## #reasoning

Everyone who gets a C in first-semester statistics knows that if your sample is random you do not have to double the number of data points when the population doubles. You do not have to increase the number of data points at all. And in the interest of trying to lowball civilian war deaths. Fake and fuzzy math in the service of trying to loball civilian war deaths is not just stupid. It is evil: Stephen Moore (2006): 655,000 War Dead? A Bogus Study on Iraq Casualties: "I was surprised to read that a study by a group from Johns Hopkins University claims that 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war.... The key to the validity of cluster sampling is to use enough cluster points.... Curious about the kind of people who would have the chutzpah to claim to a national audience that this kind of research was methodologically sound.... Another study in Kosovo cites the use of 50 cluster points, but this was for a population of just 1.6 million, compared to Iraq's 27 million...

This book is fun!: Jeff Erickson: Algorithms: "'Algorithm' does not derive... from the Greek roots arithmos (αριθοσ), meaning “number”, and algos (αλγοσ), meaning 'pain'. Rather, it is a corruption of the name of the 9th century Persianm athematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. Al-Khwarizmi is perhaps best known as the writer of the treatise Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fihisab al-gabr wal-muqabala, from which the modern word algebra derives. In a different treatise, al-Khwarizmi described the modern decimal system for writing and manipulating numbers—in particular, the use of a small circle or sifr to represent a missing quantity—which had been developed in India several centuries earlier. The methods described in Al-Kitab, using either written figures or counting stones, became known in English as algorism or augrym, and its figures became known in English as ciphers...

Counterfactuals! There is currently a mishegas at Andrew Gelman's place about Pearl and Mackenzie's Book of Why, which has a reference to this and has led me to the conclusion that I really need to find time to work my way through this entire book: Cosma Shalizi: Advanced Data Analysis from an Elementary Point of View: "The distributions we observe in the world are the outcome of complicated stochastic processes. The mechanisms which set the value of one variable inter-lock with those which set other variables. When we make a probabilistic prediction by conditioning—whether we predict􏰁 E[Y|X=x] or Pr (Y|X=x) or something more complicated—we are just filtering the output of those mechanisms, picking out the cases where they happen to have set X to the value x, and looking at what goes along with that. When we make a causal prediction, we want to know what would happen if the usual mechanisms controlling X were suspended and it was set to x. How would this change propagate to the other variables? What distribution would result for Y? This is often, perhaps even usually, what people really want to know from a data analysis, and they settle for statistical prediction either because they think it is causal prediction, or for lack of a better alternative...

Cosma Shalizi (2007): ...In Different Voices: "Q: How would you react to the idea that a psychological trait, one intimately linked to the higher mental functions, is highly heritable? A: With suspicion and unease, naturally. Q: It's strongly correlated with educational achievement, class and race. A: Worse and worse. Q: Basically nothing that happens after early adolescence makes an impact on it; before that it's also correlated with diet. A: Do you work at the Heritage Foundation? Such things cannot be. Q: What if I told you the trait was accent? A: I'm sorry? Q (in a transparently fake California accent): When you, like, say words differently than other people? who speak, like, the same language? because that's how you, you know, learned to say them from people around you?...

William Morris said: "If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". What is the equivalent for our mental houses?: Barry Ritholtz: More Signal, Less Noise: "ere are some things you need to understand if you want to decrease the noise...

## Reading: Homer, Odysseus, Emily Wilson, David Drake: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: Homer's Odyssey Blogging: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While...": Let me riff off of something that crossed my desk.... Emily Wilson's reflections on her translation of the Odyssey, and on the Odyssey itself. There is one passage that always has been, to me at least, horrifyingly freaky in a very bad way. As David Drake—one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors—puts it:

Odysseus caps his victory by slowly strangling–the process is described in some detail–the female servants who have been sleeping with Penelope’s suitors. This is only one example (although a pretty striking one) of normal behavior in an Iron Age culture which is unacceptable in a society that I (or anybody I want as a reader) would choose to live in... a hero with the worldview of a death camp guard...

Indeed:

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## Reasoning and Cogitation—by Individuals, by Social Groups, and by Societies

I am all but certain to never teach a course on: Reasoning—Indivdual, Social, and Societal. But if I were to teach such a course, would this be the best reading list? And if not these readings, what would be better replacements?

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## Hoisted from the Archives from 2004: Mark Kleiman: Avodim Hayyinu l’pharoh b’Mitzrayim

Mark Kleiman: Avodim Hayyinu l’pharoh b’Mitzrayim: "So the Bush Administration is supporting the anti-gay marriage FMA.... And the right-wing media are loudly cheering for Gibson’s Passion, with its blatantly anti-Semitic retelling of the Crucifixion wrapped in a pornography-of-violence package. I wonder whether, now that their own oxen are being gored to right-wing applause, conservative Jews and conservative gays will reflect on the extent to which 'conservatism' as a political practice in American (as opposed to the conservative strand in political thought represented by Burke, Hayek, and Oakeshott) turns out to embody a willingness—and sometimes a gloating eagerness—to stomp on the out-groups...

...The willingness of Jews to stand up for vulnerable non-Jews, which I had always attributed to centuries of being the out-group, turns out on closer examination to be quite deeply rooted in the religion. Last week in the faculty Torah study group at UCLA—which has been fighting its way through Deuteronomy at the rate of aboutÂ four verses a week for the past decade—we were examining Deut. 24:17-18:

Thou shalt not pervert the justice due to the stranger, or to the fatherless; nor take the widow’s raiment to pledge. But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence; therefore I command thee to do this thing.

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## Blogging: What to Expect Here...

The purpose of this weblog is to be the best possible portal into what I am thinking, what I am reading, what I think about what I am reading, and what other smart people think about what I am reading...

"Bring expertise, bring a willingness to learn, bring good humor, bring a desire to improve the world—and also bring a low tolerance for lies and bullshit..." — Brad DeLong

"I have never subscribed to the notion that someone can unilaterally impose an obligation of confidentiality onto me simply by sending me an unsolicited letter—or an email..." — Patrick Nielsen Hayden

"I can safely say that I have learned more than I ever would have imagined doing this.... I also have a much better sense of how the public views what we do. Every economist should have to sell ideas to the public once in awhile and listen to what they say. There's a lot to learn..." — Mark Thoma

"Tone, engagement, cooperation, taking an interest in what others are saying, how the other commenters are reacting, the overall health of the conversation, and whether you're being a bore..." — Teresa Nielsen Hayden

"With the arrival of Web logging... my invisible college is paradise squared, for an academic at least. Plus, web logging is an excellent procrastination tool.... Plus, every legitimate economist who has worked in government has left swearing to do everything possible to raise the level of debate and to communicate with a mass audience.... Web logging is a promising way to do that..." — Brad DeLong

"Blogs are an outlet for unexpurgated, unreviewed, and occasionally unprofessional musings.... At Chicago, I found that some of my colleagues overestimated the time and effort I put into my blog—which led them to overestimate lost opportunities for scholarship. Other colleagues maintained that they never read blogs—and yet, without fail, they come into my office once every two weeks to talk about a post of mine..." — Daniel Drezner

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Barry Ritholtz: How to Use Behavioral Finance in Asset Management, Part III: "The ugly truth: there is an enormous contingency of players who do not have your best interests at heart... expert at pushing the hot buttons hard-wired into you that is part of your evolutionary inheritance.... This is why we try to teach how to think... [to] see through the bullshit machinery.... Beta vs Alpha: Beta is cheap and easy, Alpha is expensive and hard.... People who create alpha are exceedingly rare; people who can identify them in advance are rarer still. Why should any of us assume we are in either camp? Understanding this gives investors the greatest probability of succeeding...

## Hoisted from the Archives (December 20, 2010): Can't Anybody in Obama's Inner Circle Play This Game?

Hoisted from the Archives: Can't Anybody in Obama's Inner Circle Play This Game?: When people in the White House ask me whether I think Obama's SOTU address should be about tax reform or Social Security reform (i.e., 2/3 Social Security benefit cuts, 1/3 tax increases offered by the administration--and God alone knows what happens after that), I want to say: Why not make the SOTU address about jobs and economic recovery?...

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Joseph Schumpeter on the Ricardian and Keynesian vices. The echo of bdsm practices—le vice anglais—that you hear is intentional on Schumpeter's part, as is his feminization of Keynesians, and the misogyny. Schumpeter was a very smart but very interesting man: Joseph Schumpeter (1953): History of Economic Analysis https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1134838700: "Ricardo’s… interest was in the clear-cut result of direct, practical significance. In order to get this he... piled one simplifying assumption upon another until... the desire results emerged almost as tautologies... It is an excellent theory that can never be refuted and lacks nothing save sense. The habit of applying results of this character to the solution of practical problems we shall call the Ricardian Vice...

## Monday Smackdown: Hoisted: Cliff Asness Department

**Hoisted from the Archives: 7 days before the fifth anniversary of his appearing as lead signatory of the right-wing Republican "Open Letter to Ben Bernanke—Cliff Asness spent 82 minutes talking to Tyler Cowen. The phrase "Federal Reserve" does not appear in the transcript. The phrase "quantitative easing" does not appear in the transcript. The word "monetary" does not appear in the transcript. The word "debasement" does not appear. Tyler Cowen does not ask questions using any of those words. Cliff Asness does not use any of those words in answering questions.

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## Economists' Models: Analysis Pumps or Filing Systems? And Do Countries with Reserve Currencies Need to Fear Solvency Crises?

I believe that there are four issues in this Summers-Krugman-Rogoff-Blanchard et al.-DeLong internet discussion of three years ago:

1. As far as we economists are concerned, are our models analysis pumps, or are they merely filing systems to remind us of experiential wisdom? In other words: Are our models to be taken seriously when they lead us to a conclusion that the great and good believe is unserious?

2. Do economies with exorbitant privilege in which the key leveraged financial institutions have little foreign-currency debt need to fear banking and government solvency crises?

3. Can economies with exorbitant privilege in which the key leveraged financial institutions have little foreign-currency debt rely on their abilty to print their way to liquidity in an emergency and on market participants' recognition of that ability?

4. Can economists build models and conduct analyses assuming that business expectations are reasonable things, and will not push the economy to a position that is not close to a self-consistent near rational expectations equilibrium?

As near as I can see:

1. Larry Summers says: filing systems, yes, no, no.
2. Paul Krugman says: analysis pumps, no, yes, yes.
3. I say" both, no, yes, no.

I think I should, sometime over the past three years, have written a really good piece about these questions based on the ten items below. But I regret that I have not:

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## I Want a FiveThirtyEight Post-Mortem!

Across the Wide Missouri: I would like Nate Silver and company to give an explanation for this:

I suspect that three things went on:

1. Around 8 PM EST the model took the behavior of white southerners as indicative of the behavior of whites elsewhere in the country—and that was a mistake, for white southerners really are a different ethnicity.

2. It really was a knife-edge situation: if the Democrats had only won the popular vote by 7 percentage points instead of 9, they would not now control the House.

3. The left-hand graph is miscalibrated: an 85% probability should not swing up to a 95% and then down to 40% before settling at 60% and then converging to 100% with the actual Democraic seat gain being equal to the original expected value...

#acrossthewidemissouri #politics #statistics


## Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate

As Published: Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises: Many mistaken assumptions about the 2008 financial crisis remain in circulation. As long as policymakers believe the crisis was rooted in the housing bubble rather than human psychology, another crisis will be inevitable. | My Earlier Draft: The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession left the Global North 10% poorer than it otherwise would have been, based on 2005 forecasts. For those hoping to understand this episode better, for a while now I have been recommending four very good books on and about the financial crisis of 2008 and what has followed—the catastrophes that have left the Global North 10% poorer now than we confidently forecasted back in 2005 that we would be today. They are:

1. Kindleberger's Manias, Panics, and Crashes https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0230365353,
2. Reinhart and Rogoff's This Time It's Different https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0691152640,
3. Martin Wolf's The Shifts and the Shocks https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1101608447, and
4. Barry Eichengreen's Hall of Mirrors https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0190621079.

Now I want to add on a fifth book: Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer's A Crisis of Beliefs: Investor Psychology and Financial Fragility https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0691184925. (Full disclosure: Shleifer was my roommate in college and graduate school; to this day, I credit him more than anybody else with whatever positive skills or reputation as an economist I may have.)

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## Monday DeLong Smackdown: Alan Kirman on Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises

Alan Kirman is wise. Listen to him: Monday DeLong Smackdown: Alan Kirman: Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises: For the first time I feel moved to disagree with your assessment here Brad. The behavioral approach proposed by the authors suffers from the same disease as many that have been proposed earlier. It is the idea that one particular "bias" will help to understand and explain the causes and consequences of economic crises. This seems to me to be at odds with what really goes on. Already in 1900 Poincaré criticised Bachelier because he ignored the fact that people tend to behave like sheep. People do not simply receive their information independently and then act on it and in so doing reveal that information. Herd behaviour would suggest that people's beliefs change and are strongly influenced by those with whom they interact...

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Cosma Shalizi (2009): Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour and Richard Scheines, Causation, Prediction and Search: "Re-read as part of preparing for my lecture on casual discovery. I spent much of the winter of 2000 working my way through the first edition, and wound up completely imprinted on its way of thinking about what causal relationships are, how we should reason about them, and how we can find them from empirical evidence... http://www.stat.cmu.edu/~cshalizi/350/lectures/31/lecture-31.pdf...

.... On causation and prediction it now has an equal in Pearl's book (and I admit the latter looks prettier), but on search, that is, on discovering causal structure, there is still no rival. Their key observation is that even though correlation does not imply causation, correlations must have causal explanations. (This idea goes back to Herbert Simon, and Hans Reichenbach [see above] at least.)

So patterns of correlations, among more than just two variables, constrain what causal structures are possible. Sometimes they constrain the causal structure uniquely, in other cases it's only partially identified by the dependencies. And of course there is always the possibility of making a mistake with limited data. But none of this is any different for causal discovery than it is for any other form of statistical inference. The great contribution of this book is showing that causal discovery can be just another learning problem. They have transformed metaphysical misery into ordinary statistical unhappiness...

#shouldread


Thinking About This Again: Extremely wise and interesting on how the more empirical reality tells the Trumpists to mark their beliefs to market, the more desperate they are to avoid doing so: John Holbo: Epistemic Sunk Costs and the Extraordinary, Populist Delusions of Crowds?: "Here’s a thought.... The first rule of persuasion is: make your audience want to believe...

## Self-Locating Belief and the Sleeping Beauty Problem Once Again...

Note to Self: Apropos of the Sleeping Beauty Problem: Adam Elga: Self-Locating Belief and the Sleeping Beauty Problem...

There are three π here:

1. π1: a parameter of nature that describes the probability that the coin, when tossed, will come up heads: π1 = 1/2
2. π2: a number that Sleeping Beauty should keep in mind when deciding at what odds to bet that the coin came up heads if she wants to make money: π1 = 1/3
3. π3: a number that Sleeping Beauty should tell a third party who asks her: "I'm going to make one and only one bet this week as to how this coin came out. What number should I have in mind in deciding at what odds to take heads if I want to make money?": π3 = 1/2

Which of these π1, π2, π3 is the "right" answer Sleeping Beauty should give?

Continue reading "Self-Locating Belief and the Sleeping Beauty Problem Once Again..." »

## Weekend Reading: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving

Highly Recommended: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving: "Too much mathematical rigor teaches rigor mortis:the fear of making an unjustified leap even when it lands on a correct result...

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## Hoisted from teh Archives: Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism"

Today's Economic History: Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism": "Three things strike me while rereading Schumpeter's 1934 "Depressions" (and also his 1927 Explanation of the Business Cycle):

1. How much smarter Schumpeter is than our modern liquidationists and austerians--he says a great many true things in and amongst the chaff, which is created by his fundamentally mistaken belief that structural adjustment must be triggered by a downturn and a wave of bankruptcies that releases resources into unemployment. How much more fun and useful it would be right now to be debating a Schumpeter right now than the ideologues calling for, say, more austerity for and more unemployment in Greece!

2. How very strange it is for Schumpeter to be laying out his depressions-cause-structural-change-and-growth theory of business cycles at the very same moment that he is also laying out his entrepreneurs-disrupt-the-circular-flow-and-cause-structural-change-and-growth-theory of enterprise. It is, of course, the second that is correct: Growth comes from entrepreneurs pulling resources into the sectors, enterprises, products, and production methods of the future. It does not come from depressions pushing resources into unemployment. Indeed, as Keynes noted, times of depression and fear of future depression are powerful brakes halting Schumpeterian entrepreneurship: "If effective demand is deficient... the individual enterpriser... is operating with the odds loaded against him. The game of hazard which he plays is furnished with many zeros.... Hitherto the increment of the world’s wealth has fallen short of the aggregate of positive individual savings; and the difference has been made up by the losses of those whose courage and initiative have not been supplemented by exceptional skill or unusual good fortune. But if effective demand is adequate, average skill and average good fortune will be enough..."

3. How Schumpeter genuinely seems to have no clue at all that the business cycle is a feature of a monetary economy--how very badly indeed he needed to learn, and how he never did learn, what Nick Rowe and company teach today about the effects of monetary stringency on economic coordination.

4. And, finally, how absolutely bonkers liquidationism and austerianism remain...

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## Uncle Judea, Melanin, Genetics, and Educational Attainment...

Highly Recommended: Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie: The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0465097618. And: Aha! So I am not as stupid as I am ugly after all!:

Sokrates: "Your intuition is exactly right: SNPs for (or chromosomally linked to) melanin would predict educational attainment, in a sample drawn from the current over-all American population. The R^2 just for them might not be 10%, but it would certainly be non-negligible...

...Indeed, I would be somewhat surprised melanin-linked SNPs wouldn't be predictive even in a sub-sample of just those categorized as "black". The same would be true, though I suspect to a lesser extent, for SNPs (linked to) curly hair. The more fundamental point is that social and cultural inheritance, together with endogamy, mean that that there are certainly SNPs which predict your class background and the cultural traditions you were exposed to. (If we haven't identified SNPs which distinguish Baptists from Congregationalists among current Americans, it's pretty certainly because we've just not looked for them.)

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Nils Gilman: The Toba Eruption, by Spawning the #Transformationofthehuman Known as Behavioral Modernity...: "'Never before have I encountered someone so gleeful about catastrophe. When we discussed the risk that the Yellowstone supervolcano might blow at any time, Keller’s eyes twinkled. "It’s a fun idea", she said' https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-extinction-debate/565769/...

## On Removing My Tweed Jacket at the Start of Lecture...

A word about this peculiar costume—the closest thing you can get to goretex if all you have is a sheep—that I am now taking off...

Because of central heating, these male formal and semi-formal clothes aren't comfortable these days even in Oxford and Cambridge, England, where they were originally developed. They are really only comfortable in Scotland. That is well-and-good if you teach at the University of Edinburgh or in Glasgow—or, perhaps, in Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, or maybe in Washington or Oregon.

It used to be that these clothes were comfortable here in Berkeley. But, because of global warming, the climate here these days is a lot like what I remember Santa Barbara being like half a century ago when I was a child. When I got a job here at Berkeley in the mid-1990s, I looked forward to living in a place in which tweed jackets and such were comfortable both inside and out. The fact that these clothes were actually comfortable here was a factor—a small factor, but a factor. Increasingly, however, that is no longer the case. A problem resulting from global warming, albeit a small problem.

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This may, to some degree, be the growing pains of new technology. There were people who strongly objected to printing, on the grounds that the only way to truly grok a book was to copy it out word-for-word by hand. In their view, printing produced a bunch of shallow intellectual poseurs who would have only a surface and inadequate knowledge of the books that they had not really read but only skimmed (cf.: Elizabeth L. Eisenstein (1980): The Printing Press as an Agent of Change https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0521299551; Johannes Trithemius (1492): In Praise of Scribes https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0919026087). And Sokrates's attitude toward writing as a greatly inferior simulacrum and inadequate mimesis that could not create the true knowledge obtained through real dialogue is well known (cf.: Plato (370 BC): Phaedrus). Nevertheless, we believe that we have managed to adapt to printing and indeed to the creation of manuscript rather than just the oldest oral master-and-apprentice intellectual technologies. Perhaps we will find different things to be true once we will have trained our information-technology networks to be our servants as trusted information intermediaries and intellectual force multipliers, rather than (as they know are) the servants of the advertisers that pay them and thus that try to glue our eyeballs and attention to screens whether having our eyeballs and attention so-glued helps us become more like our best selves or not. But as of now the empirical evidence has become overwhelming: Susan Dynarski: For better learning in college lectures, lay down the laptop and pick up a pen: "When college students use computers or tablets during lecture, they learn less and earn worse grades. The evidence consists of a series of randomized trials, in both college classrooms and controlled laboratory settings...

As we try to figure out how to create a functional rather than a dysfunctional Habermasian public sphere to support at least semi-sane policies, I find it useful to look back at how previous functional and dysfunctional public spheres emerged and maintained themselves. The general view—which may be false—is that the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment did pretty well. And it had one of its wellsprings in the development of new genres, all of which she argues were in some way created as echoes and transformations of the personal letter. Well worth reading: Rachael Scarborough King: Writing to the World: Letters and the Origins of Modern Print Genres: "Rachael Scarborough King examines the shift from manuscript to print media culture in the long eighteenth century...

Josh Marshall: We Know Trump Is Guilty. We’re Having a Hard Time Admitting It: "The greatest conceit in public life today is the notion that we don’t already know President Trump is guilty... of... conspiring... with a foreign power... and then continuing to cater to that foreign power either as payback for the assistance or out of fear of being exposed...

## Orange-Haired Baboons: Some Fairly-Recent Must- and Should-Reads

• Just think: if the New York Times had been willing to play ball with Nate Silver, they could have things of this quality—rather than more of their standard politician-celebrity-gossip and "Javanka are going to save us all" that has done so much to empower the Orange-Haired Baboons of the world: Nathaniel Rakich: 538 Election Update: How Our House Forecast Compares With The Experts’ Ratings: "FiveThirtyEight’s forecast is a tad more bullish on Democrats’ chances overall than the three major handicappers...

• Why are Fox News's victims so easily-grifted with respect to making them scared of liberal universities?: Jacob T. Levy: "I’ve made a lot of arguments in my life to people who didn’t want to hear them. I argued about sodomy laws and Bowers vs Hardwick with my grandmother when I was 15...

• Michael Tomasky: Hail to the Chief: "It’s worth stepping back here to review quickly the steps by which the Republican Party became this stewpot of sycophants, courtesans, and obscurantists...

## Monday Smackdown: George Borjas P-Hacking His Way Along...

How George Borjas p-hacked his way to his conclusion that immigrants have big negative effects on native-worker wages: Jennifer Hunt and Michael Clemens: Refugees have little effect on native worker wages: "Card (1990) found that a large inflow of Cubans to Miami in 1980 did not affect native wages or unemployment...

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Rory McVeigh, David Cunningham, and Justin Farrell: Political Polarization as a Social Movement Outcome: 1960s Klan Activism and Its Enduring Impact on Political Realignment in Southern Counties, 1960 to 2000: "Short-term movement influence on voting outcomes can endure when orientations toward the movement disrupt social ties, embedding individuals within new discussion networks...