Saturday, September 29, 2012

More On Moral Thresholds And Voting

I was thinking more about this call to not vote for someone for moral reasons. Others have disagreed with Friedersdorf for some pretty compelling reasons, in my view. But I had the thought that there surely is a threshold where we would not vote for a candidate for moral reasons. To take an extreme example, imagine a presidential candidate murdered someone on the campaign with his or her bare hands. I don't think I could vote for the murderer in this scenario. The example is extreme, but the question becomes: where do you draw the line? Friedersdorf gave some examples in this spirit, and I think they have been overlooked by his dissenters - what to say about "automatic disqualifiers"?

It occurred to me that in the murder scenario (an admittedly extreme hypothetical), I wouldn't vote for that candidate, but I'd probably want somebody else from the same party to run, and then I'd vote for that person. That's where I think I diverge from Friedersdorf - in my eyes, the candidate up for vote is a tool for the party he or she represents. The reason I vote for Obama is not because I think Obama the person is anything special, it's because he represents the party that is most likely to implement policy ideas I agree with, or at least come closest to agreeing with. Although Obama in particular has gotten a lot of hype for his personal qualities, in fact most people vote the way they do for reasons similar to mine; they are most closely aligned with one party's platform or another. It's no surprise Friedersdorf will fall back to Gary Johnson instead of some other third party candidate; he's sympathetic to libertarianism.

I feel some reluctance for voting for Obama, but I would feel reluctance for voting for Hilary Clinton or Joe Biden. But I would vote for either without much thought in comparison to the package I would get for voting for any likely GOP candidate right now. One party is fighting for universal health care - I'm going to vote for that party. One party has tried to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, held unemployment insurance hostage, opposes equality for all people, and so on. I'm going to steer away from the party to the extent possible. So, I think the reason I disagree with Friedersdorf is that the personal qualities of the candidate don't matter that much to me. I'm sure others don't see things my way, but many do.

Jost Reviews Haidt

Must read (PDF) if you are interested in moral or political psychology. Tasty bit:

"Haidt draws sparingly on the details of contemporary research in social and political psychology, usually as a foil for his ostensibly above-­‐the-­‐fray approach. Consider this passage:
'I began by summarizing the standard explanations that psychologists had offered for decades: Conservatives are conservative because they were raised by overly strict parents, or because they are inordinately afraid of change, novelty, and complexity, or because they suffer from existential fears and therefore cling to a simple worldview with no shades of gray. These approaches all had one feature in common: they used psychology to explain away conservatism. They made it unnecessary for liberals to take conservative ideas seriously because these ideas are caused by bad childhoods or ugly personality traits. I suggested a very different approach: start by assuming that conservatives are just as sincere as liberals, and then use Moral Foundations Theory to understand the moral matrices of both sides.' (pp. 166-­‐167)
This paragraph illustrates both the slipperiness of Haidt’s prose and the extent to which key issues are unresolved by his theory. First, there is a great deal of empirical evidence indicating that conservatives are in fact less open to change, novelty, and complexity and are more likely to perceive the world as a dangerous place than liberals (Carney et al., 2008; Gerber et al., 2010; Jost et al., 2003). Rather than attempting to grapple with these findings, which are uncomfortable for his view of political ideology, Haidt characterizes them with argumentative language (“overly,” “inordinately,” “suffer,” “cling,” “bad childhoods,” and “ugly personality traits”) to suggest that these claims have to be false because they sound so...pejorative. Second, he claims that past researchers have “used psychology to explain away conservatism,” as if there is no difference between explaining something and explaining it away. Third, Haidt switches at the last moment from discussing the origins and characteristics of liberals and conservatives to the issue of sincerity, as if it were impossible to sincerely believe something that is rooted in childhood or other psychological experiences. Psychological scientists recognize that questions about the social, cognitive, and motivational underpinnings of a belief system are distinct from questions about its validity..."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Only One Problem With The Plan... won't work. Josh Barro chalks up an I-told-you-so: Romney has a detailed economic plan that he simply doesn't want to share:
"[M]any of the folks who are despairing about Romney would actually love what he would do in office. Romney’s metric-obsessed transition team is fleshing out a “200-day plan” (100 days wasn’t enough time to pass a bunch of big bills) aimed at goosing the recovery and creating jobs by bringing corporate cash off the sidelines in the United States and attracting investment from abroad.
The weapons would include tax and regulatory policy and what one aide called a “very aggressive” series of executive orders, many already on the drawing board. Two of Romney’s friends told POLITICO he would be eager to sign a bipartisan grand bargain in the first four months in office to calm markets and ease partisan tensions."
Barro's right that Romney should release his plan. However, if Romney were to win (increasingly unlikely), Dems would instantly flip into the obstinate, do-nothing party. I am not claiming equivalence - the GOP has been obstinate to an unprecedented degree the last few years. However, Dems would certainly raise their demands for being part of a "grand bargain." In the presidential primary, none of the GOP candidates said they would accept 10 dollars in tax cuts if there were even 1 dollar in revenue raised. (Romney's plan already shows he wouldn't keep to that.) The GOP threatened to end unemployment insurance if the Bush tax cuts weren't extended in their entirety. If Romney were to win, and need filibuster proof majorities in the Senate, one can imagine Dems will have some pretty stiff bargaining ideas to win their support. What if Romney has to meet 3 dollars of raised revenue for every dollar in tax cut? What if Dems demand he expand Medicare? Would he be willing? I have my doubts.

So, gridlock is likely to be the rule, regardless of who wins the presidency.

Evan Bayh Is Mitt Romney, Jr.

Son of a politician with no backbone and a complete sellout. He has been from the beginning.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is There A Threshold For Voting?

Conor Friedersdorf talked about what's wrong with Romney and the GOP. Now he's back for Obama:
"What I am saying is that Obama has done things that, while not comparable to a historic evil like chattel slavery, go far beyond my moral comfort zone. Everyone must define their own deal-breakers. Doing so is no easy task in this broken world. But this year isn't a close call for me... 
  1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn't "precise" or "surgical" as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue. 
  2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama's kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done..."
Pretty hard hitting stuff. One thing which Friedersdorf does not give adequate coverage is the risk of not doing some of these things. One of the reasons it is so hard to judge a president on foreign policy, at least real time, is that they have all sorts of information we don't. This is not the case when it comes to domestic issues. If there were real threats from some of the people targeted by drones, then the case becomes murkier. It is one of the reasons the war in Afghanistan has been such a difficult moral issue from the beginning, but that the war in Iraq hasn't. Al Qaeda posed a real threat to Americans, and it is not always easy to see what the best method to neutralize that threat is, particularly so when we do not have very much information to go on... 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Amateur Hour: Taxes And Capitalism

On 60 minutes, Romney defended the tax rates he pays:
"[T]he 60 Minutes interviewer, Scott Pelley stated that Mr. Romney “paid fourteen percent in federal taxes,” the capital gains rate, and asked “is that fair to the guy who makes fifty thousand dollars and paid a higher rate than you did?”
Mr. Romney answered “Yeah I think it’s the right way to encourage economic growth, to get people to invest, to start business, to put people to work.”
Never mind that Mr. Romney would have paid even less in taxes if he hadn’t kept his rate artificially high by declining to count $1.8 million in charitable contributions. (He can always revisit his deductions in a future year.) The important fact here is that there’s little evidence supporting the idea that lower capital gains rates will lead to more investment and more growth, or vice versa."
Let me preface what follows by saying that I'm not sure we need to jack up the capital gains tax rate. Our tax system should reward saving to some extent. (Though see Noah Millman from The American Conservative on the non-specialness of capital gains and this from the Century Foundation.) My main problem is that the way our tax system is set up supports a barrier to entry into the marketplace. This is not because taxes are too high on individuals or small businesses as many conservatives would argue, but because they are too low and there are too many exemptions for rich people and corporations.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Busy, busy...

Dissertation and grading all day. Substantive post tomorrow, I promise.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Grade Inflation

Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman asks: why has it taken so long? He writes: 
The fact that profs don’t give all A’s, even though they can, is interesting to me. My explanation for this behavior is as follows: college professors typically got high grades themselves in college. Getting high grades is part of how we defined ourselves when we were students. So, now that we’re giving out the grades, we don’t want to devalue this currency. It’s not a matter of self-interest–if I give out a bunch of A’s to my students, it’s not going to retroactively tarnish my college grade-point average. Rather, I think it’s just that profs see grades as important in themselves. Sort of like rich people who don’t want to debase the currency, just as a matter of principle.
I remember looking at grading records for undergraduate classes back when I taught at Berkeley in the early 1990s. There was lots of variation in average grades by instructor, even for different sections of the same class. I didn’t do a formal study, but I remember when flipping through the sheets that average grade seemed to be correlated with niceness. The profs who were generally pleasant people tended to give lots of A’s, while the jerks were giving lower grades."
I'm not sure about this explanation as a general rule, but I don't think it's true across the board. However, almost none of my profs have inflated and that makes me wonder if I've had all jerks...

Friday, September 21, 2012


Both major parties have them, but only one party proudly touts and encourages them. Libertarian Conor Friedersdorf:
"This truth was evident during the GOP primary, where voters were presented with unacceptable candidates as diverse as the right itself. So broken are the information outlets Tea Partiers in particular use to assess reality that for months they took Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich seriously as potential or actual presidential contenders. They had every opportunity to see the respective character flaws of these figures; they were mostly self-evident, and persuasively described in great detail by the political press. Ah, but that's the liberal media talking. With that phrase, any huckster can short-circuit the Tea Party reality-assessing apparatus for months. And while movement conservatism has failed for decades to shrink government, it has succeeded spectacularly in creating jobs for hucksters in the private sector.      

The civil war the right needs is one waged against the hucksters, whether they're in the marketplace of ideas or the marketplace itself. Victory would mean establishing norms that would've made Roger Ailes too ashamed to air all those months of Glenn Beck; that would've made the Claremont Institute mortified to give Rush Limbaugh a statesmanship award; that would've made Matthew Continetti cringe at the idea of a modeling a conservative publication on what he disdains about liberal publications; norms that would've caused Erick Erickson to apologize for his absurd parade of indefensible statements before it complicated his successful effort to start a CNN gig; and that would make Mitt Romney embarrassed to stand in front of donors uttering untruths."

Secrets (Already) Revealed!

I've said this before: people pretty much know all they are going to know about Obama and his record. There's probably not much old stuff about him that's going to make a difference to the election.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hiring In The Future...

...done by algorithm. Makes a lot of sense, to me anyway.
"For more and more companies, the hiring boss is an algorithm. The factors they consider are different than what applicants have come to expect. Jobs that were once filled on the basis of work history and interviews are left to personality tests and data analysis, as employers aim for more than just a hunch that a person will do the job well. Under pressure to cut costs and boost productivity, employers are trying to predict specific outcomes, such as whether a prospective hire will quit too soon, file disability claims or steal."

Mixed Feelings About Late Converts

Personal memoir in the American Conservative about somebody in the GOP bubble learning true facts. It takes courage to face one's own prejudices, but I can't help but think that all that happened is that a dummy is less dumb.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I.Q. And The Flynn Effect

James Flynn found that when I.Q. tests are averaged out across decades, there have been huge increases in I.Q. among Americans since WWII. But, it seems strange to say this is due to increased education since better I.Q. tests abstract from that. It also seems unlikely that we're just much smarter. The huge as yet unexplained increase is called the Flynn Effect. Tyler Cowen points us to a paper which offers a possible solution to the puzzle:
 "We propose that recent-born individuals have adopted an approach to analogy that enables them to infer higher-level relations requiring roles that are not intrinsic to the objects that constitute initial representations of items. This proposal is translated into item-specific predictions about differences between cohorts in pass rates and item-response patterns on the Raven’s Matrices, a seemingly culture-free test that registers the largest Flynn effect. Consistent with predictions, archival data reveal that individuals born around 1940 are less able to map objects at higher levels of relational abstraction than individuals born around 1990."

Four Points About The Romney Video

Remember this. There are lots and lots of problems for Romney that others have addressed well. I'll make four points here.

1. The worst thing about it is that he claims that he won't be president for half the country. That is awful, regardless of your politics. He could have said his policies would help these people, that he had a better solution to problems caused by poverty, unemployment, etc. But he didn't. He said there's nothing he can do because they'll never take personal responsibility. He's not claiming he's looking out for their interests; he's writing them off as lost causes. Despicable.

2. People who say that his claims are inconvenient truths are delusional. SOME of the things he says are true, but it simply isn't true that the 47% of people who don't pay income tax are all and only the people who vote for Obama, obviously. OBVIOUSLY.

They also don't want everything to be entitlements; it's not true that they all of them don't take personal responsibility, etc. People who think all of this is true are using the W. Bush definition - it "feels true" to them, regardless of whatever the actual facts are.

3. One overlooked problem I think is that Romney is conceding the Republican party is the party of the rich. He's basically conceding the stereotype - "if you make a lot of money, I need you to give it to me to fend off all the poor people who will vote for Obama." But that's a problem for the GOP now and will continue to be a problem in the future. You can't run as an elitist, exclusive party and expect to win many elections. (Romney might still win this one, though!)

4. If the problem is that people don't pay income tax, an obvious solution for a candidate running for president is to promise to raise income taxes on those who do not pay. Obviously, that is something Romney isn't doing, nor would he in any near possible world. It actually wouldn't be a terrible idea to do that to a reasonable extent. But it won't happen. Because the real agenda is not to have everybody pay their "fair share" in taxes, it's to kick poor people. People who complain about others not paying income tax, but who do not think the problem can be solved by raising their taxes or ending their tax credits (to reasonable degrees) are just looking for an excuse to bash the poor, pure and simple.

This One's For A Friend

It's not about politics. AND it should make him feel less inadequate at the gym.
"For example, imagine going to the gym. When you look around, does it seem that just about everybody there is in better shape than you are? Well, you’re probably right. But that’s inevitable and nothing to feel ashamed of. If you’re an average gym member, that’s exactly what you should expect to see, because the people sweating and grunting around you are not average. They’re the types who spend time at the gym, which is why you’re seeing them there in the first place. The couch potatoes are snoozing at home where you can’t count them. In other words, your sample of the gym’s membership is not representative. It’s biased toward gym rats."

Monday, September 17, 2012

See? He's A Fuck Up

No one else to blame.

Interesting Thoughts About Global Warming And Technology

Is a carbon tax a thing of the past?
"Here is the good news. US carbon emissions are decreasing rapidly. We're down over 10% from our emissions peak in 2007. Furthermore, the drop isn't just a function of the Great Recession. Since 2010 our economy has been growing, but emissions have kept on falling. The reason? Natural gas. With the advent of "fracking" technology, the price of gas has plummeted far below that of coal, and as a result, essentially no new coal plants are being built. Although gas does release carbon, it only releases about half as much as coal for the same amount of electricity. This is why -- despite our failure to join the Kyoto Protocol or impose legal restrictions on CO2 -- the United States is now outpacing the rest of the developed world in reducing our contribution to global warming. 
Now for the better news. A technology is in the pipeline that has the potential to eliminate CO2 emissions entirely. Solar power, long believed to be unworkably expensive, has actually been falling in cost at a steady exponential rate of 7 percent per year for the last three decades straight. Because of this "Moore's Law for solar", electricity from solar panels now costs less than twice as much as electricity from coal, and only about three times as much as electricity from gas. Furthermore, technologies now in the pipeline seem to ensure that the cost drop will continue."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Take It Away, Rick!

No comment.
"WASHINGTON, DC — Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum attacked the media and “smart people” for not being on the side of conservatives in a speech to the Values Voter Summit on Saturday. 
"We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told the audience at the Omni Shoreham hotel. “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.'"

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Happened?

About a year ago, I was really concerned about the presidential election. Mitt Romney would have a lot of money, the economy was pretty bad and there was a lot of uncertainty about which direction things were headed, the GOP was blocking all attempts to improve matters, the Fed was sitting on its hands, whether the ACA would be upheld was TBD, etc. Things could definitely have gone either way. There's still a chance they could, but less of a chance than I would have thought. At the very worst, I thought Mitt Romney would be unlikable and unrelatable, but competent. Instead, he's unlikable, unrelatable, and a fuck up.

Ryan's Cuts

Medicare gets all the headlines, but Ryan's budget (which the Republicans in the House passed!!!) is really terrible. Zane doesn't even go into as much detail as one could about cuts to veterans' benefits, how cutting Medicaid affects seniors, etc.


Not much of substance here, but Jonathan Chait's takedown of Romney camp's spin is so complete that it's worth a read.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


New round of quantitative easing announced today. Might not turn out to be great news, but it's certainly better than nothing!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney Is A Fuck Up

Earlier this week, the buzz was about how Romney was going to "keep" some parts of health care reform: people were talking about how he would address people with pre-existing conditions to not lose their health insurance. His plan is dumb, but that's something good for him to talk about - it's something that could appeal to a broader demographic than hardcore Republicans. The rest of this week will be about how he's a fucking idiot. People don't care about foreign policy, but Romney's lack of details combined with terrible policies when he says something about them is pretty much the mirror image of his domestic policies. He's a joker when it comes to some of this stuff...

The ACA Is Working

Conservatives often like to claim that access to health care simply isn't a right; it's a privilege, and that's why there is no reason to push for universal care. I don't care about "rights" because I don't know what they are (moral rights, not legal rights). But it's still better for everybody if more people are insured.

Romney's Big Mouth don't spout off about foreign policy without doing your homework:
“I’m grateful to him (Romney) for formulating his stance so clearly because he has once again proven the correctness of our approach to missile defense problems,” Putin told reporters, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
“The most important thing for us is that even if he doesn’t win now, he or a person with similar views may come to power in four years. We must take that into consideration while dealing with security issues for a long perspective"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Talking Points

"I met with the team, I met with the Standard & Poors team. What they said is, if our Republican budget had passed it would have prevented the downgrade,” Ryan retorted. “They basically said because of the lack of  leadership in Washington, political leadership, that is the downgrade.”
No one can know what the S&P analysts told the House Budget Committee chairman in private. But we do have a record of what they said publicly. Pelley offered “for the record” to read the agency’s opinion to Ryan. Part said: “We have changed our assumptions on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues. ”
Ryan pursed his lips a bit but wouldn’t be dissuaded. “I see it a different way,” he said. “That is not my understanding from talking to them.”
So just to be clear, a public document stating the reason for the credit downgrade does not represent a fact. Documentation does not mean something can be documented. If you are Paul Ryan, why not just say you know better?"

Don't Panic

Everything's fine...
"Opening with the statement, “Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” the memo noted that polls still tend to give Mr. Romney advantages on handling the economy, that he has succeeded in making inroads in the key state of Wisconsin, and that he has plenty of time to win with arguments that Mr. Obama’s policies have failed."
Obama rightfully catches a lot of flack for always repeating that his policies are great but he hasn't sold them well or that the messaging just hasn't been quite right. Here we have Romney saying "if people just hear me say Obama's policies have failed, they'll come around." That's not how it works for an incumbent, though. Everybody pretty much knows all they want to know about Obama. The people who could be scared by negative ads are already scared. And you can't generate outrage among swing voters, since almost by definition they're the sort of people who don't get outraged by politics. Romney needs some event, like Europe falling apart, in order to turn this thing around.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Economics Has A Gender Gap...

When it comes to ideas...
"The research also found very different interpretations of the status of job opportunity for men and women, both in economics academia and in the broader job market. Male economists, on average, said that opportunities are relatively equal between the genders in the United States, while the average female economist in the study disagrees.
Similarly, when economists were asked about the gender wage gap, the average male economist agrees that differences in productivity and voluntary occupational choices lead to men earning more, while female economists tend to disagree."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Things Are Heating Up

Stock up on sunscreen:
"Plotting bell curves for the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, the team noticed the entire curve shifted to the right, meaning that more hot events are the new normal. The curve also flattened and widened, indicating a wider range of variability. Specifically, an average of 75 percent of land area across Earth experienced summers in the "hot" category during the past decade, compared to only 33 percent during the 1951 to 1980 base period. Widening of the curve also led to the designation of the new category of outlier events labeled "extremely hot," which were almost nonexistent in the base period. "

Things Are Better Pt. 2

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong has the charts.

Tick, Tick, Tick...

The demographic clock is ticking. How will the GOP respond when whites are no longer majority?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Something I Don't Understand

There are fights about what each side plans to do about Medicare, with both sides claiming to be "saving" it. But doesn't the GOP, as a political party, reject government insurance for health care? How are the inconsistencies not blatantly, BLATANTLY, obvious? Hard to think of more blatant inconsistency on policy issue. Glad to hear if anyone has any examples.

Party Platforms

Make your politicians make specific promises. There are always counterexamples, but by and large politicians attempt to do what they say they'll do when they are campaigning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Turning American Politics Into A Schelling Case

A lot of people are talking about how we are likely to have a better functioning government if we just let Romney win. The argument is that we can count on more obstructionism from Republicans in a divided government, and that it is unlikely Dems will win the House and Senate. So we should just let Romney win. This is weird, but also shameful. Not only will Obama's re-election matter for a number of reasons, but it turns American politics into a Schelling case. A Schelling case, named after economist Thomas Schelling, is a case of rational irrationality. For instance, if you are the only one who knows the code to the safe, it's rational to drink a poison which temporarily turns you into a mental invalid when thieves threaten to torture you if you don't open it. Though you will be irrational after ingesting the poison, it is rational to be irrational in that context. The argument seems to be that we should give in to the the GOP's attempt to be rationally irrational. But if the GOP loses election after election, it will have just been a bout of irrationality. In other words, it's up to us whether or not American politics turns into a Schelling case. Don't let it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Of Brains And Romance

How your brain looks early on in a relationship can predict how it's going 40 months later.  Tasty bits:
"The findings illustrate that long-term relationship outcomes, particularly relationship happiness, involve more than simply the reward and motivated drive associated with basal ganglia activation that is the hallmark of intense romantic love. In addition to the drive for a partner, long-term relationship happiness and longevity are also reflected in brain regions involved in satiation when receiving a partner-related reward (e.g., seeing a picture of the beloved and recalling memories of them), emotion regulation, the ability to exert inhibitory cognitive control (of craving toward the partner) and social evaluation."

Things Are Better

The Romney campaign is pushing the question: are you better off than you were four years ago? I don't mind the campaign pushing this as a rhetorical question, and it makes sense if they are trying to turn this into a referendum rather than a choice election. (Conventional Wisdom says that's a good thing to do with an incumbent.) But it seems the media is picking it up as a real question that people should think about. That's a problem. There are a million things someone might be asking with "how are you doing?" but any substantive way of taking this question will include one's prospects. Somebody on Death Row could have a fleeting moment of happiness the day before being executed. They're still doing pretty bad. Four years ago was the beginning of a global financial crisis, the collapse of the banks, the collapse of the auto industry, the bursting of the housing bubble, massive unemployment, high amounts of private debt, etc. Given that those things are being remedied, however slowly, instead of immediately on the horizon means yes, no matter how you "feel" at the moment, you are better off than you were four years ago.

Quick Criticism Of Chomsky

Oxford neuroscientist Dorothy Bishop has the scoop.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Douthat On FDR

"Franklin Delano Romney," that is. I don't really believe it, but worth thinking about.


Mitt Romney is good looking.

"Mitt Romney is better looking than almost everyone reading this blog.  Back in 2008, I wrote about how Sarah Palin’s looks put her in the 95th percentile of politicians.  Romney has even Palin beat—he scores above the 99th percentile."

Reason #958,742 We Needed Health Insurance Reform

"And that number keeps swirling around my head: $23,800. For a bug bite.
Everybody did everything right. There’s nobody to blame here except maybe the damned bug. And that single random act — save for some lucky timing and California’s silly determination to look after its citizens — would have blown a hole in the side of our savings that would have taken years to fix. OK, kids, which of you wants to skip college?"

People Have Short Memories

The press often emphasizes how unpopular the ACA (Obamacare) is. It's true it's not very popular, but what is not often emphasized is that making changes to health care was very popular before the ACA was enacted, both by citizens and parts of the health care industry. Don't forget that our health care system is pretty bad for a rich country, and there's still a lot of work to do to make it better.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kids Should Learn Multiple Languages

Just one more reason.

Ryan's Budget Is Really Bad For Poor People

Not exactly sure why there is so little coverage of just how drastically Ryan's budget hits poor people. One guess is that people don't think Congress would actually go through with it. But then why all the fawning about his seriousness?