GleNn Greenwald is rightly appalled by the other Glenn. His post is brilliant as always. However, both Glenn's seem to be a bit confused about the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Glenn G (for good no irony intended) quotes and criticises Glenn R (for Rotten no irony to be had here)
Sunday, January 28, 2007 Just "evolution in action"
(updated below - updated again)
Glenn Reynolds points to this article from The Independent which reports that a "leading Islamic doctor is urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella because they contain substances making them unlawful for Muslims to take." Reynolds' response:
JUST THINK OF IT AS EVOLUTION IN ACTION
I don't think there is any evolutionary theory that celebrates or finds purpose in
Quite so. All reputable evolutionary theories are versions of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Thus they are theories in natural science. Such theories do not celebrate or find purpose. They seek to explain.
There is another school of thought which makes a God of selection and declares that its will be done. This form of power worship has helped lead its most famous adherent, Adolf Hitler. Confusing this view with the theory of evolution by natural selection developed by Darwin Weissman et al is a category error. Scientific theories do not celebrate or find purpose.
Glenn G agrees with commenters who argue that his argument becomes false if it is purged of his tautalogical assertion.
The full argument (which is true no matter what follows the word in) is
"I don't think there is any evolutionary theory that celebrates or finds purpose in the death of children as a result of stupid actions taken by their parents."
this is exactly as true as
"I don't think there is any evolutionary theory that celebrates or finds purpose in the death of adults as a result of stupid actions taken by themselves."
However the statement
"There is no evolutionary theory that asserts that the death of children as a result of actions taken by their parents has lead to outcomes which all normal people consider wonderful"
is clearly false. Standard evolutionary theory has an automatic hypothesis for why we love our children (might be false and hasn't been tested but sure makes sense). The argument is that those of our great to the nth aunts and uncles who did not love their children, let them die and arent't the great to the nth grandparents of anyoone, while those of our great to the nth grandparents who loved their children managed to keep some of them alive. Thus the instinctive love of parents for their children was selected, was created by natural selection.
The theory, as such, does not contain the assertion that this process caused a good outcome. Normal people can doubt that parental love was created by natural selection. However, no normal person thinks that it is a bad or neutral thing.
And yes I am using "normal" in a way which shows that I am not a moral relativist.
The rest of Greenwald's post is wonderful (as always). The crude abuse of evolutionary theory by Reynolds and the confused response resulting from Greenwald's horror, helps us understand why so many people reject the theory of evolution by natural selection. If one makes a God of selection, one risks moral depravity. denying that it has created life's wonderful diversity is one way to deny that selection is God. The other way is to just say "duh. Who ever said it was ? (Goodwin's law is suspended so you can answer that one, although he wasn't the first or the last)".
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "1/29/2007 01:57:00 PM":
Glenn Reynolds is simply a loutish idiot, and attending to him for a moment is impossible, but you are perfectly correct on evolution. Good grief; why don't we know more?
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "1/29/2007 01:57:00 PM":
Let me also make clear again, how offensive I find Glenn Reynolds in passing for I never ever would think of reading him directly.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "1/29/2007 01:57:00 PM":
Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post writes "for three years, the Iranians have operated an embedding program there, offering operational training, intelligence and weaponry to several Shiite militias connected to the Iraqi government, to the insurgency and to the violence against Sunni factions."
This implies the existence of at least one "Shiite Militia connected to ... the insurgency." This only makes sense if "the insurgency" includes both sides of the Iraqi civil war.
Traditionally, "the insurgency" refers to Sunni arabs fighting coalition troops. There is debate over to what extent the insurgents are Sunni Jihadis, Sunni sectarians or neo-Ba'athist secularists with Sunni religious backgrounds.
I consider "Shiite Militia connected to ... the insurgency." to be on the order of "secular al Qaeda" in oxymoronicity.
This one is not a slip. The Bush administration is very eager to suggest that Iran supported Iraqi militias are killing US soldiers. They don't quite lie, but they deliberately use the vaguencess of "insurgency" to lump deadly enemies together.
Linzer is basically demonstrating that Bush has gone completely insane (see post below). She attempts to make up for that unforgivable act of actual journalism by abusing the language in a Bush administration supported manner.
She makes the dangerous madness of Bush clear, so I shouldn't be picky.
Tinfoil hat update:
I am looking at the context of the oxymoron
But, for three years, the Iranians have operated an embedding program there, offering operational training, intelligence and weaponry to several Shiite militias connected to the Iraqi government, to the insurgency and to the violence against Sunni factions. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the CIA, told the Senate recently
I worried that I had incorrectly ascribed to Linzer deceptive phrasing of an un named source. I did not do so, the oxymoron was written not quoted by Linzer.
Now, however, I wonder. Is it possible that there is a level of off the record background beyond "quote indirectly and not for attribution" such as "write what I dictate without presenting it as a quote." I can't avoid the paranoid fantasy that Hayden agreed to talk to Linzer off the record only if she presented "Shiite Militia connected to ... the insurgency." as her own writing and not as his dictation.
The Washington Post reports that President Bush has authorized a shoot on site policy for Iranian agents in Iraq. Iran and Iraq are neiboring friendly countries. Not just a little friendly but very very friendly, since most of those now in power in Iraq spent their exile in Teheran and the others were informally allied with Iran for years.
It is perfectly normal that Iranian agents are in Iraq, for example, as guests of the most powerful elected leaders of Iraq. Obviously, I mean that literally. The new policy has not been implemented on the ground. So far, US forces have restricted themeselves to arresting (kidnapping?) house guests of a guy who visited Bush in the White House not to mention the personel of a not yet official consular office to be.
Fortunately, sane people in the US government have decided to make Bush's insanity public knowledge. Also, so far, the military has declined to act on the authorisation to kill Iranian agents in Iraq, because they know such a move is completely totally absolutely insane.
Just for a second, try to imagine this from the point of view of international law. Officially, Iraq is a sovereign country, so the decision of which intelligence agents are allowed in Iraq, is, in theory, to be made by the Iraqi government. As a matter of law, George Bush has not more authority to decide who can be in Iraq than I do. As a matter of law, it is as if Iran authorised its military to kill CIA agents who had infiltrated the UK even if, sorry especially if, they were there on the express invitation of say Clair Short and were working with MI 5.
The legal justification of the clearly criminal order displays typical Bush administration contempt for the basic concepts of law and of objective truth The legal justification of the clearly criminal order
Note that the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government would normally be considered to change the UN Security Council mandate. That is, any normal person would consider the Security Council resolution null now that there is a new sovereigh government of Iraq. However, the still shocking aspect of the legal reasoning is the preventive execution without trial aspect that the President can order someone shot on sight if the person engages in "activity that could lead to their harm." In this case, it means support of the parties allied with the US army in Iraq and with personal of the health (Sadr organisation) and Interior (SCIRI) ministries.
The rational for the policy is that if Iran is pressed in Iraq they might give up their nuclear ambitions. This is the reducto ad absurdum of the Bush doctrine that if we kill some people their co nationals will magically do what we want. The reasoning is pure wish fulfilment. It would be a vast improvement if Bush followed my approach (of wishing on a falling star) which at least as effective and much less bloody.
It is obvously unwise for the US to confront Iran in Iraq where they have many well armed allies and we have none. This is a semi proxy war in which US citizens fight non Iranians who would be glad to kill us if the Iranians ask. Such Iraqis are those who are most nearly our friends. Those which control the US supported governement.
I was particularly struck by the truly psychotic effort to suggest that Iran is supporting both sides in the civil war in Iraq. They are crazy, but they are not that crazy (obviously George W. Bush assumes, as we all do, that he is sane and imagines that other people are as bloodthirsty and idiotic as he is).
The feeble rhetorical strategy is an equivocation based on the ambiguous word "insurgent" which is used to refer to the Mahdi army (which is hardly insurgent since it is the military wing of the largest party in the governing coalition part of the Iraqi governing coalition). For all I know, it also refers to the Badr organisation, the military wing of the party with the second largest parliamentary delegation. Maybe also to the militia of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan lead by the President of Iraq who is a long time ally of Iran.
Normal sane people use the word "insurgent" to refer to the Sunni insurgency (largely secular in orientation) that is exactly to those who are fighting the coalition forces and the current pro Iranian government of Iraq. It makes no sense to refer to both sides fighting a civil war with the same word just as it makes no sense to refer to death squads serving the government as insurgents.
If the new policy is implemented, it will be the US armed forces who help the armed insurgency against the US and Iranian supported government.
Now the Post is being the Post, Dafna Linzer carefully refrains from asking Burns which insurgents he is talking about. She herself invents a bizarre category "Shiite militias connected to the Iraqi government, to the insurgency and to the violence against Sunni factions." What Shi'ite faction is connected to the insurgency ? Certainly not the Mahdi army. They are not insurgents, they are in power.
Arnold Kling of the Cato Institute, who has given President Bush's alleged health care plan an "A+," criticizes my criticisms.
I argued that the method of capping the deductibility of employer-based health coverage seemed like a lousy method of paying for tax credits for the uninsured (which are themselves a poor way to get people insured).
FACT — HSAs DO NOT OFFER MEANINGFUL SAVINGS FOR AMERICANS: “Low- and middle-income uninsured people will gain meager or no tax savings” from health savings accounts, according to a Commonwealth Fund study. Roughly 50 percent of uninsured adults pay no federal income taxes, meaning that “tax incentives for high-deductible health plans would have little impact on uninsured adults.” [Commonwealth Fund, April 2005]
Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.
At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, my proposal would mean a substantial tax savings — $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.
An increase in the standard deduction will do nothing for half of uninsured Americans. Nothing nada zero. Bush talks about uninsured families making $ 60,000 a year. How many of those are there ?
Taking money from employer based health insurance and funds for the uninsured to finance a tax credit would be terrible policy. The effects would include increased adverse selection as healthy people go for high deductible individual insurance leaving the elderly and sick to bankrupt health insurance providing firms. This is a feature not a bug. The plan gets an A+ from people who the the problem in the USA is that too many people have health insurance (not saying that Kling is or is not one of those people). Zasloff makes the point much better "In addition to setting up a system pushing group coverage to individual coverage, which is a recipe for disaster"
However, a deduction is vastly vastly worse than a credit. Remember Jonathan, the Bush administration is always worse than you think possible even if you work on the assumption that the Bush administration is worse than you think possible.
Then Kling and Zasloff debate efficiency "In addition to setting up a system pushing group coverage to individual coverage, which is a recipe for disaster, it makes less sense than trying to pay for the tax credits through efficiencies.
Kling dissents, arguing that "paying for something with efficiencies is nothing but a scoundrel's refuge for policymakers. It's like saying you're going to balance the budget by getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse. Of all the criticisms one could make of the Bush health plan, this is the least persuasive.""
Zasloff points out the immense inefficiency of the US system in his reply. I think a little example would be more effective. Part of the Republican Medicare plan D bill was a provision to allow private firms to compete with the medicare administration. This is their idea of how to promote efficiency. However, there is one little $5,000,000,000 problem. Private firms can not compete with medicare if they are only paid the per patient cost of medicare. Thus they are paid more. The cost of this subsidy is about $5,000,000,000/year. Eliminating this provision of the Medicare plan D bill would be a nice way to start on reducing administrative costs of the US health care system.
Not hard. No smoke or mirrors. The inefficient change introduced by the Republicans can be easily eliminated. The costs are directly measurable. The increase in efficiency due to increased public sector provision is undeniable. The USA doesn't have to be like France. It can be just like it was in 2001.
Hard to doubt that shifting other patients from private insurance companies to the medicare administration would't provide further efficiency gains.
Jim has left a new comment on your post "4/09/2006 02:57:00 AM":
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Now why would Mr Wells wish to recall that conversation in public ? Wouldn't be that private discussions of Mr Libby's non willingness to be sacrificed haven't elicited the desired cough pardon cough response ?
Sounds sane to me. If Jose Padilla believed that the government is not persecuting him, a case could be made that he is insane. Since he has correctly inferred that the US government is persecuting him, he seems sane and will have to stand trial.
Of course, since it will be a real trial in which evidence obtained via torture is not admissible he might be acquitted.
And no I do not believe my assertion about torture is hyperbole, metaphor or exageration. I do believe that the US government held a US citizen without trial based on "evidence" given by an insane person (Zubaida) while he was being tortured. posted by Robert
permalink and comments12:04 PM
Still desparately trying to get Paul Krugman to notice me
I hearby sink to proposing a real business cycle model
I can't defend Hayek, but I am interested in the possibility of a theory which has nothing to do with money or nominal prices. Here I think a key issue is that wages and price cost margins are higher in capital goods production than in consumer goods or, especially, services. This is a stylised fact. I will claim it is due to a higher minimum efficient scale for prices and efficiency wages for wages. Nothing nominal here yet.
This means that a shift from capital goods production to other sectors implies a decline in national income. This is consistent with an increase in consumtion under a couple of conditions. One is that it is anticipated so perceived permanent income doesn't change. The other is that the decline in the percieved return on capital causes consumption to shift forward. The second effec is tiny according to all empirical estiamtes. The first argument is irrelevant, since we are assuming irrationa exuberance.
So how can unemployment be avoided ? I think a decline in real wages would do the trick, but I believe in real wage rigidity (I also believe in nominal wage rigidity but I am pretending not to)
To be actually semi serious, I think people who worked in capital goods manufacturing are very reluctant to accept jobs in other sectors (cause they say so). I suspect their first reaction is to hope the recession passes quickly. Only after long an painfully disappointing unemployment will they stoop to flipping hamburgers.
This is an asymmetry. Unemployment is not needed to move workers from McDonalds to GM, because McDonald's workers are eager to get GM jobs. The other way, not so much.
In any case, in the original Austrian model, there is no explanation for why market clearing real wages are high during investment booms and low during periods of liquidation. With imperfect competition, labor market rents and Cobb Douglas production functions, this follows immediately. Much less national income, similar labor's share, lower market clearing wages.
The theoretical presumption that sectoral shifts do no change national income requires the assumptions that price is equal to marginal cost and that wage differentials are due to differences in workers' ability. These assumptions are obviously nonsense.
Now I don't doubt that demand for cash money was key in the great depression (recall my last comment on this blog). I just think that once one steps away from neoclassical fantasy land, the relative absence of un-necessary economic suffering becomes more surprising than the occasional recession, that there are many things that can go wrong with an economy and that they all hit at once in the great depression.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "1/19/2007 01:05:00 PM":
Great site, I am bookmarking it!Keep it up! With the best regards! David
John Dingell (D-Pharma) wins the race to sell out. Robert Reich and Greg Mankiw agree that his bill is a sick joke at the expense of the US treasury. Now Mankiw is very slightly right of center and Reich is no bomb thrower, but they rarely agree, because Reich is not exactly an economist and Mankiw is exactly exactly an economist.
The idea is that Dingell's bill will allow the Medicare administration to bargain over prices with drug companies saying "you better not demand that absurd price or we will be forced to ... buy your pills anyway."
Dingell is the most senior member of the Democratic caucus. I think he's already served the Republic enough and has earned an honorable retirement starting Jan 2009. posted by Robert
permalink and comments10:25 AM
Friday, January 12, 2007
I'm actually writing about Economics !
Paul Krugman says that Brad DeLong is being too hard on Franklin Roosevelt here
The key passage (for my purposes) is here
What really puzzles me, though, is the assertion that wage and price rigidity created by the New Deal aborted the natural recovery process. Through what channel could price flexibility have helped? The US spent most of the 30s pretty much up against the zero bound, with interest rates well below 1 percent. A fall in the price level would have had the same effect as an increase in the monetary base - that is, no effect at all - except for the slight wealth effect of rising real balances. And even this slight effect could easily have been outweighed by debt deflation.
I am impressed by Krugman's brilliance (as always) but not convinced by his argument (is this the first time for me ?). I don't know exactly what to do.
My problem is this. Krugman discusses the price level and notes it didn't matter given the liquidity trap with nominal interest rates as low as they can go. However, this was due to deflation. The price level may not have mattered in the usual way, but the deflation rate mattered a lot.
I can present a story in which the key issue was to get the deflation rate up to 0 and price flexibility was needed to do this. That is a more rapid deflation would be a briefer deflation.
The story follows banks fail and the money supply falls partly because their reserves become cash in circulation and the money multiplier thus falls and partly because fearing more failures consumers take cash out of banks (more vault cash to cash in circulation) and banks feel they need higher reserves. Finally some of the cash in circulation is really cash stored under matresses so it is not working as money at all.
The reduction of the money supply causes an increase in the relative price of money (a deflation) so 1% nominal is huge real and investment collapses. Only when the deflation ends can firms afford to invest again.
The deflation ends when the real value of money is so high that there is enough so that money actually circulating fits M*V = P*Y with a normal V. For this to happen, it is necessary that people have built up the desired amount of cash under matresses.
The story is there is a new lower equiilibrium price level and deflation continues until it is reached.
Now, if Krugman bothers to respond to my argument, he will say "what about the Phillips curve. The price level affects nominal interest rates (unless there is a liquidity trap) and they affect aggregate demand, but the change in the inflation rate depends on the unemployment rate via the Phillips curve. The only way to end deflation was to get the unemployment rate down using fiscal policy and/or/including the WPA and public works projects.
To which I say hmmm the old Phillips curve applies in normal times and not when the key issue is how much money people have stuffed under their matresses. There is no empirical evidence, because we have no information on the shape of the Phillips curve at unemployment over 15% do we ?
So finally bottom line. Maybe with more price flexibility there would have been a quicker briefer deflation. Real interest rates would have been even huger during this deflation but investment can be less than zero. I we assume that the bankruptcy of most industrial corporations due to debt deflation would have been no big deal, we can conclude that the NIRA may have prolonged the depression by a few months (by slowing and extending deflation until it was a dead letter).
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "1/12/2007 03:05:00 PM":
nice dream ... in destroying the banking system u forgot that gold will make a come back
Wow an actual comment on economics
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "1/12/2007 03:05:00 PM":
Wasn't this essentially Pigou's argument? In light of both Kalecki's response, and the "stylized fact" (as I recall from grad school many years ago) that the price level fell by about a third and the mfg wage level by about a quarter from 1929-1933, the degree to which the price level would have had to fall, and the degree of wage and price flexibility would have had to be staggering!
Double wow and actual non crazy comment on economics. I think it is also Keynes argument in the paragraph immediately preceding the one implicitly cited by Krugman. posted by Robert
permalink and comments3:05 PM
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Shopping in Dulles Airport.
Dulles IAD is one of the airports where 9/11 highjackers boarded planes. Just when you enter terminal C there is a USA memorobilia shop. I don't recall it before 2001. For a while it was chock full of generic patriotism. Recently they have begun to offer a new line of wares. For example a mug with
tank of gas $100 Prescription refill $500 War in Iraq $300,000,000,000 New President in 2009 PRICELESS
and the logo of "Disaster Card"
Or a t-shirt with Bush 'til 2009! and Edvard Munch's "Scream"
Sad to say all sizes but S and XXl were sold out.
At the cash register I was briefly tempted to buy grossly overpriced mints labled "National Embarassmints" with Bush's photo on the container.
Also cool the very efficient and courteous sales clerk managed to be very efficient and courteous while speaking Amharic on a cell phone. Listeing, I thought it was Arabic and he seemed happy to explain that they were languages from nearby countries.
This is a key quote out of Sen. McCain's remarks this afternoon at AEI.
Similary, the Marines in Anbar province report very positive effects in reducing the non-sectarian Al Qaeda based violence that is the predominant cause of instability there.
Yes outstanding statesman John McCain just said "non-sectarian Al Qaeda". At least he didn't call them "Godless Al Qaeda" or "liberal Al Qaeda" or something.
Al Qaeda in Iraq formerly known as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia fomerly an independent organisation called monotheism and Jihan was lead by Abu Musab al Zarqawi until his death (heard of him senator McCain ?). His views are known from a captured CD he was sending to Osama Bin Laden proposing the alliance of their forces (you have heard of Bin Laden Senator, He is very religious but a bit sectarian). In the CD Zarqawi proposes attempting to provoke a sectarian civil war in Iraq. His group then proceded to do so by blowing up the Mosque in Samarra.
There are relatively non sectarian insurgents in Anbar province (remember about separating the insurgents and the terrorists). They are separate from Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The title of my post is a reference to the new chairman of the intelligence committe who, like McCain, asserted that al Qaeda is not sectarian. Didn't say they were pacifists though, so it could be worse.
[I am suddenly wondering if McCain was misquoted. This is not an update as I am worrying before posting. If McCain said "non sectarian and Al Qaeda based" as opposed to "non sectarian Al Qaeda based" he would have been sensibly stressing the difference between "non sectarian" and "Al Qaeda baesd" non ignorantly denying it. His howler howls so loud that I can't trust my eyes, transcriber's ears or McCain's tongue]
As Marshall points out, the main thrust of McCain's argument is, if possible, even more appalling than the "non sectarian Al Qaeda" snippet. McCain argues that surges have always worked fine in the past in Iraq. This is an insane claim.
It is, however, also a wonderfully idiotic rhetorical strategy. The only appeal of a surge is that it is not more of the same and here McCain argues that it is just staying the same old course that has worked so well in Iraq. Keep it up senator McCain. America needs you to stay in the Senate and not move over to that other building nearby.
update: Sorry for the bracketed weasle words above about how maybe McCain isn't an ignoramus. I was temporarily incapable of believing in his ignorance. A more complete quote is unambiguous. The ignorance on display is clearly real, not a misquotation or slip of the tongue. Take the long long quote "non-sectarian Al Qaeda based violence that is the". The word "the" implies that McCain thinks that "non-sectarian Al Qaeda based violence" is a single pheonomenon. This implies that he is phenomenally ignorant.
As is obvious from my clearly false alternative interpretation in brackets above, I am geniuninely astounded, shocked and appalled. posted by Robert
permalink and comments4:36 AM
Monday, January 01, 2007
Thomas Waldmann like Mark Kleiman came up with Moby Dick and Jane Carol Waldmann considers the Hollywood curse of the zombie sequels and Twelth night of the living dead. TW: A view from a bridge of San Luis Rey 12th night of the Iguana