Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sims, Krugman,and DeLong

Paul Krugman is dismayed by something Christopher Sims said a Jackson Hole

Sims said

Fiscal expansion can replace ineffective monetary policy at the zero lower bound, but fiscal expansion is not the same thing as deficit finance. It requires deficits aimed at, and conditioned on, generating inflation. The deficits must be seen as fi- nanced by future inflation, not future taxes or spending cuts.

I promise that my immediate thought when I read the Sims quote somewhere else yesterday is that another effective fiscal stimulus would be increased government consumption whether financed by future spending cuts, future taxes or even current taxes with no increase in the deficit ever.

I sense the long term damage done by Milton Friedman's rhetorical brilliance. Friedman somehow managed to redefine Keynesian stimulus as temporary tax cuts and not as temporary deficit financed spending increases (which is you know (at least I hope you know) the policy that Keynes actually advocated).

Sims makes it fairly clear that he is not considering spending increases. I don't know why. The statement "fiscal expansion ... requires deficits" is false for all existing macroeconomic models and makes no sense *unless* fiscal is interpreted to mean "based on taxes alone for given government spending".

DeLong is in the title for two reasons. First he remarked somewhere on the amazing success of Friedman's rhetorical trick (one among his many completely brilliant, unscrupulous and successful triks: others are saying that keeping the growth of the money supply constant via constant monetoriing and intervention is laissez faire, saying the Fed caused the great depression because he thinks the Fed could have countered the private sector crisis (as it tried to do in 2008 so the current evidence is that the Fed could have made the great depression a great recession), and pretending that prominent Keynesians claimed that the expectations unaugmented Phillips curve was stable). Second, he regularly has the effect on me that Sims had on Krugman when he writes things to the effect that *THE* solution to inadequate aggregate demand in a liquidity trap is to increase the supply of safe assets. I try to always comment that balanced budget fiscal expansion would also work without any increase in the supply of any assets. He always agrees until the next time he writes that.

There is something strange going on there in Berkeley & Jackson Hole . I am at least as confused as Paul Krugman (as is usual).

update: There is a third reason to put Brad in the title. He wrote this post before I did, then added an interesting post with a model and all that. He usefully adds that Sims might also have considered a model in which there is government spending but GDP is defined as GDP-G, that is there is no fiscal stimulus do to increased spending if the multiplier is 1. It is indeed true that a lot of Ricardianoid arguments are based on the equation 1=0 in which "multiplier effects" mean a multiplier greater than 0 if one is discussing optimal policy and a multiplier greater than one if one is discussing the evidence. I hit post and *then* surfed over to Brad's blog (usually a mistake).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Not My Usual Comment on Simon Wren-Lewis

I think Simon Wren-Lewis's post "Heterodox economics, mainstream macro and the financial crisis" is excellent even by his high standards. I advise you to just read it, but if you insist on staying here I attempt a brief summary and some comments.

1) Heterodox economists make two valid points about what the financial crisis showed us about inadequacies of 2008 vintage mainstream macro models.

2) The models did not include a financial sector. Banking and bank regulation was considered a sub field separate from macroeconomics. Thus macroeconomists such as Wren-Lewis (and I) didn't even know about the alarming increase in bank leverage. Since 2008 " there has been an explosion of DSGE and other microfounded analysis putting a financial sector into macromodels."

3) Heterodox economists also note that mainstream macro models failed to consider household finance and household balance sheets. Unfortunately while "heterodox economists also have a point, ... they tend not to put it very well and, perhaps as a result, it has not yet impacted on the mainstream " (here I have to note he means on mainstream theory as there is a very active largely empirical research program)

4) I think this [] was/is ignored because incorporating this analysis into microfounded models raises serious problems associated with heterogeneity across age and income. ... Playing around with habits or some ‘rule of thumb consumers’ is much easier. Blanchard has recently made a similar point in his critique of DSGE models.

5) This reveals a key problem with mainstream macro methodology which "allows you to be very selective about what empirical features you do or do not explain.

6) "As Jo Michell writes “The problem with heterdox economics is that it is self-definition in terms of the other”."

7) Macroeconomists might not have ignored bank and household balance sheets if they hadn't insisted on micro founding everything.

My effort to summarize shows why it is better to just click the link. The summary is almost as long as the post and consists mainly of quotes.

I do have some thoughts.

I think that point 5) is fundamental. Macroeconmists have a problem that there are few aggregate data points and no experimental data at all, but the standard approach makes this problem much worse by ignoring most of the available data. In particular, I think this applies to banking, prudential regulation and financial crises too. The 2008 financial crisis wasn't the first in human history, but it had been decided for some reason that macroeconomists could and should ignore data from long ago (the 30s) and far away (East Asia, Russia, Brazil and Argentina). One of Krugman's favorite boasts is that international macroeconomists weren't as blind as other macroeconomists, because they couldn't ignore those crises. Most macroeconomics was cut off not only from banking and finance but also from international -- that is from data from countries (including Korea and Japan) outside of Western Europe and North America. I have to add that, even aside from financial crises, data on unemployment rates collected east of the English Channel were neglected.

Personally, I think it is better to banish intertemporal optimization from models of aggregate consumption. Incorporation of realistic consideration of liquidity constraints and precautionary savings is, as Wren-Lewis notes, very difficult. I agree it is very costly to avoid such difficulties by assuming a representative consumer. but I think that there is no evidence that consideration of optimal intertemporal consumption choices adds anything useful to macroeconomic models. That is a very strong statement and I mean it literally. I fear that assuming consumers solve some sort of highly constrained optimization problem might be required to get papers published. That is I agree with Wren-Lewis that macro should cease to "shun what it calls policy models (models that use aggregate relationships justified by an eclectic mix of theory and data)", and, in particular, I think such models should include a simple empirical reduced form consumption equation. I am quite sure that, even if macroeconomists cease to shun policy models, it will shun the models I have in mind. Consumers' intertemporal optimization is the main dynamic aspect of DSGE. It won't be abandoned just because it leads to one false prediction after another. I am sure that aggregate relationships justified by data will be accepted, if at all, only in less central equations in the model, and probably only in equations including a variable which was totally ignored in 2008. I agree that, for the forseable future, the best we can hope is that macroeconomists will accept mixed models which consider things totally excluded from existing models but do not micro found that consideration.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vox vs Vox And also "and" vs "AND

I think that Zack Beauchamp and Matt Yglesias are both wonderful bloggers. Also Yglesias sent me to Beuchamp's latest. However, I think they need to have a talk about the exact meaning of "and."

Beuchamp just wrote "James O’Keefe had dressed up as a pimp and taped himself asking employees at the liberal community organizing group ACORN for help setting up a brothel. "

Now that use of "and" is consistent with formal logic. O'Keefe did indeed do both of those things. However, it is not correct given ordinary English usage of "and" as explained by Yglesias

When it was pointed out to Hoyt that this is false, he replied — with emphasis in the original — that

“The story says O’Keefe dressed up as a pimp and trained his hidden camera on Acorn counselors. It does not say he did those two things at the same time.”

Look. The New York Times is a great newspaper. Its writers and editors are familiar with communication in the English language. So is Hoyt. The writers and editors who worked on that story screwed up. It’s bad to screw up. But it’s not the worst thing in the world. To have the error pointed out to you and somehow pretend that the error wasn’t made is, however, unforgivable. Nobody can seriously maintain that the sentence as written doesn’t convey simultaneity.

And also by Neddy Merril

By the way, this is the first time I've read of O'Keefe discussing setting up a brothel.

Following (as usual) DeLong and Separately Krugman on Blanchard

Like Brad DeLong, I found reading Olivier Blanchard's brilliant, brief and concise article on DSGE jarring.

I find his critique of DSGE entirely convincing. However, he doesn't. He wrote " I see the current DSGE models as seriously flawed, but they are eminently improvable and central to the future of macroeconomics. "

He notes the flaws that (in my words)

1) the core assumptions are absurd and have yielded false implications (the models can be fiddled to eliminate those implications as one would expect if the approach were "a dangerous dead end").

2) After the fiddling, the models are too richly parametrised to estimate so the implications are the result of conventions and not of any interaction with reality.

3) the models have normative implications which are clearly nonsense.

and 4) only the economists who write the literature can understand it.

Sure sounds like a "dangerous dead end" to me.

Blanchard responds to the straw person who says DSGE is a dead end as follows (I mean that literally -- the is all of the defense DSGE models in the article)

The pursuit of a widely accepted analytical macroeconomic core, in which to locate discussions and extensions, may be a pipe dream, but it is a dream surely worth pursuing. If so, the three main modeling choices of DSGEs are the right ones. Starting from explicit microfoundations is clearly essential; where else to start from? Ad hoc equations will not do for that purpose. Thinking in terms of a set of distortions to a competitive economy implies a long slog from the competitive model to a reasonably plausible description of the economy. But, again, it is hard to see where else to start from. Turning to estimation, calibrating/estimating the model as a system rather than equation by equation also seems essential. Experience from past equation-by-equation models has shown that their dynamic properties can be very much at odds with the actual dynamics of the system.

So he argues that DSGE is a good approach, because he can't think of another one. So, just for example, it is necessary to start with plainly false assumptions about individual behavior, because one obviously can't start with observations of individual behavior and estimate behavioral patterns (note there are more than 240 data points). Also one must start with a competitive model, because OJ Blanchard said you must.

He argues that one must start from DSGE because he can't think of an alternative *and* dismisses other approaches without considering them. I think that Blanchard genuinely doesn't think there is any macro but DSGE macro. I note in passing that he has friendly relations with Paul Krugman, Larry Summers and Brad DeLong.

OK his conclusion (includes) "DSGE models can fulfill an important need in macroeconomics, that of offering a core structure around which to build and organize discussions. " Krugman notes that this sounds just like the defense of Marxist theory he used to hear. I ask why the core structure couldn't be national income and product account identities and the definitions of wage inflation, price inflation and interest rates ? update: Pulled back from comments. I got a bit uh enthusiastic down in the comment thread and decided to pull things up here.

First the comments

Anonymous [I] said...

Hi Robert, I'm an interested graduate student (who used a DSGE model in his dissertation). Would you please elaborate on your suggestion about a core structure using national income and product account identities etc.? I'm interested in what we would use instead of the elaborations on the 3-equation NK DSGE model. Cheers!
Anonymous [II] said...

Robert, this is perhaps a criticism you have heard too often, but if there is a better alternative out there why isn't in the journals and at conferences? There is currently a consensus why not convince the other side that there is a better model out there? To me, and I do not do macro, DSGE seems like a sensible and reasonable approach. I have read about alternatives but their proponents seem rather ideological and rather unprofessional in their behavior. Their arguments seem to boil down to ad hominems and the models are incidental to it.

I replied

Anonymous I: The alternative framework I had in mind is the Paleo Keynesian framework with an IS curve, a Taylor rule and some sort of Phillips curve. Oh my, those are the same trhee equations. The IS curve and the Phillips curve are old equations from the 30s and 60s respectively. The Taylor rule is the odd equation out in the 3 eqn NK model, because it is not derive from an optimization problem and is rather an estimated empirical relationship.

My point (if any) is that the New Keynesian project is to reconcile the old Keynesian equations with optimization. To the extent that the mathematical and theoretical effort is completely successful and the behavior of the New Keynesian model is identical to that of the old Keynesian model, nothing has bee accomplished (if this were so, Keynesians would have learned nothing and forgotten nothing).

In actual history, the NK models have implications different from the old Keynesian equations. Also consistently without one exception that comes to mind, the new implications are also rejected by the data. Blanchard mentions this when he discusses how the PIH had to be patched to fit the excess sensitivity of consumption to income and the NK Phillips curve had to have an unmotivated assumption about indexation somehow so that lagged inflation matters separately from the conditional mean of future inflation.

He has also discussed how the new improved micro founded Phillips curve doesn't work as well as the old primitive one https://piie.com/system/files/documents/pb16-1.pdf

and in the post under discussion he explains the approach of figuring out what a market information of policy using an old ad hoc model, then noting that the same result still holds in a DSGE model which is designed to correspond to the old ad hoc model, then explaining what is going on so people can understand it by presenting the old ad hoc model. This is what he does. However, he also asserted that the DSGE step is useful in some way. He gave no hint as to what way exactly.

I stress that the DSGE step is *not* harmless. It can be very difficult and time consuming to translate to DSGE (and worse to translate from theoretical DSGE to code a computer can run). So it is standard to leave out little details such as the housing sector when discussing the great recession. To get to DSGE sacrifices are made. They include any consideration of the fact that not all investment is business fixed investment -- the models don't include houses and don't include inventories. Banks were added in the past 8 years. The current models have no place for oil shocks (which are considered to be sort of like technology shocks which is fine except for the fact that standard theory says their effects are different).

Now Blanchard could say, if you want to get a job or, having a job, want to get tenure, you have to do DSGE too even if you also present an ad hoc model as a heuristic explanation of the behavior of the DSGE model. In any case I do. Don't ruing your career by refusing to dress up your actual thought in DSGE disguise.

There is another approach. It is what Blanchard himself does. Also Krugman, Summers, and Stiglitz. These are not marginal figures.

Anonymous II I refer you to the linked Blanchard post. He explains that the other way, the old way, is presented at conferences by Blanchard who is allowed to do so because he is the discussant. It isn't hidden at all. It's the way New Keynesian macroeconomists talk. It isn't the way they write (except on blogs).

Another approach is available. It has been available and used for decades. Somewhat more than half of macroeconomists are saltwater economists who sure seem to think the old way (as old Keynesians) then disguise their thoughts with DSGE models. A now somewhat smaller number are fresh water RBC economists who assert that monetary policy doesn't affect GDP, that recessions are efficient, and that nothing much unusual was going on in January 2009 (I could look up the exact Prescott quotes -- he said all those things -- but I won't bother). In contrast, I can't think of a single economist who is demonstrably a sincere New Keynesian economist in that he or she accepts the new Keynesian model but demonstrably doesn't secretly also accept the old Keynesian models.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Highly Defamatory !

Reading about Melania Trump suing UK Tabloids, I learn who was upset at an article in the late lamented Gawker about the clinic that does* Donald Trump's hair

After Gawker ran a thorough investigation into whether Donald Trump's infamous hairdo is the work of Ivari International, a hair clinic which conducts patented hair restoration treatments, the site also heard from Harder [lawyer for Hulk Hogan and now Melania Trump]. This time he was working on behalf of clinic founder Edward Ivari, who called the story "false and defamatory."

I absolutely agree that the article would have been defamatory were it false. I don't see how a hair clinic can survive the allegation that it had something to do with Trump's hair. But I also think that Ivari can only claim he was defamed by asserting that Trump's hair is appalling. "My business will be damaged if it is even suspected that I had something to do with the deceased weasel which seems to have nested on Mr Donald Trump's head" would convince a jury. But Ivari et al might be evicted from Trump Tower if the case went to trial and he made that argument.

* yes that is the indicative mode. I asserted that, in his suit, Ivari lied and that his employees weave hair on the Trumpkin. I note I am typing this in Italy where there is no difference between libeling a public and a private figure and each can be prosecuted as the crime of "calunnia*". So sue me (and also denounce me which is worse). Please. *spelling error corrected. Thanks Marco.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In which I Chait Chait

I want to start by noting that Jon Chait is one of my favorite bloggers. My main complaint about his blog is that he doesn't post often enough. I have a very high opinion of Chait. I enjoy his writing because he is (to use the term he chose) "mean". When commenting on his blog, I try to follow his example. Jon Chait argued that one should not argue with straw men. He wrote that rather than distance oneself from "some in my party" one should always name and quote at least one person with whom one is debating. I think this is a very important principle.

Needless to say, no one sticks to this principle. For example consider Jon Chait on Clinton defenders

In the eyes of their enemies, the Clintons are criminals on a world-historic scale; in the eyes of their supporters, innocent victims of a massive smear campaign. The reality is that their venality is rather ordinary. There’s a reason the term politician is synonymous with lying, calculation, and ambition — these are common qualities for politicians. The Clintons are common politicians, motivated in general by a desire to implement policy changes they think will make the world a better place, but not immune to trimming and getting rich in the process. None of their behavior is disqualifying, given the number of elected officials, presidents included, who have done the same. Neither does it justify it.

Note that Chait doesn't name any Clinton supporters who think the Clintons are 0% guilty of any unethical conduct. Contradicting both the (un-named and un-quoted) enemies and the (un-named and un-quoted) supporters Chait wrote that the Clintons are " not immune to trimming and getting rich in the process." That should teach all those people who think that the Clintons are immmune to "getting rich in the process." These people aren't named, because Chait hasn't found any (personally I am confident that there are at least two people in the world who think the Clintons aren't rich -- those people are either totally ignorant or so rich that they think only billionaires are rich). I think the number of people who think that the Clintons are immune to trimming is probably greater than the numbe who think they haven't become rich. I'm sure there are people who see no trimming in having Ricky Ray Rector killed and then applauding Lionel Jospin when he said it is disgraceful that the death penalty hasn't been eliminated. I'm sure there are more people who don't know that Bill Clinton did both those things. But I think only a tiny fraction of Clinton supporters suspect them of an inability to trim.

Chait has set up an imaginary Clinton supporter straw person. Notably, he didn't express an opinion one way or another on the question of whether both Clintons are more nearly "immune to trimming and getting rich in the process" than 90% of other politicians. He didn't address that question anywhere in the essay. For example he didn't assert that Bernie Sanders has higher ethical standards than Clinton.

Yet in his concluding sentence he wrote "her [Clinton's] lax approach to rule-following and ethical conflicts." This follows no effort at all to demonstrate that her approach is lax given the ordinary English meaning which is "laxer than is usual" not "laxer than Kant's ideal citizen of a realm of ends".

Throughout Chait shifts back and forth from discussion of perceptions to discussion of reality. I would have no problem with an essay on how Bill Clinton's wife must be above suspicion, but the words "her lax approach" would not appear in that essay.

I have three more complaints. Throughout Chait does not consider the fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton are two different people. I am fairly confident that an alien who generally understood English but hadn't figured out how the singular and the plural are distinguished would guess after reading the essay that "the Clintons" is a single being.

I object to Chait's abuse of polling data. To argue that Clinton has a problem with young people he looked at a single poll, the Pew poll which showed Clinton winning by an anomalously low margin.

The most recent Pew Survey finds Clinton winning the under-30 vote by a mere 11 percentage points, 38 percent to 27 percent, less than half the margin Barack Obama carried four years ago.

I think there should be a rule for commentators that only polling averages with explicit and defensible rules for inclusion and weighting should be discussed. update: I should have guessed that Nate Silver has calculated the average. In post convention polls, Clinton-Trump averages 21% or approximately twice Pew's 11% and similar to Obama-Romney. Chait cherry picked the Pew poll.

end update

Also he compared Clinton-Trump to Obama - Romney without making the source of the Obama-Romney datum clear. The participle "carried" to me implies that he is discussing an exit poll. It is not legitimate to Compare an August poll to an exit poll. He looks at the difference in support not the ratio of support. This is important, because he is discussing a poll in which only 65% of the subset of respondents said they were voting for Clinton or Trump. His point would not have been supported by the equally valid calculation (Clinton - Trump)/0.65 vs (Obama -Romney)/(98 or 99% or whatever). This is bogus.

Then (and worse) Chait equates " the Democratic electorate as a whole. " "Voters who supported Sanders in the primary, but who have not embraced Clinton" and those who reflect "the heart of Sanders’s appeal ". here

But the professional left does not reflect the Democratic electorate as a whole. Voters who supported Sanders in the primary, but who have not embraced Clinton, are actually less liberal on the whole than Clinton’s supporters. That is because the heart of Sanders’s appeal was to good-government voters who embraced his image as an authentic practitioner of earnest, uncorrupted politics.

This is nonsense. The only data he mentions are the views of "Voters who supported Sanders in the primary, but who have not embraced Clinton" a small minority of a minority of the Democratic electorate. These people are a minority of Sanders supporters. Their views can't teach us what was the heart of his appeal. The analysis is nonsense.

Finally Chait argues that The Clinton Foundation does good work fighting AIDS and poverty, but has to be eliminated to eliminate the appearance of conflict of interest. His arguments logically imply that some people whose lives could be saved will just have to die of AIDS or malnutrition for the greater good. I think this is his view -- the work of the Clinton Foundation isn't important. My guess is that, if pressed, he would argue that the same money would be given even if the Clinton name were not used. This is inconsisent with the ordinary English meaning of the word "leverage" in "The purpose of the Clinton Foundation is to leverage Clinton fame into charitable donations." Now Chait is bold and might just argue that the lives which would be saved by the Clinton Foundation will have to be sacrificed for the greater good. The stakes are high and this is actually arguable. But Chait didn't bother to argue this.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

To Be Sure

This article is brilliant.

My comment isn't.

I have a very bad habit of contesting the "to be sure" paragraphs in which non Republicans concede that Republicans aren't totally wrong about everything. To be sure, I understand that consideration of the arguments of the criticized group should be automatic. However, the paragraphs tend to be nonsense.

In this excellent article there are only "to be sure" sentences (the case contra the GOP is so strong that the most generous observer would have trouble writing an entire paragraph).

One is "... Democrats have in the past described mainstream GOP nominees in near-apocalyptic terms too." No doubt true. In the defence of those Democrats, I can only note that the last election of a mainstream GOP nominee was followed by a near-apocalypse (mostly economic but also in Iraq). The claim that W. Bush is a dangerous extremist became quite respectable in 2007 or so (not when he said he was above the law and had the authority to lock up a US citizen arrested in the USA up indefinitely without trial but rather later.

Also on Vietnam in '68 there was not much denunciation of this and there is evidence it happened and it is appalling.On 2000, it's not Democrats fault that there was such a close election and such an unususal supreme courte decision. Democrats worked with Bush (say on no child left behind) and many voted to authorize him to decide whether to invade Iraq.

At least you didn't Balliance (TM) your critique of the GOP by noted the extreme rhetoric of Democrats who argued in 1972 that employees of the Committee to Reelect the President broke into the DNC headquarters and argued in 1974 that the President obstructed justice. I think that "to be sure" clause is as convincing as the ones you felt obliged to write.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

True Fact

It is no exaggeration to say that, since Trump decided to Breitbart his campaign, I haven't dared click http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/ for fear I might laugh myself to death.

OK really true fact, not laugh myself to death but I honestly worried that Charlie Pierce's snark on the latest Trump insanity might be too tooooo much.

So now Trump is preventing me from surfing to http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/ . Just one more reason to hate him (as if I needed more reasons after he *made* me retweet Jonah Goldberge *and* Erick fucking Erickson.

You Mean Your Former Profession Mr Spicer

“There are doctors who help people who have done bad things, there are lawyers who defend bad people,” he said. “I don’t think it’s unique to my profession.” said Sean Spicer of the profession in which he just made himself unemployable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson is my favorite Republican (my dad prefers David Brooks). I thought highly of Gerson long before he denounced Trump (I even liked the speeches he wrote for Bush). I have long wondered how a nice guy like Gerson could end up in a party like that. I assumed that it was single issue pro-life punditry (I was wrong). Second hypothesis devout Protestant identity politics (getting there). But now he explains (with great integrity he described how he actually came to his current views back when he was young and uh non-expert).
But my political identification had begun to shift by 1984, and I cast my first presidential vote for Ronald Reagan. For me, exposure to economics had an ideologically sobering effect. (A young liberal can’t be too careful in his or her reading.) In addition, Walter Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, had turned conservative religious people into a rhetorical skeet target. And Reagan himself — who had demonstrated personal courage and a capacity to govern — seemed to embody something hopeful and decent about the country.
Even now, I am shocked by the second sentence. I have been exposed to economics and it sure hasn't convinced me to support Reagan or Reaganism. I think that liberalism (unlike Conservatism, GOP support, Marxism & most world views) stands up well in the face of wide reading. I would be interested in reading more about Gerson's exposure to economics. I am willing to bet it is to microeconomics 101 (first semester only - second semester gets to explaining how the implications of the models of complete information and perfect competition taught 1st semester really depend on clearly false assumptions) not say, Friedman's critique of the Phillips curve. The third sentence declares that conservative denomination identity politics was very important. Notably, it is clear that Gerson was not a single issue anti abortion kid -- Carter was pro choice. Note also that Walter Mondale was a minister's son and stressed that fact. I think this was clearly sectarian conflict -- an echo 30 years ago of the 30 years war. I have no idea what Gerson has in mind. I read it as saying "I decided to be loyal to my tribe". Then there is Reagan. There is no hint of any evidence that he had demonstrated ability to govern. Obviously "hopeful" is important. But look at "personal courage". Gerson seems to be saying he might never have gotten involved with the GOP if it weren't for John Hinckley. I think it is immensely admirable to admit the emotional basis of political views. It is very rare -- usually people describe reasons for their votes not causes. I'm sure my decision to vote for Democrats has an even less mature basis. However, since I have been a Democrat since before I was 3, I can't explain how I became one.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Major Scoop Here

I was very impressed by this Daily Beast story on Russian use of twitter for propaganda.

In particular, being now in Sardinia, I was interested in user Marcel Sardo. I clicked this link to remind myself that I don't read German.

But who is this international man of twittintrigue ?

Here is his profile. I am not as impressed as I had been by the scoop that he is pro-Russian propagandist.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Pseudo Journalist Joe Concha Libels Bill Maher

This post not only demonstrates incompetence. It is clearly libelous. Please read it before reading my comment. non disclaimer. I am writing this in Italy. The standard for libel & for calunnia of a public figure is making a false damanging statement. I am absolutely not protected by the first amendment. Calunnia is a crime punishable by prison. I have no fear that Concha might sue or denounce me. The reason is that I can prove my claim (which follows) My comment Maher certainly did not give $1 million to the Obama 2012 re-election campaign. Even after citizens united, contribution to campaigns are limited. The donation was to a super pac of some kind. This isn't a detail. It casts doubt on this entire post. The problem is that, since super pacs are not officially linked to candidates, the distinction between donating to help Obama (as Maher claimed) and donating to a "Clinton affiliated entity" may be a distinction without a difference. What does it take to be "Clinton affiliated" according to Assange ? I'd guess that the two are discussing the exact same $ 1 million. Assange didn't name the entity. It is possible that the name would have proven Maher to be a liar, but I think it more likely that he didn't name it, because it would show that your suspicions are unfounded. Google tells me that the super pac is "Priorities USA Action" http://www.npr.org/2012/03/28/149512215/bill-mahers-obama-superpac-donation-causes-stir . Google also tells me that Priorities USA action is now helping Clinton http://prioritiesusaaction.org/pro-clinton-super-pac-launches-biggest-ad-buy-yet/ After 3 minutes of googling, it is very clear to me that the million donated to a pro Obama pac is the exact same million donated to a "Clinton affiliated entity". Maher's claim and Assange's are perfectly consistent. You present absolutely no evidence which casts any doubt on Maher's honesty. By the way, either you knew that Maher didn't donate a million to Obama's campaign (as you asserted) or you recklessly disregarded the truth of falsehood of your claim. You are supposed to have some role of some kind in reporting on politics, so if you were not reckless you would have known that your claim was false. It is also, in the context of your insinuations, damaging to Maher. This post is libelous. I'm sure Maher won't sue you, but I suggest you correct your gross material error, just in case he does,

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Ballance RIP

Nothing lasts forever, not even the Washington Post's devotion to Ballance. If Trump had said the earth is flat, they could have written "Opinions on shape of planet differ. Both sides have a point". but if he asserts (in the same tweet) that it is flat, spherical, and a dimensionless abstract idea, they are forced to note he is nuts.

Alass dear Ballance I knew ye well. A trope of infinite jest. Now no more

Donald Trump is amazing. I would have guessed his achievements were impossible

Donald Trump is not a humble man. At the Republican convention he said a lot about things that "I alone" can achieve.

It is not easy to accept the validity of such a claim. The natural reaction is to reject it. But Donald Trump was right. He and he alone could make Eugene Robinson and Robert Kagan agree on anything.