# blueollie

## People love democracy until they lose an election

Enjoy the butthurt:

If President Obama really were a tyrant, these idiots would be in jail or dead.

But…to be fair, many called President Bush a tyrant. I didn’t; I was upset at the country for electing him (the second time) but I acknowledged that the country did indeed elect him.

October 28, 2013

## Krugman: the influence of the VSP on the decline?

Paul Krugman talks about Larry Summers:

Whatever happens with the Fed succession — and boy, did Obama’s inner circle make a gratuitous mess of this one — it’s been one heck of a revealing episode, and not just because of the sexism on display, which started out with thinly-veiled talk of “gravitas” and eventually went into full-blown masculinity panic. [...]

Anyway, it’s also clear that Summers made some pretty big mistakes in his campaign. Neil Irwin points to his silence on monetary policy, which was supposed to be cagey but ended up looking slippery; John Cassidy points to his failure to offer any kind of mea culpa for past errors, which arguably was about preserving gravitas but ends up making him seem unreformed.

But why did Summers make these errors? In part because he is a whip-smart academic, the terror of the seminar room, who likes to play political operator — and as a political operator, he’s a great academic. But there is, I’d argue, a larger issue: Summers did not recognize the extent to which the political world has changed. He’s been carefully cultivating an image as a Very Serious Person, in a world where VSPness has gone from a source of cachet to being a liability on both right and left.

Think about it. Carefully cultivating a reputation for Seriousness does you no good on the right in a world where the Republican Party is more or less officially committed to crank economic doctrines, and where the GOP’s universally acknowledged intellectual leader is an obvious flimflam man.

Meanwhile, many if not all Democrats are well aware that the VSPs have been wrong about everything for the past decade or more, from the risks of financial deregulation to the fear of nonexistent bond vigilantes. Coming across as the return of Robert Rubin may have seemed savvy back in, say, 2008; it’s worse than useless now.

As far as the public goes: I’ll make a wild conjecture. Remember the 2012 election? The VSP said that the election was “razor tight”; you heard this from the talking heads at NPR all the way to Fox News.

Those who read the actual polls knew that this was not a close election. It was the nerds vs. the “very serious” and the neards won in spectacular fashion. Bottom line: the polyester pants set have been wrong…on just about everything.

July 31, 2013

## 2012 Elections by Congressional District

The data is here

For example, you can see that President Obama won 11 Texas Congressional Districts in 2012. I haven’t ground through the numbers to see how a CD decided election would have gone (Romney, but I don’t know the final score). One note: there were fewer “voted for a Congressional D but voted for President Obama” districts. However my district went for a Democrat (Bustos) by 6-7 points but went for President O by 17.

Note: if you are wondering how Democrats keep getting more votes but Republicans keep getting more House seats: part of that is gerrymandering and part of it is that Democrats tend to run up huge margins in their districts (mostly urban) whereas the Republicans win more districts but by somewhat closer margins. So the Democrats have more people behind them, but we tend to live clumped together.

April 10, 2013

## Wyoming State Rep. Hans Hunt has a point….

Via the Huffington Post: a new Wyoming state resident wrote to a junior state lawmaker about a House Bill which would allow for weapons to be carried on schools and college campuses; she mentioned that this bill, should it become law, might make her reconsider staying in the state. The state representative responded:

Mincing no words, Hunt responded thus:

I’ll be blunt. If you don’t like the political atmosphere of Wyoming, then by all means, leave. We, who have been here a very long time (I am proudly 4th generation) are quite proud of our independent heritage. I don’t expect a “mass exodus” from our state just because we’re standing up for our rights.

My guess: while the state paper critiqued the response, I am ok with it. But I’ll add to the bluntness: The United States had an election and the incumbent President won by a large margin (4.9 million votes). If YOU can’t accept that, leave the United States. Note: I am NOT saying “if you don’t like that”; I didn’t like it when President Bush was reelected. But I glumly accepted the verdict.

February 26, 2013

## Humor, Snark and Ridicule…

Ok, the above is funny.

Politics and statistical literacy

A facebook friend posted this.

Now someone on her comment thread doubted these statistics because he knew that just walking around was safer than being in a war zone. That is, of course, true. But that doesn’t mean that the above statistics are false. What it means: wars tend to be brief and the armed forces involved are far smaller in number than the population of the United States.

Interestingly someone tried to argue by just posting a link, and I admit (and admitted it there) I misread the number of countries that were being compared (with respect to homicide rates). But the person attempting to argue with me didn’t get that this was a comparison of European countries; after all this study (which was a competent one) talked about the “high homicide rate” of the Netherlands and Sweden. Yes, their homicide rate is about 1.1 out of 100,000 whereas ours is 4.8 out of 100,000. But this person didn’t know that and won’t accept it.

The point: statistical and numerical illiteracy hamstrings a person when it comes to being able to make an intelligent contribution to a discussion on the major issues.

Politics

I am happy to let Ted Nugent be the face of the Republican party:

Bill Maher: made a joke that he wanted to see Donald Trump’s birth certificate to ensure that he wasn’t fathered by an orangutan and joked that he’d pay 5 million dollars to charity if one were produced. Mr. Trump produced a birth certificate and is now attempting to sue Mr. Maher for a breach of contract. Just watch the response:

Facepalm

Sorry, my sympathy for “senior citizens” is very limited here. Why? Here is why.

You old people voted for the Republicans. You richly deserve what you get.

Facepalm
I generally like Daily Kos. It is one of the few places you can make a physics joke and someone will get it. There are some smart people there. But if someone from a “community” feels that people from that community has been insulted, a “this prejudice X is the last remaining socially acceptable form of bigotry allowed in America…people from community X are your {insert obligatory list of family, friends and professions here}”, etc. etc. You could write one of these diaries with a computer program.

I’d say that this opens our community to ridicule from the red staters, but fortunately the Republicans also have their share of obese people, though I wonder if they are as prone to blaming external forces for their situations as liberals are. Oh wait, of course they are; look at how they whine and complain when they lose an election; much of their strategy is to make the poor social conservatives feel like they are being victimized by “the libs”.

February 10, 2013

## Economics of college and the nation…

Workout notes: Weights plus an easy 3.1 mile (5K) walk outside; it was 6 F (-14 C), sunny and breezy.

Weights: a bit different today:
rotator cuff
pull ups: 10 sets of 5, but I did two groups of (5-5-5) with no rest in between; I changed hand position. I then did two groups of (5-5); same deal. I think that I got more “quality” pull ups doing it that way.
bench: 10 x 135, 8 x 170, 4 x 170.
incline: 8 x 135, 7 x 135
pull downs/curls: 3 sets of 10 x 160 pull down; 2 machine sets, 1 set with 25 pound dumbbells (10 reps)
seated military: two sets of 15 x 45 dumbbells, 1 set of 10 x 70 (each arm) machine
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65 (dumbbell, each arm)
bench (dumbbell): 2 sets of 10 x 65

I really mixed up the pull downs/curs/seated military/rows and dumbbell bench.

College: financial aid I just went through filling out the non-custodial parent forms; interestingly enough they were very nosey about my wife’s earnings, savings, etc. (my daughter is from my first marriage). I know that this doesn’t count with federal stuff, but it does count with some private universities, though my wife’s income is off limits to them (and should be). However, interestingly enough, if you are the custodial parent and you marry, they WILL count not only your income but also your spouses!

When it comes to determining financial aid, the Federal government does not consider the income and assets of the non-custodial parent. One the other hand, most private colleges do consider the non-custodial parent’s income and assets. So, the distribution of aid from the college itself will probably be determined using both parent’s income, but Federal and State aid (which would include subsidized Stafford loans)will be based only on the custodial parent’s family income.

If your husband is the custodial parent, you should be aware that your income is considered to be available to meet college needs. This is true even if you were married the week before the FAFSA form was filed and you have four children of your own to support. Most people are surprised to hear this, but it is true. If you haven’t planned appropriately, you could find yourself with a very high expected family contribution (EFC) because of the inclusion of your income. To determine what your EFC might be, check out this calculator.

That doesn’t mean that the non-custodial parent is “off the hook” when it comes to paying for college. Many divorce decrees specify that the non-custodial parent must pay a certain amount of percentage of college costs. Massachusetts is one of the states where payment of college expenese can be ordered by a judge.

Interesting. Now there are other ways SOME people pay for college:

Sugar Daddies have become real popular these days.

Not the the caramel candy on a stick that you may have eaten as a kid.

But, an older gentleman with a wallet and bank account full of dough.

Tallahassee Resident David Riley says, “You gotta do what you gotta do these days. It’s a dog eat dog world. But, a sugar daddy?”

SeekingArrangement.com defines the modern sugar daddy as “a successful and generous man who is willing to pamper and offer financial help or gifts to a young person in return for friendship and companionship.”

The company says as tuition hikes continue, more college students are turning to Sugar Daddies to get by.

FSU student Kaylee Blanchard says, “There’s many ways that you can do it. You can apply for loans; you can apply for scholarships; get a job. I know that there’s not many jobs out there, but, there’s definitely ways you can make money besides going on this website.”

FSU is number 14 on the top 20 list of the Fastest Growing Sugar Baby Schools in 2012.

[...]

Critics question the legality of what the website calls a “mutually beneficial relationship.” They say having a Sugar Daddy is no different from selling yourself.

One “Sugar Baby” from Florida International University says in return for her tuition payments, cars, trips, and jewelry, she gives, “Sex.”

I don’t recommend this. :-) Besides, if I were rich enough to be a “sugar daddy”, the last thing in the world I’d want it to hook up with some entitled snowflake. Now if you are talking about funding the research of some hot “young” professor….well… ;-)

But now that you are in college, how do you do well? One way might be to become part of an intellectual circle of friends:

(Phys.org)—Students who work together and interact online are more likely to be successful in their college classes, according to a study published Jan. 30 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports and co-authored by Manuel Cebrian, a computer scientist at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego. Cebrian and colleagues analyzed 80,000 interactions between 290 students in a collaborative learning environment for college courses.

The major finding was that a higher number of online interactions was usually an indicator of a higher score in the class. High achievers also were more likely to form strong connections with other students and to exchange information in more complex ways. High achievers tended to form cliques, shutting out low-performing students from their interactions. Students who found themselves shut out were not only more likely to have lower grades; they were also more likely to drop out of the class entirely.

Note: there was an interaction graph made of students and those that were “disconnected” did worse; those that were highly interactive did better.

Economy
Here is a decent summary of the argument between the economists and the Very Serious People (“respected” pundits).

Neil Irwin has a very good piece on economists versus pundits on the deficit, which is however marred by a half-hearted attempt to squeeze the issue into a standard views-differ-on-shape-of-planet framework — neither side understands the other’s concerns, they’re talking past each other, etc..

Actually, I understand perfectly well where the deficit scolds are coming from; I just don’t think it makes any sense, for reasons I’ve explained at length, and which Irwin mostly lays out as well. (Missing from his analysis is the sheer difficulty of telling a story about how we get in trouble even if investors get worried about our debt).

There’s no comparable level of understanding on the other side; indeed, Joe Scarborough and, as far as I can tell, Bowles/Simpson/Peterson etc. are under the delusion that my views are way out of the economics mainstream, …

I’ll put it less politely: the punditry doesn’t know what it is talking about, period. Evidence: who was saying that the 2012 election was “razor tight” and who was saying that it wasn’t close?

nd sportswriters are marveling at the cluelessness of the political press: “Re: Nate Silver, most amusing thing about this election is watching political pundits make sports fans look like PhD mathematicians,” tweeted ESPN basketball writer John Hollinger.

I suppose that being a pundit is mostly about never learning from your mistakes. :-)

February 1, 2013

## Don’t need no book-learning….

Weapons
It looks as if the assault weapons ban is going nowhere in the Senate; not even in an up-or-down vote. Reason: many of the Democratic Senators come from red states (West Virginia, Arkansas, North Dakota, Alaska, Montana).

I wish more people would remember this: there is a LOT of variation within the Democratic party and a bill that makes it with unanimous Democratic support isn’t going to be an especially liberal one.

As far as the issue: I understand banning weapons based on potential (e. g., we ban private possession of nuclear weapons, though they haven’t killed anyone since 1945). But in the United States, most of the actual harm is caused by handguns, even though the semi-automatic weapons are out there. I am conflicted by data, “what would be the most effective policy versus what is merely “feel-good”, etc.”.

Note: I don’t like guns and do not own any and have no intention of ever owning any, though as a bit of trivia: at one time in my life I was qualified to wear the “Marksman” ribbon based on pistol shooting (barely; it was the lowest category of ribbons for shooting: “Marksman”, “Sharpshooter”, “Expert”).

So while I have an “oh, yuck” feeling about guns, I really don’t know what the best feasible policies would be.

Science/Nature
I love the “can you see the animal in this photo” games. Jerry Coyne has 8 photographs of well-camouflaged animals; many (including some BIG ones) are hard to spot at a glance! You will find them; these aren’t some “10 pixel sized” needles in a hay stack photos. Most really aren’t (intentionally) hiding.

This is natural selection in action: easy to spot animals often become someone else’s dinner…or have trouble finding dinner.

Religion Jerry Coyne also comments on a couple of Non Sequitur cartoons. The idea: a fisherman does out without checking the tide charts and his boat gets stuck in mud, so he gets out walks to shore, and appears to be “walking on water”. He therefore,…well…you know the drill:

The second one is even funnier: he doesn’t need no egg-head scientist telling him about, well, science! :-)

Hey, scientists are not the only ones troubled by such nonsense. Paul Krugman went on Morning Joe; evidently Mr. Scarborough didn’t understand what he was saying (a real shock, I know).

1. Keynesian economics is NOT at all controversial, even if some economists don’t go along with it. If that “doesn’t make sense”, remember that there are many competing schools in established sciences such as biology (weight given to different mechanisms for evolution, for example) or physics (say, interpretations of quantum mechanics). Keynesian economics is an established school of economics; it is only considered fringe to the “Very Serious People”.

2. Paul Krugman has not said that the debt (and deficits) “doesn’t matter” or “should be ignored”; he says that it is a problem. He does say that, in these current conditions, unemployment is a far greater problem. You deal with the more serious problems first; cutting spending during a recession can stop economic growth.

Why is this so difficult of a concept to grasp? You do DIFFERENT THINGS in DIFFERENT SITUATIONS….you know; in football if it is 3′rd and less than a yard, you are more likely to run; if it is 3′rd and 10 you are more likely to pass (of course, that depends on the situation; late in the game versus early, lead versus being behind, etc.).

3. And no, the Swedish Nobel Prize isn’t awarded at the whim of Norwegian Royalty…

But hey, Mr. Scarborough really does represent the well intended but “sort-of” clueless out there.

Here is a sample of how well he understands things:

It is just that-there COMMON SENSE!!!!! :-)

How many times do these people have to get things spectacularly wrong before they realize that their own simple minded assessments really carry no merit whatsoever?

January 29, 2013

## 2016 Barack Obama’s America: in the mould of fundamentalist “doomsday/second coming” type films

Since Mr. D’Souza spends much of his time interviewing talking heads who either provide little data or misleading data…I’ll go ahead and give my summary opinion on his movie. Then I’ll follow with detailed comments, with references.

Do you remember movies aimed at Evangelical Christians; remember the doomsday/second coming time films such as The Late, Great Planet Earth? The formula: take a smattering of facts out of context, build a “hey, it could be this way, you know” framework that is designed to appeal to an anti-intellectual evangelical Christian audience (“see, just like the Bible says!…It fits! Oh, I NOW UNDERSTAND things so much better!”).

Well, that is the formula for Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2016: Obama’s America. It has very little fact in it; it is mostly a stream of baseless conjectures and mangled factoids which seek to, well, not so much to critique what President Obama has actually done (the way that Fahrenheit 9-11 did) nor to report what Obama aides said (the way that Game Change did for Sarah Palin). The idea is to “prove” that Obama is, well, unAmerican…..well, let me correct that: to reinforce the prejudices that the Fox News watchers already have of Obama. Note: right win delusions of Obama’s policies are taken as “facts” throughout; the rest is a collection of people giving their opinions followed by D’Souza proudly waving his prize overhead.

Ultimately, it reminds me a bit of this:

When you try to play chess with a pigeon, it gets on the board, knocks over the pieces, poops all over the board and then struts around with its chest out.

That is pretty much what D’Souza does here.

Details about the movie:

First 10 minutes: Mr. D’Souza spends time talking about himself; he describes why he found life in India (at that time) constraining and the opportunities he found in the United States; he also describes his own ascent into the Republican ranks.

He is setting up a contrast, I am sure.

Next, he talks about President Obama’s “strange” actions: returning a country’s property to them (routinely done; the bust of Churchill was scheduled for return prior to Obama taking office), helping rid the world of Gaddafi, not going to war (?), negotiating the rough waters of the Arab Spring, trying to get better relations with the Muslim world (oh noes, not that!) and not blindly siding with Israel on every issue at every time (something many Jews don’t do). This is the “straw man” part.

Now he says: “hey Obama wrote a book”, called Dreams From my Father. He did, and I read it. It is mostly about his journey to Harvard Law School; he does describe a visit to Kenya and he talks about the pain of growing up without his biological father. So, you see…the logical conclusion for Mr. D’Souza is, well….Obama got his world view from his dad…someone who was almost totally absent in his upbringing (save a visit and some correspondence). He didn’t grow up around him, and yet he is supposed to be his major influence? Seriously.

Oh, he talks to a psychologist and he hears: “oh he could have been a positive presence”. But nothing ties his father’s political ideas and world views with President Obama’s views.

Then D’Souza starts to “trace out” where Obama lived….to prove what I don’t know. He does talk about anti-colonialism that he felt while growing up in India and tried to make the connection with Obama growing up (partially) in Indonesia…as a US Citizen with a white American mother….ok…
He then claims that young Barack was sent from Indonesia to Hawaii by his mother to “escape (his stepfather’s) pro-western influence”. Huh??? Going to live with white Americans in America is “escaping a pro-western influence”? (Barack Obama was actually discussing his step-dad’s CORRUPTION and going along with it…not being “western”) He talks about his dad’s influence in that his dad was held up as an example of…wait for it…someone who was honest???? Oh noes, not that!

Then it mentions that young Barack was introduced to Frank Davis and spent time with him. How dangerous was Mr. Davis? He was put on a watch list by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI (like, say, M. L. King or any number of others?) (eyeroll)

He then quotes a snippet in which Barack talks about his undergraduate days at Occidental college; this wasn’t meant to be “look at how great I was” but rather a description of a growth phase (he also talks about smoking cigarettes and grinding them into the carpet, and a lot of stuff that wasn’t intended to paint him as being praiseworthy at that time).

But now Mr. D’Souza is going to try to “learn more about Obama Sr.”; it turs out that…..wait for it…young Barack had an idealized view of his dad? Wow..very unusual indeed.

(fortunately I am about half way through this dreary film…)

Now we have some Kenyan footage. D’Souza finds someone who lives there (and probably have far less access to daily US News) to say that Barack Obama’s views are similar to his father’s, and of course he talks to the obligatory ….ooooohhh….”leftist radical”. What this has to do with President Obama, I am unsure of.

He talks about President Obama’s tax policy and tells how his dad made a statement “theoretically….” (the government could tax 100 percent of income) and then goes on to say “is this what President Obama means when he talks about “fair share”?

Oh dear. Clinton tax rates for those making 250K and up is 100 percent? This is the classic “lying while not making a false statement” tactic.

PRESTO:
1. We are two thirds of the way through this dreadfully bad film and
2. We now “know”, from….uh…I am not sure what…listening to what other people said?…that President Obama is an anti-American communist!!!!

Now we get to the “how did then candidate Obama win election” and we get well, first the data-free, fact-free opinion of a talking head who purports to know what Obama voters thought…based on…..well, nothing.

There is the scene in which Hillary Clinton (as a candidate) knock’s Obama’s naiveness ….but it was a naiveness based on…..Obama believing that Republicans would work with him! :-)

Then there is the focus on “white people voting for Obama” when in fact, he lost the white vote both times and was voted in largely on the strength of racial minorities. (43 percent of the white vote in 2008, and MUCH less in the deep south (surprise!)).

Now we get the “Obama’s terrorist pals”; you’ve heard these before. And yes, Reverend Wright. His “God damn America” was really part of a sermon in which he reminded people that, in the Bible, God’s blessings were conditional and based on whether Israel lived up to God’s standards. When it didn’t, God allowed for Israel to be defeated and occupied (that is much of what Jeremiah is about).

I think that President Obama addressed this rather well; he mentioned that Rev. Wright didn’t see America’s ability to change from what it once was. He said so in public. Oh well. He describes Wright saying that he was “offered 150K to shut up” (D’Souza did NOT say that Obama or the Obama campaign made the offer).

Now to policy: not go ahead with the pipeline? Well, maybe it is a bad idea? Not opening our coastline to new drilling? It would be years before any potential gas price benefit would be realized…and frankly I’d rather not have another BP fiasco here.

Health care bill? You mean the one that the Heritage Foundation came up with? (that is what Obamacare was modeled after; it was presented to President Clinton by Senator Dole as a compromise in 1993.).

And then he talks about Obama sympathizing with Muslim terrorists (Bin Laden? Drone strikes? Killing TOO MANY terrorists, according to some Republicans?)

And oh yes, Obama is taking down our capitalist society:

(note: click on the link; it talks about how, while we are no longer shedding jobs the way we were under President Bush, are are barely above break even in terms of new jobs keeping up with new job seekers:

So my link does NOT see things through rose colored glasses; far from it. Back to the movie:

He shows some criticism of his “work”; he says “I’m a college president”. :-) Technically, true AT THAT TIME….of some outfit called “The King’s College”.

Okkkkkkaaaayyyy….

And his prediction about spending money “as if the deficit didn’t matter”….well, someone who knows something about economics says that is a bunch of BS. But hey, Paul Krugman only has a Nobel Prize in economics, so what does he know? :-)

Then he slams Obama for dreaming of a nuclear free world! Guess who else had such a dream and wanted it badly?

Nuclear weapons-free world: a vision of Kennedy, Reagan, Obama

Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and now, Obama all envisioned a world free of nuclear weapons. The US-Russian START accord, announced Friday, is a next step in that direction, experts say.

Oh yes, the “reach out to the Islamic world”. He quotes Obama’s Cairo speech and shows the part where “all too often, Mulsim nations were treated by proxies…”. True enough, but they were mostly treated by the Russians that way; Obama was NOT specifically talking about the United States at that moment.

A weakened America now permits the rise of “The United States of Islam” (complete with map!) composed of countries who, well…often hate each other (Sunni and Shitte countries in the same “United States of Islam? Must be news to them…)

Then comes the oh-so-scary US debt graph…in absolute dollars instead of “percentage of GDP” (yes, our GDP is growing and therefore our capacity to handle debt…and yes, maintaining an unnecessarily large military and nuclear arsenal is expensive, no?)

Cure to a talking head complaining about the national debt (not putting it in percentage of GDP terms), children’s choir rehearsing for an Obama event and Obama’s Denver speech….and the usual “the future is in your hands”.

And thankfully, the film is over.

Update: here is a review that is spot on.

January 27, 2013

## Engineering, Fake Math and Republican attempts to steal political power.

President Obama: fights for a couple of nominees:

Hey engineers: President Obama says “stay with it!”! (about 1 minute)

Fake math papers Yep, another gets published. I should compile a list of these journals. :-)

Robert Reich: warns us of bad arguments to come with respect to entitlement reform (5 minutes)

And no, the spending growth rate, if anything, is flat, not increasing. Sure, it is growing, AS IS OUR POPULATION.

Republicans:
They are going to try to rewrite election rules in order to try to win the 2016 Presidential election despite getting fewer votes. No, their plan wouldn’t have worked in 2008; even by Congressional District, President Obama won handily.

But that wouldn’t have been true in 2012.

What a crock. It is bad enough that Republicans are overrepresented in the Senate because the large, but sparsely populated rural states get the same number of senators as larger states. In the House, the Republicans got fewer votes than the Democrats but still control; part of it is gerrymandering and part of it is the “large rural areas” getting overrepresented (if one goes per capita) as opposed to the urban areas with higher population density.

This is ridiculous.

January 26, 2013

## Quantum Mechanics, Religion, filibusters and growth rates

Math and Science

The upshot: many quantum theories help us calculate and make predictions; none really explain the “why”. Upshot: reality doesn’t conform to our notion of “common sense”.

Growth Rate
Paul Krugman talks about the growth rate in federal spending. Why “growth rate”? Our country is getting larger all the time (think: Peoria, as a city, will always spend less than Chicago; hence we have to talk about some sort of population correction or “over time” correction).

Note this:

Meanwhile, via Mark Thoma I see that Robert Waldmann and Karl Smith have also gotten into the “what spending surge?” debate. Actually, here’s what may be the simplest way to see things. Here is total government spending (federal, state, and local) since 2000 on a log scale, so that a constant slope means a constant rate of growth. See the spending surge under Obama? Well, actually the reverse.

Yes, you can argue that spending was growing too fast under Bush, although it’s funny how few deficit scolds saw fit to mention that at the time. Or you can say that you just want less spending, although as always people who say this tend to be short on specifics. But the narrative that says that spending has surged under Obama is just wrong – what we’ve actually seen is a slowdown at exactly the time when, for macroeconomic reasons, we should have been spending more.

Emphasis mine. Here is the graph:

Ok, what is this “log scale stuff” and “constant slope” means a “constant rate of growth”?

Well, imagine $ln(y) = mx + b$. Now take the exponential of both sides: $y = exp(mx + b) = exp(mx)exp(b) = ke^{mx}$ where $k = exp(b)$. As far as the “constant growth rate”, use the derivative: $y = ke^{mx}$ then $\frac{dy}{dx} = mke^{mx}$ hence $\frac{\frac{dy}{dx}}{y} = \frac{mke^{mx}}{ke^{mx}} = m$ That is, the growth rate as in “percent per year” is constant.

Religion
“If you don’t “believe in god”, where do you get your morals from?” Guess what: in reality, everyone gets their morals from the same place: other people. Or, perhaps we can put it this way:

(via: The Atheist Pig via Jerry Coyne)

Note the title of Coyne’s article: he must be a Monty Python fan.

Politics
We are probably going to get a modest filibuster reform measure. The idea: the Republicans won’t be able to filibuster until the bill has come to the floor for debate; in return the Democrats will allow for amendments to be presented. I was hoping for another compromise that had been floated: it would take 41 votes to keep the filibuster alive rather than 60 to break it. That would make filibustering painful, as it should be.

Frankly, it burns me a bit that the Republicans are overrepresented in Congress. For one: this “two Senators per state, no matter how small of a state” gives disproportionate power to rural, thinly populated states to begin with. Then in the House, you have a combination of gerrymandering plus, again, disproportional representation of rural areas giving Republicans disproportional power. Remember in 2012, Democrats, collectively, got more House votes than the Republicans did. Though gerrymandering is part of the problem (and yes, both parties do it), the other part of the problem is that Democrats tend to live in urban clusters. Republicans tend to be more spread out. So, if you take a state like, say, Texas, the amount of people in some north/west Texas region plus the number of people living in a rural east Texas region might not add up to, say, the number of people living in a Houston district. But those people in the west Texas region might not have much in common with those living in east rural Texas; hence it is appropriate that these (possibly) smaller (in population) regions would have different representatives. So part of it is just the nature of the beast.

January 24, 2013