Friday, February 29, 2008

More from The Times

A piece on female competition and jealousy.

I don't claim to understand it, as I am not a woman, but I think it is a bit of a problem. However, the author cites a work investigating it and proposing a solution:
Professor Shere Hite – the woman who helped to fuel the 1970s sexual revolution by suggesting that women reach orgasm more reliably through masturbation than sex – sigh knowingly. Her latest book, The Hite Report on Women Loving Women, is a treatise on female friendship and why it breaks down. Hite says that there is an underlying tension in relationships between girls that makes us compete with each other rather than get along. She thinks that if we could only overcome it, we would be all set for a new kind of 21st-century female power, one that relies not on trying to be sexier than one another, but on helping each other out.

On the face of it, she’s spot-on. We do give other girls an unnecessarily hard time.

Most people need a home, a family and emotional stability. “It’s a lot of fun to be with a best friend,” she says, “but as adults, we are not permitted to be with other women, unless we are gay. It doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to start a business together, to buy a house together, to bring up kids together.”

It’s easier to live with boys, surely. We probably behave better around men. Fellas are, after all, physiologically better disposed to absorb our daily ups and downs. Or is it that we know we can only push it so far with them, before they lose patience? (“Yes,” says Hite sagely. “The male still has a power advantage. The woman defers to him in a way she does not to another woman.”) Whatever the reason, somehow it seems less likely that the whole set-up will dissolve in a puddle of jealousy, ganging up and stealing key wardrobe items. For Hite, this is the problem: fundamentally, we don’t trust each other enough to put our friends’ interests first. If we could only learn to consider one another as kin, not competitors. If only we would interpret a mate’s new leopardprint catsuit, or a casually undermining comment in front of the boss, not as threats, but for what they really are: a bid to impress each other.

I always have issue with the whole sex thing does not matter. In my first attempt at college, 12 years ago, one of my dorm-mates, a evangelical Christian, said:
"Sex doesn't matter for marriage. You just have to be willing to commit to each other."

I immediately asked him, "We get along fine. I would live in the same house as you. Would you marry me?" The look on his face was utter shock.

At its best, the intimacy created through sex increases the intimacy in the relationship. This is what we are all looking for in a partner, and luckily I have found with my wife. The idea that wo friends, even two best friends, can have the same level of intimacy as two lovers is just not the case.

This idea that women, or even men, who are friends can live build a life together based on affection, but no sex is just silly. Human beings just aren't that way. In general, we cannot socially reconstruct relationships in that way. I don't know whether the inter-female competition element can be reconstructed because I have no experience with those types of relationships, but I am pretty confident that it would be more possible than reconstructing the entire nature of friendship into platonic life partnerships.

Poppin the question

From The Times:
Today [Feb 29th] tradition permits women to pop the question to men. This custom has dubious origins. In 5th-century Ireland, St Bridget, then the Mother Superior of a nunnery, demonstrated her ignorance by complaining to St Patrick that men took too long to propose, and that women should have an opportunity. Refusal hit the chap in his pocket to the tune of a 100-punt fine, which sounds like a small fortune.

The article then gives practical tips to avoid getting asked, such as go to Greece.

I think this whole thing is a shame. Women should propose if they want to get married, not only on Feb 29th.

What we have now is summed up at the end of the article:
Anyone who has ever been in a relationship of more than a couple of years knows this. After a couple of dates, she works out whether you're boyfriend material (you usually are) and can be forced to watch the Hollyoaks omnibus. After 12 months, she decides that it's time for you to cohabit. And after two to three years, it's a ring or you're out.

A man proposing is merely an illusion of control, and getting down on one knee a cruel irony. Women have always made the decision to get married. It's just that on February 29, we have to acknowledge it completely.

If a woman wants to get married, they should propose. If their guy says no, find somebody else. Don't wait around, complaining that he isn't asking you.

Update: In my subsequent browsing I found a companion article making the exact same case as me, but they take a feminist-sexist view of it. I am just looking to the practical aspects. Here.

In case you didn't know files...

Performance enhancing drugs enhance performance and unselfish people give more to charity.

Don't say you never learned anything if you read this blog.

Andrew Sullivan's use of the word sodomy

He writes:
By sodomy, I mean the technical term of non-procreative intercourse. That includes the use of condoms, the pill, oral sex and butt-fuckery.

The word butt-fuckery gave me chuckle. The use of antiseptic words proceeding it was genius.

I changed my mind...

here is my last and final post on the rape issue.

When my opinions are challenged by people who I deem to be reasonable and intelligent, and I feel that my opinion is pretty clear and similar to theirs, I always have to determine the fundamental source of the disagreement. Given that Cheryl Miller and James Poulos fit both of the above criteria, I am still perplexed as to why we are having a difference of opinion regarding the matter of some measure of female responsibility in gray areas of rape. I think I have found it.

All emphasis is mine.

Poulos writes:
There are lots of things to blame skanks for, particularly messing with the minds of the guys they like but won't screw, but on the above, and on related counts, they need the possibility of shelter, not more lashes with yet further wet noodles.

Miller writes:
You don't agree that men have a moral responsibility to protect women--at least not if they show up at your door drunk. You write:

I agree.. Yes, we have a moral responsibility to protect them, but they also have a moral responsibility to not go drunk to a man's house, who they knew was an asshole, at 2am, and get naked.

So you don't actually agree. My suggestion that men too have responsibilities is met with the response that well, the woman in question is acting like a skank, so too bad. The fact that one person behaves foolishly does not mean you get a free pass to act just as foolishly.

A blogger on slate writes:
There will probably always be gray areas in defining rape. And such crimes will probably always be under-reported—it's unfortunate but true. But there have to be ways to address those problems that involve neither trumpeting a flawed statistic or attacking young women for being irresponsible.

The disagreement we have is this:
They are focusing on the "ought." We ought to live in a world where women are never taken advantage of in any way. I completely agree.

The problem is we don't live in that world. We need to focus on what "is," while still endeavoring to bring about the "ought."

An analogy:
When I hear that somebody was injured or died in a car accident because they were not wearing their seat belt, I think that is a horrible tragedy and I feel very sorry for them. However, I also say, they should have been wearing their seat belt, even if somebody else was completely at fault in the accident. This does not mean the person should not be provided medical care or that we blame them, but rather it should be impressed upon others that they should wear their seat belt.

When I say that the young lady Lewis & Clark case had a moral responsibility "to not go drunk to a man's house, who they knew was an asshole, at 2am, and get naked." I am talking about something akin to wearing a seatbelt. Clearly, the ideal world would be one in which she could go anywhere she wants, in any state of inebriation, at any time, in any manner of undress and not be taken advantage of, but that is not the world we live in. Nevertheless, we should do everything we can to bring about that world.

Now, you can argue that telling women that they should try not to take actions that increase their chances of being assaulted somehow undermines the attempt to make the world safe for women by implicitly justifying male actions. However, I don't think these are incompatible.

The guy in the Lewis & Clark case was suspended from school, and rightly I would argue. The girl has enough trauma, sadly, from the event that we don't have to chastise her from being imprudent. Nevertheless, just as we take opportunities when somebody was injured in a car accident because they were not wearing a seat belt to say people should wear their seat belts, we should also take these opportunities to tell other young women not to engage in actions that increase the probability that something bad will happen to them. I realize that doing this may seem to be chastising her for being imprudent, but just as I have sympathy for the car accident victim, I also have sympathy for the young lady. I am not saying we all gang up on her to call her a slut.

This does not mean it is their fault. It is just the best policy to minimize the probability that something bad will happen to other women in the future. Everybody wants less sexual assaults to occur, it is just a matter of trying to minimize this risk in our current world. While also trying to bring about a world where no women has to worry about it in the first place.

I should point this out...

Given Cheryl Miller's criticism that I did not focus on male behavior, I definitely want to point this one out. It is not a rape case, but definitely violates my male responsibility statement.

From Slate:

Cindy Loose, a Washington Post reporter, writes this guest post:

I was stuck in a crowded parking lot at the grocery store the other day in my minivan, the woman in a station wagon in front of me waiting for a space to open. Driving up next to me was a middle-aged man in a black sports car who found that he couldn’t squeeze past me. He rolled down his window and started screaming about “F---king stupid women! Stupid f---king women shouldn’t be allowed to drive.” I finally said to him, “That’s quite a mouth you have on you.” He responded, “You f---king whore!” Without thinking, I leapt out of the car and headed toward him. I could hear him click his door locks as he put his car in reverse and drove back as fast as he could. I got to his window and screamed, “Get out of the car and call me that. Get out of the car!” Still in reverse, he sped out of the lot. Several people clapped for me, then a middle-aged woman pulled up next to me, rolled down her window, and said, “I’m so glad you confronted him! Are you voting for Hillary? If you are, will you come to Texas with me and campaign for her?”

That is just atrocious, and I am particularly pissed about the "You fucking whore." But the fact that he left just goes to show the type of pansy that says these types of things.

However, I don't think campaigning for Hillary will help matters. Sure, it may make you feel better that a woman is president, but that ain't gonna stop morons from being morons.

Angelina Jolie seems to be pro-surge

She writes:

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

To be honest, I am not sure that what a movie star thinks, even if they are a goodwill ambassador and have visited the region, is something we should give much credence to when making strategy decisions. Much like when I poo-poo'd the visit by the Heroes cheerleader to talk about whales at Georgetown. They have no more authority of the issue than the average person, yet their voice is far louder.

Holding Pattern

I frequently hold doors for other people. I am not talking about the times when we don't let the door close because somebody is walking in behind us. I am talking about holding the door open. It doesn't happen all that much anymore, at least compared to what you see in Cary Grant movies, etc.

It is more of a habit than chivalry. At some point, I am sure it was something I learned from my father, which I internalized. It is almost Pavlovian, and I had to do some serious analysis regarding what prompts me to hold the door open.

If somebody is walking with their hands full, a cane, or a walker, etc I will almost always hold the door open.

Beyond those situations it becomes more complicated, and the decision happens so fast that I had to dissect it. First, I have to see that somebody else is coming to the door. Then I weigh three factors. The amount of foot traffic around - the less people, the more likely I am going to hold the door. The difficulty in opening the door - the heavier the door, the more likely I am to open it. Last, the gender of the person I am holding the door open for. A lady has a much, much higher probability than a man. So, if you are a woman arriving at a door that I think is heavy and nobody else is around, I am almost certain to hold the door for you.

Here are the categories of responses and how often they occur:

"Thank you" and a smile (10%) - The Thank You usually has the tone of: Wow, that was really nice of you. If the woman is over 60 or so, this is usually followed by: What a nice young man. I always cringe when I hear it, but I am sure it is meant well.

"Thank you" (10%) - The thank you in this case is not the wow, that was really nice of you, but more: that was nice.

"Thanks" (50%) - This tone is usually: I am in a hurry, but since you recognized that I was there by holding the door I feel obligated to acknowledge you. Personally, I am cool with that.

No response (20%) - This is the worst. It is just a question of manners at this point.

Other responses (10%) - A head nod, grunt, etc. Actually, the response that prompted me to write this post falls into this category. I was holding the door open, at the Georgetown Park Mall entrance by Dean and Deluca, for a lady leaving from the gym upstairs. She told me it was rude to hold doors open for people, and that she was capable of opening her own doors.

I have heard rants against feminists taking exception to male behavior that used to be deemed acceptable, or even virtuous, and this includes holding doors open. But I always thought, and still do, that was an exaggeration meant to disparage feminism. I have held the door for countless people, probably thousands, and this was the first time that this had ever happened.

I have a word of advice for the lady in question. When somebody does something nice for you, even if you don't want them to, it is simply good manners to say thanks and go on your way.

Lance Update

Mark Lance offers the first article of his that I have generally agreed with here.

I won't go over the fine points that I disagree with, but his ultimate statement about how we should view gays, and everybody else for that matter is:

Most such social rules are arbitrary at best and deeply damaging at worst. At minimum, they limit self-creation, limit freedom, limit possibilities, experiences and potential lives, all in ways that are arbitrary and oppressive. And they do this as much for “straight” folks as for gay. When we learn to celebrate all consensual, non-damaging sexual relations, we learn new possibilities for our own lives — ones that could make a profound difference if we can face them bravely and lovingly.

He is basically let's do away with the rules and love each other. Sounds great in theory, but social rules are not always arbitrary. I don't agree with many, if not most of them, but there are reasons they have developed over time. To say they are oppressing our freedom, and should be done away with so that we can flourish without restraint is a fine theory for what we ought to do. But in the real world, with imperfect people, we need to realize that these rules have positive as well as negative consequences. We can't just focus on the negative consequences and throw them out.

As to homosexuality, I have absolutely no problem with it. It's none of my business what to consenting adults do in their bedroom. The vast majority of homosexuals, bisexuals, etc, are great people.

However, this love everybody thing does not solve some fundamental issues. Gay marriage, for example, which I support, does involve some potential problems. Some people argue that gay parents, even if they are caring and loving, are inferior to heterosexual parents. I wholeheartedly disagree, but I don't necessarily question the motives of all the people who hold this view. Their love for children is conflicting with the love of a gay couple.

Just saying love each other is naive, and removing social rules without a better plan than that is inviting trouble that nobody wants or deserves.


It's funny because I was thinking about the difficulty with math that many people have, and then PoMoCon writes about it. He links to a really good analysis of the levels of mathematical understanding here.

The root of this problem, as far as I can determine, is that math is a completely abstract realm that implies existence.

To clarify what I mean about implying existence:
Let's discuss the simplest number, 1. We learn that it means a lone thing. However, what that thing is doesn't matter. It could be one orange, one person, one boat, etc. When dealing with counting or addition, teachers say that if you have 1 orange and another orange, then you have two oranges. This implies the existence of two oranges.

Numbers exist as concepts, which imply the existence of some thing or things. In this way I think the math and God analogy is relevant. When you think of any number, it is the idea of an amount of undetermined things that exists in some abstract realm. This realm has rules and laws that we can discover and understand. However, we have the perception in our mind that we are creating this realm. Therefore, many philosophers are drawn to math because it creates the illusion that we are creating another world, which has rules, and these rules can be used to understand the Truth.

As you move from addition and subtraction, which can be intuitively understood with theoretical objects that exist, to multiplication and division this starts to fall apart. The numbers themselves begin to interact in ways that just don't make sense when you are talking about oranges.

As you move to limits, matrices, etc, this moves even further from actual existence. Infinity is not a number, but a concept. Zero is a number, but signifies the absence of existence.

One concept from calculus can be understood intuitively. Functions are much like a machine with inputs and an output.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Last post on the subject

As I said, I think we need some sort of rational framework for analyzing, what I have characterized as non-clear cut cases of rape, ie when there is no force involved, no roofies, and one party is not far more sober than the other. This was actually what I was trying to get at with all my rambling.

Male responsibilities: They must act towards all women, at all times, as if they are their sister. Personally, I don't have a sister, but I can imagine how I would feel about one. If a man wants to do something that he would not want done to his sister, then he must ask permission. If the girl is too drunk, obviously this does not matter, she cannot consent. I think this is a reasonable working idea. However, as I said, there will still be cases when a guy takes an action that he wouldn't mind happening to his sister, but the particular partner he is with might. This is unfortunately unavoidable unless we get into the hell of asking every single thing during an encounter. Can I take off your shirt? Can I touch your breasts? Etc? That is just not reasonable.

The problem is that if he takes some action that wouldn't mind happening to his sister, his partner may still object to it. And even if she tells him no, he immediately stops, and apologizes, some emotional damage has been done to his partner. I don't know how to get around this problem.

Female responsibilities: They have to realize that they are in more danger than men when they get drunk. It isn't right, but it is a fact of life. They have a responsibility to be circumspect regarding when and where they drink and the choices they make after having been drinking. This isn't about them deserving what they get, or any stupid argument like that. They simply have to use good judgment, which some young women are not currently. In fairness, this is a good rule for both sexes, but it is particularly important that we emphasize it to young women.

So where does this leave us:
Any violation of the above responsibilities is to be frowned upon and denounced vociferously. However, rape, as a criminal act, must be defined as when one party continues an action even after the other told them to stop. Or when one party is unknowingly drugged. Or one party is too drunk to willingly consent. I am not sure how to deal with both parties being drunk and no force is used.

Update: I decided to post one more on the subject, it is here.


Roger Cohen writes:
NATO has failed to prove its relevance to a post-modern European generation. NATO needs re-branding. It needs to be more hip in getting across where a precious peace came from.

This is a question that I keep asking myself? If NATO was to defeat the Warsaw Pact, and it completed that mission, then why does it still need to exist?

The balance of power during the Cold War focused American and European minds. That balance of power no longer exists. Therefore, I don't see how NATO can work.

If for some reason an external, existential threat to Europe re-emerges, I am sure that a new NATO-esque structure can be recreated. What is the point of keeping around a relic of the Cold War that lost its relevance in 1991? Europe is peaceful. If they don't see a national interest in fighting terrorist, then alliance or no alliance they are not going to do it. Does keeping NATO around really help anything?

I would argue that the presence of NATO made the Iraq war more possible. The presumption that NATO would take over the Afghanistan conflict allowed the US to shift resources to Iraq. Bush probably would have done it anyway, but the existence of the NATO involvement only added to the perception that the US could afford to invade Iraq.

Ignatius on Terrorism

He writes:

Sageman's harshest judgment is that the United States is making the terrorism problem worse by its actions in Iraq. "Since 2003, the war in Iraq has without question fueled the process of radicalization worldwide, including the U.S. The data are crystal clear," he writes. We have taken a fire that would otherwise burn itself out and poured gasoline on it.

Sageman's policy advice is to "take the glory and thrill out of terrorism." Jettison the rhetoric about Muslim extremism -- these leaderless jihadists are barely Muslims. Stop holding news conferences to announce the latest triumphs in the "global war on terror," which only glamorize the struggle. And reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq, which fuels the Muslim world's sense of moral outrage.

This article really undermines the raison d'etre for McCain's campaign.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Either I wasn't clear or Cheryl Miller missed my point

Her response to my post.

Quoting me:
But when you drunken text message a guy at 2am and show up to his room drunk and get naked and give him a blow job, do you really expect he is going to respect you?

Actually...yes, I think a woman should expect that. Probably not to marry her or even to date her, but to respect her--in the very limited sense of not treating her like an object or plaything, and certainly not forcing her to do something against her will--definitely.

I agree about the not forcing her to do something against her will, but can we really expect him to respect that girl? Do you respect the drunk person hitting on you at a bar? I am not saying this disrespect should mean physical force, that is beyond the pale, but for him to say "choke on it" was simply disrespectful. It does not constitute sexual assault. To clarify, I am not saying it was right. I said he was an asshole. Now, the argument can be made that the force on her head that caused her to choke was more than just disrespect and was a violation. If he had forced her to initially commence the blowjob then that would have been rape. But once the act is started it becomes less clear. So you have to go to what he said, which was rude, not assault.

Unfortunately, many conservatives seem to have given up on the idea of masculine honor, that taking advantage of a drunk woman (which you can do without legally committing rape) is unmanly and disgraceful.

I agree that taking advantage of drunk woman is wrong and illegal. But what if both are drunk? As I believe is almost always the case. Does the moral responsibility belong only with the man? If a drunk guy begs a drunk girl to drive him home and she does. Do we blame the guy, or the girl driving, when she gets pulled over or hurts somebody? Now, you may say that raping somebody is like putting a gun to the drunk woman's head and forcing her to drive against her will. Agreed. A violent rape, or one in which she did not know she was drugged, or one in which the guy is far more sober are wrong. I have no problem with those being clear cut cases of rape.

they acknowledge that the playing field isn't really level, and sex will always be more emotionally-fraught for women. Shouldn't a recognition of that fact--of women's special vulnerability--entail a moral responsibility to protect those women, even the drunk, skantily-clad ones?

I agree.. Yes, we have a moral responsibility to protect them, but they also have a moral responsibility to not go drunk to a man's house, who they knew was an asshole, at 2am, and get naked. Again, if the same woman got behind the wheel of a car, who would we blame? Her. We can't say she is culpable in one situation, and then completely without fault in another. Granted, there are two parties involved in the oral sex situation, but there has to be some context.

This isn't the victim deserves it argument. Clearly, nobody has a right to force themselves on anybody else. I am making a distinction here about a man being rude to a woman who came over and gave him a blowjob at 2am. He didn't force her to give him a blowjob. I believe that if he had apologized after having been informed that he was choking her, she probably would not have felt violated. It is a matter of being rude, which is nevertheless wrong.

Lastly, might I suggest that if you find yourself frequently in situations where you "ma[k]e [your] partners feel disrespected during sex," you should probably feel ashamed and try to change your behavior--not just chalk it up to the way of the world now that the feminists are in charge.

I didn't say it was frequently. Moreover, I am currently happily married. Those occasions where either I made my partner uncomfortable or my partner made me comfortable are years behind me. I regretted each and every time it occurred, and it was always unintentional. This does not mean I did not respect my sexual partners, I always have. However, as I said in my post, sexual encounters are passionate and intimate. What makes one partner uncomfortable may not make another partner uncomfortable. Sex, by its nature, makes both people involved vulnerable to the other. The possibility that one is made to feel uncomfortable, disrespected, violated, by the other is possible even if it is unintentional. For example, some women like to be spanked during sex, others don't. This may make a woman who doesn't like it feel disrespected. Maybe the guy should stop in the middle of it all and ask, "Do you want me to smack your ass?" But in the throws of passion a guy might do it without asking. You can say it is wrong, but it happens a lot. I bet 99.999% of them mean no disrespect by it and certainly aren't trying to violate their partner.

"Shrug, boys will be boys;" indeed, such a response just confirms radical feminists' view of men as animals who can't control themselves.

I am not saying that. I am saying that even if a person acts in a manner they believe to be respectable that their partner may still feel disrespected or violated.

I wrote:
I think that women, who are more emotionally involved during sex, are more susceptible to feel uncomfortable. Therefore, increasing sexual promiscuity will inevitably have more of an effect on women, even if we removed all violent, forced rape and date rape drugs from the equation because the emotional involvement of women during sex will inevitably lead to feelings of violation that somebody who is only focused on the physical act will not have.

This means that promoting sex as fun, which it certainly can be, and rape as crime, which it certainly is, does not clarify the issue. There are circumstance where one partner, male or female, may make the other feel uncomfortable, violated, or disrespected. As I said above, I believe women are more susceptible to this. The idea of sexual equality, that women should pursue sex in the same manner as men, only exacerbates this problem.

My point in making this distinction is that there are clear cut cases of rape, as I articulated in my previous post, that need more awareness. The fun-crime thing is a false dichotomy. One one hand you have consensual sex that both partners enjoy comfortably. On the other hand, you have rape. The gray areas in between where one partner regrets the sex, or a particular part of the encounter, are lumped together with rape. This focus on characterizing sex that I believe is simply regretted by one partner as attempted rape or sexual assault diminishes the awareness of actual rape and does a disservice to rape victims.

My ultimate goal is not to say boys will be boys, and date rape is an acceptable part of sexual liberation. But rather that even if magically we removed all forced, violent rape and roofies from the world, there would still be people who feel violated during sex. Moreover, I believe this would happen to women more often then men. Therefore, I think we should have a serious discussion about the differences between how men and women view sex, and not simply say that any sex during which either party felt the least bit uncomfortable, disrespected, or violated is rape or sexual assault.

I have two more post on the subject because it still wasn't clear what I was saying. This one and this one.
(The first is a framework for dealing with these cases. Second one is where I explain why I am not trying to blame the victim. This was made me the most frustrated in my back and forth with Ms. Miller)
Post where she apologizes
Post where I apologize.

Dent in the global warming theory

Maybe we don't need that carbon tax after all.

Link here.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Not that anybody cares...

but I updated my profile.

Another break

The Cournot model is getting boring, so I just wanted to post that I wanted to post a diatribe on why Tim Russert annoys the ever-living-shit out of me, but Ygelsias beat me to it by almost a year and did a better job than I would have.

Deneen Update

I have four midterms tomorrow, and reading Deneen and responding, as well as my other posts, is probably not the best use of my time, but I need the mental break and challenge.

Deneen is talking about stagflation, which I have been railing about for almost two months now. He, however, chalks it up to a fundamental flaw of the modern democratic-capitalist system, which is devoid of personal responsibility, or even the desire for personal responsibility.

He brings up the usual peak oil shenanigans.
closing at about $950 (and today jumping to $960); and oil yesterday closed above $100 bbl., a figure that we are likely to regard as the new bottom. During the day oil broke the $102 bbl. level, nearly reaching the all-time inflation-adjusted high of $103.76, reached in 1980 in the wake of the Iranian revolution and the OPEC oil embargo. We should notice that our flirtation with this all time high takes place in the backdrop of relative stability and peace on the international front: there are no major disruptions in the major oil producing areas and the world is on course to produce its current all-time high level of 87 million barrels a year. Quite simply, worldwide demand is absorbing every spare drop of oil, and there is considerable evidence that the major suppliers are unable to produce at levels above the current output, while also intimating that a number of the major fields - such as Cantarell in Mexico - are going into rapid and irreversible decline. All told, Mr. Market was telling us that things are going to continue to get more expensive and that we will have less wealth to afford them.

There are two sides to this. First, demand is up from almost everywhere, especially China and India. Second, although production may be on track for record production this year, going forward the increasing nationalization and mismanagement of oil companies will have an effect. This is priced into the value of oil.

I would point you to this article in The Economist.
"Oil keeps getting more expensive—but not because it is running out...Yet the fact that not enough oil is coming out of the ground does not mean not enough of it is there...The biggest impediment is political. Governments in almost all oil-rich countries, from Ecuador to Kazakhstan, are trying to win a greater share of the industry's bumper profits. That is natural enough, but they often deter private investment or exclude it altogether. The world's oil supply would increase markedly if Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell had freer access to Russia, Venezuela and Iran. In short, the world is facing not peak oil, but a pinnacle of nationalism."

Deneen then goes on to talk about stagflation.
The very solution to one particular and vicious problem will only contribute to an increase in the cost of goods, meaning that we will all pay the price - and a hefty one - for the foolish lending practices of our "trusts" and profligate choices of our fellow "consumers."

Actually, the effects of rising good costs impact you only to the extent that you spend. Therefore, the more profligate among us will be impacted the most. Taking the most extreme and unrealistic example, somebody who saves all their money is not effected by price increases at all.

As Aristotle told us long ago, democracy is properly understood as a form of self-rule, in which citizens rule and are ruled in turn. However, democracy easily devolves into a kind of contractual form of tyranny, in which - barring our opportunity to rule over everyone else - we rather embrace the notion that democracy is best defined as "doing as one likes." Democracy, that is, goes from being a demanding form of government calling for extensive civic virtues to a lax and tyrannically-inclined form of government in which what is desired above all is the absence of rule. We are now reaping the results of "doing as we like," and the paramount question of our time is whether liberal democracy will prove capable of surviving its own worst instincts.

Prices have an amazing effect. They spur and lower consumption of goods. At some point, higher prices will discourage consumption. People will consume less out of their own self-interest, not from some theoretical awareness of the Good or Virtue. The system will self-correct. It will be painful, but correcting the economy does not require moral fortitude.

The problem we are facing is from the desire to ameliorate suffering. The Fed lowered rates to spur an economy they thought was on the verge of collapse because of the housing crisis. I was far more sanguine about the effects, and felt that the drastic, emergency rate cut was dangerous and foolhardy. However, trying to avoid pain forever is a huge mistake. The Fed's policies may be representative of some sort of moral failure, ie the illusion that there can be no pain in the world, but I think the Feds took incorrect action out of ignorance of the actual economic milieu and misunderstanding of the consequences of their actions than an ethical or moral failing.

Why Clinton is losing

Pundits, bloggers, Editorial boards, etc are not your average voter. They wonkishly examine the candidates proposals and the possible consequences. Moreover, they are aware of the ideological underpinnings of these ideas. For instance, Andrew Sullivan liked that McCain referenced Burke, but questioned how many people at CPAC knew who he was. Very few, and even less among the general public. Even as bloggers can debate the strengths and weakness of the path for society implied by Tocqueville versus Nietzsche, the average Joe has no idea who either are. What is comes down to in a campaign is not policy ideas, but a simple calculation: Who sounds and appears like they are going to make stuff better?

On this case Obama is winning. His short tenure in the Senate is a benefit because he presumably hasn't been corrupted by the system as much. Additionally, his positive tone of change to take on the system is very appealing in the current morass that we are in at the end of the Bush administration. He wants to overhaul the system. Whether he can or not in reality is almost irrelevant.

Clinton's appeal of experience and as a fighter is precisely the opposite. Her appeal is that she is the best technocrat. (As I have said before she would make a great White House chief of staff.) However, this appeal presumes that the system cannot be changed, and that she is the best at manipulating it for the results she would like. Again, whether this is realistically the best strategy to accomplish Democratic goals is beside the point. Americans are fed up with the political system, and the assumption inherent to the Clinton campaign that it is the way it is, is fundamentally flawed politically. It doesn't matter whether she is actually right. The people don't like the current system. They don't think it is fair or working. Her claim that she can make it work for the benefit of the people is questioned because the system has not worked for the people. Her attacks on Obama only dig her in deeper. She should have embraced a tone that would imply an overhaul of the system, and that she would be the best person to do it because she knows the problems, might have worked months ago. But it is too late now.

William F. Buckley, Jr. has died

WaPo article here.

There is a gray area

Warning: This post is about rape and contains some explicit language. However, I think it is appropriate given the subject.

Two recent posts at What Would Phoebe Do and Nobody Sasses a Girl with Glasses prompted me to write this post. They are both worth reading, as are the comments. They are both referencing this article at the City Journal. What is weird, and maybe it is just the blogs I read, but only women seem to be commenting on it. My guess is that most men don't want invite accusations of sexism in the response, but I thought a male perspective might add something.

This article is arguing that the Campus Rape Industry, the author's term, is propagating the myth that around 1 in 4 college women are subject to rape or attempted rape during college. Rape hotlines have been setup based upon this statistic, but they are not receiving that many calls. The Campus Rape Industry then began focusing on why nobody is calling if there are so many rapes and attempted rapes occurring on campus. Their conclusion is that it is a problem of awareness about what constitutes rape, and also the stigma attached to rape victims. The author then goes on to say that the campus hook-up culture is to blame, and also that universities encourage this culture by offering sex workshops.

I agree that there must be some embarrassment and guilt associated with rape victims. It is a terrible crime, and has complicated physical, emotional, and psychological consequences for victims. We must work to allow these victims to feel comfortable reporting the crime.

But there are problems with the rape cases appearing in the news. I am only interested in the clear cases of rape, ie a sexual encounter physically forced upon an unwilling, unconsenting victim, insofar as the perpetrator is caught and punished and the victim receives all the help they need. Moreover, I am also only interested in cases where drugs such as roofies are used, also a clear case of rape, insofar as the perpetrator is caught and punished and the victim receives all the help they need.

However, I think there are gray areas that are being called sexual assault, attempted rape, and rape that are not so clear cut. Jezebel dismisses this as: "Ah yes, the old "gray rape" defense!"

I find this disturbing. Sexual encounters are, by their nature, intimate and passionate. Sex can be rough sometimes. Sex can be painful sometimes. The level of intimacy only exacerbates the possibility of misunderstandings, feelings of violation, and possible misperceptions of the intent of the other. Add to this that on college campuses, and most everywhere, a lot of sex takes place when both parties are under the influence of alcohol, and sometimes drugs, and the possibility that these misunderstandings will occur increases.

The article refers to a rape case at Harvard:
What can I tell you about being raped? Very little. I remember drinking with some girlfriends and then heading to a party in the house that some seniors were throwing. I’m told that I walked in and within 5 minutes was making out with one of the guys who lived there, who I’d talked to some in the dining hall but never really hung out with. I may have initiated it. I don’t remember arriving at the party; I dimly remember waking up at some point in the early morning in this guy’s room. I remember him walking me back to my room. I couldn’t have made it alone; I still had too much alcohol in my system to even stand up straight. I made myself vulnerable and even now it’s hard to think that someone here who I have talked and laughed with could be cold-hearted enough to take advantage of that vulnerability. I’d rather, sometimes, take half the blame than believe that a profound evil can exist in mankind. But it’s easy for me to say, that, of the two of us, I’m the only one who still has nightmares, found myself panicking and detaching during sex for many months afterwards, and spent more time looking into the abyss than any one person should.

The inequalities of the consequences of the night, the actions taken unintentionally or not, have changed the course of only one of our lives, irrevocably and profoundly.

This is one of those gray areas. Some people argue that a woman under the influence is off-limits even if she is consenting. This is true in the case where the guy is stone cold sober, and the girl is on the verge of passing out or is actually passed out. What if the guy is drunk as well? What if the girl is walking and talking and only visibly tipsy? There is a spectrum.

Let's say that same woman decided in her drunken state to drive home. Who would society hold responsible for her actions if she was pulled over? Her. If a guy, rather than walking her home to have sex with her, asked her in her drunken state to give him a ride home. Who would we hold responsible? Her. I find it problematic that in one instance we find her responsible for one decision, but him responsible for her decision in another. If she drove to give him a ride home and injured herself or others, then we find the idea that she blamed him for her decision offensive.

Miss Self Important linked to another article in her response, which she characterized as: "a girl gets drunk, calls up a guy, comes over to his apartment, makes out with him, undresses, and then decides while she's giving him oral sex to stop consenting to all this."

To clarify why she decided to stop consenting, he forced her head down while she was performing oral sex and she choked. When he released her head and she told him he said, "Yeah, that’s right, choke on it."

I have been in the same situation as the guy. In the throws of drunken passion I accidentally caused my partner to choke. When she told me, rather than being an asshole, I said, "Oh shit. I'm really sorry." It wasn't intentional on my part, and I was legitimately sorry. What the guy said was absolutely disrespectful, I agree. But when you drunken text message a guy at 2am and show up to his room drunk and get naked and give him a blow job, do you really expect he is going to respect you?

Likewise, I have been on the receiving end of disrespect during sex. One partner dug her nails into me and it really hurt. When I told her, she said, "Good." It is a similar situation in my opinion, and I in no way felt that I had been sexually assaulted.

Some may characterize this as saying she deserved to be raped. I don't think that is true. What happened is that he was disrespectful of a girl who consented to have sex with him. If he had responded to her leaving by physically restraining her and forcing himself on her, then that is rape. Feeling shitty because a guy treated you like a piece of meat and not a person is not rape. It is a product of going over to a guy's room, who she admitted she knew was an asshole, and having sex with him.

The fundamental issue I have with all this is that for some reason the definition of rape and sexual assault is being expanded to include times when the issue is drunkenness, miscommunication, and disrespect. I have unintentionally made my partners feel disrespected during sex, and vice versa, this is an unfortunate consequence of an intimate and passionate activity. You will never be able to get rid of it. Moreover, this expansion of the definition of sexual assault impedes awareness of the cases of actual violent, forced rape and roofie enabled rape. Calling sex that people regret rape is the worst thing possible for the awareness of actual rape.

The number of instances where people regret sex is only going to increase as the number of sexual encounters grow. This is a natural and unavoidable consequences of sexual liberation and sexual equality. While I am not arguing that we should return to prudish, Victorian morality that repressed female sexuality, I find it hard to argue against the idea that having pornstars and sex toy demonstrations will not lead to more sexual encounters, and consequently more regretted sex. It is my opinion, based on anecdotal evidence, that men can engage in mercenary sport sex sans emotional attachment without much difficulty. Most men don't really care if they somehow feel violated during a consensual sex act with a female partner. Whereas, I have heard many stories from women where they have a terrible emotional toll from the same, or similar, situations.

You can call it sexist or stupid, but I believe that women involve far more emotion in the sex act than men do. Men can separate the emotion from the act. Sure, some women can separate the two, but that does not disprove the general rule. Therefore, increasing sexual promiscuity will inevitably have more of an effect on women, even if we removed all violent, forced rape and date rape drugs from the equation because the emotional involvement of women during sex will inevitably lead to feelings of violation that somebody who is only focused on the physical act will not have.

Update: Cheryl Miller took issue with my post.

Her response
My retort

Samuelson on Stagflation

He writes:

They treat every potential recession as a policy failure when it is often simply part of the business cycle. They thus contribute to a political climate that, focused on avoiding or minimizing any recession, may perversely aggravate inflation and lead to much harsher recessions later. They thus contribute to a political climate that, focused on avoiding or minimizing any recession, may perversely aggravate inflation and lead to much harsher recessions later.

If most of those excesses aren't given the time to self-correct, we may be trading modest pain today for much greater pain tomorrow. Trying to prevent a recession at all costs is a fool's errand that could ultimately backfire on us all.

Unfortunately, the Fed shows signs of overreacting to these pressures and repeating the great blunder of the 1970s. Underestimating inflation then, the Fed repeatedly shoved out too much money and credit in a vain effort to keep the economy near "full employment." Now, the Fed has again underestimated inflation. It expected the economic slowdown to suppress inflation spontaneously. But so far, the lower inflation hasn't materialized, in part because, outside of housing, there hasn't been much of an economic slowdown.

From my Jan 10th post:
Basically, we are delaying a probably mild recession in 2008 for a worse recession in 2009. At least that is my off the cuff analysis.

Sometimes I don't understand why people can't see what is as plain as the nose on their face. When the housing was the hot investment, I began telling people it is a bubble according to the shoe shine rule. The shoe shine rule is that when average people in the street are all talking about a particular type of investment it is time to sell. The name comes from the 1929 crash, when Rockefeller realized it was time to sell his stocks when the shoe shine boys started giving stock tips.

Now, everybody was talking about a recession. However, I have been to three malls about six times over the past month. Granted, these are all in the Metro DC area, and is probably not representative of the country as a whole. However, I am seeing tons of shopping bags. This makes me question the idea that a recession is occurring at the moment. We will have one eventually because the Fed fucked it all up on Jan 10th and subsequently to placate the whiners on Wall St. Again, look for the Fed to try to ride it out by not lowering rates, but then being forced to raise them in June-Sept. of this year to combat this inflation. I predict the inflation is going to get worse.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

End it now Hillary...

for the love of all that is good and holy.

Texas is lost. You ain't gonna win, and the longer you remain the worse it will be. Sure, there is a debate tonight, but it don't matter.

Link here.

Iraq Update

From the WaPo today:

Republicans will claim that after four years of disastrous mistakes, the Bush administration finally got it right with its troop "surge." Yet even despite the loss of nearly 1,000 American lives and the expenditure of $150 billion, the surge has failed in its stated purpose: providing the Iraqi government with the breathing space to pass the 18 legislative benchmarks the Bush administration called vital to political reconciliation. To date it has passed only four. Moreover, as part of the surge, the administration has further undermined Iraq's government by providing arms and money to Sunni insurgent groups even though they have not pledged loyalty to Baghdad.

Beyond the impracticalities of the surge, it is important to realistically measure the costs and consequences of a categorical U.S. withdrawal. The prevailing doomsday scenario suggests that an American departure would lead to genocide and mayhem. But is that true? Iraq today belongs to Iraqis; it is an ancient civilization with its own norms and tendencies. It is entirely possible that in the absence of a cumbersome and clumsy American occupation, Iraqis will make their own bargains and compacts, heading off the genocide that many seem to anticipate. Opponents of the war seem to have far more confidence in Iraqis' abilities to manage their affairs than do war advocates. Moreover, a U.S. withdrawal would finally compel the region to claim Iraq, forcing the Saudis, Iranians, Jordanians and others to decide whether a civil war is in their interests. Faced with that stark reality, they may seek to mediate rather than inflame Iraq's squabbles.

Personally, I think simply withdrawing is a big risk to take. Nevertheless, see a multilateral stabilization plan for Iraq here.


More proof that I was and am right from the AP:

WASHINGTON - In more bad economic news, consumer confidence and home prices posted sharp declines while higher costs for such basics as food and energy left wholesale inflation rising at the fastest pace in a quarter-century.

The new reports Tuesday raised the threat of a return of "stagflation," the economic curse of the 1970s in which economic growth stagnates at the same time that inflation continues racing ahead.

Been saying this since January.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Megan McArdle links to a post about how regression can be misleading.

Incidentally, generating these spurious models is effortless. I didn’t go through 100s of simulations to find one that looked especially misleading. I did just one simulation. Using this stepwise procedure practically guarantees that you will find a “statistically significant” yet spurious model.

Econometrics is, regardless of what anybody says, a dark and mysterious art. It is relatively simple in theory. You find the correlation between two variables. However, the mathematical computations are anything but simple, and these can lead to misleading results. Sometimes the authors are politically, ideologically or personally motivated to find a relationship between two variables. Othertimes, they don't completely understand the statistical methods. I think all of these often apply to medical studies.

This sort of thing is why we're barraged with studies showing that almost everything will kill you--no, wait! they'll make you live forever!

Monday, February 25, 2008

You can't take the dirigiste out of the Frenchman

François Fillon promet une "opération coup de poing" contre la flambée des prix

le premier ministre a indiqué que le ministère de l'économie lancera, mardi, une enquête afin de déterminer "où sont les abus"

Rough translation:
The prime minister indicated that the economic minister will launch, Tuesday, an investigation to determine "where the abuses are"

He is referring to the high food prices in France, which have become a political issue as the price of a baguette has skyrocketed. The funny thing is that he is convinced that there are abuses. I have no doubt they will find corporate malfeasance once they start looking. Better to blame the corporations than EU agricultural policy or world demand for wheat and grains.


I have been talking about inflation since January 10th.

Now, other people are starting to get clued in.

Despite a very clear set of data that show a sharp acceleration in inflationary pressures, there is a rampant denial that these pressures are worth worrying about.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has joined the ranks of those unconcerned about inflation.

This was one of the key ingredients of bad policy in the 1970s - denial that there was a problem. But it can't last forever. Eventually, inflation won't be ignored and that time seems to be getting closer and closer.

That closer and closer will be June-Sept. of this year. I don't have a PhD in economics, but to quote Greg Mankiw quoting Brian Hollar:
"...nearly everything you ultimately use in economics, you learn in Mankiw." [The intro textbook]

Sometimes quant-whiz econ PhD get lost in the trees of the data and forget that there is a forest out there. Strong winds of inflation are blowing through that forest. Look up from your green eyeshades every once and a while. You are sending us into stagflation.

Danger of Ideas

Ideas are powerful. Ideas matter. I will give you two bone-headed ideas that are powerful, matter, and in my opinion are making, or as in the first case made, the world worse.

First, communism. There are people who still say that communism in its true form has never appeared on this Earth, and if we could only get there we would live in a utopia. Two problems here. First of all, it has been tried a number of times in a bunch of different countries and the "true communism" will never happen because it must be implemented by human beings. These human beings include many self-interested ones who are not going to transform into the "communist man/woman" and you whole plan will end up right where all the rest have -- in the shit. Second, what I get out of Plato's Republic, which I haven't read lately but have been thinking about a lot, is that perfect justice in the material world requires the imposition of almost perfect injustice. The only way to endeavor justice is within your own soul. Thus, again you come back to the "communist man/woman" thing that just isn't going to happen in this world. Thank goodness communism has mostly died away, but you still hear talk like this from time to time among wackos. Especially if you really press them on their ideas. Let's not forget Hugo Chavez. You don't even have to press him on his ideas. He just offers all the idiocy up for full view.

Second, the EU. I have no problems with an economic/monetary union. Economic questions between countries are usually mutually beneficial if the other doesn't cheat on the deal. A monetary/economic union ameliorates most of the cheating. However, the idea that EU can have a common military/defense policy is idiotic. There are almost 30 nations, each with their own national interests and disparate military capabilities, and I guarantee you they will retain their national veto over military policy until the end of time. Moreover, political harmonization through an undemocratic institution, ie the EU, is bad for democracy, which in turn is bad for peace in the long-term. I am not talking about external war necessarily, but rather internal struggles turning violent as more and more rules from Brussels are imposed without democratic mandates. The whole idea that the EU must keep moving forward despite the rejection of the constitution is preposterous. And here is where the danger of ideas comes in. The idea that just one more treaty, or just one more vote, or just one more technocratic fix will resolve the fundamental issues of the EU is both misguided and dangerous.

End of rant for the day


For somebody in the School of Foreign Service, I cannot, for the life of me, spell diplomacy without thinking about it each and every time. I always spell it dipolmacy, but I know immediately that is wrong. Thank goodness for the little red underline that clues me in when I go back over my papers.

Kimmel and Ben

Look for the McLovin cameo.

Kinsley on The Times on McCain

He writes:
in this very article I may be creating the possibility that some people might worry that other people might think that I have created the appearance of suggesting that the New York Times has created the possibility that some people might worry that other people might think that McCain has created the appearance that some people might worry that other people might think that there could be an appearance that McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist.

Some more support for Deneen

From Greg Mankiw's Blog, a link to a book party:

The Dismal Science
How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community

by Stephen A Marglin

Marglin dissects the ways in which the foundational assumptions of economics justify a world in which individuals are isolated from one another and social connections are impoverished as people define themselves in terms of how much they can afford to consume. Over the last four centuries, this economic ideology has become the dominant ideology in much of the world. Marglin presents an account of how this happened and an argument for righting the imbalance in our lives that this ideology has fostered.

Environmentalism = totalizing ideology?

The IYW argues it is not here.

I think environmentalism, like any ideology, is susceptible to purists who abhor any contradiction in their logic. This leads to insane ideas, but it is only a problem for a select few. This select few is usually rejected by the majority of the population in an election anyway.

Libertarianism is, in my opinion, held as an ideology by far more purists and therefore home to far more insane ideas about how the world should be. In fact, I would argue that libertarians actually construct dangerous alternative realities that they convinced themselves are 1) just around the corner and 2) are a panacea for the world's ills.

Socialists and liberals have similar issues to each other, but they really need to overcome one belief, which is that government can be effective and efficient. It can be sometimes, but often it is wasteful, bloated and incompetent. Once they realize this they will be okay. Until then they will keep messing things up.

Conservatives offer crazy theories too, Deneen is case in point, but their suspicion of humanity's ability to overcome its inherent flaws usually keep them in check.

Why Single Payer Universal Health Insurance is a bad idea

The Nader candidacy is bringing single payer health insurance into the debate, for at least the 30 seconds of press that he is getting. I have deep reservations about this solution to our health care problem. There are two related, but separate issues to this debate. First, the moral argument that everybody has a right to health care. Second, Medicare and other universal single payer systems are more efficient from an economic perspective.

The moral argument is usually summed up as a recent article in The Hoya stated it. "A person’s quality of health should not be determined by factors like income and heritage; like food and water, all of us have the right to be healthy."

This is one of those positive rights arguments that I find so troubling. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, etc do not require expenditures and action by a government. Therefore, they do not necessitate the existence of a government to be fulfilled. Education is similar in this regard. The difficulty with education and health care rights is that somebody has to pay for it. This somebody, if it is a right, is the government. So, taxpayers and citizens pay for the service to other individuals.

I don't have a problem with this regarding education and health care because I think both benefit society far more than the impact of higher taxation. This is strictly a utilitarian argument. However, the difficulty arises from the actual provision of the services. The benefits that accrue from the provision of health care are wasted in the administration of the care. We have similar problems with education.

If the government is going to be the single payer for services, then it will result in an inefficient bureaucracy. Take education for example. Public K-12 education in this country is pretty much a complete mess. The higher education sector, with both private and public institutions competing, is the best in the world. The problem with higher education is mostly related to cost, but it is very effective. K-12 education is still not achieving results even with huge spending. Districts like DC spend more per child than almost any other large city in the nation, yet DC's results are criminal low.

Right now we have a health care system roughly equivalent to the higher education system. It provides world-class health care, akin to Harvard education, to the wealthy and well-insured. It provides good quality health care, a good state school, to the middle-class. And the poor are stuck with little to no health care, ie community college.

When somebody is arguing to go to single payer health care it is akin to arguing that we should scrap the higher education model because it costs too much and is unfair, and we should use the K-12 model of education because it will be cheaper and fair. Yet, I think it will be neither.

There are some arguments in favor of it being more efficient. First, more preventative care will be available. This will nip problems in the bud before they become more serious, and consequently more costly. Second, Medicare has lower administrative costs because they don't advertise, etc like private insurers.

I agree that the first one is probably accurate. Universal coverage would probably result in more preventative care, which is more efficient. But I don't think we need to adopt a single payer system to address this problem. The second point I think is wrong. Medicare and other single payer systems appear to have lower administrative costs. Waste and fraud cost money. Private insurers are more motivated, specifically by the evil profit motive, to combat waste and fraud. Medicare and single payer programs do not have this motivation. If their payouts go up, it is easier call for more revenue than to actually combat the fraud and waste. This cost outweighs any additional cost that private insurers face.

Lastly, a single payer monopoly has complete market power. They can dictate prices to the medical industry. Many people say: Good, that will lower costs. Yet, I fear this will lower costs in the short-term with negative, yet invisible effects in the long-term. If we dictate prices to drug companies, for example, it will necessarily impact their profits. These profits are the motivation to create new drugs. The larger these profits are, the bigger the motivation. Sure, it isn't altruism, but it is more effective. Because we are the only non-single payer system in the developed world, and also the largest market for health care, the United States provides the incentive for drug companies and the medical community to innovate. Companies take the risk to research new drugs and techniques because they know that they will be able to reap a profit in the US market. From this perspective, Europe and Canada are free-riding. They get to set prices while they know new drugs and techniques will be developed for the US market. It doesn't matter whether the companies developing these drugs are in the US or not, they know they will be able to sell them in the US. If we remove this motive we lose the benefits of drugs that would be invented because of this profit motive, but are not invented either ever or as soon as they would have been because the US removed the large profit motive.

Our big issue is not that our health care system is good. It is, just like our higher education system. Our issue is that too many people can't afford to get health care. We need to find ways to incentivize preventative care and get the burden of providing the profit motive spread across all the OECD countries, not just the United States.

Ms Pac-Man Feminist Icon

Via Yglesias via Jessica Valenti

Geraldine Ferraro the mental contortionist

She writes:
Besides, the delegate totals from primaries and caucuses do not necessarily reflect the will of rank-and-file Democrats. Most Democrats have not been heard from at the polls. We have all been impressed by the turnout for this year’s primaries — clearly both candidates have excited and engaged the party’s membership — but, even so, turnout for primaries and caucuses is notoriously low. It would be shocking if 30 percent of registered Democrats have participated.

If that is the case, we could end up with a nominee who has been actively supported by, at most, 15 percent of registered Democrats. That’s hardly a grassroots mandate.

Okay, so the superdelegates are supposed to figure out, and take into account, the wishes of people who didn't care enough to get out and vote in the most open and contested democratic primary in recent memory. Right...

The Clinton campaign, and you are not going to convince me that they are not behind this, is really grasping at straws. Clinton's campaign is done; and as heartbreaking as it is to admit that her life's goal is being lost forever, she has to accept it and just give up.

Question for the day

Who dunnit? Robert Wagner or Christopher Walken?

Campaign Finance

NYTimes Editorial:
A mind-boggling amount of money has already been spent on this year’s presidential election, and we haven’t even gotten to the conventions. The raising and doling out of lavish sums has been dispiriting to watch, a muddle of incompetence, avarice and special pleading, only vaguely restrained by the nation’s campaign finance laws. We sincerely hope that things improve before the general election onslaught.

Most worrisome may be the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, which heaped $5 million on consultants last month. The campaign splurged on luxury hotel rooms and spent nearly $100,000 for pre-Iowa-caucus party platters.

Finally, there’s Senator Barack Obama’s grand gesture of proposing that the Democratic and Republican nominees enter into a pact after the conventions to accept public financing, along with its $85 million spending limit. Mr. Obama made the proposal last year, before he became a private fund-raising prodigy.

I agree that Clinton wasted vast amounts of money, and raised it from big donors. This shows her inability to run a campaign, not a flaw in the financing system. Obama's internet fund raising, which will probably be the fund raising model for the future now that he and Howard Dean have shown the power of it, is far more democratic. When the millions of citizens give $100 or $25 that is about free speech and the democratic process. Obama shouldn't have made the pledge a year ago to accept public money. I don't understand the call for accepting public money, as if that would remove the corruption from politics. If one million people give $100 to your campaign, then that is the democratic process and you have $100 million in private money. I am not saying that our campaign finance laws are perfect, or even good, but the internet has changed the game. And I am not in favor of using the people's money to finance political speech they find abhorrent.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

An oddly similar post

This post here was hours before mine, so I can't accuse them of plagiarism. And I didn't see it until today:
$1.2 billion down the drain. (Or as much as $2.5 billion, depending on who you ask.) Thank God the pilots are okay.

My post:
$1.2 billion down the drain

Stealth Bomber crashed.

Thank God the pilots ejected safely.

Machiavellian Website


I visited Nader's website and these are listed under his issues:
Adopt single payer national health insurance (Dumb idea. I will post a lengthy response to this shortly.
Cut the huge, bloated, wasteful military budget (What precisely is he going to cut? Don't we need to fight al-Qaeda?)
No to nuclear power, solar energy first (Wanna talk about irrational hope, this is it.)
Aggressive crackdown on corporate crime and corporate welfare (Depends on how you define corporate crime, and I sure Nader's definition is problematic.)
Open up the Presidential debates (Sounds great, but will result in a mess)
Adopt a carbon pollution tax (Okay by me, but be honest about the costs)
Reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East (Define reverse. Does that mean giving military support to Hamas and Hizbullah?)
Impeach Bush/Cheney (Bad idea. More about vengeance than justice)
Repeal the Taft-Hartley anti-union law (Bad idea)
Adopt a Wall Street securities speculation tax (Bad idea. How do you define speculation?)
Put an end to ballot access obstructionism (What is ballot access obstructionism?)
Work to end corporate personhood (Worse idea of all. It is a fundamental aspect of our economy)

Nader is insane.

A new candidate

The most self-righteous, self-important, self-involved, self-delusional person in America is running for president.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I thought she could play hardball...

This just ain't gonna cut it. She sounds whiny. I am waiting for the nasty negative ads to begin. You know Billary are getting them together right now. Maybe they push on the drug use stuff again. I don't think it will work because Obama has been honest about it, but if I were the Clintons I would give it another shot for two reasons. First, they care more about themselves than the party. Second, I think Hillary is gobsmacked that the motivation of her career, overlooking infidelity, and her life in general is slipping away forever.

$1.2 billion down the drain

Stealth Bomber crashed.

Thank God the pilots ejected safely.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Two points now in the PoMoCon's genius column

He writes:
Indeed the main point about immigration is that it is, unlike other questions that bear on rights claims, is under the sole province of the political determination of domestic citizens and their representatives.

...once again, the issue is not the color of your skin but the content of your citizenship status. The principle on which Will (and ilk) relies is that a polity -- whatever that now would mean -- with large numbers of noncitizens in it is not by definition a nightmarish situation. My principle is that it is.

Will argues that because California has a big, productive economy, it is
therefore a 'nice' and 'desirable' place to live. What a woeful demonstration of everything wrong and misleading about the economic frame of mind! Planet Earth has a big, productive economy -- it must be a really great place to live. Well yes, but don't you get the feeling you have to look through the wrong end of the telescope to stop, rather than start, with that proposition? Daniel's point about the virtue of small polities is borne out in sextuplets here. California is too big and too diverse to pass judgment upon given statewide economic data, period.

But a polity teeming with noncitizens and defaulted citizens is organized such that the management of all administrative affairs tends to come down from on bureaucratic high, sealing fates everywhere in one of the more vicious circles ever to contribute to the fatalistic attitude about the destruction of American citizenship that libertarians only wish were transformed into positive excitement.

Too much of the current illegal immigration debate focuses on either the economic consequences or whether people against illegal immigration are racist or just for law and order. There are political consequences due to the presence of large numbers of non-citizens, and PoMoCon hits the nail on the head.

More proof ethanol is not the answer

link here

Kinsley on Iraq

He writes:

The test is simple and built into the concept of a surge: Has it allowed us to reduce troop levels to below where they were when it started? And the answer is no.

That's a good point.

Sweet, sweet irony

FEC Warns McCain on Campaign Spending

Movie Directors

I have a theory that every movie director has a theme that runs through every one of their projects, no matter how eclectic they appear. I don't think I am alone in this theory.

Kubrick makes cautionary tales about people doing things they shouldn't do. Whether it is technological progress, societal decay, or sneaking into an orgy.

Spielberg makes movies that show no matter how bad shit gets humanity always triumphs. The survivors at the end of Schindler's List are the best example. AI, a movie which Kubrick started, but Spielberg finished offers a stark contrast between the two directors. Kubrick would have ended the movie with Haley Joel Osmet staring at the blue angel for eternity. Spielberg tacked on a strange ending with aliens who restore some humanity to the end. I believe that Spielberg's continuing theme is actually a response to the idea that everybody is out to get the Jews, an idea not without reason, but the cynicism and paranoia that can result is detrimental. He offers the idea that humanity triumphs as an antidote to this cynicism.

I could go on with other directors, but the main point of my post is that one directing duo evades by attempt to find a common theme -- The Cohen Brothers.

A great piece in the New Yorker on them here.

There is something about isolation and loneliness in each of their films, but it is not quite clear what the theme is. Fargo, Blood Simple, and No Country for Old Men all take place in desolate locations with wide shots of people all alone. However, the Big Lebowski is about a guy in a city. Yet, he just wants not to be bothered. Raising Arizona is about wanting a child, again related to a sense of loneliness. Nevertheless, I cannot find a single POV throughout every movie. They investigate loneliness and isolation from almost every perspective without a clear judgement about the issue. Maybe that is their point, they cannot reconcile it themselves.

Krugman agrees with my stagflation fears

He writes:
Thursday’s economic headlines, full of dire warnings about the return of 1970s-style stagflation

I continue with my prediction that the Fed made a mistake in slashing rates, and will have to raise them again to combat inflation in Jun-Sept of this year.

Year over year growth is going up again, as I said. I expect this trend to continue.

Gerard Baker says Obama is Eurotrash

Politically that is. He writes:
There is a caste of left-wing Americans who wish essentially and in all honesty that their country was much more like France. They wish it had much higher levels of taxation and government intervention, that it had much higher levels of welfare, that it did not have such a “militaristic” approach to foreign policy. Above all, that its national goals were dictated, not by the dreadful halfwits who inhabit godforsaken places like Kansas and Mississippi, but by the counsels of the United Nations.

Though Mr Obama has done a good job, as all recent serious Democrats have done, of emphasising his belief in American virtues, his record and his programme suggest he is firmly in line with this wing of his party.

I think Obama's lack of a full mandate for health care, unlike Clinton, actually undermines this argument. If he were French, he would demand a state run, single payer system.

Krauthammer on Iraq

He writes:
Now, however, there is simply no denying the remarkable improvements in Iraq since the surge began a year ago.

Unless you're a Democrat. As Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) put it, "Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq." Their Senate leader, Harry Reid, declares the war already lost. Their presidential candidates (eight of them at the time) unanimously oppose the surge. Then the evidence begins trickling in.

I am not as completely sanguine as Krauthammer, but the progress is undeniable.

Iraq Update

Good news. al-Sadr is extending the truce. I wonder if this is a sign of weakness, generosity, or cunning.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The lady doth protest too much

University Diaries is following a plagiarism case at Columbia University's Teachers College. (I like University Diaries a lot, and if you have never read it you should.)

My personal opinion is that this is not surprising. Education schools are full of idiot professors teaching worthless methods for teaching. I just don't think teaching can be taught. It has to be learned from experience. Granted, I never wanted to be a teacher.

Take a look at the BS titles for the professor in question's articles here.

My personal favorite: Perceptions of Racial Microaggressions among Black Supervisees in Cross-Racial Dyads.

That is just inane. What the fuck is a microagrression? Whatever it is I am sure there is a simpler word. Dyad means pair less time I checked. Why not say pairs?

VA deporting immigrant sex offenders

I have no problem with this.

However, this sentence made me laugh:
"I trust all Virginians agree that there is no place in Virginia for criminal alien sex offenders," McDonnell said.

Criminal alien sex? It made me think of somebody raping ET. I know what he is saying, but I found it funny nonetheless.

More on Anonymous

I am posting another video below. First, some thoughts: Anonymous' strategy is both a strength and a weakness. Anybody can be Anonymous. This means that anybody can post a video under the mantle of anonymous. If I were Scientology, I would start doing that. Making them look like nut jobs, which I don't think Anonymous is, but they should be concerned about Scientology because they are nut jobs.

Good Post by Deneen

Link here.

I am not sure I agree with the idea that science is the root cause, but I agree with a majority of the post. I object to Prof. Lance's pieces in The Hoya on a visceral level, and I have trouble responding coherently. Deneen does a good job of it even if he doesn't refute Lance's arguments point by point.

China, India, and Captial Intensity

A good article in Bloomberg today reports:

The draw of cheap Chinese and Indian labor is so strong, and the media hype surrounding it so relentless, that some starry-eyed, developed-country executives are losing sight of the bottom line.

A factory worker cost $37 an hour in Germany last year and only $1.40 in China (and $1 in India).

Therefore, it should be cheaper to make a car part in China (or India) than in Germany, even after accounting for the higher productivity of the German worker.

Still, it's reasonable to inquire what, if anything, cheap and bountiful Asian labor has done for these companies.

``Cost savings have been disappointing,'' Nikolaus Lang, a partner at the consulting firm's Munich office, said last month in ``Winning the Localization Game,'' a study he has co-written with two colleagues. ``Nearly two-thirds of the companies we analyzed reported that their unit costs in China or India were equal to or higher than the unit costs in their home countries.''

Sounds improbable? Lang and his colleagues provide a breakdown of what's causing the benefits of inexpensive labor to dissipate. The main culprit, according to their analysis, is that factories in China and India are smaller than in developed countries, thus not allowing economies of scale. Besides, it also costs companies more to ensure product quality in Asia. The in-house rejection rates are higher than they are in the West.

From this it may seem that the path to improved quality must pass through greater automation; fewer workers will, after all, make fewer mistakes.

Basically, what he is getting at here is that automobile production is a capital intensive process. Using robots, capital, is more cost effective than an army of workers, labor.

I'll give you a more intuitive analogy. Say you are digging a hole for a swimming pool. Let's say you get 10,000 people to dig it with spoons. They may be able to dig it in a day. Now, let's say you can dig the same pool with 100 people using shovels, and if one person uses a backhoe they can also do it in a day. Here is the crucial point: The pool company can afford to pay the one person digging using the backhoe more than each of the 10,000 people digging with spoons.

So, what we have in the developed world is less people doing more work with machines. Each time technology improves there is a dislocation in labor. For example, 9,900 people are laid off from one company when they switch to shovels, and 99 more are laid off when they buy a backhoe. However, that one person makes more money. Moreover, if the company invests in more backhoes, which they inevitably will, then you have more and more people making more and more money. It is a painful, and sometimes slow process, but cheap labor is not all it is cracked up to be.

The jobs that are being outsourced are the labor intensive ones, not the capital intensive ones. This does not just apply to physical capital though. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, or IT professionals have human capital, which is equivalent to a bulldoser when it comes to their job.

There are cases where an army of cheap labor is better and cheaper than mechanized production or skilled labor, and those will move to India and China. The issue for Americans is not that they should fear this, as they probably don't want to do the labor intensive jobs anyway, but rather we need to deal with the dislocation that comes from increased use of capital, both human and physical. We need to train people to use and fix backhoes, not protect the jobs of people using spoons to dig holes.

One point in the genius column for the PoMoCon

PostModern Conservative writes:
I would very sternly caution certain paleos that the economic collapse of Western civilization will not lead to increased parental responsibility and the restoration of traditional lines of social authority. It will result in gasoline riots, rampant idleness, a colossal explosion in drug use, more murders, and an uptick in religious heresy. Rod is right that the health benefits of the modern scientific order may in the end outweigh the health defects of modern political order -- you can run away from the latter without swearing off the former -- but the real issue is that even if that weren't true economic collapse would still not solve anything, or even provide the relief of lancing the boil.

Thank goodness I am not the only one who thinks that the whole collapse of civilization will be our salvation thing is completely nuts.

More Anonymous Video

This one is relatively thorough.

Why The Times ran the McCain piece now

This is my conspiracy theory for the week. The NYTimes ran the McCain-Lobbyist piece, not to impact the general election, but to bring the McCain-Clinton general election poll numbers down. This would remove one of the main reasons for nominating Obama, ie that he beats McCain head-to-head and Clinton loses according to the polls. They hope this will move voters in the remaining primary states and superdelegates in the Clinton camp.

The NYTimes endorsed Clinton, and wants her to win. They don't really have anything against Obama, but he is an unknown. NYTimes people know and love Clinton. Too bad NYTimes reporters, ie Clinton lovers, cannot understand that 50% of this country will not ever, no way, no how, vote for Hillary Clinton.

However, I don't think this story gets much traction with many people. Sure, the news media will try to stretch it out as much as they can, but it just doesn't seem like much to me. I could be completely wrong though.
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