Saturday, 26 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
I think the intent is laudable, but it's not clear to me that this is a better metric than the old fashioned +/- metric that simply calculates the difference between the number of even strength goals scored while you were on the ice and the number scored against your team. After all, not all defensive actions are equal. Some hits are light or result in the hitter falling out of the play, some blocked shots weren't headed for the net or fervent shot blockers may also have a tendency to screen their goaltenders. Similarly, not all shifts are equal. Some players spend more time on power plays, others on penalty kills. Some teams favour longer shifts, other short shifts. And considering only points scored per shift overlooks the offensive actions that can lead to goals but not count as points or "defensive actions". At the very least, I'd have liked to have seen this changed to points/defensive action/minute played, but even then we're ignoring power plays. The old +/- effectively addresses all these things without overly favouring power play units and hurting penalty kill units. Presumably, if your defensive actions are effective, the long term result is fewer goals scored against you. Show me a man with a high 'defensive action/shift' and a lousy +/- and I'll show you a poor hitter or shot blocker.
So, I like the old +/-, the main disadvantage being that it's not very effective at measuring player power play and penalty kill contribution. But here's a way to do that: for each player measure the power play goals/per power play minute played (or net goals, subtracting shorthanded goals) and number of goals scored against/per penalty kill minute. Then compare that to the team average. Is the player a positive or negative contributor to these situations?
I guess that's one way to avoid thought and analysis. Wait to learn where an ideological opponent stands and then take the opposite view, may not always be sensible, but it may be a route to consistency, assuming your opponent is consistent, and it beats thinking.
(I agree with Glenn Greenwald that the Obama WhiteHouse has been intentionally feckless and/or subservient to the health care lobby on this issue as well, just wanted to point out why I find Lieberman so particularly contemptible.)
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Thursday, 10 December 2009
"President Barack Obama entered the pantheon of Nobel Peace Prize winners Thursday ... delivering a robust defense of war ..."
Fortunately for Obama, nobody reads anymore or we'd be all over him about Orwellian doublespeak.
Monday, 7 December 2009
It brought to mind another issue that wasn't directly addressed in the movie but is connected to those issues, namely, the use of artificial bovine growth hormone, rBGH, to increase milk production in dairy cows. In some places, presumably under pressure from scummy corporations like Monsanto, states are considering or have passed legislation to ban the practice of labeling milk that is not taken from cows that have been given artificial growth hormone to increase milk production. In other words, they don't want consumers to be able to know whether or not their milk has come from rBGH treated cows. Europe, Canada, Japan and New Zealand ban the use of rBGH, but in the US not only is it legal but they're seeking to prevent us from knowing on which milk it has been used. The argument is that milk from cows so treated is indistinguishable from milk from cows that didn't receive it. Setting aside the fact that claims that rBGH milk has no ill effect on human health are probably just untrue, what galls me about this is the fact that it displays absolutely no concern for the animals. I refuse to drink rBGH milk not, primarily, because I'm worried about its effects on my health, but because of my concern about effects on the cow, i.e., increased mastitis and lameness and decreased fertility.
Monday, 30 November 2009
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Friday, 6 November 2009
If I'm right, this imposes an obligation on the news media and news consumers to stop providing that which motivates the actions of these killers, i.e., fame. News media should just stop reporting the details about these kinds of killers. They could report the crimes but leave out the killer's name and details about the killer's personal life, focusing instead on the nature of the crime and the victims. Other than local media that may have family members of the killer in its audience, how is it in the public interest to learn the details of the private lives of these killers? In discussing these people ad nauseam is the media doing anything other than suggesting to those who are leading failed insignificant lives, that this route at least offers them an opportunity to matter and be noticed?
The obligation also falls on the news consumers. We should stop seeking out and paying attention to such details and perhaps also join together to boycott news organizations that publish those names and details and the companies that sponsor them.
I'm not suggesting a legal ban, but a voluntary ethical code, based on the same kinds of principles that prevent news media from explaining how to build bombs or leaving out certain details of crimes or failing to publicize the names of the victims of some crimes. This information wouldn't have to be top secret, it should remain available to people. Psychology researchers and criminologists, for example, should continue to access it. But if people actually had to go to police information sources and the media failed to broadcast it, I suspect that the main motivation for these crimes would be eliminated.
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
So, what are we to make of these things? I suppose the simple lesson is that one ignores one's base at one's peril. Triangulation only goes so far; cynical attempts to grab the swing voters can backfire. Truth be told, I was, in an odd way, pleased to see the third party candidate come as close as he did in NY-23. Not, of course, because he was such a right winger, but because it showed that politics haven't become a matter of simply "supporting one's team", that principles and ideas still matter to some voters.
Tangentially, I think it is notable that the WaPo endorsed Creigh Deeds shortly before the election. At that time polls showed Deeds behind but not 18 points behind. It makes one wonder what a newspaper endorsement is worth these days. This certainly didn't give much evidence that it helps.
Monday, 2 November 2009
a) There has been a tendency to make the semantic web a much harder problem than it needed to be. Last week's conference was full of discussions of generating the inferential closure of hundred of millions of triples (assertions), sophisticated model theory discussions and SPARQL extensions. A new OWL 2.0 spec was released that included n-ary quanitifiers. Those are important questions and issues for knowledge representation, but they're not, I would claim, the things to be focusing on when attempting to get the SW implemented on a wide scale. (A good but abstruse example: Last week I found myself in a discussion over a claim that a many-sorted first order logic implementation of uncertainty representation was preferable over a pure second-order because completeness and compactness were important features of a web reasoning language. Well, completeness and compactness are important features of a logic in the very purest sense of the word 'logic', i.e., in the sense of keeping logic contentless, but not really necessary for a knowledge representation language in such a heavily applied environment. Many argue that SOL is an appropriate foundation for arithmetic and set theory, surely the internet is not quite as pure as those domains.) RSS implemented simple RDF at one point, but even that proved too complex for full implementation, so why are people worried about packing inference into SPARQL and getting n-ary quantifiers into OWL? Any traction the SW is seeing is in FOAF and linked data, it hasn't been for want of n-ary quantifiers that the SW has been mostly unrealized. Linked data focuses on the relatively simple task of linking data and far less on sophisticated ontologies and knowledge representation issues. This gets to the heart of the reason why the SW has been slow to catch on. The utility of the web was obvious to people who didn't have computer science degrees; the SW, not so much.
b) Querying the semantic web is difficult. The standard query language for the SW is SPARQL, but from my experience, even relatively intelligent web searchers, doctors and the like, are barely capable of using quotes or boolean operators correctly, why do we think they'll be able to run complex SQL queries requiring complicated URL UIDs? SPARQL is useful for sophisticated users deeply familiar with the knowledge representation language and ontology that has been implemented, it would likely be much harder to use it for discovery, a key task in much web usage. And yet those involved in "spinning" the SW seem unwilling to give this problem much consideration.
c) The development has been very top down. See (a). The players in the SW are well known and the group is relatively small. We're getting standards passed down for problems that don't yet exist instead of going to the grass roots and trying to solve problems as they arise. Even the venue was evidence of this. The conference was ridiculously expensive and took place at some remote Marriott, completely inaccessible by public transit. Hardly screams "grass roots" or "user input". Tellingly, I heard lots of talk of the need to go out and "spread the word" and "encourage people to use it' or join "meet ups", etc. Or questions about how I get "people to take more interest in the semantic web". People will get interested when we show them it's useful, let's worry more about that and less about methods of popularization reminiscent of an evangelical church.
d) I'm still of the impression that the SW's original sin was to insist that the URL become the means of designating reference. I think it leads to ontological confusion. We use such strings both to point to pages about X and to refer to X itself, not completely unlike using some string to denote me and the apartment in which I happen to be living at some point in time. It's handy and solves what could have been a complicated UID problem but I wonder if it makes the proposed solution seem harder than it needs to be. There has been discussion of this issue amongst those doing the implementing and I wonder if the ontological fuzziness here ends up making the SW fuzzier than it needed to have been.
Anyway, I think the SW will catch on and is catching on, but I think it could have been happening much more quickly if people had mainly concerned themselves with making it useful and workable and less with exploiting it as a funding tool for interesting but ancillary AI problems.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Whenever I hear about these alleged "noble" gestures, or teams catching hell for scoring too many pts in a game, I always think there are lots of things more disrespectful than running up the score against someone or not letting a kid with Down Syndrome inaccurately believe that he's able to score a touchdown. At least in those cases one respects his/her opponent to take them seriously. More disrespectful, IMO, is being the kind of patronizing person who holds his/her opponent in such low regard that he'd condescendingly stop at the two yard line rather than bother to score. Or another example, perhaps, being the kind of person who would make a fool out of someone by creating a farce in which he's led to believe he's scored a legitimate TD when in fact he hasn't and everyone around him knows it.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
As is well known, the US doesn't match up well with other nations in comparisons regarding some fairly basic health indicators, e.g., life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. See the report linked in this post. When faced with this fact, defenders of the current US health care system have been known to argue along these lines: "There are a lot of contributors to these factors in addition to medical care. Things like diet, lifestyle, environment, etc. all play a factor." Many then go on to argue that Americans have worse diets and more sedentary lifestyles than much of the world. So, suppose we accept that. Doesn't this fact actually undermine an important arguments against socialized medicine, i.e., the moral hazard argument? If people aren't forced to pay the costs of their health care, they lose an incentive to be healthy and avoid the need to access expensive health care. But, in fact, nobody pays more for their health care than Americans do and yet this moral hazard has no positive effect on their willingness to remain healthy and avoid the need for health care.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Some people, the president and the 08 Republican nominee for president included, keep asserting that with respect to allegations of torture during the Bush administration, we should "look forward, not back". And Holder's announcement that he intended to investigate regardless generated concerns that such an investigation could hurt morale and effectiveness of the CIA.
It's hard for me to understand how these constitute effective arguments. The first suggestion is just utterly silly. First, it seems that it could be applied to any criminal investigation, all crimes have occurred in the past and yet we go back to investigate them. But it's much more dangerous in this particular case, the question of whether or not the US endorsed and/or participated in torture and whether or not the country is willing to take a stand and indicate whether or not that was permissible goes to the very heart of what the country's principles are. How can the country "move forward" while those questions remain unaddressed?
As to the CIA morale argument, well, of course, criminal investigations hurt morale at any organizations, but surely if this is a legitimate argument, then we've effectively given the CIA carte blanche. Prosecution for any criminal wrongdoing will require investigation. Any investigation will hurt morale at the CIA, so if the general principle is "Never hurt morale at the CIA", it follows that we can never prosecute any criminal wrongdoing at the CIA, so the CIA is free to do whatever they'd like.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Consider the environmental impact of producing a new car, let's call that amount EIP. Suppose that we can expect a car to last Y years, then the environmental impact of producing (EIP) a car is EIP/Y for each year it's on the road. If I have an old car that I might have driven for, say, three more years but which I retire early, then I have to replace my old car but the EIP of my old car has already been paid. It's paid if it lasts for a week or a century (the longer a car lasts, the less its EIP/year). So the total EIP is a fixed amount and we might even say that, in effect, the EIP/year goes up if I take the car off the road early.
Now consider the new car that I buy3 years earlier than I would have. That is a brand new cost of 3*(EIP/Y), a cost we wouldn't have had to pay had we kept my old car on the road for three more years. Now, further suppose that I drive 12000 miles/year and my new car gets 22 mpg while my old one got 17. With my new car, I'd have to buy 1636 gallons of fuel vs. 2117 with my old car. Let's call the environmental impact of burning a gallon of gas, EIGG. Is it obvious that 3*(EIP/Y) < 481*EIGG? If it's not, we incur an environmental loss from the C for C program here. (And what if the buyer uses the program to gain a 2 mpg improvement?)
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
On the other side, we have, well, a lot of people. A lot of people oppose efforts at walling off content, and, relatedly, of obligating news aggregators to cough up fees. I've been following King Kauffman, who used to write a brilliant sports column for Salon, and Katherine Mieszkowski's blog: The Future of Journalism. They've been fairly critical of the David Simons and even the Ian Shapiras (who recently complained that Gawker was stealing his content). But, I'd think and sometimes even comment, what in the world do we propose in their stead? Are bloggers ever going to provide the kind of painstaking journalism which Simon has described? Will amateur bloggers ever break a Watergate? Well, I was assured, you're assuming they'd be amateurs, maybe they'll be paid, this is America, we're full of ingenuity, we'll find a way to monetize. Don't worry.
Ah, yes, well, apparently they've found it. According to a tweet from Kauffman and an article in their blog, the "future of journalism" may very well be what is described in this article: "From a Texas Small Town and a Bedding Company, the Future of Journalism, Marketing, or Both". The article discusses a corporate sponsored blog, in which some former journalist is now paid by Carpenter Company to write about Stephenville, TX. Yup, that's the future of journalism, that's why we can all laugh at David Simon and say's he's just being paranoid and standing in the way of progress. We've found a way to monetize. We can now safety let the newspapers die. Good riddance ya bums and don't let the door hit you on the way out But what about independence of the press? Oh, don't worry, the article assures us, "Dan's free to chronicle small town life as he sees fit. So he roams Stephenville, capturing residents' hopes and dreams and idiosyncrasies and taking literal and figurative snapshots" Yeah, sure he's free. And I'm sure the town can look forward to his hard-edged articles on, for example, how questionable corporate practices at the town's largest employer affects the residents of Stephenville. Mieskowski bizarrely dismisses this kind of potential conflict as Hollywood fantasy, "But this is real life." Um, yeah, you got me there.
You thought GE telling Olbermann to shutup was bad? You ain't seen nothing yet.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Saturday, 25 July 2009
b) health care is far too complicated to allow us to do things that can make us effective agents in the marketplace, you can't rely on experience or comparison shopping.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
(And I apologize for sounding like a pro-business blowhard. I'm not a huge fan of globalization and in general, arguments about cutting benefits because the global marketplace demands it are unconvincing to me. But in this case I think the global marketplace is effectively underscoring a huge inefficiency in the US marketplace, an inefficiency that we ignore at our peril.)
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Apparently a team has reached the threshold in the Netflix contest to improve quality of viewer suggestions by 10% (for a $1 million prize!):
A blog on the process here:
(and, somewhat tangentially, a nice "SVD/LSI [a method often used for recommendation systems] for dummies" article here: http://www.igvita.com/2007/01/15/svd-rec
This "bounty" system of development seems to be proving very effective and relatively inexpensive. See also the DARPA Grand Challenge effort that managed to produce an effective driverless vehicle system for a tiny, tiny fraction of what a full blown traditional DARPA program would have cost, assuming a traditional program would have managed to do it at all. My claim: This provides evidence that in a post-industrial society, and maybe in all, a gift economy is superior to a market economy for purposes of providing innovation, people valuing prestige and satisfaction of solving challenges even more highly than material gain. (While the prizes here are, prima facie, substantial, the actual reward to participants is likely far, far less than they'd have received in typical market production scenarios even if they were just being paid for their time. If one considers, for example, what a DARPA program would have paid for the person hours that the winning team alone would have cost in the Grand Challenge, I imagine it would have far exceeded the prize money actually paid out.)
Sunday, 14 June 2009
All this said, attempts by Republicans to make political hay out of this by painting the Obama administration as irresponsible profligate spenders, when their fiscal policies (and lack thereof), contributed so heavily to the current debt and economic situation is some of the astounding cynical political maneuvering I've ever witnessed.
Saturday, 30 May 2009
It's also easy to understand why Obama's opponents would try to spin this into an accusation of racism, but that accusation is also to completely overlook, probably intentionally, what the claim is actually saying. If she's claiming that the experiences that a Latina woman has, presumably as an outsider of sorts, can in fact lend her insights and objectivity that many white males will lack, in virtue of their insider status, than that doesn't equate to racism, (although racism could well have contributed to the state of affairs giving Latina women outsider status). Her claim is a claim about the insight that experience lends, and neither implies nor follows from "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race" (the M-W definition of racism.)
I wish we could have a real conversation about Sotomayor's rather bold and noteworthy claim without dismissively sweeping it under the rug or going into politically motivated histrionics about racism.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
So, beyond symboic gestures, like closing Gitmo, Cheney's substantive policy criticisms of Obama seem to boil down to issues over torture, whether to do it or whether to release memos discussing it. (I won't bother to expressing my concerns about torture any further but it's worth noting that the war on terror advocates who've had the balls to try it out, Mancow and Hitchens, have both unequivocally ceded that it is torture and, essentially called 'bullshit' on Cheney's "advanced interrogation techniques" euphemism. Secondly, there is evidence that torture was used for establishing ties between al qaida and Iraq more than it was used to keep America safe are increasing.)
Cynically, I continue to wonder whether this is less about Cheney trying to keep America safe and more about the GOP having a strategy so that they'll be able to say "we told you so" should any future attacks occur.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
It did rather poorly on the following:
Why are there ants in my sink drain?
wine to serve with tofu
kurt godel mental illness
toyota sales U.S. 2004 (this 'related input to try' was amusing though, interpreting 'sales' and 'toyota' as places)
UPDATE: BTW, should have mentioned, the 13 min. intro video is a good place to start (before experimenting) if you really want to have a sense of how to test it.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
But less partisan political aficionados are often guilty of the sin of a priori politics. By this I mean the inclination to defend a political system or methodology without regard for its actual success or effectiveness in practice. In defending a political ideology I think we should be clear as to whether we're defending it because we view it as the best means to some other ends, in which case we need an account of what those ends are, or whether the fundamental principles are so important that we'd defend them regardless of their effectiveness in practice. So, for example, if I'm devoted to socialist libertarianism, what would it take to convince me that the system didn't work in practice? If we were to implement it and it resulted in a 80% drop in economic productivity and a 10 year decrease in lifespan would I continue to defend it because I think its basic principles are essential for a fair system, or would I acknowledge that part of the reason I embraced the system is because I thought it would result in greater equity with a relatively small drop in productivity and quality of life?
So, I think it's important to have a clear understanding of the political principles one holds but also the effect one thinks that such principles should allow us to achieve. What would have to be the case for us to give us those beliefs, that ideology? The point of all this is that I like looking for data that can be used to help evaluate such systems, while being painfully aware of the fact that political theory is particularly susceptible to the indeterminacy of theories problem.
So, all that said, I was interested recently when someone posted a link to a paper, "Freedom in the 50 States", that attempted to quantify the level of freedom in each of the U.S. states. If we could really measure such a thing we could consider some other factors and see how or whether they benefit by increased or decreased government control so for starters I looked at correlations for some of these scores, while remaining agnostic about the quality of the metrics being used. (I also acknowledge that the level of variance between states for many of these variables is likely far smaller than it would be between countries, so if we're really interested in drawing conclusions it would be more useful to consider that.) In any event, here's what I came up with.
There is a small --> medium negative correlation between increased freedom and average income levels.
I believe that crime rate is a factor in state livability so some of the correlation there is explained by that.
Not unexpectedly, there is a fairly large negative correlation between poverty levels and health level scoring.
There is no correlation between livability and the various freedom scores, nor between the violent crime rate and the freedom scores.
Other thoughts or observations?
|Person Fdm. Score||Source|
|Econ. Fdm. Score||Source|
|Overall Fdm. Score||Source|
|Amer. health Rank||Source|
|Percent < Pov. Level (07)||Source|
|Violent Crime Rate||Source|
|Middle School test Score||Source|
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Saturday, 18 April 2009
On the one hand, I think it's more or less clear that releasing the memos is a positive step toward openness and resolution. We can get some verification and clarification of what had long been rumored, we can get clear on the attempted justifications, etc. (Some are arguing that it was a bad idea to make these procedures public because they worked. I've written before (sept. '06, jan. '05) what I think about these arguments so I'll leave that alone now.)
But, while I'm pleased that the memos have been released I've become increasingly troubled by Obama's decision and commitment not to prosecute any of these people. Here's some of what Obama said to explain why he didn't want to pursue prosecution of those who participated.
But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.
1) The principle that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past" seems to undermine a cornerstone of our system of justice, i.e., that crime cannot go unpunished. As Floyd notes "And cannot every criminal on the face of the earth now claim the Obama defense: 'Surely, your honor, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. So let's forget the fact that I (raped/murdered/robbed/tortured), and move forward, shall we?' "
2) Anyone suspicious that the rules in the U.S. are only for the "little people"; that big finance and big auto and big brother can get away with flouting the rules, now has more basis for their concerns. If we contend that our government is above the law, that their illegal activity won't be prosecuted for whatever reasons, don't we undermine respect for the rule of law? Juxtapose this with recent data about the high incarceration rates in this country, particularly amongst African Americans and it suddenly becomes very difficult to argue that we don't have two sets of rules in this country.
3) Finally I'd like to further consider a point that Olbermann and Floyd have made, i.e., the concern that this response appears to appeal to the Nuremberg defense, i.e., the assumption that flouting the law is permissible when one is "simply following orders". It's useful to consider the reasons that we've rejected this defense. The Nuremberg defense suggests a very disturbing position on the role of law and the obligations of citizens. Laws, in this view, seem to be nothing more than manifestations of what the powerful want us to do. If, as I'd argue, laws implement and instantiate abstract principles of just practice, principles that we're all, qua humans and citizens, obligated to follow, then no dispensation from the powerful can override them. The Nuremberg defense is legitimate only if we assume that we're in a system in which laws are nothing more than rules and constraints put forward by 'the man", obligations created by and therefore retractable by those in power. If that's what we believe, then it's reasonable to allow that the government is allowed to make exceptions whenever it sees fit and the Nuremberg defense is a legitimate one. In the Nuremberg defense scenario, citizens are guilty if and only if they fail to do what the government tells them to do, there is no law beyond a base will to power. But we reject Nuremberg defenses if we hold that all people are citizens and all are obligated to follow the general principles of justice, rather than the pragmatic procedures decided on in secret by a small group of powerful men.
Monday, 13 April 2009
It wouldn't be that hard to get a fair comparison, we'd just need to normalize the points. The most accurate way to normalize is to subtract all pts. gained in OT or SO (win or loss) and then give the Caps exactly one pt. for each game that ended in a tie in regulation. I don't have those numbers handy, an approximation is to drop the pts. gained in OT losses. So, this year's Caps have 96 "normalized" pts. after dropping the 8 pts they gained in OT losses. To finish with a comparable record they'd have to get 110 "normalized" pts. (they have 2 extra games, take the percentage of possible pts. the 85-86 team, won, .66875, and multiply by 82). But this year's team has only 3 games left. Or we could normalize the 85-86 records, perhaps most simply by assuming they'd have received a win in half their ties had they gone to a tiebreaker. This would give the 85-86 team 111 points in 80 games, which pro-rates to 114 in 82. So, IMO, the old record is safe.
What was Boudreau's, Caps coach, response when asked if these format changes rendered the record less impressive? "You're going to have detractors anywhere you go when it comes to records. Everyone is going to want to put asterisks and things beside people's names. But in today's era, everything has changed. Everything has gotten bigger, faster, stronger, quicker. There was no salary cap in the '80s, either. There could have been a huge discrepancy. Everything evens out in the long run."
Hmm, I have no idea why the speed or strength of today's player is relevant. That today's players are faster and stronger doesn't change the fact that they give out more points and chances for wins today.
Sunday, 29 March 2009
But, I wish people would get their facts straight when making this argument. I've read a number of things in the blogosphere attacking Obama because, after all, "pot is harmless." This line of argument troubles me because, well, it's just untrue and paves over a large number of issues of which people should be aware before engaging. For starters, and the one that's most concerned me, marijuana use is strongly linked with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. (One can read "Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review". It surveys a large number of studies from over the years.)
As noted, I don't think the government should make every dangerous thing illegal, I'm no fan of the nanny state, so my support for legalization has nothing to do with my views on the safety of using it. But I wish people would do a bit of research before blithely proclaiming marijuana use harmless or safe or, my favourite, "no worse than cigarettes". Yeah, right.
Saturday, 21 March 2009
This morning I was reading Chris Mooney's response to George Will's recent cynical anti-global warming diatribe and it got me to wondering. Why is there so much criticism about global warming, a matter about which scientific consensus is quite strong, on the right and why is most, although not all, of the criticism coming from the right? My rough impression is that the various gw sceptics, usually conservatives, are practicing something other than healthy scepticism but bring in a predetermined conclusion looking for a justification. Maybe I'm wrong about that, maybe conservatives really are better scientists than all those arguing about the dangers of global warming, but even if I am wrong, I think it still may be a phenomenon requiring explanation. In other words, if it just happens that the Conservatives are right about global warming, why is it that the oppositiion and scepticism is so heavily concentrated on the right? (So, I'm less interested here in who's correct than I am in understanding why the divergence of positions is breaking down the way that it is.)
a) D'uh, what do you expect, we're Conservatives? This is the simple explanation. Global warming entails the necessity of a fairly radical change in lifestyle. Conservatives are disinclined to embrace huge lifestyle changes, that's often part of the reason they're conservatives. Nothing fancy here, we just don't want to change.
b) Global Warming, if correct, represents an important failing of free market ideology: Global warming is not a problem easily solved by the markets. The problem of pollution already presents a problem for free market ideology insofar as firms receive the benefit of creating marketable goods in a way that pollutes but they don't bear the cost of the increased pollution. Free market adherents have some response to this in the case where the effect of the pollutants is rather immediate and the responsibility for polluting is tracable to a small number of parties. But I would think that it becomes harder and harder to give a coherent free-market response when the effect of the polluting is temporally distant, affects a much broader class of properties, and the extent of the responsibility for the damage is harder to assess. So, to the extent that the truth of global warming represents a reductio of free market ideology, we can expect that proponents of that ideology would oppose it. We're never inclined to give up fundamental theories easily.
We all tend to naturally embrace scientific conclusions that reinforce our prior beliefs and way of doing things and oppose those that do the opposite. (In this regard, we're all conservatives.) Liberals wrt economics tend to be sceptical of science indicating the efficacy of free markets, for example. None of us are floating along as unbiased judges, we're all trying to save the theories that take a place of centrality in our web of beliefs, the more central the theory the less inclined we are to disentangle it.
c) The cost of these fixes is very high, let's make sure we have it right before embarking on them: An argument that I've heard explicity is a simple prudence based one, i.e., let's not spend our resources and lifestyle on this until we're really sure. This is merely an advocacy of doing some decision theory and who could argue with that? But I think that the inherent problem is that conservatives will have a different calculus when doing the cost - benefit analysis. To their minds government controls on business, for example, exact a very high cost, a society in which government has much stronger controls on business. There is also a realization that this isn't a very high cost for many liberals assessing the situation, it's a situation they're perfectly happy or mostly happy to live with. Therefore, in order to get the decision theoretic calculus operating in a manner more balanced to their weightings, it's in the interests of conservatives to take steps to start the calculations with a much lower probability on the correctness of various global warming predictions.
Friday, 27 February 2009
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
See Glenn Greenwald's blog and Andrew Sullivan's, erstwhile Obama cheerleader, for more comments.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
They also acknowledge that it's a lagging indicator, though, and there are a reasons, IMO, to worry that we're on a very troubling downward spiral. The reason is that in the early 80s and and in 1974 we weren't facing nearly as fragile a situation with housing and with car companies. As demand for cars continues to decrease we're likely to reach a point at which failure of two of the big three becomes inevitable. Similarly, the foreclosure situation is horrific and while we're losing jobs at a pace of 500 000/month, it's likely to get worse. Remember the precarious situations banks were in, well we could see even more of their assets becoming toxic. The banks and the auto industry don't need too many more hard shoves, but I worry that this accelerating job loss situation is exactly what is going to be delivered. And if Chrysler and GM go, then we'll really start seeing unemployment numbers.
Friday, 6 February 2009
Percent of national income the richest 1% of the population took home in 2006: >20
Last year in which the richest 1% of the population took home more than 20% of national income: 1928
(This from Robert Reich, link. Today's blog is also worth a read for those interested in the cuts vs. spending debate.) Tell me again, about how I should feel indignant about Obama wanting to increase taxes on the rich.
UPDATE: He's out, cool.