#commentoftheday Feed

Adrian: The 1600 Military Revolution and the Islamic World https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/note-to-self-we-hear-a-lot-about-the-military-revolution-at-the-end-of-the-sixteenth-century-we-hear-about-gustaf-adolf.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4c057ab200d#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4c057ab200d: 'Since the turn of the millennium there has been a fast developing historical literature on this. Khan (2004) on Mughals; Agoston (2005) on Ottomans; and Streusand (2011) on both + Safavids. State of the art is the idea of a Eurasian rather than European gunpowder revolution. But there is still perhaps something different emerging in C17th century Europe. In 1500 the Ottomans are the cutting edge by 1700 they look old fashioned.

Scott P.: "Well, in 1500 the Spanish are the cutting edge by 1700 they look old-fashioned, too....

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Comment of the Day: Maynard Handley https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/very-briefly-noted-2019-10-07-1-clearkimura-_how-to-convert-document-from-google-docs-to-text-file_-no-need-to.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4b711d1200d#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4b711d1200d in "How to Convert Document from Google Docs to Text File"Even more useful is that Google Docs provides access to what has been (in my experience) by far the best OCR system available. Upload a JPG (and I'm guessing probably other image formats like PDF scans, but I haven't yet tried that) to your Google Drive, and then in your browser in the Google Drive window, right/ctrl-click on the image and choose "Open in Google Docs". You'll get a document opened with the text of the image. I've found that this works not just for the easy cases, but even the tough stuff -- small low quality images, multiple columns, things like that. A little more hassle than the various OCR+scanner apps I've paid for but vastly higher quality. (Supposedly MS Live can do the same thing, but I tried getting to MS' OCR from a dozen different angles, on iOS and Mac, through the web and through OneNote, and gave it up. MS may have the greatest OCR scheme on earth, but they've hidden access to it so well it's useless to me.) (Apple have adopted a strange tactic WRT to OCR. Many things on an iOS13 system are automatically text OCR'd, like any scans or images you dump into Notes or Messages. And this text is indexed, so that the relevant scans/images appear in searches. But you can't get at the underlying text for other purposes, whether to edit it or just to read it. It's unclear if this was just not enough time to ship by iOS13, or if it's an attempt to warn other OCR vendors to find some other app category soon, so that there's less grumbling and the usual anti-competitive complaints when Apple does ship. Either way, this particular design choice means that, at least right now, I can't yet compare the quality of Apple's work to that of Google.)...

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Comment of the Day: Grizzled https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/age-of-the-expert-as-policymaker-is-coming-to-an-end-financial-times.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4dd9749200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4dd9749200b in Age of the Expert as Policymaker Is Coming To an End: "Alas, I don't think it's usually possible for non-experts to evaluate expert judgements. The Reinhard and Rogoff example is more the exception than the rule. Consider the case of global warming. Google 'Conversion of a Global Warming Skeptic'. This is a case where is took 18 months of work, which was funded so it could be not only full time but assisted, for a Phd in physics to accumulate enough background to become convinced that the climate scientists had been right all along. This is not a level of investment available in the ordinary run of things. The practical question is how to pick experts to trust. I don't have a quick answer to that, other than to reject anyone associated with Republicans...

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Comment of the Day: Dilbert Dogbert https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/raymond-chandler-1938-_the-red-wind_-there-was-a-desert-wind-blowing-that-night-it-was-one-of-those-hot-dry-santa.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a48fd8d2200c#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a48fd8d2200c in Santa Ana Winds: "Back in the mid 50's I spent time with my older brother in San Bernadino. His house was near the El Cajon Pass. I remember a night spent listening to the winds roaring down the pass. Next day I wandered around the area. Near his house was a new cheap development of houses without garages. Just car ports. Most of them were blown over. Another memory was going to a near by airport to check the condition of the small plane he built. As we drove in I notice a ball of aluminum in a tree. A plane came loose and ended up there. My bros plane suffered a broken spar. He was an aircraft mech so he fixed it....

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Comment of the Day: Nils https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/raymond-chandler-1938-_the-red-wind_-there-was-a-desert-wind-blowing-that-night-it-was-one-of-those-hot-dry-santa.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4dc99d2200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4dc99d2200bin Santa Ana Winds: "I can reliably tell you that there was a Diablo wind on October 19 and 20, 1991, which led to the severity of the Oakland Hills fire. I was out at Mt. Tamalpais that day, and when we had hiked to the north end of the mountain near the Mountain Theater we could see a long streak of smoke trailing out to sea through the Golden Gate, at 11 am. I knew a serious fire had broken out, but of course could not tell where. I feared that my car at the East Gate parking lot was being consumed by wildfire and we were all going to die (or something like that). But when we got to East Peak and looked over the bay, about 1pm, we could see flames leaping in the Oakland Hills. I stopped worrying about me and worried about my aunt and uncle who lived in the hills above Tunnel Road (they got out OK but their house was gone, foundations calcined to a pile of sand, a few blobs of melted metal all that was left of my Grandmother's silver, although the gladiolus my aunt was planting that morning mostly survived). I take this sort of weather very seriously. PG&E is right to cut power no matter how inconvenient it is. We also, though, need more independent power, especially for critical installations like hospitals, nursing homes, schools. Off-grid living is becoming more and more a matter of survival and community resilience, less a fringe movement....

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Comment of the Day: Graydon https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/richard-grabowski-2002-_east-asia-land-reform-and-economic-development_-in-trying-to-explain-the-economic-success.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4dbfad3200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4dbfad3200bre "It is hard for an economist using an economic perspective to understand why landlords or the landed elite would have an innate tendency to be an obstacle to long-run economic development": "Because they're in a position of power and seriously dependent on things not changing. Farms are a big lump of capital, but it's relatively static capital; you can't change your type of output on anything less than multi-year timescales, and that involves a lot of liquid capital you don't generally have. So a landed aristocracy with its income and relative social position dependent on having got their static capital just so does not want change and will do what it can to prevent such a thing. (The US does not lack for examples.) Consider the views of canal owner/operators with respect to railroads from 1840 through about 1860 in the US; the canal is an analogous type of capital...

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Comment of the Day: Meno https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/eg-a-growing-problem-in-real-estate-too-many-too-big-houses-wsj.html: "Occasionally you post something like this that reminds us how foreign the USA is to some of us. Mansions, that we get. Rock stars and film moguls need to live somewhere, with their minders, crew, and hangers-on. 2,000 square foot “shacks” at the beach that stand empty most of the year-sure. Lawyers’ families gotta go somewhere on the weekend to take the boat out. It’s the McMansions that are odd. Who the heck buys a 7-bedroom 8,000 square foot house? And why? What does a couple do with all that space? It’s not the price, it’s the size...

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Comment of the Day: Maurits Pino https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/eg-a-growing-problem-in-real-estate-too-many-too-big-houses-wsj.html: "Housing & life cycle needs are badly adjusted. We either need to move more or have a better functioning rental market. Small kids: Need: a garden. Get: apartment/too small house. Big kids: Need: mobility for the kids (city centre/public transport). Get: a house with a garden. Post kids: Same as previous but smaller. Time for music, cinema etc. Get: a house with a garden, half empty. Or perhaps an even bigger one. Retired: Need: A place in nature & a studio in town for culture. At least as long as living independently. Get: a house with garden. Still half empty but now a bit run down. First floor unused because of the stairs...

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Comment of the Day: Yes. Exactly. Humans are way too prone to attribute human-level intelligence to whatever they are interacting with. Perhaps it has (had?) an evolutionary benefit, but it is a great obstacle to clear and correct thought:

Tracy Lightcap https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/superintelligence-the-idea-that-eats-smart-people.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a48c7daf200c#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a48c7daf200cin Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People: "I think the actual problem here is that a lot of intelligent people want to believe that computers aren't machines. They appear so … well, life-like. They can do calculations and comparisons faster then we can. That must mean that, in the long term, they'll become as intelligent as we are or even more! It stands to reason! No, it doesn't. A computer isn't all that much different from a Jacard loom. They are very sophisticated artifacts of human intelligence and they can do what we program them to do. Nothing more, though certainly nothing less. We can program them to mimic some of the trappings of intelligence if we'd like, but that's very different from saying that a machine can think. They can't, largely because they can't discern meaning in their ourput. That'll never change. Our problem isn't that computers will develop super intelligence; it's that we have such a hard time figuring out how to integrate them into our work. That is very slowly happening and we can count on some real snafus alongtheu way. That should scare us...

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Comment of the Day: Nathanael: Speech to 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/10/speech-to-20th-congress-of-the-cpsu.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4e033e1200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4e033e1200b: "Xi's triumph over the Chinese Central Committee also heralds an era of failure, incompetence, and self destruction similar to the Stalinist era in that it is a worthless cult of the individual. China did quite well during the 'no prominent individual' period after Deng ... That is over...

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Comment of the Day: Ebenezer Scrooge https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/09/hoisted-from-teh-archives-from-2006-tightwad-hill.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4d96d9c200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4d96d9c200b in Stanford Week: "The formula for succeeding as an undergrad at an enormous state university is to pretend you're a grad student, and dive into a department full time. You're likely to get a decent mentor and adequate support, so you can ignore the bureaucratic madness. Of course, they also say that about Harvard. On a personal note, the only smart decision I made as an adolescent was to attend Brown to study physics, rather than MIT. Life was a lot easier at Brown when I realized I was not one of the people to whom physics was always "intuitively obvious." My parents were a bit disappointed, since they had heard of MIT but not Brown. But, as wise parents, they deferred to me...

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Comment of the Day: Harold Carmel https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/09/march-of-the-peacocks-the-new-york-times.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4b269b1200d#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4b269b1200d in Paul Krugman: March of the Peacocks: "As Prof. DeLong has often pointed out, Obama's turn toward austerity in that SOTU was a very dumb policy idea. Obama's negotiating style was to split the difference with the GOP in his initial offer, assuming the Republicans were bargaining in good faith. Of course, they weren't. Obama presented himself as post-partisan and thought the Republicans would reciprocate. How did that work out? An important lesson for the current Democratic presidential race....

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Comment of the Day: Phil Koop https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/09/quantum-supremacy.html#tpe-action-resize-355 on Quantum Supremacy in reply to Kaleberg: "Your objection is mistaken, as Scott Aaronson explains:

Q12. Even so, there are countless examples of materials and chemical reactions that are hard to classically simulate, as well as special-purpose quantum simulators (like those of Lukin’s group at Harvard). Why don’t these already count as quantum computational supremacy?

Under some people’s definitions of “quantum computational supremacy,” they do! The key difference with Google’s effort is that they have a fully programmable device—one that you can program with an arbitrary sequence of nearest-neighbor 2-qubit gates, just by sending the appropriate signals from your classical computer. In other words, it’s no longer open to the QC skeptics to sneer that, sure, there are quantum systems that are hard to simulate classically, but that’s just because nature is hard to simulate, and you don’t get to arbitrarily redefine whatever random chemical you find in the wild to be a “computer for simulating itself.” Under any sane definition, the superconducting devices that Google, IBM, and others are now building are indeed “computers.”...

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Comment of the Day: Kaleberg https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/09/hoisted-from-teh-archives-from-2006-tightwad-hill.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4b47837200d#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4b47837200d: "There's a reason David Lodge, in his Changing Places, set up Euphoric State University to contrast against the University of Rummidge, a thinly disguised University of Birmingham. Physically quite different, they were both complex mazes of bureaucracy, idiocy and academic power plays. I mainly knew UCB computer science types, mainly graduate students. They were used to pain in the ass computers, so the institution bothered them less. Besides, they all had obvious fall backs and side gigs across the bay. The humanities types I knew there called it 'Beserkely'. Becoming a small fish in a big pond is a common problem at MIT. For just about any given task that you find at the edge of your abilities, there are going to be a good number of people who find it 'intuitively obvious'. When I went to MIT there were three physics tracks for those who hadn't placed out of the course (via AP test or prior credits). Drop date was almost two months into the term, and one could easily transfer before then. MIT admits students based on grades and enthusiasm. There is almost always a number of tasks that one finds intuitively obvious but seems nearly impossible to the rest of the class...

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Comment of the Day: Ebenezer Scrooge: "I've never met an absolute property right. Every damned one of them has an exception. Even a person's right to their own labor—the inalienable right guaranteed by the 13th Amendment—is subject to the draft, imprisonment, and covenants not to compete. Non-allodial rights in real estate are conditional on paying taxes and subject to takings. (While on takings, not all takings are compensated.) Copyright is subject to fair use. Property rights of use ('enjoyment', in the Hegelian trichotomy) are subject to many restrictions—consider all the things you could do with a baseball bat that would result in jail time. Property rights of exclusion or alienation I'll leave as an exercise to the reader. Etc., etc. The proper term is 'strong' property right....

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Comment of the Day: Erik Lund: This is fun! When it comes to Santa Claus, there's one thing I know for sure. He's the last great follower of Ayn Rand. When it comes to J. R. R. Tolkien, there's one thing I know for sure. He kept it brief! When it comes to Erich von Daniken, there's one thing I know for sure. He's one of the great scholars of our time! When it comes to General Custer, there's one thing I know for sure. He's one of the Great Captains. When it comes to me, there's one thing I know for sure. I provide hours of high quality comment on this blog...

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Comment of the Day: Ebenezer Scrooge: "I don't see it. The various wings of the Republican Party, ever since Nixon, have always been a coalition of losers from the democratic process who realized that they can each win in their respective sphere if they just gang up with the other losers. They never have any respect for the others' spheres. The neocons always knew their allies were evil plutocrats, racists, and Talibans. The Talibans always knew their allies were godless plutocrats and Jews. (Some Talibans are racists: others are not.) The racists always knew their allies were godbags, moneybags, and big beautiful mosaic types. But each of these groups knew that they needed the others to get their own goals. And they still know it. On this backdrop, the squabbles of a few intellectuals are irrelevant...

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Comment of the Day: RW: "Cultures do not articulate authoritarianism the same everywhere; e.g., Trump/Johnsonism appears less 1984 and more Brave New World: 'What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture." —Neil Postman...

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Comment of the Day: Kaleberg: "'...the general effect of cold war extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s.' - George Kennan. 'The suggestion that any Administration had the power to influence decisively the course of a tremendous domestic political upheaval in another great country on another side of the globe is simply childish. No great country has that sort of influence on the internal developments of any other one.' - also George Kennan. Still, the Cold War was a wonderful piece of myth making. It was the end of history and the start of history. Novus ordo seclorum....

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Comment of the Day: Doctor Jay: "I'm very much not getting what I want out of social media. I very much AM getting what I want out of internet search. The distinction is stark, and few writers bother to make it. In your Facebook stream are ads you didn't ask for and can't get rid of. They enjoy the tacit endorsement of your closest friends and family because of this placement. They aren't based on what you have "liked" and are interested in, they are based on who has paid to put them there. And all this is, as far as I can tell, completely legal. In comparison, the information Google has gleaned about you mostly shows up in banner ads that are placed in such a way that they enjoy no such endorsement, and are easily blocked or otherwise ignored. Often you get ads in response to searches, and usually the ads feature some aspect of what you were looking for. That doesn't seem intrusive to me. YouTube ads for me these days are mostly for things I'm interested in, or it's plausible that I would be interested in, except for a couple of political things that obviously think that a guy with my interests really ought to be interested in right-wing propaganda masquerading as The Truth. I wish more writers would understand and engage with this distinction. There may well be anti-trust issues with Google, but it doesn't have nearly the same corrosive effect on our social trust and credit that Facebook does...

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Comment of the Day: Cosma Shalizi : "I have used Google as pretty much my only search engine since it became available, and used Gmail for all my mail since 2012. I've never shared my account (or my credit cards) with anyone else. Google should thus have a very complete idea of what I'm interested in. Here, as of late 2016 when I poked it, was its list of my inferred interests (verbatim): http://www.stat.cmu.edu/~cshalizi/dm/19/crs-google-interests-2016.png I can, with charity, understand 'homemaking and interior decor' (because I'd been researching new window blinds), and 'pet food and supplies' (though my cat had died more than a year before). Everything else was just flat wrong, and often mystifyingly so (I've never played shooter games, can't stand musicals, had to look up reggaeton, and have no feelings or opinions about Chevrolet one way or the other). In conclusion, superintelligence is the idea that eats smart people....

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Comment of the Day: Graydon: "You get what you reward, and the present mechanism of reward is advertising, fundamentally aligned with increasing people's insecurity so as to increase their likelihood of making a purchase to address that insecurity. Addressing the insecurity by reducing it with free information is something the advertising revenue stream is actively against. If you want this to work at a means of improving the cross-product of information and people, so that the area under the 'could make a sound decision if they wanted to do so' line on the distribution-of-access-to-knowledge graph is maximized, you need a public mechanism of reward and to align it with people's belief in the utility of the source toward reducing their insecurity. If the post office ran it, you could have a single standard blogging platform, a per-reader token distribution system, and a cash payout based on assigned tokens. But this can't be done with patronage or with advertisers, though patronage comes closer. (There's much greater diversity of patrons than diversity of advertisers.)...

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Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "I do believe that you are suggesting that the USA should welcome people named Lee who are not related to Robert E., the gentleman traitor. By your logic the USA can be number one in 2119 if we defeat the terrible threat not from the PRC but from the GOP. You might have a point there. If you descendants of Mayflower passengers can assimilate Magyars, you can assimilate anyone...

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Comment of the Day: Erik Lund: "Eh, if reading The Economist has taught me anything, it is that any effort to raise the living standard or wages of the British worker courts immediate disaster due to an unfavourable balance of trade. Attracting immigrants is right out. (I especially like the argument from 1949 that Israel had to curtail immigration immediately because there wasn't enough work for the newcomers due to the... wait for it... Labour shortage)...

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Comment of the Day: Yes, the failure modes of making jam are pretty scary: Graydon on Homer's Odyssey and David Drake's Hammer's Slammers: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While...": "I think you're missing the central thing about Drake's writing. It is not so much that, yeah, these are not the best circumstances and our feels are in abeyance; that happens, that's depicted. But among that depiction you get what I think of as the essential Drake thing, which is a vehicle crew. They may not like each other much; they may not, in some senses of the word, trust one another. But they are entirely predictable to one another, and reliable. And it's that obligation of reliability that lets people get their head out of hell, whether as imperfectly as Danny Pritchard does it or as entirely as the protagonist of Redliners does. (You can see much the same flavour of reliable between Gunnar and Brennu-Njáll)...

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Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "I disagreed with that analysis in 1980. So did Solow. The argument was gradually reducing inflation was possible, would work fine, and wouldn't cause such a severe recession. I still think that. But why are the 70s so memorable? (For us, obviously, our teens are memorable.) Krugman thinks they are remembered with horror because they were very bad for investors. Also it was part of a general ideological shift. But it is amazing how inflation around 10% (mostly a transfer which can be avoided with indexed contracts not a welfare loss) had such a huge effect on policy and academic economics and the great recession had such a small effect. I think it is very hard to reconcile this with the idea that economics is a science or that policymakers have well defined objectives and models. Also, it is clear that a bit of suffering for me and people I know has more effect than huge suffering of people of another social class. You didn't explain where the 2% target came from or why a 4% target is rejected. I don't think you can. Given the liquidity trap it makes no sense (as you and Larry Summers argued decades ago)...

Comment of the Day: Charles Steindel: in reply to Robert Waldmann: "You are precisely right about the 70's (I wuz there). Even with the big 73-75 recession it was essentially a period of strong growth; a lot of jobs created as our generation flooded the labor market. A major reason for the runup in inflation, as has been fairly well-documented (by Athanasios Orphanides), was the unexpected drop in productivity growth—that led to overestimates of how much tightening of policy would reduce inflation. A key issue examined by some in that era was the real cost of the inflation. At least as I saw it careful analysis suggested little (of course, some misallocation of resources reflecting the non-indexed tax code, but that is a fairly straightforward matter to correct). I was amused a few years ago when Olivier Blanchard may have been apparently implicitly relying on that line of reasoning in suggesting higher inflation targets; I got that message back then from the long paper Stan Fischer and Franco Modigliani wrote and it could be Olivier heard it the same as I did...

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Comment of the Day: Graydon: "I think it's quite possible to look at the Chinese per-city bans on combustion-powered busses and taxis, the quiet 'well, yes, us also' from Volvo about their electric platform coincidentally on the same schedule as the Mercedes-Benz platform (Volvo is owned by a Chinese car maker), the new battery tech Mercedes-Benz says they're adopting as drifting toward the Chinese banning sales of new private combustion-powered automobiles by 2022 or so. They're in pretty good shape to do that; nobody else is, and certainly the US is not. As a 'obvious economic self interest, so unfortunate about that carbon bubble O Oil-Empire Alleged Hegemon' move it's difficult to see why they wouldn't...

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Comment of the Day: Ronald Brakels: "Why do they publicly hate trans people? Because they no longer get a thrill/votes from publicly hating gay people. It may be hard to see from the inside, but here in foreignland it is very clear that once people who wear suits stopped automatically nodding their heads in agreement with politicians who relied on casting themselves as being in opposition to a despised out group of people who have homosexual relations or look like they might, they pivoted to hating trans people. It all lookws horrifically artificial from over here. They are setting out to ruin lives and drive people to suicide because they find that preferable to obtaining political success by standing for something other than standing in opposition to some hated other.

[byomtov]: "Why do they publicly hate trans people? Because they no longer get a thrill/votes from publicly hating gay people. It may be hard to see from the inside. Not hard to see at all. The need is to hate someone. Once it becomes unacceptable to hate (at least publicly) some groups-Jews, blacks, homosexuals-it becomes necessary to find a new target...

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Comment of the Day: Charles Steindel: "Nothing at all wrong with Weller, really. The truly odd point appears to be how he got nominated. It seems that Trump was pleased that Jim Bullard, the president of the St. Louis Fed, voted to cut the funds rate at the last meeting, and offered Jim the slot. Bullard turned it down (no regional president would ever be included to accept a Board post other than Chair or Vice Chair; no more real power, combined with less pay and no staff) and suggested Weller. That's not the usual way these things get done. The only 'hasty' Board nomination I can recall was Paul Volcker being named chair in the immediate wake of Bill Miller becoming Treasury Secretary. But in 1979 there was a clear need to have that slot filled as quickly as possible by a person of Volcker's (dare I say...) stature (groan). Update: Whoops—it slipped my mind that Martin replacing McCabe in 1951 was rushed. But the circumstances were also pretty extraordinary, even more so than 1979: the FOMC had pretty openly defied the President in the middle of a major shooting war. McCable (and Eccles) had to go as part of the Accord. Truman thought he got his guy in at the Fed, but learned otherwise...

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Comment of the Day: Ronald Brakels: "If you record a bitch's new born puppy and then play that sound on a tape deck or other audio device the bitch will pick up that device and treat it like a pup. Dogs have about 2 billion plus neurons but this shows they are still very stupid. But no one seems to have a problem with this epic level of idiocy in our closest animal companions, but as soon as a program identifies a tape player as a puppy people can't wait to mock it for being so stoopid And they're right. It is stoopid. But they always seem to overlook the fact we're pretty stoopid ourselves. Take, for example, pornography. Humans can be fooled by glowing phosphors into sexual activity that has pretty much zero chance of creating descendants.

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Comment of the Day: D. C. Sessions: "One of those 'small city research universities' is New Mexico Tech (nmt.edu), which is in a town (Socorro) of 10,000. In addition to the usual research and educational activities, NMT manages the Very Large Array radiotelescope array, the 2.4 meter fast object tracking Magdalena Ridge Optical Observatory, the Langmuir Lightning Laboratory, and the new Magdalena Ridge Optical Interferometric telescope array. I probably forgot a few. Despite this, low cost of living, and a congenial climate, Socorro is losing ground. Before trying to copy NMT across the USA, it would be wise to understand why the formula isn't working here.

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Comment of the Day: Graydon: "Intelligence is emergent. We know with some confidence that you can get it more than one way -- the way you think, and the way a parrot thinks are not the same -- and that you can get it with way fewer neurons than we use (that parrot again, or corvids) but we don't know what it emerges from or how. Which is where all the neuron complexity arguments die in a pit. I think it's more useful to think about something like Deep Mind as an artificial reflex than as artificial intelligence; a certain narrow range of stimuli produces a quick response. The emergent stuff is just not there at all.

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Comment of the Day: Erik Lund: "'Cerdic' appears to be a Brittonic name, 'Ceretic', or, in reconstructed British, Caraticos, tolerably close to 'Caratacus', a heroic leader of British resistance against the Roman invader, who appears in the Latin historians, Tacitus and Dio Cassius. It seems to be a minority argument that 'Cerdic' is 'Caratacus'. Tracing royal ancestry back to Woden is an Anglo-Saxon affectation, we all agree. (In spite of a strong argument that it is actually everyone else copying Bede, and Bede trying to patch up an acceptable genealogy for the post-Osred Bernician kings, who could no longer trace their ancestry back to Ealdfrith, and had to resort to the much less satisfactory, legendary figure of Ida.) But the House of Wessex claiming an ancient British hero as apex ancestor? That's whack...

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Comment of the Day: Kaleberg: "It depends on what you mean by a 'robot'. Do you count remote wellhead monitoring systems? That eliminates drill monitoring jobs. Do you count synthetic oils and computerized internal combustion engine control letting lubrication oil last longer? That eliminates automobile maintenance jobs. Let's not even talk about the revolution in steel making over the last 30 years that has eliminated tens of thousands of dirty, dangerous jobs. There is a long list like this. Uber and Lyft eliminate dispatcher's jobs. Reservation web sites eliminate receptionist and scheduling jobs...

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Comment of the Day: HankP: "Under Bush we had the imposition of torture as policy, now trump has added concentration camps. Republicans applauded loudly in both cases. Everyone knows where this is headed if we don't stop it...

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Comment of the Day: As Dan Davies says, finance works with criminal penalties for material misrepresentations, and works better. Would not politics also work better with such?: Graydon: "Remember that in this case, Boris made the public lie in an official capacity, was told by the relevant governmental body that it was a lie—the statistics authority officially informed the official persona of the officeholder that no, no, that's not correct; that is not close to correct—and the official persona went right on making the lie in public in ways the court refuses to find obviously immaterial. There's not much 'chilling speech' there; there's an obligation on office-holders to act in the public interest. It's unusual to use a court to hold them to it, but it's not obviously wrong to use a court to hold them to it, any more than it would be wrong to charge someone with taking bribes to act contrary to the public interest while holding a public office...


#commentoftheday

Comment of the Day: Cosma Shalizi: "Young doesn't give a table of sample sizes, but he does give a table of average maximum 'leverages', which is something like 0.25 for the two most influential observations. This matters, because regression asymptomatics are basically about the limit where leverage goes to zero (rather than sample size to infinity as such). If two observations (or clusters) are driving 1/4 of the estimate, asymptotics are irrelevant. (Young does a lot with the bootstrap to show that the pre-asymptotics aren't great either.)...

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Comment of the Day: Charles Steindel: "One interesting thing in this material was Buchanan's groaning about how he was discriminated against in Navy Officer training relative to Yankee Ivy Leaguers. Herman Wouk's recent passing stirred me to reflect on this process. As was mildly fictionalized in the Caine Mutiny, Work was outstripped in his training class by none other than Jim Tobin. Yes, both Wouk and Tobin were northern 'Ivy Leaguers' (Wouk Columbia and Tobin Harvard). But the Jew from New York and the Irish kid from Illinois would surely not have seen themselves as more on the 'inside' than Buchanan who, after all, had the same name as (an admittedly wildly unsuccessful) US President...

IMHO, what Buchanan is complaining about is this: Harvard and Columbia could and did turn people like Wouk and Tobin into effective WASPs by teaching them to turn down the accent and soft-pedal the Blarney and the Yiddishkeit. Middle Tennessee State Teachers College and the University of Tennessee were not in that business at all.

Now after spending World War II out in Hawaii on Admiral Spruance's staff and marrying Anne Bakke, a Norwegian-American nurse and then getting your Ph.D. in 1948 at the University of Chicago—after that you don't have to identify as a southerner, a governor's grandson, from a family whose land had been "ruined" by the Civil War (actually, land is hard to ruin: livestock, buildings, orchards, and most of all slaves can no longer be yours afterwards, but the lady is still there); you could identify as whitish-bread American meritocrat—like Wouk and Tobin—who happened to have been born in the shallow south. I don't know whether he thought that would have been a theft of his identity, or whether he would have taken that road if his first jobs had been in Vermont and Wisconsin rather than Florida and Virginia.

Or maybe his complaints about discrimination against him were a con, an intellectual judo move: I'm not an oppressive white establishment southerner—I'm being oppressed!

When one reads "From that day forward I have shared in the emotional damage imposed by discrimination..." and "'fairness' assumed for me a central normative position...", one does expect it to be followed by "and so I marched with King". One does not expect it to be accompanied by "and so I worked hard to devise plans whereby Virginia's public-school tax collars could be diverted to segregation academies..." It's hard for me to see to contemplate such a total lack of awareness of self and context to make "I have shared in the emotional damage imposed by discrimination..." anything other than an intellectual judo move...

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Graydon: "If you're an authoritarian, you want people to do what you say...

...You necessarily hate this fact-checking, quantified analysis stuff, and you want to make sure anybody who tries that shit winds up starving in a ditch somewhere. People are supposed to do what you say, not waste time and money producing creative excuses. There are no legitimate excuses. You do what you are told to do, whatever it takes. Nothing is important except getting it done and admitting the boss was right.

I sometimes wonder if academia suffers terribly from not having to work for that person.

I mean, yeah, you don't want to work for that person, and you really don't, in a social-health systemic-utility sense, want that person in charge of anything ever, but all the academic analysis I see doesn't believe in that person, and they're ubiquitous. They make a lot of decisions, about the economy and people's lives. They mostly succeed with the starving-in-a-ditch part, too...

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Comment of the Day: John Howard Brown: Stigler's Denunciation of the "Insolence" of Demonstrating Negroes: "As an Industrial Organization economist/quasi-historian of economic thought in IO, I found your characterization of ε-Stigler interesting. My feeling is that you may be attributing too much to ε-Stigler. Aaron Director and Milton Friedman had as much or more to do with the libertarian cast of thought developed at Chicago...

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Comment of the Day: Howard: "I must be missing something: I don't see this as a 'reach for yield' phenomena. I see this as a reach for 10x returns, and I don't think low interest rates have much to do with the willingness of people (well, high net-worth individuals and their VC and hedge fund managers) to take a shot at a 10x return. I continue to see low interest rates as the market's way of telling us we need public investment, badly...

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Comment of the Day: JEC: "I'd just add a note to lament the five decades of empirical research into the actual formation and behavioral consequences of expectations that didn't happen, thanks to the Rational Expectations Revolution in macro. We'll never get those squandered years back...

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Comment of the Day: JEC: "Against my better judgment, I find that I must demand, in the strongest possible terms, that you kids withdraw forthwith from my lawn. More specifically, this is correct: 'The concept was developed by the economist Joan Robinson in her 1933 book The Economics of Imperfect Competition to describe the labor market equivalent of a monopoly, where workers only have the option to work at one employer, so their wages will be set less than the value they create+ since they have no outside options'...

...But this is bollocks: "But work pioneered by economist Alan Manning at the London School of Economics in his book Monopsony in Motion broadens the definition of monopsony to include labor market dynamics where workers do not respond to changes in wages as would be predicted by a competitive model." Why in the world would anyone think it was a good idea to take a technical term denoting a specific market failure and turn it into a generic label for any and all market failures? O tempora o mores!

+Errr… correct-ish. "The value they create" is not an accurate rendering of "the marginal product of labor." But that's a separate rant...

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Comment of the Day: John Howard Brown: "Discussions of 'white male privilege' go... far astray. Although the phenomena is very real, most white males don't experience their lives as privileged. If anything, they feel less privileged than their fathers. Certainly their incomes are less. As Brad has pointed out, maintaining a full employment economy instead of the Fed's disinflationary bias would go far to reduce the feelings of grievance among white males. Too bad that so many 'Baby Boomers' got scared by the inflation monster in the 1970s...

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Comment of the Day: Howard: "As a white male who graduated high school in Allentown, PA in 1970, I have often noted that while I went to college and forged a reasonably well paid career as a consultant, the white males like me who didn't go to college expected to find life-long work and reasonable pay at Bethlehem Steel, Mack Truck, or the Western Electric Plant. All those jobs are long, long gone. While the area has been lucky enough to have seen big growth in healthcare, my high school classmates have had little but struggle, and I wouldn't be surprised if some good number of them were now Trumpists. That all said, i'm not sure baby boomers were scarred by the inflation monster: i think fed economists were scarred by the inflation monster, which is what produced years and years of pretending that a hard ceiling was merely a target...

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Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "Also I don't like 'publicly commit'. This is based on the faith that such declarations are credited, and the prior assumption that if they are firmly and sincerely meant and therefore credible they shall be credited. The idea that agent's belief in a declaration is an aspect of the policy is the rational expectations hypothesis sneaking in the back door after having been tossed out the front door (effort to translate returning by the window after being tossed out the door for residents of a country where most windows aren't French windows). Why promise inflation after the recession rather than produce inflation now when monetary policy isn't at the zero lower bound. Is it really likely that people could be convinced that the Fed will accept inflation over 2% some years after then next time we are in the liquidity trap when it demonstrates that it won't accept it right now? They should walk the walk, not just pre-commit to possibly talking the talk at some time in the indefinite future. Still progress...

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