediction here, simple an eliminative technique much like an estimator in statistics. Further, the notion of Creationism, Creation Science, and "Goddiditism" offers no predictions because it predicts everything. You cannot discriminate between different hypotheses with such a view. One method of determining which of many hypotheses is the best is to look at the probabilities associated with each hypothesis. With the Creationist view probabilities are meaningless because an all powerful being is not constrained by them. So you cannot say, I like this hypothesis over that one, because you literally have no way to judge them.

So the new "wave" of creationism is Intelligent Desing, although its proponents are very slippery on this. They'll admit that their personal preference is that a Christian God did all this amazing stuff, but that doesn't mean that everyone has to believe it. There is even ridiculous blabbering about aliens, but this doesn't really solve the problem...for you see the aliens had to come from somewhere too. So either you get stuck with an infinite regress problem or you have to accept some sort of deity. Also, these guys are extremely well educated. In the good ol' days, the Creationists had PhD's from diploma mills and their arguments were laughably easy to debunk. Now, you have guys like Dembski who couch their theories (unnecessarily) in mathematics (for example if you don't know what these symbols mean forget it its beyond your mathematical knowledge; , , , , and ). It is all to easy to dismiss these guys as kooks or religious nuts, but that seriously underestimates them and plays into their hands.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Grey Davis Implicated in Bribery Scheme According to unsealed court documents. Hopefully it will be in time to help prevent Grey Davis from being re-elected.

Nathanson claimed he recalled "a number of instances where Gray Davis approached Mr. Nathanson, who was then a member of the California Coastal Commission, to assist various friends or supporters of Davis who had matters pending before the coastal commission," according to a 1999 letter that was unsealed Monday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton.

Looks like we can add corrupt to Grey Davis' list of adjectives. Incompetent, bungling, self-serving, and corrupt.

Its the Economy, Stupid! Yes, once more into the mire of DU. I found that thread and was...stunned. The sheer stupidity of that post and the posts that follow it is...awe inspring when you consider these are the people who run around saying, "Its the economy, stupid."

Now, we turn around and sell it for $11.

Where did the extra $1 come from? Did it poof in from thin air? You can't make something from nothing. Yes, from demand I know but... If its true value to people is $11 doesn;t that neccessarily mean that the labor was worth more than $1? I mean the material components surely didn;t get more expensive. The electric bill and price of the building lease didn;t go up in the overhead. So it must have been that the labor to create the item was actually worth more than we said... right?

The problem here is that the poster doesn't realize the same process that sets the price of the product at $11 sets the price of labor at $1 per unit. Supply and demand work for labor just like it works for other goods such as cars and candy bars. Hence the notion that labor is not getting its full share is just bunk. And no, the price is not set from demand, but by the intersection of the demand curve and the supply curve. So no, the $1 difference between the average cost and the average revenue is not something labor should have gotten.

Essentially this guy is a Marxist and doesn't even realize it.

Surely economists have addressed this problem in the logic but I have never seen it anywhere in my limited readings. How do they magic this inefficiency(if answer 2 above) or inequality(if answer 1 above) away?

Yes they have addressed just as I noted. The market for labor clears at $1 as per this guys assumptions. What happens when a single worker charges a price above the market clearing price? He does not get a job. So he lowers the price he charges and gets a job. If he lowers the rate he charges he'll get a job, but wont have as much money, and since he could charge more and still get a job and thereby have more income, he'll do that based on the assumption of rationality. Similarly for a firm. If the firm lowballs the workers they wont get any workers. If they raise the pay level they will lower profits which violates one of the initial assumptions, i.e. maximize profits.

Also I look at it from the worker's perspective. If he is truely worth $1 then he is 1/10th of the total value of the product. But, when he goes to buy it he only has accumulated 1/11th of what it will cost him.

Good God. No, the workers share of the cost is 1/10 the cost. Value does not have to be equal to cost.

The actual answer is that the guy forgot opportunity costs. If the firm is turning a profit, then the entrepreneur could go out and sell his skill. What price could he charge? The same as the profits his firm earned. Hence the accounting profits are actually counted as an opportunity cost by economists.

This post tries to answer the question but ends up babbling about money being an abstraction for labor, and concludes with some nonsense about monopolies.

The problem since Adam West [sic] has been how to prevent monopolies. Monopolies drive up the cost of merchandise beyond the fair profit. Capitalism without monopolies is a wonderful way to allocate resources to places that want or need them-- Adam Smith's invisible hand. But with monopolies, merchants can overcharge, and that difference between a legitimate profit and the monopolized profit kicks in. That additional profit--as you say-- is wasted labor.

There is no notion of fair profit in economics. Further, monopolies do not overcharge; they raise the price of the good. When this happens is those who no longer want the product at the monopoly price do not buy it, those that do still buy it. The supply curve in economics represents the demand of many customers. That is the aggregate demand is the horizontal sum of all the demands (i.e. you add up the number demanded by each customer at each price) to get the aggregate demand. Hence Joe's demand schedule (curve) might look like

Joe’s Demand

While Bob’s is

Joe’s Demand

Not at $10 total demand is 7. If the price rises to $15 then demand falls to 5. The monopolist is able to set the price at a higher level since they do not have to worry about a competitor charging a slightly lower price and taking all the business. The extra profit is not wasted labor. The waste, or more appropriately the inefficiency of a monopoly is what is termed the deadweight loss. The following graph allows us to see the deadweight loss.

The roughly triangular area enclosed by the red (curved line) on the bottom (labeled MC for marginal cost), the blue line above (labeled D) and the vertical black dashed line for quantity (Q) is the deadweight loss. Nobody gets that lost revenue, if just goes away. No labor is wasted, that is just nonsense.

The problem is this theory of monopolies has no basis in reality. There is nothing (save government interference) from preventing a firm from entering the market and driving the prices down. In fact, the monopolies very success contains the seeds of its own destruction. Monopolies cannot exist in a market where firms have free entry and exit.

This is why there is the concept of natural monopolies. But that is enough geekonomics for now.

Now, we can see that the difference is a few percentage points. Further, this does not necessarily mean the following is true

...the data shows that reported firearms MURDERS were highest, as a percentage of murders committed, in the West and the South.

What those numbers tell us is that in the South and West, firearms were more likely to be used as the murder weapon. Hesiod's wording is sloppy at best and misleading at worst. That is what Hesiod's numbers are saying is that if you look at all murders in the West and South, firearm murders were higher in those regions. We don't know that and the information we have cannot tell us this. Here is an example. Suppose each reagion has 100 murders, then Hesiod's statement is correct. If however, the South and West have only 50 murders in total and the Northeast and Midwest have 100 murders then his statement is false. Using these numbers the percentage of murders in the Northeast would be 60.2, and in the West the percentage the percentage of murders would be 66.8, but of all murders the numbers are different. For example, for the Northeast the percentage of firearms murders is about 32% and for the West it is about 18%.

That is those percentages are relevant only to the region they are taken in and give you a rough idea of the likelihood which weapon is going to be used in a murder. Going from that to saying the South and the West have more murders based on the numbers he has linked too is basically lying with numbers.

Also, it isn't an "artifact" of the data. An artifact indicates something that is artificial in the data. There might be an "artifact" in the data, but we don't have enough information to make this conclusioin.

Once again Hesiod demonstrates why he has quickly gotten the reputation as the least honest and intelligent in the entire blogosphere.

Okay, I Really Like Med Pundit I have been reading his stuff and came across the post in that link. I must confess statistics is a field near and dear to my heart and I like that essay. I find it rather annoying when two sides discussing/debating an issue start throwing statistics around like a five year old thorwing rocks, and how the numbers go largely uncriticized.

A great example is from the "scientist" Stephen Schneider (noted for admitting to misleading the lay-public in Discover Magazine) who in discussing Global Warming on a PBS show (IIRC) said he wasn't interested in individual data points but in averages. So what is the problem? Averages are computed from individual data points. Further, one really far out data point can affect the average (this impact declines as the number of observations increases). So you should look at the individual data points. Look at the data in a graphical form to see if you might have a problem with outliers (a data point far out of line with the bulk of the other data points). Also, what should be of interest is the variance. You can have two distributions that have the same average, but different variances. What does this mean? Well the smaller the variance the "closer" the data is going to be around the average (mean). Simply looking at one statistic can give you a misleading picture. But then again we already know Schneider is perfectly willing to mislead the public so his comment should come as no surprise.

New Link: Med Pundit I have added a new link. It is a blog offering commentary by a praciticing physician (usually on medical topics). I have only skimmed the site, but what I saw I liked. For example, check out Fat and Greasy. An excellent little post asking do we really need the government to be our food nanny. Anyway, check it out.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Interesting Article From World Net Daily The author points out the following:

In fact, I know of only one news agency that has vigorously pursued this angle from the beginning – WorldNetDaily.

Is it because we are so smart and the others are so stupid?

I don't think so.

It is simply that WorldNetDaily, unlike many of our colleagues in the media, are not afraid of the truth. We don't hide from it. We don't pretend the truth is a lie and vice versa. We don't allow political correctness to overcome common sense.

Then the author writes this and, IMO, sort of shoots himself in the leg credibility wise:

We saw it again in the TWA Flight 800 shootdown. Yes, I said shootdown. It was not a spontaneous explosion of the center fuel tank that brought down the airliner. It was a missile. Who fired it remains a mystery – because government investigators chose to pretend that hundreds of witnesses didn't really see what they said they saw. They chose to overlook the forensic evidence that pointed to a missile. They chose to ignore any evidence that suggested anything except a spontaneous center fuel tank explosion. That's not justice.

Such a good start and then to stumble so badly.

From the Fine People At Democratic Underground I waded back into the muck and found this lovely picture.

Nice, huh? What a great bunch of people over there.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Jane Galt on Michael Bellesiles Jane delivers an excellent essay and notes a couple of things I haven't seen elsewhere:

1. It took a long time to get this result.
2. It took alot of negative publicity.

To just about any "layman" looking at this it is clear Bellesiles was fabricating his numbers, pulling them out of his ass. But it took quite some time for Emory to start the investigation, and it took quite awhile for the investigation to actually complete its investigation. So why the foot dragging? Maybe, just a guess here, many of the academics dragged their feet because they liked the conclusions Bellesiles bogus data supported? And also, only when the negative publicity reached a certain level and looked like it would continue to grow and the entire field of History migth start to suffer and the overall reputation of Emory might be dragged into the mud did they decide they'd have to throw their fellow academic to the wolves to keep from all looking like idiots? Or maybe I am just being overly pessimistic.

Democratic Underground on Wellstone I think somebody with tranquilizer guns and straightjackets needs to go in there and wipe out that nest of lunatics. Holy smokes are these guys CAAAA-RRAAZZZY

BFEE improving aim--wife killed too,

so no friendly appointment to replace him, like Carnahan. They are evil evil evil.

My boss, a crusty news editor for decades, thought the same thing.--in fact she was the first to suggest it!

wish I were wrong and this is just a horrible accident. The timing is too choice.

I am crying here! Wellstone was the best of the best and leading! aaarrrgh!!!

Wow...what do you say to that, except maybe give that person lots of Haldol.

I found it impossible to remove the tinfoil.

Is this just one "October Surprise"?

Ooops, make that two perscriptions for Haldol.

They missed Daschle and Leahey, but

got wellstone. kennedy was supposed to be on the plane, but for some reason, didn't. Caranahan, Daschle, Leahey, now Wellstone. All senators and senatorial candidates. All Democrats.

I know the freepers are cheering.

Hmmm...maybe there wont be enough Haldol.

(For the record, I went to, but couldn't get into their boards so I don't know what they are saying).

I find this just disgusting. I suppose they could point to the asinine comments that Clinton had Vince Foster killed, but that just makes the DUers who hold these views look like stupid little playground brats who feel that if the other guy acts a certain way they are justified acting that way.

Eric Rauchway; The Alterman Alternate Well they managed to find somebody else to play fast and loose with the facts again.

Harrison, like someone else we know, won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote, claimed the mandate of heaven anyway. then pushed through a revenue package that helped turn a surplus into a deficit by sluicing money to his supporters in industry. Then he was shocked — shocked — to have the country go against him in the midterms. We can always hope for history to repeat, whether anyone remembers it or not.

Well lets take a look at this supposed crony capitalist Benjamin Harrison. What legislation did Harrison support and was passed during his term as President?

  • Sherman Anti-Trust Act
  • Sherman Silver Purchase Act
  • McKinley Tariff Act
  • The Dependent Pension Act

    Not too bad, IMO. The first one should be well known to anybody who has taken U.S. History in high school. It was the first attempt to try and regulate the huge corporations in America. At the time these were called trusts and typically had a very large market share and in many cases had price setting abilities. Hmmm, doesn't sound particularly kind to big business...but hey, what is a fact other than something that gets in Rauchway's way.

    The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was for the U.S. Treasurery to purchase more silver for use in coinage. The purpose of this bill was to help debt ridden Western and Southern farmers and also silver miners. I am not an expert on farms during the late 1800's, but my guess is that most of these farms were not owned by the large corporations such as we see today. Maybe Rauchway thinks that this bill was for the benefit of ADM.

    The McKinely Tariff Act was the one piece of legislation that was passed that Harrison supported that could be seen as benefitting business. Of course, the U.S. was in a recession at the time and the thinking was that the high tariffs would induce people to buy American goods, thereby employing more Americans...thus bringing about an end to the recession. The problem is that with the decrease in competition the businesses raised prices and the voters let the GOP know of their displeasure by abandoning them during the mid-term elections.

    The last bit, I'm sure Rauchway would acutally approve of (I hope), in that it provided benefits for Civil War Veterans. So...doesn't look like a President overly friendly to big business. In fact, I'd say it looks pretty reasonable. To highlight further that Rauchway is just ignoring the facts here lets look at this

    Not everything fit into the FT piece, so here’s a bonus lesson from the Harrison comparison: Harrison also flirted with turning a decade-old tiff with a third-rate power into a war. But in the end he managed not to go to war with Chile.

    International law was against it, the Chilean navy turned out to be much larger than anyone had thought, and he backed down. Let’s hope this parallel also applies to the present situation as well. But, you know, on the pessimistic side, Harrison had himself actually fought in a war and knew it wasn’t any fun.

    First off, that tiff involved, if I am not mistaken, the death of two U.S. sailors. Second, the actual outcome was that Chile apologized and paid reparations of $75,000 (about $2,000,000 in today's dollars). So, if the U.S. and Harrison "backed off" and International Law was on the other guys come Chile apologized (i.e. admit an error) and pay reparations? Beats me, but lets not tell Rauchway it'd probably ruin his weekend.

  • Thursday, October 24, 2002

    Krugman Watch Once again we find Paul Krugman writing about Corporate Reform. He seems to feel that this is a big issue, that something is broken and it needs fixing. The problem is I am not sure something is broken. Krugman's idea of a well supported argument can be summed up in one word:


    That's right, Enron (and the other recent illegal corporate activities) point to a broken system that needs fixing. The problem is I don't see that this is necessarily the case. I have used the metaphor of motorists speeding down a road and a police officer before, and I think it is a good one. Suppose we have a stretch of road where motorists speed when travelling down the road. Is this a sign the speed limit is broken? By further lowering the speed limit will we suddenly get compliance? I doubt it. People are already breaking the law and suffering no negative consequences. However, if a police officer is put out there to stop motorists and issue citations for speeding, you'll start to see compliance.

    The moral of that little metaphor, enforce the existing laws and lower the hammer on the crooks who have brought us Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Adelphia, etc. Moreover, it seems to me that the more various politicos babble about corporate reform/governance the more shaken the markets become. Once Bush shut up about corporate governance the markets calmed down. I suppose this might be Krugman's feeble attempt get the policy discussion back on corporate reform in the hopes of watching the market tank so the Democrats can use it as a campaign issue.

    So what's going on? Here's a parallel. Since 1995 Congress has systematically forced the Internal Revenue Service to shrink its operations; the number of auditors has fallen by 28 percent. Yet it's clear that giving the I.R.S. more money would actually reduce the federal budget deficit; the agency estimates that it loses at least $30 billion a year in uncollected taxes, mainly because high-income taxpayers believe they can get away with tax evasion. So starving the I.R.S. isn't about saving money, it's about protecting affluent tax cheats.

    Yes, this is definitely the case. You see, the Congressman or Senator goes to their rich patron and says, "We have cut the funding for the IRS so go ahead and cheat on your income taxes and you might not get audited and caught." This of course makes the rich patron very happy, now they have a slightly better chance of not getting caught.

    In retrospect, it's hard to see why anyone believed that our current leadership was serious about corporate reform. To an extent unprecedented in recent history, this is a government of, by and for corporate insiders. I'm not just talking about influence, I'm talking about personal career experience. The Bush administration contains more former C.E.O.'s than any previous administration, but as James Surowiecki put it in The New Yorker, "Almost none of the C.E.O.'s on the Bush team headed competitive, entrepreneurial businesses." Instead they come out of a world of "crony capitalism, in which whom you know is more important than what you do and how you do it." Why would they turn their backs on that world?

    Oh cut the crap here Paul, this problem if anything goes back quite aways to your boy Clinton and probably would have continued under Gore. I'd have alot more respect for Mr. Krugman if he didn't take such a partisan stand on an issue that spans administrations of both parties. He is exhibiting his hypocrisy yet again.

    The bottom line is that you shouldn't worry about those TV images of men in suits doing the perp walk. That was for public consumption; now that the public is focused on other things, it's back to business — insider business — as usual.

    My how nice of you to claim that the people working on those cases are just doing PR work. The arrogancy and pompousness is...well not amazing its actually typical.

    Democrats Evade Campaign Spending Limits Funny to hear about how the Republicans are always after the big money but hardly a peep about this.

    Pelosi's second PAC, Team Majority, came on line Oct. 16, but has been collecting money and making contributions since April. As of Sept. 30, the committee had made $1,000 contributions to five key House Democratic challengers: Martha Fuller Clark (N.H.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), Joe Turnham (Ala.) and Dan Wofford (Pa.), as well as one Senate challenger, Chellie Pingree (Maine).

    "The main reason for the creation of the second PAC, frankly, was to give twice as much hard dollars" to candidates, McCarthy said in an interview this week.

    Way to go guys. Do it right, do it Enron style.

    Link via Final Protective Fire

    Alterman's Alternate: Charles Pierce Charles Pierce writes the following

    On the other hand, God love Jimmy Breslin, who got a bit in Aaron Brown’s face last night, asking what Fearless Leader was doing out campaigning while some mystery gunman was shooting up the Beltway. “He should go for a walk in Maryland tomorrow,” thundered Breslin. Brown struggled hard to maintain his “tut-tut-my-good-man” pundit’s bonhomie, but Breslin had his teeth in someone’s leg and he wasn’t letting go. “You’re being really tough,” Brown finally chuckled. Breslin looked at him like Brown’d grown another head. Classic.

    Yes, Persident Bush was supposed to stay in D.C. and do something to help catch the sniper. He was clearly far more qualified to catch such a criminal. From this site here I found the following information:

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has provided to the Sniper Task Force 454 agents; 59 inspectors, nine canine handlers, and 101 support staffers to do lab and computer and intelligence analyst work. The Customs Department has provided two A-Star helicopters, which are light-lift helicopters. And to support them, Customs has provided a 20-person flight team, as well as they have made a Blackhawk helicopter available.

    The United States Secret Service has provided 50 special agents to the Sniper Task Force. The FBI has 600 personnel working on this matter. They are focused on profiling, on working on the leads, the Marshals -- the Federal Marshals are involved, as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency are involved. I said earlier that all significant laboratory
    work is being conducted at both the FBI and the ATF bureaus. And the FBI is coordinating all evidence and forensic work.

    Yes, President Bush would have made it far more likely to solve the Sniper case if he sits in the Oval Office. He could obviously contribute something the FBI, DEA, BATF, Customs, Secret Service, and Federal Marshals (all of which are in the Executive branch and therefore under Bush) aren't capable of contributing, not to mention all the local police departments and local/state agencies involved. Yes sir, Bush sitting there in the Oval Office would have helped a Hell of alot.

    It couldn't be that Pierce, Breslin and others actually don't want Bush out campaigning for various candidates? They aren't actually using the DC sniper case for crass political gain are they? Noooooo. Pierce and his ilk are fine upstanding people.

    Wednesday, October 23, 2002

    Diversity at Democratic Underground This thread at DU is about a teacher out here in Pasadena who sent an e-mail to other teachers noting that of the students who misbehave at the school most of them are black. Notice the reaction at DU, all them automatically assume he is a racist. I suppose it is possible, but has this country gone so far down the racial divide that merely mentioning another person's race is racism?

    Lets try this. We have an urn full of marbles. You reach in and pull out a marble and then write down its color, black or white. When you get done you sum up the number of white marbles and the number of black marbles (if you were trying to estimate the probability of drawing a black marble you'd do this). You note you have say, 63 black marbles and 37 white marbles. You then say, "Hmmm...most of the marbles in my sample are black."

    Now if we moved from the urn with marbles to humans is making a similar notation racism? What if he had said that most of the people he finds best at doing homework are black? Isn't it the same thing, but this time with a positive context vs. a negative one? Why is one racist and the other not?

    Further, even if he is a racist how come we don't tolerate his viewpoints? Isn't a diversity of opinions what all those people who blabber on about diversity being good thing talk about? Well unless you have an ugly opinion, then diversity is bad, bad, bad. Hypocrisy? I think so. For these same twits who argue the discrimination have just become discriminatory.

    Further, if you read the actual artcile linked here and at DU it seems to me that Phelps (the teacher in question) is concerned with the academic achievements of the black students. That's the mark of a racist? Somebody who is worried about the low test scores of black students is a racist? What the Hell do you call somebody who hates black people, doesn't give a shit about their education at all, and is wants a return to the good old days of segregated schools?

    More Paranoia from Democratic Underground This poster seems to think that yesterdays attack on the internets "root servers" was somehow engineered by Bush, the Republicans, or both.

    You know, I am also struck by the interesting schizophrenic thought process here. On one hand many DUers portray Bush as an idiot who only through massive mental effort keeps from drooling in public, yet at the same time he is the evil genius running the Bush Family Evil Empire...or maybe not. Maybe George W. is stupid and it is all being controlled by Dick Cheney and George H. W. Bush.

    Hesiod's Rich Fantasy Life Hesiod the Addlepatted has posted on his blog that Gov. Bush visited his daughter Noelle in jail. He also notes that the visit took place amongst a flurry of cell phone calls. Of course the linked article as no such information. Hesiod is just making crap up/guessing, or to put it bluntly he is dishonest.

    Tuesday, October 22, 2002

    The Humor Stylings of Hesiod Theogeny In that that link Hesiod posts a Gary Trudeau strip (copyright violation) and then when he sees Glenn Reynolds has a link he writes this.

    UPDATE PART DEUX: I was wondering why I was getting a zillion hits from "Arthur" Treacher's site, until I found this. I see Professor Reynolds elected to take a shot at me by indirectly accusing me of either a) plagarism, or b) terrible punctuation.

    Of course he is making and implicit accusation that you a) commit copyright violations and b) have terrible punctuation.

    I don't know about plagarism, but how about some possible copyright violations and a severe lack of imagination. Here on the very same page is an example of Hesiod's possible copyright violations. Notice that out of 18 paragraphs Hesiod has copied 7 and offers only a couple of paragraphs of commentary. Another way of looking at is out of 594 words Hesiod has directly copid 277. Further, Hesiod has underlined just a few lines that he seems to think are important out of those 277 words. The rest there for window dressing I guess. Basically Hesiod has copied 47% (or 39% depending on how you count it) of the article and responded with...71 words. So, a "fair use" claim would seem a little shacky to me, but I'm not a lawyer. So yeah Hesiod, you are copying an pasting excessively large parts of other people's work to your website and "embelishing" these works of another person's intellect with the fecal droppings of your own mind.

    Here is another example as well. And yet another example.

    When I first ran across Hesiod's blog I noted he'd post short posts with a link to the relevant story. Now he has shifted to posting large amounts of text from other articles to accompany his short posts.

    Update: Hesiod is whining that "plagiarism" isn't the correct word. Unfortunately he is right, oh well even the blind chicken gets the kernel of corn sometimes, so I have changed plagiarism to copyright violation and severe lack of imagination. Now there is nothing for Hesiod the Addlepatted to complain about.

    Democratic Underground Insanity Simply amazing. Democratic Undergrond has a poll going on whether or not the D.C. sniper is actually a Republican and possibly a member of the B.F.E.E., the Bush Family Evil Empire. To be fair a some of them do not think this is the case. Still many of them are spouting off amazing stuff that I'd expect only from paranoiacs.

    "... the plan, which had the written approval of...the Joint Chiefs...of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets...for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere." (emphasis added)

    - page 82, Body of Secrets, James Bamford's book on "Operation Northwoods"

    More about the book: link

    This next one was posted by Tom Paine...the horror:

    I'm with you Mary Pat

    I just know that I don't know.

    I just know that, after the Bloodless Coup, and if LIHOP is true then it is possible nothing is beyond the Bush Crime Family.

    What have the "little people" ever done for them?

    But I agree, the cruel callousness of these acts makes me think that it is lower and more brutal than even the Roman-style-civilized aristocrats of the Bush Crime Family.

    Then again, the reluctance to believe just how low totalitarian dictators will go always aids them when they aim to dismantle formerly free republics (no pun intended)...

    Posted by el gato:

    firmly raised

    classic psyops: keeping the country destabilized and in a state of crisis makes the slow coup possible.

    It's the next step.

    The breadth of the paranoia there is simply staggering. In counting the post titles that indicated an affirmtive answer (admittedly not the most reliable method) 23 out of 115 thought a Republican "operative" or a member of the BFEE is behind the D.C. sniper attacks. The D.U. participants must be making the producers of aluminum very wealthy, what with all the aluminum in the must be using for their A.F.D.B.s.

    Further, while many didn't "raise their hands" they had the equivocating "but" in their post titles. I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio of those answering "Yes" and "Maybe" was around 50%.

    Heterodox Economics I have been seeing a fair amount about heterodox economic theories lately, and thought the topic is worth some discussion. The big problem with heterodox theories is that for them to ulitmately be successful they have to first explain everything that neoclassical economics does and and explain some thing neoclassical economics currently does not explain. That is a pretty tall order, IMO. This is true of heterodox views such as those held by the Austrian school (which has strong market biases) as well as Post-Keynesians (like you really wanted to know there was such a thing).

    Typically you'll see the hetrodox theorist poke fun at some of the problems with neoclassical economic theory. And while this is good fun (those who hold to the neoclassical view do the same to the heterodox theorists) it doesn't really get you anywhere. The final arbiter is, "How well does your theory compare to others?" If it doesn't compare well it should go (in the trashbin--or at least back the drawing board).

    Of course, this doesn't mean the heterodox economists are just intellectual dilettantes. They do provide the valuable service of highlighting where neoclassical theory falls short and where more work needs to be done. So even if their grand theory fails to replace the dominant theory it can influence it. One example is the Public Choice school of thought which applied the techniqus of economic theory to political actors (politicians), political institutions, (voting, bureaucracies, committees), voters, etc. It has been so widely accepted that it is not really a "heterodox" group.

    Eric Boehlert filling in for Eric Alterman Can't Do Math and his Loose Definitions I was reading through the gloatings of the other Eric today and came across this gem.

    But isn’t eight points down still doable, I hear Republican skeptics ask. Not when you consider Forrester was up 12 points in that same poll on the eve of Robert Torricelli’s farewell. Do the math; that’s a 20 point swing in a month. Buh-bye.

    Now maybe his conclusion is correct, but it could also be that the voters are in a volatile mood and things are still too uncertain to call. Consider a 20 point swing in about 4 weeks, is a 10 point swing in the other direction in two weeks impossible? No, the data show that. Of course, this would require alot of effort from Forrester, but that is not the argument Eric is making, is making a prediciton based on some incredibly iffy poll numbers.

    Eric also comes up with this definition of terrorism:

    The dictionary calls terrorism “the state of fear and submission so produced.”

    What dictionary is that Eric? I don't see that definition here.

    ter·ror·ism n. The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

    Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

    By Eric's definition a large dog can be a terrorist, way to go Eric, water it down some more.

    Krugman Watch Well now Krugman has a lengthy article in the New York Times this time around. And in it Krugman spends a considerable amount of time fretting about the impact of income inequality on out country.

    The first section of the article gives us a little of Krugman’s own childhood, about how he used to go look at the mansions of the “Gilded Age” when the wealthy in this country lived opulent life styles with and army of servants at their beck and call. He is clearly displaying the “class warfare” strategy. “They” [i.e. the rich] were different from the common man [i.e. the good guys]. But the world that Krugman grew up in was one that was more “fair”. Wealth was more evenly distributed and things were good. People were polite, mothers stayed home and raised the kids, and dad was the master of the house. Crime was low, social problems unheard of (well unless you were black and living in the South…but Krugman didn’t, or gay and lived anywhere…apparently Krugman is straight, or a woman who wanted more than to stay home and raise children…Krugman is not a woman). Life was…good.

    Now, life sucks. We are entering a new Gilded Age where we have very rich people who live in big houses again with lots of servants. We have billionaires galore and millionaires coming out of the woodwork. But life is…bad. Because things are not fair (never mind that blacks can now vote, don’t get lynched regularly, and gays now have their own parade, and women…are often times competing evenly against men in many professions).

    What is the cause of all this…this…wanton evil and degeneracy? Income inequality. Yes, the fact that those with money are getting more money at a faster rate than those with less. You see, if only we could go back to a more equal distribution of income why things would be good again (presumably this wouldn’t mean a return to Jim Crow, gay bashing, and women returning to the kitchen though). Yes, it is income inequality. Income inequality is the cause for out of wedlock childbirths (oops, that was a bad thing I mentioned this…it betrays my preference for two parent households). Income inequality is the cause of drug abuse. Income inequality is the cause of movies like Damnation Alley, the Friday the 13th movies (all 8 or however many of them), and Water World. Income inequality…it is an implement of the Satan.

    Okay, I was being a tad sarcastic there, but not much. Anyhow, Krugman then goes on to note that those who disagree with him must first either deny that income inequality is increasing or that it isn’t a bad thing. Far be it for Prof. Krugman to actually do something really shocking like try and show that income inequality is actually a bad thing. Like these guys. Actually that paper points out that income inequality might be neutral, good or bad and that it depends on the “parameters of the model” or for the rest of us, it is an empirical question and one that cannot be assumed by pointing to the big houses on Long Island’s North Shore (is this what Prof. Krugman calls research these days)?

    Ooops, I just played into Prof. Krugman’s hand there. I have become one of the “It Doesn’t Matter” crowd. Well, actually no, I haven’t. I am in the, “Who Knows if It Matters” crowd. I don’t think Prof. Krugman knows. I personally think he thinks he knows, or has a hypothesis. In fact, here is his hypothesis:

    Some -- by no means all -- economists trying to understand growing inequality have begun to take seriously a hypothesis that would have been considered irredeemably fuzzy-minded not long ago. This view stresses the role of social norms in setting limits to inequality. According to this view, the New Deal had a more profound impact on American society than even its most ardent admirers have suggested: it imposed norms of relative equality in pay that persisted for more than 30 years, creating the broadly middle-class society we came to take for granted. But those norms began to unravel in the 1970's and have done so at an accelerating pace.

    Yep, there it is in all its glory. We did not see massive salaries in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s because…of a long psychological holdover from the Great Depression and the New Deal. The same mentality that had my grandmother telling me to eat the crust on my toast was also keeping C.E.O.s from giving themselves big fat paychecks. Well, if you believe Paul Krugman; I don’t but, hey I’m and apologist for the establishment (they send me a check you know). And a couple of paragraphs latter we get to it…the real reason Krugman is blathering on:

    Thirty-five years on, a cover article in Fortune is titled ''You Bought. They Sold.'' ''All over corporate America,'' reads the blurb, ''top execs were cashing in stocks even as their companies were tanking. Who was left holding the bag? You.'' As I said, we've become a different country.

    Yep, Enron. That’s it, Krugman still has a thing about Enron. You see Enron and companies like it are the real problem. I am beginning to wonder if Krugman sees and Enron in every quarterly report. The economy brought to the verge of another Great Depression by the machinations of Ken Lay types.

    Krugman also throws out some economic common sense when he writes:

    Economists also did their bit to legitimize previously unthinkable levels of executive pay. During the 1980's and 1990's a torrent of academic papers -- popularized in business magazines and incorporated into consultants' recommendations -- argued that Gordon Gekko was right: greed is good; greed works. In order to get the best performance out of executives, these papers argued, it was necessary to align their interests with those of stockholders. And the way to do that was with large grants of stock or stock options.

    The problem is that the economists were/are right. The large grants of stocks and stock options basically lined up the C.E.O.s incentives with that of the shareholders. Also, part of the blame goes on the government that put limits on the amounts C.E.O.s can get in direct compensation, but leave stocks and stock options alone.

    The downside is that upper management might try to cook the books and keep up the façade long enough to allow them to cash out and walk away with a pile of money while shareholders lose a pile of money. Again, as I have noted here, here, here, and here that the thing to do is not pile on more laws and regulations (as Krugman seems to be implying) but to use existing laws and regulations to nail these crooks and hustler’s butts to the wall.

    Also, during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s things were not oh so grand as Krugman would have you believe. Remember during much of that time Krugman was literally a child. He was not working in corporate American (and in fact, he never has). I wasn’t even born, but I do work in corporate American and some of the old timers where I work tell me about the halcyon days. Back when the company had extremely generous benefits, a doctor and medical staff on site, a pharmacy for employees with very inexpensive drugs, etc. Things were cushy, expense accounts were nice and fat. Now things are much leaner, no more medical staff, doctor and pharmacy. Expense accounts are not anywhere near as fat (hell my computer was only recently upgraded, the old machine was 5-6 years old…ancient by computer standards).

    So Krugman is just ranting again and wishing for the bygone golden days of his youth. Well Paul they are gone, get used to it.

    Monday, October 21, 2002

    Astonishing I found this at Media Whores Online

    Media Whores Online takes an unbiased, in-depth look at the astonishingly vast myriad of whores who call themselves "journalists." MWO casts a garish spotlight on the relentless screaming heads of television, the babbling paranoids of squawk radio, and the crayon scribblings of lazy print media "columnists."

    Simply amazing that these guys can write this. A quick perusal of their site will show they are anything but unbiased. Funny, I don't see Atrios calling them liars.

    Interesting Observation from the NY Times (Requires free subscription)

    This cheerleading is hardly unusual. Though they enjoyed more respect than Mr. Bush's money men do, the Clinton administration's economic officials did nothing to prevent the 1990's bubble. The easy money created by that bubble led to billions of dollars of unnecessary investment and to executives' current reluctance to begin new projects — a point that Mr. Hubbard, a Columbia University economist who served in the Treasury Department under Mr. Bush's father, and his colleagues like to emphasize.

    "We grew so fast in the 90's," he said, "because, we know with the benefit of hindsight, we were making too much investment."

    Of course, Hesiod the Dimwit thinks that Bubbles are good for the economy. Yes, Hesiod, a bubble results in rapid economic expansion that looks great...until the bubble bursts. As it clearly did in 2000.

    Inconceivable Inconsistencies Batman! It is simply amazing that Scott Ritter can hold so many contradictory views and not be aware of them. "The U.S. saw to the demise of the weapons inspeciton program [back in the late 90's]....Iraq is a defanged tiger."

    If Iraq is defanged then the U.S. should have stopped the inspections, no? If the U.S. shouldn't have stopped the inspections then perhaps Iraq is not defanged. Simply astonishing.

    The Disembling and Bigotry of Media Whores Online Media Whores Online, in a tizzy over the upcoming elections, has this little bit of misinformation on their website:

    Phony Mass Mailing to Seniors: In a further attempt to fool senior citizens, among the most vulnerable of Florida’s voters, the Bush campaign sent out a mass mailing implying that Bush also has the endorsement of the American Association of Retired Persons, which he most emphatically does not. The AARP has raised protests, but the Bush campaign has simply ignored them.

    First, notice how the Whores think so little of the elderly. They are clearly not smart enough (nice euphemism "vulnerable") to figure out for whom to vote. Also, this part, "mailing implying that Bush also has the endorsement of the American Association of Retired Persons" is a bit misleading. What prompted a statement from the AARP were three pictures of Gov. Bush that had the AARP logo in the picture. However, the pictures were ata public event and Bush was invited to the event so they are in the public domain. Much like the pictures the Whorse use on their website (consistency much...I guess it is a bit much to expect Whores to be consistent). So the AARP made this statement:

    "AARP cannot stop the mailing of this document," the group said in a statement. "We do not believe we have legal recourse to stop the Republican Party from using this picture because it is a factual picture that was taken at a public event. AARP does want to make it perfectly clear that we are not endorsing Gov. Bush nor any candidate for any elected office."

    There is this bit as well:

    Lipscomb said Democrats could have published a similar brochure. He said McBride was at a forum in West Palm Beach last week with an AARP logo on the lectern and an AARP banner behind him. "But he didn't have the round sticker on," Lipscomb said.

    In other words, the Democrats and the Whores are upset that they didn't think of this one.

    Update: Thanks to Robert Crawford over at Kloognome for this. Looks like Jean Carnahan actually claimed endorsement from the AARP when she didn't have it. I am not sure if it is the same as what Bush did in Florida, but I doubt it. If it was a picture of Carnahan with the logo somewhere in the picture and the picture was a public event then it would be fair game. What a bunch of hypocritical Whores MWO are.

    The Divisiveness of Jesse Jackson At a the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Rev. Jesse Jackson demonstrated that he is now actually a promoter of divisiveness.

    ''He's [Powell] not on our team,'' Jackson told a packed house at Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which celebrated its 110th anniversary Sunday. ''If he wins, Trent Lott wins. We're not on that team. If he wins, we lose. If he wins, poor folks lose.''

    "Our" team? What team is that Reverand? One could hope that Jackson is speaking to a predominantly Democrat audience and he is referring to Republicans. However, we have this also:

    But Jackson's aside on Belafonte -- the singer last week called Powell the Bush administration's ''house slave'' -- was just a part of Jackson's criticism of the Bush administration, which he said is using an exaggerated threat from a country that might get nuclear weapons -- Iraq -- as an ''election trick'' to divert attention away from the county's mounting economic woes.

    Seems that now that Belafonte has upped the ante on the nasty rhetoric the "Good" Reverand had to "see his bet". Further, it seems Jesse Jackson has been in a coma since 9/11/2001. He seems to think that the reason the U.S. is currently at war (the war on terrorism) was due entirely to the "stolen election". What an idiotic thing to say. Al Qa'ida and Bin Laden ultimately don't care who is President. Bin Laden started hating the U.S. when Bush (41) was President, hated us just as much if not more when Clinton was President, and still hates us now. Bin Laden's hatred of the U.S. is independent of who the President is. But not according to the "Good" Reverand, if only Gore were in office 9/11 would not have happened.

    In two years under Bush, a $3.5 billion federal budget surplus has turned into a $20 billion deficit; poverty rates have climbed and family income has gone down; people have lost trillions of dollars in value from their pension and 401-K plans; funding for Medicare, public education and Bush has yet to meet even once with the NAACP, he said.

    Why should he? The NAACP is a part of the Democratic Party. Not literally, but what is the percentage of blacks that vote Democrat, 90% or higher? Further, you have been all to quick to use the race card, Reverand, and one has to wonder, if he meets with you will you use it if he doesn't do what you want? Oh...and if you and the NAACP do meet with President Bush, and go "into the house" will that make you a "house slave" too?

    Racism is alive and well in the United States, said Jackson, pointing to the latest criminal proceeding involving Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's daughter.

    Yes it is Reverand, and I suggest you look to your own "house" first before casting stones.

    Oddly enough I sort of agree with him on the drug thing...well sort of. I think the war on drugs should be called off and drugs legalized along the lines of alcohol. Hmmm,...funny I don't seem to remember the "Good" Reverand getting all up in arms about the Drug War. How many lives has that cost America? How many lives ruined? Oh well, I don't like anybody has accused the "Good" Reverand of being overly concerned with consistency.

    Thanks to Croooow Blog.

    Sunday, October 20, 2002

    Rationality Under Uncertainty Jane Galt has a nice post on the two recent winners of the Nobel Prize, Vernon Smith and Daniel Kahneman. Anyhow it shouldn't come as a surprise that I am have some problems with her post. First, at the risk of looking like I am trying to Fisk her, I am going to quote the parts then post my own comments.

    One of the great problems for libertarians is that the longer we study economic theory, the clearer it becomes that people are apparently incapable of rationally maximizing expected value in many cases.

    Not entirely correct. A better way to phrase it would be that individuals seem to have a problem maximizing expected utility (or value) according to what the researchers expect. That is expected utility theory follow a set of basic axioms. For example there is the substitution axiom which is stated thusly:

    Suppose p and q are two probability distributions such that p is preferred to q and that a is a number from the open interval (0,1) and that r is another probability distribution. Then a*p + (1-a)*r is preferred to a*q + (1-a)*r.

    This idea here is that the distributions a*p + (1-a)*r and a*q + (1-a)*r both have the component (1-a)*r and it should not affect the preference ordering. Not the easiest thing in the world to grasp. Of course, as has often been the refuge of the economist all that we really need is for people to behave as if they fully understand these assumptions and follow them. So the complexity of the assumptions really isn't something one can use to hide from this observation (or attack it).

    The problem I have is that these problems have been known for quite some time. For example there is the Allais Paradox which was first noted in 1953! So the idea that people violate the Von Neumann-Morgenstern Axioms of Expected Utility is not a big shock. Then there was the Ellsberg paradox that was noted in 1961. The Allais Paradox goes as follows:

    1. Choose between two gambles. The first gives a .33 chance of $27,500, a .66 chance of $24,000, and a .01 chance of nothing. The second gives $24,000 for sure.

    2. Choose between two gambles. The first gives a .33 chance of $27,500, a .67 chance of nothing. The second gives a .34 chance of $24,000 and .66 chance of nothing.

    The typical response is take the sure thing in number 1 and the first gambel in number 2. The problem? It violates the substitution axiom I have noted above.

    So this isn't a big shocker. Not only that, but it isn't that devastating a criticism, IMO. Is there only one method for behaving under uncertainty? No. Herbert Simon noted that people often do not have access to all the information about a decision when making a decision. So they make the best decision they can given the information they have. Similarly here. A good survey of some of the work that has been done in this area can be found in Machina's book, The Economic Theory of Individual Choice Under Uncertainty: Theory, Evidence and New Directions.

    Anyhow Jane continues:

    This is due to two things: first, we don't have access to all the information we need, and second, we don't always make decisions rationally.

    The first part is not a big problem. The question is how do people behave when they are confronted with new information. If, for example, they ignore salient new information in their decision making then yes, there might be a case for saying people are irrational.

    And now we get to the good part, the reason why Jane has such a great blog.

    Now, many on the left who had never heard of these folks are triumphantly saying "See! We told you so!" Not so fast, l'il ranger. First of all, it's not like professional economists are unaware of the work. They're working on incorporating it into theory. In some ways, some of the decisions which might appear sub-rational simply manifest themselves as preferences in the larger model which have already been accounted for: risk aversion, for example. Second of all, the great lesson of studying either regulation or people who try to make their living gaming markets, such as financial professionals, is that the technocrats are subject to the same decision-making problems as the mass of consumers.

    You gotta love it. Yes, economist have known for a long time and as I (and Jane noted) they are working on these issue. That last part is particularly good. The same things that prevent individuals from achieving the optimal outcome in the market will prevent the government agency from also achieving the optimal outcome.

    To a certain extent there is something similar going on in game theory. When I first studied game theory as an undergraduate one of the Teaching Assistants said, "Every solution to a game is a Nash Equiblibrium." For some reason that stuck with me, then i got my hands on the manuscript for Fudenberg and Levine's book, Learning and Games and one of the first things they noted was that, in experimental settings, the solution games settled on were not Nash!

    In contrast though, there is Vernon Smith, Professor Smith notes how often the "efficient" outcome results even in situations that are less than ideal (small number of actors, less than perfect information, etc.). So, the basic conclusion that is to be drawn from this years award, I think is that there is alot more going on than the simple models first year graduate students and advanced undergrads are taught.

    So, all in all a very good article with just a few measely quibbles on my part.

    New Link: Jane Galt I just found her site, although I had seen her posting over at places like the Daily Rant. A great blog, although I don't agree with her all the time, still top notch, so check it out.

    Free Republic Ickiness Feeling a little guilty for beating up on the Democratic Underground today (okay, not really) I cruised over to to check things out and found that thread. What I find disgusting are the replies to the opening post. Some of them smack of the "Well he was asking for it..." kind of view. Here is one such example:

    OMG. We are never going to hear the end of this one now. The new Matthew Shepard. Except now the cause celebre will be transexualism.

    A sort of sidebar comment of mine: right or wrong---how much brains does it take to know that it isn't nice to fool young, virile males like this? Duh. Throughout history---and you don't have to be a psychologist to figure this out---men, when deceived like this, can become violent. For whatever reason, right or wrong: their masculinity threatened, peer pressure, homophobia, WHATEVER! Duh.

    Makes you wonder if this guy was "cruising" like Matthew Shepard was, i.e., seeking "the rough trade"---lifestyle which many gay men live in, in which they seek out straight men hoping to get roughed up, and they get off on it (something well-known but skillfully and intentionally omitted by media in the Shepard case.)

    So...if you are gay and cruising for some sex and you get murdered by some bigots...well than that's too bad, but you shouldn't be such a deviant. Nice.

    Killing was a little severe; a good whipping-socially sanctioned-would have been more appropriate and ultimately more curative.

    Killing a little severe? Ya, think? But yes, lets give that damn pervert a good butt kicking...oh, wait, he's dead nevermind. How simply disgusting.

    Ahhh six posts down and finally somebody with the moral backbone steps up to the plate:

    The fact that this is your first reaction to the brutal murder of another human being is disgusting. As is your bulls**t attempt to rationalize criminal behavior with a dismissive "Boys will be boys attitude."

    If I were to say what I am feeling about you, I would be banned. You're not worth it.

    Of course, I am wondering why is it not worth banning? Why keep posting at a place that harbors such intolerance?

    Racism, DU Style Yes our good buddies at Democratic Underground are having some fun. Well, to be fair some are objecting to the tone of that opening post. Of course, lets point out that the opening post once again violates the rules of Democratic Underground. Namely

    Do not post racist, sexist, homophobic, ethnic, or religious slurs.

    Inconsistent guy that Skinner.

    Same Ol' Same Ol' from Eschaton Atrios links to a post by Brad DeLong about the recent guilty plea in regards to Enron and the California Energy Crisis. The problem is that we have this claim from U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan:

    U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said the guilty plea shows the rolling blackouts and huge price increases that rocked California last year were the result of illegal conduct.``These charges answer the question that has long troubled California consumers: whether the energy crisis was spurred in part by criminal activity. The answer is a resounding yes,'' Ryan said.

    Hold the phone. No. While in some instances this might be the case, but one does not need illegal shenanigans to have prices going up. Frank Wolak has demonstrated this quite nicely. Here is his model one.....more.....time

  • There are 3 generators each with 200 MW of capacity
  • The current demand is 500 MW
  • The last generator bidding in sets the price.

    Now if you are the last generator bidding in, what price do you pick? If the hard cap is $750 then you set the price at $750. This is what we saw during the crisis in the months of say September and October. I would routinely check the PX and hour after hour the price was practically pegged at the price cap. So all one needs is demand close to capacity. With the large numer of "No-touch" days during the late summer it is not surprising that in September and even October there were plants offline for routine or forced maintenance. Also, there were some instances where plants shut down due to the cost of emissions credits. Also, once the crisis really got rolling and the utilities stopped paying generators to conserve cash many of the small generators just shut down. This is where one could make the argument that the "green power" was one factor. Granted it is a factor late in the game and a small one.

    Anyhow Atrios and crew over at Eschaton just can't seem to grasp the concept that the market was badly designed and thus, the sky high prices were not just the result of illegal actions, but of just blind stupidity on the part of those who designed the market's institutional structure. Further, they get all flustered when you point out that Gray Davis, the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration dropped the ball by not responding to the crisis. Well, the last part they like, it is the inclusion of Democrats in the list.

    Blind partisan nonsense.

    Democratic Underground's Poverty of Information on Poverty The artile in the link notes that the U.S. is the wealthiest nation on the planet, but that it also still has people living in poverty. However, currently at 11.7% U.S. poverty is still low by historical standards. In fact, poverty is still lower than it was during the bulk of the Clinton Administration. Now I don't metion this lightly since the buffoons at Democratic Underground are extremely partisan and love to blame anyting on Republicans, which they call Repukes or Repugs (cute, eh?). And this "essay" is no different. After starting out with some glittering generalities they immediately launch into a tirade of the Bush Administration.

    The latest from the Bush administration as a solution is to give money to right-wing Christian organizations in support of faith-based charities, more than in support of the poor. That is the extent, after two centuries of recognition of the problem, of government's approach to poverty in America. That effort has more to do with defunding government programs, a backhanded form of privatization, than correcting the difficulties of the poor.....

    Here's the more horrible truth. If every displaced poor person had a domicile, had a fixed address (in order to be able to vote), and could be convinced to vote for a Democrat, and every Democrat in Congress understood the value of permanently fixing the problem of poverty, the Democrats would gain close to 20 million votes in every election. Democrats would win every election, every time. Republicans would be wondering what hit `em, would be engaged in one giant circle-jerk with Richard Perle and George W. Bush holding their own little dicks and with no one to play with them.

    I particularly like that last paragraph. If they just had a fixed address and if we could just convince them to vote the way we want them to vote why we'd be in charge...forever! Gee, are they really concerned about reducing poverty of grabbing power?

    Anyhow, what this person doesn't realize is that in looking at the data (data?!?!? what's that??) one would immediately see that one of the big drivers of poverty are recessions. Sad to say, that when the economy tanks the poverty rate goes up. Where is this data? Why at the Census Bureau of course. In fact, here is one of the latest papers on poverty. Right there on page 2 is a handy little graph that shows poverty (in both absolute numbers and rates) and recessions. Notice something about the poverty rate in 2000? Yeah, it went up. In fact, thanks to those fine people at the Census Bureau here is the graph:

    The essay also puts forward a solution:

    About sixty years ago, Paul Goodman, radical, poet and social theoretician, suggested that most of the social ills of society could be corrected by the understanding that some small portion of society could take care of society's difficult tasks, the unpleasant tasks, by a program which allowed those ill-fitted to advancing in society to work for a year in the bad jobs we relegate to the poor and the disenfranchised in exchange for six years afterwards of a minimal existence guaranteeing food, shelter and health care.

    Rather badly written I think, but my take on this is; we have some really crappy jobs that need to be done. Further, only a small portion of the population is needed to do them. And to help tackly the problem of poverty we'll make sure that whoever steps forward to do these crappy jobs will then get 6 years of a minimal existence of food, shelter and health care.

    The condescension aside there ('re one of "those" workers...well here you go your minimal shelter, food, and health care) this begs the question what are these jobs? Janitors in a public high school? I remember what those toilets looked like. Bus driver? I think I could only take that job for a year...hmmm maybe not. And what exactly is this minimal shelter, food, and housing? I don't know, but I imagine that the least cost minimally nutritious diet would consist of alot of stuff most people would not want to voluntarily eat.

    So, looking back what do we have. Playing fast and loose with the statistics, some cockamamy scheme to reduce poverty, unsupported claims about poverty and homelessness (i.e. most families in poverty live in their car), and crass political pandering. A classic from Democratic Underground.

    Update: This paper by Dickens and Ellwood points out that for Great Britain poverty rates have been skyrocketing lately. Of course, lets be fair here and note that in Europe poverty is often measured in reltive terms, that is if your income falls below a certain percentage of the median income you are in povert. Here is what the article says:

    Of course a major reason for the differences in reported poverty trends is that the nations remain divided by a common language with a very uncommon set of definitions. In Britain and Europe, poverty is traditionally measured according to a relative scale—families are considered poor if their incomes fall below 60% of the (family size adjusted) median income.

    However, with this definition it is practically impossible to reduce poverty unless all incomes are very clusterd very tightly. This would mean a wealth transfer from those at the upper end of the distribution to the lower end. The paper constructed such a poverty standard for the U.S. for 1979 and the income that would put a family of four into poverty is $32,652 . Since the official standard is slightly above $17,000 that would greatly increase the number of poor. Adjusting this relative poverty standard for purchasing parity with the U.K. would reduce the dollar amount to around $20,000.

    So it seems our more enlightened European fellows aren't doing all that much better.