Unwelcome political news….

Workout notes
Cool, overcast and so I took an easy effort 8.1 mile run on a hilly course (Cornstalk)

Time: ghastly 1:29:29, but I kept the effort easy AND I am still not over my cold totally nor have I recovered from this weekend’s festivities. And I did enjoy the slow run: 10:18, 34:11 (44:29), 34:25, 10:34.

The Senate forecasts are coming in; bad news. It sure looks as if the GOP are strong favorites to retake the Senate (say, 70 percent probability).

September 30, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, politics, politics/social, running | | Leave a comment

Economics, business, voter fraud…

I haven’t posted much from Paul Krugman in a while.

Here, Professor Krugman discusses how a major school of thought on macro economics went off of the rails:

Consider the extremism of Lucas and Sargent (pdf) in the early days, declaring Keynesian economics a complete failure – or Lucas talking about how Keynesian papers were greeted with “giggles and whispers”. As Wren-Lewis notes, the actual empirical failures of Keynesian economics weren’t nearly bad enough to justify that kind of total rejection – and as Waldmann says, the new classicals themselves turned their backs on empirical evidence when it began rejecting their own models. So why the utter rejection of anything Keynesian?

Well, while the explicit message of such manifestos is intellectual – this is the only valid way to do macroeconomics – there’s also an implicit message: from now on, only my students and disciples will get jobs at good schools and publish in major journals. And that, to an important extent, is exactly what happened; Ken Rogoff wrote about the “scars of not being able to publish sticky-price papers during the years of new neoclassical repression.” As time went on and members of the clique made up an ever-growing share of senior faculty and journal editors, the clique’s dominance became self-perpetuating – and impervious to intellectual failure.

OK, I know the members of the clique will be outraged – distorting incentives only apply to other people, only bureaucrats hijack institutions to serve their personal aggrandizement, etc.. As they say in Minnesota, ya sure, you betcha.

But what about me and my friends? Why, we’re pure and selfless seekers of truth. How dare anyone suggest otherwise?

OK, I think there is a sense in which I’m part of a counterclique. In fact, if you look at just about every economist in my cohort playing an influential role in formulating or discussing macroeconomic policy — Rogoff, Bernanke, Draghi, Blanchard, Summers — you’ll find that they studied macroeconomics at MIT or Harvard, and were formally or informally advised by Rudi Dornbusch and his good friend Stan Fischer.

As I said, international macro went in a different direction.

Basically, there are more large economies to study from, more banks, etc.

Of course, macro is hard since there are so, so many confounding variables.

On a different note: Krugman agrees that the current “richest class” is more outlandish than the “richest class” of yesteryear. But then again, there is a bigger gap now-a-days due to growing inequality.

Business Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is becoming an interesting person to read. (note; he was reputed to have been a good student while at UCLA, and yes, he got his degree). Here, he writes about a former (part) Atlanta Hawks owner. He had written an e-mail which brainstormed factors which might be keeping crowds at Hawks games from being at capacity; he wondered if there just weren’t enough affluent African Americans to fill the arena regularly and that making some of the entertainment “black” (music, cheeleaders) might discourage more white people from showing up. He points out that the owner was doing legitimate business thinking; after all: let’s reverse the situation. Don’t we sometimes try to be welcoming to racial minorities, say, by ensuring some diversity at games or having some diverse entertainment?

Voter Fraud oh, there is voter fraud all right. It might not be statistically significant. But think: who has the means to live in different locations? Answer: not most Democrats.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | economics, politics, politics/social, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

I’ll see your “Obama latte salute” and raise you a “Bush dog salute”


Moral: a minor breach of etiquette by a President really means little. It won’t change the minds of those who either support or despise the President in question, nor will it change the minds of the supporters/detractors concerning the “other camp”. The other side is ALWAYS a bunch of willfully ignorant, two-faced hypocrites.

You want to know why I didn’t like President Bush? It is because:

1. At first, his tax cuts were heavily weighted toward the wealthy and
2. He invaded a country that didn’t attack us and really wasn’t threatening us.

President Obama has done neither.

September 24, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social, social/political | | 8 Comments

Today: 5k, football, weather, etc.

Our university has a 5K that runs right past my house and it starts in 90 minutes. So, of course, I can’t resist. :-) It is in the high 50’s so I’ll have only my lack of running conditioning to blame.

Right now, I am doing a little of everything each week: longish walks (15-20 miles), a few short runs (4-6 miles), a couple of weight sessions and a couple of 2200 yard swims (2 km). After next week’s walking marathon, I’ll probably add a swim/lifting session and cut back a little on the midweek walk.

Heel: still slightly sore; sometimes feels like mild PF..but going up on my toes doesn’t hurt?

I have tickets for Illinois vs. Texas State. Texas State used to be Southwest Texas State (I-AA…now FCS) and now they are a FBS team in the Sun Belt. They lost to Navy at home (35-21); they trailed 28-0 in the second quarter and Navy ran all over them. So, this is a team that Illinois *should* be able to handle; they should be a step down from Washington. But the emphasis is on “should”; who knows until they play the game.

Navy plays Rutgers at home; THAT should be interesting. This is Navy’s second game against a Big Ten team this year. Rutgers is 2-1, having lost to Penn State last weekend.

Also of interest: Miami vs. Nebraska. Is Nebraska all smoke and mirrors or are they for real?

Weather: we are supposed to have rain in Peoria this afternoon, but not in Champaign (where the game is). We’ve had an unusually cool September but the planet, on the whole, has been warm. What is in store this winter? It could go either way. A bad winter could be bad news for us, as budget cuts has cut our plowing/salt budget.
I need to buy some decent snow boots to walk to work and to shovel.

Secularism This is a nice piece in Time Magazine which was generated by the recent incident in which the Air Force wanted to keep “So Help Me God” as a required part of the enlistment oath. They wisely recanted: (this is part of the article)

It took the threat of a lawsuit before the Air Force agreed on Wednesday to allow airmen to omit the phrase “So help me God” as part of a required oath. Until then, they claimed an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was ineligible to reenlist after he crossed out the phrase on his reenlistment form.

This controversy will rile up many people of good will—not against the military, but against the airman. Why make a big deal out of words that the majority of Americans believe in? Just cross your fingers if you must, and say the words. Why rock the boat?

Here’s why: The incident betrays a subtext of intolerance and hostility toward secular people that is embedded in American culture and public institutions. The Air Force was ready to end a man’s military career because he would not submit to its religious demands.

To secular Americans, requiring an oath to God is like asking a Jewish airman to swear, “So help me Jesus” or a Christian to say, “So help me Allah.”

I love the article, but have a minor quibble with the last sentence in the quote: asking me to swear an oath to God is NOT like asking a Jew to pray to Jesus or a Christian to pray to Allah.

Asking me to pray to God is exactly like asking me to pray to the Tooth Fairy. On the other hand, asking a believer to pray to a different deity is asking them to commit blasphemy which, to a believer, is a serious offense which can cause emotional and mental anguish.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, religion, running, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Delusions, polls, etc.

Workout: swim (2200 yards); crowded again but I got a lane and that was what mattered.

500, 5 x 100 (fist/free) on 2:00 (1:50-52), 5 x 100 on 2 (1:45-47), 3 x 100 (kick/free with fins) with 100 in between, 4 x 25 stroke count (22-23), 4 x 25 fly.

I am still trying to beat that Mechanical Engineering professor; he does “faster” free sets and then recovers with different strokes and I am not quite up with his faster stuff.

Note: my heel was slightly sore this morning; I did NOT ice it after yesterday’s run. I am still not out of the “icing it afterward” stage. The pain was “oh so slight”; I might not have paid attention had I not been tracking this.

Delusions: When it comes to votes, people tend to believe what they want to believe and fail to look at the uncomfortable.
I learned that lesson in the Bush-Kerry election and saw it play out in the Obama-Romney election.

I saw that play out yesterday; some of the “pro-Scottish Independence” refused to look at the real, hard data. The betting lines were firmly in the “no” camp and the polls suggested that was a good bet.

Now I’d like to issue a caution: polls are reliable WHEN there are a LOT of them out there; an isolated poll might well be an outlier. Hence, you have more upsets at, say, the US House, Governor or Senate level than you do at the Presidential or national level.

The more local races simply aren’t polled as extensively.

Now, as far as what a poll actually means: here is a wonderful, statistically literate guide. Roughly: say a “yes/no” vote are separated by the “margin of error”. So one says that one cannot, with 95 percent confidence, say that one or the other is ahead. But one might be able to say that the leader is ahead with a lesser degree of confidence. And if one position is consistently ahead in several competent polls, that position has a lead.

And yes, betting guides are useful too. No, the bookies don’t necessarily know the issues that well, but they set the odds to balance the money paid in and paid off, sans a bit of profit for themselves. So, they are, in effect, reacting to “the wisdom of the crowd”.

As they were with the Bush-Kerry, both Obama elections and the Scottish one, they were right on.

And no, I don’t always like what they have to say. :-)

September 19, 2014 Posted by | injury, politics, politics/social, swimming | , , | Leave a comment

Current events: why people post what they do on their walls…

I am throwing out a conjecture that I have no evidence for.

When it comes to sensational events in the news (e. g. Ferguson shooting, NFL domestic violence incident, etc.), many of my Facebook friends post something. But, it appears to me, that many of the posts seem to be aimed at:

1. getting approval from like minded people
2. appearing to be virtuous or righteous
3. seeking praise or approval

Than anything else. There seems to be an indifference to looking for nuances or completeness of view as, well, doing that doesn’t result in pats on the back. :-)

So, I find myself commenting on other people’s “issues” related status less and less; mostly I just let them yell or cheerlead.

September 9, 2014 Posted by | politics/social | , | Leave a comment

Cops are human too…

I’d like to add something. There was a shooting in St. Louis: in this case the police shot and killed some guy who came out them with a knife. No, the initial story (about how he was holding the knife) was false, but human recollection is often flawed. Not all inaccurate testimony or reporting is lying.

Now, from the safety of my living room/office and the internet, I can say that the police should have made more of an effort to diffuse the situation. BUT, I don’t have someone coming at me with a knife. It is well known that soldiers in combat are almost always scared and often panic. Why would that not also apply to police officers?

Yes, there are some bad police officers who abuse their authority. But in holding the police accountable, we should distinguish between malicious abuse of authority and “heat of the moment” situations. Sure, police candidates are selected and then trained, but the “heat of the moment” situation is going to affect them too; they are not soulless robots.

More stuff
Good media reaction: this article in Time by former NBA great (and UCLA graduate) Kareem Abdul Jabbar is, well, very, very good. It is well written and even handed.

This Media Matters article isn’t so good. It claims that Geraldo Rivera is “blaming the victim”; instead he is making a prediction of how a jury might view the victim. I normally like Media Matters; they’ve slipped a bit here.

Poor communities: Eugene Robison talks about how many of these communities are isolated from the middle class and often invisible to us. This is also why honest discussions are so difficult.

I’ll give an example: most of the black people I know are college students or professionals that I interact with on the internet. Though I know a few and have had honest conversations with them (e. g. one of my friends was profiled by law enforcement and spread eagled on the pavement…this guy is an engineer, for crying out loud!), well, they are only a small percentage of my associates. The college students I see have passed through a sieve of sorts before I see them.

Yes, I sometimes see black people at the gym, or in the parks/rec trails, but these are those with the health and the means to exercise. They are all middle class or above.

My contacts with those in the poor community are minimal and often highly non-representative (e. g. panhandlers…and yes, the demographics of panhandlers vary from place to place; around the University of Texas they were almost all white, at least in the late 1980’s when I was there).

Bottom line: I have no clue as to what life is like in such communities.

I can have some empathy though, at least with regards to how they view police. I got profiled once and didn’t like it (you might read the comment by one visitor who told me that part of the problem was “MY RECORD” (speeding ticket?)), and I imagine that this happens to them all of the time. Still, I mostly see police as “good”; e. g. as being on “my side” and I can understand why others might not have this feeling.

A bit of good news
Teen pregnancy can contribute to poverty, but that is..on its way down! Of course, we aren’t completely sure as to why (e. g. the standard guesses such as “sex education” and “availability of birth control” have been statistically tested, and such tests have proved to be inconclusive).

August 22, 2014 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, racism, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

President Obama’s main weakness

It is no secret that I am a fan of the President. But like the rest of us, he has weaknesses. This is one of his: he seems to have a disdain for building the personal relationships with members of Congress that people like President Clinton did.

Now, I happen to PREFER working with someone who is curt and to the point so *I* could probably work with him. But I don’t have a politician’s personality.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social | | Leave a comment

I don’t have a good feel for this: Ferguson, Missouri

I sometimes use the St. Louis Airport (Lambert) and sometimes go to Rams games. So, I’ve been near Ferguson a few times.

This is where an unarmed African American was shot to death by police; I don’t know the full story; I’ve read a few accounts (did he struggle with the police? Was he shot while he was away from the police?)

I do know that there has been looting (undeniable) and that there are protests going on, which police swat teams (local, I think) are breaking up with tear gas and the like.

It appears TO ME that the police (the local police IN THIS AREA, not all police) are losing the PR war; they are coming across as overreacting thugs.

But I wonder if other people will focus on the looting and see the police response as, well, what you’d expect in such a “lawless area”.

I don’t know what to think; I do know that I’d hate this in my neighborhood and it would anger me to think that, say, some of the Jones Dome employees who were so good to us in the past were being mistreated.

August 14, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Most of the stupid people that I know are liberals! (that wasn’t always the case either…)

Yes, it is true: most of the stupid people I know are liberals. There was a time when most of the stupid people I knew were conservatives, but that has changed….a long time ago.

So what changed? What has changed is this: most of the people I “know” (“know”, as in, “have non-superficial conversations with”) are now mostly Democrats. So, most people that I *know* (by this definition) are Democrats…so I could have easily said that “most of the smart people I know are liberals” and also been accurate.

When I was at the Naval Academy and later in the Navy, most of the people I knew then were…well…conservative.

My point: drawing a conclusion about the intelligence of a group of people adhering to a political philosophy based on one’s personal experience is dangerous.

Think of it this way: suppose there is a CEO who hangs around …well….mostly other CEO level people. These people are largely conservative. Suppose the only Democrats that this person sees are, well, say, janitors and other such people. It would be easy for this person to conclude that conservatives are smarter based on what this person sees in their day to day life; one could probably say the same for, say, a highly successful scientist who mostly hangs around other scientists (who lean liberal) and only encounters conservatives at, say, the gas station, retail stores and the like.

August 8, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, social/political | | Leave a comment


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