Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Barack Obama, American Stoic

    If the Founding Fathers had a chance to meet Barack Obama, they would of course be shocked. Even the most enlightened of them were not prepared to imagine an African-American President. And what they would think about his policies is anyone's guess: the Founders' political philosophies were shaped by their political environments, and they wouldn't fit easily into today's debates.

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    Fuck Da Noize

    Yesterday a female CEO/glorified saleswoman "broke LinkedIn"** with a potty-mouth post to blatantly flog her not-so-in-demand and rather niche/regional product. Predictably it got a lot of reads, attention, comments, and a predictable followup post - basically, "so I said fuck, get over it".

    LinkedIn will undoubtedly not "get over it", but *will* absorb the change and suffer another hit to its already waning fortunes as professional-network-turned-Facebook, anticipating the day where it becomes MySpace (read: past tense).

    But the noise is instructive. She did what many insurrectionists will do - drive the bus straight into the wall and laugh about it. The famed article "The Tragedy of the Commons" was based more on shared markets being damaged by neglect, less cared for than private spaces - Adam Smith's non-benign one-handed twin.

    Here the noise is not just the uproar - it's also the cognitive dissonance - the "you can't do that" feeling that destroys our confidence and basic precepts, violates our now (epi-?)genetically encoded values system - taking the last cookie without asking, crossing the street on red, etc., etc.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Actual Reason Markets Do Not Work In Healthcare is... Pain!

    Today, David Brooks asks whether or not markets function well in the American health care system and he seems to think that, when it doesn't, it's largely because health care providers know so much more about health and wellbeing than health care consumers:

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    Was Comey Blackmailed?

    The most obvious question, yet no one's asking it.

    It's not like he didn't know the rules. And it was a complete nothing-burger.

    Did Putin get to Jimmy? Enquiring minds want to know.

    Discuss.

    Bayesic Instinct

    Towards the late days of October, Huffpost's lead pollster started releasing polls claiming greater than 90% probability of a win, explicitly challenging Nate Silver of 538 and his "conservativism" or even manipulating the data. One commenter noted, "we'll know after Nov 8". It was all too funny and surreal, like a guy saying he knows all about carpentry and grasping the hammer head and nailing with the handle.

    No, you can't "know" anything from a single outcome, unless you predicted 100% that it wouldn't happen - that your certain hypothesis was refuted. Otherwise, you're simply left with false confidence in 1 data point - unless you bothered to research your outcome.

    As background, I'm pretty awful in probabilityand statistics - having the basics of dice permutations down, and getting the math of certain cross-correlations in dependent events, and doing enough damage in trying to model stochastic processes. But mostly I done forgot.

    But even if I hadn't, it might not matter. Just as the field of linguistics is going through a phase of rough and tumble re-evaluation after 30-40 years of certainty centered around Chomsky, probability and data analysis is getting an upgrade - perhaps not changing the science, but more how people use it as an art.

    In trying to make some sense from this awful year and a half, and draw some usable lessons from it (rather than another set of kneejerk platitudes and I-told-you-soes, I'm digging into both psychology and analytics in the new year to get some different insights - angles I wouldn't have thought of before.

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    Danny Cardwell's picture

    The Commerce Clause And Rising Oil Prices

    Article I - The Legislative Branch
    Section 8

    Clause 3:

    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

    “The authority to regulate commerce includes the right to control nearly all areas of the national economy.”

    Chief Justice John Marshall 1824

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    On Knowing and Not Knowing

    In the beginning, God made us a deal - you chill, I'll do all the heavy lifting.

    Who was this God dude anyway? Didn't matter - the uncertainty was replaced by someone in charge. Our job was to do (and to enjoy), not to know, not to decide. Above our pay grade.

    And thus it continued till some damn woman stuck her nose in and said "hey, I hear there's another way".

    Another way for what? There we were, minding our own business, heading out to the fields every day....

    And then someone says, "How does it work?" OMG, zoots - how *does* it work?

    And suddenly the men are wearing suits and wielding slide rules and carrying briefcases and asking about rules.

    ("Rules?" the bad hombre says to Butch. "First thing is, there are no rules", Butch replies with a kick)

    Rules. How this, how that, what size, for how long, in what stages, what color...

    We got so good at reckoning and lugging stone, building grain pyramids, we started building to the sky - wheeee!!!

    And then it broke. No one knows exactly why, it just done broke.

    All that machinery wasted. So we went back to the fields, got ourselves a few feudal lords. And waited.

    A long time. A *really* long time.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your Public Domain Update for 2017

    Happy New Year all! As every year, I'm writing a blog post for Public Domain Day, listing all of the old books, movies, pieces of music, and works of art that are leaving copyright to join the public domain today. And, as every year in the United States, that list contains nothing at all. Public Domain Day is for people in other countries.

    Money in Politics

    In 1994, Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire heir to the Pittsburgh Mellon fortune, embarked on a new $2.4 million effort to hobble the new liberal president called "The Arkansas Project" with fake news, eventually funding the Paula Jones' lawsuit as well that led to Clinton's impeachment, along with a couple "exposé" books on him.

    Scaife did not just embark on his endeavour unwittingly - his ex-OSS (pre-CIA) father had bought a news outlet to disseminate anti-Communist and pro-conservative propaganda worldwide, but had to shut it down once made public.

    Scaife's giving of $620 million by 1999 - worth billions in today's dollars - had from the 70's already created The Heritage Foundation and helped sustain such right-wing mainstays as the Hoover Institute, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), later on NewsMax, FreedomWorks and ALEC. The term "Think Tank" does little credit to the destructively active role these orgs have played in American political life, and Scaife's focused conservative "philanthropy" was unusual for its time, helping to launch the Gingrich "revolution" in 1994 and propped up the new neocon movement post-2000.

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