CalPundit and Property Seizures Now I am no lawyer, and neither is Kevin Drum as far as I know, but this looks wrong to me...Kevin's reasoning that is. Suppose you rob a liquor store with a gun. The cops give chase and finally corner you. They seize your car and gun...prior to a trial (i.e. no due process). Violation of the Constitution? I very, very seriously doubt it.
Kevin also points us to this article with a bit of outrage. Gee Kevin, just now becoming a fan of property rights? Careful the bottom dwellers from Atrios' site might start thinking you're a libertarian.
Nathan Newman's panties area also in a knot, uhhh, Nathan this kind of thing isn't all that new. Police seize things all the time and often it is a huge pain in the ass getting these items back. Perhaps guys like Nathan are right and Ashcroft is Satan himself, but I do have a problem here. This is just a logical extension of what the police do already, so unless he is going to go after all of law enforcement Nathan is being dishonest. Nathan's attempt to smear just Ashcroft alone in this indicates to me it is nothing more than partisan opprotunism at best, in other words if some other Attorney General (Janet Reno?) we wouldn't hear a peep.
Here is the original article that got Nathan's panties all wadded up. Frankly, I don't see much of difference between this and the liquor store scenario above, as such I doubt there is going to much of a Constitutional challenge or that it would succeed (but remember I am not a lawyer). Yes, I do agree with Kevin that the confiscation of property and wealth (especially when no criminal wrong doing can be proven) is very bad, his sudden leap into this topic and on this particular case makes me wonder if it too isn't just partisan opportunism.
Unfortunately after reading that post I have to conclude it is Kevin who doesn’t get it. Kevin gives us his definition of McCarthyism:
What McCarthy did do was accuse everyone under the sun of being a communist. If you had belonged to the communist party as a student in the 30s, you were a communist. If you belonged to the ACLU, you were a communist. If, like Fred Fischer, you belonged to the Lawyer's Guild for a few months after you graduated from law school, you were tarred as a communist on national TV.
It's not McCarthyism to accuse a communist of being a communist. It is McCarthyism to accuse someone of being a communist who has only a vague association with communist friends, groups, or ideas.—emphasis added by me
The part I emphasized are practically the exact words used by Glenn Reynolds in the post that Kevin links to here.
It's not McCarthyism to call people who are communists, communists. Communists, as devoted followers of murderous totalitarianism, deserve to be called to account every bit as much as their Nazi colleagues. And in the 21st century, they can hardly pretend to be ignorant of their ideology's true nature.
Glenn isn’t calling somebody who had a brief flirtation with some vaguely Communist-like group a communist. What he is saying is that calling a communist a communist is not McCarthyism and it is quite similar to calling Nazi’s or members of the KKK on the carpet for the horrendous misdeeds of such groups in the past. In fact , Atrios has fulminated in much worse ways about those they disagree with. Yet we don’t see Kevin linking to Atrios and calling him on it.
Dick Cheney: The Ultimate Weaving Driver? A friend sent me a link to this essay and it is both interesting and disconcerting. The author, John Perry Barlow, knows the Vice President and has worked with him on a number of issues. Here he puts forwad the idea that Cheney is one of the main architects behind the White Houses strategy and that the goal isn't oil, but instead power and world peace.
Now, to be sure, oil is a factor here. It is a factor in the sense that the industrialized world runs off of oil and securing access to oil is necessary for the continued operation of the industrialized world. The author completely discounts the idea that Cheney is after the oil for his own personal greed. I agree, that is just mindless drivel thrown around by the more thoughtless of the anti-war crowd (IMO).
Mr. Barlow points to the MX Missile program and how it combined with Reagan's agressive rhetoric, Star Wars, all sent a very strong signal to the Russians, "Don't mess with us or we will destroy you utterly, sure you might destroy us, we don't care, all we care about is taking you with us." Here is how the author put it
Veteran Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory accompanied me on one of my futile visits to his office, where she spent better than an hour listening to us argue about 'circular errors probable' and 'MIRV decoys' and the other niceties of nuclear nightmare. When we were leaving, she, who had seen a lot of politicians in her long day, turned to me and said, "I think your guy Cheney is the most dangerous person I¹ve ever seen up here." At that point, I agreed with her. What I was not thinking about, however, was the technique I once used to avoid being run off the road by Mexican bus drivers, back when their roads were narrower and their bus drivers even more macho. Whenever I saw a bus barrelling down the centerline at me, I would start driving unpredictably, weaving from shoulder to shoulder as though muy borracho. As soon as I started to radiate dangerously low regard for my own preservation, the bus would slow down and move over. As it turned out, this is more or less what Cheney and his phalanx of Big Stategic Thinkers were doing, if one imagined the Soviet Union as a speeding Mexican bus. They were determined to project such a vision of implacable, irrational, lethality that the Soviet leaders would decide to capitulate rather than risk universal annihilation. It worked. While I think that rock-n-roll and the systemic failures of central planning had as much to do with the collapse of communism as did Dick¹s mad gamble, I have to confess that, by 1990, he didn¹t look quite so nuts to me after all. The MX, along with Star Wars and Reagan¹s terrifying rhetoric, had been all along a weapon for waging psychological rather than nuclear warfare.
Mr. Barlow is now wondering if perhaps the same strategy is once again being employed, but no on a grander scale. Now it is being applied global, not just against one single opponent, but against the entire world. It does fit with the "You are either with us or against us," strategy. Also, it fits with the idea of tracking down anything related to Al Qeada and eradicating it (either outright killing the people or looking them up in Guantanamo Bay).
I also find the idea vaguely disconcerting. For one it assume rationality on the part of all the other players. Second the idea that there can only be peace so long as there is one big guy imposing peace strikes me as being somewhat tyrannical. "You'll have peace or else" kind of a thing.
Data, Statistics and Decision Making Kevin Drum (from CalPundit) and I have exchanged a few e-mails on the use of data in blogging. Namely because Kevin is one of the few bloggers who actually goes out and gets data for some of his posts (which is a good thing), and also because I have disagreed with his conclusions on several occasions. Anyhow in one of the last e-mails Kevin wrote (and was gracious enough to give me permission to post it here):
3. Just in general on this kind of stuff, I think you're making a little too much out of the lack of data. In ordinary life there are lots of cases where there just isn't very much data, but we all have to make decisions anyway, so we do the best we can. The fact that a correlation coefficient is low means that we better not base a journal article on our data, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't make any decisions. You take the data you have and do your best.
Now, I agree largely with what Kevin has written here. Where I do take exception is to not telling your readers that your data may not be sufficient, complete or that your analysis is somewhat superficial. The failure to do this is what gives alot of force to the phrase "Lies, damn lies and statistics" by Mark Twain who said that quite sometime ago.
The problem is exemplified in my post here along with Kevin's posts on the subject as well. His first post was pretty detailed, or it might look that way to somebody who isn't familiar with such analysis. Somebody not familiar with such analysis might conclude the analysis is impressive and walk away with the impression that not only is the notion (myth?) that Republicans are better for the economy false, but that Democrats are better for the economy. Upon looking at the graph the answer seems alot less clear. In looking at the graph it looks like the results (that Democrats are better for the economy) might very well be spurious.
Now Kevin does warn in a later post that one shouldn't read too much into the numbers. He's right, but my contention is that should have been in the first post. By not putting it in the first post he is not giving his readers all the information he has so that they can make a more informed decision! So yes, we make do with what we have, but make sure you present all the information so that people can make the best decision possible. In fact, Kevin's data has been picked up by eRiposte.com so it is reaching an even wider audience. And let me tell you after being on the web for a number of years, and moderating a forum on statistics I can tell you people's understanding of sound statistical analysis is well...pretty bad by and large. Even people who know better routinely make mistakes.
For example, a common mistake is the interpretation that people give to the 95% confidence interval. Most people assume that it means that the parameter of interest has a .95 probability of being in the interval. Brad DeLong, a professor of economics at U.C. Berkeley (who has written journal articles on econometrics) has made this mistake. Just incase you are wondering the 95% confidence interval is calculated after the data is observed, since the data are observed and the parameters are assumed given, there is nothing random left in the formulas and hence there is no way for there to be any probability other than the trivial cases of 0 and 1 to be associated with the confidence interval. That is any given interval either contains the parameter of interest (probability 1) or it does not (probability 0) and, this is the important part, you don't know which it is. At best you are confident about such an interval. The confidence can be explained this way: Suppose you have 10,000 samples and you construct 10,000 confidence intervals, then you'd expect 95% of the them to contain the parameter of interest.
Are you confused? If so don't worry, smart people get confused by this all the time (remember Brad DeLong). So if you are going to use data, which I repeat is a good thing, just make sure you put in some sort of qualifications as to how good your analysis is. That way people will be getting as much information as possible.
How to Deal with North Korea An interesting article in Foreign Affairs about how the situation with North Korea came about. For instance the author notes the following
It now seems likely that Pyongyang actually started its HEU program in 1997 or 1998. Although Kim Jong Il's motives for doing so will probably never be clear (his regime has a record of confounding observers), there are two plausible explanations. The first focuses on fear: namely, North Korea's fear that, having frozen its plutonium-based nuclear program in 1994, it would receive nothing in return. Such a suspicion seems unreasonable on its face, since, under the 1994 Agreed Framework negotiated with Washington, Pyongyang was to be compensated in various ways for abandoning its nuclear ambitions. But from the perspective of a paranoid, isolated regime such as North Korea's, this concern was not without justification. Almost from its inception, the provisions of the 1994 accord fell substantially behind schedule -- most notably in the construction of proliferation-resistant light-water reactors in the North and improved relations with the United States.1 North Korea may thus have started its HEU program as a hedge against the possibility that it had been duped, or, more likely, that new U.S., South Korean, or Japanese administrations would be less willing to proceed with the politically controversial program than were their predecessors.
The article also notes that President Bush's inclusion of North Korea in the 'Axis of Evil' probably didn't help in that it resulted in North Korea interpreting it as a direct threat, especially in light of the new policy of preemptive defense in the war on terror.
From here the author posits two reasons as to why North Korea might have admitted it had a nuclear weapons program.
1. To make it more difficult for the U.S. and others to isolate North Korea
2. A miscalculation
The miscalculation is based on the positive benefits of North Korea admitting that it abducted several Japanese to help train their spies. This actually removed a barrier to normalizing relations with Japan and paid off, thinking coming clean on the nuclear weapons program might have the same effect, but in fact actually backfired.
The author also points out that given the Administration early on ruled out a military solution the only remaining options were isolation, containment, or negotiation. Isolation would be aimed at bringing about the end of the North Korean regime (i.e. no more help from Washington and the U.S. would pressure others to ignore North Korea as well). This would leave North Korea to continue with its nuclear weapons program though. Containment would use economic pressure to try and squeeze compliance out of the North Koreans, but would leave the door open to future negotiation. Negotiations would seek to address the problem, but many might view it as a reward for bad behavior.
There is also this bit of chilling information in the article:
Indeed, it averted a potentially catastrophic situation. Instead of a war (which the U.S. military commander in South Korea, General Gary Luck, estimated would have killed a million people, including 80,000 to 100,000 Americans), Northeast Asia has experienced eight years of stability. This has had vast implications beyond security.
So the use of North Korea as an example of inconsistency/hypocrisy on the part of the Bush Administration is, IMO, disingenuous. Even if the problems in Iraq were to magically disappear today, right now, we'd still not be considering war with North Korea. It is a different situation entirely form Iraq. The North Korean military would in all likelihood be far more effective than Iraq's military. Also, there are a great many people living fairly close to the DMZ in Korea.
What the U.S. is doing with Iraq is to prevent it from becoming the type of problem that North Korea currently has become.
So how exactly do the authors suggest North Korea be handled? Well they suggest that the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan all act to ensure the security of the Korean Penninsula, this would send a message to North Korea that it doesn't need nuclear weapons for security purposes. The authors note this might be problematic for the U.S. to initiate and suggest that it might be possible for one of the other four to initiate such a move.
Stage two would consist of:
Once the security of the peninsula has been guaranteed by the outside powers, it will be time for stage two: a comprehensive accord, again broken into two parts. The North must completely give up its HEU and plutonium programs and allow immediate, intrusive, and continuous inspections by the IAEA; end its development, production, and testing of long-range missiles in exchange for some financial compensation; draw down its conventional troops along the DMZ (although there will be no reduction of U.S. troops at this time, and only a very limited reduction of U.S. troops in five years, should the situation permit); and, finally, continue to implement economic and market reforms.
I am not sure if this latter part is feasible given the unpredictability of the North Koreans, but it at least sounds good.
The Dividends of Delay This is an interesting Op-Ed piece in the L.A. Times of all places that points out that the delay on invading Iraq may very well have played into the hands of the Hawks. The idea can be summarized simply as:
The delay as given the Administration and the Pentagon more time to refine their war plans and solve logistic problems that will ensure a rapid and hopefully a less bloody war.
I remember back when the first Persian Gulf War was being fought that somebody said that the U.S. military is alot like a heavy bat, it takes a lot of time and effort to swing the damn thing, but when it connects with its target you sure as Hell don't want to be on the recieving end. The delay due to France, Germany, the U.N. and the prostestors is basically giving the Administration and the Pentagon time to wind up that bat and when they let it swing it will be even more devastating than if there had not been the delay.
There is this quote form the article
Gone is reliance on Iraqi exiles to fight as "proxies." Abandoned is the initial design of an armored force driving straight for urban Baghdad. Rejected are dreams of quick victory through air power or exotic weapons. Vanished are the visions of another Afghanistan, with CIA and special operations forces carrying the day.
So you wont see something like we saw with Afghanistan. The new plan is to use air power, ground forces, and special operations forces conjointly to bring about as swift a demise to Saddam's regime as possible.
Secretary of State Powell has also hinted that with the removal of Saddam Hussein the U.S. might be able to reduce the number of troops in the region dramatically which could help reduce one of the reasons for terrorism.
When the war is over, Powell said, "We'll be able to change the presence levels of American troops throughout [the] region in the absence of a threatening regime like Saddam Hussein's Iraq."
The Flagellum Unspun As previous posts have indicated I am not a fan of the Intelligent Design/Anit-Evolution movment that is being spear-headed by William Dembski. Well, here is an article that takes apart one of the mainstays of Intelligent Design. For the last 6 years or so anti-evolutionists have pointed to the flagellum as proof positive of Design. This article points to new research that completely blows such claims out of the water.
The anti-evolutionist claim is that the flagellum is an example of irreducible complexity, this is when a biological system is comprised of several parts where the removal of any single part or parts renders the system as a whole inoperable. Behe and Dembski have pointed to the flagellum as such an example. The problem is, as the authors of this essay note, is that recent research has found that the type III secretory system (TTSS) is simpler and has many of the components of the flagellum. Thus, if the flagellum is truly irreducibly complex, then the TTSS should not exist. Steve
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Dubious Data Crunching I was looking for data on GDP and Presidents when I came across that post by Kevin Drum. It looks pretty bad. I mean he looks at it from a variety of angles and the conclusion looks inescapable...why do so many think that Republicans are better for the economy than the Democrats? Based on Kevin's numbers it just doesn't look good (if you are a Republican). But I was curious...what if I graphed the data? This is one of the first things I do when starting a statistical analysis. I graph the data to see what is going on. Well here is the picture
Notice something odd? The peaks are decreasing over time. Thus if one party is represented predominantly at either end of the data it could give a skewed result. To check this I checked the number of years a Democrat was in office for the first half of the data set vs. the number of Democrats in office during the last half of the dataset and similarly for the Republicans (excluding the year 1975). The results are as follows:
First half of the sample period: 13 Democrats, 14 Republicans
Second half of the sample period: 12 Democrats, 15 Republicans
Could this be enough to skew the results? I think so. The annual percentage change in the first part of the sample period is just short of 4% per year. In the second half of the annual percentage change is 3.17% per year. That is a big difference and could very well be driving the results that Kevin got. Basically the data series is not stationary and you have to account for this in doing your analysis. In trying to account for this effect, I did a simple regression with the GDP percentage change as the dependent variable and time and a dummy variable for a Democrat being in office and found that the coefficient for Democrats was indeed positive and statistically significant! However, one minor problem remains the explanatory power of this model sucks. I mean really sucks. The Adjusted R2 is 0.07265 which really really stinks. It is so bad that we shouldn't take the results of this model as nothing more accurate than Kevin's analysis. The idea that we should introduce a 3 year lag also doesn't look good in that the Adjusted R2 still stinks (its even worse actually) and none of the lagged variables are statistically significant.
Basically the question is why is there a downward trend in the peaks? Is it due to the Republicans? Maybe, the problem is Kevin hasn't got any data to make that case.
Another problem with Kevin's analysis is his analysis of inflation. During the first half of the time period I bet inflation is pretty low and gets much higher latter on in the sample period. Thus, the analysis on this is going to have the same problem, but in reverse. Further, I think it is going to be even harder to say that this is due to the Republicans. During the 50's on through the late 60's and early 70's Keynesian macro theory was king. Part of that theory was the Phillips curve which postulated a trade off between inflation and unmployment. The higher inflation, the lower unemployment was. The problem was that this theory was based on a flaw that people suffer from money illusion. Money illusion is where you think you are twice as rich if I double your income and also double all the prices (in reality you are just as wealthy as before this doubling). People caught on and the Phillips curve went vertical, that is no matter how high inflation went unemployment didn't budge. This would have been a problem if Democrats were in office or Republicans. Trying to assign blame to a political party for this is highly dubious, IMO.
This leaves just unemployment. But the story above also plays a role.
Finally, lets toss in another factor to really make a mess of everything: supply shocks. The oil crises in the latter part of the sample period were indeed supply shocks. Are these the responsibility of either party? I'd definitely blame the price controls/rationing on the President that was in office at the time. What is the effect of the shock and the stupid policy response?
So what are we to conclude from all of this? Maybe Democrats are the economic wunderkids that Kevin's analysis suggests.
Update: In an e-mail conversation with Kevin he sent me this link. Looks like we aren't so far apart in our positions after all, i.e. there just isn't enough data to make much of a conclusion with the exception that the notion that Republicans are better at managing the economy is probably false. Based on the data, I can't disagree with that. My guess is that each party does about the same in terms of "managing the economy" (to the extent that it can be managed). One thing, I wish he had put these comments with his initial post. Steve
So, the point isn't that Dini should give a recommendation for the student. Only a fool would want a recommendation from Dini after refusing to give Dini the answer he's looking for. The point is that Dini doesn't understand the nature of science and the fact that different objects and different aspects of an object require different scientific approaches . . . [T]his isn't about religious discrimination, it's about recognizing precisely what evolution theory and biological science explain and what they cannot. If I held that evolution is the central unifying theory of biology (as I , in fact, do) and yet also recognized that it cannot explain every aspect of human beings (which I also maintain), then I would not be able to get a recommendation from Dini even though I understand evolution theory and its proper applications; and this on account of his ill-formed question.
What is the problem here? It is a strawman argument. No scientist asserts that any given theory explains every aspect that it puports to explain. As such the Theory of Evolution is "incomplete" in that we don't know everything about how organisms evlove. Saying so is not scientific heresy and should not end up in Prof. Dini refusing to give you a letter of recomendation. If it does, then Dini isn't a scientist and you don't want a letter anyways.
Besides making it clear that he doesn't read Minute Particulars, Prof. Dini's revision still reflects a misunderstanding about what evolutionary theory or biology in general can and cannot tell us.
What can't evolutionary theory tell us? Mark is being rather coy here (is he hiding the fact that he is in fact a proponent of Intelligent Design and thus a Creationist?). Evolutionary theory does indeed have an answer to how humans came into existence. Repeating that answer is giving a scientific answer. Pointing to areas of controversy or lack of knowledge does not mean that humans didn't evolve or that God had a hand in the matter.
Hmmm, from an older post I found this:
Human bodies give evidence of evolution (e.g. DNA similarities, vestigial organs, mammalian characteristics), but how a human being originated is not explained by evolution theory. A human being is an animal and has a principle of life that is similar to other animals in that it causes a body to be alive; but this same principle in the human being is responsible for operations like the ability to reason, understand, and choose freely, operations which any arrangement of matter cannot explain and which evolution theory cannot explain. Human beings are mammals and subject to biological principles as are other mammals and biological life in general. But, simply put, they are more than evolution can explain.
Mark sure is avoiding the issue here. He thinks there is something more to man than evolution can explain, but he stops right there letting the reader draw his own conclusions. He gives us nothing as to what this "more that evolution cannot explain" is, he just leaves it there like a partially eaten sandwhich.
I think Mark is extremely confused or perhaps there is something in his numerous posts on this. Steve
Atrios is Scum Just read it. Clearly the guy has no sense of propriety. I read Jane Galt's comments and while it was probably not the smartest thing to say, Atrios' protrayal fo them is just flat out inappropriate. What an ass. Steve
The poster child for America’s self-defeating machismo is Donald Rumsfeld. He brings to mind another famously impolitic American diplomat, John Foster Dulles. Dulles, Winston Churchill once remarked, 'is the only bull I’ve seen who brings his china shop with him.'
Most of Rumsfeld’s tart observations are true. In fact they’re often dead-on. But he is not a columnist, he’s a statesman (thankfully, since he’d drive many of us out of the business). To much of the world his jabs convey an arrogance that speaks not of leadership but domination. Every time Rumsfeld opens his mouth, I think, 'There goes another ally!'
The former House Democratic leader pledged to make the armed forces "the best-equipped, best-trained, best-led fighting force in the entire world," ensure homeland security by making sure communities have the means to keep residents safe and secure, provide high-quality healthcare for working Americans, consolidate pension plans, remake the public school system, raise the minimum wage and make the United States energy independent.
Wow, that is alot.
make the armed forces the best-equipped, best-trained, best-led fighting force in the entire world
Okay, works for me.
ensure homeland security by making sure communities have the means to keep residents safe and secure
Empty political rhetoric that sounds great, but until we see the details doesn't mean squat.
provide high-quality healthcare for working Americans
And here it is, the Nanny-State resurggence. You are too incompetent to take care of yourself so we, the Government, will take care of you. This is basically going to be an expansion of Medicare. It may not have exactly the same structure, but that is what it will do; further socialize medical care and services. Lets ignore that fact that Medicare is one of the fastest growing parts of the budget. Lets ignore the fact that it creates all kinds of problems with perverse incentives. Lets ignore the fact that medical goods and services are private goods and not public goods.
Looks like I wont be voting Democratic this year either. Of course the Republicans aren't much better. Hmmm...guess I'll have to vote Libertarian again.
Wow I must say I am surprised at the idea of Saudi Arabia bringing 90 of its own citizens to court for joining Al Qaida. Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Wahhabism which is a particularly militant sect of Islam that even views other Islamic sects in a very bad way. Osama bin Laden is an ardent follower of Wahhabism as are most, if not all, of his followers. Similarly for the Taliban. Wahhabism is very extreme and can be seen as part of the problem with terror, intolerance, and hatred that is threatening to constantly boil over in the Middle East. Steve
All right, Monsieur Chirac. Perhaps we are poor. Perhaps we were not raised properly. We do not know about fine wine and the various directions of avant-garde art. But we do not repay those who have helped us and who continue to help us with ingratitude.
Neatkariga Rita Avize
Saying that Bush is the real "weapon of mass destruction" is awful cute the first nine or ten thousand times, but only if you live in Toronto or Paris or Madrid. Viewed by an Iraqi from the reality of Basra, it's pathetic.
Howard Kurtz on Bush and the Economy I agree with him here. Bush has stumbled badly in his handling of the economy. To me most of what I hear is talk, cheap talk and not much action. Kurtz has also hit the nail on the head with regards to the President's ability to steer the economy, that is, it is vastly over-rated. The policy tools that the President have access to are not the same as dials on a stero in your car. You can't just fiddle with them till you get it right were you want it. Still, Bush's record on the economy is not all that exciting. He suffers from the same problem his father did, he seems to be bored by domestic issues such as the economy. His only reply to a weak economy is the mantra, "Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes....," and doesn't say much of anything about the increased spending (which are big increases by the way). You hear nothing about deregulation, not to mention Bush's protectionism for specific industries. Overall, I have to give Bush a very low grade on the economy, say a C. Steve
4. Lucky Charms
Reason why this cereal is decadent:
Man with no known adult friends lures children into the forest for purposes of nutritional (ideological?sexual?) seduction. Sprightly twinkle motif on packaging (putatively and allusion to "flavor") are, in fact, metaphors for soul-deadening sucrose.
Chirac Under Fire Looks like France (and Germany) are the exception rather than the rule on the issue of Iraq, disarmament and war.
But what should have been a celebration of a united position across Europe was soured by a tirade by French President Jacques Chirac against East European candidates who backed the United States' hardline policy on Iraq.
Chirac's outburst, branding the candidates ill-behaved and reckless for siding with Washington, drew reactions ranging from scorn to polite disdain from east European leaders invited to Brussels for a briefing on the EU emergency summit.
Somebody needs to tell Chirac to shut the Hell up. Steve
An Interesting Question Jay, over at The Daily Rant sent me an e-mail with an interesting question. He was watching some of the coverage about the peace protestors and noted some of the signs which read
Bush is Hitler
The United States are the Terrorists
No Blood for Oil
The usual. But the thing that struck Jay was, where were the signs asking Saddam to disarm? Where were the signs asking Saddam to comply with United Nation's Security Council resolutions? Where were the signs comparing Saddam to Hitler (a much more apt comparison given some of Saddam's past atrocities)?
I agree, where are those signs? Fine, you don't think the U.S. should go to war with Iraq to enforce a U.N. resolution. Why is Saddam getting a free pass? Is is that everybody knows Saddam is a psychopath that it just doesn't need to be pointed out? Steve
1. It's not moral. War can never be a moral act, not even as a "last resort." In the best case, war is a necessary evil. What is the moral difference between a crusade and a jihad?
The only problem with the above is that the link that I thought would support their argument that a war cannot be moral doesn't support their argument.
The claims about the war not being a just war seem rather subjective and open to interpretation to me. For example, it sure seems like all other non-violent options are being exhausted. Saddam sure seems intent on slowing down, confounding, and misleading the weapons inspectors and inspections.
A war on Iraq for the purpose of "regime change" would not be a legal war under international law. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."
Well this is a nice little pickel as the war would basically be fought under U.N. Resolution 1441. So...the U.N. is inconsistent?
Bombing of civilian populations is a form of terrorism even more abhorrent than low-tech terrorist street bombings of innocents. This has been so ever since the first instance of "strategic" bombing (coincidentally, in Iraq, in 1917 by the British), up to the devastating bombing of Afghanis in our efforts to destroy Al Qaeda, and our continuing bombing raids into Iraq over the past ten years.
Actually, population centers are not being targeted. If they were, then the death toll would be massive and obvious. You wouldn't have journalists scurrying around looking for the unfortunate instances where civilians were killed, you could find them easily. The U.S. has the ability to place unimaginable fire power into very precise areas and if the goal was to reduce the civilian population it would be horrendously obvious, as in tens of thousands dead. What we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq was not the targeting of civilian population centers. This is just a disgusting lie.
"Preemptive war" is anti-American. The concept was made infamous by Adolf Hitler, who claimed his aggression was necessary, to prevent attacks on Germany.
Unfortunately we are fighting a new type of enemy, one that has not been fought before. Not going after members of Al Qaeda where ever they maybe basically means to give up and spend the rest of our lives and the lives of future generations living in fear of the next terrorist attack. Now, this does not justify pre-emptive wars in all cases, but to come to the blanket "un-American" conclusion the author does is stupid. I also note that the author is using the "anti-American" slur....gee I thought only Republicans and conservatives did that. Somebody alert Ted Barlow!
Killing fleeing conscripts in a "turkey shoot" like the one that ended the 1991 Gulf War, another likely feature of a new war in Iraq, is un-American, and will certainly take a postwar psychological toll on the combatants who participate in such repugnant acts, and on their families.
Yes, much better to let them flee, regroup, resupply and dig in to fight us some more. What an idiot.
War without a new, specific U.N. resolution based upon evidence of Saddam's continued non-compliance with U.N. demands would undermine the U.N. and the ideal of a world system based on lawful principles.
Go tell it to the French and the Germans. While your at it, find out exactly what kind of deals they have with Iraq for oil. My guess is that their position is only about the oil. Steve
Saturday, February 15, 2003
Democrat Talking Points As usual a Democrat is using the old "Favors the wealthy and hurts minorities" talking point. I personally like the assumption that minorities are poor and thus are going to suffer under Bush's proposal. The only problem is it is just political rhetoric, i.e. bullshit. There is nothing in that article about how precisely Bush's plan will hurt the non-wealthy. No Democrat actually tells you how Bush's plan will hurt the non-wealthy (at least that I have seen). Instead what you get is alot of political rhetoric on how much money the "rich" will get to keep, as if that money was going to go to the poor. Here is a clue for these nitwits, that money that the government collects in taxes...alot of it doesn't go to the poor. In fact, most of it doesn't go to the poor at all. Lets do a bit of quick arithmetic. Suppose the IRS collects $500,000,000,000 in tax revenue. Now, suppose we were to send half of that to the "poor" and that there are 20,000,000 poor people in the country. This would mean each person would get a check for $12,500. Remember that is per person so a family of 7 that is poor would get $150,000. You'd no longer have poverty. Okay, I am ignoring alot of incentive problems here, but my point is that the government doesn't just turn around and give out that money. The government spends the money itself on what those in the government think is the right thing to spend it on. That is when HUD gets its budget money is spent on what HUD managers think is important, what HUD thinks is important does not have to help the poor.
Also, lets keep this in mind. In terms of Federal taxes the "poor" don't pay that much. Yes, if you are thinking I am going to get out the tax table you are correct.
% of Total US Income
% of Total Income Tax Paid
There it is, households with income under $27,000 only pay 4% of Federal taxes. People at the low end of the income distribution just don't pay that much in Federal taxes, there isn't much left to cut.
Now to head of the obvious objection. Yes, the poor do pay in terms of Social Security, Medicare, and state taxes. Yes this ratchets up their total overall tax burden. However, there isn't much Bush can do about this as he is the President of the United States and can't dictate fiscal policy to the individual states. Yeah, I know kind of silly I had to point that out. Steve
The tone is not quite as optimistic as it was, but other ministers confirm it. "Everyone has their concerns, but Tony Blair is doing the right thing for the right reasons," David Blunkett will tell Labour's spring conference today.
Assuming the article is true and tha a war with Iraq is unpopular in Britain then Blair's stance isn't just political grandstanding, it is an indicator of a politician taking a stance based on principle. Something rare in politics and hopefully the British wont toss Blair overboard because of it. Steve
Who Will Succeed Greenspan?!?! Yep, that is the topic of that article. It points out that in his recent testimony Greenspan put at risk President Bush's tax cuts and thus, President Bush might look for another person to appoint to the Federal Reserve chairmanship next year. The article points to Greenspan's comments about tax cuts and deficts quite possibly have made it much harder for Bush to get his budget/tax cuts pushed through the Congress.
This article points too Greenspan's testimony that he supported the ending of double taxation of dividends, but that he didn't see it as a something to stimulate the economy. Further, the article points to the public comments from the Bush Administration on how it supports Greenspan as chairmen of the Fed, this has many nervous that it is a sign that Bush might be considering replacing Greenspan.
Some of the potential candidates are Martin Feldstein, Roger Ferguson, and Robert McTeer.
"So what" you might ask? Well one of the things the Federal Reserve watches out for is inflation and also for providing some stimulus for the economy. The problem is that pursuing the later can result in increases in the former and eventually a point where you have both a weak economy and high inflation. The idea is that by increasing the price level people will respond by increasing business activity (hire more people, buy more equipment, etc.). The problem is that the increase in prices is something that is going on everywhere so people are sort of fooled into increasing business activity. Thus, after awhile they figure it out and the Fed's ability to stimulate the economy disappears and all you get is inflation. This is what happened in the 70's with stagflation. The solution was to find a chairmen of the Fed that had a reputation of wanting to end inflation and not be tempted to use the Fed's stimulative powers too much. That is what we currently have with Greenspan. People generally trust him not to return us to the days of stagflation. A new chairmen? Well that's is introducing somewhat of an unknown into the situation and could make many investors rather nervous. Steve
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Statistical Stupidity Ted Barlow looks at the data on confirmations for judges and compares the the Democrats to Republicans and decides that based on the data the Democrats are not obsrtuctionists. Sounds great, right? Wrong! While I am all for making decisions based on data, Ted doesn't have much data. He has six observations for the Republicans and he has 1.something for the Democrats. So is it really valid to draw conclusions based on two data sets where both are miniscule in size and one if 4 times larger than the other?
Also, where does Ted get that 66.7 for Demcrats? Even if we double the 2001 number (a questionable assumption) and add it to 72 for a grand total of 128 imputed confirmations...dividing this by two I get 64.
Oh...wait, he got those numbers form CalPundit....that explains everything. Kevin Drum's record on using numbers is well...bad. Here I thought it was just a misunderstanding of the fundamental principles of sound statistics, but now it looks like there is an even bigger problem here. Simply unable to competently do advanced mathematics such as addition, multiplication and that ever tricky computation division.
Lets also ignore that the analysis is way too freaking simplistic. How many vacancies were there for the President's in those respective years to appoint? If there are only a few then there will only be a handful of confirmation hearings. Steve
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Yikes I wonder how true this report is about the DOJ's draft of "The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003". Secret arrests, less judicial oversight for surveillance, etc.
Reduced Blogging Unfortunately due to real life responsibilities I will be reducing my blogging for the next few days. Steve
Greenspan Warns About Wars Uncertainty on the Economy Greenspan warns that the impending war with Iraq is threatening whatever economic progess is currently underway; that it is acting as a brake on business investment. This is one reason many have pointed to for the sluggishness in the economy.
Considerable uncertainties surround the economic outlook, especially in the period immediately ahead
--Alan Greenspan, chairman, Federal Reserve
However, there is this from the article as well:
But the Fed nonetheless forecast that the US economy would grow by 3.25-3.50% this year, compared with 2.8% in 2002.
And Mr. Greenspan commented on another thing I have pointed too--Social Security and Medicare
But he warned against worsening the US budget deficit, in the face of an ageing population which would, from 2010-12, present "major problems" to social security and healthcare services.
This is one of the problems I have with Bush's budget proposal. It does result in higher deficits and part of the reason is due to higher spending. Spending that grows at a much faster rate than under Clinton, Bush and Reagan. The deficits could have been reduced if spending hadn't been increased so darned much. I mean increasing spending by 18% over the first three years of his presidency is excessive, IMO.
The aging population, the massive increases in spending that are helping to fuel the deficits for the next decade, and all this nonsensical chitter-chatter about prescription drug programs paints a really dismal picture for Social Security and Medicare in the not too distant future. Personally, I blame both the Democrats and the Republicans. The Republicans for not having the sense to reduce the growth in government spending, and the Democrats for their emotionalism that has lead to such idiocy as a prescription drug program. It is socialism-lite IMO. It advocates taking private goods and treating them as public goods (click here and here to find out about public goods and whether or not health care is a public good). It should obvious to anybody but a brain dead idiot that medication is not a public good. If I swallow a pill can you swallow that same pill? No. Hence it is rivalrous in its use and this alone disqualifies medication as being a public good. Treating it like a public good and trying to provide for it via the government will only result in a horrendously inefficient outcome, most likely one where too many resources are devoted towards providing medication and not enough to other goods and services. The problem is that not only this kind of idiot thinking, but that when the Democrats use the emotional tactic the Republicans are forced to respond in kind. To do so poses some severe problems.
1. Trying to explain the problem above is not easy and is likely to fail on a large scale.
2. Opposing the emotionally driven policies opens one up to being labelled as "mean", "uncaring", "greedy", "selfish", "wanting the elder to crawl off and die quietly".
3. Opposing the policy is just not popular. Telling people you don't want to help the elderly because it has long term deliterious effects just doesn't sound nearly as nice as telling people you really want to help the elderly...no matter the cost.
[Note to the Democrats/liberals reading this: Read 2 above a few times. Now, next time you feel like whining about having your patriotism called into question...well as the British say, bugger off.]
So the Republicans have to accept such a policy for tactical considerations or risk losing elections on a grand scale. It is my feeling the Democrats know this and use this to their advantage. Steve
Sunday, February 09, 2003
Krugman Watch Well there I was reading that blurb by Krugman and the first line caught my attention.
How the Bushies lie with statistics, part 667: Sorry, I can't help myself. The home page of the Office of Management and Budget home page currently carries a chart purporting to show that government spending has raced ahead of personal income, comparing growth in department budgets with median household income.
I can't help but think about this earlier blurb. Apparently I am one of those dummies that needs to be instructed about polls. Anyhow here is the part that I was reminded of
OK, guys. This really isn't hard. Dr. Pollkatz maintains a summary index of all major approval polls, normalized to reflect their consistent differences (Fox is always higher - gee, what a surprise). He also shows the raw data .
Well no not really Prof. Krugman. He is showing us the data, but that is about it. Normally I think of this as seeing the raw data, i.e. the raw numbers, not a graph. What is the big deal? I admit that graphs can be extremely useful as a starting point in statistical analysis. I use them alot myself. But, that graph has data from 14 different polls and it is not easy to read exactly what is going on. After a certain point if you keep adding series to a graph the information it reveals becomes less and less, IMO. This is why we have such things as regression techniques. To help us when the graphs become hard to read (well and to handle multiple variables as the driving mechanisms beheind the series we are interested in). So "showing" me the "raw data" would, IMO have been showing me the numbers and not just the graph. This way one could check Dr. Pollkatz' calaculations. Also, what weighting method does Dr. Pollkatz use? We don't know now do we. So much for showing your work.
Is this a lie? No, not on its face, but it certainly isn't something that I'd encourage in sound statistical work. Look at the mess John Lott has gotten into over the fact that the data for a survey that is only tangentially related to his work. People are ready to brand him a liar and discount every bit of work he has ever done. Never mind that John Lott has shared his data that relates directly to his work (something unusual in the study of firearms). Because some data was lost and he didn't keep records of the study his reputation has taken a very serious drubbing.
Yet this does not stop Prof. Krugman from branding others liar based on
1. Median household income is income per household - it grows much more slowly than total income in part because the number of households is growing. Shouldn't the other numbers be spending per household?
2. Median income also grows more slowly than average income because of growing inequality. In fact, when touting tax plans the Bushies always use averages - that way they obscure the fact that most of the tax cut goes to a few wealthy families. But now, suddenly, they've become proponents of the median.
Which shows that Krugman is indeed the bile filled partisan troll. If the "Bushies" had used the average I have little doubt that Krugman would be all over them for using the wrong statistic. You see the income distribution is skewed towards the high end. That is the "rich" tend to have most of the money. So the average is not equal to the median (which is what you get with a symmetrical distribution such as the standard normal distribution). The mean (or average) is "pulled" up by those at the top of the income spectrum. As such the mean income is not quite an accurate measure of what the average household has in terms of income. Most people think the median is a better measure as it is not subject to the "pulling" effect of extreme values. Here is a simple example with 10 data points
As you can see the two 20's are causing the mean to differ from the median.
Krugman is nothing but a partisan hack. Steve
Saturday, February 08, 2003
Links to Intelligent Design As I have been posting a little bit on Intelligent Design (ID) and Creationism, I thought providing some links to some sights on the subject would be helpful.
Links Favorable to Intelligent Design:
Dembski's Explanatory Filter. This is Dembski's "Crowning Achievement". It is this Filter that Dembski claims allows one to detect design, even with natural objects such a the flagellum found on microscopic organisms.
Teaching Intelligent Design. This is Dembski's case that ID is a valid form of scientific inquiry and why it should eventually be allowed in science curricula.
How Not to Detect Design This is another essay by Sober, Fitelson and Stephens which reviews Dembski's The Design Inference and finds it lacking. (Dembski's response.)
This last one is nice in that you can see how Dembski replies to his critics. In this case, it is my opinion that Dembkis is dishonest. For example he criticizes the the subjective element in Sober's preferred approach, but gives the hugely subjective aspects of his own filter a complete pass. Inconsistent or sly dishonesty? Dembski is now fool and he is extremely well educated, especially on probability theory and he should know that subjectivity plays a role pretty much no matter what.
Anyhow, there is some of the reference material and you can read it (if you have the patience to slog through it) and judge for yourself. Steve
Friday, February 07, 2003
Is This the Worst Reporting Ever? Its from the BBC so it shouldn't be much of a suprise. The article goes on and on about how the German press is incensed over Secretary of Defense Rumslfield latest comment about Germany. What is utterly amazing is that the quote is not in there. How can I tell if it is outrageous if I don't know what it is. Steve
David Kopel posted this rebuttal to our earlier charges on National Review Online yesterday. The key thing in dispute is whether, as Kopel originally charged, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has abused its powers so much that it can't be trusted with any more authority to investigate gun dealers. To back up his assertion, Kopel originally produced the statistic that "a Congressional investigation officially concluded that seventy-five percent(!!) of BATF prosecutions were constitutionally improper." We pointed out that the 75 percent number was based not on a competent, recent study of all BATF prosecutions -- as Kopel's use of it would seem to imply -- but on a small study, performed by a National Rifle Association contractor during the late 1970s, of a handful of BATF prosecutions in Maryland and Virginia. How, we asked, could Kopel argue that the BATF today had a "pervasively flawed institutional culture" based on suspect data from more than 30 years ago? (Italics added)
That is it. To discredit a study they simply claim the author is a paid lackey of the NRA (therefore the study is flawed), it only looked at two states (therefore it is flawed), and it didn't have enough cases (therefore it is flawed). The problem here is that this type of reasoning is what one typically finds in junk science. Note the attempts to discredit the report David Kopel is pointing to are all standard junk science responses.
Sure the guy was paid by the NRA, but unfortunately that doesn't mean that the study is flawed. This is a type of ad hominem attack and can be applied against you just as easily as you apply it against your opponents. Now using the authors affiliations as a sort of flag that indicates you take a closer look at the study is one thing, but simple dismissal on this point alone is an example of an idiot's form of reasoning.
As for the limited nature of the study, i.e. just two states, the question then becomes is such a focus going to lead to a biased conclusion. Tapped unfortunately has provided nothing that indicates that this has to be the case. Sure the conclusion might be wrong, but why should we believe Tapped? So at least presenting something that supports their claim would sure be nice.
Finally, if the number of cases is too small would it kill Tapped to post the number of cases in the study? No, it wouldn't kill them, but it sure will hurt their credibility to just keep trotting out this same line of moron's reasoning over and over. Steve
Josh Marshall and Miguel Estrada Josh Marshall has managed to convince himself he has caught Miguel Estrada, Bush nomination fo the Appeals Court, in a lie. His evidence? This exchange between Estrada and Sen. Feinstein
MR. ESTRADA: The Supreme Court has so held and I have no view of any nature whatsoever, whether it be legal, philosophical, moral, or any other type of view that would keep me from [sic] apply that case law faithfully.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Do you believe that Roe was correctly decided?
MR. ESTRADA: I have -- my view of the judicial function, Senator Feinstein, does not allow me to answer that question. I have a personal view on the subject of -- of abortion, as I think you know. And -- but I have not done what I think the judicial function would require me to do in order to ascertain whether the court got it right as an original matter. I haven't listened to parties. I haven't come to an actual case of controversy with an open mind. I haven't gone back and run down everything that they have cited. And the reason I haven't done any of those things is that I view our system of law as one in which both me as an advocate, and possibly if I am confirmed as a judge, have a job of building on the wall that is already there and not to call it into question. I have had no particular reason to go back and look at whether it was right or wrong as a matter of law, as I would if I were a judge that was hearing the case for the first time. It is there. It is the law as it has subsequently refined by the Casey case, and I will follow it (italics added by Josh marshal).
In addition to noting that Mr. Estrada was a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy and that the Supreme Court at the times when Mr. Estrada was clerking was deciding whether or not to hear two cases that dealth with Roe v. Wade. Apparently to Josh Marshall this means that Mr. Estrada in his role as a clerk for a judge did indeed do "what I [Mr. Estrada] think the judicial function would require me to do in order to ascertain whether the court got it right as an original matter. I haven't listened to parties. I haven't come to an actual case of controversy with an open mind. I haven't gone back and run down everything that they have cited...I have had no particular reason to go back and look at whether it was right or wrong as a matter of law, as I would if I were a judge that was hearing the case for the first time."
The problem is that as a clerk Mr. Estrada would not have listened to parties, he was a clerk not a judge let alone a Supreme Court Justice at the time. Also, does being a clerk require an open mind? Does the clerk have to approach a case as if he were a judge or Supreme Court Justice? Further is it the clerks job to try and decide if a previous SCOTUS decision was right or wrong? I thought that was the job of the Justice not the clerk...or is it the clerks at the Supreme Court who actually decide things.
Seems to me Mr. Marshall is calling a person a liar based on very little evidence and also selective italicizing of the comment. For example, Mr. Marshall leaves out this comment in his italicizing:
And the reason I haven't done any of those things is that I view our system of law as one in which both me as an advocate, and possibly if I am confirmed as a judge, have a job of building on the wall that is already there and not to call it into question.
Maybe Mr. Marshall needs to take an extension course on reading comprehension. Steve
Cato Analysis on U.S. Troop Preparedness This analysis points out that American troops are under prepared in terms of dealing with Chemical and Biological attacks. One of the problems pointed out in the analysis is that senior officers are presenting a major block in ensuring the troops are properly and adequately trained to deal with CB (Chemical and Biological) attacks.
NBC field training is unrealistic because it does not involve the simulation of a worst-case surprise attack and is sometimes optional. Although approximately 40 hours of NBC defense training are needed per year, the military services require only four hours of training per year for new recruits and two hours of refresher training annually thereafter.
Not all that reassuring. Makes me wonder if perhaps this is why the Bush Administration has been making public statements that treatment of Iraqi officers ordering/carrying out such attacks will be severly punished.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, issued several reports regarding the readiness of U.S. forces for CB operations. Those reports are illuminating. A 1996 GAO report found that U.S. forces were not prepared to defend themselves against Iraqi use of chemical or biological weapons and that those forces could have suffered significant casualties had Iraqi forces employed CB weapons.1
Definitely not good, and in reading the report it doesn't look like things have improved much. Steve
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
NAJ Economics Peer reviewed economics papers on the web for free download. Yep, David Levine is putting up in regards to copyright laws. This journal will feature peer reviewed economic papers that anybody who wants can download from the site. NAJ stands for Not A Journal. Now if you are thinking this is some half-baked notion I'd suggest a peak of the editorial board.
Drew Fudenberg David K. Levine Thomas R. Palfrey
Jose A. Scheinkman
The names in bold are ones I recognize as being "big guns" in the economics profession. I am very excited by this, nothing is more annoying than finding out that you have to go to a library to get a copy of a journal. I know some journals such as those from Kluwer Publishing are available for purchase online...but have you seen Kluwer's prices? Yikes, $21.50 for a single article! Steve
An Excellent Post by Lynne Kiesling on Fuel Cells She is of course correct. If private industry is spending lots of money on this, then the government shouldn't be getting involved unless it can be shown that the research is a public good (not really a problem with current intellectual property rights laws) or has some external benefits. The latter is the best case for justifying such a government expenditure, but I'd at least like to see some evidence that this is the case and that private industries expenditures are not sufficient. Steve
Edward Takes on Hesiod And it isn't much of a contest. Hesiod wonders why it isn't inconsistent for somebody who is a libertarian in their outlook with regard to the Federal government, but also supports military intervention overseas such as the war with Iraq. The response is simple and, IMO, devastating to Hesiod's argument. National defense is one of the areas that libertarians see as the legitimate role for government. So on its face, Hesiod's argument is not sufficient. What must be shown is that attacking Iraq is justified, i.e. there is a reasonable expectation of a military threat from Iraq. Steve
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw compared the current U.N. approach to Iraq to the inactivity of world powers between the wars that led to the rise of Hitler and World War II. Straw said the United Nations' predecessor, the League of Nations, "had the same high ideals as the U.N." but failed to take action. As a result, "small evils went unchecked, tyrants were emboldened, then greater evils were unleashed."
Uhhh...What? Larry Kudlow weighs in on the shuttle disaster and states the following:
Driving cross-country is a lot less dangerous than shuttling in and out of space. But who in their right mind would take a cross-country trip in a car that was over 20 years old?
Not many. And yet, our government sent some of our best, brightest and most remarkably credentialed achievers on a globally visible journey to space on an aging vehicle. What could they be thinking?
But then at the end of the next paragraph writes
According to reports, experts have worried about the tendency of the tiles to break off since the earliest days of the shuttle program.
Sooo...if the reports turn out to be true, i.e. that it was the foam from an external fuel tank then the age of the shuttles was not (necessarily) the issue...which pretty much makes the rest of Mr. Kudlow's somewhat irrelevant, at least in regards to the current disaster. Still, if the panel that is to investigate NASA and the Columbia disaster comes up with the recommendation for more funding to replace the aging fleet it wouldn't be a bad thing, IMO. Still Mr. Kudlow's point of the age of the shuttle and his attempt to tie it to the Columbia disaster strikes me as somewhat inappropriate. Steve
Ricky West Catches Atrios being Less than Honest "Less than honest", yes much better than Atrios' typical word, "liar". Anyhow, looks like Atrios is guilty of posting first and thinking later (if he thought at all about this post once he made it). Funny, I don't see CalPundit getting indignant about it. Gee, you know women make up 50% of the U.S. population if they stopped participating in the economy things could be really bad.[/sarcasm]
The Unknown I got this link from Henry Hanks at Croooow Blog the other day, but didn't want to blog about it till I had a chance to read it. The article discusses the evolution of C.I.A. Director Tenet's views on the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. The basic conclusion is that any statement that the C.I.A. doesn't think there is a connection is overly simplistic and sophmoric. The article starts out with a story of how the U.S. was caught completely off-gaurd by India's testing of several nuclear weapons. All the intelligence at the time indicated it wouldn't be done. The conclusion was that just because the analysts don't think something is happening or wont happen doesn't mean it really is not happening or wont happen. One of the problems is that analysts have to break their cultural blinders. To you and me a given action might seem ridiculous or highly unlikely...but that is based at least in part on our culture. The frame of reference for terrorists or people on the other side of the world might be very different leading to a different conclusion.
Jeremiah found that the United States had an insufficient number of satellites focussed on India; that the intelligence community's photograph analysts were overworked and undertrained; and that the C.I.A. had too few spies on the ground. But underscoring all this, Jeremiah said, was a particularly American sort of assumption: both intelligence analysts and policymakers assumed that the Indians would not test their nuclear weapons because Americans would not, in similar circumstances, test nuclear weapons. In the world of intelligence, this is known as mirror-imaging: the projection of American values and behavior onto America's enemies and rivals. "I suppose my bottom line is that both the intelligence and the policy communities had an underlying mind-set going into these tests that the B.J.P. would behave as we behave," Jeremiah said at a press conference held to announce his findings.
Its a fairly long article (10 pages) but it is well worth the read. Steve
More on Prof. Volokh and Evolution and Prof. Dini I've decided to address this post by Prof. Volokh as well. Now, I really like Prof. Volokh's posts, generally speaking. I read his site regularly and often seek out his posts to the exclusion of the other posters there. So it is not out of some sort of animosity that I am doing this, but more out of a sense that Prof. Volokh has his facts wrong.
In that post Prof. Volokh draws a false distinction between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. The problem is that the same process drives micro-evolution also drives macro-evolution. Thus, if you believe in micro-evolution you should believe in macro-evolution. That is, Prof. Volokh's post is based on a false dichotomy. Further, the conclusion is wrong as well (i.e. Prof. Volokh cannot claim he has the right conclusion, but that he got there via faulty reasoning). If micro-evolution is important for medical doctors (a science profession) and macro-evolution is driven by the same process as micro-evolution then noting that macro-evolution is unimportant for a doctor to have understanding of is irrelevant. The doctor needs to understand that mutations occur, that not all mutations are harmful, that most mutations are neutral, but that given a large enough population beneficial mutations can occur and with a big enough population and enough generations a beneficial mutation can affect how say bacteria responds to anti-biotics. That is the same process that drives macro-evolution, just that it is on a grander scale. To put it simplistically: macro-evolution is where you have enough micro-evolution where you end up with a new species.
Thus when Prof. Volokh makes the following distinction
Dini didn't ask people to affirm a belief in micro-evolution. Rather, he asked students "How do you think the human species originated?," and said that "If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences."--emphasis in the original
This is based on a false dichotomy and is irrelevant.
Moreover, I think it's possible to have a fundamentally scientific and thoughtful mindset and nonetheless believe that the human race originated as part of miraculous creation by God.
No, this is not possible. God is by definition super-natural, i.e. above nature. Science is concerned with explaining what we observe in nature. Hence by definition the view expressed by Prof. Volokh above is patently unscientific. You could still be scientific in other areas of knowledge I suppose, but to me that is rather schizophrenic thinking. Now it is possible to believe in God and evolution. Typically when I have encountered such beliefs they go as follows. God started the process with the first simple life form and from there evolution took over. The idea that God is periodically intervening in the evolution of living organisms is also unscientific as well for the reasons I just noted. God is above nature and hence his actions are not in the purview of science.
This brings up another point. The origins of life is often pointed to by Creationists as a means of showing that evolution is false. The problem is that the origin of life and evolutionary theory are two different issues. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain what we observe in nature in terms of biological diversity. It is not an explanation of how life came to exist on this planet (or any other planet). To reiterate, evolutionary theory is about how we see all the different animals and other life forms we see on the planet. The issue of how life came about on a planet without life is called abiogenesis and is a different topic altogether. In reading Prof. Volokh I get the impression this is a distinction he does not fully appreciate.
It might seem odd at first; we might assume that people who believe in miracles are highly unlikely to become good scientists or even good appliers of science (which doctors are). But as I've argued before, that doesn't seem empirically true -- people can indeed be good scientists and still believe in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and, I think, the divine creation of humanity.
Believing in the Virgin Birth is not the same thing as disbelieving evolution. Evolution is a fact, it is observed. You can see transitionary fossils in the fossil record. You can see different frequency in alleles in populations. You can see that genes mutate. These are observations not theories. Theories are based on and tested with observations.
So this, I think, helps explain why I think Dini's justification doesn't really work. Dini isn't asking people about their knowledge of something that will be relevant in a typical doctor's practice. He isn't even asking people about their understanding of a theory. Rather, he's asking them to honestly affirm the truth of a particular theory -- not just explain it, but state that this is their belief -- that runs contrary to many people's fundamental religious beliefs.
This passage indicates a lack of appreciation for scientific thinking. Dini isn't asking people about their beliefs in general, but about their scientific beliefs. That is, what does the student believes is the best scientific explanation as to how man came about. Right now there is but one answer that is scientific. All other answers are not scientific. Further, since the same process drives micro and macro-evolution the question is indeed relevant. To say, "I believe in micro-evolution but not macro-evoluition," is like saying, "I believe in astro-physics but not physics". You'd think the person is a kook...and you'd be right. The person holds views that are patently unscientific about a scientific field.
Further as a Doctor I'd like to think they periodically read the professional literature on such things as bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. What does a creationist doctor say? "Oh what a load of crap, everybody knows this is God's punishment for ______." I sure hope not. I sure wouldn't want my doctor to think like that. What does such a doctor tell patients when they don't get better when they have a bacterial infection? "This is God's punishment for your sins"? Does he say, "Hmmm, interesting maybe the bacteria have become resistant to this antibiotic, lets try...." If the doctor is saying that then that doctor is implicitly admitting that evolution is happening. If this is the case, why not just tell Prof. Dini "Evolution" when he asks his question? Steve
Cato on President Bush's Budget While there is praise for some of Bush's proposals such as the tax cuts, the goal of Social Security privatization, and the competitive sourcing of various government functions, it is not a wholesale endorsement. In fact, it notes that President Bush is the biggest spending President in decades. It notes that the discretionary portion of the budget will grow by 7.8% in FY 2003 and 3.5% in FY 2004. No wonder there are going to be deficits when you have spending growing at such rates.
Rather than spending increases, the return to deficits and the coming cost explosion in elderly entitlement programs means that discretionary spending should be immediately frozen and major cuts identified.
No kidding. And what do we hear, blabbering about prescription drug programs for the elderly. Talk about a budgetary blackhole that has the potential to suck in even light.
The biggest spending administration in decades. With Bush's budget plan for FY2004, real non-defense discretionary outlays will rise 18.0 percent in his first three years in office (FY2002-FY2004). That growth far exceeds the first three years of any recent presidential term, including Ronald Reagan's first term (-13.5 percent), Reagan's second term (-3.2 percent), George H. Bush's term (11.6 percent), Bill Clinton's first term (-0.7 percent), and Clinton's second term (8.2 percent). When Reagan came to office and pursued a large defense build-up, he essentially froze non-defense discretionary outlays, which were $150 billion in FY1981 and just $151 billion three years later in FY1984 (in current dollars).
Smaller government? Please, this President is about bigger government. After seeing this I have to wonder about people who claim that libertarians are nothing more than conservatives. The above does not make me happy, it really annoys me to no end. Hell, looking at the data above Clinton was more in favor of smaller government than Bush is now. And Republicans wonder why the libertarian wing of the Republican party has left. Gee, maybe because the Republican party talks the talk of smaller government, but can't walk the walk. Steve
UK: Iraq lets Al Qaeda Operate Basically the British government notes that while there is no firm connection between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda the Iraqi regime is pretty ambivalent about which terrorist groups operate in the country.
"The Iraqi regime has been actively supporting all kinds of terrorist organisations for many years and provided they believe that there is an opponent that they can attack they are really pretty indifferent about into whose bed they get," Straw said.
Although the intelligence report also noted the following about a relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq
A Defence Intelligence Staff note quoted by the BBC said "while there have been contacts between al Qaeda and the regime in the past, it is assessed that any fledgling relationship foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideology."
The BBC said the intelligence document, written last month, judged that training of al Qaeda members may have continued in Iraq, but it stressed that the Islamist al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden regarded Saddam's government as an "apostate regime."
Powell Presents his Evidence I have to admit that when combined with the report by Hans Blix I don't see how people can say that Iraq is not in material breach of resolution 1441. I am also disappointed that people can say that more time is needed for the inspectors. More time for what, find more violations of resolution 1441? Seems to me the evidence is pretty damning and the unwillingness of people to ignore this is amazing. Steve
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
What the...??? That thread at Free Republic.com is claiming the French are going to back the U.S. against Iraq...yet earlier I heard on 790 KABC that despite intense pressure from Prime Minister Blair that France was resolute in its opposition. Hmmm....who to believe a reputable news source or FreeRepublic.com....gee that's tough.
Oh well, better double check it.
Update: Well it looks like the French might be wavering. An aircraft carrier was sent to the Persian Gulf region and Chirac did tell French troops to be ready for anything. Steve
Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy This article looks at the ramifacations of the U.S. attacking Iraq while not focusing on the problems with the Israelis and Palestinians. The standard refrain is summarized as
When toppling Saddam Hussein rose to the top of the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda, a chorus of voices protested that Washington had misdiagnosed the root cause of its Middle Eastern dilemmas. "It's Palestine, stupid!" was the refrain heard not only from European and Arab capitals, but from some quarters in the United States as well. These voices argued that attacking Iraq while the Israelis were reoccupying Palestinian lands would substantiate the claim, already widespread in the Middle East, that the United States had declared war against all Arabs and Muslims. The ensuing backlash would undermine the American position in the region and wreak havoc on American interests. What Washington really needed to do was postpone or abandon a showdown with Saddam and focus instead on achieving a breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
The article points out that this is patently false. The problem is that the U.S. position on what is a "just" settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis is highly unlikely to be seen as "just" by most if not all Arab nations. The best policy would be one similar to what the Clinton Administration worked on in late 2000, but even that would not satisfy all Arab nations and those that did support it could (and probably would be) denounced as puppets of the U.S.
I have also noted something along these lines as well. That the Palestinian/Israeli problem is not likely to be solved in a vaccuum that ignores other nations who have a stake in the outcome. One such nation is Iraq and it has been quite supportive of the suicide bombings, even going so far as to reimburse families of suicide bombers.
So basically this "objection" to a military strike against Saddam is just silly. Anyhow, it is an interesting article well worth reading. Steve
Ineresting... This article describes Powell as a reluctant warrior who has come around to the view that inspections are a waste of time and that military action is probably inevitable. Steve
While the Rest of the Blogosphere has Focused on Iraq the Bush Administration has not forgotten about North Korea. In a move to signal to North Korea that it is not happy with the situation there the White House has placed warships and planes on alert for possible deployment to the Pacific.
The order will not, however, fulfill the entire request for forces made by U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Tom Fargo, according to a senior military official. (U.S. commander seeks buildup)
So far, no land-based fighters have been approved, a request made by Fargo. That deployment could be approved in the next few days.
The order also does not include an aircraft carrier, with the USS Kitty Hawk remaining deployed to the area.
Officials at the mosque have complained of intimidation from Mr Hamza and a group of militant young men who support him. Those officials accuse him of drawing extremist elements to the north London building, including "shoe–bomber" Richard Reid and fundamentalists who plotted to blow up the US Embassy in Paris.
Geez with a guy like this at your mosque who needs enemies? Steve
East Europeans to Declare Support for Bush on Iraq Looks like Eastern European countries are on board with the "Iraq/Saddam must disarm or else..." policy. To listen to the media for the most part you'd think that there was a major schism between the European nations and the U.S. save for Britain, when in actuality it is a few holdouts who oppose the U.S. policy with France and Germany being the most vocal/noteworthy holdouts.
Many have even offered assistance for a strike against Iraq. This certainly underscores the fact that the U.S. is not going it alone and that there is considerable support for the U.S. position. Steve
Prof. Volokh on Intelligent Design It is with some saddness that I have to disagree with Prof. Volokh on the issue of Intelligent Design. Prof. Volokh has made the following statements about Intelligent Design:
INTELLIGENT DESIGN: So here's a question -- assume the intelligent design arguments are valid, and evolution turns out not to explain the existence of humans. That may prove an intelligent creator, but it tells us nothing about God. After all, the intelligent creators could well be alien beings from outer space (and if the question is how they came about, the answers might well be evolution, since we have no way of knowing whether the specific reasons to doubt evolution of humans on Earth would apply to the evolution of aliens on other planets). True, there's not much independent physical evidence for the existence of aliens, but there's not much independent physical evidence for the existence of God. And while the existence of God can't be disproven, at least right now, neither can the existence of intelligent aliens. It's a big universe, after all.
The notion that it is aliens that created the human race is not a good answer, although the proponents of Intelligent Design do not rule it out. The problem is that it just pushes back the question one more level. Where did the aliens come from? Evolution? No! No, no, no! How can I make such a statment? Well it follows from the basic premise of the Intelligent Design (ID) hypothesis. The ID hypothesis asserts that evolution can not account for Complex Specified Information (CSI). What the Hell is that you ask? Well it is William Dembski's term for complex structures in living organisms and it relies of information theory (i.e. math), probability theory (more math), and scientific reasoning (philosophy--Dembski has 2 PhDs by the way, one in math the other in Philosophy, he is no dummy by a long shot). Still this doesn't explain CSI. To Dembski the idea embodied in the term complex is a measure of how unlikely something is. That is, something is complex if it is highly unlikely. The specified term refers to a reconizable pattern, something that stands out to the observer. One example Dembski uses is a collection of rocks in the road a person is walking along. If you walk up and see the rocks and nothing in the pattern leaps out at you the pattern is unspecified. If another person walks up and says, "Hey, that is the exact shape of a constellation!" Then it is specified. Information is pretty obvious, genes carry information and how you count information depends on what base you use in your logs, if you refer to bits of information you have a base 2. In this case, the genetic material that governs the structures in an organism is the information.
So, if the information has a very low probability and also has a recognizable pattern then it is Complex Specified Information, or CSI. So, what exactly does that mean? Suppose you have 1,000 coins (all with heads and tails) and you throw them up in the air and they all land heads. Is this CSI? The answer is yes. The probability is very low (21,000), it is clearly specified in that it is a pattern we'd all recognize and could easily state. So, something other than just pure chance must be at work. That is the conclusion of Dembski's hypothesis, which simply stated is that Complex Specified Information does not happen by chance, that is somebody had to have caused the outcome purposefully.
So, how do I get from this to saying intelligent life is impossible without something taking an active role in the creation of said intelligent life? Well the specified part is the problem, it is pretty much a given that most things are going to be specified to somebody somewhere. Further, lets return to Dembski's rock example. The first time I walk by I hardly even notice the rocks. Then I go home, and over the course of a few years become interested in astronomy and learn of different constellations, then I walk by that same group of rocks and BANG! Now I see the pattern, CSI somebody had to have arranged those rocks (provided the probability of a natural formation is low enough). So basically complex things (i.e. objects/events) don't happen by chance, and evolution (which in Dembski's world is chance) does not create complex organisms. Hence, unless Prof. Volokh is basing his above comments on hyper-intelligent ameboea, there cannot be any aliens originating via evolution. Basically you just move the issue of who is the creator back on step. You are in the end left with one choice, the creator is supernatural, i.e. above nature...a God, something that has no natural explanation.
This is why Intelligent Design is not science, at least when it is applied to the question of the origin of life and an explanation of the diversity of life. You cannot go from a very basic and primitive life form to a more complex life form, at least not without help. So aliens could have created us, but that does not answer the ultimate question of who is the first creator.
Prof. Volokh then writes something that is rather sloppy, IMO:
Now obviously many people do believe that God should be worshiped, that such worship may bring eternal life, and that God wants us to do certain things; and I have no quarrel with that. But I don't see how, even if evolution is disproved, that position would be logically strengthened.
Evolution cannot be disproven. To disprove evolution would be like me saying that humans don't exist. The earth does not exist. What you are seeing, feeling, and tasting does not exist. To hold such a view would mean you are a solipsist or something. Evolution is a fact. The theory of evolution (TOE) is a theory.
Finally Prof. Volokh writes something that is scientifically unsound.
Naturally, if one genuinely thinks that evolution is bad science, that's a sufficient reason to oppose it. But even if that's so, what exactly is the logical or theological payoff of either result of the controversy?
This is completely wrong from a scientific standpoint. Thinking that the TOE is bad science is not sufficient reason to oppose it. You also have to come up with another scientific explanation. Further, that explanation has to be "better" than the current one. That is, it should explain things better (i.e. is a simpler theory), explains more of what we observe, or both. Failure to do this means that, scientifically, you have accept the TOE as the current best explanation. To say, "I think the TOE is bad science therefore disbelieve the TOE and instead I believe in creationism," isn't an option. That is not scientific thinking. From this perspective not only is Prof. Dini justified in witholding a letter of recommendation, it is his moral obligation to keep such unscientific people from engaging in things that require a sound grasp of science.
Let me also add that scientifically, there is but one answer to the question that has gotten Prof. Dini in such hot water. There is no other scientific answer to "How did human's originate?" Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory just as Kakutani's Fixed Point Theorem is not a scientific theory. Dembski's hypothesis and the filter that is based on it are purely eliminative and do not put forward a hypothesis to replace the one that is eliminated. It merely says, "No, that is not possible." As such it is nothing more than a tool...like Kakutani's Fixed Point Theorem.
Comment on the Update: I just read Robert's post and I don't disagree with it all that much. I have stated before that the idea of Intelligent Design isn't totally ridiculous. Using Dembski's example of the Rocks, the fact that they were in all likelihood designed does not mean "God did it." Another person could have done it. People design things all the times, and sometimes they do it in ways that they hope appear random for sometimes nefarious purposes. So detecting design in and of itself isn't the problem. My problem is the use of this tool to basically point to the existence of God.
Also the point in Prof. Volokh's post that Robert focuses on about even if ID were true it still doesn't tell anything about this creator is indeed true. It doesn't. For all we know we are nothing more than God's idea of entertainment...the ultimate reality show and occasionally he does something to make it more interesting. My problems with ID stem from the fact that it is being passed off as science when in fact it isn't. I guess you could say it is one of my hot button issues that tends to set me off. Steve