Friday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Of race and anti-race and their connection to policy.
  2. The NYTimes offers that a decade of no warming, which was not predicted, might pose problems for the predictions of global warming. D’ya think?
  3. Celebration of a Saint
  4. Iran and the persecution of a blogger for blogging.
  5. Silencing the opposition … a theme?
  6. Not unrelated.
  7. How not to calculate network extends in finite sets.
  8. The left’s tendency to over-extend their praise for Mr Obama, merely a fancy on the right … or not?
  9. A sad truth noted, I’d offer that a better portion of that evil is done by people who fancy they are doing good but haven’t really thought it through.
  10. Puns in headlines? A good idea or not?
  11. Poland and the start of WWII.
  12. House rules … or at least goes to the bank with full pockets.
  13. NATO and the bear.
  14. For when there is something in the air.
  15. Again, not unrelated to the prior link.
  16. On government spending in recession.
  17. Christianity in Russia, perhaps not so pro forma.
  18. Thoughts on smashing the icon.

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18 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    The left’s tendency to over-extend their praise for Mr Obama, merely a fancy on the right … or not?

    Fair enough, the song was, IMO, not so much over the top but not proper. Looking at the election results, I see Burlington NJ went for Obama by 60% and probably that area had an even higher margin. You may recall I once said I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a President with approval over 60%, even if I agreed with him more often than not. This is an example why.

    I think the real test of the left is not whether or not such incidents happen but what the left’s response to them. Will the left rush to defend this school teacher or will the left mostly shrug and say ‘fair point’ as I have?

  2. Boonton says:

    On government spending in recession.

    Not much of substance. The classical Keynesian multiplier was actual spending, not simple transfer payments. So yes the person getting an extra 6 weeks of unemployment checks might stash the money under his mattress but classical Keynesian stimulus would be something like hiring workers to build a road. When you give people money that you hope they will spend you do end up diluting the multiplier. On the other hand, direct transfer payments get into the economy very fast while gov’t purchases of goods and services have a lag so there’s a trade off.

    As for the rational expectations school which is the 2nd part of your Austrian friend’s post….that people will offset gov’t spending with reduced consumption to compensate for future expected taxes. The problem here is that even assuming perfect rationality, stimulus spending taps unutilized capacity in an economy. It doesn’t actually cause future taxes, in all likelyhood it lessens future taxes by increasing income.

    This view was debunked decades ago, I suggest reading De Long’s site, search for ‘Treasury View’. If this position was true it would apply to monetary policy as well. An increase in money supply would not result in picked up economic activity. Consumption, savings, wage demands etc. would instantly adjust to accomodate expected inflation thereby muting any increased demand. We have nearly two centuries of data refuting that.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    I’m going from memory here (not having the time to pull up the reference) but I think you’re missing the point.

    First, if I was saying these things I think your criticisms that these remarks are not made with an awareness of the Keynesian criticisms is wrong. Have you tried posting this criticism on the orginal post to see what reply/response you get? As you know I’m neither Keynesian or Austrian, just a bum who thinks much of the math in economics makes a mistake of assuming equilibria/linearity will be relevant … and since the Austrian/Mises school also says maths is not so useful that seems a valid criticism.

    The point on gov’t spending causing caution in the expectation of future taxes is a psychological point, not an economic cause/effect one. Your point on monetary policy does not impact that. Monetary policy would cause similar caution if it was felt that the increase in the money supply was too great and would cause inflation … irrespective of whether the prediction of inflation was warranted or not.

  4. Boonton says:

    I’ll hawk De Long’s pdfs again, I think you’d find some of the math ones quite interesting. Economics, I’ve found, is a bit like accounting. At least in the easy levels the math is easy but deceptively so. A simple formula like MV=PT yields a lot of unexpected insights. I found accounting to be the same way, a lot of creative stuff happens with plain old addition, substraction and maybe an odd multiplication or division here or there.

    Being a math-in-econ-skeptic I’ll also have to recommend to you Krugman’s latest NYT magazine article from a few weeks ago. His thesis is that economists grew too attached to models that had a lot of beautiful math and neglected to ask if they really represented the real world well. I do occassionally comment on right wing econ sites, the responses I got on one were a mix of helpful and non-helpful feedback.

    I’m wondering how psychological your reactions to gov’t spending are. I suspect you ignored the spending of the Iraq War but obsess over the stimulus spending even though the former was more in real terms and was more in terms of actually lowering our future income. A while ago I noted we all tend to do the same thing in regards to gas prices. We see the price at the pump go up by a dime and we are horrified, go down and we are elated. Yet in reality these shifts represent a trivial portion of our weekly spending.

    It’s kind of ironic you dismiss the psychology of monetary policy. Not too long ago the Fed stated they were going to purchase about $750B in long term bonds. In essence the entire stimulus package has already been paid for which means individual desires to save for ‘tax increases’ due to it are kind of silly.

  5. # Of race and anti-race and their connection to policy.

    Yes, that’s exactly it. If you talked to people opposed to welfare in the 80s, they would have told you all about the black “welfare queens,” which were more or less fictitious. As long as people think that social spending is for “them” and not “us” many of them will vote against it… even when it’s actually for “us” as much as “them.”

    # The NYTimes offers that a decade of no warming, which was not predicted, might pose problems for the predictions of global warming. D’ya think?

    No, the NYT offers that scientists worry it will be spun by deniers that way. They should thank you for validating their point so quickly.

    Scientists say the pattern of the last decade — after a precipitous rise in average global temperatures in the 1990s — is a result of cyclical variations in ocean conditions and has no bearing on the long-term warming effects of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.

    But trying to communicate such scientific nuances to the public — and to policy makers — can be frustrating, they say.

    The hubris of the deniers is ridiculous. It’s one thing to think that there’s not quite enough evidence or whatever, but to think that it’s *obviously* untrue is just so chutzpahdik in the face of the scientists who are far more knowledgeable and in general far smarter. Do you think that scientists are complete morons? Or that they’re unaware of the data?

    On government spending in recession.

    LOL, yet another example of some guy thinking he found a totally obvious refutation of the theories of the most prominent and influential economists in the world.

    Why do right-wing people so often resemble amateurs who are sure they discovered that Einstein misplaced a decimal in his calculations?

    If it was that obvious, the experts would have noticed by now, ya think?

  6. Boonton says:

    So it would seem that Mark was incorrect to write “which was not predicted”. In fact global warming scientists have always predicted that temperatures will have random variations, even a decade long, while the long term trend is positively associated with CO2 and other warming gasses.

    Will Mark produce a single serious scientist who asserted no random variation would ever be present int he data?

  7. Mark says:

    JA,
    I think some in the 80s would even then, when asked about welfare, would have cited problems with incentives.

    Regarding your LOL, jokes on you. Russ Roberts is, alas for you, not “an amateur”.

    Regarding the global warming. If indeed

    Scientists say the pattern of the last decade — after a precipitous rise in average global temperatures in the 1990s — is a result of cyclical variations in ocean conditions and has no bearing on the long-term warming effects of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.

    then don’t you think it should have been predicted before it occurred. The tides are cyclical. You’re not surprised when they come in and go out.

  8. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You seem to have missed from JA’s quote that the decades long cooling is not random but in fact “cyclical” … and yet not predicted before hand. Why does this not suggest to you that their might really be a problem with the level of understanding?

    And if the temperatures weren’t stable or dropping for a decade, but instead rising, d’ya think this would not be touted by numerous “serious scientists” that it is not random but relevant. This smacks of confirmation bias to me.

  9. Mark says:

    JA,
    I might add for myself in the 80s, I viewed myself as apolitical. I described government as akin to the weather. A thing much discussed but over which my influence is similar and its impact on me …. minimal.

    If asked about “welfare” or any similar thing I would have likely ventured whatever I guessed might be close to your opinion … and thus move the topic on to more interesting things. Like movies, math, physics, or something funny.

  10. Boonton says:

    I was just thinking….

    Beck equates Obama to Stalin – Mark never listens to him.
    Limbaugh to Nazis – Mark tells us he’s not a conservative but just an entertainer
    Malkin takes a single incident of one kid beating up another kid on a school bus and asserts this is ‘Obama’s America’ because one is black and the other white—-she’s just a blogger

    When I ask who represents the right I’m told I have to hang out at water coolers, or find English translations of obscure European philosophers…

    But lol and behold. A single black teacher, for black history month, writes a song for her class to sing that’s probably a bit too far and all in the sudden that becomes ‘the left’.

  11. Boonton says:

    You seem to have missed from JA’s quote that the decades long cooling is not random but in fact “cyclical” … and yet not predicted before hand. Why does this not suggest to you that their might really be a problem with the level of understanding?

    I see I’m going to have to read the article….but from my knowledge of economics there’s nothing impossible about a cyclical system that is also random and impossible to predict on some scales.

  12. Boonton says:

    As for not making predictions, from the NYT article itself:

    Mojib Latif, a prize-winning climate and ocean scientist from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel, in Germany, wrote a paper last year positing that cyclical shifts in the oceans were aligning in a way that could keep temperatures over the next decade or so relatively stable, even as the heat-trapping gases linked to global warming continued to increase.

    and

    Other climate researchers dispute Dr. Latif’s forecast, saying that climate cannot be reliably predicted on such a short time scale, though even they agree that sooner or later, cool stretches are inevitable.

    Sounds like the researchers who disagree are asserting cool stretches are random. Dr. Latif is asserting there’s a cyclical system that can mask underlying warming over relatively short periods like a few years or a decade.

    And another prediction:

    While the authors concluded that there was a 1 in 8 chance of having a decade-long pause in warming like the current plateau, even with rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, the odds of a 15-year pause, they wrote, are only 5 in 100. As a result, the next few years of observations could tip the balance toward further concern or greater optimism.

    Needless to say if you bother to look at the temp. graph at http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/09/23/science/earth/23coolgraphic.ready.html there isn’t anything that looks like a deviation from a random cyclical function with a general trend towards higher temperatures over time.

  13. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    This class is not “the left” and I never claimed she was.

    But there is a key difference her. I could (likely) with a little patience come up with hundreds of grass roots citations of over the top praise for Mr Obama. I cite that is possibly important. You link level media figures who make their money by attracting attention to themselves … and cite that as important.

    So, tell me, when you play poker is the unconscious tell more revealing or what the other guy says over his cards? I’d offer what I’m looking for is more like the former and what you pay attention to more like the latter.

    And I haven’t said Ms Delsol “represents” the American right. Ever.

  14. Boonton says:

    Like you cited ‘hundreds’ of cases of Obama supporters committing petty crimes against McCain campaign sites? I’m perplexed how you can claim you weren’t asserting this teacher wasn’t ‘the left’. Why would you cite her as an example of ‘the left’?

    If you want to know what ‘the left’ thinks then citing her isn’t much use. What is much more useful is citing what ‘the left’ thinks of her. To date the only thing I’ve seen is disapproval but a desire not to see the poor teacher burned at the stake.

    Likewise even if Beck, Rush, Malkin etc. are not ‘the right’ it is revealing how the right responds to them. And it would appear they respond by making them super popular and defending them until the cows come home.

  15. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You put ‘hundreds’ in quotes. Is this where my use of the actual words like ‘several’ is taken after the passing of a few months for you to mean much more.

    If, as you suggest, the better thing would be to judge the “reaction” of what the left thinks of her. You are the only left leaning writer in the blogosphere that even has acknowledged that she exists. I’ve not seen approval nor disaproval. Just silence. I was taking this as, like you were doing in prior discussions, part of your basic denial that this sort of thing exists among those on the left. Sort of like the drunken uncle at the wedding, y’all are just trying to ignore him and pretend he’s not a member of the family.

    It seems to me Rush/Beck at all are at least as popular among the left. After all, that is the place at which one is most likely to read about them and what they are saying. If find it odd that you put Ms Malkin in amongst that group? Is she really, in your view, so very “out there.” However, I must say, if you’re looking for insightful analysis as to what makes Rush/Beck popular, you’ll have to turn over another rock. I only listen to Rush very occasionally, and usually listen to sports/talk while driving. What little I have listened to seems by and large both a little over the top, often funny, and largely inoffensive. I think for the most part, what you see is not “the right” reacting to Rush (and by association the others) but the right reacting to the left reacting to them. Which is less useful in determining actual views held by the right.

  16. Boonton says:

    ….The lack of much response is quite consistent with what I stated I believe to be ‘the left’s’ general thought about the matter. That the song was song back in Feb. right after the inauguration (during the honeymoon when the non-insane portion of the country was wishing Obama well and avoiding the ’socialism’ ‘nazism’ macros on their keyboards) and for black history month does put things in a slightly different perspective. There is no question that Obama, like him or not, has earned his place as a major figure for black history month.

    I’m kind of curious why you think ‘the left’ needs to respond on the teacher’s behalf? Because Rush, Malkin, and Beck made a big deal about it (and why not include Malkin, most of her stuff is equal to Rush and quite a few times Rush is actually more intelligent…)? If the title of ’speaker for the right’ is not held by these three then who holds it and why should ‘the left’ be expected to respond? What’s next, must ‘the left’ respond to Kyane West’s assertion that Beyonce’s video was more worthy of the MTV award?

    As for why Rush/Beck should be responded too, well first what you listen or read isn’t really relevant here. We are both bits of the bit player contingents in the political discussion. If we were talking about 16th century English literature I could say I’ve read very little Shakespeare but that doesn’t alter the fact that Shakespeare should be a major focus of the discussion. Likewise if we are talking about the right wing in the US at the close of the first decade of the 22nd century, it is hard to avoid the Fox News/Rush/Beck/Hack-blogger right wing commentary industry. The Tea Parties, for example, that you have cited quite often as being quite important, are unquestionably a product of that industry. It is, actually, rather disrespectful for you to pretend otherwise. Beck and Fox put quite a bit of effort into promoting them. Yes I acknowledge what made them real was that some people felt strong enough to come out to them but likewise we only have Shakespeare’s stuff today because the audience back then liked it enough to keep the plays in performance long enough for it to be economical to undertake the expensive step of publishing them.

  17. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Why do you say that was filmed in Feb? The link and You Tube says June. Is June Black History month? Is that how you minimize it?

    It’s interesting that you note that the tea parties are dependent on the Fox/Rush/et al commentary industry. You want to put them as GOP “thing”, yet from what I understand is that they might be more a “dissatisfied” element, as apparently they are not very happy with the GOP right now.

    Take your Shakespeare example. If you’re wanting to find out how the average person thought and lived during the Elizabethan period. Reading Shakespeare would not be how you do it. I’d offer that you’d be better off reading diaries and letters of ordinary people. Reading what small town parish priests wrote in birth and death announcements. To look for “tells” and read between the lines about what people were saying to see beneath and find out who they were and how they were.

    This is what I’ve been trying to say. You’ve claimed you want to find out the mind and the motives of the common ordinary Joe on the right. To get a handle on the “Zeitgeist” on the right and how it differs from the left. I am convinced paying attention the big media figures is not the primary way to do that. I will concur that it shouldn’t be ignored. Just that it is not the most important thing.

    If you wanted to really do this project. If I were you, I’d pick out 20-30 non political micro-bloggers, i.e., the blogs of ordinary people who only occasionally if at all blog on politics, but who by their demographic are very likely “on the right.” Lurk. Don’t comment. Just read and … read between those lines. Learn who they are. How they think. That will get you a lot further toward

  18. Boonton says:

    1. Black History month is in Feb. and the video was shot then. The posting to Youtube might have happened in June but check out wikipedia if you don’t believe me.

    2. In the hypothetical we aren’t talking about ‘the average person’ in the Elizabethan period but about literature in that period. Shakespeare would be very relevant to the discussion. Likewise I’m not asking what the ‘average American’ thinks in modern day 2009. Although in that case the Beck/Rush/Fox/Malkin talk industry has some relevance since it attracts millions of listeners, reality TV and Playstations probably have more! We are talking about the modern day American conservative movement and in that regard the Beck/Rush/Fox etc. axis is highly relevant whether or not you choose to follow one or more of them.

    This is what I’ve been trying to say. You’ve claimed you want to find out the mind and the motives of the common ordinary Joe on the right. To get a handle on the “Zeitgeist” on the right and how it differs from the left. I am convinced paying attention the big media figures is not the primary way to do that. I will concur that it shouldn’t be ignored. Just that it is not the most important thing.

    But then neither are homemade “Obama = Hitler” signs. Neither is thousands of random blog and web comments. Neither is taking a sample of both big and med. media figures on the right.

    If you wanted to really do this project. If I were you, I’d pick out 20-30 non political micro-bloggers, i.e., the blogs of ordinary people who only occasionally if at all blog on politics, but who by their demographic are very likely “on the right.” Lurk. Don’t comment. Just read and … read between those lines. Learn who they are. How they think. That will get you a lot further toward

    If we applied this to Elizabethan literature we’d get to know the subject by maybe examining the diaries of people whose ‘demographics’ indicate they were more likely to have viewed a Shakespearn play. I suppose doing this thousands of times could tell us some useful things. But why not just read the plays? Why not just read the other literature? Political commentary is all over the place. The purpose of an ideological movement is to present a coherent narrative to political action. Why must the right be studied like Jane Goodall studies a tribe of very shy apes?